Q: Brake master cylinder leaking, clutch jammed up. Is quote for new clutch that doesn't mention brake master reasonable? 1998 Ford Escort

asked by on February 13, 2017

Brake dash light was on for week or two. No other symptoms. Finally check reservoir - just over min fill line. Had Les Schwab guy check out - says master cylinder leaking, needs replaced. I'm broke so top off fluid and on my way. 2 weeks later, clutch is totally jamming up. Won't shift at all, until it does. Then for a few days it’s sporadic - periodically jamming up, then it's back to feeling pretty normal. A little google = "oh, a clutch uses brake fluid… these things could be related."

Go to Mechanic #2 for "free" $150 diagnostic (applied toward repair). Says I need a new clutch master cylinder, slave cylinder, 2 wheel cylinders and a whole new clutch... He SAYS NOTHING about the master BRAKE cylinder. Back to Les Schwab who points to visibly wet master BRAKE cylinder.

Is mechanic #2 full of it? Could replacing master brake cylinder and bleeding clutch hold me for now?

My car has 165000 miles.
My car has a manual transmission.

Hi there - I think the fact that the brake and clutch hydraulic system share the reservoir is confusing how to repair 2 separate issues. For sure, your brake master cylinder appears to be failing, and should be replaced. This is a safety issue of course. On the clutch side - if the fluid level is above the "Min" line, it probably isn’t low fluid level that is a problem unless you already have air in the clutch hydraulic line. The failure of the clutch to disengage consistently may be a failure of the clutch pilot bearing, which is, unfortunately, inside the clutch assembly. A clutch pilot bearing that is seizing will act the same as a a failing clutch hydraulic system - it will be difficult to engage any gear from a stop, or shift gears while moving. I recommend a brake master cylinder replacement, and bleeding the clutch hydraulic system performed by a mobile, professional mechanic, such as one from YourMechanic, who will come to your location, perform these repairs, and give you a solid basis for deciding whether the clutch really needs replacement, or if it was the clutch hydraulic system that was at fault. If the clutch is still failing to disengage, then you have logically confirmed that diagnosis.

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