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Most manual transmission-equipped vehicles use a hydraulic system to transfer input from the clutch pedal to the clutch. The clutch master cylinder is the heart of that system.

Unfortunately, like any automotive component, the clutch master cylinder can eventually fail. When that happens, you’ll likely notice one or more troublesome symptoms that you’ll want to address right away.

What is a Clutch Master Cylinder?

All manual transmission-equipped vehicles have a clutch assembly—consisting of a release bearing, pressure plate, and friction disc—that is used to disconnect the engine from the transmission. Disengagement is necessary to prevent stalling when the vehicle is stopped (with the engine running) and promote smooth gear changes.

Some vehicles have a mechanical linkage system that transfers input from the clutch pedal to the release bearing at the clutch. But most newer models use a hydraulic system that includes a clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder.

clutch master cylinder
Most manual transmission-equipped vehicles use a hydraulic system to transfer input from the clutch pedal to the clutch. The clutch master cylinder is the heart of that system.

When the driver steps on the clutch pedal, the master cylinder, which is attached to the pedal, forces pressurized fluid through a line to the slave cylinder. The slave cylinder then acts on the release bearing, which, in turn, operates the clutch assembly to disengage the engine from the transmission.

Signs of a Bad Clutch Master Cylinder

Do you think you might be dealing with a bad clutch master cylinder? If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, you might be right.

Note: Other problems can mimic a failed clutch master cylinder. You (or your mechanic) should perform a thorough diagnosis before conducting any repairs.

Difficulty Changing Gears (or Putting the Vehicle into Gear)

Difficulty changing gears (or putting the vehicle into gear) is one of the most common signs of a faulty clutch master cylinder. If the master cylinder is leaking or failed internally, the clutch will not fully disengage the transmission from the engine when the pedal is depressed. As a result, getting the transmission into a different gear won’t be easy, particularly when the engine is running.

Soft Clutch Pedal 

A master cylinder that’s leaking or has worn internal seals can cause a soft clutch pedal. 

Hard Clutch Pedal

You might notice a hard clutch pedal if the master cylinder has a blocked compensating port or swollen internal seals.

Low Fluid Level

The master cylinder can also develop leaks, resulting in a low fluid level in the reservoir.

foot pressing the clutch pedal
Either a soft or hard clutch pedal can signify faulty clutch master cylinder.

FAQ

Can I drive with a bad clutch master cylinder?

You should not continue to drive with a bad clutch master cylinder. The problem can make the vehicle difficult or nearly impossible to shift. Furthermore, it’s possible to eventually damage other parts of the vehicle if the bad master cylinder causes you to force the transmission into gear.

How much does a clutch master cylinder replacement cost?

Typically, you can expect to pay somewhere between $300 and $1,000 to have a professional replace your car’s clutch master cylinder. Of course, the exact cost of the repair will depend on various factors, such as the type of vehicle you have and the repair shop you choose.

If you have the tools and the know-how, you can save money by doing the job yourself with a replacement clutch master cylinder from CarParts.com.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic.

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