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Summary
  • When the driver steps on the clutch pedal, the clutch master cylinder forces pressurized fluid through a line to the slave cylinder, which disengages the engine from the transmission.
  • A bad clutch master cylinder will make changing gears difficult and lead to a soft or hard clutch pedal.
  • You shouldn’t continue to drive with a bad clutch master cylinder. Expect to pay somewhere between $300 and $1,000 to replace your car’s 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.

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.

Where to Get a New Clutch Master Cylinder for Your Vehicle

A damaged clutch master cylinder takes the fun out of driving a manual transmission. It might even render your vehicle undrivable, and you’ll be forced to leave it in the garage to gather dust. But don’t worry, because here at CarParts.com, it only takes a few clicks to order what you need.

Enter your car’s year, make, and model into our vehicle selector to check out all the compatible brake master cylinders for your ride. All of our products passed strict quality checks from industry professionals, so you’re sure to get a clutch master cylinder replacement that’s built to last.

You can also call us anytime using our toll-free hotline, and our round-the-clock customer service representatives will be ready to assist you with your shopping needs.

Here at CarParts.com, we also want you to get the best parts for your ride without breaking the bank, which is why all our products come with a low-price guarantee. Order now, and we’ll deliver your new clutch master cylinder straight to your doorstep in as fast as two business days.

About The Author
Written By Automotive Subject Matter Expert at CarParts.com

Mia Bevacqua has over 14 years of experience in the auto industry and holds a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Automotive Systems. Certifications include ASE Master Automobile Technician, Master Medium/Heavy Truck Technician, L1, L2, L3, and L4 Advanced Level Specialist. Mia loves fixer-upper oddballs, like her 1987 Cavalier Z-24 and 1998 Astro Van AWD.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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