Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, repairing and maintaining cars in Vancouver for 38 years and 18 time winners so far, of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. How’re you doing Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So we’re going to talk about a Ford Ranger, 2007, that had a clutch problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So the vehicle came to our shop for a regular, annual maintenance but when it arrived at our door, the clutch pedal just went to the floor and we couldn’t put it in gear. It was just all floppy. So we proceeded to do a diagnosis on that, because obviously that’s the most critical thing to fix on the vehicle. What we found was a clutch slave cylinder was, it had basically failed and caused the lack of pressure to release the clutch.
Mark: So what, how did you determine that the slave cylinder had failed?
Bernie: Well a lot of it is a process of elimination. The tricky thing with clutches is you can’t see a lot of it, the actual clutch itself is in-between the engine and the transmission and the bell housing area. On this particular vehicle, there are actually some access holes where you can look inside and on this one we could actually see the clutch slave cylinders internal. It’s located inside, not inside the transmission, but inside the bell housing and we could actually see fluid leaking out of it. So the issue is either the slave cylinder which was most likely, because once you have a fluid leak, that’s a problem, but it could have also been a failure of the master cylinder. But we figured the best strategy for repair would be to replace the slave cylinder and the clutch itself, because we have to take it apart, and then determine whether the master cylinder was bad after that.
Mark: So what’s involved in that kind of repair?
Bernie: Well, so what’s involved. The transmission had to be removed and from there we can examine the rest of the clutch which we did and ended up replacing because it was nearly worn out anyways. We replaced the slave cylinder, replaced the clutch, had the flywheel ground and put it all back together, bleed the system, flush the fluid and tested it out and it worked fine. So the slave cylinder was good in this case. I’ll just share a couple photos. Nice little black Ford Ranger here. This is a pretty basic truck, it’s actually a four cylinder engine truck which is kind of rare, very minimal options, really not very common to find a truck like this. It’s all plain, plain-jane truck with very few options but is’s a good little work truck. Simple, standard transmission. Seems like nowadays everything you buy is fully loaded with the biggest engine and all the power windows, but some people like these simple things and they’re actually pretty good, they’re kind of fun to work on too. Clutch slave cylinder. So this is a unique design of this, not just unique to a Ranger but to a number of American, mostly in North American vehicles and a lot of trucks. It’s a built in slave cylinder and a clutch release bearing and it sits on the collar of the transmission where the release bearing normally slides. So it’s rather brilliant because it’s eliminated the clutch release fork, the pivot point, it’s eliminated a number of parts by amalgamating them together. There’s a big bellows piece here where the arrow points to and that’s actually where you can see some fluid leaking onto. The slave cylinder is sort of inside this piece here, that bellows is just a dust shield and once fluid leaks out of course, that indicates it’s actually got a pretty bad leak. If we were to cut this open, it’d probably be just loaded full of fluid. This is the release bearing here. So this spins the with the clutch and when you press the pedal down, this gets forced forward against the clutch and releases it. Right now it actually sits naturally in a forward position. There’s a spring inside that actually keeps it under a little bit of pressure. And so these other items here, this is the bleeder screw where you bleed the air out of this hydraulic system. And this is where the actual clutch line, the clutch hose is from the vehicle attaches.
Mark: So are all clutches hydraulic?
Bernie: Nowadays they are, I mean there used to be a day when a hydraulic was kind of a novelty actually, well it goes back a long way, but you know what clutches used to be one of three ways. You have a cable to release the clutch which was very common or they actually it even had linkage rods, a lot of vehicles had linkage rods and bellcranks that would connect up from the clutch pedal down to the transmission. Actually I remember having an old Fargo van, which is like a Dodge van, if nobody knows what a Fargo van is, but I remember being in an intersection and I pushed the clutch pedal down and the linkage broke. I guess the rods had worn so much from moving it just busted apart and left a couple parts lying on the ground in the intersection. But long gone are the days of those type of clutches. They’re hydraulic, I mean they just work so much better, a nice smooth engagement and the pedals are just, the feel is so much better, less moving parts. Yeah just overall way better.
Mark: And what’s the advantage of using a hydraulic system?
Bernie: Well the advantage is I think really smooth engagement and pedal feel. It’s also, there’s a lot more power in hydraulics than there is in linkages. So it’s, you can operate a clutch more powerfully and easily and I think pedal feel is a real big thing. You know, you get in a lot of modern vehicles and the clutch, it’s really nice to engage and disengage. You know, whereas in the olden days, a lot of clutches were really hard to push, cables tend to you know, they tend to bind up over time. Whereas hydraulics, there’s very few actual moving contact points. It’s just the fluid pieces are moving and they’re already lubricated.
Mark: Yeah, I remember driving a Porsche 914 that was, I knew I was going to add like 3 or 4 inches on my left leg just to make the clutch work.
Bernie: Yeah, exactly that’s the case, and the failure rate on those cable clutches and those linkage rods is a lot higher than it is on hydraulics. I mean hydraulic clutches still go bad as in the case of this vehicle but you know, the linkage, cables, I mean I used to work on a lot of Volkswagens like way back, air cooled Volkswagens. The clutch cable breaking, it was a very common problem.
Mark: So hydraulics are a little more reliable in that regard, I guess?
Bernie: Hydraulics? Yeah. Yeah we still do a lot of repairs on them but you know they’re not like cables, not like the cable days and the nice thing is when they work and you set it up, they just work. There’s no problem, either they work or they don’t. With cables they start stretching and you know they’re hard to push, just yeah, there’s no good old days with cable clutches.
Mark: Well even hydraulic clutches probably are on the sunset path at this point.
Bernie: Well yeah and you don’t see too many, you know vehicles, there’s less and less vehicles that offer the standard transmissions but interestingly enough a lot of, I mean, hydraulics are still used but they’re automatic. There are a lot of transmissions that use automatic engaged clutches. They have hydraulic systems but they’re all kind of built in. So you know, which actually makes it even more expensive to repair when they break. Like semi-automatic transmissions where you just take your foot off the brake and you press the gas and the clutch, it actually has a clutch and it engages automatically. So it just doesn’t have a master cylinder and all the plumbing that get associated.
Mark: And how are these Ford Rangers for reliability?
Bernie: They’re pretty good. You know, it’s a nice little truck, as I said it’s pretty simple. So you know, there’s really not too much that goes wrong with it, out of the ordinary that you’d expect on a pick up truck and it’s small, and a small engine, so pretty good for gas. But you know, really not a lot goes wrong with it. This vehicle has around 100,000 kilometres, and this clutch is worn out for the first time. So it’s just a little over 10 years, that’s a pretty good lifespan. If it had been driven more on the highway, the clutch probably would have got more mileage, but it’s a pretty good life for that. You know brakes, wear’s sort of normal. The one thing about the Ranger, it’s a small truck so you don’t really want to overload it. You know if you’re going to be sticking a ton of gravel in the back all the time, you’re going to wreck the truck pretty fast. But if you just put in light moderate loads in the truck, it’ll last a long time without a lot of problems.
Mark: So there you go. If you have a Ranger in Vancouver and you need repairs, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark