I'll tell you when it's time to start worrying!

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1982 Chevy Cavalier with a four speed manual transmission. The car has 130,000 miles, and sometimes when I depress the clutch, it makes a popping or clicking type of sound. After this, the gears are hard to find and they often won't go in without lots of grinding. After one to four days, everything returns to normal. Is this something I should worry about?

RAY: Gee, Bill, you don't sound like the worrying type. You drive an '82 Cavalier with 130K on it, and your clutch goes out from one to four days at a time. If you're not worried already, I don't see any reason to start now.

TOM: Actually, it is cause for some concern. You'll ruin those gears if you keep grinding them like that. What's happening is that your clutch's self-adjusting mechanism is being over loaded. There's a plastic ratcheting device that adjusts the clutch cable automatically as the clutch wears down. The clicking noise is that plastic ratchet being pushed past it's limit.

RAY: There are two reasons this could be happening. The most likely is that your clutch is shot. It may just be worn down so far that can't be adjusted anymore.

TOM: The other possibility is that the clutch cable is sticking. Since it's inexpensive to replace, I'd try that first. In fact, if you're so inclined, you can even buy a cable from your Chevy dealer and spend a weekend trying to figure out how it goes in.

RAY: But when that doesn't fix it, Bill, then it's time to start worrying. Based on our experience, we're pretty sure you need a clutch. And a new clutch for this car is going to run you about 500 bucks.

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