If your local mechanic has already replaced two clutches, it's time to let the dealer have a crack.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

Unless you can give me an answer to my problem, I may need to sell my car on a
cold morning in the dead of winter. I have a 1990 Nissan 240SX with a five-speed
transmission. When I first start the car on cold mornings, the clutch acts like
a normal clutch, but the stick shift is hard to move. After the car is driven a
fairly short distance, the shifting becomes smoother, but the clutch becomes so
stiff that I can hardly push it in. If I continue to drive the vehicle any
distance, the clutch will eventually start slipping when I shift or try to pass
another vehicle.

The service center here in town doesn't have a clue. They just want to rebuild
the clutch again. I have rebuilt the clutch twice in a year, and both times it
was totally smoked as if I were riding the clutch. The master cylinder has been
replaced, as well as the slave cylinder (twice), and the clutch dampener valve,
which is now bypassed. Nothing has fixed the problem. Short of selling this car,
do you have any suggestions? -- Donalda

TOM: Why do we always have to carry such heavy burdens? If we don't help you,
you're going to have to sell your car, right? You'll lose thousands of dollars!
Hints from Heloise doesn't have to carry that kind of weight on her shoulders.
If she doesn't help someone, so they end up with a grape-juice spot on a
tablecloth. Big deal!

RAY: I'm going to suggest you go to a Nissan dealer, Donalda. This problem is
obviously beyond the abilities of your neighborhood mechanic. And as nice a guy
as he may be, sooner or later you're going to get tired of replacing clutches.

TOM: He's already tried a bunch of things. And if there is a defect or problem
specific to the 1990 240SX, or if there's something that your mechanic is doing
wrong repeatedly, the dealer has the best chance of spotting it.

RAY: If I had to take a wild guess without seeing the car, I'd have to guess
that your mechanic put in the wrong clutch cover twice and then misadjusted the
heck out of it trying to make it shift correctly when it's cold. But that's just
a wild guess.

TOM: I'd smoke on over to your Nissan dealer, Donalda, and ask them if they know
what's really wrong with the car. This is one of those complicated cases where
the dealer really is your best bet.

* * *

TOM: Does slamming the door really make a difference to the life of your car?
Should you "save the brakes" by shifting into a lower gear to help you slow
RAY: You'll learn the surprising answers to all of these questions, and more, in
our new pamphlet called "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even
Knowing It.!"

TOM: It's our guide to making your car last forever.

RAY: Become an instant know-it-all. Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-
addressed No.10 envelope to Ruin No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

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