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Don't Do a Slam Dunk on a Bad Clutch

February 11, 1988|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | Times Staff Writer

Question: About two years ago, I had a new clutch installed in my 1977 Volkswagen Rabbit. If the car is not driven once each week, the clutch appears to freeze up, and the transmission is impossible to shift. The garage that put in the clutch told me I could "unfreeze" it by forcing the gear-shift lever into low and giving the car a lot of gas. The car then gives a great leaping jerk. The garage insists this is not the fault of the clutch. Your thoughts would be appreciated.--W.C.A.

Answer: The problem is likely to be rusting or adhesion of the clutch disk to either the flywheel or the pressure plate. In all probability, original-equipment parts were not used in the repair. Most likely, the clutch disk that was used has a different composition, such as more iron particles in its friction materials, than the original-equipment parts.

The procedure you describe does not sound advisable. Any time you must force a transmission into gear, you have a possible condition in which the clutch is not fully disengaging. That exerts tremendous stress on the transmission parts. You can be sure that a clutch is a lot cheaper than a rebuilt transmission. If you do not want to replace the clutch, you'll just have to make sure the car is driven regularly.

Q: I have a 1982 Datsun 200SX with fuel injection that I have to restart four or five times before the engine will keep running. Could there be something wrong with the fuel injection?--R.L.

A: Any number of things could be causing the car to stall just after you start it, and one of them is dirty fuel-injection nozzles. Each cylinder has a fuel injector that sprays a fine mist of gasoline into the intake manifold, where it mixes with air before being drawn into the combustion chamber. Each nozzle has a tiny hole in the end, and any debris in the gasoline could block the nozzle opening, reducing the amount of fuel to the engine.

You could also have a dirty fuel filter. Cars with fuel injection have sophisticated gasoline filters designed to strain any foreign material from the gasoline before it gets to the engine, and these must be changed at the intervals specified in the owner's manual.

Make sure the engine is tuned. If it is, have the mechanic check the fuel-injection system.

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