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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 1989 sidekick has a problem with the clutch. I'm not sure about the age or wear on the clutch, I bought the sidekick about a month ago. Generally the first time I pressed the clutch pedal I thought new clutch needed soon. But it clutched fine, shifted fine so off I went.

The problem is hard shifting; all the gears can be harder than expected but first is almost impossible. This happens after I've been driving awhile. It seems to creep up sometime after the truck is warmed up and used quite a bit.

On a cold start after waiting long enough for it to warm up it shifts just fine and operates as expected. Nothing to notice. Generally I just drive to work and park so I don't notice anything unusual. But I have noticed a bit of hard shifting in the past few weeks; now I'm relating the symptom to how long I run. Friday I ran more than usual and stopped only a few times where I parked but then started up again and drove a good distance and parked again. After several hours and many miles of driving the shifting was quite hard; I didn't even use first gear because it wouldn't go there; and it wouldn't shift into reverse; it ground the gears when I tried. Starting in second was more difficult than it should have been, all the gears were hard. So I parked it and started trying to figure out what I need to fix.

This morning I figured I would just limp to town in it and just keep an eye on it. But it started up and shifted as expected, smooth shifting, 20 mile run; so I'm stumped on what the problem is exactly.

For a spent clutch I was thinking I would release the pedal one day and the truck wouldn't move, because the clutch was wore out. That's not happening. I can press the pedal, it feels normal, it just won't shift into gear like it should.

So I'm trying to figure out if when I press the pedal the clutch is remaining partially engaged and not separating completely and that's the problem? Or the clutch cable is getting hot and stretching and I'm not getting the travel I should and that's the problem? Or it's something else? Something to do with wear in the gear box?

If I cut of the truck off, hot or cold doesn't matter, I can shift into each gear easily, no funny noise, clinking or rattling. Feels smooth so I'm not noticing anything from the gear box. That's how I got home Friday, I cut the truck off, shifted into reverse when I needed to and cut the truck off again to shift into a forward gear and went along that way. Shifting between forward gears was with caution, I just found one I could get into and limped home.

This morning on a cold start it was as if nothing happened, drove to work shifting easily.

Anyone seen this before? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
 

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As the car is new to you, I would check (and probably replace) all fluids - tranny, diffs, etc. In any event, your problem can be caused by, perhaps, a kinked cable - you should check the routing, and in particular check at the grommet in the firewall to see if there is any stress there - the cable can actually crack the firewall if binding, as it exerts a tremendous about of pressure. You can also check to see if the cable is adjusted properly (get under the car at the lever at the end of the cable by the tranny, push the lever in until you feel resistance, and then have someone depress the clutch pedal. You cable should move forward one inch and the sheath shouldn't move at all). There are also plastic bushings in the shift lever itself that can cause the lever to be difficult to get into gear - info and diagrams of the assembly on the forum, if you search for it.
By the way, reverse is not synchronized. I normally put the car into 1st before shifting into reverse - just a habit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Bex, you got it

Hi Bex, thanks for the clues. It turned out to be right there at the firewall where the bracket is mounted on the engine side. There are a pair of cracks in different spots going in different directions. I grabbed ahold and wiggled a bit and I can see the movement and I think that's a good match to the symptoms. The firewall right there is not holding. I'll fix that and see where that leaves me. Thanks again.
 

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Chances are the firewall is cracking because of the cable, rather than the cracked firewall initially causing cable problems. The cable exerts something like 600 pounds of pressure - I would think that your cable is either not adjusted or routed properly, which is causing the problem at the firewall, and now the problem at the firewall is exacerbating the cable movement. So, yes, you would need to reinforce the firewall at the grommet, but also check the cable adjustment to see why it's doing that to the firewall in the first place.
 

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Replace the clutch cable simply due to age and mileage, especially if you have over 100K miles on it. They're cheap and a new one will reduce your clutch effort compared to an old one.

A friend of mine had his clutch cable break though the housing out on a back road in the middle of nowhere. He was able to do a temporary repair and get it home and that convinced me to change mine. Make sure that you order the right cable if you purchase it online as lengths and cable ends vary.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Yeah my cable is the core of the problem I think. I wrestled with that thing again today and put a small quick fabrication on the firewall to try and tide over until Friday when my new cable comes in. Didn't help much. I think the cable is just not moving fully. I've got a picture of the firewall crack.

I'll make an inner and outer assembly like I saw in another post here today to fix the firewall that but a new cable I think will get me back on track.



I cut a bracket to fit around and support the mount because its busted in half. It felt good for maybe a minute then I was back to reflex clutch/shifting to try and get a gear. I'm not sure how much the sheet metal is flexing there at the firewall, not much I think. I think the cable is just barely working. If I clutch and shift fast enough I get just enough movement out the cable to get a gear. When I install the new cable I'll verify it is routed and clipped correctly like the illustration in the repair manual.

Thanks again for the advise.
 

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Yeah my cable is the core of the problem I think. I wrestled with that thing again today and put a small quick fabrication on the firewall to try and tide over until Friday when my new cable comes in. Didn't help much. I think the cable is just not moving fully. I've got a picture of the firewall crack.

I'll make an inner and outer assembly like I saw in another post here today to fix the firewall that but a new cable I think will get me back on track.



I cut a bracket to fit around and support the mount because its busted in half. It felt good for maybe a minute then I was back to reflex clutch/shifting to try and get a gear. I'm not sure how much the sheet metal is flexing there at the firewall, not much I think. I think the cable is just barely working. If I clutch and shift fast enough I get just enough movement out the cable to get a gear. When I install the new cable I'll verify it is routed and clipped correctly like the illustration in the repair manual.

Thanks again for the advise.
Be very careful of the cable you purchase. I would highly recommend an original OEM. I say this because I ordered an off brand on e-bay for my 1992 GEO Tracker and it did not work properly. I did some research and found the original part number than did some more searching and finally found someone who had the part. BINGO - worked perfectly. As for the cracked firewall, be careful how it is repaired and the thickness. The cable adjustment is a bit tricky and you need to make sure you don't exceed the total adjustment length.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Made some progress. I'm real happy with the bracket. It wraps around the corner so it's pretty solid. Those are self tapping screws so I could do this from the engine side. Cable is a touch tilted but there was no meat there and I found it pretty difficult to maneuver in the floorboard so I wasn't able to work from that side at all right now. I wound up adjusting the bracket on the pedal spline a few teeth because there was a little too much cable coming through the firewall. Had too much slack in it and made the first several inches of the pedal useless. Now I have a slow clutch, it engages in the last several inches as the pedal is released. But I got what I wanted; when I press the pedal I get resistance but the resistance relaxes in the last two inches or so as I reach the floorboard fully disengaging the clutch; smooth real nice shifting, no binding or other concerns now. I'm going to give it a go for this next week and probably adjust that pedal back one tooth on the spline just to fine tune. The cable is bothering me a little bit. I got it from a local parts house and was clear on OEM. I believed the guy and it got here two days faster that my next online choice. It's not long enough to wrap around the steering and I found a sheered bolt under the radiator that supports the cable and that may have contributed to the problem too. I'll square that away when I pull the radiator while taking on my next project, the water pump. It's dripping so I'm going to jump on that and keep an eye on the clutch.
 
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