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6th Gen In the years from 1996 to 2000 Honda released it's 6th Generation Civic. Chassis codes: EK9, EK4, EK3, EJ6, EJ8, EJ9, EM1

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Old 08-06-2007   #1
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Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Hi there,

I have a 1997 Civic EX manual with 155k miles I cannot get to shift without ramming and grinding the gears into place.

I am a DIY kind of person, but my brother typically helps me out with car work. He's out of the country for a year so I'm on my own with this one! I'm looking for advice on how to troubleshoot and repair this problem. I'll give as many details as I can, sorry if this ends up pretty long.

The problem started about 3 weeks ago. I suddenly noticed that the gears required a lot of pressure to shift into place. The problem quickly grew worse, and nearly stranded my wife once, so I started checking things under the hood. To my embarrassment, I found the clutch reservoir was completely dry. So I added fluid and had a friend help me pump the pedal while I opened and closed the bleeder valve. The fluid that came out was very dark, almost black, so we bled it until it ran clear with the new fluid. Now, I was watching carefully, but never really noticed any air coming out of the bleeder valve. We went through 1 and 1/2 reservoir tanks of DOT3.

We took it for a test drive, and it seemed to work slightly better, shifting smooth a couple times, but most of the time it was still shifting hard. So my next thought was maybe the master cylinder was not getting enough pressure from the clutch pedal. In my old Civic (92), the clutch disengaged pretty quickly when the pedal was pushed down, but in this Civic I have to press it a bit further before it disengages. Never been a problem, but I figured I would check it out anyway.

So I adjusted the pedal to take out any extra free play, being careful not to put any pressure on the master cylinder. I seemed to gain 1/2 to 1 inch, and the pedal felt tighter and disengaged the clutch sooner, like my other Civic. This seemed to solve the shifting problem as it was back to shifting smoothly again and I thought I had the thing licked.

Now we fast forward to Saturday. Had my wife out about town for her birthday and suddenly the same problem happens, only this time it's very sudden without any warning. I cannot shift into gear AT ALL and am stranded at a light. After much time and coaxing, I manage to get it into 2nd, but cannot shift even with the clutch pedal pressed in fully. I am able to shift using the rolling method, matching the RPMs to the speed of the car and grinding it in to get us home.

After doing much reading on these and other forums and comparing my symptoms, my theory is that the clutch may be fine, but is not disengaging for some reason. I can somewhat confirm this by a couple things.

For one, when I get the car into a gear, for example 2nd or reverse, the car begins moving slowly as if the clutch is slightly engaged, even though I have the clutch pedal to the floor. Though, it does not feel squishy or weak like some people have experienced.

Second, while we were out, I tried turning the car off and starting it again while in gear, and it nearly didn't even start. It growled low and the lights dimmed like the battery was almost dead, but I think it was because the engine was partially engaged to the tranny.

All the gears shift through just fine when the engine is not running. I checked and rechecked the master cylinder and slave cylinder hoses and connectors for leaks, and everything appears dry.

Can running the master cylinder dry like I did damage anything?
Could it be a problem in the tranny or with the throw out bearing (I am unfamiliar with the throwout bearing, I have just read some about it) or is the Master Cylinder/Slave Cylinder to blame?

This is our only vehicle, so I am pretty short on time. I don't do any fancy driving, though according to some things I have read on these forums, I may be burning the clutch some (Holding the clutch down while in gear at a stoplight, giving it gas as I shift, etc.)

I believe everything to be stock, but can't be sure. I bought it used as rebuild at 114k. I am taking today to try and get this solved, any help you can offer is greatly appreciated!

David
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Old 08-08-2007   #2
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Hope I didn't scare everyone off with too much info to read there. I tried to be as detailed about the problem as I could, I know it can be frustrating trying to help when important details are left out.

Here's an update on what I've done. I took the clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder off, took them apart and gave them a good cleaning. They seemed to be in pretty good shape. So I put them back together and back on the car, but still have the same problem.

I pulled back the boot that covers the slave cylinder and release fork and watched how far the rod pushed the release fork while someone pressed the clutch pedal in. It seemed to be working OK. I still have my old 92 civic parked, which is also a manual, so I took a look at the slave cylinder/release fork on it. Both cars appear to be working the same, with the slave cylinder pushing the release fork back just as far on both.

Does this effectively rule out the master and slave cylinder being the problem?

Here are pictures of both the master and slave cylinders:
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

So at this point I have to assume something in the transmission itself has gone out, perhaps the throwout/release bearing? I've begun to disassemble the transmission and will just have to see what I find inside. I am not totally sure of what I am looking at, so I can post pictures here if someone could give me some advice. Any other advice at this point on what the problem might be is appreciated.

Thanks again, David
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Old 08-08-2007   #3
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

I can't really help with your issue, but bump for someone who appears to be an intelligent guy, with a comprehensive description of his issue. Good luck.
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Old 08-08-2007   #4
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

I had a similar problem a while back with a Nissan Sentra. Mine turned out to be w ruined clutch. My symptoms were almost the exact same as you with being unable to really start or disengange the clutch, and it turned out that one of the springs in the clutch had fallen out and was holding the clutch engaged. The only way to check that would be to pull the transaxle off I believe and see what's goin on back there.
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Old 08-09-2007   #5
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Cannot seperate transmission!

Thanks so much for the posts. Even though I am not 100% sure what the problem is, from everything I am gathering I have growing confidence that something is going on between the transmission and engine, and pulling this thing is the best thing to do at this point to figure it out.

So I've been working the past couple days on disconnecting everything from the transmission (Thankfully, I work from home so I have the time available), and am ready to pull the bell housing from the engine. But I cannot for the life of me get it to go! The instructions simply say:

19. Pull the transmission away from the engine until it clears the mainshaft, then lower it on the transmission jack.
CAUTION: Take care not to bend the clutch line.

One side of it has a nice split going, so my thought is that the split would continue on around. But it hasn't. The other side is holding on like there is still a bolt there. But I've been over and over the manual detailing every bolt, and all of them are removed. I've also been all over the housing and find nothing else that can be removed.

So it seems I am stuck here until I get a break through, literally. Does anyone have any experience and advice with this part of it? I've tried hitting the housing from all sides with a mallet to loosen it up, I've hoisted the engine and transmission together to match each other, I've got a come-along AND ratchet strap putting pull pressure on from the end of the transmission, shoot I've been under the car with my foot against the housing kicking and shoving with everything I've got while holding onto the rotor until the whole car seems it's going to rock off the blocks!

What gives?

I know I need to pull it straight out and have attempted to adjust everything multiple times to ensure I am putting directly pressure away from the engine. I've put a screw driver in the side with a crack and gently pryed/twisted, but that doesn't seem to separate it any more

I've taken some more pictures here for details. If you have any ideas, I could use them! Thanks!

Click the image to open in full size.

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Old 08-09-2007   #6
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Well, after 2 days of wrestling with this thing, I finally found it. Sure enough, it was 1 bolt holding it all on. The crummy diagram I have makes it appear the bolt is above the starter - and there was a bolt there, which I took out. But the actual bolt holding it together is sandwiched between the starter and the transmission. I found it by prying the one half slightly apart with a crowbar and following the crack around. When I crammed my head down around the back, I barely saw the corner of another bolt under there.

I am both relieved and frustrated. I can finally move on, but I should have been here two days ago! Oh well, that's the way it goes sometimes. Once I got the bolt out, the whole thing simply slipped off, very easily. Must have been all that pounding I did hehe. Anyway, I hope I haven't tweaked or damaged the housing/rods/transmission in any way with all the force I was putting on it.

Off to take the clutch plates apart...
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Old 08-10-2007   #7
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

I just did a clutch/flywheel replacement this winter so I been through the removal and re-install of this tranny. Props to you for diving in!

You'll see that the throw out bearing is no big deal. The release fork just pushes it against the pressure plate to disengage the clutch. Maybe the release fork is bent because the pressure plate is jammed somehow.

Be sure to check your linkage from below to be sure nothing is going on there.

I'll be staying tuned. Good Luck.
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Old 08-11-2007   #8
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Thumbs up And the winner is...

Done. Finally finished up the job yesterday, and the new clutch works great!!

All my hopes came true in that I was able to see the problem once I pulled the tranny. At first everything looked like it was in OK shape. But after a closer look I found the problem. It turns out that a piece of metal broke off the clutch disk, worked it's way around the disk, and lodged itself inside the diaphragm, keeping it from disengaging. This would explain the intermittent and then sudden symptoms I was seeing. This piece of metal was flying all around in there, and it looks like it did some grinding in the process.

I bought a new clutch kit and just went ahead and replaced everything while I was in there - Clutch disk, diaphragm, and release bearing. Greased the release bearing and fork up really good, and boy does it feel smooth! The clutch pedal is smoother and softer than ever, I never really realized how tough it was to press down before.

Thanks everybody for your help and input, I really appreciate it. It feels good to have this one under the belt.

Take a look at the pictures!

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Old 08-11-2007   #9
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

well done
someone that can do more than just install silly aftermarket trinkets.
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Old 08-11-2007   #10
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Thumbs up Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Yes. Here! Here!

Nice work!
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Old 12-13-2007   #11
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

congrats but while first reading your post i knew it would have been the clutch. some times problems are usually with the biggest parts. fast fixes usually are only temporary.
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Old 01-07-2010   #12
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

This is pretty much the same problem i'm having with my 94 civic, it was a great read, thanks for the info.
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Old 02-22-2012   #13
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Howdy gents,

I'm having exactly the same problem as described in the start of this thread, except it's with my '91 Civic DX. The only different is, it has a mechanical manual clutch (as apposed to hydraulic) so I know the master/slave can't be the issue (seeing at it doesn't exist on this car).

I've adjusted the clutch cable several times, but the pedal still feels like it isn't engaging at all. I've checked that the cable isn't broken, had someone spot it while I push the pedal, etc.

I'm 100% sure the cable/pedal isn't the problem.

I can shut the car off, shift into first, and start it again while beginning to move, then double-clutch to wherever I need to go, but as you know this is terrible for the car on many levels.

Any thoughts on what to check first?

Thanks!
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Old 04-22-2012   #14
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

bump.

same problem.
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Old 03-20-2014   #15
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Jiboya2
Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Hank you for the post, been looking for a forum will lots of detail on the problem and how to fix it. Since I'm also having this problem with my '92 Honda civic HB, and been trying to figure it out. I've checked both master and salve cylinder and seem okay
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Old 03-20-2014   #16
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Re: Shifting problem, won't go into gear

Thank you for the post, been looking for a forum with lots of detail on the problem and how to fix it. Since I'm also having this problem with my '92 Honda civic HB, and been trying to figure it out. I've checked both master and salve cylinder and seem okay
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