Wrangler Clutch Problemsby Wade Shaddy
The Jeep Wrangler manual transmission uses a three-piece hydraulic system for shifting. Most clutch problems originate from this system. Two of the components—the clutch master slave cylinder and the clutch slave cylinder—are external components and are relatively easy to change. Changing the clutch's internal component, the clutch throw-out bearing, requires you to remove the transmission.
The Wrangler clutch master cylinder, located on the left side of the brake master cylinder above the steering column, holds hydraulic fluid in a reservoir and uses a steel line that runs down to the slave cylinder to operate the clutch lever. When you push on the clutch, the master cylinder pressurizes the hydraulic fluid. Master cylinders have rubber seals. Occasionally, the seals go bad and fluid leaks backward through the cylinder, causing the clutch to lose pressure. When this condition occurs, you'll need to change the master cylinder.
The Wrangler slave cylinder is bolted to the transmission housing on the left side. To find it, trace the hydraulic line coming from the master cylinder. The slave cylinder does the actual work of pushing a lever inside the transmission bell housing. The lever opens the clutch, allowing the Wrangler to shift. The slave will often have the same diagnosis as the master cylinder: It leaks fluid and loses pressure. When this occurs, the Wrangler will grind gears or not shift at all, and the slave cylinder will require replacement.
When the slave cylinder pushes the clutch lever, the lever pushes against the throw-out bearing inside the transmission. The throw-out bearing then pushes against the pressure plate. The pressure plate pushes against the clutch plate, opening the clutch and allowing the Wrangler to shift. When the throw-out bearing begins to go bad, a loud zinging noise will occur when you press the clutch. This means that the bearing has stopped working and is creating friction against the pressure plate. The problem will worsen until the bearing and pressure plate wear through, causing thousands of dollars in damage. You'll need to unbolt the transmission and drop it down to change the throw-out bearing.
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