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30 Clutch, Controls

Clutch Hydraulic System Overview
Year(s):  80-91
Model/Type:  Vanagon
Bentley Page(s):  30

From:  Jeffrey Earl


The Vanagon's hydraulic clutch system is fairly straightforward, and is clearly depicted in the Bentley manual, Page 30.2. Essentially, the clutch pedal actuates a hydraulic piston-and-cylinder assembly hereafter referred to as the "master cylinder" tucked away just above the base of the steering column. This master cylinder then pushes hydraulic fluid through a 10-foot-long pipe running to the engine compartment, where it is connected to a similar piston-and-cylinder assembly known as the "slave cylinder". This slave cylinder in turn actuates a lever on the side of the clutch bellhousing to engage/disengage the clutch.

Hydraulic fluid for the entire system is supplied by the same reservoir as supplies the brake system; this reservoir is hidden behind the instrument cluster on the dash, and is accessed by removing the instrument- cluster cover.

Typically, the first sign of trouble in the clutch system is hydraulic fluid dripping from the master cylinder onto your shoe, carpet, steering column, etc.. Or perhaps a leak surrounding the slave cylinder back in the engine compartment, accompanied by the increasing consumption of fluid.

Vanagon lore suggests that replacement of the clutch master cylinder will soon be followed by failure of the clutch slave cylinder, the theory being that the original cylinders wear-out at about the same rate neither being stronger than the other so they continue to function together for quite some time. But a new, strong master cylinder will easily overpower the worn seals in a tired old slave cylinder, blowing it out. On a purely speculative note, I suppose the opposite could be equally true: a new slave could be too much for an old master to handle, causing an imminent failure of the master cylinder.

When the seals in the slave cylinder fail, it stubbornly declares to the master "You're not the boss of me now. I ain't actuatin' nothin'!" Failure of either will cause the inability to use the clutch to disengage the transmission, making it difficult or impossible to shift. Insistent pumping of the clutch pedal will result only in the loss of your precious brake/clutch fluid.

My Westy is not used as a daily driver, but instead racks up nearly all her miles on roadtrips and camping forays, so by definition any mechanical failures will occur far from home. Preferring to perform this task in the relative comfort of my own driveway, rather than a lonely interstate or a distant logging trail in the woods, I opted to replace both cylinders in one fell swoop.

See Comments on this entry (F.W.I.W.)

30.2 Clutch Slave Cylinder
30.2 Clutch Master
Bleeding the System

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