QOTD: What Was Your Most Frustrating Automotive Wrenching Experience?

A Quick Disconnect retaining clip.

If you ever turned your own wrenches you probably had some swear worthy moments. Most recently it took me one full hour to replace one burnt out light bulb in the high up brake light of a ’08 Hyundai Sonata just because there is no access hole to it from underneath. It was frustrating but not all too bad because some Youtube sleuthing prepared me for it.

Frustrating to no end was my attempt to fix the clutch on a ’97 Mazda B2300. It was difficult at times to put it in first gear and one day it completely failed to engage. I managed to crawl the truck home and park it in the drive way. Good thing I wasn’t depending on that truck and I could take my time to fix it.

I figured I needed to replace the slave cylinder and found out it is the concentric type that requires the removal of the transmission. A Youtube shows how to do just that in your own driveway and I went to work. Since this was the first time for me I was prepared for some inefficiency and learning experiences. After all you ought to do new things as you age in order to ward off the onset of dementia.

My frustrations started with “disconnect the quick disconnect of the hydraulic line.” Mine was neither quick nor was it disconnecting. A Google search did not go far. I found a few related links with the same question but no useful answer. Therefore I cut the line and ordered a master cylinder as well.

Then there were the rusted in bolts on the cross member and some near impossible to reach bolts on the clock housing. One of them was particular inaccessible. I could put a regular wrench on it but there was no room to move the wrench. I could put on a socket but there was no room for the ratchet. So I bought a set of through sockets and managed to get it out. That’s still in the realm of the expected and a welcome excuse to by nice tools.

The guy in the Youtube laid under the transmission and supported it on his knees to lower it on the ground. He remarked that it may look like he is giving birth to something. I didn’t feel like giving birth to anything and hoisted it down with a ratcheting strap from inside the cabin. Now comes the easy part: unscrew two bolts, remove the slave cylinder and put the new one in. While there I replaced the clutch too, no problem at this juncture.

I also had a hard time removing the master cylinder. It really was not all that difficult once I was familiar with it. That done I reassembled everything in reverse order. I hoisted the tranny up from inside the cabin and had it lined up with the engine using two Allen bolts in the bottom mounting holes as guides. But joining the transmission up with the engine proved difficult. There was a one inch gap between them that did not want to close. I had to figure out that the coil spring of the throw out bearing has to be compressed. I bench-pressed the tranny in place and kept forward pressure on it until I  managed to put a proper bolt in. Uffda! I buttoned it all up. Man, was I sore the next day!

Now we have arrived at the truly frustrating part: reconnecting the Quick Disconnect of the hydraulic line. I pushed the male connector of the master cylinder into the female receptacle on the slave cylinder. The retaining clip inside of it supposed to make an audible click and after that it should be impossible to pull the line out again. But mine came out again. And again, and again….and the line leaked brake fluid on me. If air gets into the master cylinder you must take it out again and bleed it on the bench like this video shows:

Google to the rescue, I thought. But the searches uncovered only descriptions on how it supposed to work along these lines: “put it in straight by hand” and “open the bleeder on the slave to relieve pressure as the lines connect”. But none of that helped in my situation. And all hamfisted ways failed as well.

Therefore I posted my question on the Ford Enthusiast Forum. Hanky replied and suggested there could be a problem with the compatibility between the LuK slave and the Dorman master cylinder. I found a LuK master cylinder online and swapped it out. I connected everything and took it for a test drive. I reversed out of the driveway, put it in first and stepped on the clutch to shift into second gear. At that point the pedal was hard as a rock with no movement at all. It even bent under my foot. With some help I pushed the truck back into the driveway. Weeks ago the quick disconnect supposed to disconnect quickly and it didn’t. Now it supposed to stay together and it disconnected by itself!

Is this the time to throw in the towel and have it towed to a real mechanic?

This looks like an appropriate policy to me.

Rather than enduring the shame of declaring defeat I was determined to fix this thing myself. I was in no hurry though, meanwhile it was cold and I really did not need the truck even though it could have been handy at times. It stayed in the driveway and I kept looking over the old bits that I hadn’t thrown away yet in order to wring the secret out of them. I repeatedly looked at pictures of quick disconnects on the interwebs.

This seems to be an OEM retaining clip.

One piece appeared to be the culprit. Inside of the female receptacle rests a stainless steel clip that looks a bit like a crown with long and short tines. The long ones are straight and the short ones are bent inward. I made sure to straighten and bend them the way they supposed to be before I connected them. But every time I pulled back on the line to test if the connector has engaged it came out again!

Meanwhile I could not trust this connector to have the needed strength to be reliable if it ever worked. I thought of getting a new one but that would require purchasing a whole new slave cylinder. Then I decided to go to the Wrench ‘n Go junk yard in Des Moines and get a disconnect there.  I lucked out in the Dodge section where I found a truck with a manual transmission. As a bonus it had an external slave cylinder that made it easy to cut out the disconnect. They didn’t even charge me for the part. In it I found an original clip. Compared to the aftermarket piece it seemed to be of slightly thicker stainless and had a continuous top rather than a row of long tines. And there were short tines bent inwards. They clicked audibly into the groove on the male part and kept it in place no matter how hard I pulled on the line. Hallelujah!

Finally I had it back together, made my test drive and sold the truck. This part, the size of a finger ring, cost me more weekends and grievance than I care to admit. But there is hope that this episode delayed the onset of dementia by at least 18 hours. And that is something a mechanic cannot do for me.

Here is the question: What was your most frustrating automotive wrenching experience?