So, after letting it steady-state bleed for about 14 hours, I woke up and went down to check on the status of the car. There was no change in the slave cylinder arm measurement and no signs of leaking where, including inside the slave arm boot. At this point, I decided it was now or never and let it down off the jack stand and removed the rig holding the clutch pedal down. I checked all of the fluid levels and tires and gave the whole car another once-over. I then siphoned out the excess fluid from the hydraulic reservoir until it was at the proper level, and opened the garage.
Getting into the car, I pumped the clutch pedal until my leg was nearly numb, during which time I noted the squeak I’d heard previously from the release fork lever arm was gone as well. I then checked for leaks and checked the reservoir level again. Everything looked good. I decided to crank it up. So, in order to have the best chance of replicating the noise we heard last time, I pushed the clutch and brake all the way to the floor, released the handbraked, put the car in reverse, and started it up.
And it sounded perfect. No odd noises. No shuddering or vibrations. Nothing out of the ordinary. I held my breath and began going through the gears. Silky smooth shifter movement. Better than I’d ever felt it, in fact. No gravelly feeling, less notchy. Beautiful. I decided to put it in neutral and try the clutch pedal. It felt good. Nice and firm- firmer than before, actually. There was maybe an inch of slop at the top, perhaps less, but that’s normal. However, I did note a slight notchy feeling when transitioning from slop to pedal resistance. It didn’t seem to elicit any strange noises, though, so I forged onward.
I ran through all the tests. Checked for creep or engine drag. Kept the revs up at a steady level and listened for odd noises or drag. Nothing. It seemed better than ever. After a few straight-line trips up and down the driveway, I decided to take it for a short drive around the neighborhood. By this point, I’d noticed that the ‘Chewbacca’ groan from the dual-mass flywheel was even gone. Curioser and curioser.
Driving through the neighborhood, I never got above 3rd gear and never got it any higher than 3,000rpm, but so far everything felt sublime. Then, after about 5 minutes, as the car was getting up to operating temperature, I began to suspect that the clutch pedal was steadily feeling less and less firm, but I couldn’t be sure. Was it in my head? Immediately after this thought, I turned right from an intersection and accelerated. As I shifted into second, a sound that can best be described as a leaf caught in a desk fan, only higher pitched, elicited from the front of the car. Immediately the shifter felt less smooth and was back to being notchy and somewhat gravelly.
Right then and there, I began to head back to the house. It made that same sound on the next two shifts, but the rest of the drive home was quiet. The shifter feel and pedal firmness were still less than stellar, however. Getting the car into the garage, I left it running, grabbed a long screwdriver, knelt down and used it as a stethoscope to listen to the transmission. I could hear nothing unusual. I decided to turn the car off, jack it back up, and seek answers.
I spent the next couple of hours researching this issue online and my suspicion of a seized or shredded throwout bearing grew worse and worse. I began to price-shop for parts- the numbers I was seeing leaving me with a heavier and heavier heart. Then I got a call from my manager. He said he got my updates and asked how the car was doing. I told him that technically it drives, but has every indication of a major internal tranmission failure. He said he could give me some shifts inside the store to learn some other areas of operation, since I’d expressed interest in taking the management track.
I said I’d try and find a ride and check back with him. 30 minutes later, I had a ride and was scheduled to come in. I used the bit of time I had before then to call around to local shops in the general area (as in, I could find a ride and drive there in an hour or so) to see who had parts in stock at a price I could afford. Lo and behold, after searching through sponsored shops for the Upstate Mini Club, I talked to Sal at Kinetech Motor Werkes. He had some of the components available at a price that could fit into my very measley budget. I have a friend picking them up as I write this, since said friend was going to be in the area anyway.
After getting that worked out, I got dressed and headed to work (thanks to my good friend Kyle going above and beyond and playing Taxi for me all this week). I worked the front counter and learned a lot of valuable skills and felt better than I had all week. After work, Kyle picked me up and we headed to my house. After discussing the issue for a while, Kyle shared my concerns and we took the car around the block with him driving. Lo and behold, after about 5 minutes or so, once the car was warmed up, we were able to replicate the ‘leaf in a fan’ sound and Kyle immediately put the car in neutral. As we were coasting back down my street towards my driveway, he said “Yep. That is a shredded plastic throwout bearing.”
I wasn’t surprised. But I was crushed. He assured me that the hydraulics showed every sign of needing replacing anyway and that we’d wasted no money in doing so. We pulled the car back into the driveway and there it sits while I try and see how to budget for what may be needed.
As such, come tomorrow morning, we are going to limp the car as carefully as possible to Kyle’s brother Ian’s house, where there is more space, better tools, and a lift. This weekend, we are going to tear down the entire front end and drop the transmission. The plan is to get it out, investigate the damage, and go from there. If we can, since we’re going to have everything exposed anyway, we’re also going to address a leaky crank position sensor o-ring (very common), check the oil pan gasket, and service the supercharger with new oil, as well as check the water pump power takeoff gears to make sure everything is in good shape.
It’s going to be hard. Parts are not cheap, very few are available locally, and the labor is not going to be easy or simple. But since this all began on Sunday, my friends and my companions in the Mini community have stepped up to the plate time and time again and given me something I never dreamed of having 5 days ago: Options. And hope. For that, I am thankful.
I still have a job. My manager is working with me and has me on a flex schedule. Since I cannot drive delivery right now, he is having me learn skills inside the store to prepare me for the management career track. He has been incredibly patient and understanding when so many others would have just fired me. Sure, the job pays very little, but it’s a job when a week ago I didn’t have one. It’s also filled with awesome people who barely know me but still care. For that I am thankful.
My family and I are still behind on bills at home and most likely still will be for a while. But at least my chances of having a reliable vehicle are not zero anymore. We still have a chance as fixing our situation and building a future together. And for that I am thankful.
I’m sorry for any typos, proofreading, or grammatical errors. I have to get dressed for work tonight before my ride gets here and as such I don’t have time to proofread this before posting. I will check back in after work before I head to bed. Tomorrow is a big day and will bring many answers.
I will continue to update as everything continues.