So how hard can changing a clutch be? Really?

One of the joys about living on the Rock Farm is being miles from the hustle and bustle of modern day life.  It is also one of its drawbacks, with round trips into the big city being at least a 100km journey.  This means that our cars end up driving lots of kilometres each year.  And eventually this catches up with you with a big maintenance bill.

Eventually you get to a point where a car becomes uneconomic to repair, and you are forced to get a new(er) one.  One of the ways we try to hold off this expensive option is to do some of the maintenance work on one of the cars ourselves.

Now dropping the oil and kicking the tyres is one thing, but our little Subaru was starting to make all sorts of new groans and noises.  Completely understandable after the past 270 000km of its life.  So we were faced with a  decision – repair or replace.

A short walk around a few car yards made the decision easy.  Repair was to be our choice.  With our long term mechanic finally closing his doors a couple of years ago, we have been unable to settle on a mechanic.  So I decided to give the job a go, myself – well not quite by myself – I did have a couple of little helpers.

With YouTube research confirming any old hack can replace a clutch and replace the timing belt, I decided to give it a go.  With parts alone amounting to over $1500 it wasn’t a gamble I really wanted to get wrong. An extra $75 for a workshop manual and another $99 for a chain block, it was time to swing the first spanner and give it a red hot go.

And give it a go we did. The Little Helpers were fantastic, holding the light just right, for almost long enough before deciding to create interesting shadows on the wall. The intracies of the mechanical marvel that is the internal combustion engine might have been lost on them, but it was a good introduction that most mechanical machines can be maintained. Not all of them are disposable items in this consumer driven society.

One of the advantages of this modern consumer scoiety however is the little camera that doubles as a phone.  I was able to take lots of photos during the disassembly, which greatly aided the reverse process!

I had a few nervous moments installing the new timing belt, with the explicit and direct warnings of the workshop manual burning into my brain that severe engine damage will occur if you get any part of this wrong. There is nothing like putting the cover back on and discovering there is a new pulley still sitting in the box! We also faced the problem that the water pump provided in the kit was from an earlier model and required a different flange for the radiator hose. The right bit cost $10 and half a day from a local wrecker).

I considered replacing the whole engine with an exchange unit, however if I was going to go down that path, I would also replace the gearbox, radiator, alternator, and a whole heap of other bits and pieces.  We would also need to re-bush the suspension, and so on.  Mind you, as we went along, the Flintstone model (below) was looking mighty attractive!


But it all went reasonably well.  A friend lent me a magic 12 volt impact driver that made short work of the flywheel bolts and crankshaft pulley, without which the job would have been impossible.  Putting it all together was another exercise in methodical and careful checking, but we got there in the end.  The car started with an almighty screech from  one of the drive belts, but a quick adjustment to the power steering pump soon fixed that and we were back on the road.

All up it took about two and a half days – including the half day lost due to the trip to the wreckers.  The result is definitely worth it.  Thanks to Chris, Pa and the Little Helpers for their assistance during this exercise, and to Jo who managed to find the odd little tools and bits in town that made life a whole heap easier.

Would I do it again?  Hopefully not for another quarter of a million kilometers!


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