Our grandson is now driving our old '92 Honda. It's a stick shift. Recently, it wouldn't go into gear, so we took it to our mechanic, and he replaced the clutch master and slave cylinders. That fixed it for a month, but a couple of days ago he couldn't get it into gear again. I had it towed to the mechanic. It was low on fluid, so he bled the line and filled it up, and it works again. But he couldn't find a fluid leak. He said to drive it and at the first hint of the clutch and/or shifter feeling different, I should bring it back in. My question is: What can we do to detect where the fluid leak is? All I can suggest to my grandson is to put some cardboard under the car to look for leaks, or visually check the master and slave cylinders every day. What do you think?
TOM: It was smart of your grandson to get you to throw in the 25-year, 250,000-mile warranty.
RAY: In terms of where the system can leak, there are a limited number of spots.
TOM: One is under the dashboard, where a rod runs from the clutch pedal into the back of the master cylinder. There's a little rubber boot there. If you peel away that boot and wipe your finger where the rod enters the cylinder, it should be dry as a bone.
RAY: If you feel any moisture at all there, the master cylinder is leaking. If your guy used a rebuilt master cylinder instead of a new one, that could happen.
TOM: At the other end of the system, bolted to the transmission housing, you'll see another rod coming out of the slave cylinder that applies pressure to the clutch fork. That also has a rubber boot where the rod goes into the slave cylinder. Same deal there: If you peel away the boot, you should see no evidence of liquid whatsoever.
RAY: Another source of leaking fluid would be the hydraulic lines. Maybe they weren't tightened completely, or maybe one of them got cross-threaded. And, in either case, you'd see evidence of that right at the couplings.
TOM: The final place you could lose fluid is at the bleeder.
RAY: There's a bleeder on the slave cylinder. If that was left open or is faulty, fluid could leak from there.
TOM: But that's it. It's a pretty simple, closed hydraulic system with only a few parts. If you don't find leaks at any of those points, you're not leaking fluid.
RAY: And in that case, I'd suspect that your mechanic made a mistake of some kind when he did the initial repair.
TOM: He could have bled the system incorrectly and left it low on fluid. Or he could have failed to tighten a line properly. And in that case, my guess is that he quietly (or accidentally) corrected the problem when you brought it back a month later, and everything is fine now.
RAY: Time will tell. But if that's what happened, you should have no further warranty claims on the clutch from your grandson.
I want to lease either a Mercedes-Benz S65, Bentley Flying Spur or Audi S8. I'm concerned about quiescent current drain when the car is locked and parked in a garage. I'm talking about the current that gets used for the clock, the alarm system and whatever else. I need a vehicle that can sit for three weeks and still start when I come back to it. I don't want to bother with a trickle charger. I'm hoping that one of these vehicles will tolerate three weeks of inactivity and then start reliably. Please advise. Thanks for the amazing amount of knowledge and help you have provided to so many for all these years.
RAY: If you let most modern cars sit for two or three weeks - certainly for a month - they won't start when you come back.
TOM: Aside from the clock and alarm systems, there's often a keyless-entry system that requires power, an emissions-monitoring system and, on some cars, even ventilation systems that perform functions when the car is off.
RAY: And after spending six figures on a car, it certainly is undignified to be standing around with the hood up, holding a set of jumper cables when you get back from your three-week glamping trip to Botswana.
TOM: So I think you want the Bentley. They've figured out that anyone who owns a Bentley probably has several cars. And they assume that the Bentley might not be driven every day.
RAY: Right. You might want to drive your Aston Martin convertible on a sunny day. Or your '72 Fiat when you're going to see your ex-wife's lawyer about her request for more alimony.
TOM: So, according to Bentley, the Flying Spur has two batteries: One is for all the car's electronics, and the other is dedicated to starting the car.
RAY: Plus, the car has its own built-in trickle charger. A trickle charger, as the name implies, keeps a trickle of current running to the battery to keep it fully charged.
TOM: And while you can buy your own trickle charger at Sears, it's so inconvenient and undignified to have to open the hood and hook it up, isn't it?
RAY: So the Flying Spur has a built-in outlet right next to the rear license plate. All you have to do is connect the cord to the outlet before you leave for Monte Carlo, and when you get back, your Bentley will start right up, no matter how long you were gone.
TOM: Just remember to unplug the electrical cord before you drive off, since it's also undignified to be dragging an outlet, a bunch of wires and a chunk of sheetrock behind your Bentley. Enjoy the new car.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.