My car is bust

August 22, 2005

My 2001 Toyota Celica GT 5spd is out of commission. The clutch and transmission self-destructed somehow…

Here’s what happened: I was driving into work this morning down 101 and all of a sudden, I hear a loud pop and my car starts making a really loud, high-pitched whining noise. I figured it couldn’t be good so I pulled off the freeway and found myself a Toyota dealership (luckily there was one just a few miles down the road). When I got off the freeway and came to a complete stop, I almost couldn’t put my car back into gear. I had to press the clutch all the way down and really jam it into 1st gear. At this point, I’m realizing that something major is probably broken 😦 I pull into the dealer’s service center and hand over the keys; they say it will cost $250 for an inspection. Waaaaaa?! That’s mighty expensive. But of course, I was in an unfamiliar area and I didn’t really have any other options.

As they drove my car from the service drop-off lane to the hydraulic lift, the powertrain seized – they had to push my car onto the lift :O. At this point, I’m thinking that this isn’t good…

So I call up my insurance company but they tell me that they only cover accidents and theft, not mechanical failure. I ask the customer service representative if I can just attempt to crash my car and my repairs will be covered. He says yes I’d be covered, but they wouldn’t recommend that course of action 😉

I go back to talk to the service center and they tell me that my transmission is still covered by warranty – praise God! – and that the warranty service will cover a loaner car for 4 days and the inspection fee. Bad news though is that my clutch is also busted and that’s not covered under warranty. Apparently, it’s a “wear part”? I dunno what’s up with a clutch that only lasts 45k miles, maybe it’s time to upgrade 😀 Any Celica owners have recommendations for a good aftermarket clutch?

As if to drive the point home, I went to talk to the mechanic and he showed me my transmission fluid. It has a ton of metal powder in it – the internals of my transmission had been pretty much shredded.

Now, I know how the powertrain hooks up and how everything works, but I don’t see how my clutch and transmission could just spontaneously break like that. I’ve had all my regular maintenance done and they’ve never said anything about a possible transmission problem. Any mechanics out there have any ideas?


No Responses Yet to “My car is bust”

  1. Derek Punsalan Says:

    So I read through your post… I see you’re suprised that your clutch only lasting 45K miles. LOL. Of course the clutch is going to be considered a “wear part”. Toyota can’t cover that under warranty. Imagine all the piss poor shifters out there. Hmm… maybe the real question should be whether or not Mr. Mark knows how to properly shift? I hear there are some decent race schools in your area… Maybe a quick day lesson will help 😉

    I’m just kidding. I used to have a GSXR1000 and the clutch went bad after 3K miles. Obviously it wasn’t covered under warranty. I guess it couldn’t take my abuse? The rolling burnouts must have done it in.

    Back on topic. Toyotas are decent cars. You shouldn’t need to replace your 2001. Upgrade to a stronger clutch. I’m not even going to pretend I know what kind since I’m not into cars.

  2. Jerry Says:

    About the clutch issue – depending on the vehicle and how you drive it, you can fry a clutch in a few weeks. Just drive everywhere with the clutch pedal partway down and make sure it slips every time you step on the gas. I was standing in a parking lot talking to my wife in our stick shift car one day when I began to smell a smoking clutch. She had been sitting and talking to me with the car in first gear and as her foot tired, she was slowly letting out the clutch. Eep! =( Because it is easy to fry a clutch, it isn’t covered under warranty.

    Vehicles with a “GT” designation or a big “R” sticker on the side are prime candidates for fried clutches. Typically the car has more power than the normal model and often the car manufacturer uses the same clutch. Couple that with drivers that are a little more liberal with the throttle.

    One thing you didn’t mention was if the clutch was worn out, or wrecked because of the transmission issue. The latter is possible because half of the clutch is mounted on a shaft that connects to the transmission.

  3. markjen Says:

    Hi Derek and Jerry, thanks for the comments 🙂

    See, the reason I’m suprised is because even though I drive the car aggressively, I am very protective of it. The car has only seen Mobil 1 TriSynthetic 5w30 after factory fill, I always double clutch/rev match (correctly, with a double clutch pump, never holding the clutch down to cause extra roller bearing wear), and I’m always sure to get off the clutch as fast as possible during shifts.

    Maybe the transmission caused my clutch to go, maybe vice versa… I’m assuming the clutch usually fails first, but I don’t see how a broken clutch would destroy a transmission like what happened to mine.

    I need to get more info from the dealer. They haven’t even called me back with an estimate yet…

  4. Ram Says:


    I never thought a celebrity would be driving on a Celica 😉 Which Toyota dealer did you go to? The one in Sunnyvale on El Camino was really courteous.

  5. markjen Says:

    Hi Ram – Heh, I wish I had a cooler car; an Audi S4 or BMW 3-series jump to mind 😉

    I went to Melody Toyota in San Bruno. They seem decent, but I’m not sure I totally trust them yet…

    Unfortunately in my situation, I didn’t have the ability to choose where to go 😦

    Thanks for the recommendation though!

  6. rose Says:

    i hear mark used to use his car to hit on girls. he’s told me he’s taught a bunch of people to drive on his car. since I mastered the clutch in no time, i’m sure it was 1 of his previous students who did the damage…

    guess pimpin comes with a cost 😛

  7. question Says:

    what are you doing rev matching all the time? there lies your problem. rev matching is typically a technic used in race courses where you need to downshift without interrupting the flow of things… its rarely required on the streets.

  8. markjen Says:

    Rev-matching reduces wear on your synchros when downshifting.

    If you don’t rev-match, you are in danger of excess wear on your clutch since the synchros have to do the rev-matching for you. If you do a correct double clutch, you will also not cause excess wear on your roller bearings.

    I suppose a double clutch will cause extra wear on your pressure plate and springs, but I believe it’s generally accepted as a good idea to save wear on your car – it’s just difficult to perfect (and people have enough trouble driving as it is 😉 )

  9. djQuickTip Says:

    Praise god…because you saved yourself some measly money?

  10. markjen Says:

    Hi djquicktip – Yup, I’ll readily admit that I praised God becuase I saved some measly money 🙂

    There are many reasons to praise God and I wouldn’t exclude cases where something mundane resolves itself well.

  11. djQuickTip Says:

    I am ok with you praising god over money. It just seems a bit shallow and selfish, but that’s another story. I’m just concerned about the folks who believe in god, but then find ways to always lose money. Should they be damning god or in fact praising them even in that situatino of ridding themselves of the evil that is money?

  12. john wallis Says:

    Hi, I found your blog because my wife’s car had exactly the same thing happen to it yesterday. It’s a 2001 Celica GT and her description of what happened matches yours almost word for word, wierd huh? I have to wonder if some of these Toyota transmissions have a built in problem. Anyway if you’ve been beating yourself up for all this time wondering what you did wrong you can stop now:) john

  13. markjen Says:

    Hi John, thanks for letting me know about your story 🙂

    I sold this car shortly afterwards, mostly becuase I had wanted to get a new one for a while anyways, but this problem motivated me a little bit. I hope everything turned out ok for your wife!

  14. Tim Nelson Says:

    My 2000 Celica GTS will soon need a transmission and clutch (65,000 mi). Friend has the same car and replaced transmission after about 50,000 mi.

  15. markjen Says:

    The transmission might be covered under warranty (I don’t remember how much coverage there is exactly… maybe 100k?). The clutch is going to be a couple hundred dollars though – it’s a wear & tear part.

  16. Robbo Says:

    I love gixers. The Suzuki GSX-R1000’s dominance are simple. Sublime, lithe ergonomics and handling, radical styling and full-on usable power. The bikes looks good too. Im thinking of buying one. gonna check out some bike insurance quotes to see how much this beast is gonna cost me to get on the road. then i’ll have to sweet talk the wife into letting me have one.

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