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2004 element 5 speed manual - haing a difficult time shifting gears. most notably while putting it into 1st or reverse. car has 70,000 miles. chaned transmission fluid when problem first occurred. helped a little but certainly didn't resolve issue. think I need a clutch replacement (assume $800 is reasonable) or could there be some other issue (hopefully less costly). live in flat area. Thanks for your help
 

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Welcome to the club. Where does the clutch ingage when releasing the pedal? If its lower to the floor check the clutch fluid reservoir to see if its low. If not and its not feeling spongy more then usual the clutch cover or also called the pressure plate may be going bad. If its hard to get into gear with the engine running try shutting the engine off and see if it goes into gear normally. If so that would point to ether air on the clutch fluid from ether the master or slave leaking or the clutch needing a replacement.
 

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Welcome to the club. Where does the clutch ingage when releasing the pedal? If its lower to the floor check the clutch fluid reservoir to see if its low. If not and its not feeling spongy more then usual the clutch cover or also called the pressure plate may be going bad. If its hard to get into gear with the engine running try shutting the engine off and see if it goes into gear normally. If so that would point to ether air on the clutch fluid from ether the master or slave leaking or the clutch needing a replacement.
great input. it shifts very smoothly with the engine off.

shiftly normally most of the time while driving, very difficult some of the time.
 

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Check the fluid and see if the master is low. the master is to the drivers side of the brake master. If its full it sounds like you have a failing clutch cover witch the clutch will need to be replaced but get a professional to take a look at it if you think that is the problem.
 
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