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I was driving normally (no problems, everything going smoothly; never had felt any problems with the clutch, was catching on well etc.) and all of a sudden, with no warning sign or anything (no shock, no bang, nothing), the clutch pedal doesn't go far enough anymore to engage the gears in a normal way. I was still driving and it still worked more or less (but it was bumpy changing gears, as one would expect, and not very healthy for the car, I think), so I stopped at a place where it was safe to do so. It goes about 3/4 of the way, then there's a lot of resistance and I can't push it any further -- it's not just hard to push further, it's impossible (unless I would put so much force on it that it would break or something).

I didn't want to drive it like this (can't engage the gears unless I would put too much force on it, which I don't want to do), so I left the car at the safe spot and asked someone to come pick us up and we'll have it towed tomorrow.

Does anyone know what it might possibly be?

The car is a BMW 320D E46 built in 2001.

EDIT: the clutch pedal works again -- I don't know how this is possible, but it's still not going smoothly, so it was certainly more than just an obstruction of the clutch pedal. When I shift and slowly release the clutch while pressing in the gas, it's supposed to be smooth, now it's bumpy. It's technically speaking drivable, but it's everything but a smooth ride.

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Please provide the make, model and year of your car - that will help us give you more specific advice. –  Bob Cross May 7 at 16:12
    
It sounds like you've lost vacuum. –  Zaid May 7 at 17:43
    
@Zaid Is that bad? What is it caused by and how would it be fixed? –  Ben May 7 at 17:45
    
@Ben, well I said vacuum but probably the more correct term would be loss of fluid pressure. Most likely you're looking at replacing the slave and master cylinders because their seals have been compromised. I'll post up an answer when I have time. –  Zaid May 7 at 18:11
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A loss of fluid would not (in my mind) keep the clutch pedal from going down all the way, but it would keep the clutch from disengaging all the way (like you are experiencing). Since there is no obstruction under the pedal, it seems there might be an obstruction in the clutch area. Only other possibility to me is that the master may be bad where it's not allowing your to depress the pedal all the way, but that seems very unlikely. –  Paulster2 May 7 at 18:54
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

After your last edit and a few minutes of thinking about your situation I have one more question.

When he vehicle is in gear and moving is there any noise? With the pedal fully depressed is there any noise?

I am going to assume the answer to those are both no and there is simply just difficulty switching gears and the roughness felt during pedal travel. That being said, it sounds like the throw out bearing / clutch release bearing has failed or is about to really fail (no one likes being stranded). Its not uncommon for the failure so don't feel like you've done something wrong. It may be worth your while to pickup a full clutch kit for the car. It will come with a clutch, pressure plate, flywheel (might be extra in some kits), and a throw out bearing.

Best of luck.

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"I am going to assume the answer to those are both no and there is simply just difficulty switching gears and the roughness felt during pedal travel." Assumption is correct; your suggestion definitely seems helpful, we'll definitely check it out. –  Ben May 11 at 23:56
    
Turns out that you were correct, though the clutch was worn out and the flywheel had to be replaced too. It had never been replaced on the car (+270k kilometres), so I think it's not unreasonable that it has to be replaced now. –  Ben May 20 at 9:01
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