Clutch problems in a manual transmission cars are usually expensive to repair and require a professional mechanic. Determining when your clutch is going to give up on you is hard to judge and when it does break, it will leave you without any drive.
It is possible that you have a problem with your clutch that is minor and it could last another 20,000 miles. However, do you risk driving round on a failing clutch that could potentially leave you stranded at the side of the road?
A clutch is hydraulically operated and the clutch master cylinder pumps the fluid to it. As a clutch is pressed down, the master cylinder forces fluid to the clutch slave cylinder to disengage the clutch.
Many people confuse clutch problems with an issue with the clutch master cylinder that causes issues with the clutch pedal and changing gears.
As mentioned, clutch problems often require expensive repairs that include a complete removal or a full service. However, some clutch problems are minor and less expensive, which give distinctive symptoms. Below are common clutch problems and their symptoms.
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Bad Noises From Clutch
Bad noises come in various sounds and happen at certain periods of the clutch functionality. During lower end of clutch pedal travel, the throwout bearing noises can be fairly loud and is caused from poor clutch engagement.
For example, drivers that frequently ride the clutch may suffer this type of noise. However, poor servicing where the bearing has a lack of lubrication will cause audible noises. Ensure that the clutch pedal has adequate free play, otherwise engine noises can travel through the housing.
If you are hearing a high pitched noise from the clutch as you release it with the car in gear, it is a sign of a bad clutch shaft pilot bearing. This bearing will need to be replaced with the cost of the bearing being fairly cheap but the labor may vary from car to car.
Lack of lubrication can results in a clicking noise as you raise or push down the clutch pedal. This can be a cheap repair but it can manifest into an expensive repair if left too long.
Clutch is Slipping
A slipping clutch is a clear sign that your clutch is failing and most drivers will recognize this symptom. You may only feel a clutch slipping whilst the car is heavily loaded (full car of passengers etc) but if the car has just the driver, the clutch may give up fairly soon.
Symptoms that the clutch is slipping can include the pedal moving forward whilst in gear, higher engine RPM whilst no increase in speed, clutch disengaging too quickly and alternating feelings from the pedal.
A slipping clutch is more common when accelerating from standstill and if it slips, the most common causes are:
- Too little free-play in clutch pedal
- Pressure or clutch plate is worn
- Lack of fluid for lubrication
- Clutch plate is covered in oil
- Bad waste or clutch slave cylinder
Sadly, once the clutch starts to slip, there is no going back if its a mechanical issue. You should always repair a slipping clutch before is worsens because it may cause additional strain on other vehicle components.
Clutch Is Dragging Or Failing to Disengage
A clutch that drags will not disengage the clutch disc from the flywheel as the clutch pedal is pushed down. This results in the driver being unable to change gear as the clutch is still engage and spinning with the engine. If the driver attempts to change gear, their will be a grinding noise from the clutch.
A clutch that drags or fails to release can be caused from:
- Low fluid or air in the line
- Bad master cylinder
- Clutch linkage not adjusted properly
- Too much slack in clutch pedal
A dragging clutch can often be fixed cheaply through readjustment. Seek a professional mechanic that will not try and sell you a new clutch replacement.
Failing Clutch Master Cylinder
The master cylinder pumps the fluid to the hydraulic clutch and it can be the root cause to many clutch related problems. Symptoms of a failing master cylinder can include low or dirty clutch fluid from broken seals within the cylinder or it is simply leaking.
This can lead to further problems with changing gears becoming increasingly harder as the cylinder is not able to create adequate pressure. The results of a failing clutch master cylinder is a “spongy” feeling from the clutch pedal or the pedal itself sinking to the lowest point.
What Causes A Low Life Span Of A Clutch?
An important consideration before buying a new car is how it has been used. A clutch can have a good or bad life regardless of whether or not the car has been serviced correctly. A clutch lifespan can be reduced from:
- Riding the clutch to often
- Towing heavy objects such as caravans, trailers and more
- Holding clutch whilst stopped instead of using brake pedal
- Disengaging the clutch too quickly
- Not checking the clutch fluid regularly
Clutches do wear out from extended usage just like any other vehicle component. How long will a clutch last? There is no exact answer but with the majority of new cars you should expect to see between 80,000 to 100,000 miles from a clutch that has had a good life.
The next common question is How much it costs to replace a clutch? The answer varies from car to car, with premium cars often having a more complex clutch to the average car. The labor costs involved in replacing the clutch is the expensive part, often costing between $300 to $500. The clutch kit itself can usually be around the $200-$300 dollar mark, which gives a total repair bill of replacing the clutch of $500 to $800 for the average car.