Troubleshooting And Avoiding Clutch Problems

A manual transmission gives you great control and power, but it takes more work than an automatic transmission. In a new car, gear shifts are smooth, but with age, things start to get a little creaky. The vehicle becomes slightly sluggish and you may notice strange sounds when you idle or shift gears. You are probably having clutch problems.

The Purpose Of The Clutch

The clutch transfers power from the engine to the gearbox and is an important component of a manual transmission. It allows you to disconnect engine power from the gearbox, which is necessary to put the car into gear or shift gears. Ideally, a clutch should last for 100,000 to 150,000 km. Clutch life depends on usage conditions.

Factors That Influence The Rate Of Clutch Wear

The clutch works on the principle of friction. It has a limited life because friction causes heat and wear. That said, if you are burning clutches too fast, it probably has something to do with your usage pattern. Here are some common factors that influence clutch wear.

1. Quick release (popping the clutch).

Releasing the clutch too quickly to get moving fast or for that quick surge of power will eventually damage it. The clutch is meant to be released slowly.

2. Using the clutch instead of the handbrake.

Avoid holding the clutch in the half position. This is called riding the clutch. For a hill start, use the handbrake to prevent the car from moving backwards and slowly engage the clutch while releasing the handbrake.

3. Inadequate driving skills.

Novice drivers, those learning to drive and those used to automatic transmissions may not use the clutch correctly. This will shorten clutch life.

It takes time to learn to use the clutch properly on icy or snow covered roads. Until you get the requisite experience, some clutch damage cannot be avoided.

4. Difficult driving conditions.

Overloading the car or towing will put extra load on the clutch and speed up wear. Frequent clutch use, which is inevitable in crowded city traffic, will also increase wear. In such cases, expect the clutch to wear out faster.

Signs Of Clutch Problems

1. Slipping clutch.

If your car starts slowly, feels sluggish or has difficulty moving even when the engine is revving, you probably have a slipping clutch. The problem is more common in higher gears. When the clutch is badly worn, a large part of the frictional material has torn off. The clutch won’t grip the flywheel and engine power is not transferred efficiently.

2. Gear shift is not smooth and it’s hard to get into some gears.

This could be a problem with the linkages or the clutch plate is probably damaged.

3. Grinding noises while shifting gears.

If this happens, you probably have a dragging clutch. The clutch doesn’t release fully even with the clutch pedal fully depressed. The transmission shaft keeps spinning and gears clash when you try to shift. The problem is usually more acute when you try to shift into reverse gear.

A dragging clutch can be due to a clutch pedal that needs adjustment or it can be due to a problem with the release mechanism.

4. Strange noises when you depress or release the clutch pedal.

This is usually due to lack of lubrication in the clutch release mechanism. It could also mean that the release bearing has worn out.

5. Unusual noise when the car is in neutral that goes away if the clutch pedal is depressed.

This could be a sign of a worn out input shaft.

6. Clutch pedal is hard, too soft, vibrates or feels strange.

Several problems with the clutch system can cause these symptoms.

A Clutch Problem Does Not Mean Clutch Replacement

A clutch has several components: the clutch disk, hydraulic or mechanical release mechanism, cables, linkages, pressure plate, fly wheel, bearings and clutch fork. When you have problems, a completely burnt-out clutch is just one extreme possibility. Clutch replacement is expensive. So, it makes sense to rule out other problems first. Here are some common issues.

1. Clutch linkage or cable is damaged, rusted or worn out. It could also need adjustment.

2. Damaged pressure plate.

3. Oil from the transmission or engine has leaked into the clutch assembly.

If your car is exhibiting symptoms of a bad clutch, you need a good mechanic to investigate and fix the problem. Contact one of our garages in Oldham or Bury for an appointment or complete the short form below. You will get the benefit of excellent service, competitive rates and convenient car pick up options.

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