When to Replace Clutch in a Car? (and the Signs to do it)

Clutch is the heart and soul of both, manual and automatic transmission. It is a mechanical component prone to failure after a certain period. But an automatic transmission clutch is less likely to fail because the car itself does most of the gear shifting.

In a manual transmission, the driver has all the control. It is up to him to extend clutch life and watch out for failure symptoms to avoid further damage.

In this article, we’ll cover signs of clutch failure, its cost, and how to do it yourself.

What are the Signs that You Need to Replace Clutch?

Car owners often wonder when should I replace my clutch. Well, to answer this question take a look at the following signs indicating that your car clutch is nearing failure:

  1. Slippage of Clutch

The most common sign that clutch is nearing failure is the slipping of the clutch. The clutch performs the function of engaging transmission by mating a pair of plates. Both these plates come in contact with each other and momentum is transferred from one side to the other. The surfaces of these mating plates wear out after a certain period of time. These worn-out surfaces are not capable of adhering to each other as a result they slip while engaging. This affects the transfer of power.

Also read: 3 Things Happening if You Keep Driving with a Bad Clutch

  1. Crushing While Gear Shifting

When you press the clutch pedal while shifting gear, you are basically disengaging the transmission. By doing this the transmission starts running free and you can easily push the lever to change gears. When the clutch isn’t properly function, the transmission does not disengage fully. As a result, some part of gears stays in contact with each other. So when you shift the gear it keeps grinding against the rotating components on the engine shaft. There is a chance of gearbox failure and the profile of gear teeth is damaged. You might hear a crushing sound from the gearbox while gears are shifting.

  1. Clinking Noise of Metals Rubbing

As pointed above that the transfer of power from the engine to transmission takes place via clutch. Clutch does it by pressing pressure plates against each other. These metal pressure plates are coated with rubber to make them last longer and because rubber offers less friction. But as soon as the rubber wears out, the metallic plates come in contact with each other. The mating of metallic plates cause clinking noise. This is a sign that your car clutch needs to be replaced.

  1. Jerks When Car is Neutral

Again due to the similar reasons for which you feel crushing while changing gears, you might feel jerks while the car is in neutral. When the transmission is in neutral gear, its connection to the engine shaft should be completely cut off. But when clutch isn’t functioning properly then driven gears often come in contact with driving gears. And you feel jerks when this contact takes place. Or your car might start moving even in neutral gear. It is an indication that the clutch is close to failure and you must change it.

  1. Clutch Becomes Hard

When you press the clutch to disengage the transmission it doesn’t respond. You have to press really hard to get it to work. The hard clutch isn’t a direct indicator of clutch failure. Rather it is a sign that associated components like the cable, bearing, driveshaft, or plates are nearing failure. So, when your car clutch starts becoming harder, it is a sign that something is wrong. You should get your car inspected and try to avoid a complete failure.

Also read: 15 Cars that NEVER Rust (100% Galvanised)

  1. Clutch Pedal Not Coming Back To Original Position

The springs and linkages in the clutch system are responsible to retrace it back to its original position. When the linkages are distorted or springs are in an over-stretched position the clutch pedal would not come back. This is a clear indication that the clutch has reached the end of its life and you should replace it as early as possible.

  1. Soft, Spongy Feeling

You might feel a spongy or soft clutch due to many reasons. Some of the reasons might be:

  • Oil layer on the plates due to leakage.
  • Worn-out seals leading to reduction of air pressure in pneumatic clutch systems.
  • Pressure loss due to water leakage in the hydraulic clutch.
  • Damaged diaphragm on plate unable to exert a certain level of pressure.

All these problems are signs of a clutch failure. Hence you must act immediately in this scenario and replace your clutch immediately.

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  1. Low Fuel Economy

All the above-mentioned reasons and any reason whatsoever that affects the power transfer between engine shaft and transmission is directly impacting the fuel efficiency of the car. Whether it is loss due to rubbing, clinking sounds, or worn-out parts, all of this reduces the mechanical efficiency of the engine. You will notice that your car is covering fewer miles per gallon than it was covering before. Combine it with any of the symptoms above and you can easily evaluate the condition of your clutch.

When Should You Replace Clutch in Your Car?

The lifespan of a car clutch is a subjective matter. But under normal driving conditions, you should replace the clutch of your car after 100,000 miles. Car clutches are prone to failure and they can break down sooner than this. Remember that a car clutch is a mechanical component that wears as time passes.

You should replace the clutch in your car as soon as you start feeling any of the above symptoms. Most of the clutch failure symptoms reveal themselves out in the open. So, it is important to remain vigilant and look out for any strange noises and hardware problems.

The life span of a car clutch is solely reliant on your driving pattern. Some people tend to push harder on the clutch, others keep a lighter foot. It is also dependent upon the power terrain of your driving landscape. On twisted roads and hilly areas, you have to change the gears more than usual. So, it is important to change the clutch based on its current condition.

Also read: Should You Press Clutch While Braking (Easily Explained)

How to Extend Your Clutch Lifespan?

You can extend the life span of your clutch considerably by following a regular maintenance schedule. You change transmission fluids on time and remain vigilant of any unnecessary sounds. You can also try changing your driving habits. In which you press clutch gently and press it only when necessary.

  • Keep Lighter Foot: Clutch plates are simple mechanical components. The harder you press the sooner it wears out. Hence, to avoid early failure you must keep a lighter foot on the pedal clutch all the time.
  • Keep Fluids Under Check: Transmission fluids not only make the operation of gear shifting smoother but it also prolongs their life. Timely fluid change can go a long way in extending the life of your clutch.
  • Don’t Half Press Clutch While Driving: Some people have a habit of using the clutch pedal as a resting pad while driving. Avoid doing that and don’t half-press the clutch. These things are adversely affecting the life of the clutch.
  • Watch Out For Any Repair Requirement: As with any other car system, if you catch the problems at the beginning, you can control bigger damage. If you hear any unnecessary sounds from the clutch, get it checked immediately.
  • Avoid Unnecessary Gear Changes: Only change gears and engage the clutch when you have to. Don’t step up or step down gears with every minor speed change.

Also read: 10 Car Brands that Rust the Most (Don’t Buy Them)

What Will Happen if Your Clutch Fails while Driving?

If your clutch fails while driving, you wouldn’t be able to engage or disengage the transmission. It is also dangerous because the failed clutch can go on to damage associated components of the transmission like gearbox and shafts. A broken gear or shaft can put your car in an immediate jam and can cause a serious accident.

The basic function of the clutch is to engage and disengage the transmission. The engine of the car is continuously generating power, the clutch has a function to transfer that power to the transmission. A failed clutch would not be able to serve this purpose.

How Much Does Clutch Replacement Cost?

The complete replacement of the clutch can cost between $1,000 and $2,000. Depending upon the make and models of your car these prices are subjected to change. Nearly 30% of this amount goes towards services of replacement and the remaining 70% is the cost of the clutch.

But usually, you don’t have to replace the whole clutch. The replacement of the clutch cable, master cylinder, plates, or bearing can do the job for you. These problems cost lesser than the replacement cost of the entire clutch. Such parts can be replaced within $200.

Can You Replace Clutch by Yourself?

Changing the clutch is a complex procedure and it is recommended to visit a professional mechanic for it. But if you are determined to do it on your own then you can follow the procedure below:

  1. Park the car on a level surface and raise it from the front using a screw jack.
  2. Disconnect the negative terminal of the battery and electrical cables attached to the starter motor.
  3. Disengage clutch linkage and speedometer cables.
  4. Unfasten the bolts around the starter motor and safely take it out.
  5. Now open all the bolts around the transmission and unfasten it from its mount. Carefully slide it aside.
  6. Now, the clutch and clutch plates will be accessible.
  7. Unbolt the plates and clutch and clean the mounts.
  8. Lubricate the bearing and inspect if they are to be changed.
  9. Now place the new clutch and plates just like you disconnected the previous one.
  10. Reverse all the steps of disassembly while reassembling.


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