heres common signs that your clutch needs replacing

2018-07-04 17:04:58

A car is a complicated thing, there are (averagely) around 30,000 single components in a regular car, all designed to give you that effortless, trouble-free experience of switching the ignition on and just driving wherever you need to go.

But as with anything mechanical, parts wear out, breakdown or just simply fail for no good reason, and when that happens, you need to replace or repair, and if you’re lucky, it won’t be too expensive.

Some components will give you a fair warning before they fail, and usually, if you catch them in time, the repair cost is minimised, but a clutch ... it’s going to cost the same regardless.

How to tell?

A clutch can fail for different reasons, and whilst some car manufacturers do things differently, there is one common fault – simple wear and tear.

The first sign of wear is usually clutch slip – as you’re driving along and try to accelerate, you’ll hear an increase in engine revs but won’t actually speed up. This is particularly noticeable with a turbocharged engine as the turbo makes full boost – this is when the clutch is under most load.

The reason is simple: a clutch assembly has a friction plate designed to be the drive between the gearbox and engine, as the friction plate wears, it can no longer keep up with the load placed on it and it slips.

Unfortunately, there is no simple or cheap fix for this; the engine and gearbox have to be split to get to the clutch for replacement, it can be time consuming. However, if you drive an older car, there is a small chance that your clutch is operated by a lever, which is attached to the clutch pedal via a cable, and very occasionally, the cable needs adjustment.

Fluid Leak

Most modern cars, certainly all new cars have a hydraulic clutch assembly – instead of a lever attached to a cable, it relies on a fluid to push the clutch arm, this could be done through a slave cylinder or through a central slave release bearing combination.

In this case, the hydraulic fluid is pushed through the system with the footpedal, but it relies on rubber seals to ensure that pressure is maintained within the system, if the seals fail (which is quite common), your clutch won’t work.

This is easily spotted though – your clutch pedal will push straight to the floor with no resistance – it will feel like you’ve pushed the accelerator pedal instead.

Depending on exactly what has gone wrong, you could be looking at three levels of repair – minor, medium and ouch.

A minor repair could be as simple as changing the clutch slave cylinder, usually located near the bellhousing of the gearbox, usually quite accessible. The medium repair would be a master cylinder, which is located at the pedal end of the clutch system, meaning it’s usually more difficult to reach and replace, and the ouch ... it’s the same as a clutch – split the engine and gearbox to reach it.

Avoiding early failure

As with any mechanical component, early failures can just happen, no matter how hard you try to be careful, but there are some things you can do to help minimise that chance.

  • If you’re regularly towing something (caravan, cars, trailer etc), then ideally you’ll have a vehicle suited to it – pulling a horsebox with a Fiat 500 is never going to work long-term, the car just isn’t designed for the extra load capacity, and the drivetrain (and pretty much everything) will wear out much quicker.
  • Try not to ride the clutch – keeping your foot slightly pressed on to the pedal while you’re driving along, this has proven to be one of the most common incidences of premature clutch failure.
  • When you come to a stop, if you’re going to be stopped for more than a few seconds, it’s worth putting the car in neutral and applying the handbrake.
  • Equally, if you have to stop on a hill, don’t hold the car on the clutch – always use the footbrake or handbrake.
  • Finally, those drag-racing starts from the traffic lights are extremely hard on the drivetrain and clutch – try to minimise them!

The Failure

Most cars get regularly serviced, either as part of the warranty or just to keep them reliable. Often, parts are changed as a preventative measure (think cam belt for example), but it’s rare for anyone to change a clutch on the off chance of it failing.

This means that unless you know the full history of your vehicle, it’s worth keeping an eye out for any indication of an impending clutch failure; unless you’re very lucky, you could be stuck somewhere with no way of moving the car besides a recovery truck, and if you’re not in a recovery organisation, this could be very expensive (on top of the impending bill for the clutch of course).