clutch problems - how to tell if your clutch is going outAll of you die-hard manual transmission fans out there know that  at some point, you’ll probably have clutch problems. We all learn not to ride the clutch when we learn to drive a stick, but unfortunately, most people still do it – and that leads to a worn out clutch.

So how do you know when your clutch is worn out or failing? Replacing your clutch isn’t like changing your oil; there aren’t any mileage or length of time guidelines for switching it out. The wear and tear on your clutch depends on your personal driving style and your driving environment. You clutch could last anywhere from 20,000 to 150,000 miles. Here are a few helpful tips to help determine if your clutch is at the end of its life.

Your Clutch Feels Spongy

A soft or “spongy” clutch is an early sign that your clutch is failing. Drive your car around the block and pay close attention to the feel of your clutch and how far you let the clutch out before the gear catches. If you have to let your clutch out most of the way, that is also a sign of a worn clutch.

Your Clutch Causes a Burning Smell

When your clutch is failing, it is commonly accompanied by a burning smell. The smell comes from the friction of your slipping clutch.

You Have Trouble Shifting

If you notice that when you shift, your car does not engage smoothly and shakes, this is a good sign that you’ve got a bad clutch. Shifting problems are most apparent in first gear and reverse.

You Have Visible Damage to Your Clutch

If you’re mechanically savvy, you can remove the inspection cover at the bottom of the bell housing to see your clutch. If your clutch is going bad, you’ll notice obvious visible damage. If you notice a fine black dust around your clutch, this is normal wear – look for damage to the actual clutch itself.

Do A Road Test

If you’re still not sure if your clutch is going out, the next time you’re on the highway, rev your engine while in first, then pop directly into fifth. If your engine continues to whine and rev high, the gear has not caught and the clutch is going out. If your car shakes from being in too high a gear and is slow to pick up speed, the clutch is fine.  This test works well on hills too.

How to Tell if Your Clutch is Going Out

9 thoughts on “How to Tell if Your Clutch is Going Out

  • April 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm
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    Thankyou for the advice re clutches. I took my clio to a renault dealer for its mot and they passed the mot but my clutch is apparantly 90% worn and was told they could do it for nearly 800 pound. It felt fone prior to my mot but its stiff now so im worried and panicking as i cant afford a new one. Ots got 53,000 miles on and 28,000 when i got it in 2011. Im not great at sensing problems yet iv know my car. Again, thankyou for this site.

    Reply
  • July 18, 2014 at 9:23 pm
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    I have a problem with my vehicle and can’t determine whether if it’s clutch problem or something else. When I push on my clutch the car engine squeaks, shakes, and then dies. Do u know what’s causing this?

    Reply
    • September 11, 2014 at 8:45 am
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      While the most likely suspect is your clutch, without seeing the vehicle we cannot say for sure. It would be wise your car to a local mechanic and have them look the vehicle over for an accurate diagnosis.

      Reply
  • August 18, 2014 at 8:23 pm
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    I have a Honda Civic si 2000 with a B16a2 engine and GSR transmission my first , and second gear are good but sometimes my third and fourth gear grind a little when I shift higher than 3000 rpm and I have to shift slow and every time I put it on reverse the gear grinds always n sometimes it doesn’t let me put the reverse gear but my 5th gear is good would it be that the clutch is going bad ?????

    Reply
    • September 11, 2014 at 8:43 am
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      While we cannot make a completely accurate assessment without seeing the vehicle, it does sound like your clutch is wearing out. You’ll need to bring it to a reputable mechanic in the near future.

      Reply
  • August 19, 2014 at 9:12 am
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    I have a 6 speed manual Volvo 2005. I just bought it and everything worked fine. This morning, I was driving pretty aggressive on back roads I came to a stop sign. I depress my clutch, and put it into second to take off not at a complete stop but the clutch wont come out, (it may be that my foot was not in the right place on the pedal preventing it.) Finally I let it out there was a sweet smell, like rubber without the sweetness.

    Problems:

    1. Hard to shift into gears
    2. When I let the clutch out, it makes a sound like something is slipping

    Questions:

    What is the most probable diagnosis?

    Reply
    • September 11, 2014 at 8:42 am
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      Unfortunately this sounds like your clutch needs replacing. It would be wise to take it to a reputable mechanic as soon as possible.

      Reply
  • October 5, 2014 at 7:59 pm
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    Having a problem with 2002 cavalier and thinking it may be the clutch. Currently have a little over 170000 miles on car and have noticed that when I am going uphill, my car feels like it is missing. I can drop it into 4th gear and it stops. Is it possible that the clutch is starting to slip and needs replaced? Or could it be something else? Any help is appreciated!!

    Reply
    • December 1, 2014 at 10:41 am
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      Without seeing the vehicle it is hard to say, but that does sound like a clutch issue. We recommend taking it to a reputable mechanic for an inspection.

      Reply

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