All 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.