How to Spot Signs of Clutch Failure on Your Car

For manual cars, the clutch is one of the key systems and one that drivers really don’t want to hear that there are problems with.  Sadly, like many car parts, clutches have a lifespan, often around mileage done.  So how can you spot signs of a clutch failure before it happens?

Signs of Clutch Failure

What does the clutch do?

To understand why the clutch is so important, it is worth reminding ourselves what exactly what the clutch does.  It separates the engine from the wheels and is what lets you change gear as well as coming to a complete stop while the engine is still running.

There are three main elements to the clutch – the clutch plate, the pressure plate and flywheel.  When the clutch is engaged and your foot is off the pedal, the springs inside the clutch push the three parts together so that the engine and the transmission are connected and running at the same speed.  When you put your foot down, spring pulls the pressure plate away from the clutch plate so that the pressure plate and flywheel spin at different rates – this allows you to change gears.

How long does a clutch last?

The lifespan of a clutch is one question that is difficult to answer.  There are lots of factors that influence how long it will last but generally, they are designed to last 50,000 to 100,000 miles.  Often, they will do more than this if there has been regular servicing and maintenance on the car.  But where you live and the type of driving you do can reduce the lifespan – for example, if you are in a city area and spend a lot of time in traffic!

Sudden and gradual failure

Clutches tend to fail in one of two ways – either suddenly or gradually.  With a sudden breakdown, the clutch ceases to work entirely and the car won’t move.  With gradual failure, you may experience problems such as the car not stopping when you press the pedal.

Sudden failure is most often caused by a broken or loose clutch cable, linkable or a failed hydraulic master/slave cylinder.  There can also be leaks in the hydraulic line or even the disc could be contaminated with something like dirt or debris. 

Gradual failure is the more common situation where your car has things like a stretched clutch cable, a bent linkage or that master/slave cylinder is failing.  You may even have low hydraulic fluid or a broken transmission mount.  Some of these problems might come up when you go for your Worthing MOTs but most don’t.

Signs of a failure

A sudden failure is an all or nothing situation but with gradual failures, there are signs that can indicate a problem.  You might notice that the clutch sticks, feels spongy, vibrates or the pedal is loose.  There may be squeaking or grumbling noises when you press the pedal, or you might be able to rev the engine but have poor acceleration. 

Trouble changing gear and a ‘slipping’ clutch that causes a momentary loss of acceleration are also signs of a problem and warrants a trip to your specialist in car repairs in West Sussex.  They can use car diagnostics to ensure the problem is the clutch and check other key areas such as brakes, tyres and even windscreens as well.

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