How Do I Know I Need A New Clutch?

If you drive a manual transmission, congratulations; you’re a dying breed. Fun and challenging, driving a stick give you extra control over your vehicle. Unfortunately, the clutch–that handy pedal that lets you shift into gear–wears out over time. Sure, learning not to ride the clutch (the practice of over-using it) can help it last longer, but eventually, almost all clutches go caput.

So, how can you tell when the clutch starts showing its age? Well, maintaining a clutch isn’t like keeping an engine healthy. You can’t change its fluid every few thousand miles or replace it once you meet a certain mileage point. Clutches fail to depend on driving environment and habits. Yours could make it 20,000 miles or 175,000 miles. If you want to know the shape of your clutch, the best tips involve paying attention.

Shifting Difficulty

Since the clutch controls the gears, shifting will become more irregular or difficult with a worn out clutch. Maybe the car shakes when you shift or gears struggle to get into place. This stress commonly manifests itself when you go into reverse or first gear.

Funky Smell

A slipping clutch generates more friction, which tends to create a strong odor (like burned toast). Although this smell can point to several other issues, as well, if accompanied by other symptoms on this list, you probably need a new clutch.

Spongy Clutch

The term spongy refers to a softening of the pedal. If you drive around the block paying close attention to how it feels when you press the pedal, it will seem like your foot hits more air. This is an early indicator of clutch failure. Also, if you have to let the clutch out more and more before the gear catches, this can also indicate malfunction.

Visible Damage

If you feel up to it, you can remove the inspection cover and perform a visual check of the clutch. If it’s damaged, you might be able to tell. Note: You might see black dust around the clutch, but it’s a sign of normal wear and tear.

Another Way to Test

If you want a quick answer, try a road test. To do this, as you merge onto the highway, keep the car in first gear and rev the engine for a second. Then, go immediately into fifth gear. If the engine whines and revs strongly, it means the gear hasn’t caught–a clear sign of a failing clutch. If the car shakes or struggles to pick up speed, on the other hand, the clutch is in good shape.

For all your vehicle maintenance and repair needs, call University Auto Repair in Flagstaff at 928-433-0025 today!

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