Car Diagnostic

5 Symptoms Of A Bad Clutch (Or Worn-Out Clutch)

Mike Cross
Updated Apr 7, 2021

If you drive a manual transmission car, chances are you have heard people talk about having to replace their clutch.

This alone can steer some people away from getting a manual transmission car. But knowing when a clutch is going bad can be especially important.

No matter if you are buying a car or own one, being able to recognize a bad clutch is a vital piece of information that everyone should possess. If we just go out and change random parts, the price can quickly become astronomical and the initial problem may not even get fixed.

Knowing how a clutch works in the first place will help you better identify issues that are related to a bad or failing clutch. By knowing how a clutch works, you can identify potential issues that much easier.

Let’s have a look at what some of the most common symptoms of a bad clutch are and what causes them.

How Does A Clutch Work?

Clutch diagram

Simply put, the clutch on your car is a simple, yet effective way to take the power your engine makes and help put it to the pavement.

The reality is that several parts on a clutch must work together flawlessly if you want a smooth transition of power. A clutch can be used in several applications, but the most common use of a clutch is found in automobiles.

It helps connect the engine and transmission at different speeds via gears, or speeds as some may call them. If you know what you are doing, changing gears on a car be a seamless process, but if you are new, inexperience can really show through when changing gears.  

A common automotive clutch is made up of several components, but the ones you hear most people talking about are the flywheel, clutch plate, and pressure plate.

Main component of clutch

So, what jobs do these main components have? How do they work? Let’s have a closer look at each one.

Flywheel

The flywheel is the part that is permanently attached to the engine of the car. It is also the piece that the clutch “grabs” onto when the transmission and the motor become one. Most flywheels have ridges or teeth on the sides to help the starter, crank over the engine.

Clutch Plate/Friction Plate

The clutch plate, or friction plate as some may call it, is made from a material that will help the engine and transmission seamlessly work together.

The compound that makes up the friction plate is usually organic and is the most commonly replaced component on a manual transmission car. What you are planning to do with the car will define the kind of material used. A high horsepower application will need a more aggressive material, which will make changing gears feel “jerky” or “jumpy”.

A regular clutch on the other hand is made with comfort in mind, so the material used is intended to provide the smoothest ride possible. The downside is that it will not stand up to increased horsepower as well as a racing clutch might.

Pressure plate

The pressure plate is located on the outside of the clutch assembly and is, as the name ensues, responsible for applying the pressure on the clutch system to help it engage gears.

Without this critical part, the clutch would not engage gears smoothly and comfortably when changing gears.

Common Signs of a Bad Clutch

Symptoms of A Bad or worn-out Clutch

Now that you are caught up on how a clutch works, let’s have a look at some of the most common signs of a bad or worn-out clutch.

It is important to take notice of any of these symptoms and repair the issue as soon as possible. If not, you may be left on the side of the road. The sooner an issue is resolved, the less money you will have to spend replacing other parts.

1. Pedal Chatter

When accelerating, especially from a standstill, a chattering feeling in the pedals may mean that the clutch is about to fail.

The chatter you feel in the pedals will usually be accompanied by an unmistakable noise. Hearing strange noise is never a good sign, and it usually means the car telling you that it isn’t very happy.

2. Unusual Noises When Changing Gears

Changing gears should be a buttery smooth process. When going from 1st to 2nd gear, for example, the gear shifter should move freely and without any interference.

If it takes more pressure than normal to get the car into gear, it may be a good indication that the clutch fork, or clutch release mechanism may be on its way out.

This fork is tasked with the job of engaging and disengaging the clutch. A worn-out clutch fork will make you work that much harder when trying to put the car in gear. The problem is especially noticed when trying to put the vehicle in reverse. 

3. Clutch Pedal Hard To Engage

Each vehicle equipped with a manual transmission vehicle will have a slightly different clutch that will affect both the point at which it engages and the overall firmness of the pedal.

It may take a while to get used to it, but once you do, any changes will be easy to spot. If all of a sudden the clutch pedal is making your left leg work harder than usual, a good place to start looking for issues would be at the release mechanism.

A release mechanism is made up of several components, so many potential parts can be at fault. Components such as the cable, linkage, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, and so on can be the potential cause of the problem. 

4. Pedal sticks to the floor

If you have ever tried to change gears and the clutch pedal gets stuck to the floor, you know there is something seriously wrong. Often, this problem will render your car useless and you will not be able to move it under its power.

A bad linkage may be the one to blame in this situation, and there are a few tell-tale signs that may help you detect the problem early enough. Over time, the linkage components may get stretched and the engagement point of the clutch will ever-so-slightly change. If this is not repaired on time, it can snap.

5. Clutch Feels Loose or “Spongy”

A spongy-feeling clutch pedal can be noticed quite early, and therefore be fixed before it becomes a more serious issue.

Several issues may cause the clutch pedal to feel spongy or loose. If you have a newer vehicle, chances are that your car is equipped with a hydraulic clutch. While this technology is designed to increase comfort and reliability, it does so by incorporating a lot more parts. More parts mean more potential items that can break.

Common causes of a loose clutch pedal include but are not limited to: air in the system, a leaking hose or pipe, bad connection, master cylinder fault. It is best to get this taken care of as soon as possible to avoid any further complications. 

Final Words

A bad or worn-out clutch can mean that your car becomes nothing more than a paperweight. A vehicle consists of thousands of parts and they much work together flawlessly to help you get safely down the road.

Of course, a clutch that isn’t working within its limits will no longer allow your engine to transfer the power it makes down to the drive wheels.

Being able to recognize the signs of a bad clutch can help you catch a potential issue before it happens and knowing the symptoms is a key part of that.

We hope that this article has helped shed some light on the signs of a bad clutch. And remember, these types of issues don’t fix themselves. If you want to save money, get the issue fixed right away. Leaving the issue as is will only end up causing more damage to other components.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Make sure you check out our other articles too!

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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