A bad or failing clutch messes with your vehicle’s powertrain. The reason for this can be best understood by defining a clutch and knowing how it works.
Most vehicles have the clutch placed between the main driveshaft and the engine. It is the device responsible for engaging or disengaging a transmission or a powertrain between two rotating shafts. By connecting the shafts, they lock together and spin at the same speed. Conversely, when the clutch disengages the rotating shafts, they spin at different speeds.
The clutch also helps to stop your car without necessarily stopping the engine. It does that by disengaging the wheels from the engine, and your vehicle slows down before finally halting.
What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Clutch?
Here are the signs to look out for if you suspect a faulty clutch.
1. Chattering or Vibrating Clutch Pedal
When your clutch disc loses its grip on the flywheel, the clutch pedal chatters or vibrates when you accelerate.
Causes of Chattering or Vibration
- Worn-out flywheel
- Warped flywheel or pressure plate
- Hot spots on the pressure diaphragm
- Spring weakened pressure plate diaphragm
- Broken pressure diaphragm fingers
- Damaged pilot bearing
- Worn-out or burnt clutch disc lining
- Oil-contaminated clutch disc
- Worn-out clutch disc splines
- Glazed clutch disc
2. Noisy Clutch Pedal
The car engine is off, but when you engage or disengage the clutch, it produces some noise. Be keen. It could be a problem with the clutch fork or the clutch release mechanism.
A clutch fork is a device that helps the clutch to engage and disengage. When it wears down, or the oil level decreases, the pedal squeaks. Also, noises can result from a scraped connection, rod or cable.
3. Spongy or Loose Clutch Pedal
A spongy feel when you step on the clutch pedal is an indication of a damaged clutch fork or release bearing.
Inspect the following if you have a hydraulic clutch release mechanism:
- Master cylinder, piston seal leak
- A faulty master cylinder centre valve seal
- Leaking connection, hose or pipe
- Air inside the hydraulic system
- Low fluid in the reservoir
4. Clutch Pedal that Sticks to the floor
Another symptom of a bad clutch is when the pedal sticks to the floor of your vehicle.
It could be overstretched springs in the linkage. Also, you should inspect the release bearing to confirm that the pedal stop is intact.
5. Difficulty When Engaging the Clutch Pedal
You do not need too much pressure on an optimally performing clutch. If the device is unresponsive to normal pressure, the problem is the release mechanism.
In hydraulic systems, it could be due to blockage or worn seals. For mechanical systems, it could be poor lubrication or worn-out clutch fork, linkage, cable, throw-out bearing or pressure plates.
6. Pulsating Clutch Pedal
Your clutch pedal pulsates in response to wobbly rotating parts or vibrations inside the car’s transmission system. Check your release lever and flywheels. You might need to repair them.
Additionally, confirm whether the pulsation started after servicing the transmission. It’s likely that the engine and the housing transmission system alignment have a problem.
7. Noisy Transmission When in Neutral
The transmission is in neutral then you hear a whirring, chirping or grinding sound, which disappears when you depress the clutch. The cause is damaged input shaft bearing.
8. Grinding When Shifting Gears
Engaged clutch discs produce a grinding sound when shifting between gears. Even when you fully depress the clutch, the transmission input shaft continues to spin. Therefore, an attempt to shift gears causes the transmission to grind.
Grinding can result from problematic throw-out bearing, the release mechanism or the pressure plate. In mechanical systems, cables may be frozen, broken, or outstretched.
On the other hand, damaged clutch master cylinders can cause grinding on hydraulic systems. It can be air in the system, diminished fluid or faulty internal cylinder system.
9. Burning Smell
The burnt smell could mean leaking oil or damaged wiring. First, you should confirm the source of the odour. If it emanates near the clutch area and increases when you shift gears, then inspect the clutch pedal. Note that a slipping clutch results in friction which produces a burning smell.
If the clutch produces a rattling sound whose volume increases when you disengage, it is time to replace it.
10. Difficulty in Getting the Transmission into Gear
Difficulty in getting out of or into third or reverse gear indicates a faulty clutch pedal. It could be a linkage problem or a damaged clutch plate.
On hydraulic systems, the challenge indicates problems with the clutch slave cylinder, master cylinder or both. Be keen about changes in how your clutch pedal feels. It helps troubleshoot the issues on hydraulic components.
Conversely, on mechanical systems it is an indication of problems with the clutch disc or pressure plate, release bearing, release lever, control cable or shift lever assembly.
11. Clutch Pedal Biting Point
It is crucial to know the biting point of your clutch pedal. A damaged or failing clutch results in a higher biting point.
What Happens If You Keep Driving with a Bad Clutch?
On a manual transmission, the car pedal eventually breaks. If you continue driving on a broken pedal, you will cause damage to the starter motor, shifter or the gearbox.
What Do You Do If You're Driving and You Notice Signs of a Failing Clutch?
If your clutch pedal develops mechanical problems on the road, turn on the hazard lights. Steer your vehicle to the side of the lane. Slowly apply the brakes to halt the car. Then, call your reliable mechanic. If you need a new clutch or other replacement parts, why don't you visit us at Carpart.com.au? We have this nifty tool for finding auto parts wherever you are in Australia. Try requesting a part here!
By Eric Anyega