4 Tips to Save on Clutch Repair
As a driver of a car or pickup with a manual transmission, you may experience a number of symptoms indicating clutch repair is needed. Your vehicle might shudder or shake while accelerating from a stop, or you may notice an apparent lack of power when accelerating from a stop. Other symptoms could be hard shifting or transmission noises when applying or releasing the clutch pedal.
Before getting down to specifics about clutch repair, it’s important to mention one significant difference between automotive clutch systems and most other systems on a vehicle – mainly, that no routine or scheduled maintenance services can be done to extend the life of the clutch. (One exception is that older vehicles with cable or mechanical linkage clutch components require clutch adjustments periodically.)
Most manual transmission vehicles today use hydraulics, not cables or mechanical linkage, for clutch operation. With these systems, the best way to preserve the manufacturers’ intended clutch life is by correct usage of the clutch as specified in the vehicle manual.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Clutch Repair
Here are three tips for proper clutch technique while driving a manual transmission vehicle:
- Learn how to “let out” the clutch pedal correctly while driving. This minimizes wear on the clutch and its components. Prolonged or excessively slow release of the clutch during a shift will cause undue wear and shorten clutch life.
- Never let your foot rest on the clutch pedal while driving, not even slightly. This bad habit, sometimes referred to as “riding the clutch”, causes the throw-out bearing to turn continuously and wear prematurely. This bearing is designed to be turning only while the clutch pedal is fully depressed, as during a gear change, rather than constantly as when the driver “rides the clutch”.
- Misuse or abuse shortens clutch life and makes clutch repair or replacement necessary sooner than it otherwise would be. This can happen in a variety of situations:
- pulling a load heavier than one for which a vehicle is rated
- trying to get un-stuck from mud or deep snow
- repeated engaging the clutch with the engine revving at higher speeds (as in extreme conditions like racing).
These situations overheat and damage internal clutch components in much the same way brake pads are destroyed by going down a long hill with your brakes constantly applied. Since clutch discs and brake pads are made of an almost identical material, the overloading and overheating destroys discs and pads by the same process.
How a Clutch Works – Video
Watching this video to see individual clutch parts, what they do, and how they operate.
Clutch Parts and Why They Fail
In this section, each clutch component will be discussed individually along with common causes of failure and symptoms.
- Pressure Plate – Clamps the clutch disc to the flywheel and releases it when the clutch pedal is depressed during a gear shift
Failure: Can result from normal usage and age, but can also be due to overloading or overheating so that the pressure plate loses its ability to firmly hold the disc.
Symptoms: Clutch slippage indicated by lack of power or engine “rev” higher than normal.
- Flywheel – Bolts to the engine and transfers power to the clutch disc
Failure: Usually results when clutch repair is not scheduled soon enough after slippage is noticed. The chronic overheating causes hot spots or cracks that require flywheel replacement.
Symptoms: Clutch chatter or shudder when letting out the clutch pedal
- Clutch Disc – Friction device clamped to the flywheel which transfers engine power to the input shaft of the transmission – disc contains friction material and metal springs that absorb power pulsations between the engine and drive wheels to reduce the possibility of clutch chatter
Failure: Disc friction material/springs wears with normal operation, or sooner from abuse or misuse – if not replaced when slippage starts, its metal pieces can damage the flywheel surface
Symptoms: Clutch slippage or chatter/shudder
- Throw-Out or T.O. Bearing (also called Release Bearing) – Pushes into the pressure plate allowing the clutch disc to spin freely between the flywheel and pressure plate while the clutch pedal is pushed down – is normally described as disengaging the clutch
Failure: Wears prematurely with prolonged contact or excessive load from pressure plate, as in “clutch riding”
Symptoms: Noise when applying the clutch pedal
- Master Cylinder – Produces the hydraulic pressure that moves fluid through a pipe to push the slave cylinder piston against the T.O. bearing which disengages the clutch
Failure: Can fail due to normal wear, fluid leakage, or due to incorrect fluid being added
Symptoms: Hard shifting of transmission as clutch does not release; weak clutch pedal that falls or sinks to the floor due to reduced hydraulic pressure from fluid leakage
- Slave Cylinder – is connected to the master cylinder by a hydraulic line – receives hydraulic pressures from master cylinder and uses it to move a piston against the T.O. bearing and disengage the clutch
Failure: Can fail due to normal wear, due to fluid leaking past internal pistons, or due to incorrect fluid being added
Symptoms: hard shifting of transmission because clutch does not release; weak clutch pedal that falls or sinks to the floor due to weakened hydraulic pressure
- Pilot Bearing or Bushing – supports the transmission input shaft through the clutch disc into the back of the crankshaft, allowing input shaft to rotate independently of the crankshaft.
Failure: Should be replaced on every clutch job.
Symptoms: Screeching noise when clutch pedal is let out during start from a stop, or when hard shifts cause excess clutch slip
FIVE Steps for Requesting a Clutch Repair Estimate
- Never request a clutch estimate unless your vehicle has been inspected by a technician
- Make sure the estimate is printed and identifies each part price and cost of labor hours
- Ask if the repair includes replacement of hydraulic components – master and slave cylinders
- Ask if a basic clutch repair includes replacement of these parts – pressure plate, clutch disc, T.O. bearing, and pilot bearing or bushing
- Ask if the estimate includes re-surfacing or replacing the flywheel
How Good Quality Parts Can Save You Money
Clutch repair or replacement should not be required more than once during the average ownership interval for a vehicle. If you have your clutch repair done with parts of inferior quality, you may end up having to pay for replacement again.
Using inferior quality parts for your clutch repair is not worth the $50 to $100 it could save you. If the inferior parts don’t fail prematurely or completely, you may still end up having to live with an annoying clutch chatter or shudder until you decide to pay for yet another to correct these problems. Paying a little more for quality parts will save you headache, inconvenience, and money in the long run.
Are you in need of clutch repair on your car or pick-up truck? Let our ASE certified technicians and mechanics inspect your car for complaints of clutch related problems. We determine the cause and give you an estimate using professional quality clutch replacement parts that always includes a minimum of 4 essential clutch components.
We stand behind our work with quality parts, professional labor, and our 12 month/12,000 mile warranty. Give Tune Tech Downtown a call at (208) 336-5315 or request an appointment online.