Clutches are durable and can last for as long as your car does in many cases. However, common problems such as slipping can be dangerous and lead to expensive repairs. So, is your clutch slipping and what should you do about it?
You can tell that your clutch is slipping if you notice a burning smell or loss of momentum and acceleration. This happens if you ride the clutch or shift gears too frequently during each trip. Ideally, you should replace your clutch if it is slipping before it fails, and that costs between $500 and $2,500.
Otherwise, you can replace it on your own for as little as $120 if you don’t hire professional help. Never drive when your clutch is slipping unless you bring your car to a shop for repairs. Follow along as we explore how to tell if your clutch is slipping and see what you should do to resolve the problem.
What Is a Clutch and What Does It Do?
A clutch is a key component of cars that have a manual transmission. Clutches transfer torque between the transmission and driving motor as you drive. This mechanical part is responsible for the power transference that is necessary for your wheels to move on many cars.
Clutches connect the drive shafts in cars with manual transmissions. They consist of a few simple parts including the plate, discs, and flywheel. Automatic transmission systems often include clutches as well, but you don’t directly control it like with a manual system.
What Does Clutch Slipping Mean?
Cutch slipping happens when the disc in your clutch system doesn’t catch or make contact with the flywheel properly. You don’t get the full power of your clutch if it slips, and this affects your ability to accelerate and maintain a good speed. When your clutch is slipping, it engages and disengages repeatedly.
Is It Ok to Drive With a Slipping Clutch?
It is generally considered unsafe to drive with a slipping clutch. You will experience speed and acceleration fluctuations when your clutch slips. This can be dangerous when you drive on crowded roads with a high-speed limit.
A slipping clutch is generally the first sign that it is going to fail. That doesn’t always mean that you need to replace it, but you at least need to repair it. You can at least safely drive your car to an auto shop when your clutch is slipping, but it’s not advisable to drive a long distance.
How Long Does Clutch Slipping Last?
Clutch slipping lasts until you repair or replace the part. Unfortunately, this problem won’t fix itself and it typically gets worse if you don’t address it. A slipping clutch can last for weeks at times before the problem gets worse.
However, it’s not worth risking it because it is dangerous to drive with a slipping clutch. Your clutch can eventually fail and you won’t be able to drive your car anymore. That is why it’s important to purchase a clutch repair kit or visit an auto shop when you notice your clutch slipping.
What Causes Clutch Slipping?
Everything from oil contamination and overheating to a worn disc can cause clutch slipping. No matter what the cause is, you need to address it right away so that you don’t get stuck. Let’s take a look at what causes clutch slipping.
A worn disc is the most common cause of clutch slipping. Clutches are covered with friction coating that is meant to protect the key components, such as the disc. Your disc will wear out when the coating comes off over time, and it can cause your clutch to slip.
Disc Covered In Oil
It is easy for fluid and oil to cover your clutch, and this can also cause it to slip. Professionals call this contamination, and it happens when there is a leak in one of the seals. Luckily, you can often reseal the part and clean the disc so that it doesn’t slip anymore.
Adjustment Needs To Be Corrected
Sometimes, a clutch can slip if the linkage needs to be adjusted. There needs to be enough clearance between your clutch pedal and the lever. Either component can slip out of place over time due to physical stress and heavy use.
Extreme Heat Damage To Components
Many of the essential parts of your car are sensitive to excessive heat, and that includes the clutch. Riding the clutch is the most common reason for it to overheat and slip. Don’t keep your foot on the clutch pedal when you don’t need to or it will overheat.
Factors That Affect a Clutch Slipping
Any driver can inadvertently cause their clutch to slip. This happens due to poor driving habits and lack of maintenance. Let’s examine the most common actors that affect clutch slipping.
Quality of Driving
Avoid bad practices such as riding the clutch or changing gears too quickly. Riding the clutch is the easiest way to damage it and cause slippage. Other bad habits like switching gears too often or too slowly can also cause your clutch to slip.
Quality of Vehicle
The quality and age of your car also affect clutch slipping. Clutches typically last for as long as your car does, but they may underperform once your vehicle is old. Your clutch may last up to 100,000 miles, but it can go bad in just 20,000 miles if you don’t treat your clutch well.
How Well You Maintain Your Vehicle
Clutch maintenance is essential to extend its lifespan and prevent slipping. The most common type of clutch maintenance is bleeding air out of the fluid. You can do this if you access the bleed valve and depress the clutch pedal to remove excess air.
Clutch Slipping Symptoms
It’s important to understand the symptoms of a slipping clutch so that you know what to look out for. Signs such as burning smells and difficulty changing gears can indicate that your clutch is slipping. Follow along as we explore the most common clutch slipping symptoms.
Loss of Momentum or Acceleration
The most common symptom of a slipping clutch is loss of momentum or acceleration. This happens because the clutch keeps engaging and disengaging. It is dangerous because you won’t be able to maintain a consistent speed.
If your clutch sticks, it is likely a sign that it is slipping. You can also tell that this is the case if you hear a grinding noise while you drive. This happens when you depress the clutch pedal and it won’t come back up.
You can tell that your clutch is slipping if you hit high revs without accelerating how you should. This indicates that the friction coating is worn out on your clutch in most cases. Ideally, you should either pull over, reroute, or bring your car to a shop when this happens.
A Burning Smell
A burning smell often accompanies a slipping clutch. This is because clutches often slip when parts such as the disc are worn out. The friction of the metal parts rubbing together creates a burning smell.
Difficulty Changing Gears
If you struggle to change gears, it likely indicates that your clutch is worn and slipping. This happens when your disc won’t move away from the flywheel. Your clutch is unable to release when this happens so you can’t change gears easily.
Noises When Pressing The Clutch
The pilot bearing in your clutch system is likely worn if you hear noises when pressing the clutch. Luckily, you can replace the pilot bearing without having to replace your clutch in many cases. However, this is also commonly a sign that the rest of your clutch is worn and you’ll need to replace it.
What Should I Do If My Clutch Is Slipping?
You should pull over if your clutch is slipping. It is dangerous to drive with a slipping clutch because you will likely experience unpredictable speed shifts. Sometimes, a car can last with a slipping clutch for a few weeks, but you should minimize how much you drive it.
Ideally, you should only drive as far as it takes to bring your car to a shop. Use your handbrake to slow down if it is necessary when you travel to the shop for a repair. Put your car in neutral while you are at traffic lights on the way to the shop to avoid further problems.
Otherwise, it’s worth it to use roadside assistance to tow your car to a shop when your clutch is slipping. Check your clutch or bring your car to a shop every 60,000 miles for an inspection. That way, you can avoid problems with your clutch system before it’s too late.
Can You Replace Your Clutch On Your Own?
You can replace a clutch on your own without professional help for $120-$160 in most cases. This can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars compared to hiring a professional. That is because your only cost is for the parts themselves and you don’t have to worry about labor rates.
Before you do anything else, you need to park your car on an even surface. Next, you need to jack your car up so that you can access the transaxle and clutch to get started.
1. Remove the Starter Motor
First, you need to remove the positive cables from the battery so that your car is safe to work with. Remove the cable from your clutch as well. Access your starter motor and remove all of the electrical connectors.
Now, you need to remove the bolts from your starter motor. The starter motor looks like a cylinder. Unscrew the bolts with a socket wrench and carefully remove the starter.
2. Remove the Transaxle
Next, you need to remove the bolts from the bell housing leading to your engine. This will loosen your transaxle so that you can easily remove it. Carefully pull the transaxle out of place and set it to the side because you’ll need to reinstall it later.
3. Take Out the Old Clutch
You can easily access your clutch now. Pull the old clutch out of place and set it aside so that you can discard it. Clean the area around where the old clutch used to be to avoid oil and grease contamination in the future.
4. Install Your New Clutch
Use a clutch installation kit to install your new clutch. This includes a flywheel and disc. Install the flywheel first and slide the clutch disc into place. Next, you need to slide the pressure plate into place and tighten it with a socket wrench.
5. Replace the Transaxle
Grab the transaxle that you set aside and put it back in its housing. Tighten the bolts with a socket wrench so that it is secure. Make sure that the transaxle lines up with the spine hole.
Once it is in place, you can reattach the power cables to the battery terminal. Double-check each part to make sure that they are tight. Now, you can lower your car back to the ground and turn on your car to test the new clutch.
It costs up to $2,500 or more to replace your clutch in many cases. However, it may cost as little as $500-$1,000 depending on factors such as labor and the price of the part. For example, it’s typically more expensive to replace a clutch on an old car that isn’t compatible with many modern parts.
Labor costs alone can total $500 or more depending on how long it takes to replace your clutch. It’s worth it to reach out to several auto shops to get a quote for how much it will cost. Clutch replacement can take up to 5 hours for a difficult job.
On the low end, it takes at least 2 hours to replace a clutch. Many auto shops charge you $70-$120 per hour for labor on top of the cost of parts. It is worth the cost because it is difficult to replace a clutch on your own if you are inexperienced.