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Signs of clutch failure

A failing clutch can be identified in a few ways, most noticeably it results in a sensation of power not being delivered properly to the wheels, according to MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options.

A clutch is used to disengage the engine from the gearbox allowing it to change gears before re-engaging and continuing to operate smoothly.

Manual cars are more prone to clutch slippage due to more frequent human intervention than an automatic, though neither is immune to the issue.

A clutch should last at least 50,000km but can go for much longer, with the lifespan typically depending on the experience level of the driver, the amount of traffic the car handles during its lifetime, and the extent to which the engine is modified or enhanced.

Signs of clutch failure

If you experience any one of the following sensations in your car, it may be a sign of a failing clutch:

  • A burning smell when revving the engine
  • Movement and vibrations in the clutch pedal
  • High engine speed but the car struggles to move
  • Clutch pedal rests at a different height than usual
  • Squeaking or unusual rumbling when pressing on the pedals
  • Difficult to change gears with a stickiness when moving from one to the other

If your car does exhibit one of these issues, the clutch will generally need replacing and it’s recommended to take the vehicle to the original equipment manufacturer if it’s still under a warranty, or a trusted third-party workshop if preferred, for a professional diagnosis.

Making your clutch last longer

A clutch’s lifespan can easily be extended through good habits and routine maintenance.

Avoid keeping the clutch pedal partially depressed when driving, i.e. “riding” the clutch, by planning your gear shifts, braking, and acceleration accordingly. The pedal should be operated like a switch, either completely in or completely out.

Another common error is riding the clutch when pulling away on an incline, which can be avoided by learning how to use the handbrake on takeoff. Revving the engine when the clutch is engaged also puts a lot of strain on the component and should be avoided wherever possible.

Driving more relaxed by pulling away slower and braking more gently will generally aid in conserving the clutch, too.


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