Manual transmissions come with a lot of parts but are ultimately simpler and easier to fix if something goes wrong, and one of the key wear components of the transmission is the clutch. Whether it’s cable-actuated or hydraulic, identifying a worn clutch is the same either way and a part of general vehicle maintenance.
To identify a worn clutch, you need to know the fundamentals of how to drive a manual transmission. Also, knowing your car is also part of the battle, so being able to notice changes in performance is also a good ability to have.
There are two components that wear out over time, and there is one component that connects your engine to the transmission. The two main wear components are the pressure plate and the friction plate. Whenever you replace the clutch, these two items are replaced.
Meanwhile, the harder-wearing part that connects the engine to the transmission is the flywheel. It’s the equivalent of your brake rotors in your braking system, while the friction plate is the equivalent of your brake pads. Like your brake rotors, after changing, you need to resurface your flywheel to make sure that the new plate mates well with the flywheel.
During a clutch replacement service, all three things need to be attended to. Skipping a component is not advisable. Usually, replacement kits come complete with all the parts that you need.
Clutch is slipping
When you release the clutch pedal from a stop, you may notice that the power that your engine is producing isn’t reaching your wheels. Your clutch can also grab a bit and slip as you progressively release the pedal. Your engine could bog down and even stall if your clutch is worn.
Clunky shifting and grinding gears
Once you’re at speed, clutching in and out and rowing through the gears should be effortless, but when you clutch out and the car jerks or the engine hesitates, that’s another sign that you need a replacement.
Vague clutch pedal feel
If you’re a seasoned manual driver, then you should be able to feel the clutch actuation and engagement through the clutch pedal regardless of if it is cable or hydraulic. An experienced driver should also make mental notes on where the working-level of your clutch pedal is at and should notice if the working level rises by a considerable amount.
If you feel that your clutch pedal isn’t engaging properly, or the biting point is not as pronounced as before, then it could be a sign that your clutch is in need of a service. Other than that, you could also chalk it up to your clutch master and clutch slave cylinder being faulty or a combination of multiple components.
When your car was new, you could recall that the clutch pedal was easily actuated, but as time goes on, you can expect your clutch to get heavier over time as the pressure plate gets used and abused. If your clutch gets noticeably heavy and hard to use, then it’s one of the signs that you need a new clutch, especially the pressure plate.
A worn clutch system means that your clutch system could be performing inconsistently, and failing to disengage completely even when the clutch pedal is depressed completely between gear shifts. The sound of grinding gears is undeniable and is very piercing during your drive. It will catch you off guard and it can make you wince because of the metal-to-metal contact. This can happen while you are stopped or while you are running.
In extreme cases, if you can't get your car into gear, then you should bring your car to a mechanic. If you can't shift, then that means your clutch is not engaging and disengaging like it should.