What Are 5 of the Most Common Reasons Behind Clutch Failure?

August 16, 2021
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When the automotive industry first flooded the market, manual vehicles were the only options available. Though automatic transmissions eventually entered the mix, they were few and far between in the early year. Today, Edmunds reports only about 20 percent of new vehicles are available in manual versions, and only two percent of those being purchased are stick shifts.

Major Problems with Manual Clutches

Manual transmission sales may be stuck in reverse at the moment, but they’re still in motion; in fact, sales of Dynatect products and other aftermarket clutch kits are at an all-time high. Clutches are among the most troublesome components of manual vehicles, and some of the reasons behind their failures are quite typical.

1) Stretched or Broken Cables

Clutch cables run from their pedals to their linkages. Pressing the pedal creates tension on the cable to pull the linkage and disengage the clutch so you can change gears. Taking your foot off the pedal releases the tension and allows the clutch to reengage. If these cables are worn out or broken, they won’t have enough tension to serve their purposes, and the clutch won’t work properly. Haynes, the famous repair manual producers, lists this as one of the most common reasons for clutch failure.

2) Worn-out Throwout Bearings

Throwout bearings move constantly whether the clutch is engaged or not. Once the clutch is pressed, the throwout bearing pushes the pressure plate away from the clutch disc to stop power transfer from the engine to the transmission. It does require a certain amount of lubrication and force to be able to reach the pressure plate and set events into motion, though. Worn throwout bearings don’t have the capacity to do their jobs, so this problem can keep the clutch from working properly.

3) Leaking Cylinders

Hydraulic clutches need fluid to build pressure and function properly. Leaky cylinders lose fluid, so the clutch can’t build up enough pressure. Puddles under your vehicle or odors similar to burnt oil are surefire signs your slave or master cylinder might’ve sprung a leak. Nationwide transmission repair franchise, AAMCO, points to this as yet another predictable clutch malfunction.

4) Damaged Pressure Plates

Pressure plates attach clutch discs to their flywheels. Over time, they wear out and can’t exert enough pressure to hold the clutch disc against the flywheel, so it spins freely when it shouldn’t. If this is the case, you might hear a squeaking sound or feel the clutch rattle a bit when you release it.

5) Faulty Repair Jobs

If you’ve recently replaced an old clutch with a new one and it’s not working properly, the repair work itself might be the problem. Not all replacement parts are completely compatible with all the components of an existing system. In some cases, certain surrounding parts have to be changed out to make the transition to aftermarket pieces work.

Manual vehicles offer a number of advantages over automatic ones. They generally require less maintenance, deliver more power and control and are more fuel-efficient than their counterparts. Today’s clutches are built to last longer and withstand more abuse than those of the past, but they do still wear out eventually. These five issues can be expected no matter which makes or model you own or how gentle you are when changing gears.