It’s time for a catchup on the most common clutch problems!
It’s a subject we have covered in previous posts in part, but this post looks at the most common problems and how to spot them early.
Obviously the clutch in your car is going to wear down over time, as it is a friction based system that allows for smooth gear changes. Over time the components will suffer wear and tear. That is not to say that driven carefully you clutch cannot last for a very long time (again referencing my own example, the E46 coupe has now passed 150,000 miles on the original clutch, but I do drive like Miss Daisy).
On the point of the friction elements wearing down, we arrive at the first problem in our list:
You change gear, the clutch does not quite engage as you have directed it to – there is a slip, usually followed by a jolt as the gear catches. This isn’t the most elegant form of driving, and it’s pretty easy to spot. It can be caused by a lot of factors, not just wear and tear. Overly aggressive driving, contamination from oil or riding the clutch will all lead to slipping problems.
As with most other faults, it is advisable to get it addressed as soon as possible. The longer the slip is left, the more dangerous the drive becomes as your control over the clutch is reduced, also the quicker you get it seen to the less likely it is to cause any other transmission problems.
Clutch sticking or gears refusing
It is likely you will notice changes in the behaviour of your clutch, whether that is gears refusing to go in or noises when you change gear . It can happen from stationary, sat at traffic lights you try to put your car into first gear and the gearbox simply won’t accept the change. It sticks, and you might have to release the clutch and try again. The second time it might go into gear, but it is frustrating that it wouldn’t go in the first time. It also reduces your control over the car, which is quite frankly dangerous. If you spot this happening when you attempt to change gear please seek professional advice and assistance as soon as possible.
Rumbling, banging, squealing or squeaking noises coming from the gearbox/clutch when you change gear are also big red flags. They could be less serious but they might also be indications of a more severe problem – the only way to be sure is to have the vehicle checked properly.
All cars and clutches will have different biting points, some will be high and right next to the neutral position of the pedal, and others will be lower down meaning you have to push the pedal down further before getting to it. However, you will be aware of yours and where it is on the path of the pedal between fully up or fully depressed. The biting point won’t change overnight, but as the clutch wears down the biting point will become lower and lower.
Please note that changes in the biting point could just be down to the clutch cable requiring tightening, so it is not always doom and gloom news! It makes sense to get this checked at your earliest convenience though, as it isn’t a condition that will get better, it will only deteriorate over time.