The clutch is one of the most important parts in a manual transmission car as it connects the engine with the gearbox, and is what provides motive force for the car. It is also one of the parts of the car that sees high wear and tear depending on a person’s driving style and the environment it is driven in.

Cars that primarily drive in bumper-to-bumper city traffic are likely to see more clutch wear than those that are driven on the highway or in moderate traffic conditions. Similarly, cars driven in hilly areas are likely to see more clutches wear than cars driven in the plains.

But how do you know when your clutch is about to pack up? There are a usually a list of warning signs that emerge, giving you adequate time to get it to the workshop.

Also read: How to drive in slow-moving traffic

Clutch-plate-photo

Clutch wear symptoms

Slippage

One of the primary signs of a worn out clutch plate is when there is clutch slippage. You will begin to notice reduced pick up in the vehicle and the engine rpm will tend to rise further than necessary for a given speed before the vehicle matches up. This kind of slippage occurs when all the friction material on the clutch plates have worn out and it’s time to replace the clutch friction plate. A fallout of this kind of slippage problem is that the vehicle’s fuel economy will drop drastically.

How to check for slippage? Park the vehicle, switch off the engine and engage the handbrake tightly. Then start the vehicle, press the clutch, shift into third gear and gently begin to release the clutch without accelerating. If the clutch plates are intact the vehicle will try to move as the clutch engages and then stall. But if it does not stall even when the clutch pedal has been almost fully released, then there’s a problem with the clutch plate.

Also read: What to do if gears are hard to shift

Shuddering

Another sign that there is a problem with your clutch is when there is excessive shuddering when you release the clutch pedal, especially at low speeds. This could be because of some contamination as well on the surface of the clutch plate like oil or grease (which shouldn’t normally happen), or even water and sludge if you have driven through water-logged roads. If the shuddering goes away after running for a while it’s not a serious issue, but if the shudder remains then it could mean that the clutch pressure plate is worn and not pushing the clutch friction plate against the engine flywheel properly. Sometimes a misaligned engine and gearbox due to a bad engine mount or gearbox mount also has a similar symptom.

Chirping or grinding noise

Sometimes when you press the clutch pedal and then release it you will hear a chirping noise coming from the engine/gearbox area. This sounds like anklets being jingled very faintly. When you press down the clutch pedal this sound usually goes away, but reappears as soon as you release the clutch. Sometimes you will get a deeper grinding or humming noise. This is a symptom indicative of a worn clutch release bearing. While just the clutch release bearing (CRB) can be replaced, if not checked in time this can lead to a bent clutch fork (the mechanism that pushes or releases the clutch inside the clutch housing), which can then lead to pressure plate problems (bent fingers on the plate) and ultimately a change of the entire clutch assembly.

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Trouble with shifting gears

Another problem indicative of a clutch failure is when you have trouble shifting gears even after pressing the clutch. The gear will either refuse to move out of a given gear into neutral or refuse to move from neutral to another gear easily. Even if it does move, it will be accompanied by a gnashing or grating noise. This is because the clutch is not releasing fully even though you have pressed down on the pedal. This kind of problem is usually not related to the clutch plate failing, but instead it points to a bent clutch fork, leaking slave cylinder (in case of a hydraulic clutch system) or a badly adjusted clutch cable linkage in mechanical clutches. It can be sorted out by a simple adjustment in mechanical linkages or by checking and replacing the slave cylinder and clutch fluid in hydraulic clutch systems.

Also see: 10 weekly checks for your car

What to replace if you have a problem?

Now that you know the symptoms of impending clutch problems, here’s what you need to know about what needs to be replaced. A car which is driven properly and in normal traffic conditions will usually not need any attention to the clutch for at least 100,000 Km. But a car driven by a driver who normally “rides the clutch”, which means driving with a foot on the clutch most times and using “half clutch” to crawl in city traffic, will see clutch replacements more frequently.

If you have clutch slippage occurring you will need to replace the entire clutch plate assembly. This usually costs Rs. 6000 for a small car like the Wagon-R that has a direct linkage clutch system or Rs. 12,000 for a larger vehicle with a hydraulic clutch system like the Mahindra Scorpio. These costs can go up to Rs. 30,000 for some European cars with imported components. Of course, a lot of this cost also goes toward labor charges at the workshop as clutch replacement is “major repair” and incurs high labour cost.

Also read: Choosing the right tyre – a CarToq guide

If you have shuddering too you may need to replace the clutch friction plate assembly and pressure plate. You will incur similar charges as to a full clutch assembly replacement (which includes clutch bearing, fork, release spring, cable and fluid if applicable).

If you hear a chirping sound, then it could only be the clutch release bearing that needs changing. In such a situation, labor charges will be high as the whole gearbox needs to be separated from the engine to access the clutch assembly, but the part itself is not that expensive in most cars.

Related: Suspension systems – how to identify and fix

Trouble with shifting gears is usually minor repair. If it’s a cable operated clutch mechanism, just adjusting the linkage could sort out this problem. If it’s a hydraulic mechanism, check the clutch fluid level and replace fluid if needed. If there’s a leak near the slave cylinder, you may need to replace the slave cylinder – not a very expensive part, but labor charges again could be high depending on the car. In some cars the slave cylinder is outside the clutch housing and easy to access, but in some it’s inside the clutch housing, which will attract high labor charges.

Share any other symptoms and experience with clutch repair that you have had with the CarToq community. How often have you had to replace your car’s clutch plates?

39 thoughts on “When to replace your clutch plates: Warning signs

  1. Believe it or not i have driven my TATA Indigo Manza 1,10,000 kms with the OE Clutch and is still running well. Its time for replacement inspite of running well. Handling counts.

  2. It depends on various factors, as mentioned above in the article, I have Alto and Santro both have done 1 Lac KMS and still working fab…you’ll automatically come to know when you’ll feel the problem or else consult your service engineer during your cars service

  3. em driving skoda fabia 38000km done most of the time in city…… em facing a problem like the RPM stick to a particular point 1500RPM For sum seconds even the car is in neutral gear……. normal the car use to be on 1000RPM in neutral gear
    expert plz help me with this

  4. I have swift vxi 2010 model and i am unable to shift gears when i start the engine although no problems when engine is off ,clutch padel is not loose either and works fine. what could be the causes

  5. Depends on cars too. Most fluidic verna diesel has clutch problems. we change our cars every 3 years and never changed the clutch plate in any of the cars that have done 90000 kms. Even our vento is doing good with 38000 kms. But the verna ran only 12000 kms so far in one and a half years but is having clutch problems. Making karrr.. noise while leaving the clutch and once the clutch went in and never came out when i took my leg off, then had to pull it out with my hands. Planning to get it repaired on nov.

  6. i10 clutch plate was down and out on 30,000 kms….. so i guess apart from traffic and driving skill… it also depends on the fact that from where do these car manufactures source their components…

  7. Give your car to a cheap local mechanic then get every job done in front of your eyes otherwise he will replace every part in your car with workout parts of another car. For after every local repair I have invariably suffered another repair in a short period you may know why. Parambir Singh sail

  8. My Hyundai i10 is having a tight clutch. Do lubrication to the cable help? Can I ride it for another 3K km’s as it will be approaching 40K service? Is there any damage to the car having tight clutch?

  9. ya i own an opel astra 1996 lz2 model d prob is that 1st 5th reverse gear need to be shifted with little more effort so mechanic said dat i hav to change d clutch plate nd pressure plates nd one more mechanic said that that is problem vit the syncroniser nd prob with d brass plates the above both mechanics are experts of opel in hyd nd the first one says that rare problem in gear box of opel astra if tere is prob in gearbox after changing the clutch plates cum pressure plates if prob arises he suggested me to buy a second hand gear box in hyd at afzalgunj plz giv me proper solution

  10. i do not have any problem while driving my indigo ecs cr4
    while servicing after 30k kms. the service adviser took ride as i asked him to look at clutch as it doesn’t smooth feel and gear shifting is not smooth. he told you need to replace clutch assembly( cost 8000). do i rely on him or should get opinion from other service station?
    there is no mileage problem.

  11. I own a Figo D, clocked 58K.
    I experience a jerk, while releasing the clutch after every shift. Earlier it was more prominent in 2nd & 3rd gears, now in all. I tried shifting past 2K, though it’s lesser, but still jerks. I have been having an issue from the very beginning and have reported during every service and at times separately for this…[Read more]

  12. Hello, i am having problems with my Fortuners gear . I am having difficulty shifting the gear. I did have the clutch bled and had the clutch master cylinder replaced. This sirted the problem. But another problem arose. The clutch pedal would not return to its original position after pressing it don to change gears. I had to lift it up with my foot. The Toyota dealer advised replacement of clutch pedal bushes. This was done and with it the original problem came back. Difficulty in changing gears. Now the dealers wants to replace my clutch. I am not sure whats happening. Can someone help.

    Thank you
    Yahya
    dr.ynana1@telkomsa.net

  13. i have recently brought honda city zx 2008 gxi, i earlier thought that the honda city zx clutch are hydraulic and are robust. i went to crystal honda in pune. they said that the clutch has totally gone and need to replace it and it would cost around 16k. My honda city zx has done 68000 kms and i haven’t hardly driven the car. the revs are ok but still the the authorized service center said that the car readings indicate that the clutch is terribly down.

  14. Santro done 105467 kms it needs to change clutch? it shuggles when i release clutch in first gear without accelrate.

  15. Facd clutch problem with Ford Ecosport just 2 months after buying the car (dealer: Elite Ford, Bangalore) – entire clutch is gone and Rs.13000 to replace. We are very experienced drivers and have driven many cars for >10 years without clutch problems, but the service center clowns had the nerve to blame the driver for the clutch problem. They should recall all Ecosports for clutch problem. They recalled the automatic gear version in Australia, but not in India. Shows the double-faced cheats that Ford are.

  16. Chevrolet optra 2008, clocked 2,35,000 kms still running on stock clutch plates. Company service centre suggests it still got plenty of life. No need to replace. Just replaced timing belt and tensioners. Nd sterring pump. Thats seemed to have given up at 2lakh kms.

  17. I have a problem when shifting to reverse gear, the gear is not placing properly,also my clutch feels tight, I changed my clutch plate when clocked at around 18k kilometers as the service centre guys suggested me to replace coz of the tear. Is it a problem with the cable?

  18. hi guys, i have Ritz diesel, i always go for a drive of approx 300km on highway at every weekend, but i am unable to get the best mileage even on my economic driving , last week i only got the mileage of 16-17km/lt
    service centre advised me that i have to replace the complete clutch plate assembly, do you think that they are right?

    please advise.

  19. Hi… i have ertiga zdi… my car is vibrating in 5th gear…
    I shift 5th gear at speed 60kmph .. car vibrates exactly at 70to 8o kmph.. service centre advised that it might be clutch problem… can someone please help me out with this problem… my car has driven 32k km.

  20. I am facing a problem with clutch in my Fiat Punto Emotion Petrol car which includes Slippage problem as well as sometimes the clutch is getting stucked i.e., not coming out immediately after releasing the foot. Can you please advise which parts to be replaced?

  21. i have Maruthi zen estilo 2009 model car. I am facing the problem ,in 2 nd gear the car pickup is not good , can you please find solution

  22. I have maruti suzuki swift vxi 2009 model. Few days asgo my clutch is not working. When i start the car it does not move. And a smell comes out like burning. Is ther a clutch problem and if so what will be the cost. 55000 km already run

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