Car clutch plates: When to change them?

When exactly do you need to replace your car’s clutch plates? We explain

The clutch is one of the most important parts in a car as it connects the engine with the gearbox, giving the car the ability to move front or back It is also one of the parts of the car that sees big wear and tear depending on a person’s driving style and traffic conditions. Cars driven mainly 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 clutch 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.

Slippage

Clutch Bad Habits Featured

If you experience that the car’s engine RPM increases quite a lot before the vehicle’s speed catches up, the clutch may have come to the end of its life. This is one of the primary and most common signs of the clutch plate giving up. This happens when the clutch plates do not provide enough friction and the transmission speed fails to match the engine speed because of the power loss of the worn-out clutch. A slipping clutch can cause a drastic drop in acceleration. Further, it affects the fuel economy of the vehicle too.

There is a sure-shot way of finding out if the clutch slipping. Switch off the engine and engage the handbrake. Turn on the engine, shift to the third gear without disengaging the handbrake and slowly release the clutch without accelerating. If the clutch plates are in good condition, the vehicle will stall after trying to move forward. However, if the clutch is worn out, the vehicle will not stall even after release the clutch pedal completely.

Shuddering

Ever felt shudders while using old cabs? Well, that happens when the clutch pedal is released quickly. More often it happens at the slower speeds. This can mean that the vehicle’s clutch system has some contamination. Also, the surface of the clutch plate is likely to have a coating of grease or even water and sludge. After driving through a flood-affected area, this phenomena can occur. Most of the times, the shuddering goes away after a drive of a few kilometres. If it does not, then there is a problem. It means that the clutch friction plate is not doing its job properly. A misaligned engine and gearbox due to worn out engine mount or transmission mount can also result in a similar problem.

Chirping or grinding noise

If you get to hear a chirping noise from the engine or the transmission when you release the clutch pedal, it can be an indication of a problem. This sound goes away when the clutch pedal is fully depressed and returns when one releases it. One can even hear other sounds like deep grinding or humming noise. This is caused by worn out clutch release bearing. If this is not replaced with a new one within a certain time, it can further lead to a bent clutch fork, which again can cause pressure plate problems. Eventually, the clutch assembly can just fail.

Problem while shifting gears

If you are having problems while shifting gears or put the lever position to neutral, there’s is a clutch problem. Forcefully pushing the lever into a slot can cause a grinding noise and even after using the clutch pedal completely, the lever may not move. This problem can happen when there is a bent clutch fork, leaking slave cylinder in the hydraulic clutch systems or a badly adjusted clutch cable in the mechanical clutches. It can be fixed by adjusting the mechanical linkages or by replacing the slave cylinder and put new fluid in the hydraulic systems.

What exactly to replace in the clutch assembly?

The symptoms of a clutch system not working properly will lead to a specific problem. A vehicle, which is driven properly and is used in the regular traffic conditions will not require any attention for about 1 lakh km. However, if the driver of the vehicle has a habit of riding the clutch, which means driving the vehicle while resting the foot on the clutch pedal or using the half clutch to crawl in the traffic, the life of the clutch can come down drastically.

If the clutch is slipping, then you need to replace the entire clutch assembly. This can cost Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000 depending on the vehicle and its size. For imported vehicles, this can cost up to Rs 50,000. It is a major replacement in the car and is a labour-intensive job.

In the case of shuddering, the clutch friction plate assembly may need to be changed. The charges are nearly the same as replacing the full clutch assembly. Chirping noise is caused by the bad ball bearings and to fix it, the bearings need to be changed. This is again a labour-intensive job and the whole transmission needs to be separated from the engine to replace the part. The labour cost is a lot but the part itself is not very expensive.

Shifting gear trouble can be sorted by adjusting the clutch system. It is a minor fix. In the hydraulic clutch systems, the clutch fluid level needs to be checked first. However, if there’s a leak near the slave cylinder, the whole cylinder will be changed, which is not very expensive but the labour charges can cause the bill to go up.