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If you drive a manual transmission then you’ll know how important the clutch is to driving. Most modern cars nowadays have an automatic transmission so if you have a PRNDL and not a 12345R then this isn’t for you.
Clutches are essential to gear changes and driving your manual car in general. They’re a pretty versatile part but like most things on your car, they do wear out eventually.
If your clutch starts fading then it’s something that you should get fixed as soon as possible. It can damage your whole drivetrain if it isn’t performing properly.
A clutch is a mechanical plate that is made out of a strong, organic material. Usually a composite of different steels and parts to generate friction. The friction is how the clutch connects the wheels to the engine without slipping.
The clutch is placed between the engine drive shaft and the shaft that drives the wheels. When you come to a stop, the clutch disconnects the wheel shaft from the engine.
This means the wheels can stop spinning but the engine doesn’t. That’s why you stall sometimes, the engine can’t spin as slowly as the wheels so it stalls and dies.
Without a clutch you can’t change gears and changing gears is what enables your car to do 10kmh as well as 100kmh. It also ensures that the engine can engage and disengage smoothly from driving the wheels.
Without a clutch you wouldn't be able to drive your manual transmission car.
A common one is that the clutch is vague when depressed but jerky as you come off of it. The engine will rev but the car doesn't accelerate when in gear. If in gear, you can’t press the clutch pedal in or once pressed in, it doesn’t pop back. A painful one is a grinding noise when trying to select a new gear
The car is put into neutral and hoisted up to access the underside of the vehicle and the transmission is unbolted and removed. In some cases the exhaust system and drive shaft will have to be removed to access the transmission. The pressure plate is removed from the clutch and flywheel. The clutch will be able to ‘drop’ out and it is possible to access the flywheel to check that for wear too. If there is damage to the flywheel then that will need to be replaced also. The pilot bearing is typically replaced at this point as well and the new clutch aligned and married to the flywheel with the pressure plate refitted. Everything is fitted back to the car and reconnected before it’s test driven and a bedding in procedure is completed.
A replacement can be cheaper than $400 but is often higher - above $850. This is due to the labour intensive nature of the replacement.
It should be noted that the flywheel may need repairing as well as dual mass flywheels which increase the part costs of the replacement job.
It varies depending on the make and model of your car, as well as the way it's driven.
Expect to replace it every 100,000 kilometers but it might be well over 150,000km or as early as 50,000km. It’s a very variable service interval.
It can be unsafe if it affects your driving ability and it can also be dangerous to the other components in your car’s drivetrain.
If the clutch is failing or broken it can really damage your gearbox or engine.
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