Problems with the clutch on a motorcycle can have catastrophic consequences. Recognising the symptoms of these problems and maintaining the clutch system properly can prevent serious damage to the motorcycle and even personal injury.
As the clutch lever is operated over time, it gradually loses its grip on the clutch cable, weakening the clutch lever action until it barely moves the clutch plates. Maintain the clutch lever by ensuring the free play at the lever meets the specifications of the motorcycle's user manual, in which you will also find instructions on how to make this adjustment.
Unlike the gradual onset of a clutch lever problem, the somewhat uncommon failure of a clutch cable is instantaneous. With little warning, the clutch lever goes completely slack and the clutch will be inoperable. Keeping a clutch cable well lubricated can prevent failure. However, in the event of a cable failure, a registered dealer should fit a replacement.
Problems with the clutch mechanism itself normally manifest themselves in the gear change rather than in the applying and releasing of the clutch lever. Noise, chattering or slipping can be the result of misaligned or warped plates, leaks in hydraulic cables or bearings. Although more serious, if recognised early, these problems will be relatively inexpensive to repair.