How to Troubleshoot a Soft Clutch Pedal if It Grinds When You Put It in Gear

Written by dan ferrell
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How to Troubleshoot a Soft Clutch Pedal if It Grinds When You Put It in Gear
A grinding clutch may be traced to an unadjusted pedal or internal clutch assembly problems. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Whenever the friction disc inside the clutch assembly on a standard-transmission vehicle sticks to the flywheel, you will hear a grinding noise. Even if you depress the clutch pedal, the friction disc spins along with the flywheel, which makes the transmission gears spin and clash against each other every time you try to engage or shift gears. Troubleshooting a grinding clutch can lead you to a simple problem that you can fix in about an hour--or a more involved process that may take two or more days to solve.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Assistant's help
  • Wrench set
  • Vehicle service manual
  • Transmission jack
  • Ratchet
  • Long ratchet extension
  • Socket set

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  1. 1

    Open the bonnet of your vehicle and ask an assistant to operate the clutch pedal. At the same time, watch the linkage--the mechanism that connects the clutch pedal to the clutch assembly inside the transmission. From the engine compartment, you will see a metal rod that goes through the firewall on the driver's side to one side of the transmission. It will move as your assistant pushes on the clutch pedal. Make sure there is nothing interfering with the proper operation of the linkage.

  2. 2

    Check the free travel on your clutch pedal. Too much free travel will prevent the pressure plate from fully releasing the friction plate. Check your vehicle service manual for the amount of free travel needed in your particular model and the procedure to adjust the pedal, if necessary, using a wrench.

  3. 3

    Check the oil in the hydraulic clutch system, if your particular model is equipped with it. This system includes a master cylinder inside the engine compartment that is connected to the front of the clutch pedal and a metal line that goes to a 'slave cylinder' next to the transmission. Inspect for low oil level on the master cylinder reservoir, which is a plastic bottle on the master cylinder. Check for signs of a leaking master or slave cylinder and connecting hoses and lines.

  4. 4

    Adjust the hydraulic clutch release mechanism, if your model is equipped with it. When the clutch friction disc and other clutch assembly components begin to wear, pedal free travel increases as well. Consult the vehicle service manual for your particular model to make this adjustment.

  5. 5

    Separate the transmission from the engine by lifting your vehicle and using a transmission jack to secure the transmission. Unplug electrical connectors and detach any linkage rods from the transmission using a wrench. Use a ratchet, long ratchet extension and socket to reach the mounting bolts on the transmission bell housing when necessary. Carefully separate the transmission with the help of an assistant.

  6. 6

    Check the clutch friction disc for warp and oil or grease contamination. The friction disc is located between the clutch pressure plate and the flywheel. The pressure plate bolts to the flywheel, which is a large metal disc with a ring gear around it that is fastened to the rear of the engine. The friction disc is a metal plate with friction lining material around it on both sides. A bad rear engine seal or transmission input shaft seal might allow oil to leak and contaminate the clutch friction disc and assembly. Replace the seal and/or friction disc, if necessary.

  7. 7

    Check for damage to the clutch release lever and for rust or damage to the splines on the transmission input shaft where the friction disc rides on. Replace components as necessary.

  8. 8

    Check the clutch throw-out bearing, front bearing retainer hub and other clutch assembly components for wear and damage. Install new components, if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • You may find a copy of your vehicle service manual in the reference section of the public library or buy one at a local auto parts store.

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