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Symptoms of clutch problems

Updated February 21, 2017

People who have a car with a manual transmission usually like the control over power and acceleration they get on the open road. But along with the advantages of manual shifting comes the potential for problems with the clutch on the vehicle. The clutch makes it possible to easily shift from one gear to the next by pressing a pedal. Like many other components on an automobile, clutches eventually wear out and have problems. Being able to identify a clutch problem will alert you to get your car to the shop before you find yourself unable to shift gears.

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Slippage is a clutch problem that occurs when the pressure plate is unable to hold the friction disc against the flywheel tightly when the clutch is engaged. This causes the disc to rotate at a different speed than the flywheel. The high temperature caused by friction against the disc will eventually damage the clutch plate and necessitate a replacement. On clutches with mechanical linkage, adjustment can forestall replacement for a time.

If you notice the engine revving abnormally as the clutch is released, and the car accelerates gradually, then it could be a slippage problem. It's possible that grease or oil on the disc is causing the slippage or the engine mount could be broken, causing the linkage to be bound up by an improperly moving engine.

Another common cause of slippage is when the friction plate is simply worn out from use. A clutch will not last forever, and over time the clutch will begin slipping. Adjustments will not fix this problem, as a worn out friction plate will require complete replacement.


A grabbing or chattering clutch is an indicator that there is a problem inside the clutch mechanism. It is an easily noticed problem. Symptoms include a vibration or jerking as the clutch is released, especially when accelerating from a stop. This problem may be the result of a damaged or broken disc, flywheel or pressure plate. It may also be caused by loose springs or worn engine mounts, according to the Integrated Publishing website on Clutch Troubleshooting.

Squeal or Chirp

Noises associated with clutch problems are difficult to diagnose because the sounds can mean many different things. If you hear chirping or squealing when you use the clutch, have it checked.

When squealing or chirping starts or stops whenever you press down the clutch pedal, then there is a good possibility it is a worn or damaged release bearing or pilot bushing. Other problems that accompany this noise include problems with a worn release fork, input shaft or improper installation of the friction disc. Other noises, such as growling when the pedal is engaged, are also signs of trouble.

Gear Changing Problems

Clutch release problems can cause a variety of symptoms that drastically affect the driving experience. If the clutch will not disengage completely, the disc will continue spinning and prevent the driver from getting the car into gear from neutral. It may also cause the gears to grind when the car is put into gear and potentially cause stalling when the car rolls to a stop, according to the Automotive Parts Network website. When the clutch does not disengage from the flywheel it is usually the result of a leak or air in the hydraulic system, or improperly adjusted mechanical linkage.

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About the Author

Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.

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