Clutch Problem Diagnosis

Clutch Problem Diagnosis

Check and attempt to adjust the clutch pedal play before attempting to diagnose any clutch problems. If the friction lining of the clutch is worn too thin, the clutch cannot be adjusted successfully. The most common clutch problems are described here.


Clutch slippage is a condition in which the engine overspeeds without generating any increase in torque to the driving wheels. It occurs when the clutch disc is not gripped firmly between the flywheel and the pressure plate. Instead, the clutch disc slips between these driving members. Slippage can occur during initial acceleration or subsequent shifts, but it is usually most noticeable in higher gears.

One way to check for slippage is by driving the vehicle. Normal acceleration from a stop and several gear changes indicate whether the clutch is slipping. 

Slippage also can be checked in the stop. Check the service manual for correct procedures. A general procedure for checking clutch slippage follows. Be sure to follow the safety precautions stated earlier.

With the parking brake on, disengage the clutch. Shift the transmission into third gear, and increase the engine speed to about 2000rpm. Slowly release the clutch pedal until the clutch engages. The engine should stall immediately.

If it does not stall within a few seconds, the clutch is slipping. Safety raise the vehicle and check the linkage for binding and broken or bent parts. If no linkage problems are found, the transmission and the clutch assembly must be removed so the clutch parts can be examined.

Clutch slippage can be caused by an oil-soaked or worn disc facing, warped pressure plate, weak diaphragm spring, or the release bearing contacting and applying pressure to the release levers.

Drag and Binding

If the clutch disc is not completely released when the clutch pedal is fully depressed, clutch drag occurs. Clutch drag causes gear clash, especially when shifting into reverse. It can also cause hard starting because the engine attempts to turn the transmission input shaft.

To check for clutch drag, start the engine, depress the clutch pedal completely, and shift the transmission into first gear. Do not release the clutch. Then, shift the transmission into neutral and wait 5 seconds before attempting to shift smoothly into reverse.

It should take no more than 5 seconds for the clutch disc, input shaft, and transmission gears to come to a complete stop after disengagement. This period, called the clutch spindown time, is normal and should not be mistaken for clutch drag.

If the shift into reverse causes gear clash, raise the vehicle safely and check the clutch linkage for binding, broken, or bent parts. If no problems are found in the linkage, the transmission and clutch assembly must be removed so that the clutch parts can be examined.

Clutch drag can occur as a result of a warped disc or pressure plate, a loose disc facing, a defective release lever, or incorrect clutch pedal adjustment that results in excessive pedal play.

Biding can result when the splines in the clutch disc hub or on the transmission input shaft are damaged or when there are problems with the release levers. 


A shaking or shuddering that is felt in the vehicle as the clutch is engaged is known as clutch chatter. It usually occurs when pressure plate first contacts the clutch disc and stops when the clutch is fully engaged.

To check for clutch chatter, start the engine, depress the clutch completely, and shift the transmission into first gear. Increase engine speed to about 1500rpm, then slowly release the clutch pedal and check for chatter as the pedal begins to engage. Do not release the pedal completely, or the vehicle might jump and cause serious injury. As soon as the clutch is partially engaged, depress the clutch pedal immediately and reduce engine speed to prevent damage to the clutch parts.

Usually clutch chatter is caused by liquid leaking onto the clutch and contaminating its friction surfaces. This results in a mirror-like shine on the pressure plate or a glazed clutch facing. Oil and clutch hydraulic fluid leaks can occur at the engine rear main bearing seal transmission input shaft seal, clutch slave cylinder, and hydraulic line. Other causes of clutch chatter include broken engine mounts, loose bell housing bolts, and damaged clutch linkage.

During disassembly, check for a warped pressure plate or flywheel, hot spots on the flywheel, a burned or glazed disc facing, and worn input shaft spline. If the chattering is caused by an oil-soaked clutch disc and no other parts are damaged, then the disc alone needs to be replaced. However, the cause of the oil leak must also be found and corrected.

Pedal Pulsation

Pedal pulsation is a rapid up-and-down movement of the clutch pedal as the clutch disengages or engages. This pedal movement usually is minor, but it can be felt through the clutch pedal. It is not accompanied by any noise. Pulsation begins when the release bearing makes contact with the release levers.

To check for pedal pulsation, start the engine, depress the clutch pedal slowly until the clutch just begins to disengage, and then stop briefly. Resume depressing the clutch pedal slowly until the pedal is depressed to a full stop.

On many vehicles, minor pulsation is considered normal. If pulsation is excessive, the clutch must be removed and disassembled for inspection.

Pedal pulsation can result from the misalignment of parts. Check for a misaligned bell housing or a bent flywheel. Inspect the clutch disc and pressure plate for warpage. Broken, bent, or warped release levers also create misalignment.


Clutch vibrations, unlike pedal pulsations, can be felt throughout the vehicle, and they occur at any clutch pedal position. These vibrations usually occur at normal engine operating speeds (more than 1500 rpm).

There are several possible sources of vibration that should be checked before disassembling the clutch to inspect it. Check the engine mounts and the crankshaft damper pulley. Look for any indication that engine parts are rubbing against the body or frame.

Accessories can also be a source of vibration. To check them, remove the drive belts one at a time. Set the transmission in neutral, and securely set the emergency brake. Start the engine and check for vibrations. Do not run the engine for more than 1 minute with the belts removed.

If the source of vibration is not discovered through these checks, the clutch parts should be examined. Be sure to check for loose flywheel bolts, excessive flywheel runout, and pressure plate cover balance problems.


Many clutch noises come from bushings and bearings. Pilot bushing noises are squealing, howling, or trumpeting sounds that are most noticeable in cold weather. These bushing noises usually occur when the pedal is being depressed and the transmission is in neutral. Release bearing noise is a whirring, grating, or grinding sound that occurs when the clutch pedal is depressed and stops when the pedal is fully released. It is most noticeable when the transmission is in neutral, but it also can be heard when the transmission is in gear.

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