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How Long Does the Clutch Last?

Manual transmission cars are sporty, fun, and highly engaging to drive. There is nothing like the rush that comes with pushing down on the clutch and shifting through gears. However, with constant gear changes, the clutch takes a lot of wear and tear.

The lifecycle of your clutch is highly dependent on your driving style. For instance, highway drivers hardly change gears so their clutches last longer. On the contrary, city drivers are forced to stop-start their cars in traffic, causing a lot of wear and tear.

Average Lifespan of a Clutch

The average clutch lasts anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 miles or more. However, most last about 60,000 miles before they need replacement. Determining how long a clutch will last depends on factors such as driving habits, climate and environment, make and model, the clutch brand, and the type of traffic.

The less you use your clutch, the less wear and tear, and the longer the lifespan. There are various ways to increase its life expectancy, such as:

  • When in traffic, always put your car in neutral and apply the hand brake instead of using the clutch to make the vehicle stand still.
  • Avoid using the clutch pedal to control the speed of your vehicle. Instead, use the accelerator and brakes.
  • Before accelerating, release the clutch fully and engage the gear.
  • Regularly service your car. 

What Causes a Clutch to Fail?

A clutch will fail in one of two ways Either it will stop disengaging completely or it will partially disengage. This can be sudden or gradual. Different factors cause each failure. Understanding these factors is crucial in identifying the best repair method. With sudden failure, the car stops moving altogether. Sudden breakdown results from:

As you use your vehicle, you might notice the clutch becoming less and less effective. Gradual clutch failure results from:

  • Bent linkage
  • Failing clutch master cylinder
  • A stretched cable
  • Low hydraulic fluid
  • Broken motor mount.

Symptoms of a Bad Clutch

Duralast Clutch
Duralast Clutch

Symptoms of a bad clutch can be subtle or obvious. The good news is that your car will most likely give you plenty of notice if something is not okay. Whether you have a manual or automatic vehicle, catching a clutch failure earlier will save you from major car repairs.

Knowing what to look out for is always important to avoid ignoring crucial signs. As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, take your car to a transmission expert for a check.

1. Difficulty shifting gears

The primary function of the clutch is to release the force between an engine and the transmission, enabling you to shift to the next gear smoothly. When your clutch and gearbox are in good condition, your gears will shift easily. A bad clutch cannot release the connection between the engine and the gearbox, making it very difficult for you to change gears. So, when you notice trouble shifting the gears, contact a mechanic to check the clutch.

2. A spongy or soft clutch pedal

A soft or spongy clutch is one of the earliest symptoms of a bad clutch. As you continue using the clutch services, the feel of the pedal changes over time. When the clutch pedal starts feeling spongy, or you have to press far down to engage it, it’s time to talk to an expert. Catching the issue at this stage could save you a lot of stress and money.

3. Noise whenever you press the clutch

When you press the clutch and hear a grinding noise from the engine compartment, it could mean that the clutch pressure plate is defective. It could also mean a loose part in the clutch plate or disc. In this case, have your mechanic check the vehicle to avoid more problems down the line.

4. A burning smell when driving

If you smell burning when driving, it’s time to get your car checked. Pay close attention to any other symptoms that occur alongside the burning smell. Often, slipping gears accompany this smell. This is a cause for concern, and you should have a trusted technician inspect it.

5. Clutch Slippage

When you have a bad clutch, it will slip whenever you accelerate. You will also notice that the engine speed increases, but your car does not accelerate. This indicates that the clutch is slipping, and the gearbox is not connected to the engine properly. A slipping clutch will overheat other parts and increase the damage intensity. It can get so bad that your vehicle stops moving altogether. 

6. Stiff Clutch Pedal

A stiff clutch pedal is a sign that there is an issue with the clutch pressure plate. It might also mean that there is an issue with the hydraulic clutch system. Either way, it’s crucial to have a technician make a proper diagnosis before replacing the entire clutch.

What Do I Need to Replace a Clutch?

Anytime you notice overheating or burning, it means that you need to replace your clutch. You will need a basic clutch kit to replace it effectively. This includes a clutch disc, release bearing, and a new pressure plate. The kit is ideal because all the parts are from the same brand so they match and fit perfectly with each other. 

The replacement process could involve changing the transmission input shaft seal or an intake manifold gasket set. If you have to replace a contaminated clutch disc on a car with less than 40,000 miles, you can reuse the original pressure plate and the release bearing if they are in good condition.

If the clutch failure is on the release bearing, clutch disc, and pressure plate of a high-performance vehicle, you need to replace all three parts simultaneously. Generally, replacing a clutch can be labor intensive; however, if you do it well, you take care of the problem once and for all. 

If you are unsure whether the clutch is faulty, you can consult one of AutoZone’s preferred shops will find anything that needs attention and make the repairs. If you’re a DIYer, you’ll find all the parts you need for a clutch repair, no matter what you drive.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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