Why is My Clutch not Working?

The clutch is a crucial system in manual transmission, and drivers dread any problems with it. Unfortunately, clutches have a lifespan just like any other car part. In most cases, their lifespan depends on mileage and other factors. You can experience sudden clutch failure when driving. Sadly, this is an all-or-nothing situation as you may not have any warning, and a clutch can easily cost $800 to $1,500, depending on what you drive.

With gradual failure, you may notice various signs before your clutch completely stops working. For example, your clutch might be sticky or spongy, it may vibrate, or the clutch pedal might be loose. You may also experience difficulties when changing gears. When you notice these signs early, think about repairing the clutch and checking other key areas that may be affected. 

Types of Clutches

Different types of clutches meet different requirements.  They also have distinctive working principles. Clutches can be classified based on several parameters, including method of operation, presence of lubricant, or the number of plates.  If you want more power from your engine, it is important to understand the type of clutch you have. The friction clutch is the most common model. There are two types of this clutch,  single-plate and multi-plate, and your car is almost guaranteed to have one of them. 

Press the clutch in and it disengages the transmission from the engine’s rotation. Let it out and the friction material grips the flywheel’s flat surface, spinning the transmission at the same speed as the engine. 

But when a clutch wears out, the friction material slips against the flywheel, losing valuable torque that should be transferred through the tranny to the wheels.

Driving Habits that Damage the Clutch

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If you live in the city, then you are forced to stop-start your car in traffic, especially during peak hours. This can wreak havoc on your vehicle’s clutch. Driving in the city overworks your clutch and can take a toll on your car. Your driving habits determine how much your clutch will wear and tear. These several driving habits damage the clutch.

  • Using the clutch instead of the brake to stop your car in traffic. 
  • Shifting your gears slowly. This keeps the clutch engaged much longer than necessary. 
  • Using your clutch as a footrest (riding your clutch)
  • Driving your car in a gear that is too high for your driving speed (engine lugging). 
  • Releasing the clutch too soon. This makes your car jerk, puts excess pressure on the engine, and overheats the clutch. 
  • Skipping regular servicing and maintenance. 
  • Driving the car with a damaged clutch.

Can my Clutch Fail Suddenly?

Yes, your clutch can fail suddenly. Anyone with a manual transmission car will tell you they’re thrilling to drive. However, the clutch that makes manual transmission possible wears out with time. Worse yet, most systems have been designed as such that a visual inspection under the vehicle will not immediately reveal an impending clutch failure. 

With a sudden breakdown, the clutch stops working completely, and the car stops moving. It often results from a broken clutch cable or a defective hydraulic system. Sometimes, the clutch can fail suddenly if the clutch plate is contaminated with debris. 

What Should I Do If My Clutch Fails When I’m Driving?

If your clutch fails when driving, you should pull over immediately. Ensure that you stop in a spot that is as safe as possible. You should then switch off the engine and turn on the hazard lights. You can have the car towed to a garage for repairs, and contact AutoZone to get the best clutch set parts for the vehicle. 

How to Replace a Clutch

You don’t need to go to the mechanic to replace your clutch. You can replace it by yourself if you have the right tools. AutoZone offers affordable clutch replacement kits with all the major components of a car clutch. You will need a jack, a screwdriver, lubricant, and a new clutch and flywheel. This step-by-step guide to help you replace your car clutch if you do not have time to get to a mechanic, or simply prefer doing it yourself.

1. Position your vehicle securely.

You should first park your vehicle in a secure position to make the process easy. Use a floor jack to lift the front part of your vehicle and support it. Position the jack stands under the axles so that the car remains raised and stable.  

2. Remove any electrical connections

For this step, unhook the clutch cable as well as the positive battery cables. Ensure that all the electrical connections and the speedometer cable are disconnected. Remove all the bolts holding the transmission and use a transmission jack to move it away and access the clutch plate. You should also disconnect the starter motor and the gearbox.

3. Remove the pressure plate and the old clutch plate

After removing the transmission, you will see the pressure plate. Remove the bolts that hold it in place using a wrench or a impact driver. Then, slide the clutch plate off of the pilot bearing shaft.

4. Replace the Clutch

Clean up all the components to ensure that they are not oily, greasy, or dirty before you replace the clutch. Attach the new flywheel and pressure plate and tighten it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

At this stage, use the clutch alignment tool to properly position the clutch disc and bolt on the pressure plate. Refit the gearbox and reconnect all the cables and wires. Adjust the clutch cables by turning the two bolts.

5. Release the car jack

After replacing everything and tightening the bolts, carefully release the jack. Hold the transmission and let the car lower back to its position. You should then attach the battery, top up clutch fluid and reattach the vacuum lines, the electrical plugs, and the speedometer. You are now ready to hit the road.

How Long does it Take to Replace a Clutch?

Replacing a car clutch can take anywhere between two and six hours, depending on the extent of the damage. It also depends on the skill level and knowledge of the steps needed. If you decide to take the car to a mechanic, expect to pay about $80 to $120 per hour for labor plus the price of the replacement parts. An experienced mechanic will most likely replace your clutch in a few hours if there are no other issues.

Looking for the parts to change your clutch, or the tools to make it possible? AutoZone has clutch kits available for virtually every make and model. If you decide that it’s too big a job to tackle on your own, let AutoZone help you find qualified professional mechanics through our Shop Referral Program

If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

FAQ/People Also Ask

What causes a clutch not to engage?

The clutch disc could be worn out, it could be contaminated, or the fingers or springs on the pressure plate could be damaged.

How do I know if my clutch has gone? 

If your engine over-revs without going much faster on acceleration, there’s a burning smell when you drive, or it’s hard to shift gears, your clutch could be gone.

Why is there no pressure in my clutch pedal?

Fluid could be leaking from the clutch system. Check the master and slave cylinders as well as the clutch lines for presence of fluid leaking.

What to do if clutch is not working while driving

It isn’t safe to drive if the clutch won’t allow you to shift gears. When you have a clear lane, pull the shifter out of gear and slowly brake, steering into a safe place.

Do clutches fail suddenly?

With aggressive driving, clutches can and do fail suddenly. In most cases, it’s a gradual process of failure.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on 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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