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11th May 2010
Things That Can Go Wrong With Your Vehicle’s Clutch
It may surprise you to know that your car has at least one clutch, even if your transmission is an automatic. In fact, your vehicle might have several of them. A clutch is a relatively simple component that connects two rotating shafts and allows them to spin at the same rate. It can also disconnect the two shafts, allowing them to spin at different rates.
For example, consider the tires on your car. They’re connected to the engine and rely upon it for propulsion. The engine is constantly spinning, even if you’re sitting at a red traffic light. Because your tires are not spinning constantly, a clutch is needed to reconnect the tires and engine when the traffic light turns green.
Unfortunately, clutches are like all auto parts: they can fail from normal wear and tear. Below, I’ll describe a few problems that you might eventually experience with your car’s clutch.
When your vehicle’s clutch is engaged, it is supposed to slip in order to prevent jerking. This is the case whether you’re starting from a dead stop or changing gears. Normally, when you remove your foot from the clutch pedal, the component should establish a smooth connection between the engine and the transmission. If you notice excess slippage, there’s a problem. A little leads to a lot because the heat generated from the friction makes it even more difficult for the clutch to grip its position. So, it slips even more.
Technically, this problem is called “chatter.” It’s characterized by a lurching or jerking motion when you engage the clutch. The most common cause is oil on the linings. However, there are several factors that can contribute, including a warped flywheel, misaligned chassis, and even a damaged CV joint.
Grinding Or Growling
When the bearings are severely worn, vibrations inside the clutch actuator can produce squealing, grinding, or growling noises. Like chatter, a lot of factors might be involved. For example, the bearing retainer might be damaged, the release bearing may have failed, or the disc may have been installed poorly. Different causes lead to different noises. A squeal may be caused by a malfunctioning pilot bearing while a growl can be caused by a transmission bearing.
The Stubborn Link
If you press down on the clutch pedal, but the clutch refuses to disconnect, you’ll be unable to shift into gear. You’ll probably hear a loud grinding noise and your engine might stall. This can happen if the release cable breaks, if the hydraulic line has air in it, or the clutch disc has become warped or bent. It can also be caused by a leaking master clutch cylinder.
If your car’s clutch fails, you should have a mechanic replace it as opposed to doing the work yourself; the job is usually labor-intensive. Make sure the replacement that he installs meets OEM specs. Your clutch is one of those systems with which you do not want to take chances.
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