Clutch Slipping Symptoms and How To Fix It

Some drivers are well experienced in shifting manual transmissions. To them, gear shifting is second nature. Other drivers see it as a hassle, so they rely on automatic transmissions.

Owners of automatic transmissions don’t worry about not shifting gears properly and the clutch issues that may arise.

Failed clutches can result from poor gear-shifting habits on heavy or hilly congested pavement. So, if your transmission is slipping, how do you know if it’s from the clutch?

In this article, we’ll explain clutch slipping, outline clutch slipping symptoms, and how to fix clutch slipping issues. Let’s keep the ball rolling!

What Is A Slipping Clutch?

clutch slipping causes

A clutch is said to slip when the disc that connects to the flywheel fails to engage and disengage properly or sometimes goes out completely. This means there will be a loss of power between the vehicle and the wheels. Depending on the severity of slippage, your car may not provide torque to the wheels as it should.

Clutch Slipping Symptoms

Unlike other automotive issues that may display minor signs when something goes wrong, clutch slipping symptoms are obvious since you’ll have a loss of power and drivability issues. Here are a couple of identifiable signs of a slipping clutch, which should prompt you to take immediate action.

Vehicle hesitates before accelerating: If your car hesitates before accelerating, it means the transmission is not delivering enough torque to power the wheels. This will be more obvious when towing or carrying a load. The hesitation is likely a sign of a failing clutch.

Burning Smell: If you perceive a burning smell like burning rubber, it could be coming from one of the following things: oil leaks, a blown a fuse, a loose or misaligned drive belt, or a rubber hose, or it could mean you have a failed clutch assembly.

High engine RPM: We often diagnose manual transmissions by test-running it. While test driving, check if the vehicle needs a higher RPM than usual to travel on various speed ranges. If it does, the clutch may need to be checked and replaced.

You can also diagnose the clutch in a garage. Start the car and allow it to idle, put the clutch in second or third gear and release it. If the engine doesn’t stall and continues running smoothly, you have a bad clutch that needs replacement.

Quick clutch disengagement: One of the most common signs of a slipping clutch is quick engine disengagement. This means the engine disengages quickly from the drive wheels.

Normally, a driver has to depress the clutch pedal 1 or 2 inches low before the engine disengages from the wheels. But when the clutch starts going bad, it takes less than 1 inch for the engine to disengage. Sometimes, resting your foot on the pedal will disengage the engine from the drive wheels.

Higher or lower clutch pedal: As a car owner or driver, you should know the usual height of your clutch pedal. When you depress the clutch and release it, it should return to the height it was before.

If the height changes, whether it goes higher or lower, it indicates a problem with the clutch system. In most cases, it could be a clutch slippage.

This happens mostly on older vehicles with rod-operated clutch systems. It’s advisable to adjust the clutch rather than drop down the transmission for clutch assembly replacement.

Poor engine performance: Another way to know if you have a slipping clutch is when pulling a load. Typically, pulling loads requires the engine to send more power and torque to drive the wheels.

But in case you have a slipping clutch, the engine will not deliver the required torque and power, and that leads to loss of engine power.  If you can scale through by reducing the load, your clutch system needs proper attention.

Spongy clutch feels: If you have a spongy clutch feel when depressing the clutch or the pedal sticks after removing your foot, it indicates issues in the system unit.

If you’re specifically searching for BMW clutch slipping symptoms, calm your nerves and watch for the above signs.

Having known the symptoms of a slipping clutch, it is essential to understand that clutch slipping causes can be found in a clutch disc and clutch pressure plate and also in the release bearing. Other causes include the installation of wrong clutches and lousy flywheels.

is slipping the clutch bad

How Do You Fix A Slipping Clutch

Replacing a clutch is a challenging task because of the weight of the transmission. It can cause severe injury to the laborer if it slips off from the sitting. To avoid sustaining injuries, you need to be extremely careful when fixing or replacing the clutch.

The process of replacing a clutch is determined by the type of wheel drive your vehicle is equipped with. We’ll classify the wheel drives into rear and front-wheel drives.

Let’s look at the procedures involved in replacing a rear-wheel-drive clutch.

Rear-wheel drive: You need to keep a few things in mind when replacing a rear-wheel-drive clutch. The bell housing, driveshaft, and transmission have to get out of the way to access the clutch. Also, you need to install the clutch in perfect alignment so the input shaft will socket easily.

Before taking off the transmission, disconnect the vehicle gear shifter from the interior. Catch the transmission fluid with a drain pan when removing the driveshaft.

Here’s the deal. Once the transmission is out of the way, do these;

  • Detach the clutch from the flywheel and reinstall a new one.
  • Inspect the flywheel and resurface it if necessary. If you notice heat discoloration, grooves, warping, oil residues, or wear and tear, it’s necessary to resurface the flywheel.
  • Install a new throwout bearing if you haven’t changed it in a long while.
  • Inspect the pilot bearing. It is located near the rear main seal. Inspect and replace the bearing if you have covered several miles.

This job can be a tedious task. For visual clarification, watch this video.

Front-wheel drive: Replacing a front-wheel clutch is a more tedious task. On front-wheel vehicles, the entire engine and transaxle will need to be pulled out. You need an engine crane to lift and support the engine so you can easily pull out the transaxle.

How long will a slipping clutch last once it starts slipping?

Some clutches slip when the vehicle gets to a certain higher speed. That said, if your car slips at a certain higher speed, driving below that speed will extend how long the clutch will travel when it starts slipping.

Speed times torque equals power. A weak clutch slips due to the applied torque. So, you can increase the power and travel for an extended period by downshifting to increase the vehicle RPM while maintaining the torque below the slipping point.

Slipping the clutch generates heat that causes accelerated wear on the pressure plate and clutch disc and may even extend to the flywheel.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Can a slipping clutch fix itself?

No. A slipping clutch is not a brake noise caused by a rubbing brake backing plate that can stop by itself once it files off the rubbing surface.

However, if you start driving gently when the clutch starts slipping, you may be able to extend the lifespan. There’s nothing like fixing itself.  In any case, no matter how gently you drive, a slipping clutch can fail at any time.

What does it mean when the clutch slips?

Clutch Slipping means a state where the clutch is engaging or disengaging without providing adequate torque and power to the drive wheels.

This could cause the clutch not to move, or at least not to move as it should. In layman’s view, it means a failed clutch due to wear and tear and lousy driving pavement and driving habits.

Does slipping affect acceleration?

Yes. Worn or defective clutches cause loss of power, which equals loss of acceleration. If a clutch wears out over time due to friction, the clutch disc will not clamp the flywheel firmly as it should.

Clutch slipping doesn’t need to be evident for it to be tagged ‘slipping.’ One of the outlined symptoms of a slipping clutch above is higher RPM but lower speed – that’s acceleration issues.

How much does it cost to fix a slipping clutch?

The cost of fixing a slipping clutch depends on various factors. These include the type of vehicle you own (rear-wheel or front-wheel drive), the cause of the slippage, and the cost of the replacement parts. If the culprit is a worn-out clutch assembly, it will cost $700 to $2,000 for an experienced mechanic to fix it.

Final Word

If you ignore a slipping clutch for an extended period, it will cause additional problems. The more a clutch slips, the more it generates higher heat, which leads to accelerated component wear.

Hence, it is crucial to watch out for the clutch slipping symptoms outlined above and fix it before it escalates to bigger repairs.

If you’re not familiar with Underhood component working principles, get a trained transmission expert to diagnose and fix it.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

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