Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Joe asks: What do you think about replacing a car’s clutch before the clutch fails? Isn’t it kind of like replacing brake pads before they’re completely worn out?
My reply: Well, you would be doing the job on your own schedule so no worries about being unexpectedly without your vehicle for a day (or several) or stuck beside the road somewhere.
But why fix what’s not broken? Or put another way, why throw away the life your clutch still has left? You might be surprised how long a clutch can last – especially in a modern (1990-up) vehicle with a self-adjusting clutch and a driver who knows how to drive a clutch-equipped vehicle.
My ’02 Frontier has almost 130,000 miles on it and the original clutch. By the standards of the ’60s or ’70s (and even the ’80s) I am about 30,000 miles past due. But the clutch might still have another 50,000 miles of service left.
Why throw that away?
Especially given that – like wearing-out-brakes – a wearing out clutch will usually let you know before it wears out completely. You nay notice more abrupt take-up. Or slipping. And you can test for a close-to-worn-out clutch by getting up to about 30 or so MPH, putting the transmission in 4th or 5th gear and flooring it. If the clutch is okay, the engine will bog. If the clutch is wearing out, it will slip – and the engine will rev.
That’s your cue to make plans for a new clutch!
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At least with brake pads, if you do replace them pre-emptively, it’s not a big deal- $30 for a set of good pads, and half an hour of your time to R-and-R. A clutch though? That’s a major job, which will take a lot of time or money(if you’re paying someone to do it), and there’s really no benefit to doing it until such time as it becomes necessary.
It’s a PITAS if the car is FWD/AWD. But I can drop the tranny (not Bruce!) in my truck in about 30 minutes, if I’m not in a hurry and have it – and the new clutch – back in about an hour or so later.
Yeah, my old ’81 2×4 F250 was like that…undo the U-joint….and the four bolts holding the Warner T-18 to the bellhousing…and voila! Didn’t even have to jack the truck up (It was lifted a little). But such vehicles are rare!
Even with RWD, there are usually cross members, exhausts, etc. And like ya say, front-wheel drive? I don’t even want to think about it! Hell, if I had a FWD, I’d just pay someone to do a clutch job.
Nunz, it’s a bit more involved on Blackie. The NVG 4500 is one heavy mutha and you have to remove the transfer case too. I won’t be doing it till it demands it….if I ever get it going again. That 2500 has shown no signs of removing its body or Blackie’s either. Just got back in and the wind’s so hard and cold it made my eyes tear…..got something in the right one too. Surely it couldn’t be dirt ha ha ha.
When the clutch in my 95 Subaru failed, it acted just as Eric described in his last sentence: floor it in 5th gear and all you get is revs! Some 75k miles later, it was hard to get into gear and I thought it was the clutch again. Turns out, with the mechanical clutch on that Subaru, it was a lever arm which had excessive wear at the pivot point. (The pivot is a single ball bearing sitting in a dimple on the lever arm.) Why the pivot isn’t a longitudinal axle, vs a point, is beyond me! I did have the mechanic replace the clutch while he had everything opened. The car is used by my kids who are harder on the clutch than me.
I may be about to do a clutch job! Not my truck, but a truck owned by a neighbor lady who asked me to take a look. It’s a ’90s-era Toyota pick-up similar to my ’02 Nissan, so should be an easy job. But I’m hoping it’s just the slave cylinder… because that’ll be even easier!
“Why the pivot isn’t a longitudinal axle, vs a point, is beyond me!”
Because it’s a Subaru, that’s why. In spite of that, it’s important to remember that they are the greatest cars ever built and never ever break down 😉
I will say this: That 95 Subaru is very easy to work on. Best car I’ve ever owned to work on. Parts are cheap. I can keep it running for cheap.
Why just replace when you can upgrade?
I get a car, I upgrade my pads/rotors/lines, and tires
Best bet imo is to find an OEM+ or St1 if anything, better new and better than same old same old
A rumbling or any other extra noise when the clutch pedal is pushed usually means a worn out throw-out bearing. If you let that go too long it will ruin other parts and fail suddenly.
If the engine or transmission is out for any other reason then it’s a good idea to replace at least the clutch disc and throw-out bearing while it’s apart.
Clutches that are not abused can last a long long long time.
Definitely agree with this – if the engine or transmission is being pulled for any other reason, check the flywheel for flatness, machine if necessary, then replace the clutch unless it’s relatively new (sub 50,000 miles?). The parts cost is nothing compared to the labor in this case.
Also beware that what looks like a bad clutch (e.g. slipping) may be something else (e.g. small rear main seal oil leak onto the flywheel). Clutches are generally longed lived – I’ve never had to replace a clutch because it wore out.
Oh, yeah – I had an old Cat that had a rear main leak. The clutch started slipping and I discovered oil dripping from the handle rod going into the side of the housing – WTH ???
Then I pulled a drain plug in the bottom of the “bell” housing and about five gallons of oil ran out – LOL I left the plug out from then on but the damage was done. It was quite a job breaking an old bulldozer in half to replace a $40 clutch disc. I also pulled the pan and fixed the rear main after it was back together; I had blocked up the engine and just rolled the tracks and rear half away from it rather than moving the engine.
The throw-out bearing always seems to fail before anything else in a clutch, though I’m always buying used stuff and who knows how it was treated before? After I replaced the bearing in my two ton truck, I discovered that the bearing had a grease fitting – duh! That job I managed to block up the transmission and just slide it back far enough to get the bearing off/on the input shaft. Everything else looked okay from below.
Zane, I upgraded to a racing clutch. It was fine as far as the clutch went but quickly the adjustment rod bent so I replaced it with a Grade 8 bolt I ground the head off. Then the pivot ball on the engine broke so I replaced it with a C 50 truck version after drilling it out and tapping for the larger shaft. Then the clutch arm broke, welded it up with enough stuff to endure anything. Then the clutch fork broke, easy fix, again, a C 50 clutch fork worked fine. Then the throwout bearing, another C 50 replacement part. Then one day I noticed my left pant leg was too tight……..
Decades later my diesel pickup needed a new windshield. The guy who moved it into the shop got out and said “How the hell do you push that clutch?”. I hadn’t noticed. But one day I stopped at the store for a drink and when I got in and put it into gear, the clutch pedal slammed to the floor. The hydraulic line blew up. I replaced that and then the slave cylinder went. I finally replaced that dual mass clutch for a single. A year or so later they said the single’s wouldn’t handle those loads for long so it was back to a dual mass clutch. After that and a replacement master cylinder and she was just like new.
This is common stuff on a big rig. I’ve driven them that had the same clutch for a million miles but they get so hard to push that linkages break and your knee is starting to bother you……all night long.
They finally started putting a tube to grease the throwout bearing with. Just don’t go crazy. A couple pumps is all she needs.
My C-50 GMC is long gone. I could no longer afford the insurance so I went out of business. Traded the entire outfit to a buddy who had to hire a semi to haul everything to his place because the paperwork to legally drive it across the street cost more than the trucks were worth. He traded the GMC/loader off to a big time chainsaw carver who did 12′ tall carvings for public displays. He just used it for a yard truck. Then a forest fire came through there and burned everything up. So no one knows how long that TO bearing would have lasted with lubrication.