Reader Question: Old Clutch?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Luke asks: I am considering buying a friend’s ’97 Nissan pick-up; it has 150k-plus on the original (I think) clutch. What are your thoughts about buying it? The truck seems to run okay but I worry I may be looking at a new clutch, soon.

My reply: As it happens, I have an ’02 Nissan pick-up with not-far from the same mileage and the original clutch, which still grabs just fine. Yours may last for some time to come – or it may need to be replaced next month. It is hard to know without actually looking at the clutch – which of course means dropping the tranny (not Bruce).

But why worry?

Eventually, you will need a new clutch. Just as – eventually – you will need new brake pads. Both are normal wear items and not a big deal. A clutch job costs about as much as a four wheel brake job. If you do it yourself, it should only cost a couple hundred bucks. Once done, you will probably never have to do it again as a new clutch on an old truck will likely outlast the truck.

Since you’re considering buying rather than having already bought, you could check the clutch for evidence of slipping before you buy the truck. Get it up to about 35 MPH on a flat road and put the tranny (not Bruce) in fifth and then give it gas. If the clutch is good, the engine should lug. If it revs, the clutch is slipping – and you’ll be replacing it, soon. But – again – it’s not a big deal anymore than needing a four wheel brake job is a big deal, assuming the rest of the truck is ok and the price you pay is fair (and encompasses the cost of the clutch job).

. . .

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  1. How was it driven before?

    If it was highway miles, the clutch will be the last part that survives. Everything else will fail first. “Jack up the radiator cap and run a new truck up underneath”, as we said back when people knew how to change brake pads and clutches.

    If it’s stop-and-go city miles, the clutch will wear quickly, but it’s the throwout bearing that will really suffer. I love the third pedal, but I also know it needs a rest: shift to neutral, let off on the clutch, and don’t engage the trans until the light changes.

  2. I second what Eric said! OP didn’t say if the truck is 2wd or 4×4…but especially if it’s 2wd, doing the clutch is no big deal…and if the truck wasn’t abused or used for towing heavier loads, there’s a good chance that the original clutch will last another 50K miles. And if it’s been replaced at some point in the past? Even better! Do the 35MPH test that Eric describes…and if it doesn’t slip, it’ll likely last a good long time. That’s one of the beauties of a manual tranny- if it were an automatic, you might well have no clue as to when the tranny is going to “go”…and when it does go, you’d be looking at a very expensive repair…but the manual will usually outlast the truck, and the clutch at least gives ya warning when it’s gonna pack up..and when it does pack up, it’s just a few hundred bucks to replace…vs. several grand for an automatic tranny.


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