How to Test Your Clutch

While manual transmissions are no longer as popular with automotive manufacturers as they once were, there are still many vehicles on the road today that are equipped with manual transmissions, and thus have clutches.

An automotive clutch is a friction disc that is located inside the vehicle’s transmission. It is one of the most important components in a manual transmission vehicle’s driveline, as it is the component responsible for transferring the power from the engine through to to the transmission, so that it can be distributed to the wheels.

Clutches operate using friction lining, so over time they can wear out and begin to falter in performance. When a clutch wears out, it starts to display symptoms such as noise, vibration, and slippage. If left unchanged, the clutch will fail to transfer any of the engine power to the wheels and will need to be replaced eventually.

You can use a few simple tests to check whether the clutch is functioning properly or if it needs to be replaced.

Part 1 of 1: Test the clutch

person stepping on clutch pedal

Step 1: Check the clutch. Before checking to see if a clutch needs to be replaced, see if it is engaging and disengaging properly.

With the vehicle running, step on the clutch pedal and put the vehicle into gear. The transmission should shift into gear without any grinding or popping sounds.

If your vehicle’s clutch is hydraulically operated, make sure that the fluid level is topped off and ensure that there are no leaks or other problems with the system.

If your vehicle’s clutch is cable operated, examine the cable assembly and make sure that it is functioning correctly.

Pay attention to any signs that may indicate that the clutch is slipping. If the clutch is slipping, it may not engage properly and will cause the engine to shake, hesitate, or even rev to high rpms while driving.

Step 2: Drive and test the clutch operation. Put the vehicle into first gear and drive off from a stop, as usual. When releasing the clutch pedal to take off, pay extra attention to any abnormal behavior or cues that vehicle may exhibit, such as any grinding or squeaking noises, burning smells, or slippage, indicating that there may be a problem.

If you notice slippage, squeaking or grinding noises, or any sort of burning smells, the clutch may be excessively worn and may need to be replaced.

Step 3: Test the clutch by attempting to take off from third gear. Once the car has been road tested, take the car to an empty parking lot and take off from a stop with the car in third gear.

You will have to release the pedal very slowly and give the car some throttle to prevent it from stalling.

When releasing the pedal, the vehicle should eventually take off, albeit very slowly.

If when you try to take off the vehicle begins to display any signs of slippage, abnormal noises, or burning smells, then the clutch may need to be replaced due to excessive wear.

person replacing clutch disc

Step 4: Replace the clutch if necessary. If a problem is detected, you may need to replace the clutch with a suitable replacement.

You can easily test a clutch while driving and see whether it needs to be replaced. However, if you are not sure about the source of the problem, or if you feel that the clutch needs to be replaced, this is something that any professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, should be able to help you with.


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Scott

34 years of experience
546 reviews
Scott
34 years of experience
GMC K1500 V8-5.0L - Clutch is not working - Broomfield, Colorado
I ask for Scott because of his knowledge. He doesn't just plug a car into a computer and say "I'm not sure." He can actually look at what has been known to happen from past experiences. I will always ask for his assistance.
Subaru Outback - Clutch is not working - Denver, Colorado
Scott was very thorough with his work on my Subaru, communicated effectively to coordinate my appointment, and provided excellent recommendations for further services to resolve my problem (which ended up being more of a problem than initially anticipated). Very helpful and friendly, and I would highly recommend!

Travis

13 years of experience
579 reviews
Travis
13 years of experience
Mazda Miata L4-1.8L - Clutch is not working - Minneapolis, Minnesota
Travis showed up on time. He was professional and very nice. He checked the car out, did what was necessary and finished the job. I would definitely have him fix any auto problems I have.

Augustine

12 years of experience
129 reviews
Augustine
12 years of experience
Mazda B2200 L4-2.2L - Clutch is not working - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Augustine was on time, friendly, and was mindful of COVID safe practices. He was very knowledgeable about my old truck and was able to fix it right away. Thanks so much Augustine!!!

Juan

9 years of experience
301 reviews
Juan
9 years of experience
Mazda MX-5 Miata L4-2.0L - Clutch is not working - Orlando, Florida
Juan was professional, nice, and good at explaining what he was doing and why. He helped me understand the issues with my car and my obtions to resolve them.

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