What Is Clutch Slipping?

The clutch might appear to be a very simple part of your car, but it actually performs a vital role in the operation and safety of your vehicle on the road. 

Located at the third pedal to your left after the brake and accelerator, the clutch is a pivotal part in the working of modern-day manual transmissions

But what exactly is a clutch, what does it mean if your clutch is slipping, and why is it so vital to your vehicle?

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What is a Clutch?

The clutch is comprised of three essential components – the flywheel, the pressure plate, and the clutch plate. The clutch separates the engine from the wheels and, in turn, allows you to change gears and stop your vehicle whilst your car is running. 

It is almost impossible to drive with a failing clutch. When a clutch is in good condition it works seamlessly, but like any part of a vehicle, it should be regularly checked and maintained to ensure optimal performance. 

In order to prevent clutch failure, we recommend that a clutch is serviced every six months or every 10,000kms, whichever of the two comes first.

Most clutches in manual transmission vehicles last for about four to six years. However, the driving conditions you subject your vehicle to determine your clutch's long-term health. 

Reckless driving, poor vehicle maintenance, harsh acceleration and excessive revving can all result in a worn clutch, and therefore clutch slipping. 

What Does Clutch Slipping Mean?

A slipping clutch refers to when your clutch is engaging and disengaging erratically due to a lack of power being sent to the wheels. This results in your vehicle being unable to move forward. 

A slipping clutch can result from extensive wear and tear over many years, or the breaking-in of a new clutch, amongst many other scenarios. 

The clutch normally works through the friction caused by the connection between the clutch plate and flywheel. When functioning correctly, both of these parts move at the same speed, however, when the friction material is worn or completely deleted, the clutch plate and flywheel move at different speeds. 

As a result, maximum engine power cannot be transmitted to the gearbox, and consequently, the wheels of the vehicle. Clutch slipping is a warning sign of clutch deterioration or failure.

What Are the Causes of Clutch Slipping?

Clutch slipping has many causes that result from various scenarios. It is primarily dependent on the driver's individual driving habits and the vehicle in question. 

For instance, a driver may complain that their clutch slips and high speeds whilst another driver experiences it when their engine is cold or post-chip tuning. 

A clutch can slip even after being just replaced, showing just how varied the causes can be. 

Some of them include:

  • The clutch is subjected to extreme heat conditions, causing heat damage.
  • A shabby and clapped out disc.
  • Wear and tear in the release system.
  • Continuous impediment of freedom of movement.
  • An incorrectly reworked flywheel.
  • Friction surfaces getting contaminated with lubricant.
  • Friction surfaces on the pressure plate and flywheel being malformed and distorted.
  • Incorrect adjustment to the clutch.

Several systems will enable you to be alert and know whether your clutch is slipping. 

When taken seriously, the driver can get notified early and take their car to a transmission specialist before the clutch fully fails. 

To avoid your clutch slipping at the worst possible time, ensure you know the early warning signs. 

What Are the Symptoms of Clutch Slipping?

The performance of your clutch is bound to diminish over time, and a slipping clutch is something that should be perceptible to a keen and adept driver. 

However, you shouldn't be worried about not being able to identify the clutch slipping as the signs are pretty easy to spot. 

Some of the symptoms fo a slipping clutch include:

  • When going up an incline or a steep terrain, your vehicle requires you to downshift more often.
  • You are forced to press harder on the clutch for you to change gears.
  • The clutch feels stiffer and needs a lot of pressure.
  • The clutch pedal can’t be fine-tuned to provide pedal leeway or slack. This should be roughly ½.
  • Your vehicle begins showing signs of decreasing or declining gas mileage.
  • There is also a burning smell under the hood when the acceleration pedal is applied. This can also mean there is faulty wiring or there is oil leakage.
  • You start experiencing very high revs when you put the car into motion or as you start accelerating.
  • The clutch disengages very quickly and also when there is an apparent change in clutch pedal height (whether too low or too high than normal).

Most of these are easily identifiable problems even if you are not a mechanic. It's always good to have a basic understanding of the early signs and symptoms of clutch degradation for your vehicle's health and overall safety. 

It is also important to note that it may not necessarily be the clutch at fault if you are experiencing difficulty with changing gears. To determine the fault at hand, turn the engine of your vehicle off and try changing gears. 

If you can select a gear, it means that you are having clutch trouble; if not, it means that your gearbox or gear linkage is faulty. 

How to Prevent a Clutch From Slipping?

A clutch slip can be prevented by how you handle your vehicle on a day-to-day basis and how regularly your car is serviced. 

Clutches are designed to last quite some distance, ranging from 80,000km to 160,000km, but how well this is achieved is entirely dependent on the competence and keenness of the driver. 

One way to ensure your clutch lasts as long as possible is by employing good driving practices like avoiding harsh acceleration without climbing gears or revving. 

You should also consistently monitor the mileage your vehicle has completed to determine when the clutch needs replacing. This depends on how old your vehicle is and varies from one car to the next. 

Lastly, ensuring your car has regular general servicing will help you to monitor your clutch health easily, determining its longevity in the process.

In the event your clutch is slipping, it is also important to mention what you should expect. You will be required to have a complete overhaul of the clutch system to repair it. 

The cost of this process can be quite high, and that’s why you should try to maintain your car health to avoid it. The cost also varies regionally, and the make of your car also obviously influences the replacement costs.

Contact Automatic Transmissions R Us – The Perth Transmission Specialists

Manual transmissions and clutches require professional care and maintenance to ensure they work properly. 

Automatic Transmissions R Us are Perth's local transmission service and repair specialists – we guarantee that we can give your car the care is needs. 

If you want to get your car back into drive, contact us today by sending an online enquiry, emailing info@autotrans.com.au, or calling (08) 9240 5449.