Caring For Your Car’s Clutch: Principles and Replacement Costs

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The clutch is one of the most vital parts of your car. When it finally stops working properly, though, it makes the car difficult or impossible to drive! If you want to know how the clutch works, what makes it so important and how you can adjust it yourself, simply read on. We will also cover the average clutch replacement cost in detail which can run from $200 if you do it yourself all the way to over $1,000 if a mechanics help is required.

Why The Clutch Is There

The clutch’s job is linking your car’s engine to its transmission. Since your engine is always running, even when your wheels aren’t turning, your clutch has to be able to both link and separate. While automatic transmissions have much more clutches, they still have the same basic parts doing the same basic job.

What A Clutch Is

The clutch connects to your engine via the engine’s flywheel. When the clutch is engaged (i.e. no pressure on the clutch pedal) the clutch disc is forced against the flywheel by powerful springs. Friction between the two parts forms a solid connection and the engine’s motion is transmitted to the transmission. Depressing the clutch pedal causes the springs holding the clutch disc against the flywheel to relax. Without being held in place, the clutch disc loses contact and stops spinning, breaking the linkage.Car Clutch Picture

The Clutch’s Normal Lifespan

Like most parts of your car, the clutch is designed for maximum durability. The friction between the clutch plate and the flywheel will wear the plate down over time, though. If the power train is subjected to heavy strains on a regular basis, (e.g. in a truck that hauls heavy loads) the clutch may wear out in as little as 35,000 miles. Virtually all clutches should be good for at least 50,000 miles in normal operation. Newer cars perform even better, and clutches that are good for 80,000 or even 100,000 miles are relatively common today. Consult your owner’s manual to find your manufacturer’s recommendations on clutch lifespan.

Replacing A Clutch

While a clutch replacement is within the scope of a home repair for a knowledgeable car owner, it is one of the most complex auto repair jobs that can be done at home. If you intend to replace your own clutch, you’ll need to remove the drive shaft and disassemble the transmission to get to it. On many models of car, supporting the engine with a hoist may be required. If this work sounds like it falls outside your comfort zone, you should definitely let a professional handle your clutch replacement.

Expected Cost To Replace a Clutch

The material costs involved in a clutch repair are relatively modest. In the vast majority of cases, the suspect parts that need to be replaced are the pressure plate, the clutch disc, and the throw-out bearing. Taken together, these parts retail for $90-$400. The vast majority of cars will be on the low end of this scale; it’s only high-performance models that get close to $400. If your clutch is operated hydraulically, there are two cylinders (a master and slave) that may need to be replaced on occasion. These cost between $20 and $50 each.

Labor adds significantly to the clutch replacement cost when you entrust it to professionals. Total labor costs will vary between $500 and $700, making for a total repair cost that can fall anywhere between $600 and $1,1000. Common prices do not fall outside $700-$900. You should always request an estimate from your mechanic and carefully review all the work he intends to do prior to making a commitment.

Adjusting Your Own Clutch Pedal

There’s one simple piece of clutch work that virtually every driver can handle solo. This is adjusting the play in the clutch pedal. This is often necessary because the tolerances inside the clutch system change as the disc wears down. Some cars even feature an automatic clutch adjustment, typically used by pulling the clutch up away from the floor and then letting it fall back. The exact location and design of the clutch adjustment varies from model to model. It’s most frequently located behind the clutch pedal itself. Some manufacturers locate the clutch adjustment underneath the hood, on the other side of the fire wall.

The characteristic you are adjusting is where exactly the clutch pedal engages the clutch mechanism. (Many cars can also adjust the physical height and travel distance of the clutch.) The clutch rod is typically protected by a locking nut to prevent accidentally changing the engagement point. Once this is removed, the rod can be turned to increase or decrease its distance from the clutch pedal. A greater distance will translate into a later clutch engagement, while a short distance will engage faster when the pedal is depressed.

Adjusting your clutch is a rather subjective matter. Pay close attention to the behavior of your clutch after you’ve adjusted it; you need to listen and feel for any indication that your clutch is not fully disengaging. This may cause grinding when you shift gears or even lock the transmission in neutral! If your clutch isn’t giving you smooth, reliable responses, continue adjusting it until it performs properly.

Considering the vital role it plays, your clutch is a remarkably dependable piece of machinery. Keep it in good condition and it will serve you well for many thousands of miles!

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