Three Signs Your Clutch Is Going Bad

If you're a stick shift aficionado, you know that the clutch is one of the most crucial parts of your car's transmission and that it's essential for safe operation of the vehicle. If you find yourself in a moving car without a working clutch, the safest thing to do is try to get it into neutral and then use the brakes (and the handbrake if necessary) to come to a stop before calling a tow truck. But if you can avoid this exigency, you should definitely do so. Keep an eye out for these three signs that will let you know your clutch is about ready to give up the ghost.

1. The engine behaves differently when you shift gears

When a clutch develops problems, the results often show up in the way the engine behaves. As you engage and disengage the clutch during regular driving, pay attention to how the engine sounds. If you're driving normally and begin to notice less power and slower acceleration or increased lag time after engaging the clutch (shifting into a higher gear), or if the engine has started to rev higher than it used to each time you shift up, the clutch may be wearing out and developing slippage. 

2. The clutch itself gets harder to engage

If your car develops a sticky clutch that resists disengaging, you could have a problem with the clutch linkage. The specifics of this problem vary based on which type of linkage you have, but in general, you'll probably need to have something replaced. In fact, anytime your clutch has a change in behavior, such as changing the height at which it engages and disengages during shifting, it's probably signaling that it's starting to wear out.

3. Shifting gears causes a burning smell

If you smell something burning and it's not your brakes or a nearby campfire, it may be that your clutch is burning, especially if there's smoke coming from underneath the car. Burning clutch odor is similar to burning brakes, but it signifies that your clutch has reached the end of its lifespan. If it happens repeatedly each time you shift gears, your clutch is almost certainly the issue. It's burning because it's overheated and worn down, and you should get off the road and find a mechanic as soon as possible. 

If your clutch gives you any of these signs, do it a favor and take it in to your mechanic, one like Karry's Automotive Service Center, at the earliest opportunity. If the clutch has started to malfunction badly by the time you take it in, consider having it towed so you won't have to put yourself at risk by driving a damaged vehicle.