DIY Auto Maintenance and Servicing Tips

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How to Tell if Your Clutch Is on the Way out

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A typical automobile has thousands of replaceable parts. Most of these components do not have a predictable and finite life, and as such, you won't be able to make a note in your diary to tell you when they need to be replaced. Some of the parts come under more pressure than others and are very likely to fail during the course of your car ownership. In particular, the clutch will be a focus of your attention in due course. How can you work out when it needs some tender loving care before it leaves you stranded somewhere alongside the highway?

Are You Causing Problems?

Before you start looking for problems, you should make sure that you treat the clutch as carefully as possible on a daily basis. Remember when your driving instructor told you not to rest your left foot on the clutch pedal? If you're still doing that, you clutch is going to fail sooner rather than later. After all, the tiny amount of pressure you put on the pedal by resting your foot there is causing friction to be applied to the clutch plate unnecessarily.

If you're a good driver however and always rest your clutch foot on the floor, you need to be on the lookout for some other warning signs.

Do You Have Shifting Issues?

Are you having trouble shifting from one gear to another? Normally the first warning signs appear when you're trying to engage reverse or first. If the vehicle appears to shake when you push into those gears, your clutch may be having second thoughts.

Is the Clutch Slipping?

Next, what happens when you're trying to go up a steep hill? If the engine note appears to be rising but the vehicle is not going forward as you might expect, this indicates that the clutch is "slipping." You may also find that the vehicle will inadvertently slip completely out of gear when the problem is becoming more acute.

What's That Smell?

If you notice a burning smell and can't quite figure out where it's coming from, it could be emanating from the area of the clutch. Sometimes, you may see a little bit of smoke as well, but either way it's likely that the clutch plate has worn down so much that it's causing damage to the other components around it.

Having a Look

If you have a jack and axle stands at home, elevate the front of the car and have a look through the inspection hole, which is by the gearbox bell housing. Always be sure that the vehicle is secure before crawling underneath, however! You may be able to see some visible signs of damage to the clutch by doing this to confirm your suspicions and before you take it to your transmission and diff repair specialist.