TROUBLESHOOTING BASIC CLUTCH AND MANUAL TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS

As you drive your car, you become used to noises, vibrations and the feel of the car in different gears. Any changes in these sensations may indicate the beginning of a problem. It's important to note what gear you are in, at what speeds the problem occurs, noise level and whether it disappears from one gear to another. Most problems in the clutch and transmission are a job for a mechanic, and usually require removal and service.

The Problem Is Caused By

Excessive clutch noise Throwout bearing noises are more audible at the lower end of pedal travel. The usual causes are:
  • Riding the clutch
  • Too little pedal free-play
  • Lack of bearing lubrication

A bad clutch shaft pilot bearing will make a high pitched squeal when the clutch is disengaged and the transmission is in gear or within the first 2" of pedal travel. The bearing must be replaced.

Noise from the clutch linkage is a clicking or snapping that can be heard or felt as the pedal is moved completely up or down. This usually requires lubrication.

Transmitted engine noises are amplified by the clutch housing and heard in the passenger compartment. They are usually the result of insufficient pedal free-play and can be changed by manipulating the clutch pedal.


Clutch slips (the car does not move as it should when the clutch is engaged) This is usually most noticeable when pulling away from a standing start. A severe test is to start the engine, apply the brakes, shift into high gear and SLOWLY release the clutch pedal. A healthy clutch will stall the engine. If it slips it may be due to:
  • A worn pressure plate or clutch plate
  • Oil soaked clutch plate
  • Insufficient pedal free-play
  • Bad waste or slave cylinder
  • Low fluid

Clutch drags or fails to release The clutch disc and some transmission gears spin briefly after clutch disengagement. Under normal conditions in average temperatures, 3 seconds is maximum spin-time. Failure to release properly can be caused by:
  • Too light transmission lubricant or low lubricant level
  • Improperly adjusted clutch linkage
  • Bad cylinder
  • Low fluid
  • Air in line

Low clutch life Low clutch life is usually a result of poor driving habits or heavy-duty use. Riding the clutch, pulling heavy loads, holding the car on a grade with the clutch instead of the brakes and rapid clutch engagement all contribute to low clutch life.

Transmission shifts hard Common causes of hard shifting are:
  • Improper lubricant viscosity or lubricant level
  • Clutch linkage needs adjustment/ lubrication.

Transmission leaks lubricant The general location of a leak can be found by putting a clean newspaper under the transmission overnight.
  • Lubricant level too high
  • Cracks in the transmission case
  • Loose or missing bolts
  • Drain or fill plug loose or missing
  • Vent hole plugged

Transmission is noisy in gear Most problems such as this require the services of a mechanic. Causes include:
  • Insufficient lubricant
  • Worn gears (excessive end-play)
  • Worn bearings
  • Damaged synchronizers
  • Chipped gear teeth

Transmission is noisy in Neutral Noises in Neutral are usually caused by:
  • Insufficient/ incorrect lubricant
  • Worn reverse idler gear
  • Worn bearings or gear teeth

TROUBLESHOOTING BASIC CLUTCH AND MANUAL TRANSMISSION PROBLEMS