Why is my car having trouble getting in gear?

Clutch

Clutches don’t last forever. A lot of friction is involved in order for it to do what it does, and eventually parts inside your clutch will wear down and need replacing.

How do I know if my clutch needs service?

Since the lifespan of clutches depend a lot on the driving conditions they are in, there isn’t a way to predict clutch service the way you can with other parts that wear out at a steady rate. So it is up to you, the driver, to pay attention to a few key indicators that your clutch needs some attention.

Here are a few things you might notice:

  • Gears grinding. As the lining on the clutch disc wears down, bits can break loose jamming up the rest of the system. Or the clutch may not be fully disengaging when it needs to be. Either way, you’ll know by the tell-tale sound of grinding.
  • Hard to get into gear. If your manual transmission is hard to get into gear your clutch might be worn.
  • Burning smell. If your clutch is “slipping” because it has worn down and can no longer keep up with the speed of the engine, the increased friction can cause it to overheat and burn up. Not good.
  • Squeaking sound when changing gears. It means a bearing has failed.
  • Sticky clutch (on a manual transmission). Sometimes a broken cable, air in the hydraulics, fluid leaks, or parts that just don’t line up right can make it hard to press the clutch pedal.
Why should I get my clutch checked?

Clutches don’t last forever. A lot of friction is involved in order for it to do what it does, and eventually parts inside your clutch will wear down and need replacing.

To help you picture it, think of your brakes…which are kind of like a clutch in which one part never moves. Stopping your car involves friction as the brake pad presses against the rotor inside your wheel. In clutches, the friction happens during the process of the always-spinning flywheel connected to the engine coming in contact with the transmission’s sometimes-spinning clutch plate (covered in material similar to your brake pads).

Clutches today are designed to last a lot longer than they did years ago. Unless you have some really bad driving habits (see the tips section) or regularly haul heavy loads, you can probably expect your clutch to last 80,000 miles or more.

How does a clutch work?

A clutch is simply a device that joins two spinning parts together so they can operate at the same speed when they are connected or at separate speeds when they are apart. You’d be surprised at the places you’ll find clutches hanging out these days. You already know your car or truck has one…whether you have a manual or automatic transmission. And you may even know the A/C compressor in your car has one too. But did you know about gas powered chain-saws, weed eaters, go-karts, power tools, and even some kids toys? They’re everywhere!

The way a clutch works is simple. The engine in your car is always spinning. But sometimes the wheels aren’t. If you didn’t have a way to stop your car without the engine dying every time you did, driving would be a pretty big pain in the rear wheel drive. Say hello to your clutch. It lets the engine and the transmission engage and disengage easily whenever you need to stop your car or change gears.

Clutch Tips for Manual Transmissions
  • Don’t “ride” it. In cars with a manual transmission, if the clutch pedal isn’t ALL the way up, you are wearing things out. It’s easy to do, especially if you have to shift a lot in slow, heavy traffic. So keep your foot away from the pedal unless you really need it!
  • Don’t get ahead of yourself. Only shift into a new gear after the clutch pedal is fully pressed. (You are pressing the pedal in order to shift, aren’t you?!)
  • Be careful who borrows your car. Nobody is going to respect your ride like you do. Or they may not have as much experience using a “stick.” As cranky as it might seem, it’s a good idea to pre-qualify folks who are going to driving your car…especially since you’ll be the one paying for issues that could show up long after damage occurs.
  • Start off low and slow. No one else at the red light is going to be that impressed that you are first off the line in a smoking, squealing blaze of glory. Keeping your RPMs low in lower gears will help them last a lot
  • Start stopping sooner. When you screech to a halt at the absolute last second, your engine is still at high RPMs when you have to jam your foot down on the clutch pedal. If you begin to anticipate the times you’ll need to stop and slow down early, you’ll be engaging your clutch at much lower RPMs. Time it right, and the light might even turn green again before you get there so you don’t have to shift gears at all!
What do we do in a typical clutch service?

Depending on what problems bring you in to have your clutch inspected, a typical clutch repair includes:

  • Removing your vehicle’s transmission / transaxle (this is major surgery that can take a day or two)
  • Removing the clutch assembly from the flywheel
  • Inspecting all components related to the clutch system (Input shaft for the transmission, front transmission seal, release bearing retainer(part of the transmission), clutch disk, pressure plate, release bearing, pilot bearing or bushing, slave cylinder, flywheel, pivot ball, clutch fork.
  • Machine a new surface on the flywheel or replace the flywheel (the flywheel wears just like a brake rotor that needs to be machined or replaced during brake service).  If your vehicle came equipped with a dual-mass style flywheel then this will usually need replacement.
  • Clean and replace necessary parts
  • Bleed to hydraulic clutch system (sometimes requires flushing the system)
  • Test drive the vehicle to verify its working properly
  • Bring vehicle back in and rack it up and check over all repairs made

In sports, a “clutch player” is the one who can be counted on to step in at just the right moment to do whatever is needed to succeed and win the day. So when the pressure’s on for you, and it looks like the game is on the line for your vehicle…you can count on [atc]!

Click here to set up an appointment. Or call one of our locations today:

atc Auto Center, Augusta
(706) 738-7812

atc Auto Center, Grovetown
(706) 303-3333

Very professional and wonderful business! They kept me informed about my vehicle until they fixed the problem.

Adrian Holt | Augusta, GA

[atc] Auto Center exceeded expectations in regards to customer service, professionalism, and quality of work.

Beau Sasser | Augusta, GA

As always the men and woman at ATC have done their job with excellence and I do appreciate it!

David M. | Augusta, GA

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