5 Slipping Clutch Symptoms (How to Tell)

If you drive a manual transmission vehicle then you are familiar with the clutch. You will only find a clutch pedal in a manual vehicle because it is required for disengaging and engaging power to the wheels from the engine at certain times while driving.

Normally, you need to apply some pressure to the clutch pedal for this disengagement to take place. But if you don’t even need to apply much pressure to the clutch for it to disengage the engine, then this is called a slipping clutch.

This condition is often seen in vehicles which frequently drive in congested traffic, cars with newer drivers, and high performance vehicles that are driven hard. If any of these conditions apply to you, then don’t be surprised if you have slippage issues with your clutch.

Top 5 Symptoms of a Clutch Slipping

It is important that you notice a slipping clutch before it causes any serious problems for you or your vehicle. You wouldn’t want the engine to disengage from the drive wheels while you’re traveling at high speeds. That could potentially cause an accident.

So, try to recognize the symptoms of this issue so that you can work on changing your driving habits and getting the problem resolved. Here are five common ways how to tell if the clutch is slipping.

1) RPM Increases But Speed Doesn’t

One easy way to test whether you have a slipping clutch is to take note of your engine’s RPM. If you step on the gas pedal to accelerate and your RPM go up quicker than normal while your driving speed doesn’t increase like it should, you probably have a slipping clutch.

For instance, you could cruising along on the highway and decide you need to pass a slower vehicle. When you try to accelerate, your RPM jumps higher and your engine makes more noise but your car doesn’t go faster. A slipping clutch is usually more obvious in higher gears when you attempt to accelerate.

2) Burning Smell

When the clutch slips, there will be a burning smell coming from the front of the car. This is due to all the excess heat generated from the constant disengagement of the engine and the slipping of the clutch.

The more the clutch slips, the worse the burning smell is going to get. You don’t want to drive with this smell in the cabin because it will make you nauseous. The more the clutch slips, the worse the condition will get.

3) Poor Engine Performance

The ultimate test is when you’re pulling a heavy load behind your vehicle. Normally, this would require the engine to send a lot of power to the drive wheels.

But if your clutch is slipping, the engine will not be able to deliver this power. Then you will have almost no acceleration because of this lack of engine power. You can reduce the load that you’re pulling to increase the power somewhat, but it will not be a permanent fix.

4) Clutch Height Difference

As you drive your vehicle, you should be used to the height of the clutch pedal from the floor. When you press down on the pedal and take your foot off, the pedal should always return to the same height that it was before.

If you ever notice the height start to change, whether the pedal is too high or too low, then something is definitely wrong with the clutch. In most cases, it will be due to clutch slippage.

5) Quick Disengagement

The biggest symptom of a slipping clutch is quick disengagement between the engine and drive wheels. When the clutch is normal, you would need to press down the pedal about 1 to 2 inches before the engine is disengaged.

However, with a slipping clutch, the engine will disengage after you lightly press the clutch pedal down less than one inch. Sometimes just resting your foot on top of the pedal will be enough for the engine to disengage.

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