Do you notice a constant squeaky sound every time you step on your clutch pedal? The sound from a squeaky clutch pedal can be annoying but it’s also a reminder that it’s time to do some work on your car. This sound could mean that your current clutch pedal is now too old, needs lubrication, a change of parts, or is experiencing too much friction.
Diagnosing a Problem with Your Clutch
Sometimes all you know is that there’s a sound coming from the pedal area of your car and you’re just not sure exactly what is making all that sound. Here’s a sure way to determine if your clutch is the culprit.
Start up your car engine, put on the handbrake, and have your gear in neutral. Slightly press down on the clutch pedal and listen for the squeaky sound. The presence of a squeaky or squealing sound here would indicate issues with your pilot bearings, throw-out bearings, or clutch release. Also, if your clutch disc sticks, slips, or grabs then that would indicate that it’s old and due for a total replacement.
Noting the exact kind of sound produced by your clutch would make it easier to know the particular part that’s damaged. It’s a lot cheaper to repair the damaged part of your clutch, as opposed to changing the entire thing.
1. Problem with Pilot or Throw-out Bearing
Problem with Pilot Bearing
It takes some time and effort to determine whether the trouble with your clutch could be coming from the pilot bearing. When you engage your car’s clutch, the pilot bearing causes the transmission input shaft and the engine crankshaft to rotate at different speeds.
When the pilot bearing is damaged, the clutch starts to squeak every time it’s completely engaged or disengaged. Your clutch will squeak when the throw-out bearing or the pilot bearing is bad, so how do you determine what bearing is causing the problem? A quick way to know is to start up your car, make sure the gear is set to neutral, and fully engage the clutch. If the pilot bearing is the problem, you won’t hear the squeaky sound with your gear set to neutral.
It’s common for people to make mistakes in diagnosing what issues are caused by the pilot bearing versus the throw-out bearing. Misdiagnosing this might cause you to waste money buying and changing parts you don’t need. Other signs to look out for to diagnose a problem with the pilot bearing include transmission failure, clutch vibrating when engaged, and difficulty changing gears.
Problem with Throw-out Bearing
Throw-out bearings often get damaged either as a result of too much wear and tear or a misalignment of the pressure plates. They need to be checked as soon as this damage occurs else, they may ruin the entire clutch and the car’s transmission.
You’ll know the squeaky sound is coming from a bad throw-out bearing if it no longer makes a sound as soon as the clutch is disengaged. You can also engage the clutch while moving the gears to neutral, if you hear the squeaky sound, then you’re dealing with a faulty throw-out bearing.
Other ways to spot a faulty throw-out bearing include trouble changing the gears, vibration when the clutch pedal is engaged, and a stiff clutch pedal.
2. Clutch Disc is Worn Out
Due to frequency of use, the clutch is sure to wear out sometime. It’s the most frequently used pedal in the car. The rougher the roads you ply daily, the higher the probability of your clutch disc getting worn out faster.
How do you know your clutch disc is worn out? Asides from squeaking, a worn-out clutch will also smell like clutch dust. Clutch dust has the smell of burning brakes. It has a pungent stench and some people have described it as smelling like sulfur or gunpowder. Too much dust beneath the car and a noisy engine when the clutch is disengaged are also signs of a worn-out clutch.
Problems with worn-out clutch discs are often easily mistakenfor problems withworn-out throw-out bearings since both these problems cause squeaky sounds when the clutch is engaged or disengaged.
Here is a detailed video on how to spot a worn-out clutch disc:
3. Clutch Contaminated by Dirt
Dirt would occasionally get into the insides of your car no matter how much you try to keep it dirt free. After a while, this dirt starts to accumulate and limits the movement of the clutch pedal. Dirt and grease build-up in the clutch can cause it to squeak when engaged and disengaged.
4. Clutch is Slipping Out of Place
On some occasions, when there’s not enough friction to hold the clutch in place, it could move from its right location. This slip wouldn’t outrightly cause the clutch to fail but it can make it rub against the clutch fork, which causes it to slip wheneverit is engaged or disengaged.
The clutch could also be slipping because it’s damaged, bent, or misaligned. The clutch could be contaminated by oil. It could also be a problem with a motor mount or pressure plate causing the clutch to slip out of place.
A slipping clutch doesn’t just squeal, it can also cause your car to move too slowly on acceleration.
How to Fix Your Squeaky Clutch Pedal
Ways to fix a squeaky clutch vary depending on the reason why your clutch is squeaky. Here are all the options for fixing your clutch:
1. Fix for a Worn-Out Clutch
The only fix for a worn-out clutch is total replacement. Clutches can be pricey, so before you decide to replace them, you may like to confirm with a professional, that your clutch is indeed old and worn out.
A total clutch replacement would take about 4-6 hours. You could easily do this yourself. Here’s a step-by-step guide on fixing a clutch.
Things You’ll Need:
- Some lubricant
- A jack
- A screwdriver
- A new clutch
What to do:
- Park the car in a spot where you can work comfortably without disturbance.
- First remove the gear shifter inside the car, then move underneath the car to remove the exhaust.
- Drain the transmission fluid, remove the drive shaft, and starter, and release the transmission so that it slides out.
- Go back underneath the car wearing protection for your eyes and nose, and remove the worn-out clutch.
- To remove the clutch, you’ll first have to take out the pressure plate by unscrewing the bolts around it. It’s the part that holds the clutch against the flywheel. You may want to replacre the flywheel while replacing your clutch so that you have both parts working together in perfect condition.
- Slip in your new clutch, use an alignment tool to make sure it’s perfectly aligned, slide in the pressure plates, and bolt them down.
This video provides a very detailed explanation of how to change your car’s clutch yourself, alongside other related components:
2. Fix for a Slipped Clutch
The solution for slipping clutch is to lubricate the joints and reposition the parts to fit better. If parts of the clutch such as the motor mounts, pressure plates, and clutch linkage are damaged, you may also need to replace these.
Steps to Fix a Slipping Clutch:
- Remove the gear, shifter then jack up your car on both sides to get it on a nice level
- Go underneath the car and remove the driveshaft
- Remove the speedometer cable
- Take all the bolts off the transmission, removing them from the engine
- Slide the transmission off the engine
- Unbolt the clutch assembly
- Replace the parts of the clutch that are worn out
Here’s a detailed video on YouTube on how to replace the worn-out parts of your clutch and fix a slipping clutch:
3. Removing Dirt from a Clutch
Cleaning a dirty clutch is not as simple as it sounds. You may need to get your mechanic to help with this but you can also do it yourself. If you suspect that your clutch has been clogged up with grease and dirt, first inspect your clutch housing to see if it is contaminated.
Evidence of contamination includes grease, oil, and cracks. You’ll also need to inspect and clean the transmission if you want to fix the problem permanently.
It’s important to detect and fix the source of this dirt before cleaning to prevent future reoccurrence. Here is a video of a mechanic demonstrating how a clutch disk is cleaned:
If you plan to clean your clutch yourself, you could use a WD 40 Lubricant to lubricate the parts that stick and creak due to dirt. This will loosen up the dirt and reduce the time you’ll spend cleaning.
4. Fixing a Worn-out Throw-out or Pilot Bearing
The pilot bearing is just the small round bearing at the center of the flywheel. You can find the throw-out bearing inside the bell housing of the transmission. The best solution for fixing a worn-out pilot bearing or throw-out bearing is a total replacement of the part.
Replacing a Worn-Out Pilot Bearing:
There are two methods for replacing an old pilot bearing. You can buy or rent a pilot bearing puller tool and use it to pull out the pilot bearing. You can also use a mix of grease and bread to pull out this bearing.
The pilot bearing tool has two hooks on the mouth. It goes right through the pilot bearing, opens up and grabs onto the bearing with its hooks then pulls it out.
This method wouldn’t work if you pull at an angle so make sure to put your arms straight. You can also choose to fill the area behind the bearing with a mix of bread and grease. Find a tool that fits into the center of the bearing and use the tool to pull out the bearing.
Install the new pilot bearing as shown in this video:
Replacing a Worn-out Throw Out Bearing:
This bearing is held down by a slave cylinder or clutch fork. Unfasten any bolts that hold down the bearing and pull it out. Bring out the new bearing and polish it using a carburetor cleaner then apply some grease.
If you install a new throw-out bearing without first lubricating it, the clutch might not work smoothly after installation. This video gives step-by-step instructions on how to replace a worn-out throw bearing:
5. Lubricate a Squeaky Clutch Pedal
Applying a specialist degreaser such as WD-40 or lithium grease to all the joints and bushings of your clutch is one quick way to get the clutch plate lubricated. Engage your clutch a couple of times after application and listen carefully for the sound. If it’s gone, that means all your clutch needed, was a little lube.
What Does a Worn-out Clutch Feel Like?
Signs of an old and tired clutch include the following:
- It vibrates when engaged
- It sticks
- It makes a squeaky sound
- Poor acceleration
- Difficulty changing gears
How Often Should a Clutch Pedal be Replaced?
Most clutch pedals are designed to last 40,000-50,000 miles. Once your vehicle mileage begins nearing this figure and you’re having trouble with your clutch, you should consider a total replacement.
How Long Can You Drive a Car with a Squeaky Clutch Pedal?
Most people are likely to pay more attention to a loud engine sound when accelerating than they will to a squeaky sound from the clutch. However, all unusual sounds from your car require some attention. While a squeaky clutch is in itself not a serious issue, if left unchecked for too long, it could cause a more serious issue.
For instance, while it’s possible to keep driving your car for months with a squeaky clutch caused by a worn-out throw-out bearing, in that time you may damage the transmission and have trouble switching between gears.
Once your clutch pedal starts to squeak, you could drive your car around for a couple more days to see if the sound will fix itself.Sometimes you’ll find that the squeaking is caused by a bit of friction in the clutch that fixes itself with time.Other times, you’ll be able to fix the squeak in your clutch with some lubrication or a change of parts.
Possible causes of a squeaky clutch could be anything from a worn-out clutch plate to an accumulation of dirt and grease among others. When you hear a squeak in your car’s clutch, the best thing to do is to immediately try to diagnose and fix this problem. Delays with fixing clutch damage could lead to more expensive long-term damage in your car.