2000 BMW 323i Clutch Questions

I have recently acquired a 2000 BMW 323i with 185,000 miles on it. The previous owner had the car since it had 44,000 miles on it and maintained the car beautifully. They washed and waxed it weekly. If anything went wrong they took it in and had it fixed at the BMW Dealer. The undercarriage is pristine and there is minimal to no rust on the car. Here is the rub, they claim that they have never had the clutch replaced. Being that the person before them probably didn’t either (as it only had 44k miles then, and there was no need to), my question to you is whether there is any way to determine if the clutch has been replaced? If not, is there a way to tell how much longer the existing clutch has before it goes out on me? If it does go out and I have to replace parts, what all parts would need replaced, just the pressure plate or would the fly-wheel and throw out bearing need to be replaced as well? Are there additional parts that could/would be damaged by driving this car until the clutch wears out?

There is no way to predict how long a clutch will last. That is dependent on driver skill and lack of abusive driving practices…

When a clutch “wears out”, the linings wear down to where the rivets are exposed and they don’t provide enough friction for the clutch to engage reliably, so it starts to slip. You will notice this happening in the higher gears first…The clutch gets softer and softer…

At minimum, the clutch disc and throwout bearing are replaced. Usually, the pressure plate or clutch cover are also replaced. These parts are sold as a kit at a considerable savings…I would also replace the hydraulic components at this time…The master and slave cylinders…

If the clutch is replaced before complete failure occurs, the flywheel usually does not have to be replaced.

Prices can vary greatly for this repair, so I would shop around. Transmission shops frequently do clutches also. Since BMW’s are a little “different”, the mechanic should have some experience performing this repair on this model car…

Clutch test. With car parked and nothing in front of it, Firmly set the parking brake, place transmission in high gear, rev the engine a little and release the clutch as if you were starting off in first , feeding in some throttle…The engine should stall as the clutch grabs. If you can release the clutch and the engine does not stall, the clutch is slipping and is very near the end of it’s life…

Thanks for your prompt reply, I will look into this and if need be get back to you with follow up questions. :slight_smile:

Quick followup, will wearing the clutch plate out completely necessarily cause major damage to the flywheel and pressure plate or is it possible that when it is completely worn out it will just slip a lot and I will know to have it fixed?

I am trying to avoid catastrophic failure that would do more damage than just what is included in a “Clutch Kit”


Typically, the rivets that hold the lining material on the clutch disc are made out of brass. It is these rivets that will come in contact with both the pressure plate and the flywheel. The clutch starts to slip at this point. If repaired in a timely fashion, no damage to the flywheel or pressure plate is usually done. The brass rivet heads simply slide on the steel surface…But if ignored, the rivets quickly wear off and fail, allowing the friction material (similar to brake lining) to break up, and then it’s steel against steel which quickly destroys both the flywheel and the pressure-plate…

Here is a couple of pictures…See the rivets?? Picture #51 shows them …

Fox_21_Alpha uploaded this image to

If you intend to keep the car for more than 25,000 miles longer, rather than wait and worry, get the clutch done now before the brass rivets in the friction disk score the flywheel and pressure plate. As was suggested, get new master and slave cylinders too. A new throwout bearing as you suggest is also in order. This way you may not need to get the pressure plate replaced. Then you should be done with the clutch on this car for as long as you are likely to own it. You would be doing exceptionally well to get 200,000 miles from a passenger car clutch.

I have done clutches on five different cars that I have owned and have never replaced a pressure plate nor have I replaced or refaced a flywheel; always did the job before the brass rivets in the friction disk scored those parts.

Before self adjusting clutch methods whether mechanical or hydraulic were phased into use, clutch life could be roughly predicted by observing the amount of adjustment remaining. If there is an inspection method that can be used with your BMW to predict remaining friction disk life, I’d like to know about it. Ask your BMW dealer about this.

Clutch life is a function of who is driving and whether the miles are city or highway. A BMW clutch that is used almost exclusively on the freeway is going to last the life of the car - typically 250k-450k miles. On the other hand, I put a clutch in the car that my teenaged daughters drove to high school and college. They used it to teach all their friends and cousins to drive a stick shift. That clutch was toast in 100k miles.

A good shop is going to charge you about $900 to replace that complete clutch. A couple hundred more if you want to replace the master and slave cylinders as well. At 12 years and 185k miles, it is a safe bet that you won’t be wasting much if you go ahead and do it soon, even if it is functioning perfectly, and you might save yourself a tow bill and great inconvenience.

As I understand it the previous owner drove mostly highway miles. (An hour to hour and a half to work and back every day) So the bulk of the 140,000+ miles they put on it will be highway miles and thus not a lot of clutch wear. I myself drive less than 5 min to work every day and generally prefer to drive the car on longer trips and ride my scooter to work when it is nice outside. So the clutch is not terribly at risk but it is time to start saving up for the repair job it sounds like. Thank you all very much for your advice and time.

@Manolito - When you say it may cost “… about $900 to replace that complete clutch.” Does this mean just the clutch plate, pressure plate and throw out bearing or is this flywheel and/or labor included or just labor? I am just trying to gauge where I need to set the “budget”. Thanks!

A Sachs clutch kit (clutch disk, pressure plate, and throwout bearing for this car lists for $500 but you can buy it on-line for $250. The shop will pay around $250 and will mark it up to around $400. The rest is labor. If you decide to do it yourself, you would be well advised to buy the alignment tool for installing it (not expensive). I usually just eyeball clutches but that doesn’t work with this design.

The flywheel should be OK for the life of the car unless your clutch comes apart and scratches it. It is dual mass so it can’t be resurfaced. It lists for $1000 but you can buy it yourself on line for $500. It is held in place with one-time-use bolts, so the new flywheel should come with bolts.

I have an Accord with 544,000 miles on the original clutch set-up (it’s starting to “go” now) but you can never tell how long the clutch set-up will last. Careful driving and mostly highway and rural driving will extend it a lot. You’ll know when it starts to “go” . . .slipping, difficult engagement of gears, noise, lots of things will give you an indication of a clutch “going”. Just drive it and be happy. Rocketman

$900 for a BMW clutch replacement is very cheap…$1200 would be my guess…

I plan on buying the parts online and taking it to a trusted mechanic. Anyone know how many hours the “Mechanic’s Handbook” says it takes to change a 2000 BMW 323i clutch? Or better yet a resource that would let me look up repair jobs myself online?

Check with your mechanic about this arrangement. Many mechanics shy away from installing customer provided parts…So check first…An independent mechanic is more likely to charge actual hours worked, not the figures in a “flat rate book”…

If your mechanic declines to use parts you bring in, please understand that it is not just because he wants to sell you parts for a significant markup to make his boat payment.

If a part fails a week or a month after he puts it in, you are going to bring the car back and want it fixed for nothing. If he buys the part, he can return the failed part and instantly get a new one free, and he has the markup he made as insurance to pay for his time when once in a while a part fails. If you bring the part in and he installs it and it fails a month later, nobody is going to be happy.

Think of it this way - would you take eggs and bacon to Dennys and ask them to cook them for you?

Ginto, I too recommend against bringing the parts in. And with a job this size, I’d be surprised if ANY shop would agree to use them.

One thing you can do, however, is ask the shop to use aftermarket parts, and explain that you’re trying to keep the cost down. Some shops just defer directly to the dealer suppliers, and aftermarket parts are usually just as good and a lot less expensive. Most independants shop use aftermarket parts when available.

Add me to the list of “don’t bring your own parts.” In fact, it doesn’t matter what went wrong if something goes wrong. It could be that they make a glaring error in doing the work. But they have a perfect way to leave the cost on you - by blaming the parts. If they source the parts and they do the work, your hands are washed of the whole thing.

Well as I live in a section of the country where the parts for BMW vehicles are not readily available locally, most of the shops I have gone to were happy to use parts that I provide (most of them actually requested it as they have no source for the parts). Suffice it to say they requested that the parts be new and in the package still to protect themselves from what you are saying would be my guess. Now a clutch replacement on a BMW IS a bit … different than most clutch replacements so I am nervous about taking to my general mechanic and am considering taking it to the transmission place in town. Any recommendations either way on this one? Based on the fact that the general mechanic has done work on my car and is familiar with it vs. someone that deals strictly with transmissions and might be more familiar with the job they are about to do?

Also, it was my understanding that most (if not all) mechanics use a standard guide to determine what they should charge as far as hours for a particular job so that there is some consistency in the marketplace as far as hours of labor to do a job. Am I mistaken on this?

(a final side note, I use AutohausAZ.com for my BMW parts, anyone hear good or bad things about them? Anyone have a better recommendation for a quality source of BMW parts that I can use?)

Nothing really tricky about the clutch on this car. The mechanic may not be familiar with the dual mass flywheel, but he will be able to tell that he can’t send it to be resurfaced… He can take the glaze off it with a bit of emery cloth.

There is a temporary spring retainer in the pressure plate that must not be removed until the clutch is bolted in place, but there should be a sheet in the box detailing this. As I mentioned earlier, an alignment tool is a good idea.

If your mechanic does not have access to on-line service manuals for this car, you might consider buying the Bentley manual for it for your own use, and discretely leaving it in the front seat whenever you take the car in for work.

There are an array of excellent parts suppliers on line. AuthHaus is as good as any of them. Fast, accurate, and careful to handle only quality parts. If my order will include more unusual parts like plastic snaps that hold body and interior parts in place, I like ECS Tuning.

Cool, thanks Man.

I do already own both the Haynes Manual and Bentley (hard bound) and casually leave them in the car when I take it in to him. Thanks for the tip.

When I talk about the clutch job being different, I was referring to the desire to change the master and slave cylinders for the clutch at the same time as the clutch. Would a regular mechanic know what needs to be done to replace these? Are these unique to BMWs? Also, someone recommended that I replace the main seal at the back of the engine while having the clutch done as that requires having the transmission off of the engine to replace, is this a good idea or if it isn’t broke should i not worry about it and fix it?