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2002 Nissan Altima Clutch Replacement

On 4/11/11 - we spent $1800 to replace the clutch in our son’s Nissan Altima. Yesterday - the clutch died as he was getting on the highway. It was towed to the same repair shop. They took a quick look and said it’s likely the new clutch is gone. They weren’t sure what our son did to it. We’re baffled. What could he have done in 6 wks that would totally blow a brand new clutch? At this point - we don’t know whether to throw good money after bad. Help!

How much experience does he have with driving a manual-shift car?
How long was he driving this car before the original clutch had to be replaced?
Is it possible that he allowed someone else who was unskilled at driving a manual-shift car to drive it?

What I am getting at is that someone who is unfamiliar/unskilled/reckless when it comes to driving a manual-shift car can actually destroy a clutch in the space of a few days.

Please clarify!

"They took a quick look and said it's likely the new clutch is gone. They weren't sure what our son did to it."

It couldn't possibly be anything the repair shop did to it (or neglectfully didn't do), right ? No way. It's got to be the driver. Why ? It's got to be the driver because then the shop can get paid for another repair, rather than the shop paying for it. It's easy to blame your son.

It sounds like the quick look wasn't long enough to determine what exactly happened, but long enough to know that it wasn't the shop's fault.

What could he have done in 6 wks that would totally blow a brand new clutch?

  • Could he have been riding the clutch (some people rest their left foot so that it touches or lightly presses the clutch) and therefore burned it up ? You will have to be the judge, here. Does he have lots of experience driving a manual transmission vehicle and was he taught about riding the clutch ?
  • Perhaps he didn't do anything to cause it. Maybe it wasn't installed correctly or maybe the problem that destroyed the first clutch was never properly diagnosed and repaired, as it should have been. Bad master / slave cylinder, throw-out bearing, cross shaft ?

You need to find out from the shop what they say is wrong with the clutch. You are entitled to the old parts (unless some are remanufactured and have to be returned in which case you could pay the "core" charge and retain them). I'd keep the parts until this completely unfolds.

Is this a shop you have used in the past and a shop that you have come to trust ? I'm not so sure this is the place you want to pay again to do the job over.


Our son began driving a manual transmission when we bought the car used in February. I suppose it’s possible that he did ride the clutch without realizing it, although he seemed to really take to driving it like it was second nature. The mechanic is saying it could also have been caused by something wrong with the transmission. At this point - I hate to throw good money after bad. Appreciate the help. I think we’ll have it towed to another shop and see where we end up.

Have you actually riden in the vehicle while your son is driving?

Just resting the left foot on the clutch pedal while driving is enough to burn up a clutch in a short period of time.


$1800 is an outrageous price to replace a clutch on that car…

What happened to the clutch is impossible to say until it is torn down again and inspected…

I agree with Mr. Caddyman, having changed clutches a few times in both front and rear drivers. My guess is that a pro mechanic should be able to do a new clutch friction disk in one work day or a little more. At a guessed $60 per hour that would be around $500 plus parts. Allow a hundred or three for parts and you are still under $1000.

Having owned and driven manual trans cars since the 1960s I have strong doubts that a clutch could be ruined in only 6 weeks.

To put it bluntly, at $1800 for a clutch, I think that you were cheated. Was this an independent mechanic and not a dealer?

I too believe the price you paid for the clutch job was too high. I am also inclined to believe that the cause of death of the clutch is most likely driver error. Case in point: the first clutch lasted for almost two months after your son started driving the car. Then the replacement clutch lasted almost two months before it failed. There are certainly ways you can drive a manual transmission car to make the clutch last less than two months and appear to take well to driving a manual. In addition to riding the clutch, another common way to kill a friction disc is to drive in fear of stalling the engine. Many novice drivers will rev the engine high and s-l-o-w-l-y let the clutch out for fear of stalling the engine. That behavior will kill a clutch quickly (for the record, stalling the engine does no harm to the car). So will using the clutch as a hill holder. I would suggest having the clutch done again (at a different shop for a more reasonable price), then sending someone out driving with your son to observe and correct any bad driving habits which may be killing the clutch. Despite being considered a wearable item, the clutch in a vehicle should last the life of the vehicle if the vehicle is driven correctly. My father has a 1990 Chevy Cavalier five speed with over 200k miles on the original clutch. I learned to drive in that car, as did both my younger siblings. I had to re-shim the starter a few months ago due to it grinding into the flywheel, and took a peek in the bellhousing while the starter was out of the way. That clutch disc still looks like new despite having over 200k miles and 22 years worth of driving on it, mostly puttering around a small town of 3,500.