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Clutch Burning in 03 Subaru Forester

Hey folks! I have a sturdy 03 Subaru Forester,manual transmission, about 145,000 miles. I’ve been driving stick for my whole life (and do it well!) and don’t do a lot of city driving, so generally feel that I’m easy on the clutch…except for a couple of days ago, I accidentally burned it out approaching a stop light that turned green in third gear, didn’t downshift (I know, dumb), and burned the clutch going through the light. I’ve never had a burning smell from this car before and the car shifts well, clutch is responsive, etc. Today I was driving back to work on my lunch break, which is a matter of maybe 12 blocks or so, and I started to smell burning clutch again. I was in the correct gear, wasn’t riding it, etc., so I’m not sure why the burning smell came back. Is this something to be concerned about or just the after-effects of my poor driving a couple of days ago? :slight_smile:

Once you burn a clutch is starts to slip.

To find out, drive the vehicle up against something solid. A wall/tree.

Push in the clutch and shift into fifth gear. Slightly step on gas pedal and slowly let the clutch pedal out.

If the clutch is good, the engine will stall. If the clutch is bad, the engine won’t stall.


More likely just normal wear. Clutches do not last forever

For sure! I had the replace the clutch on my last car (a piece-of-junk Kia Rio that I drove across the country on three cylinders…a story for another time!). Anyway, I guess my question is the burning smell just related to my one bad driving incident or does it indicate the beginning of the end for this clutch? They’re not cheap to get work done on, and hardly anyone in my small town works on them anymore!

I had to try what caused your clutch to “burn” slip. I slowed my 2010 Kia Forte SX 6 speed to 10mph in 3rd gear and accelerated. No problem. Of course it has different gear ratios. Have you owned your Subaru since new? If not, it could have been driven by those with far inferior stick shift skills. I would guess it could be suffering from clutch disk wear or glazing or weak pressure plate springs. I would drive it until it exhibits actual clutch failure while saving money for replacement. I know you meant driving a stick since you started driving. I did too since the age of 13. I am not a mean person but cannot resist being sarcastic regarding your statement. “I’ve been driving stick for my whole life”. How did you reach the pedals as a newborn?

Here’s a more sensitive test:
The first time a weak clutch will slip is when the engine is delivering its maximum torque.
Typically 3-4000 rpm with the naturally aspirated small Asian 4 bangers.
To the OP I suggest full throttle acceleration in 3rd or 4th gear.
If the clutch is weak the rpms will jump when the engine gets into that midrange speed.
It’s more obvious in a higher gear, but maybe not legal in 5th.

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The clutch probably slipped in third gear going though the intersection because the clutch disc is worn down to the rivets, some of its grip is lost. If that is the case it had nothing to do with that event, just the first time the worn clutch slipped.

If you pay attention to the sound of the engine and the tachometer, the next time the clutch slips, back off the accelerator to stop the slipping. You might get a few more months use out of this clutch. If you allow the clutch to slip for more than a second or two and you can smell burning, the clutch may only last a few days.

There will be no benefit in racing the engine with the car against a wall, that will shorten the life of the clutch.

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Plus it will damage the bumper cover.