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Clutch Wearing Out?

I have a stick shift 2003 Ford Focus with close to 95k miles. Last week, the car started bucking at low RPM when it’s in gear. It happens in all 5 gears, but less violent in the higher gears. To describe the bucking, imagine you’re coming to a stop, and you forgot that you’re still in fifth. That’s kinda what it’s like - as if it’s ready to stall, but catches itself.

Since this doesn’t happen when I’m in neutral or at higher RPMs, I’m guessing it’s nothing to do with spark plugs or timing belts. Since it happens in ALL of the gears, I’m guessing it’s not a gear going bad. My deductions leave me with the clutch.

I’ve had this car for a while, but I hadn’t grown up with manual trasmissions, so I don’t know a ton about them. I’m hoping somebody here can help out a bit. Also, I know that the clutch is more of an assembly, so I’m wondering what PART of the clutch may be going bad.

BTW, I’m also keeping in mind that the clutch may not be the issue at all, so fire away!


What RPM are we talking about? When it starts bucking because you’re coming to a stop in 5th, that is because the engine is way below idle speed and the computer is trying to make it speed up against the too-slow vehicle speed. If you are trying to make your engine pull hard from really low speeds, like 1,000 RPM, you really should downshift, as this habit is very hard on the engine and transmission.

What RPM? I don’t have a tach. Yay! In any case, it’s probably around 1000 - 1500 RPM, because it’s especially rough when I pull out from a stop. At which point, downshifting from first isn’t much of an option. I give it more gas, feather the clutch a little more, and get going - albeit still rough for a few yards going down the road.

In the meantime, though, I’ve had this car for 6 years. So, unless I’ve had a drastic and subconscious change in driving habits, it’s not simply that I need to pay closer attention to where my shift points are.

I simply brought up the “slowing the car to a stop in fifth” to illustrate the jerking that the car gives me.

I think you’ve gone off track assuming it isn’t an engine problem. It sounds like you have a low RPM drivability issue. When was the last tune up.? Is the Check Engine Light on? The problem could be anything from a really clogged air filter, to a failing MAF sensor, even the spark plugs, or something else. I think a tune up would be a good place to start.

How does the clutch pedal feel? Any changes in where it catches? Is it perhaps ‘mushier’, a bit less of a definitive feel?

MTraveler - The CEL did come on the other day, when it was running particularly roughly. I’ll check the air filter and plugs myself, and I’m unsure what the MAF sensor is, so that and a tune-up will be my next 2 moves. Thanks!

RemcoW - The clutch pedal itself doesn’t seem to be different, although it’s always been mushier than I would have liked. Truth be told, though, it’s not something I’m paying CLOSE attention to, so there very well could be a small difference.

I’ll repost after I check the air filter and plugs. That may have to wait for the weekend, as I work long days and I’m lazy in the evenings. In the meantime, any other suggestions are welcome. Wisdom is found in the counsel of many!

MAF is the Mass Ari-flow Sensor. Now that you have something concrete, the CEL, to go on I wouldn’t recommend just throwing parts at the problem. Well maybe the do air filter. If it has never been done it is probably time. Have the codes read and post them here. Someone with more expertise than I have might point you in a better direction.

MAF = mass air flow

It’s located on the pipe between the air filter and throttle.
There are illustrated instructions online to DIY clean it.

As MTraveler said, get the code read first. Many places will do that for free, AutoZone and Midas advertize this service. Post the actual code here. If it is the code for the MAF, there is a cleaner that works very effectively and is a lot cheaper than a new one.

It’s probably the engine running rough.

Don’t sell yourself a clutch when what you need is a good engine performance tune up…

As @keith said get the codes read and post them here for more information. The code will probably lead you in the right direction for correcting the issue you mentioned.