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Grand Vitara clutch, flywheel (in fact entire assembl)y burns out in 7000 miles, is this normal?

I was wondering if anyone could help me, as |I am trying to help my sister with a problem she is having with Suzuki. She bought the car brand new in 2013 and a week ago, after 7000 miles, the whole assembly has had to be replaced. Suzuki are saying that it is down to her driving, but she has been driving for 30 yrs and has never had to replace a clutch, and that was mostly with very old cars too. Can anyone advise how such a thing could happen?

For information, there was a burning smell in the car a lot of the time and the gears were very stiff.

Thanks for any help.

"For information, there was a burning smell in the car a lot of the time and the gears were very stiff."

What does “a lot of the time” mean? Intermittent for the whole 7000 miles?

"For information, there was a burning smell in the car a lot of the time and the gears were very stiff."

The gears “being stiff” indicates that there was likely a problem with the clutch from the beginning. Possibly there was a factory defect that resulted in the cluctch not fully disengaging, causing the hard shifting, and resulting in the clutch being burned up. It’s possible the clutch slave cylinder was faulty, or something like that.

The only thing you can do is find an independent mechanic to inspect the clutch and see if he can find a defective part or factory mistake that would have caused the clutch not to operate properly, like a defective slave cylinder. If he can find the defect, then you will be able to prove to Suzuki that your sister was not at fault.

I’m going to side with the sister on this one

It seems that some manufacturers just can’t design a decent clutch

Apparently very experienced stick drivers also burn through clutches on Mini Coopers

And the company is also blaming the drivers, never mind that some of them have been driving stick for decades, and haven’t had problems on other cars

And never mind that Mini Cooper has a revised clutch design

What exactly are the symptoms? “the whole assembly has had to be replaced” does not tell us what may be wrong.

Does the refuse to go when in gear?

Does the engine rev up higher than it should in gear?

Is it difficult/impossible to shift the gears with the engine running?

Is it working OK but just making a burning smell?

The devil is in the details.

I can’t go all in that it’s a car manufacturer fault at this point. You state the sister has been driving for 30 years and never burnt out a clutch.

What kind of car (cars actually) did she own and drive before the Suzuki? Manual or automatics?

If there was a burning smell and sluggish shifting from the time it was new then why in the world did she not return for a warranty repair last year?

To go 7000 miles like that and then complain will naturally lead to fingers being pointed at her driving habits. I can understand the dealer point of view on it based on the “first time you’ve complained to us” scenario even if there was an inherent problem from the start.

The clutch design is well-proven, that’s not the problem…What may be the problem, the clutch components were incorrectly assembled at the factory, causing it to slip…That can happen…Or a defective pressure-plate was installed, built with incorrect springs or other parts…

Agreeing that your sister probably isn’t to blame. If she’s driven manual transmission cars for years and never had a clutch problem I mean. I expect this is a manufacturing defect and was present at the time the car was purchased new, but the effect is just now showing up.

The only other thing I can think of is that your sister lent the car to someone. And this someone wasn’t familiar with driving manual transmissions. A manual-newbie who’s never had proper instruction can burn out an otherwise perfect clutch in just a few hours. Ask you sister if she’s ever let someone borrow the car.

Is Suzuki trying to charge her for the work?
I’m inclined to agree that if your sister has been driving manuals for 30 years and never had a problem before, it was a manufacturing error. However, proving it even if she had the parts, which I doubt, would require forensic failure analysis skills beyond the capability and resources of most people. If Suzuki is paying the freight, I’d just forget about it and move on.

One of the unanswered questions to me is this. How is is that someone is so aware of a relative’s driving habits over a 30 year span?

I have 3 sisters and no idea what any of their driving habits are like.

I could theorize and state if the sister has been driving manuals for 30 years and had no clutch problems that it’s also possible there could be contributing factors that caused this.
Maybe seating position, pedal layout and so on which could lead to a tendency to ride the clutch with those factors not being present in whatever “very old cars” as they’re referred to.
Just food for thought… :slight_smile:

I wonder if it could be something such as driving a different terrain since the last vehicle purchase. We moved one time and the drive to work had 3 times the traffic and more starts and stops on inclines.

I know what my siblings’ driving habits are like.
And my family is the antithesis of “close”.

The big unanswered question to me is whether Suzuki is covering everything under warranty or trying to claim it’s a “normal wear” repair. They SHOULD be covering it, but I’d like to hear back from the OP on this question.

She may have been driving for 30 years, but has she been driving small cars that require higher RPM to launch that those “older” cars did? I know of a couple of people who have had similar issues with Subarus and Minis.

That said, I know a couple who have a Grand Vitara with a 5-speed. It has over 70K miles on it and has never needed a clutch. Yet.

You must also realize that Suzuki is not interested in keeping any of their former customers happy. There won’t be any repeat customers since they are no longer importing vehicles to the USA. I’m surprised she even has a dealer to complain to.

I agree that more detailed info is needed; a lot more. The raised eyebrow part is that if a problem was suspected from the get-go it should have been brought to the dealer’s attention at that time and odds are there would be no questions. Seven thousand miles gets into the “yeah right…” when the service department is told the clutch has been babied.
A broken pressure plate spring, shattered friction material, failed TO bearing, etc and there would probably be no question about a warrantable clutch failure at higher mileage.

The dealer does not call the shot on what Suzuki will or will not pay for. The Suzuki warranty lists clutch plates an an exclusion item along with brakes, tires, filters, fluids, and so on.

Now it’s possible that a dealer could fudge the root cause even if owner inflicted and lie on a claim while doctoring parts in an effort to push a warranty claim through the channels.
Whether they would be that unethical or want to risk eating the entire cost of the repair due to a denial I have no idea.

MG

Please elaborate on those people that had problems when transitioning from other stick cars to Mini or Subaru

I’d like to hear what they were driving before, and didn’t have problems with . . . and what it was about the Mini and Subaru that caused them to wear out a clutch rapidly

Or what it was about their driving style that their previous cars tolerated, but the Mini and Subaru did not

"The raised eyebrow part is that if a problem was suspected from the get-go it should have been brought to the dealer’s attention at that time and odds are there would be no questions. "

Sure, but the owner had no way of knowing that the hard shifting she was experiencing was going to lead to clutch failure in 7000 miles. And if she had brought it in earlier to the same dealership that’s stonewalling her now, they would have said, “Oh, they all shift like that,” and gotten rid of her pronto.

“odds are there would be no questions…” Odds are they would have ignored/blamed her just as they are doing now.

If a car is driven until the clutch will no longer pull there won’t be much left of the clutch to determine what happened.

@jesmed, let me pose this hypothetical. You bought a new car for cash which you decided on day two that you do not like and decide to sell it for a fair price.
A buyer jumps all over it and drives off.

Say a year and 7k miles later that buyer returns to you and complains that the car you sold them now has a wiped out clutch.

Would you be of the opinion that car you sold them was faulty from the start or that they brought it on themselves?

@ok4550, of course it’s human nature to assume that the other guy is at fault.

But the report that the vehicle “shifted hard” from the beginning sure sounds like a defective clutch from the get-go, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine how that’s the driver’s fault. Unless the driver fried the clutch so badly that it broke into pieces and cause the hard shifting. I suppose it’s possible. But not likely from a driver who was reportedly very experienced with a manual trans.

@mg”She may have been driving for 30 years, but has she been driving small cars that require higher RPM to launch that those “older” cars did? I know of a couple of people who have had similar issues with Subarus and Minis. "
Can you elaborate on what the higher launching rpm means? I could launch my small car with a 1.5l engine right off idle without holding up traffic.