Is clutch release bearing failure a common problem these days?


#1

Re: Tom and Ray’s current column topic about release bearings.

Just curious. As an amateur DIY’er, I only work on one clutch-equipped car. My early 90’s 4afe Corolla. But I know some of you experts here work on customer’s cars, so you see a lot of car problems. Has anyone here ever seen a clutch release bearing on the fritz in a modern (post 1990) car? I mean while the clutch was otherwise ok? With modern ball bearing technology, you’d think the release bearing would be so robust that it wouldn’t be an issue any more, and if a driver wanted to push on the clutch pedal while waiting for a stoplight, that’d be no problem at all for the release bearing. Or is release bearing failure still a common problem seen with modern cars?


#2

I never had a problem, but do not ride the clutch when stopped. I believe there is a correlation between riding the clutch and throwout bearing wear.


#3

With a sealed clutch throwout ball bearing there should be few or no problems. I have been frequenting Car Talk for several years and don’t recall any post regarding a failed TO bearing; have maintained our own cars forever; have changed clutch disks on four cars and have owned more than eight cars with a manual transmission. Feel free to keep your clutch pedal down at a stoplight. I still feel a little compulsion, however, to shift to neutral after more than a minute and then let out the clutch pedal to ease the load on the TO bearing. Possibly the worry about clutch TO bearings came from the early days when TO bearings were a carbon block. Old habits die hard sometimes.


#4

Now that you mention it @WhaWho, I also don’t recall ever seeing a query here about a bad clutch release bearing.


#5

I have one in my 97 Nissan truck that squeals when you depress the clutch pedal. The truck has 180k on it, but for about 6 years (02-08), it mostly sat around and was only drive once every month to six weeks. Apparently the transmission leaked out all its gear oil during that time too and I didn’t realize it.

But everything still works so I just drive it. Now my saturn which is driven regularly has 267k miles on it and the bearing has never made a peep.


#6

On my 89 Mustang GT I had a bearing failure at 80k. never abused the car doing burnouts etc and owned it since new. Always kept it in neutral when stopped. The bearing never made noise and one day just locked up, as I noticed the clutch pedal was getting harder to push and getting it into 1st gear and grinding into 2nd…

The force was getting so hard to push the clutch in that it stripped the clutch eccentric gears under the dash. I pulled the clutch, did a complete clutch replacement including the eccentric ( not fun on your back under the dash and took the drivers seat out ) and that was 10 years ago. I now have 113k since replacement at 80k and no problems. car only gets driven about 4k a year and had it repainted / restored a few years ago. I drove manual tranny’s since a teenager and never had a failure.

The clutch disk showed only minimal wear for 80k, but replaced everything. Things do go wrong for one reason or the other and yet I know friends who got over 200k on an original clutch. Cost was a lot cheaper for parts than replacing an automatic. Now fully retired and getting to old for this type of work. HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL ON THIS BOARD AND HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR.


#7

I don’t think so. I’ve only had one failure in 40+years of driving (Jeep pickup) and I did have one that was noisy (Nissan Sentra GXE).


#8

There have been a few threads involving throw out bearings. This is the most recent I believe.

And holding the clutch pedal down while idling will certainly shorten the life of the throw out bearing and the pressure plate.


#9

I had one on my 1998 Pathfinder. I had to replace it at about 80k miles. The clutch was still fine (but replaced it anyways since this job is very labor intensive).


#10

Keep in mind that a clutch TO bearing is lubricated and sealed exactly like other auto type non-maintainable rolling element bearings. Some of those would be front wheel bearings on a front driver, rear wheel bearings on a rear driver, water pump bearings, air conditioner compressor bearings and most alternator bearings. Wheel and the other bearings are, of course, turning constantly when the car is in motion while the clutch TO bearing is not. I have had more failed wheel bearings than failed (none) clutch TO bearings; have owned at least 10 manual trans cars over the years. It’s possible that others have had clutch TO bearings fail due to a clutch linkage freeplay adjustment problem from prior to self-adjusting clutches. Don’t worry about your clutch TO bearing and I should not either.


#11

The biggest reason why it happens no where near as in the past is, most cars are automatics.


#12

I don’t see modern TO bearings being any more prone to failure than on older vehicles. When a bearing does fail it’s usually due to driving habits and/or leakage/aging of the lubricating grease in the bearing.
In some of the more rare cases a TO bearing can hang on a transmission snout and not retract all of the way; meaning a shorter life. This scenario applies to Subaru mostly.

It wouldn’t be worth the engineering effort, but a point could be made about the TO bearing being located inside the transmission and submerged in gear oil; much like Harley Davidsons.
TO bearing failure on an old Harley is practically unheard of.


#13

It makes sense that a little-used ball bearing could still fail simply b/c the grease compartment isn’t 100% air-tight-sealed, and the grease could evaporate over time, like over 15 -20 years. The same thing could happen – a failed TO replacement bearing – if you installed a 15 year old unused bearing that had been sitting on the shelf as a replacement, it could be all evaporated and be bad right off the bat, post install.