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Is my clutch shot?


I have a 1993 Mercury Tracer Wagon and I think my clutch is done for but I want to see anybody else has any other ideas.

Here is the situation. I replaced the clutch about 20K ago and haven’t abused it too bad. EXCEPT I live on a hill . Earlier this year my emergency brake stopped holding tight so I have been putting the car in gear to make sure it to charge down this hill. Recently it feels like the clutch is slipping. It work great at low RPM but a higher RPMs it revs and slips. Of note is that I don’t smell anything like burning clutch when my last clutch died.

I was hoping that I just messed up the positions or the clutch or something cheaper ? Any ideas?



The burning clutch smell will only happen when you’re really riding the clutch for a short period of time. But a clutch will wear out over time without burning it. Putting it in gear while on a hill is a good thing…and should ALWAYS be done…along with the parking brake. Get the parking brake fixed.

It sounds like you need to learn how to drive a clutch properly.

I’m with Mike on this. It’s a simple worn out clutch. Technique may be an issue, however constantly starting on a steep hill does put more wear on.

Yeah , I can drive clutch properly but this happening seems weird.

This is why I thought I would post for any other ideas. The brake is going to get fixed next time I take it in. But for now I park it on a flat spot and walk up the hill.

Any other ideas? Thanks MikeinNH

Regardless of who or what is to blame or how it happened, if the clutch is slipping, it needs to be replaced. It is not going to fix itself.

By “I replaced” the clutch, do you mean you did it yourself?

As the others said, just parking on a hill won’t wear out the clutch. Is there an adjustment for free play? Does the pedel have at least 1" of movement before it starts pushing on the release mechanism?

To the 2 questions above… No i had the clutch done at a shop. It worked great after that…

As to the other question. Yes there is some free play in the clutch pedal. It doesn’t do anything for at least an inch me pushing it… And I when I start the car to get the clutch sensor to realize that is is being pushed it has to be absolutely to the floor before it lets me start.

I knew parking on a hill couldn’t wear out the clutch because I assumed that friction wears it out. Which is why I am stumped … I was wondering if there is any adjustment that I messed up by letting the weight of the car rest on it so now it doesn’t engage fully. Or something… I am a musician not a mechanic…

I am just trying to brainstorm some possibilities… because 20ishK miles doesn’t add in my head when I have had other clutches for much much longer.

Well, starting on a hill will definitely reduce clutch life. Were the other clutches you’ve had that lasted longer before you lived on the hill? Do you do more city driving than you once did?

20k obviously isn’t great, but it’s not unheard of, especially on a little car like this which probably has a fairly light clutch. In addition to the factors of driving conditions, it could be that the clutch they put in wasn’t of the greatest quality. When you replace this one, ask if there’s a heavy-duty one available.

There is a possibility that your mechanic failed to replace or resurface the pressure plate or failed to properly adjust the clutch which may have have shortened the life of the clutch, but since 20K is within the realm of possibility wear-wise and since you’re mechanic doesn’t really have a way of knowing how you’ve been treating it, there’s probably not much point in raising a stink. If you have a good relationship with your mechanic, you might mention when you bring it in “gee, the last one only lasted 20k…”

Thanks Jack,
That makes the most sense… I live in gridlocked Los Angeles now , not wide open maine so I figured it would take some extra beating. I think the mostly likely culprit is the cheap clutch with 405 freeway gridlock… and not the hill…
Thanks all for helping me understand the issue!

Yep. That’s why mileage isn’t always the best gauge of clutch life, since if you’re taking a long highway trip, you can rack up thousands of miles with only a few clutch engagements, whereas a few blocks of city driving might require many dozen.

I just have to say, I have been driving for 60 years and I will never buy a vehicle with a clutch!! And haven’t since 1951.

The key to driving a stick in stop and go traffic is to avoid the stop part. What comes after the stop ultimately put the most wear on the clutch. And avoiding the stop is much easier on the clutch and the driver.

“avoid the stop part” Install push bars on the front? :wink:

In response to the question, the only car I have ever seen that would eat a clutch in 20k miles was an Opel GT. I would suspect a tranny that was leaking oil onto the clutch rather than the clutch being worn out. It was not clear whether you are starting the car using the clutch rather than the starter, but that would not significantly impact clutch life. High RPM clutch-slipping starts are what shorten clutch life.

Have you tried the usual slipping clutch test? Put it in 4th, rev it up to around 3k, and let out the clutch. If the engine dies, it is probably OK. If you can make it slip enough to keep the engine running, it is bad.

You say there is an inch of movement at the top before anything happens. Do you mean an inch of complete free-play before you get into the clutch spring, or that the clutch starts to disengage/engage an inch from the top of the pedal throw? If the engagement point is not at approximately the middle of pedal throw, it is out of adjustment. There should be a little (but less than an inch usually) of free play at the top of the pedal travel such that you can press the pedal just a little with your pinkie finger before it starts to feel real spring resistance.