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Pontiac vibe clutch stutter

Hi, I have a 2003 Pontiac vibe fwd base model with the 5 speed manual transmission and I recently replaced the clutch, half axles, ball joints, etc. It drove wonderfully for around 50 miles or so but now it can’t get going.

The engine starts just fine, but when you put it into gear its like the whole engine starts stuttering. It shakes andclunks and the wheels get no power, just this horrible and violent noise.

I checked the clutch fit with the alignment tool, used a new flywheel, torqued all the bolts, but I just don’t know what I missed.

Does anyone know what I could have done wrong? If there’s a possible fix that doesn’t involve taking the transmission off again?

Here’s a video I took or what it’s doing, hopefully that can help.

I had something just like this with my Chevy. The whole drivetrain would shudder and shake trying to get going from a stop. Once I got it moving it would shift fine. I eventually found out it was oil leaking onto the clutch from the engine seal.

Could be other causes but sounds like what mine was. Maybe someone else can chime in, I’m not a pro. Your youtube link isn’t working right for me.

Did you inspect the flywheel surface when you replaced the clutch? If that’s glazed or worn poorly (grooves and uneven surface) you may have trouble getting the clutch to engage smoothly.

Did you use a pilot shaft to align the clutch? A pilot shaft emulates the tranny input shaft to create the alignment for the tranny input shaft when you mount the pressure plate assembly, such that the clutch is properly centered when you install the tranny, ensuring proper alignment of the tranny input shaft.

I replaced the flywheel, and used the alignment tool included with the kit, I also checked using the old clutch if the tool was correct and it was.

I added a different link for the video, hopefully that one will work.

You most likely have the clutch disc in backwards. Time to pull it apart and flip trhe clutch disc around.


Could be the wrong axles, and the splines don’t match with the ones in the transmission.
I wonder if the automatic trans uses different axles vs manual.
If you lift the front wheels off the ground, engine off, in gear; and turn one wheel by hand, does the other wheel turn in the opposite direction?
Then with one wheel on the ground, try turning the other wheel.
It should not turn more than a little bit.

It sounds like one of the inner CV joints is broker or disengaged. Examine the axles.

Sounds like an axle problem to me, specifically an inboard joint not mated properly to the trans or splines stripped out.

My vote is for a halfshaft problem.

I took a look at shaft fitment and the passenger side for both automatic and manuals appear to be the same.
'For some reason, the driver side shaft is different between the automatic and manual.

The manual trans version has 23 and 26 splines and the automatic version has 20 and 26. Length is the same. The spline difference is on the inner joint also. Maybe the wrong shaft on the driver side?

Could buying the abs axle by mistake do that? The new axle has the right number of splines but is about and 1/8 of an inch shorter, could thathat have caused it?

I suspect you already know this, but yes, you have to install the correct axle part number for the vehicle. 1/8 inch could indeed make a difference. Another possibility besides the good ideas above, since it worked ok for 50 miles, maybe something simply shifted on you and the engine/transmission/half-shaft configuration is now out of alignment. Double check all the engine and transmission mounts. On my 5 speed Corolla (similar powertrain design but of earlier vintage that your Vibe) there’s some tricky transmission mount points accessed under some rubber plugs at the bottom that could be easy to forget.

My guess though is you’ll going to have to remove the transmission and half shafts, at which point the problem will be obvious. If it is difficult to get into gear w/the engine running, check to make sure while everything is apart that the transmission input shaft isn’t binding where it fits into the center of the flywheel.


Half axles were the problem. I took them out earlier than normal before removing he transmission. The passenger side was easy. The driver side was not.

After 3 hours of hammers, pickle forks, air hammers, and pry bars it slid out revealing one half of a retaining ring.

I’m not sure if it was bad luck or a bad install, I’ve replaced axles for this transmission before but this one went poorly. The retaining ring was crooked and stuck in the differential gears. Thankfully, I was able to remove the other ha!f of the ring with a magnet and the gears were not damaged in any noticeable way.

I put Napa axles in, runs like a dream now. That !ittle retaining ring stopped the gears but didn’t destroy them. I’ll just try and avoid parts from now on. The clutch kit they sent me was also off, and cost me a few extra hours looking for the new one.

Thank you for the help!

Congrats on getting it all ironed out and posting the results.

Congratulations and sincere thanks for posting the results. It’s great to hear a good success story, and we rarely do.

Concur, excellent work there OP! Those half shafts usually are fairly straightforward (albeit time consuming) to remove on the wheel side, but they do tend to get stuck fast on the transmission side. Shops use a special tool, but I forget the name. Some kind of “slide-hammer” I think. A person could make one themselves. It’s just a thick rod with a weight that slides on it, and at the far end of it’s travel knocks against a stop on the end of the rod. So you pull the weight in the direction you want the force applied, whacking it against the stop. The other end of the rod is L-shaped and you place it on the some protuberance on the transmission side of the half shaft. The inertial force of the weight whacking the stop usually yanks the half shaft free the first time.

And yes, there’s a definite downside to using mail order for auto parts. I’d guess I have to go back to the place I buy my auto parts store to resolve “wrong parts” problems like this 1 out of 3 purchases. Sometimes the problem is the parts guy just didn’t read the part number correctly, other times it was the correct part number, but for a different engine configuration, and sometimes the part number on the computer data base they use was wrong. Oh, and there’s always the problem where the part number is correct, but the part in the box isn’t that part number.