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Ruin a clutch over 8 blocks in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear?

A friend borrowed my stick shift car to drive four blocks and back, to run an errand. She didn’t drive fast, all third gear or lower. When I got the car back it barely got me home and there is a burning smell. Seemed the engine revs and I push the accelerator but most of that energy does not result in any speed/power. It’s a 2003 VW Golf and it was running fine all over town moments before she borrowed it. Is it possible that she ruined the clutch over that short distance or just a coincidence? I’m in a total panic because I’m unemployed and really don’t need a huge clutch/engine repair bill right now!

Anything is possible, but an independent mechanic could save some dollars. Ya know maybe some buds on the board would help a guy out. Nice idea I say for people helping people.

Do you know how proficient your friend is driving a stick shift? How many miles on the clutch? There are too many factors to add up here. Just looking at what you posted, an 11-yr old car is probably close to needing a clutch. Add in a novice driver, 8 urban blocks, and the remaining life of that clutch could go up in smoke.l

Exactly. It happens frequently with older cars. You wore the first 90% until slipping was obvious the driver who borrowed the car did the rest. Don’t loan a car to someone who can’t drive a standard. If they don’t drive a standard of their own and do it well, don’t let them learn on yours. Besides, you own a car where mechanical problems is the norm, not the exception. It’s no one ones “fault”. It would have happened at some point, just a little later.

The clutch was mostly gone already, so don’t be too hard on your friend. You got 10+ years out of it and (I hope) many miles.

I can wear out a new clutch in an hour if I have a mind to.

Agree with @MikeInNH . A clutch can be destroyed in very little time by an inexperienced driver.

"I can wear a new clutch out in an hour if I have a mind to."
You underestimate your talents !

+1 to all of the preceding comments.

I can recall that my brother bought a '59 Ford in 1962, and it appeared to be in good condition, although we had no idea about how it had been driven by the previous owners. After he had owned the car for about 3 months, he wound up in a huge snow bank, and because he didn’t have the money for a tow truck, he thought that he would “rock the car” out of that snow bank.

You guessed it…After about twenty minutes, he was successful in getting the car out of the snow bank, but in the process he fried the clutch. Although he was actually very skilled in his use of a clutch, the combination of 3 years of unknown usage of the clutch by the previous owner, coupled with 20 minutes of hard use in that snow bank put that clutch out of commission.

After 11 years, the OP’s clutch undoubtedly did not have much life left in it, and his friend put the final nail in its coffin.

The clutch is 11 years old. I vote to give your friend the benefit of the doubt and assume that most of the frictional material on the clutch was worn off and your friend simply finished the job.

But I’d lend her my bicycle next time she asks.

Just to put two ideas together; I had an eight year old truck with a standard. When I towed the pontoon boat which weighed close to but not over the tow weight limit, the clutch would slip while driving up really steep hills. Smelled a lot when done but it still worked fine later. I was sure setting up for failure with the next driver even though I was driving it correctly. So, you just don’t know.

Other than agreeing with prior comments there are also points to consider about the age of the person who borrowed the car, their personality type, how long they were gone on this 8 block errand, and the odometer reading before and after.

Thanks everyone. Super helpful and all the answers gave me some good perspective on the perfect storm of old clutch and bad driving skills. Off to the mechanic we go, with much more peace of mind.

We owned 83 colt with 65 hp motor? Clutch lasted 100k miles or so than actually started to slip when I floored it. Figured that torque monster would never slip. I put in new disc for $24.99 and it drove fine. says a replacement clutch should run you $1000-$1300 or so. Good luck with it.

I’m going against the grain here . . .

I think the friend fried the clutch

The friend may not be as proficient driving stick as she likes to think, or tell other people

I’ve encountered far too many people who claim they know how to drive stick, yet when I’m riding shotgun and watching them, it’s clear they SERIOUSLY overestimate their abilities

Proving it will be next to impossible

Not only that, but it would compromise the friendship

Let it go, even though the friend is probably to blame

Car-Talk brother Tom described a similar incident in a show segment maybe a year ago where his friend, just in town for the day, borrowed Tom’s car for the afternoon to run some errands. Tom had just installed a brand new clutch. The friend had never driven a manual before. When returned, Tom’s brand new clutch was toast.

The brothers explained that a driver not familiar with manuals can burn out the clutch very quickly. The clutch material doesn’t simply wear away a little faster with the clutch half-engaged, half-disengaged. It gets so hot it melts and totally disintegrates.

I think the OP’s friend – especially if they were not familiar with driving a manual – probably at least contributed to this clutch problem. But since this is an older car, I don’t think there is a very good argument that the friend should contribute to the cost of fixing it. Just a live and learn thing is all.

Well some of these Walter Mittys cannot drive a manual transmission pure and simple and it has been my experience certain genders are worse,thats what automatics are for.I’ve driven manuals for so long I’m sick of them,but have never actually had clutch trouble(I generally dont downshift either unless I’m driving a class 8 truck) clutches are like brakes,they will last a long time if cared for and used with respect,but in your friends defense I expect it was about due for replacement-Kevin

I’m having a near impossible time seeing a clutch described as fine being toasted within 8 blocks.
The thought of some missing story which may be unknown to the OP keeps coming to mind.

kmccune I can relate to that. My Father taught me to drive a manual when I was 13 years old. 49 years, 42 automobiles, 3 pickups, and 3 motorcycles later almost all manuals I have never had to replace a clutch.