Worn Clutch @50K - Am I THAT Bad?

My car dealer mechanic just told me that the clutch on my Hyundai Elantra is slipping and needs to be replaced; I have a little more than 50000 miles on the car, so I have a couple of questions about this. I should say that I know very little about cars.

My first question is whether or not it would be obvious to me that my clutch was slipping? I don’t notice anything driving it.

Secondly, how bad do you have to be at driving a manual to wear out the clutch that quickly? I’m a little slow in releasing the clutch when shifting gears and we put the car in gear when parking it (my wife also drives the car.) On the other hand, we’ve never replaced the clutch on our dodge neon (circa 1998). Any thoughts?

i know you have a 100k warranty, BUT is this covered? if it is NOT covered, go take it to an independent mechanic and see what they say.

if the clutch is bad, then it can be replaced more cost effectively than at a dealership. BUT having an independent mechanic confirming the clutch should help you determine the veracity of the dealership.

50k on a clutch isn’t too bad. Keep in mind that mileage alone isn’t a good measure of clutch usage, since a mile of city driving can require many clutch engagements whereas you can drive many tens of miles on the highway without touching it. Most of the people who get 100K+ out of a clutch do primarilly highway driving. To test it, you can put the parking brake on and try and put the car into first gear. If you can get the clutch all the way up without stalling the car, you need a clutch.

Different cars also do have different clutch lives due to differing clutch thickness and different stresses put on it. Given that the Hyundai is an economy car, it likely has a fairly light-duty clutch. It’s possible that you can get a more robust replacement clutch.

Did they give you any more information? Did they say whether they think that it is a worn friction plate or mechanical failure? I had a clutch wear out, but the fingers collapsed; the plates did not wear out. Of course, we replaced the plates while in there.

I assume you have more than 50,000 miles on your neon…since you have experience with a manual clutch the “slippage” is probably not due to inexperience. I think you can test slippage by putting the handbrake on and try starting the car in third gear…it it stalls your clutch is okay…don’t do this too often since it does increase the wear of the clutch

Get a second opinion. If it is still under warranty, the dealer might just be looking for some extra income from a warranty repair.

A lady posted on this forum a few years ago about her daughter knocking the clutch out of her VW Beetle the day after purchasing the car brand new and attempting to learn how to use a manual transmission. So, it varies.

It could be borderline slipping and it’s impossible to tell from here.
Set the park brake firmly, shift the transmission into 3rd gear, hold the foot brake down, rev the engine to about 3000 RPMs, and let the clutch pedal out. The engine should bog down and die quickly if the clutch is good.
(Yes, I know it takes 3 feet.) :slight_smile:

The quality of the clutch lining was probably bad. First gear ratio might be too high, causing the clutch to wear out faster.

How long you can drive a car with a slipping clutch varies widely. You may have a couple of weeks or a day before you are stranded. Get this fixed right away.

I disagree with all responders who advised using 1st or 3rd gear to test a clutch. I also disagree with the idea of testing the clutch against a handbrake (or tree, as Click and Clack often advise).

The proper way to test a clutch for slippage is to drive the car in top (5th) gear at highway speed. Push the gas pedal to the floor. If the clutch is bad it’ll slip. Use 5th gear because you’ll be able to hold the gas pedal to the floor for a longer time than if it were in a lower gear.

Remember the clutch is between the engine and the transmission. Torque multiplication occurs in the transmission. The clutch sees engine torque only. Engine torque is dependent on engine speed only. My method keeps the transmission out of the test and does not damage the clutch.

50k miles for a small car is not good. Most cars this small usually get well over 100k miles. Larger trucks that do towing most will even last over 50k miles

I think the clutch material was poor. When you get it replaced…DON’T use OEM parts. If it was defective material then chances are the OEM parts will be of the same quality.

Thanks for the many helpful responses!
I tried the first gear test - put on the parking brake, put in first gear and released the clutch slowly. The car started to sputter about 7/8 of the way up and died about a second after it was completely released. Does that mean I need a clutch?

I’m planning to take it to an independent garage soon (not under warranty unfortunately). Thanks again for all the help!

A little more definitive test is to point the car in a safe direction, block all wheels in the forward direction, apply the parking brake, make sure no person is in front of the car, apply the service brake, start the engine, shift into the highest gear, release the clutch, and give the accelerator pedal enough gas as if you are starting out, keeping the heal of your foot on the service brake all the while. If the engine stays running when the clutch pedal is all the way up and you are giving the engine significant throttle, your clutch is slipping. Don’t do this too long or you will cook the flywheel and pressure plate.

Good luck

I essentially agree with your post except the reason for using fifth gear is that the test is torque at the engine output (flywheel) vs. resistance. 5th has higher resistance due to the lower mechanical advantage. That’ll cause slippage that a lower gear may not.

“(Yes, I know it takes 3 feet.)”

That’s what heels and toes are for!

Check your warranty info very carefully. A lot of warranties specifically exclude “friction plates”, i.e.: clutch plates, brake shoes, brake pads, etc. If your warranty does not cover the clutch, go to an independent, moral, ethical mechanic or shop. Ask knowledgeable car people who they might recommend. If several people mention the same guy or gal, or the same shop, your chances of a fair price and good work go up substantially. The stealer/dealer is looking to keep his service department busy, especially if he made no mention of whether or not your clutch is or is not under warranty. That dealer’s representative will get a cut of the money for anyone that he can dupe into using their service department. It could be that you have a hydraulic clutch. If that’s the case, the clutch’s hydraulic cylinder might need to be “bled” of a little air or maybe your fluid level is just low. Your test as you described it means that your clutch IS NOT slipping. That’s exactly what the previous posts about checking the clutch’s ability to engage were all about. An independent shop (as I described earlier) just might check this out for you “gratis”. You’ll remember that they did you well on your first visit to them and you’ll have a tendency to take your vehicle back to them in the future, although they might charge you a nominal fee for more involved testing of other systems in your car.

When you press on the clutch pedal, how far does it go before it starts to disengage? Several inches is too much. If it is a hydraulic clutch and you have this, it might just need to be bled and filled. This one’s easy to test without compromising safety.

I think you’re right - the clutch may be made of poor materials. You may be able to upgrade with a better clutch kit.

I know a 240 Volvo with 230K miles on the original clutch. Of course, the clutch is about as big as one in an eighteen wheeler and was probably hand made.

My recommendations about performing this clutch test in 3rd gear is not originally MY recommendation. It’s recommendations made at the factory sponsored service schools.

If your clutch isn’t grabbing until its about 7/8th the way up, check to see if you have a manually adjustable clutch cable. It may just need an adjustment.

Look to the outboard side of the brake master cylinder, if you see something that looks like a smaller version of the master cylinder, then you have a hydraulic clutch. If you have a cable about a 1/2" thick, then you have a cable operated clutch. Some cable operated clutches have automatic adjusters that can get stuck and not adjust properly while others require periodic adjustment.