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I have a manual shift honda civic.

How would I or the motor mechanic know that the clutch pads need replacing?

Would they check it during oil change? Certainly you don't open the transmission box to check the clutch pads during an oil change.

How long would they usually last under normal usage? Do they even wear out?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The life of the clutch all depends on how it's driven. A clutch driven in the hills of San Francisco is not going to last nearly as long as one driven on the plains of Texas. Yes, the pads do wear out over time. It usually isn't hard to tell when they start to go. You will notice more slippage when taking off from a stop. You might also have a smell which some would say smells like fried chicken. One way to tell specifically is during acceleration. The sound of the engine should be linear ... As the speed of the engine goes up, so should the speed of the car. If you ever find that the engine speeds up, but the car doesn't seem to be speeding up along with it, it's probably going out. You might especially notice this if going up a hill. The guys at the Jiffy Lube are not going to be able to tell if the clutch is going out, as there isn't a place you can see this wear without taking it all apart. You have to drive it to know. If you feel your clutch is going out, find a friend who is a mechanic you trust and have them check it for you ... Someone who will give you the straight poop on it and not try to sell you his services.

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You will feel any of the following

  • "Slippage"
  • Engaging the clutch will be very high on the clutch pedal.
  • Squishy clutch
  • A foul smell
  • Trouble changing gears

A test that I do is to find a nice stretch of road, and go into 1st. Get the revs up really high, and jump directly into 4th. If you still have high revs, the clutch needs replacing. If the car judders or stalls, but still runs, the clutch is fine.

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If the clutch pad is bad, why would changing of gears stick? The changing of gears would not involve the pads, would they? Because, one could change gears without issue but the issue should happen when I release the pedal to re-engage the transmission, after changing gears not before. My question is about manual transmission. –  Cynthia Avishegnath Jan 6 at 14:33
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The gears will stick and crunch as the clutch hasn't engaged / disengaged fully when changing gears. Clutches, at least from my experience, only exist in manual transmission cars - automatics use a torque converter instead of a clutch –  Nick Jan 8 at 14:34

Easiest way to tell (and I do this always) is to apply hand brake, shift 1st gear and by keeping 2000rpm slowly releasing the clutch. As you release it you will see that front of the car is rising and the back is getting pulled. If none of this happens and you feel odd smell, your clutch is bad. If you accidentally stall the engine or you feel that rear wheels get pulled or you feel that car shifts (front raises while back lowers) then you are good to go.

Warning: This methos applies only to car that has front wheel drive, mechanical gearbox and mechanical parking brake.

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While the car is parked, apply 4th gear and try to drive on it. if the car turns off, that means clutch pads are ok else if the car goes on, it means they need replacement.

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There is an inspection hole that you can look into the clutch housing to see the clutch disc condition.

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Whoever voted this down, fyi, I read that "Although the clutch is normally nested between the pressure plate and the flywheel, thus invisible unless dismantled, some vehicles may have an exposed clutch surface that can be visually inspected without removing the clutch." –  Cynthia Avishegnath Jan 8 at 4:28

Clutches squeak when it gets hot. It happens to all cars I promise. A clutch will let you know when it's bad it's simple as turning on the car and put it in first gear and let go of the clutch do this 3 times to make sure you get a legitimate reading or feeling of the car if the clutch is bad the car will stay on if it grips the car will turn off. Also drive on first gear and if the car revs up too high and your not going anyware as fast as your rps shoot up the clutch is bad.

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Your first two sentences are not correct. I have had 11 cars, ranging from high performance rally cars to town cars, and off roaders to track cars, and I have never had a squeaking clutch! –  Rory Alsop Oct 23 at 7:17
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I agree with @RoryAlsop ... the only time I've ever heard a clutch squeak or make noise other than the swish of engagement is if it gets down to metal on metal. Even when they are shot, glazed, and slipping like a big dog, I've not heard them make any squeaking noise. –  Paulster2 Oct 23 at 9:00

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