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I have a 2000 Mazda Protege with a 5-speed manual transmission. In recent months, I have noticed something that I believe is the clutch slipping. Sometimes when I am accelerating to highway speeds, one of the gears will not want to "seat" so the RPMs stay kind of high unless I back off the gas for a bit. More recently, when accelerating up a hill, the car will occasionally try to come out of gear (RPMs go from ~3000 up to over 3500 and the cruise will usually shut off). Am I correct that this means the clutch is wearing out? I have not noticed any of these symptoms when not going highway speeds. There are no weird noises (besides high RPM), no bad smells from driving, and it shifts into all gears just fine.

Assuming that these are symptoms of clutch failure, how likely is it that I could fix this on my own? I have a decent amount of mechanical experience, but I've never done any transmission work besides a flush and filter on automatics. By experience, I mean I have repaired or replaced most external components on the engine, and done brake, axle, and steering repairs.

Can anyone give me an idea of what parts would need to be replaced for these symptoms and how hard it is to do? Are there any other diagnostics I can do to further tell what parts need to be fixed?

  • Because of the huge amount of labor involved, also try to research your car in particular to see if there's anything else that people normally replace at the same time because it's in the same area. For large jobs its common to replace things just because its easy even if they are not broken. – JPhi1618 May 3 '16 at 18:30
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If it is a slipping clutch it will get worse soon, and you will know for sure, from your description, yes it is slipping.

Yours is a FWD car, they are a bit more difficult than a RWD most of the time, you will need an engine support bar to hold the engine while you remove the transmission, after the trans is out this support bar will suspend the engine so it does not hang on the motor mounts or even fall out on the ground. This is the most important tool you need.

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As far as parts, clutches are sold in Kits here in the USA, it has everything you need including the disc alignment pilot tool. Kits I buy come with a Pressure Plate, Clutch Disc, Throw Out Bearing (when applicable), and a clutch pilot tool.

Once the trans is out and the pressure plate and disc are removed, you will see the flywheel, it has a surface that the clutch disc wears down, to do a first rate job, pull the flywheel and take to an Automotive machine shop to have it resurfaced. Careful when removing it is heavier than it looks.

This is a difficult job if you have never done one before, but if you have the time I am sure you can do it.

  • You can also avoid using the support bar by using two jackstands to support the engine from below. Not ideal but you may not have the money for the new tool. I've also used a thick piece of steel tubing with some chains and locks. Well, to be honest, I've also used a cinder block on the bottom of the engine for support but that's just reckless. – race fever May 3 '16 at 18:14
  • Yes you can make a support bar but most do not have to materials and tools to make one, most parts stores here in the US rent them for free. – Moab May 3 '16 at 22:31
  • I typically use a jack with a block of wood under the oil pan. Lets you drop the engine down a bit also. If you use the support bar up top, be sure to secure to something solid - block or head. Lifehack - grab some extra block to transmission bolts from the junkyard and cut off the head to make alignment dowels. Cut slots in them so you can remove them with a screwdriver. – rpmerf May 4 '16 at 12:27

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