Recently my fathers VW Campervan registered Dec 2014 (Campervan Conversion) broke down in Belgium on his last campervan holiday with a clutch issue. The vehicle is owned from new and has a 3 year warranty and the mileage is now 8000 miles. It was towed back to the UK and taken to a VW dealer to check what the problem was and see if it was covered under the warranty. It turned out to be a burnt out clutch which I am quite shocked about I know his driving is not perfect but it seems a bit odd that the clutch would take such a battering in this short time. I will add my brother took it to France with no issues at all just 600miles previous to this happening with no issues or any signs of problems. After paying the £1499 today I have noticed that they have said on investigating that there was fluid leaking from the gearbox bell housing. This raises the question for me that there may have been an issue before it happend but as I am no mechanic I was hoping someone could enlighten me on this. Any help welcome
The bellhousing (the part of the transmission that is closest to the engine, so named because it is bell shaped) should be dry, but there are 3 potential fluids that could be leaking into, and subsequently out of, the housing.
- Engine Oil. If the rear main seal (Seal between the engine/crankshaft and the transmission) is leaking, it could potentially get oil onto the flywheel or clutch and cause issues. From what I have seen, this isn't as likely as option 3 below.
- Transmission Fluid. If the input shaft seal (seal between the bellhousing and the rest of the transmission) is leaking, you could have transmission fluid in the housing. This would be even less likely to be the cause of the clutch problem, because its on the opposite side of the bellhousing from the clutch. It would be hard for the oil to get over there.
- Hydraulic Fluid. If the clutch hydraulics inside the bellhousing developed a leak, it could be preventing the clutch from fully disengaging. This would be consistent with the clutch getting burned out so quickly. My money would be on this. If it was a seal leak, they hopefully would have seen it and reported it to you while they were in there.
Oil in the bell housing as mentioned is from either the rear main seal or less likely from the gearboxes input shaft seal. Now unless these seals are leaking badly into the bell housing the chances of oil getting onto the clutch plate or cover are normally small, however it does happen if the leak is more substantial.
Oil can get onto the clutches surface by travelling down the back of the flywheel & over the ring gear when the engine cycles between running and switched off. Centrifugal force then slings the oil outwards and sprays it over the inner bell housing etc which creates a mist of oil that can effect the clutch. Either that or the oil can over time leak between the crankshaft & flywheel joint, both situations can lead to clutch contamination and it only takes a small amount of oil to ruin the friction required between clutch plate and cover.
You would have gained a better idea of the cause had you asked to see the old parts.. Oil contamination on the clutch friction plate & cover would indicate that the oil leak has lead to this issue, in which case the garage should have replaced the failed seal before fitting the new clutch, otherwise clutch failure will occur again.
If the clutch friction plate/cover was not contaminated with oil then failure is either due to a faulty/failed part... Maybe a collapsed release bearing, cover fork or friction plate springs etc. Otherwise poor clutch control or abuse is the only other thing that would kill an 8k mile clutch.