I test drove a 2002 BMW 325xi with 80,000 miles on it the other day and while it didn't have any major issues cosmetically or mechanically from what I could see, there was something strange about the clutch: it engaged uncomfortably high. In addition, when it was completely depressed (disengaged) in any gear, I could hear a slight whining noise.

I'm new to manual cars — the first and only one I've driven was a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta for the last year — so I don't know if this is normal. Could the clutch be going out?

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2 Answers 2


All cars are different, especially when it comes to clutches. Some have, as you say, a high engagement point on the clutch, where you can almost let the clutch out all of the way before it starts to engage. Others do it much lower in the clutch pedal arch (further pushed towards the firewall). It's just something you have to get used to. I cannot tell you for sure there was anything wrong with this clutch you were driving, but you never know. The big thing you need to look for is whether there was clutch slippage. This will occur under load, where you have let the clutch pedal out all the way and you get on the gas. The RPMs should slowly raise along with vehicle speed ... very linear. If the RPMs jump up, there is an issue and the clutch is probably on it's way out. As for this car you drove, you can do three things:

  1. Drive another BMW of about the same year, engine, and transmission. This will tell you if what you are feeling is unusual or normal.
  2. Take the car you are test driving to a trusted mechanic. Trusted means someone you know. Most dealerships should not have an issue with this, and if they do, walk away from the deal (because they are hiding something).
  3. Drive other cars with manual transmissions to see the difference of which I'm talking about.

Also, after some hard driving, if you smell a lot of something burnt, the clutch is probably going out. A little bit of smell would not be unheard of, but nothing in the stench realm.

  • 1
    I ended up buying a 2000 BMW 323i with a brand new clutch and it felt the same way. I suppose I just wasn't prepared for a different clutch than the last car I owned. Thank you for the help Paul!
    – Jacob
    Mar 18, 2014 at 17:25
  • I drove a new (at that time) 2010 Camaro M6 (with a stick) ... I was truly surprised at the difference in how it felt compared to the '94 Camaro M6 I used to own. Completely different. Engagement on the pedal was about 1" of pedal travel ... something I would have had to get used to. Good luck with your new addition :D Mar 18, 2014 at 18:30

It's hard to say for sure without being there, but it sure sounds like something isn't right with the clutch, especially the whining noise.

I highly recommend having a mechanic you trust give it a pre-sale inspection before considering handing over your hard-earned money for this BMW.

  • I've seen lots of cars where it whines (fairly quietly, radio had to be off etc.) while in gear, clutch disengaged, but not in neutral. Though I can't be the one to say if it was the same type of whine.
    – RastaJedi
    Jul 7, 2022 at 18:56

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