From the 1950s to the 1970s, you could count on getting between 50,000 and 70,000 miles from your car’s clutch. Clutches can now last for more than 80,000 miles if you use them gently and maintain them well. If not cared for, clutches can start to break down at 35,000 miles. Trucks that are consistently overloaded or that frequently tow heavy loads can also have problems with relatively new clutches.
The most common problem with clutches is that the friction material on the disc wears out. The friction material on a clutch disc is very similar to the friction material on the pads of a disc brake or the shoes of a drum brake — after a while, it wears away. When most or all of the friction material is gone, the clutch will start to slip, and eventually it won’t transmit any power from the engine to the wheels.
A “hard” clutch is also a common problem. All clutches require some amount of force to depress fully. If you have to press hard on the pedal, there may be something wrong. Sticking or binding in the pedal linkage, cable, cross shaft, or pivot ball are common causes. Sometimes a blockage or worn seals in the hydraulic system can also cause a hard clutch.
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