Everything You Need to Know About Automatic Clutch Replacement
Drivers of automatic transmission cars sometimes revel in the fact that the car they’re driving doesn’t have a clutch pedal. They’ll say, “Everything is easier when there’s no clutch.” Well, there’s certainly no clutch pedal in an automatic car, but there is still a clutch…you just can’t see it.
The fact that you don’t interact with the clutch directly when you drive an automatic transmission actually makes it more hazardous, if anything. When you have a clutch pedal, you get a feeling for when the clutch feels normal and when it does not. That being the case, it’s easier to spot when things might be wrong because the pedal will feel spongy or overly resistant, for example.
With an automatic, you don’t have that facility, so we have prepared today’s blog to let you know all about automatic clutch problems and replacement.
How Long Will an Automatic Clutch Last?
Your automatic clutch will likely last anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000+ miles, depending on how you drive and how closely you stick to the recommended maintenance schedules. If you let bad driving habits like shifting between Reverse and Drive before coming to a complete stop (to name just one) become commonplace, then you’re more likely to add strain and damage the clutch and transmission prematurely.
Other maintenance steps not to miss include looking after your transmission fluid, and avoiding overloading the car or towing heavy loads. These are all things that will add strain to the transmission, and more strain means potentially more damage to the clutch.
What Are Signs That Your Automatic Clutch Might Need Repair?
1. Clutch and Gear Slippage
This is by far the most common sign of clutch problems in an automatic car. If you notice that your car engine is making a lot of noise as though it’s accelerating, but the car itself isn’t actually moving forward any faster, then you have a case of clutch slippage. What’s happening is that the clutch discs in your transmission are not engaging the transmission gears properly, so the system is being left in a kind of mechanical limbo where noises are generated but not mechanical or kinetic propulsion is being created.
If your automatic gearbox is slipping out of gear, it’s more than just a simple annoyance. It can actually cause real damage to the transmission, which ultimately can result in some very serious (and expensive) repairs being needed.
2. Transmission Lag
When you’re at the traffic lights, have you experienced a situation in which it is your turn to go when the light turns green, so you press on the accelerator but nothing happens straight away. Though there is always some degree of delay, a working transmission should keep that delay to an unnoticeable and negligible amount of time so it feels like instant response. If your automatic clutch is experiencing problems, however, that lag time will grow.
If you notice that you press on the accelerator, and nothing happens for a few seconds while the car shifts into gear and then allows you to go, you have a problem known as transmission lag. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be just in the lower gears that it happens. You might notice lag when your car picks up speed and you’re waiting for the car to shift into a higher gear ratio.
3. Dark or Burned Transmission Fluid
If your car has a transmission fluid dipstick, you can check the current condition of the transmission fluid yourself. If you notice that the fluid has become very dark — when fresh, it’s a rich red or pink colour — and possibly has a burned smell to it, then it’s a sign that the clutch is experiencing problems. In addition, look for the presence of a dark, sludge-like material within the fluid.
If you don’t have a dipstick then either you or a mechanic will have to remove the transmission fluid pan to get a proper look at the condition of the transmission fluid. Transmission fluid will degrade, darken and acquire contaminants over time just as a part of its normal operation, but if you think it’s happening prematurely, then it’s likely a faulty clutch is at work here.
How Does Automatic Clutch Replacement Work?
Very often, automatic clutch replacement involves dismantling all or part of the transmission itself in order to properly isolate the exact cause of your clutch problem, which makes it quite a tricky and time-consuming job even for professionals. The most common part in need of replacement is the clutch disc. The faces of the clutch disc become worn over time. Another common problem area is the clutch linkage system, which is more complex and harder to check without disassembly.
Replacing the clutch involves separating the gearbox from the engine, disassembling the clutch assembly, replacing any and all defective components with new or repurposed parts (the latter can save on costs, but not everyone offers it), and then reassembling the clutch components to get it all working again. There are times when disassembly isn’t required if it’s apparent to the technician what the exact issue is. The more experienced the mechanic/technician is, the better they are at isolating the problem, which can bring down costs for you.
Automatic Clutch Replacement Cost
Unfortunately, clutch replacement in an automatic transmission is not a cheap job to do. Because the problem can only usually be confirmed with disassembly, you have to factor in a lot of labour costs on top of the parts cost. You should expect to pay anywhere from £950-1050 for an automatic clutch replacement.
At least it’s cheaper than replacing the entire transmission! The key to avoiding unexpected repair bills with your automatic transmission is to ensure that it is serviced regularly and checked for defects. Discovering problems early and fixing them in advance is the best way to keep costs as low as possible and keep the transmission running smoothly.