What Time is It? Time for a New Clutch!

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 14, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

I purchased my 2000 Honda Civic off the dealer's showroom floor and have kept the car maintained faithfully. The car now has 265,000 miles on it, with the original engine and clutch, and still runs great. I think rust will kill it before the engine stops, but for the past year, the clutch seems to catch only at the very top when I release it. It's been getting tricky to give it enough gas at the right time without shuddering, from the stop position. I've had my mechanic look at it a couple of times, but he can't find anything wrong with it. I don't know if it's a stretched cable or simply time to replace the clutch or parts of it. I really don't want to get stranded. Do you have any suggestions?

-- Tom

After a mere 265,000 miles, you need a clutch, Tom. The time has come.

The average person gets 75,000 or 100,000 miles out of a clutch. If you're doing lots of highway driving, where you're not shifting very much, you sometimes can do quite a bit better than that. But 265,000 is at the far end of the bell curve -- off the page, actually.

So, be grateful that you got three times as many miles as most people get from a clutch, and if you think you can keep the rust at bay for a couple of more years, spend the $700 and put in a new clutch.

This is a hydraulic clutch, and it's self-adjusting. So, as the clutch disc wears down, the clutch pedal automatically adjusts the engagement point, to keep it where it's supposed to be.

The problem is, you've run out of adjustment: There's no more clutch left to adjust. The telltale signs are that the engagement point is all the way at the top, and the engagement range is very narrow, making it hard to engage without chattering.

On the bright side, with the engagement point that high, if the floor under the front seats rusts out, pretty soon you'll be able to drive from the back seat. Good luck, Tom.

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