Car Clutch Plate Burning Smell – Diagnosis And Causes Explained
Whenever a driver uses the clutch, the contact with the pressure plate causes a small amount of deterioration and wear. When the clutch is used properly, this is just part of the normal wear and tear that comes with driving any vehicle. When the driver presses down the clutch and does not change gears, however, the wear on the pressure plate is unnecessary and leads to the clutch burning out and needing replacement. Drivers who keep their foot on the clutch while the car is idling burn it out unnecessarily, as do those who use the clutch rather than the foot brakes or emergency brake to keep the car in one place while the car is idling on a hill.
When you step on the clutch pedal, it lifts then separates the spinning clutch disk and flywheel. You can then shift gears before releasing the clutch to reengage the drivetrain. When you release the clutch pedal, the moving clutch disk makes contact with the pressure plate of the flywheel, causing significant friction and heat. If you “ride” the clutch, stepping too frequently on the pedal and repeatedly disengaging and reengaging the drivetrain, the friction can create enough heat to actually burn the clutch facings. This can ruin both the disk and the flywheel assembly.
The most telling sign of a burnt clutch is the smell it gives off. If the clutch facings start to burn, the smell will resemble that of burnt toast. This could cause the whole clutch to fail, at which point your car would stop being able to accelerate or shift gears.
Diagnosing a Burnt Out Clutch – Causes
- Riding The Clutch
This is something people do because they don’t really know what they’re doing, but even experienced drivers do this, especially in traffic. What you need to know is that when the clutch pedal isn’t all the way UP, you’re wearing the clutch. While it’s okay to engage the clutch pedal smoothly (go too fast and no one will want to ride with you), the less time you spend engaging and disengaging the pedal, the longer your clutch is going to last. Read our article on riding the clutch here (LINK)
- Not Shifting Correctly
Shifting before the clutch is fully disengaged – or letting the clutch pedal out without being completely in gear – is a clutch killer. Obviously, jamming gears without pressing the clutch down is a horrible way to shift too, but that’s a whole other issue.
Not completing your shifts before engaging the clutch causes the disc to catch, banging the dampener springs to their limit causing premature wear and/or failure, and possible warping of the disc from inconsistencies and heat. Over time, it will become harder and harder for the clutch to catch as the disc starts to wear down, warp, or get jammed up by broken pieces of the damper springs.
- Holding Your Vehicle On A Hill Using Your Clutch
Rollback is tricky, and kind of scary, so you might find that sweet spot on your clutch that allows you to brake the car without actually being on the brakes. Unfortunately, it’s a clutch killer.
The solution? Stop rollback by pulling the emergency brake while on a hill, not completely, but enough to keep your vehicle from rolling.
- Clutch Contamination
It’s not terribly common, but it’s not exactly rare either: Clutch contamination occurs when some sort of fluid (usually oil) gets on the clutch disc and shortens the lifespan. A leaky rear main seal is often a culprit, but any number of fluids can contaminate your clutch, including the hydraulic fluid that powers your clutch cylinders. Grease can also get on your clutch surface if the installation isn’t done correctly.
- “Burning” Your Clutch
This happens most commonly when you’re trying to tow heavy loads, or if you’re trying to do a burnout. Please, don’t do that.
Source credits: https://www.reference.com/vehicles/causes-clutch-burn-out-9112f4c1aa985a9e