Automotive Clutch Replacement Tips – Dos and Don’ts

Having spent several years in tech support with a company that sells manual transmissions, I have spoken with many customers that have made clutch installation mistakes that cost them dearly in terms of time, money and frustration. These tips are based on my experience with what is frequently overlooked by a novice that is installing a new clutch. This article is NOT a substitute for a good auto repair manual that is specific to the vehicle you are working on! If any of these tips contradict the information in your service manual, follow the service manual instead.

Tip # 1: Lubrication in all the right places (and none of the wrong places!) – Place a light coat of grease on the pilot tip of the input shaft and on the collar that the release bearing slides on. Wipe a VERY light coat of oil on the input shaft splines to prevent rust. Be careful to NOT get any grease on the flywheel, the clutch disc, or the pressure plate.

Tip # 2: Have the flywheel resurfaced, no matter how good it looks. It only costs a few dollars, and the risk of having to remove the transmission again because of a chattering clutch is not worth the money you might save.

Tip # 3: Replace the pilot bearing or bushing. If you don’t have a special pilot bearing puller tool, some service manuals instruct you to remove the old bearing by packing the cavity behind the bearing with grease and using a wooden dowel or old input shaft to drive the old one out. I have found that instead of grease you can use play dough, silly putty, or even some old bread, with equal or better results and way less mess!

Tip # 4: Don’t force anything! If the transmission won’t slide all the way up to the back of the bellhousing, do not draw the transmission up to the bellhousing by tightening the transmission to bellhousing bolts. I can’t tell you how many broken mounting ears and damaged pilot bearings I have seen! If the transmission will not slide all the way in to the bellhousing, then the clutch disc is misaligned or the input shaft is not going into the pilot bearing because the transmission is at an angle. Try this: Install or reattach the clutch linkage, and then have a helper depress the clutch pedal slightly while you wiggle the transmission around to get it aligned. When the clutch disc is released, it will move so that you can get the transmission aligned with the pilot bearing. I fought with a transmission for an hour one time before I thought of this, and then it took about five seconds once I had a helper step on the clutch pedal!

Before tackling your first clutch replacement, I highly recommend reading the complete procedure in a repair manual or factory service manual. Even if you are a seasoned veteran, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at a service manual if you are replacing a clutch in a vehicle you aren’t familiar with.

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