What Is Clutch Slipping?

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 2 months ago

5 min read

  • Clutch
  • Diagnostic
A mechanic holding clutch components in front of engine

WhoCanFixMyCar explains what clutch slipping is, how to identify it and what you can do to fix it.

When you suspect there's something wrong with your clutch, it's easy to let dread paralyse you - after all, nobody wants an expensive repair bill - but the truth is that you're only delaying the inevitable. Clutches don't last forever. And when they become worn, the most obvious sign is usually that they start to slip.

If you're not sure what clutch slipping is, how to identify it or what you can do about it, this guide is for you.


What is clutch slipping?

What causes clutch slipping?

How to diagnose a slipping clutch

How long can you drive with a slipping clutch?

How to fix a slipping clutch

How much does it cost to repair a slipping clutch?

What is clutch slipping?

Clutch slipping happens when the clutch fails to sufficiently engage or disengage the transmission, resulting in the vehicle slipping out of gear or struggling to stay in gear under acceleration.

Since clutch slipping causes your car to lose power and makes it more difficult to control, it can be dangerous and should never be ignored.

What causes clutch slipping?

Clutch slipping is usually the result of one of three things:

  • Wear and tear from years of use

  • Lack of lubrication

  • Incorrect adjustment of the clutch

Clutches typically last for thousands of miles, but they eventually wear out. Your driving style can accelerate this process - if you drive with a heavy foot, for example.

Things that could cause your clutch to slip include a worn centre plate, which is supposed to maintain the connection between the engine and gearbox; a damaged or worn diaphragm spring, which usually provides the force behind the pressure plate; and contamination from oil, which reduces the friction between components.


Before you resign yourself to booking a clutch replacement, it's worth checking the clutch fluid level in the master cylinder, as a lack of lubrication can make your clutch slip. You could arrange a diagnostic test if you don't feel confident doing this yourself.

How to diagnose a slipping clutch

It’s pretty noticeable when your clutch starts to slip, but drivers who haven’t experienced it before might not know what to look for.

Clutch slipping symptoms include:

  • Your revs, or RPM, increase but your speed stays the same.

  • Difficulty changing gears when you engage or disengage the clutch.

  • There’s a burning smell in your car. Excessive heat from constant disengagement is the cause.

  • Your vehicle jerks or judders when moving forward or shifting gear.

  • Poor engine performance and a general lack of power.

  • Clutch pedal height difference.

  • Spongy or sticking clutch pedal.

  • Quick disengagement. Normally, you’d need to push the pedal down around two inches before this would happen.

  • Strong vibrations from the gearbox.

This guide discusses how to tell if you need a new clutch for your car.

How long can you drive with a slipping clutch?

There is no set answer to this, but once your clutch starts slipping, you should consider replacing it. Although this can be an expensive job, it will need to be done sooner or later, and it's best not to leave it until it fails at rush hour on a motorway or a rural road late at night.

Is it dangerous?

Driving with a slipping clutch can be dangerous because it reduces your control of the vehicle and can cause significant damage to other parts such as the gearbox and, if it happens due to a lack of lubrication, the flywheel and pressure plate, which will be impacted by excessive heat.

How to fix a slipping clutch

Clutch replacement

Unfortunately, it isn't usually possible to fix a slipping clutch. The exception is when the slipping is caused by misalignment, in which case the clutch needs adjusting to line it up correctly and reduce friction. Most of the time, when your clutch is slipping, you'll have to replace it.

Find out what happens when your clutch is replaced.

How much does it cost to repair a slipping clutch?

The average cost of a clutch replacement on WhoCanFixMyCar is £624.58. This guide provides a more detailed overview of how much you can expect to pay.

There's no getting around it - replacing your clutch is expensive. It's one of the down sides of car ownership, but you don't have to settle for the first quote you find. WhoCanFixMyCar allows you to compare prices from trusted local mechanics.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is WhoCanFixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.