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Clutch Issues 101: Clutch Difficult To Press or Stuck


In this last of our "Clutch Issues 101" series, we're going to talk about a clutch pedal that has become difficult to press, that is stuck (will not release), and how to determine why a clutch has failed in the first place. Previously, we talked about clutch slipping and about clutch noise and clatter. These issues are often preludes to failure. A clutch that is difficult to press down is also often a harbinger of worse things to come. A clutch that will not release is likely to have failed.

Clutch Pedal Hard To Press

Most of the time, this is something to do with the linkage or the return spring on the clutch. The fork or pivot ball could be obstructed or have been over-tightened when installed, the support structure for the pedal could have issues (firewall has "stretched" or cracked, for example), etc.

Check the return spring for stiffness and ensure that it's installed correctly. It could be "loose" or off-alignment, making it more difficult to compress. Pedal linkage to the master cylinder may be obstructed or the M/C and/or slave cylinder may themselves be the issue.

Clutch Won't Release or Won't Return

When the clutch is fully depressed, but gears are grinding anyway, you likely have a problem with your clutch's linkage being mis-adjusted. Loosening the linkage a bit may resolve the problem. Make sure to check the release cable before adjusting the linkage, however, as it could be broken or stretched and require adjustment.

Other causes could be a defective or leaking slave or master cylinder, hydraulic system, or improperly lubricated or worn input shaft splines. Be sure to check the pilot bushing/bearings as well. If you've recently changed the gear oil lubricating the clutch assembly, make sure you've used the right type for your vehicle/clutch. In cold weather, gear oil that is too heavy can cause binding as it thickens.

Last but not least, comes a clutch pedal that will not fully return. The clutch may be engaging, but occasional slips just after changing gears may happen if the pedal is slow in returning to its engaged position (all the way out). This is usually a bad return spring or resistance due to fork/ball attachments at the pivot.