Clutches can fail in a number of ways, but the most obvious is when the
clutch disc wears out. The operation starts feeling "soft" - it no longer
matters how fast you let the clutch pedal out because the clutch slips
anyway (the engine won't stall, and there is no big jerk when you "pop" the
clutch). If that is happening, drive very gently until you can have the
clutch replaced. A light foot on the throttle when starting off and shifting
can delay the inevitable a few months, while a heavy foot can leave the car
where it sits within a day or two.
Sometimes they fail the other way; the pressure plate or either of the
bearings can fail in ways that prevent the clutch from fully disengaging.
Shifting becomes difficult, and you may not be able to get into reverse
without forcing it. As we've recently been reminded, those symptoms can come
from the clutch hydraulic cylinders that are not actually part of the clutch
itself... everything else requires a clutch replacement to fix. If this is
happening to you, check out the thread, "Accord Manual transmission
question" that started Nov 27.
Finally, they can become noisy. The noise can be when the clutch is
depressed, or when it is not. Either way the cure is the same - clutch
replacement - but most people elect to ignore the noise. It can go many
years without getting worse. I've never personally had a noisy clutch fail
because of the noise.
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