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clutch going out??

21 September 2000
Bellevue, WA, USA
I was driving my girlfriend home from dinner Saturday night while cruising at 70mph when all of a sudden the engine started reving up. My first reaction was "oh, we must be going uphill" cause we were going uphill.
In the other side of the hill while going down, the engine started reving again. Now I'm getting scare so I took cruise off and hit the gas pedal. To my surprise, the gas pedal was not responding. As I pressed the gas pedal harder, I saw & heard the engine reved up to 4.5K rmp at 60mph, but the car was neither accelerating nor decelerating. I quickly exit and came to a complete stop. I popped the car into first and stepped on the gas pedal and to my horror the car was crawling. I stopped and popped the engine cover and smell a burning odor coming from the engine bay. Holy sh*t!! What did I blow…clutch, a belt, engine gasket, etc?!?!?! But luckily we were only a mile from my place, so I played with the car and got us home cruising at 5 mph on first gear running at 5k rmp. It was embarrassing but not as embarrassing if it was daylight.

Since my ’96 NSXT is my first (YES, first!) manual car, is this what it feels like when the clutch is slipping or gone? Oh yeah, I should mentioned that it has 43k on it with the stock clutch. Should I get stock or aftermarket clutch for a longer life span? I don’t do any heavy driving except for some minor quick joy ride to Safeway for emergency supply like beer and pizza and some crazy trips down to California.

is this what it feels like when the clutch is slipping or gone?

Yes, this is what it feels like when the clutch is wearing out and needs to be replaced. The word "slipping" has a specific meaning with respect to clutches - it means that the gear is not fully engaged, hence it's "slipping" (the plates in the clutch aren't gripping each other). Which is exactly what yours is doing.

This is described in a bit more detail in the FAQ at http://www.nsxprime.com/FAQ/Troubleshooting/clutch.htm

(Hey, you knew that was coming, right?)

I should mentioned that it has 43k on it with the stock clutch.

That's a fairly typical lifespan for a clutch. Some go sooner, some later. As noted in the you-know-what.

Should I get stock or aftermarket clutch for a longer life span?

For the longest life span and most reliability, and given your moderate driving patterns, I would recommend the stock clutch.
I checked out the FAQ before posting, but it really didn't talk about the symptoms.


Diagnosing A Bad Clutch

[AW] Another list member asked me, in so many words, how I tell if my clutch needs replacing. Since this is a rather challenging thing to describe via the written word, for the sake of comment and debate, here's what I wrote. Comments? Improved descriptions?

When I disengage it it makes a creaking/groaning noise, and the pedal action is "sticky". I'm pretty sure this is dust buildup and/or lack of lubrication on the tranmission mainshaft shaft splines on which the clutch slides. The reason I think that is because a couple times when I've driven the car really hard the problem's gone away for a couple days. This suggests to me that the high centrifugal force developed when I run at high RPMS for a while throws the dust and stuff off the shaft.

More importantly, the clutch never engages "with authority". In other words, if I accelerate at full throttle in 1st, shift, and simultaneously and suddenly release the clutch and re-floor the throttle going into 2nd, the clutch should basically "bang" into gear and the RPMs instantly drop to about 5,000 and start climbing; in other words, it should provide a sensation of slamming the car forward and perhaps chirping the rear tires. Instead, what my car does is engage over a period of, say, 1/2 second, where as it engages it drags the RPMs from 8,000 down to (say) 5,000 and then begins accelerating in 2nd gear. This is typical behavior of a worn clutch who's ability to transmit the engine's full torque is marginal. This latter behavior is what people probably talk about observing on the tachometer: the RPMs sort of hover just after the shift before dropping into the right range for full engagement in the next gear.

One specific test I can do that demonstrates the above phenomenon is to accelerate up a slight hill in (say) second to about 4,000 RPM, and while holding a moderate amount of throttle, very quickly jab and release the clutch. With a good clutch the effect will again be that the revs will suddenly rise as I depress the clutch, but when I release it the clutch should snap into engagement and "bang" the car. Instead, the engages "slowly" i.e. over a period of a large fraction of a second.

In any event, don't assume you need a new clutch due to mileage. The only real reason to replace it is if it "slips" enough to bother you. IOW, it demonstrates the above indefinite behavior with respect to engaging fully and suddenly at full throttle."

[This message has been edited by FAQ Nazi (edited 27 March 2001).]
P.S. I really like the part when I enter a post and the screen says "Thanks for posting your message, FAQ Nazi!"

It knows who I am.

[This message has been edited by FAQ Nazi (edited 27 March 2001).]
Mine seems to grab fine while driving under any condition I put it through, however when I take off and kinda ride the clutch a little bit and give it fairly heavy gas, it makes a high pitch, whirring sound as if it is slipping a bit.... if I take off normally, I launch fine and go through the gears without a problem.. It's probably a little worn so I assuming this is also a sign of wear...???? The other side of the coin is that there aren't any hills here in So. Fla. so I wouldn't know if it would slip going up a hill...
when I take off and kinda ride the clutch a little bit and give it fairly heavy gas, it makes a high pitch, whirring sound as if it is slipping a bit....

This sounds to me like the problem is with your driving. You shouldn't ride the clutch. There's no need to step on the clutch pedal except when you're shifting gears (or coming to a full stop). If it isn't slipping with your foot off the clutch, there's nothing wrong with it.
Hail, FAQ Nazi!! I'll kill two chicken in your name!!

Yeah, I read that section before and (now) again. However, I don't experience any clutch pedal 'stickiness' or hear any funny noises when disengaging the pedal you mentioned. But I do experience the high pitch and high engine reving mentioned. Maybe I'm just deaf and choose not to hear my aluminum baby screaming at me...

I spoke to a friend at the dealership in Bellevue, WA and got a good deal on a new clutch $1531 (parts/labor). My car will be up and ready by the end of today.

Thanks for the slap...<I think>
What's wierd to me is that it seemed like your problem with the clutch was very sudden. Usually, you get some "warning" before the clutch gets to the state where you can barely drive it. From my experience with worn clutches, once the clutch starts slipping from normal driving, you have about a week to 2 weeks before it gets so bad that you can hardly drive on it(very similar to what you experienced). Did you have any warnings or slipping before this happened?

As fyi, you'll go through a clutch very quickly on your first manual car as you're learning how to use your clutch effectively. My guess is that you've had slipping before this happened and that you probably didn't know that it was happening. In time, you'll learn and be 'in tune' with your NSX about every little detail. The brakes, clutch, tires, suspension, etc. I think there's a word for it. "sickness"
Also, a slipping clutch makes a very distinctive odor (presumably the odor you smelled). You should recognize it so that you know that it is a bad thing when you smell it. Sometimes it's almost unavoidable - like, say, when you have to move the car forward by three inches on an incline - but even then, it's not good for the car. And if the clutch is slipping when your foot is off, it may very well need replacing.
johndoh, there was no warning what-so-ever. It just happened (like most thing in my life.) The car is still drive-able at this stage; meaning no fancy quick pickup, but rather a slow start with some gas/clutch pedal controls. Anything beyond that would seem like I'm taunting the other drivers. Now that I think about the "warning" sign(s), the clutch pedal has been failing to disengage fully from time to time, but there were no slipping. Then a couple of days later the clutch pedal magically worked again. Sometime I guess one’s gotta learn the hard way. (Why me, lord??)

Yeah, 1.5k for a replacement is a bargain but I still think Honda should have made a better clutch IMO.
Getting over 40K on a sports car clutch is pretty good.

I got 39K miles on my original NSX clutch. That included some 50 or so track events. That's damn good IMHO. I was happy to replace mine with another stock Honda clutch.
MRacer, you should schedule an appointment asap to have the clutch looked at and replaced if necessary(which is most likely) and try not to drive anymore than you have to. Driving on a overly worn out clutch can scorch parts in the housing(I believe it's the flywheel) which will be more to replace than just the clutch.

Whoops!! Looks like you already scheduled the appointment.

On the lighter side, whatever you do, make sure you don't do this!!

[This message has been edited by johndoh (edited 28 March 2001).]