1996 Dodge Neon Slipping Clutch

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Under moderate acceleration, the clutch on my 1996 manual 5-speed (150K miles) seems to be slipping. I did the "Clutch Spin Down Time" & "Complete Clutch Release" tests in my Haynes Manual and passed both. I think that maybe the rear seal is leaking oil onto my clutch or the release bearing is shot. I'm getting ready to take the car to AAMCO and I'd like not to get taken to the cleaners on this repair. I have the modular clutch assembly.

Does it make sense to go to AAMCO or should I get my own modular clutch assembly (on-line, NAPA, or wherever) and find a local mechanic to put it in?

posted by  rklandry

First off, I'd like to say thank you for being so clear and concise about your problem. It's a refreshing change.

First question is, how long has the clutch been in there? A clutch in that sort of car should last you around 120 000 km, depending on how you drive. Are you experiencing any other symptoms, like chattering or any other weird noises?

If you suspect a blown seal, take a quick look at the bottom of the bell housing. If your rear main is gone you should find oil down there. Keep in mind that it could be the front seal on your transmission too, as the clutch is sandwiched between the two.

As far as having the clutch assembly replaced goes, if you go to an independent mechanic just make sure it's one you can trust. And on that note, if you've found a mechanic you trust, keep in touch with him. It took me over a year to find one that I really liked, but then I do most of the work on my car myself.

It's important to find out if your rear main is indeed gone while you're having the clutch assembly replaced. If there's an oil leak the new one will wear out pretty quickly.

posted by  Martian

Thanks for your prompt reply. The clutch is the original with about 150,000 miles on it. Because I drive the car very gently (no jack-rabbit starts & popping the clutch), I doubt that the clutch plate is heat or friction damaged. I don't believe that I'm "riding" the clutch. From time to time, the car will have a shaky start in first gear. It will hold speed OK with cruise control but if I hit the gas, I can feel (and watch on the tach) the RPMs rise out of proportion to the speed gained - it's slipping, I'm sure. I'll do more checking for oil leaks. I'd be sure to have the seals replaced since they'll have the transaxle off anyway.

I'm going to be either selling or donating this car in about 10 months time, but I need it for a trip across America in February/March. I don't want to get stranded in the Rocky Mountains, so I have to decide if I'm going fix this clutch or take the trip with my pickup truck instead.

posted by  rklandry

You're well beyond the normal lifespan of a typical clutch assembly. Bear in mind that no matter how kind you are to them, they are a mechanical part and do wear out eventually. Given that, I'd say that it's probably just the clutch plate itself and not the seals, but it's still worth checking. If there's too much dirt under there try a bit of brake cleaner and then leave for a few hours, so that if there's oil dripping enough will collect to be noticable.

For a road trip of that length, definitely look into getting AAA if you don't have it already. I have the Canadian equivalent and it's invaluable.

EDIT - Just broke out the calculator, 150 000 miles is somewhere around 250 000 km. Or, going the other way, my calculator also tells me that the 120 000 km figure I gave you above actually works out to about 80 000 miles. Either way, I'd say you've gotten quite a bit of use out of it.

posted by  Martian

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