When comes to replacing your automobiles clutch, there are several factors that effect how much time the project may take to complete. In order to help you gauge how much time will be needed, whether you are doing it yourself, or hiring a mechanic, let's go over the main points of focus that factor in on clutch replacement.
First, I'm going to give you the crash course on clutches, so that you have a basic understanding of what your clutch is and how it helps your automobile function.
Your vehicles clutch works to help your transmission shift gears and keep the vehicle moving. The clutch also allows your engine to continue spinning freely, even when your vehicle is stopped. Without the clutch, your car would be in constant motion while the engine is on, which would make driving very difficult. Likewise, in a vehicle that has a clutch in need of replacement, your vehicle won't move at all, as most clutches do not break while in gear. No motion from the vehicle while the engine revs up, is usually sign number one that your clutch needs to be replaced.
Your clutch works by using a series of gears, bands, plates, springs and barrings. When a clutch is in need of replacement, it can be any number of these vital parts that needs to be replaced. A seasoned mechanic can often inform you of whether or not your entire clutch needs to be replaced, or just certain components. Though they will often have to remove the clutch in order to give you a definitive answer.
So, now that you know a little bit about your automobiles clutch, let's look at some of the factors that can increase or decrease the time it will take to replace your clutch.
#1. Transmission Type: Manual or Automatic?
Manual transmissions tend to have clutches with more parts, but they are often less complicated and less expensive to replace then clutches in vehicles with an Automatic transmission. Automatic transmission vehicles do not usually have clutch kits available through part shops, which can also make the project more daunting.
Let's say your transmission has already been removed from the vehicle. It would take 2-4 hours for an experienced mechanic to replace the clutch in this situation, so long as no other complications arose.
#2. FWD Vs. RWD
Front Wheel Drive (FWD) vehicles are well known for being much more menacing then Rear Wheel Drive (RWD) vehicles. With a FWD vehicle, your engine and transmission are often mated and seated in your engine compartment as a unit. In order to change the clutch, you often have to remove the entire unit, un-mate the engine and transmission, remove and replace the clutch, and then re-mate the engine and transmission before putting the unit back in the vehicle. In order to do this, you will also have to disassemble the wheel spindles, CV shafts, the radiator, hoses, electric, air system and many other components along the way. Then you'll have to replace everything afterward. Besides the obvious intense labor involved in this, you can run into such complications and not properly aligning the drive shaft or bending the drive shaft while putting the unit back into the engine compartment. Both complications can require you to do the job all over again, and are not the worst complications that can arise.
In RWD vehicles, the job is much less intimidating. You'll still be required to un-mate the transmission from the engine in order to replace the clutch. Though as the transmission will be a separate unit from the engine, you can leave the engine in the vehicle, avoid disconnecting most of the front end of the vehicle and just pull the transmission away from the vehicle. Then you replace the clutch, re-mate the transmission to the engine and your done. The complications of clutch replacement in a RWD vehicle are few and far between when compared to a FWD, even for a novice.
If your vehicle has is FWD, you can add an extra 4 to 8 hours to your project timeline. If your vehicle is a RWD, you can add between 2 and 4 hours to the job, which mostly depend on your experience.
#3. Clutch Kit or Singular Components?
To tell you the truth, getting a clutch kit and replacing every component in your clutch system is much easier, cost effective and efficient then trying to replace single components. Part of the reason for this, is that it can be difficult to pinpoint one particular component of the clutch that needs to be replaced. Unless of course, you've been repairing clutches for 40 years. Another good reason to replace the whole clutch, is that even if you can pinpoint one particular part that is causing your clutch malfunction, the odds are that if you don't replace the rest of the clutch at that time, you will soon need to go back in and change more parts later. So it's good to ask yourself, how often do you want to go through the process to get to your clutch? It's also less time consuming to replace the whole clutch, then to try and find specific parts that are worn.
If you are replacing the entire clutch with a kit, you can add 1 hour to your project. If you are attempting to pinpoint and replace only certain components, you can add 2 to 4 hours to your project.
#4. Drive Train Mileage: High or Low?
Mileage makes a difference. If your vehicle is brand new and has less then 50,000 miles on it, then most of your parts, including the clutch are probably still in great condition. This is especially important when it comes to the process of getting to your clutch. If your vehicle is high mileage, then most of the parts are probably worn, rusty, oil covered and have a higher potential for breaking as the project continues.
There is no definitive timeline for this project if your vehicle has higher or lower mileage, though if you have bolts, parts and other components breaking or stripping along the way, then you can add anywhere from 1 to 5 hours to the job. It really depends on the condition of your vehicle and how much more you'll have to replace. I've had some vehicles where all of the transmission bolts were worn and broke, the housing was cracked, linkages needed new springs, other bolts were stripped (requiring special tools to remove), gaskets were old and tore on the way out, and the engine and transmission were covered in built up grease and oil. All of these things complicate the process.
#5. The Proper Tools
I have known very crafty mechanics who can complete this entire project using two screw drivers, a few select sockets, a pair of pliers and some wrenches. While this is one way to do it, this is certainly not ideal, especially if you do not have a lot of experience replacing clutches. Most experienced mechanics will not even attempt to replace a clutch without all the proper tools for the job. The obvious reason is that it takes less time and you bleed a lot less during the process.
If you have all the proper tools for the job, you can shave off an hour or two from your project time. If your tool selection is limited, you can add 2 to 5 hours to your timeline.
#6. DIY Vs. Mechanic: Experience Makes a Difference
I have always applauded those who choose to do their own vehicular repairs. Not only do you learn something along the way, but you can take the responsibility for any thing that goes wrong, and you'll have direct awareness of your process, making it easier to understand what when wrong. Even with that in mind, DIY can add lots of time to your project. Whereas an experienced mechanic who has replaced dozens of clutches already, can easily complete the job in timely manner.
If you are DIY and you have little to no experience in the project, you can add 2 to 5 days or more to your project. If you are hiring a skilled mechanic to do the job, depending on their experience, it can take 5 to 12 hours to complete the job.
#7. Specialty Vehicles
Specialty vehicles can also make or break your clutch repair time. Some high end vehicles include components such as valves, extra gears or dual clutches. Other high end vehicles might require special tools that would otherwise be unnecessary on most other vehicles. Mercedes, BMW's and Ferrari's are famous for this type of thing.
If your vehicle is high end, you can add a few extra hours plus extra $$$ to your project.
To summarize: In the perfect situation, your clutch replacement could take from 4 to 8 hours to complete.
Though since most vehicles in need of clutch replacement are not in perfect shape, it can often take between 5 and 10 hours to complete the project, adding more time for less experience on the mechanics part.