What Does a Burnt Clutch Smell Like?

Imagine you are driving down the road when you suddenly smell something burning. You start to worry that your car is on fire, but as you drive closer to the smell, you realize it is coming from your clutch. If it is burning, it will typically smell like burned rubber.

Your clutch needs to be checked out as soon as you detect an odor of burning. Continuing to drive with a burnt clutch can cause extensive damage to your car and even lead to an accident.

 Keep reading to learn more about what does a burnt clutch smell like and how to fix it.

burnt clutch smell

What is a Clutch Plate?

To understand what a burnt clutch smells like, it is vital to know a bit about what is clutch plate & how it works. The clutch plate is a critical component of the car’s transmission system. It is a flat piece of metal that sits between the engine and the transmission.

This part transfers the engine’s power to the vehicle’s wheels. When you depress the clutch pedal, the engine and transmission are separated, allowing you to shift gears. Then it reconnects the two when you release the pedal, and power is transferred to the wheels once again.

If there is something wrong with your clutch plate, it can cause problems. For example, if the plate is worn out, it can cause the clutch to slip. The engine will rev up, but the car won’t move.

Or, if the plate is damaged, it can cause the clutch to engage suddenly, which can be very dangerous.  Thus, replace the old clutch plate immediately.

What Does a Burnt Clutch Smell Like

The burning smell of a burned-out clutch is like that of burnt rubber. If you detect this odor while driving, it’s essential to pull over and turn off the engine as soon as possible.

If you suspect you get the burning smell, there are a few signs of a bad grip you can watch out for a while driving.

Symptoms of Burnt Clutch

Car Cannot Move

If your clutch is burnt, the car may not move at all. This is because the plate cannot engage properly with the engine.

It may slip if you try to move the car, or it may not engage. If this happens, it is essential to turn off the engine and have the vehicle towed to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Bad Shifting

If the clutch is burning, you may also notice that the car has trouble shifting gears. It cannot disengage properly when you try to change gears. As a result, the gears may grind or may not engage at all.

Overheating Engine

Another symptom of a bad clutch is an overheating engine. This happens because the plate cannot disengage properly, which causes the engine to work harder than it should. As a result, the engine can overheat, and this can cause extensive damage.

Strange Noises

If the clutch is on fire, you may hear strange noises emanating from the engine. This is because the plate is not engaging correctly, which can cause a lot of friction. This friction can cause the clutch to make strange noises, such as grinding, squeaking, or clicking.

Vibrating Feeling in the Pedal

If you feel a vibrating feeling in the pedal, this is another symptom of a bad clutch. It happens because the plate is not engaging correctly and is causing the engine to vibrate.

Tough to Switch Speeds

If you find it tough to switch speeds while driving, this is another sign of a bad clutch. It happens because the plate is not functioning correctly and is causing the engine to work harder than it should. As a result, it’s difficult to change gears or maintain a consistent speed.

Causes of Burnt Clutch

There are several reasons your clutch may be burning.

  • One of the most common causes is clutch overheating. If it gets too hot, it can smoke and smell bad.
  • Another common cause of a burnt clutch is riding on it. You keep your foot on the pedal for too long without fully disengaging the plate. It can cause the plate to overheat and eventually burn.
  • If you shift gears too quickly, this can also cause the clutch to burn. This is because the plate cannot engage properly, which causes it to slip. As a result, the engine revs up, but the car doesn’t move.
  • Another cause of a burnt clutch is a bad flywheel. The flywheel keeps the engine running smoothly. If it is damaged, it can cause the engine to run erratically, leading to the parts burning out.
  • A bad transmission can also cause the clutch to burn out. If the transmission is not working correctly, it can cause to slip or engage suddenly. It can be hazardous and can lead to an accident.

How to Fix Burnt Clutch Smell?

If you have a burnt clutch smell, you can do a few things to fix it.

Check the Clutch Fluid

The first thing you need to do is check the clutch fluid. If it is low, it can cause a slip. To check the fluid, open the hood and locate the reservoir. On the driver’s side, it should be close to the firewall.

If it is empty, fill it up and check if the problem persists. If it does, you may need to bleed the system.

Bleed the Clutch System

If the fluid is low, you will need to bleed the system. This will remove any air bubbles that may be in the system. To bleed the system, you will need a bleeding kit. These are available at most auto parts stores.

Once you have the kit, follow the instructions carefully. If done correctly, this will fix the problem.

Change the Fluid

If the problem persists, you may need to change the clutch fluid and CVT fluid. To do this, you will need to drain the old fluid and then add new fluid. To do this, locate the bleeder valve on the firewall. It should be on the driver’s side near the top of the engine. Attach a length of clear tubing to the valve and place the other end in a container.

Open the valve and let the fluid drain out. Once it is finished, close the valve and remove the tubing.

Now, add new fluid to the reservoir. Fill it up until it reaches the “full” line. Once you have done this, start the engine and let it run for a few minutes.

If required, recheck the fluid level and add more. Once the level is correct, close the hood and check if the problem persists.

Replace the Clutch Plate

If the problem persists, you may need to replace the clutch plate. It is a relatively simple process, but it will require some special tools.

To do this, first, disconnect the battery. Next, locate the transmission dipstick and remove it. Now, find the bolts that hold the transmission to the engine. There should be two of them on either side of the transmission.

Remove the bolts and then carefully remove the transmission. Be careful not to damage the gasket.

Once the transmission is removed, locate the clutch plate. It will be on the back of the engine near the flywheel. Remove the plate and then install the new one.

Be sure to use a new gasket when installing the transmission. Once it is in place, reconnect the battery and start the engine.

burnt clutch replacement


1. Is Burning Clutch Smell Toxic?

Yes, the clutch smell is quite toxic. However, it can be very unpleasant and may cause nausea or vomiting.

2. What Happens If You Burn the Clutch?

If you burn the clutch, it can cause the engine to run erratically. And it can lead to an accident. Additionally, it can damage the flywheel and transmission.

3. How Do You Stop a Burning Clutch Smelling?

If you have a burning clutch smell, you can do a few things to fix it. Check the clutch fluid, bleed the system, or replace the fluid. You may also need to replace the plate.

4. Can You Burn a Clutch in One Day?

Yes, it is possible to burn a clutch in one day. However, it is more likely to happen if your driving skill is not up to par.

5. How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Burnt Clutch?

The cost to replace a burnt clutch will vary depending on the make and model of your car. However, it takes 500$ to 3000$.

Bottom Line

So there you have it. We hope this article has helped you understand what does a burnt clutch smell like. The next time you encounter this problem, you will know exactly how to fix it. It may just save you from experiencing an unfortunate situation down the road.


Mr. Rubel is an Engine Mechanic. He has more than 15 years’ experience on repair and maintenance of different kinds of vehicles. He is also providing training to mechanics and works as a Senior Mechanic of a well-known organization. He is sharing his knowledge to support the car lovers to solve the vehicle issues.

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