by Richard Rowe
Hemera Technologies / PhotoObjects.net / Getty Images
Oil in your car’s clutch can really ruin your day, especially if you consider that it can cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, oil, coolant, or even rainwater can get into your clutch and ruin it beyond simple drying or burning.
Oil in the clutch plate almost always comes from a leak in the rear main seal, but it could also come from an oil gallery plug or a loose or leaking oil pan. While oil from other places can seep into the transmission bell from other sources, it’s good that it’s not enough to penetrate the clutch disc.
Clutch slippage is the first and most obvious symptom, but your nose will tell the real story. The burning clutch material has a particular odor, something like sulfur or rotten eggs. If you smell burning oil instead of clutch material, it means that the clutch disc is contaminated.
Consequences and solution
Oil doesn’t just settle on the surface of the friction material; gets soaked and embedded in material. Once the oil is in, there is no way to get it out without soaking the clutch in boiling solvent or caustic, which would destroy the clutch. Whatever happens, you are looking for clutch removal and replacement.