A bad clutch is a major annoyance. When your clutch starts to wear out, it's harder to launch your motorcycle from a standstill, which slows you down. It also makes gear changes more difficult. If your clutch wears out enough, gear changes become nearly impossible and riding your motorcycle goes from being difficult to being dangerous. Some riders are harder on clutches than others, depending on how hard you push your motorcycle, how much you ride the clutch and how long you've had your motorcycle.
How to Tell if Your Clutch Is Bad
When your clutch first starts to slip, you'll generally notice it during acceleration as opposed to high speed. The friction materials on your clutch slide against each other as the motion from the flywheel drives the clutch plate and transmission gears. If these materials start to get worn or the springs forcing them together get weak, they don't grab as well. The more time you spend with your motorcycle, the more you get to know how it feels under acceleration, so in many cases, even a slight difference in acceleration will jump out at you.
As your clutch wears out more, you'll start to detect slippage in top gear as well. Eventually, the pressure plate in your clutch can't maintain adequate pressure to ensure the power from your engine is transferred to your transmission, and you'll suffer from constant slippage at high speed. This creates more wear, and the problem will quickly get worse.
If you detect slippage in your clutch either during acceleration or in top gear, it’s a good idea to check your clutch fluid. In some cases, air in the fluid can allow slippage and make it feel like the clutch itself is bad. Once you’ve bled your clutch fluid, take your motorcycle for a ride and see if the problem is still there. If it is, you’ll need to disassemble your clutch and measure the material thickness (stack height). Check the guidelines for clutch thickness for your make and model of motorcycle. If they’re too worn down, the only solution is replacing them.
It May Not Be Your Clutch at All
If you are experiencing rattling, it may not be your clutch at all, it may be your cam chain tensioner (CCT). Your tensioner is designed to maintain constant tension on your cam chain for smooth engine operation and reduced vibrations, so any slack can affect how your engine runs and give you symptoms similar to those of a bad clutch.
Why Is My Clutch Slipping?
One reason for a slipping clutch is spring wear. The springs in your clutch are what force the two halves of your clutch assembly together. The force required to keep your flywheel and clutch plate in contact is very high, especially if you accelerate hard or drive at high speeds. Over time, your springs will eventually wear out, creating more and more slippage. At the first sign of slipping or clutch problems, take the time to diagnose and repair so you don’t do any further damage and can avoid a breakdown out on the road or track.
Worn friction materials is another possible cause of motorcycle clutch slipping. While some wear of your clutch plate and basket is normal — since all moving mechanical components will eventually wear out — abnormal or excessive wear of one or both of your clutch friction materials means you need to make repairs.
If you're handy with a toolkit, you can replace or upgrade your worn clutch components. In most cases, changing your clutch plate and basket at the same time ensures the two halves are optimized, since wear of the mating part can often cause problems with the new one. Check out our selection of high-performance clutch upgrades for your Ducati motorcycle here at Design Corse.
Avoid losing power and reducing the performance and reliability of your motorcycle due to a worn or slipping clutch. When you start to notice clutch slippage problems, follow our guidelines for diagnosing and repairing your clutch so your bike is always at its best.
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