How Can I Change the Clutch in a Front Wheel Drive Car?

by Nathaniel Miller
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Replacing the clutch in a front wheel drive car can be required after clutch failure or to provide a stronger clutch for racing or performance purposes. However, the process of actually replacing the clutch in a front wheel drive car is fairly complicated and is considered one of the more difficult replacement processes for a home mechanic. Replacing the clutch in a front wheel drive car involves either pulling the engine or dropping the transaxle out of the car because the transmission itself actually sits inside the engine.

Pull the Engine

One method of replacing the clutch is to pull the engine out of the car and then drop the transaxle out. This method is very involved as you will need to place the car on jackstands somewhere solid and then begin unbolting all of the internal pieces that connect to the engine. Unbolt the exhaust, both front axles, the fuel system, the electrical system and all of the cooling system hoses. Unbolt the engine mounting bolts, and then use an engine puller to lift the engine and transmission out of the car. Unbolt the transmission, and then replace the clutch which is located between the transmission and engine.

Dropping Transaxle

The second method you can employ is to leave the engine in the car, and simply drop the transaxle and transmission out of the engine. You will need to set the car on jackstands again, and then unbolt the wheel and the steering knuckle from the wheel hub. Use a gear puller to pull the axles out of the engine and drain all of the transmission oil. Use a jack to support the transmission as you unbolt it from the engine housing and then lower it out of the car. Switch out the clutch located between the transmission and the engine.

Clutch Replacement

Once the transmission is separated from the engine, remove the bolts surrounding the pressure plate followed by the bolts holding the flywheel. Slide the flywheel and pressure plate off, and then examine the clutch plates beneath. Place the new clutch in its stead, and then install the flywheel followed by the pressure plate. Make sure to properly align the pressure plate using the tool provided in the clutch kit. Slide the transmission back in place, and then reinstall everything that was disconnected to get to the clutch in the first place (i.e. reinstall the transaxle and transmission or reinstall the entire engine).

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