How to Adjust the Clutch on Volkswagen Cars

by Contributing Writer

Driving a Volkswagen car with a manual transmission can be fun, and it gives you more control over the car. You can use the clutch to decelerate, lower the torque to the wheels, accelerate at higher rpm and even kill the engine. The whole system hinges on a clutch, which you use to change gears in the transmission and keep them from grinding each other during the speeding up and slowing down process of driving. If the clutch begins to feel less responsive or has too much slack, you may need to adjust it.

Under The Hood:

 How to Adjust the Clutch on a Volkswagen Golf

Locate the clutch cable adjuster in the engine compartment. The cable adjuster, which consists of a white plastic adjuster and steel locknut, is on top of the transaxle on the left or driver's side of the engine compartment. Look for the white plastic locknut atop the transaxle just to the left of the battery as you are looking from the front of the vehicle. The clutch cable leads from the clutch cable adjuster through the firewall to the clutch cable.

Turn off the engine and set the parking brake.

Depress the clutch pedal with your hand and feel how much free play or easy movement it has before you feel clutch resistance. The free play is the first easy movement in the pedal and you can test it by pushing the pedal with your finger. In contrast, you will probably need to use your whole hand to disengage the clutch and push the pedal the rest of the way to the floor.

Measure the free play distance in the clutch pedal by holding the ruler at a right angle to the movement of the pedal. The specification for free play in the Golf clutch is 5/8 inch or 15mm. If the free play is greater than this it requires adjustment.

Push the clutch pedal in and release it several times before making adjustments.

Loosen the clutch cable locknut with a wrench. Tighten the cable adjuster with your fingers until there is the specified amount of clutch free play. In 1985 and later models, insert the 15/32-inch spacer between the plastic flange of the adjuster and the transaxle housing beneath it. Turn the adjuster counterclockwise until the flange is snug on the spacer, and then tighten the locknut. Remove the spacer.

Test the free play again to ensure it is still correct and make adjustments as necessary.

Items you will need

  • Wrench set

  • 6-inch ruler

  • 15/32-inch or 12mm spacer

 How to Adjust the Clutch in a VW Passat

Check the level of the clutch fluid in the reservoir in the VW Passat if the clutch isn't responding as it should. Fill the reservoir, which is located in the rear left of the engine bay, and pump the clutch pedal a few times to restore the pressure in the lines. If the level doesn't stay the same, this could be a sign of a leak in the system, either in the reservoir itself or the lines, or master or slave cylinders. Replace or repair any leaking parts.

Replace the "stop clip" at the top of the clutch pedal in the VW Passat should you notice that the clutch pedal sits higher than the brake pedal. Some drivers report that the stop clip can come off fairly easily. Fortunately, you can replace the clip easily, or purchase another without shelling out lots of money. Remember to readjust the "self adjusting" clutch by lifting the clutch pedal with your foot after you replace the clip.

Bleed the clutch to rid the hydraulic system of any air bubbles. Take out the screws that secure the coolant tank, and undo the "coolant level sender connector from the bottom of the tank." Angle the tank up, toward the engine, and look for the bleeder valve on slave cylinder where the coolant tank had been. Take off the dust cap, attach rubber tubing to the bleeder valve, and the other end to the to the bleeder kit that contains clean clutch fluid. Make sure the hose runs higher than the bleeder valve so air can't get in the system. Open the bleeder valve with a 9mm wrench, and flush the system until you don't see any air bubbles in the container and the fluid looks clean. Remove the tubing, close the valve, and put the coolant level sender connector and coolant tank back in place.

 How to Adjust the Clutch in a VW Jetta

Check beneath the hood for the clutch fluid reservoir in your VW Jetta. It's a simple adjustment, and inexpensive, but can save you big bucks in the long run. If the reservoir is cracked, it could be leaking as well as introducing air into the hydraulic system. Replace it, and your clutch should return back to normal.

Adjust the clutch cable should you have that capacity in your VW Jetta. Do this by lifting the arm, pushing down and holding the cable's self adjuster. After you pump the clutch a few times, the clutch will adjust.

Replace the clutch cable of the VW Jetta with one that you adjust manually, rather than relying on the stock self-adjusting cable. In this manner, you are able to adjust the clutch as you wish.

Bleed the hydraulic system to get rid of any air bubbles that would affect the height of the clutch. To bleed the system, look beneath the vehicle for the slave cylinder. The slave cylinder has a bleeder screw that is a 8mm hex head or a 11mm hex head. Have someone pump the clutch pedal at your prompting to bleed the system, after removing the bleeder screw.

Items you will need

  • Wrench for 8mm hex head or a 11mm hex head bolt

  • Clutch fluid

 How to Adjust the Clutch in a VW Beetle

Check the level of the clutch fluid in the VW Beetle. If the level is low, this can affect the clutch's performance. Topping off the fluid is one of the simplest ways to adjust the VW Beetle's clutch. You'll find the reservoir located behind the spare tire. If the fluid level decreases again, you should look to see if there is a leak in a reservoir, and if necessary, replace it.

Adjust the VW Beetle's clutch pedal by turning the knob adjuster inside the cabin of the VW Beetle. Test the pedal to see whether you like where the pedal engages. You can adjust it in either direction--either higher so the pedal engages closer to the top, or lower so it engages closer to the floor.

Jack the rear of the VW Beetle, remove the left rear wheel, and look for the housing of the transmission. Attached to the housing is the clutch cable and a nut for the cable. Turn this nut to adjust the clutch, and test the results.

 How to Adjust the Clutch on a 1996 VW Jetta

Locate the clutch adjustment mechanism in the engine bay of the car.

Slide the locking strap down to the top of the mechanism's protective covering.

Compress the adjustment mechanism and hook the straps over the lugs protruding from the side.

Press the clutch pedal while someone else pulls the clutch cable, taking care to keep the adjustment mechanism compressed.

Unhook the locking mechanism straps and depress the clutch pedal several times until the tension is good.

Items you will need

  • Basic tool set

  • Helper