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Motorcycle Clutch Slipping: Symptoms & Fixes

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Motorcycle clutch slipping is a problem that can occur when the clutch disc and flywheel are not able to grip each other tightly enough.

This can cause the engine to stall, or cause the motorcycle to lurch forward or backward.

In either case, it’s going to cause your bike to run rough.

There are several symptoms of bad clutches, and there are also several ways to fix the problem.

We’ll go over the causes of a slipping clutch, plus some common fixes for the issue.

Signs that Your Motorcycle Clutch is Going Bad

Some signs that your bike’s clutch could be going bad include:

  1. It’s revving higher than normal.
  2. Engine stalls or lurches unexpectedly.
  3. Gear shifts become difficult.
  4. Your gas mileage is going down.
  5. Poor acceleration.
  6. Burning oil smell.

1. Revving Higher than Normal

This can be a sign that the clutch slipping is getting worse and needs attention.

If the clutch plates don’t catch, your engine will continue to rev under no power at all speeds and throttle positions. You’ll hear and feel the higher revs when you open the throttle, but get no response or a delayed response from the bike.

2. Engine Stalls or Lurches

If your bike’s engine suddenly stalls, or it jerks forward or backward without warning, this could be caused by slipping clutches. 

This can happen as the clutch plates gain and lose their grip against each other while the clutch is supposed to be engaged.

3. Gear Shifts Become Difficult

If shifting gears becomes more difficult than usual, it could mean the clutch slipping is getting worse and needs to be addressed.

Clunky shifting or hard shifting, can indicate that the plates are not coming apart as they should. Continuing to shift like this can cause more damage to the clutch, transmission, and gear shifter parts.

4. Poor Gas Mileage

If you’re seeing your gas mileage go down—usually in conjunction with other signs like higher revs—even though you aren’t riding more than usual, slipping clutches could be the culprit. 

Wider throttle positions = more fuel used. If that’s matched with powerless revs, you’ll be using up gas without making any forward motion.

5. Poor Acceleration

If it’s taking longer than usual for your motorcycle to accelerate, slipping clutches could be causing the problem.

6. Burning Oil Smell

If your motorcycle starts to smell like burning oil, slipping clutches could be the cause of it.

What does a slipping clutch on a motorcycle feel like?

When you ride your motorcycle and the clutch is slipping, it can feel like your bike is losing power, or that it’s struggling to accelerate while revving up extraordinarily high.

A slipping clutch can have a similar feeling to other issues you might have with your motorcycle.

Several things like bad spark plugs can make your bike feel like it is losing power and is having difficulty acceleration.

The tell-tale sign that it could be a slipping clutch is that it is revving high while feeling like it’s losing power.

If you aren’t sure it’s a slipping clutch, you should have a professional inspect your bike and diagnose the problem.  

Common Causes of a Slipping Clutch

The most common cause of slipping clutches is worn out parts.

Over time, the friction plates and other components of the clutch system will wear down.

This can lead to slipping because the parts can’t grip onto each other tightly enough to keep the flywheel and crankshaft rotating. 

Another common cause is a lack of lubrication in the clutch system.

Without proper lubrication, the clutch plates won’t be able to move freely and they won’t be able to grip onto each other tightly enough to work properly.

Using the wrong type of oil can also cause slipping as can having too much oil in the system.

Finally, an incorrect clutch adjustment or installation can also lead to slipping clutches.

If your bike has been recently serviced and you start noticing slipping, it could be due to improper adjustment. 

Refer to your motorcycle service manual to make sure the clutch cable and adjustment screws are set correctly.

How to Fix a Motorcycle Clutch

To diagnose slipping clutches in your motorcycle, check for any wear and tear on the clutch disc and flywheel.

If they appear to be worn out, burnt, or discolored, it means that the slipping is due to wear and tear.

Replacing them should fix the slipping problem.

However, if you do not see any physical damage on the discs or flywheels, then the slipping could be caused by low-quality oil or dirt buildup in the system.

In this case, simply removing the dirt and replacing it with high-quality oil should do the trick. 

You will likely need to perform an oil change, disassemble the clutch basket, clean the clutch, reassemble the system, and add new oil and an oil filter.

If none of these solutions work for you, then your slipping clutch problem may require more serious attention from a professional mechanic.

The mechanic can check for other issues like misalignment of components or air bubbles in the fluid lines which might be causing slipping clutches in your motorcycle.