How Can You Tell if a Motorcycle Clutch Is Bad?

A motorcycle clutch is a device that converts the engine’s rotational motion into linear motion, allowing the rider to shift the bike from gear to gear without manually turning it. The clutch is located in the center of the motorcycle and, when engaged, transmits the engine’s power to the rear wheel.

But how can you tell if a motorcycle clutch is bad? In order to see if your motorcycle clutch is functioning properly, you first need to know how to diagnose it first. The most common symptoms of bad clutch plates are: there is a grinding sound, getting stuck in gear, lever is too stiff, not engaging first and second gear, worn out plates, and bike stalls.

Once you know the symptoms, and what they mean, you can use the tools mentioned below to see if the clutch is acting up.

Bad Motorcycle Clutch Symptoms

#1 There is a grinding sound when you try to engage the clutch.

The bike might have a slipping or grinding sound when trying to start it. This is usually a sign that the clutch is worn out. The clutch plates are made from hard metal and they wear out over time from all the friction from engaging and disengaging the clutch.

Engaging the clutch on a motorcycle can be a challenge, especially if you are not used to riding a motorcycle. If the clutch feels “sticky” or if there is a grinding sound when you try to engage the clutch, chances are you have to replace the clutch.

Tip: If you hear a grinding sound when you try to engage the clutch, the clutch is bad. Make sure to check the clutch before taking a long trip, as the clutch is a vital part of your motorcycle. If you need help with a clutch replacement, contact the local motorcycle shop for professional help.

#2 Your bike won’t go into gear

If you have a bike that won’t go into gear, the chances are that the problem is related to the clutch. The clutch is the mechanism within the engine that connects the flywheel to the transmission. It is probably worn, or the cable that connects the clutch to the transmission has become disconnected. If the clutch is worn, it will be harder to start the bike.

Watch how this guy’s bike is having a hard time every time he stops.

Tip: If the clutch does not allow you to shift gears smoothly, the clutch itself is probably bad. If the clutch is bad, you will need to replace it. If you are not sure if your clutch is bad, bring your bike to your mechanic.

#3 The lever is super stiff

This can be caused by a variety of things, including worn bearings and a friction plate that is worn and oil-starved. A master cylinder can also cause a clutch lever to get stiff, especially if it’s worn or disintegrated.

However, the most common cause of a stiff clutch lever is a worn clutch internals, especially the clutch disc itself. (If you can get the bike into gear and it has a really heavy clutch pedal, your clutch disc is also worn.) This is especially common for bikes that have been raced and abused. As the clutch disc wears, it causes the clutch lever to get stiff, leading to decreased efficiency and increased wear.

Tip: If you can’t get the clutch lever to move, you need to check if the clutch is bad. If the clutch cable and lever are in good condition, but the clutch still doesn’t work, you should check the part of the motorcycle where the clutch engages, such as the clutch hub.

#4 Clutch plates are worn out and don’t work as they should

The clutch plate is one of the most important element of a motorcycle’s transmission. It’s held together by number of bolts and it’s moved by a piston that moves in and out with the help of a flywheel. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that a clutch plate is worn out, and if that’s the case, it can cause serious problems with your bike’s shifting.

The wear comes from the friction between the clutch disc, the input shaft and the bearing you see in the picture. The result is that the plate gradually gets weaker and becomes less effective.

Tip: The best way to know if you have a worn out clutch plate is to take it apart and look at it. If the metal is shiny and flat, and the material is hard and brittle, then you need a new clutch plate. Taking the time to replace your clutch plate will ensure you will have a trouble-free ride.

#5 The bike stalls

Have you ever had a clutch in your motorcycle stall out, and then you realize it’s because of a bad clutch? This is a common occurrence with bikes that have a bike clutch installed. A common symptom of a bad motorcycle clutch is for the bike to stall out, and not be able to turn over. When this happens, the bike may be difficult to start again.

A motorcycle clutch is your connection to the engine, and lets you rev the motor. Without it, you can’t move the bike. When you want the bike to move, the clutch is engaged. When you don’t want the bike to move, the clutch is disengaged.

Tip: Knowing how to tell if a motorcycle clutch is bad is important for enjoying the ride the next time you hop on your hog. A bad clutch will result in the motorcycle stalling or the motorcycle engine failing to start. The best way to tell if a clutch is bad is to check the clutch plates. If they are bent, melted, or have holes in the plates, then you have a bad clutch.

How to Replace your Motorcycle Clutch?

Watch this video by Motorcyclist Magazine for the tutorial on how to replace your motorcycle clutch.


A bad clutch will slip, chatter, not disengage, and sometimes lock up. A motorcycle clutch that feels too easy to operate or can be engaged without pressure is sometimes a symptom of a problem. Inspecting the clutch and its related parts visually or by hand is sometimes a good place to start your troubleshooting.

The best way to find out if your clutch is bad is take it to a mechanic.

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