Clutch Safety Switch

March 28, 2017

One of the safety devices installed on manual transmission vehicles prevents the driver from starting the vehicle when the clutch pedal is not pressed is the Clutch Safety Switch. This component is called the clutch safety switch, or simply, clutch switch. Without this switch, starting the vehicle while it is in gear is possible, which will cause the vehicle to lurch forward or backward, depending on in which gear the transmission was left.

Symptoms of Wear or Failure of the Clutch Safety Switch

  • Engine will not start: when the clutch safety switch malfunctions, the clutch pedal may be pressed, but the switch does not allow the starter to crank the engine, the switch is likely faulty or has become loose.

  • Vehicle starts in any gear, without the clutch pedal being pressed: another way the clutch switch fails, is by sticking, allowing the starter to crank the engine at any time. This does allow the vehicle to be driven, however, it creates the risk of the vehicle lurching forward anytime the key is turned to ‘start’.

  • Pressing the clutch repeatedly is needed to start the engine: when the manual transmission clutch switch fails, it may not fail completely. Instead, there is a possibility that the switch will work intermittently, and repeatedly pressing the clutch pedal may allow the engine to start. If this occurs, the clutch switch may be on its last leg.

  • Cannot start the engine with the remote: when the clutch safety switch has an issue, factory remote starters will not work. They are designed to start the vehicle when the transmission has been left in neutral only. If this happens to you, try putting the vehicle in neutral, closing and locking all doors, and re-attempt starting with the remote. It also may be necessary to first start the vehicle manually.

Repair Related Advice

  • Many times, the DIY mechanic will simply short the switch in order to start their vehicle. While this may get the engine started, again, there is a risk of starting the vehicle in gear, which may lead to a collision.

  • When installing aftermarket alarms with remote starting capability, many businesses or individuals will short the neutral safety switch to enable the remote starter to work. This is an ill-advised practice, especially since there is not a driver in control of the vehicle when remote starting.

  • There are many issues that can cause the starter to fail to crank the engine, and the safety switch is only one of them. Proper testing of the switch is essential to diagnosing the clutch switch, and replacement without testing will likely not correct a no-start issue.

  • The clutch safety switch is only found on true manual transmission vehicles. Dual-clutch gearboxes, like PDK or DSG, do not use the switch because there is no clutch pedal.



About the Author

Kimberlea Buczeke is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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