Don’t Slip Up: How to Fix Dirt Bike and ATV Clutch Problems

Slipping much?

Veteran dirt bike and ATV riders can identify a clutch gone bad quite easily but new riders may not know what’s happening. If you ride a car with a manual clutch, the signs you need to get it checked on your dirt bike or ATV are quite similar.

The big one is gear slippage. Before you panic about a bad clutch first check the chain and sprockets. Replace everything even if one tooth is missing or the chain looks weathered and worn. If all looks good and you still slip when there’s appropriate slack on the chain then chances are the clutch is burned out. But before you start taking things apart…

Next, check the clutch cable. If it’s not adjusted properly or the cable is frayed or binding it can mimic the symptoms of a bad clutch. Clutch control should be smooth and allow full engagement. Tighten and lubricate if necessary. Last on your check list is taking a test ride…

When riding, if the gears refuse to shift or refuse to disengage then the clutch either needs adjustment or replaced. The other tell-tale sign is the clutch smells. The clutch on a dirt bike or ATV is bathed in oil so as it wears down it not only slips but stinks like burning oil. If you ride a 4-stroke you’re less likely to encounter clutch problems. You have to fan the clutch a lot on a 2-stroke so you’ll be well acquainted with clutch adjustments and replacements if you ride a 2-stroke.

Understand that the clutch is more than just fibers, steels and springs. The pressure plate and hub wears out along with the clutch pack. When replacing your clutch do it the right way and replace everything. Yes, it’s expensive, but you’ll just wear out the new clutch kit faster than if you replace everything at once.

Replacing a dirt bike clutch is easier than it sounds. The video at the bottom alsoย gives a detailed account of inspecting and changing the clutch.

How to Change a Dirt Bike Clutch

Hi. My name’s Jason Thomas. We’re here at the Rockstar Energy Racing Shop in Corona, California. Today, we’re going to talk about how to check your clutch, inspect, and change if needed.

Tools and supplies to change your clutch:

  • T-handle on most bikes
  • Inch pounds torque wrench to properly torque your bolts to spec
  • Socket to torque the pressure plate bolts and the inner clutch cover – this size can vary from bike to bike
  • Outer clutch cover gasket to replace
  • 14mm or 12mm wrench for the oil drain plug if you need to replace your clutch


The first step if you know you’re going to change your clutch, you want to drain your oil. Here in the Rockstar Shop, whenever we change a clutch, we always put in fresh oil.

If you’re just going to inspect your clutch, you’re just going to lay the bike on its side, and I’ll show you how:

  • Take the bike off the stand
  • Lean the bike over
  • Lean the bike on the bike stand by the lower triple clamp
  • Before going any further, make sure the bike’s stable


Next, we want to pull our outer clutch cover off and inspect our clutch.

How to Remove a Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Compress the rear brake by pushing it in
  • Push the brake pedal down
  • Stick a screwdriver in to hold the brake pedal down out of the way of your clutch cover
  • Use 8mm T-handle and remove the outer clutch cover bolts
  • Remove the cover and gasket
  • Remove pressure plate bolts and pressure plate springs


  • Keep bolts and springs in order, organized, and clean
  • Remove clutch plates and pressure plate at all the same time – pull it all out as one unit


Pulling your clutch pack out all at once makes it simple and it’s efficient. Next we’ll inspect our clutch.

How to inspect a Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Look at the steel plates which are in between the fibers
  • If you see any discoloration, especially if purple or black, replace
  • For the fibers, service manual has a minimum specification that they can measure. If they fall under that specification, replace
  • Hold clutch pack to the light to see if fiber or steel plates are warped or bent. If they are, the clutch can drag and the bike will always want to pull for forward on you.


  • If clutch passes inspection, put it back on the bike
  • If not, you need to get a new clutch and soak it in oil for at least 10 minutes
  • Use a petroleum-based oil, not a synthetic

How to Install Dirt Bike Clutch:

  • Always put the clutch back in the same way it came out, with the plates facing the same direction and the same order
  • The first plate is a fiber plate, the next plate is steel

When these steel plates are manufactured, they’re stamped out – one side has a rolled edge, the other side has a sharp edge. Here at the Rockstar Shop, we prefer to put the sharp edge up. We’ll go with the fiber and repeat until you have all your clutch plates in.

Now that your clutch plates are back in, you’re ready to put your pressure plate back on.

  • Your pressure plate should slide right on


  • Put on the clutch springs and bolts. If you did replace your clutch, you want to replace it with new springs
  • Wind the bolts in with my 8mm T-handle; you want to wind these in by hand
  • Torque clutch plate bolts to manufacturer’s spec – most specs require 87 inch pounds
  • Reinstall outer clutch cover with a new gasket
  • Run the bolts in with T-handle and torque them to spec
  • Torque in a star pattern, go around the cover and recheck the bolts

Now that we have our clutch reinstalled, we want to get the bike back up on the stand. The last step you want to make sure to do – if you remember, we compressed our brake and we moved the brake pedal down with that screwdriver – we want to pump the brake back up.


If you did change your clutch and you drained your oil, make sure and refill the engine back to manufacture’s spec oil level. Now that you have a fresh clutch on your bike, you’re ready to going get the holeshot. We’ll see you next time.


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