January 16

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement



Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Remarkable Speaking. I'm here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How you doing Bernie?  

Bernie: Doing well. 

Mark: So today's victim is a 2011 Subaru WRX STI that had a clutch problem. What was going on with this vehicle? 

Bernie: Yeah. So the owner of the vehicle had complained on a highway drive actually up to Whistler, which is near Vancouver. It's a highway drive, it's twisty roads, perfect roads for this kind of car. Notice that, you know, the clutch would slip sometimes when they're accelerating up like on a hill. So that's usually a classic description of a clutch wearing out or being worn out. 

Mark: So what kind of testing and diagnosis do you do to diagnose if that's actually the issue?

Bernie: Yeah. Well, road testing of course is the first thing to do and usually it's pretty apparent. On this one, my technician who worked on it, he drove it and he said, You know, I don't really feel it's slipping that much, except when you go into a higher gear. And sometimes you have to, in an early stage of a clutch fail, you have to really work the car, you know, stress the car and make a really fast gear change and accelerate hard to get the clutch to slip. So we did note that after a while. 

We do inspect a few other things. I mean, the clutch is mostly an internal, I say internal because it's located between the engine and transmission, so there's not much you can look at, but we do a visual inspection of the clutch fluid, hydraulic system, just make sure there's no leaks in that area. There are different things that cause clutch concerns, but usually when it slips, it's a worn out clutch like disc or pressure plate issue. 

Mark: So what sort of work is involved in replacing the clutch on a WRX? 

Bernie: Well, the transmission needs to be removed. And so it is an all-wheel drive, so it's a little involved, but being Subaru, they're well designed and it's labor intensive, but not as crazy as some other vehicles. They're nice to work on. And you know, being a WRX it's a little more complex than, just a tiny bit than say an average, just base Impreza.

Mark: Do we have some pictures? 

Bernie: We do have pictures. So there's our WRX, nice bright blue. They seem to make these Subarus, a lot of 'em in pretty bright, vibrant colours, which is to each to their own. 

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

Okay, let's have a look at the clutch. So this is the new replacement clutch. And I will say there's a couple unique things about the clutch on this vehicle. Not only is it a high performance model, so the clutch needs to be more robust than you know, with the amount of horsepower it's trying to handle. But the design of this clutch is, I call it a backwards clutch. So this is the pressure plate we're looking at, and normally the pressure plate where I'm moving my mouse pointer, there's a clutch release bearing.

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

I'll show you in a picture. When you press the clutch pedal, it pushes. The pressure plate, and that causes the spring to release the pressure on the clutch disc. And then that allows you to basically shift gears or sit at a light in neutral with the engine running. But with this vehicle, it's a backwards clutch in that the release bearing actually locks into this collar here.

And when you push the clutch pedal, it actually pulls the spring outwards as opposed to pushing it inwards to release. So I'm not sure why they do that. It's not a unique Subaru, it is unique to a WRX STI compared to other Subarus, but it's not a unique to Subaru technology. It's used on other vehicles. 

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

So this is the release bearing here. So this is the release fork. Again, one thing about it being this clutch that sort of works in a backwards position is it's a lot more robustly built. Normally there'd be a ball and a pivot for this piece here. This actually has a shaft. It's very robust in the way it's built. And right here where the mouse pointer is, there's a little tiny metal ring here, and this clips into that collar that I pointed to on the clutch pressure plate. So you know, the fact that this thing has to hold together under an enormous amount of pressure. You know, it's amazing that little ring actually accomplishes that, but it does work. We've seen the odd car over years where it's popped apart, but very rare. 

There's the old clutch assembly. This is with the release bearing stuck into the clutch pressure plate. Removing it, it's a bit of a chore. So let's have a look at a bit of the wear and the older one. 

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

So this is the old pressure plate. This is the surface where the clutch disc rides and these sort of marks here, we call heat checks. It's basically like from the heat of the process of the clutch engaging and disengaging. So again, that's a sign that things are worn. It's been around for a long time. This vehicle had, in the high hundred something thousand kilometres.

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

 The old clutch disk. There are rivets that hold this. It's basically two fibrous discs. It's kinda like a brake pad in reverse, but there's two discs, fibrous discs mounted on a plate a metal. And the rivets here, you can see, this rivet is exposed that basically indicates the clutch is worn out cuz it's worn right down to the rivet. These springs in here sort of help dampen the clutch as it engages and disengages. That's the clutch old and new.

2011 Subaru WRX STI Clutch Replacement

Mark: So after replacement, everything works great. 

Bernie: Yep. Works fantastic. 

Mark: And how are WRX STIs for reliability? 

Bernie: Yeah, they're good cars. I mean, we don't see a lot of problems with them. I think when you buy a high performance car, I mean, there's always a risk, especially if you buy a used one that the previous owner may have driven the crap out of it.

But you know, they're a pretty good robust, not very problematic, you know, for the kind of performance car it is. So you know, If you're looking for a performance kind of rally kind of car, something you can drive on twisty roads and really enjoy it. Maybe go off road a bit. It's a great car. 

Mark: Built to be, had the crap driven out of it, in other words. 

Bernie: Yeah, it is. With a performance car, there are people who drive it within the limits of the performance and really enjoy it. And then there are people who really push the edge of it, like way over the edge. You never really know until you buy the car what happens, but it's a good car for sure. 

Mark: So if you're looking for service for your Subaru in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can book online at pawlikautomotive.com or you can call to book (604) 327-7112. They'll find out what's going on with your vehicle as best as you can diagnose and what's actually happening, and they'll get ready for your appointment. You have to call and book ahead or book online. They're always busy. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thanks Mark. And thank you for watching and listening.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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