5 Symptoms of a Bad PTO Clutch [Explained]

bad pto clutch

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a bad PTO clutch, it’s important to take action and get the problem fixed.

A PTO clutch is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the transmission, and if it’s failing, it can cause a lot of problems, and headaches!

Some of the most common symptoms of bad PTO clutch are difficulty engaging or disengaging the PTO, a grinding noise when operating the PTO, jerking or shuddering during use, and reduced power output.

In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms of a bad PTO clutch so that you can identify the issue before it causes expensive damage.

5 Symptoms of a Bad PTO Clutch

Poor Responsiveness

One of the most common symptoms of a bad PTO clutch is a lack of responsiveness, if you notice a significant lag when you’re engaging the PTO clutch, you’re either dealing with jamming or some kind of blockage, or, at worst, the PTO clutch is on it’s way out, and needs to be replaced.

Loud Grinding Noise

As with anything, if you’ve got a piece of equipment making a loud grinding noise when it’s in use, there is obviously a problem.

I’ve experienced either a grinding or high-pitched squeaking noise in the past, specifically when you’re releasing or pushing down on the PTO clutch.

Also, if you’re getting a whirring noise when the transmission is in neutral, but the noise reduces when you push the clutch down, that’s also an indicator of a PTO problem, likely a deteriorated input shaft bearing.

Engine Failing to Turn Over

If your engine isn’t turning over, that can trigger a symptom of all kinds of different problems, so you’ll need to do a bit more self-diagnosis.

It can, among other things, be a sign of a defective PTO clutch, as the solenoid isn’t actually receiving any power. Which in turn stops the engine from getting any power!

Fluid Leakage From The PTO

If you see fluid coming out of your PTO, it might be a sign that there is something wrong with the clutch. This could mean that the clutch is not working properly and needs to be fixed.

However, if you’re getting a small leak, that’s likely a sign that you need to put more lubricant on it, you’re not necessarily dealing with a faulty PTO clutch.

Testing Your PTO Clutch

There are plenty of ways to test your PTO clutch, but in the past, I’ve gone through it with the following step-by-step tasks:

Get the tractor jacked up, ensuring you’ve got enough jacks or a jack that can hold the weight of a tractor. Ideally, get it on a hydraulic lift, or get two jacks under the rear frame and two under the front frame, making sure you’ve got access to the PTO clutch.

Make sure the battery is producing enough power, get a voltage reader and if you’re seeing a power output below 12, charge the battery – this is essential for engaging the PTO clutch.

How is the in-line fuse looking? You’ll need to replace it with an amper fuse rating the same as the original if you’re seeing a black or brown color.

Turn the engine on and take a look at the blades, if they’re making a grinding noise turn the ignition off and unplug the battery, making sure to remove any debris, branches, and general rubbish that has made its way into the drive belt and pulley.

Remove the negative battery cable and connect it to a socket. Start the tractor with the clutch engagement lever off. Now, flick it on and off a few times. Test the pulley, if its slowing down and stopping frequently, this suggests that the plates and clutch have galled together. You’ll need to take out the clutch in order to discover what’s wrong with it.

Tip: Remove the PTO pulley belt from the mower deck and attempt to engage it. If it doesn’t come to a halt, the clutch is not broken. It’s possible that you’ve had a bearing failure in the clutch if it stalls.

How To Remove Your PTO Clutch

Some good news! To remove a PTO clutch, all you need is a screwdriver, a socket wrench set, and some good-quality gloves.

  • Disconnect the spark plugs.
  • Remove all plastic housing from the pulley (which protects the belts)
  • Loosen the blade belt to gain access to the PTO clutch.
  • You should now see two sets of wires, which are connected to the clutch. Disconnect these carefully.
  • To get this done, ideally, you need a second person. There is a bolt attached at the top of the mower or vehicle- remove this by unscrewing it with a screwdriver. The assistant can help keep the nut in place while doing so.
  • Now you can safely remove the PTO clutch, once you’ve removed the bolt.

Job done!

Frequently Asked Questions:

What does a bad PTO clutch sound like?

A bad PTO clutch may make a grinding or squealing sound while in use. It may also cause the tractor to vibrate or jerk when operating equipment.

How do I test my PTO clutch?

One way to test your PTO clutch is by turning on the tractor and engaging the PTO while standing outside of the machine. If you feel or hear a jerking motion, it could indicate that there is an issue with the clutch.

Should a PTO clutch move freely?

A PTO clutch should not have any resistance while being engaged or disengaged and should move smoothly. Any stiffness or sticking could indicate a problem with the clutch.


If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a bad PTO clutch, it’s important to take action and get the issue fixed as soon as possible. A faulty PTO clutch can cause damage to your tractor and equipment, and may even be dangerous if left unrepaired. 

In this article, we’ve outlined the symptoms of a bad PTO clutch as well as how to test for and remove the clutch. Let us know if you have any questions!