Clutch noise - throwout bearing? Clutch? DMF?


Veteran Member
Jun 28, 2007
Kirkland, WA
2001 Golf TDI
Background: 2001 Golf TDI, stock, 250K miles. Original clutch as far as I know (bought it with 160K).

So I'm driving around today making deliveries. As I pushed the clutch pedal down to shift into reverse and leave my parking place I heard a noise. Loud enough to be heard inside with the windows up. I'd describe it as a whirring, grinding sound, maybe a little bit of a rhythmic thump as well. It began as the pedal went down maybe 1/4" and made noise all the way to fully depressed as well as on the way back up. Clutch engaged as normal, no jerking or shuddering. Maybe a touch of vibration through the pedal, not 100% sure. Takeup point was unchanged. I had no throttle applied, just engaged the clutch to back up.

It made this noise for the next 8 or 9 clutch pedal cycles - as I pulled into traffic, shifting into 2nd, in neutral, etc.

After the 8 or 9 cycles it went quiet. At least I couldn't hear it, there was plenty of cars around me in stop & go traffic which could have masked a quieter sound.

It was fine for a 1/2 hour or so, probably 50-60 clutch cycles. I then heard it again. Same sound, somewhat softer. Did it for 4 or 5 cycles then disappeared.

Once home where it was quiet I did some careful listening. At idle I don't hear anything abnormal above the usual clatter of the diesel engine. When depressing the clutch pedal I can hear a faint noise that happens mostly right in the middle of the pedal travel. Doesn't seem to make the noise at the beginning or end of the travel. Sounds like a soft whirring noise, hard hear though because it isn't very loud even with the hood up. There might be a very slight vibration felt in the pedal but I'm not sure that it's any different than prior to today.

When I first heard the loud noise I first thought of DMF failure, maybe clutch failure. After doing some reading on the site, I don't think this is the symptom of a failing DMF or clutch. I've had clutches fail in the past. With no shuddering or slipping I don't think it's the clutch. From what I've read, DMF failure is usually manifested by rattling noises at idle, shuddering taking off in 1st and such. Other than the noise the clutch acts and feels the same as it always has.

So I'm thinking this is likely the throwout bearing. I'm not 100% sure as I've never had one fail on me before. My previous cars were A2 VWs which put the bearing inside the trans where they never fail.

I'd appreciate any advice. There's a independent VW shop not too far away from me, I'm going to have them take a listen tomorrow and see if they can validate my diagnosis.