I knew I was testing the limits of my stock clutch when I added 81 hp and 111 lb-ft with APR Stage 1. The car drove great and the clutch held the extra power for over 16,000 miles (for a total of 34,000 miles). However, turbocharged cars LOVE cooler temperatures due to an improved ability to make horsepower and avoid heat soak. So it was little surprise when my clutch began to slip as temperatures dropped in October. I probably could have put off a clutch upgrade, but driving the original clutch on our upcoming road trip over the mountains was out of the question, especially since I may take the trailer. I had planned to buy a Southbend Stage 2 Endurance clutch, but then I changed my mind…
I have a Southbend clutch on my Mk3; the little diesel sounds more like a Peterbuilt. I knew that converting to a single-mass flywheel would increase flywheel noise in my GTI, although probably not to the extent it did in my TDI. I wanted to continue my trend of hiding mods and didn’t want extra clatter drawing attention. So I chose an RSR clutch kit with Sachs flywheel by HS Tuning. It uses a factory-like dual-mass flywheel and is reported to be an upgrade to the clutch found in Audi’s 400-hp TT-RS. The clutch was advertised to hold 480 lb-ft when I bought it, but has since been updated as being suitable to hold 380 lb-ft in a Mk7. I’d buy their RSR Hybrid Clutch Kit if I was shopping today.
I had Euro Pros install the clutch. They are in Yorktown, VA, specialize in VW/Audi repair and service, and are the APR dealer that upgraded my ECU. They had not installed an RSR clutch kit before, but said everything was a breeze. Both the technician who did the work and the shop owner said the clutch feels great and has good pedal-feel (more on that later). They also gave the car a thorough inspection to see if anything needed attention. Everything was good with one exception.
They found one small problem in the form of an unexplained pocket of fluid in a cranny below the bell housing. The bell housing is completely dry, there’s no sign of leaking from the transmission case, and there’s no obvious paths that would have allowed the fluid be become trapped there. The VAQ differential may have a leak. The hardware is tightly packed, so finding the exact source of the leak is a challenge. I cleaned the transmission and watched the area for 100 miles, which wasn’t enough time to duplicate a tiny leak. I will check again in another 500 miles. Has anyone else had a leak here? I’ve shared more photos below. Have a look and feel free to tell me what you think.
Initial impressions: “Damn, it’s STIFF!” The factory clutch is so smooth and effortless that it probably has made me soft. 😉 The RSR clutch also engages closer to the floor than stock, but it didn’t take long to get used to it. It feels good and “correct”after a week, but it does not meet the advertised claim of “no noticeable increase in pedal effort,” NOT EVEN CLOSE, due to how soft the stock clutch works. “The laggy feeling clutch engagement, commonly blamed on the clutch hydraulic system, is completely eliminated, resulting in a fast and positive clutch engagement with no delay” is certainly a true statement! I had Euro Pros remove the restrictor from the hydraulic line, so the clutch is very snappy! It also exhibits stock levels of noise, as advertised. I tested noise levels by listening to the car in a drive-thru lane with the windows down. “Yep, it still sounds like a sewing machine.” I encourage younger readers to Google “sewing machine” if the term is confusing. 😉
I’m completely accustomed to the extra pedal effort; it inspires some confidence that it’ll hold the increased torque. I’m very pleased and will continue to be so long as the clutch lasts a long time. My only other niggle is a tiny, tiny bit of chatter felt through the chassis as the clutch engages from a stop. Euro Pros told me that it may or may not go away, but it was nothing to worry about. Most of the time, I just “drove through it” and didn’t even think about it. A week later, I’m pleased to report that the chatter is gone without a trace. I guess the flywheel just needed break-in time and to transfer friction material between the parts.
By the way, I allowed the clutch to “break-in” by driving moderately along stop-and-go routes for about 200 miles over three days. I did a glorious sprint the following morning. Later, I drove some coworkers to lunch. Between the four of us, there was probably 900-lbs of meat in the car, plus the 50-lb box with stock clutch was still in the trunk. I needed to make a left turn and saw the protected light turn green in the distance. Not wanting to miss it, I stabbed the accelerator in 2nd gear, just enough to chirp the tires, and blasted to the light. The team was impressed. The following morning, I gave a friend his first ride in a GTI. He loved it, especially since we didn’t wind up in jail. 😀 This car is a keeper!
The clutch upgrade happened earlier than expected. I’m not disappointed because I drove with the extra power on the stock clutch for over 15,000 miles, to include plenty of towing, which is pretty abusive to clutches. The timing of the costly upgrade sort of stinks since it was just before the holidays and a road trip. But now the foundation is in place for APR STAGE 2! Perhaps I’ll make that purchase as a birthday gift in February, along with some high-performance tires. The car should be a beast with the extra grip and Stage 2! 🙂 Speaking of birthdays, I just realized the car is nearly one year old! Do cars like cake? I know I do! 😉
Hey Scott – did the RSR clutch ever lighten up a bit? Just got mine installed and it is super-touchy. No way my wife will be able to drive it.
It does lighten up a tad, but mostly because I’ve become accustomed to it. I get the “super-touchy” part, especially if you had the delay valve removed. It takes more finesse, but it will become second nature after a few days. My wife drives a 2018 Jetta SE with a light factory clutch. She drives my GTI on very rare occasions and hasn’t seemed to hate my clutch. She’s never complained about it. Thanks for writing! -Scott
Did you ever find the cause of the leak and have you ever changed the Haldex fluid for the VAQ differential at 30,000 miles that some say is needed? Also, do you still like the clutch?
Sean – I never saw another leak. It must’ve been a spill from initial assembly or PDI. I haven’t changed the Haldex fluid. I found a reference that says to do it at three years regardless of miles. I will do it soon, though. As for the clutch, yes, it’s holding up great and I still like it a lot. Thanks for visiting! -Scott
Is the RSR kit still going strong with no slippage? It seems to have been a while and quite a few miles now.
I’m also wondering why you replaced the stock flywheel with the Sachs one. Was it just for peace of mind, or did the stock one have excessive wear? I’m wondering if I could buy the clutch and keep my stock dual mass flywheel rather than waste money replacing it with the Sachs dual mass.
Chris – The RSR kit is doing great! Sometimes the clutch pedal feels a little funny since backing a heavy trailer up my driveway. But I think it’s all in my head. Operating the clutch pedal by hand verifies that everything works fine. As for my flywheel, I COULD have kept my stock flywheel. But I chose to replace it for piece of mind. I don’t know what excessive wear looks like on a flywheel; I may have had hotspots or maybe I didn’t. What I didn’t want was to pay the labor TWICE to replace a flywheel after a new problem arose. My philosophy is “get it all while the tranny is out.” That way, I could have no doubts about “is it the clutch or is it the flywheel?” I think the decision helped anchor my belief that the RSR clutch is fantastic. Thanks for visiting. -Scott
I’m fairly new to VW’s, just picked up a ’16 mk7 GTI Autobahn. Overall I’m pleased with the car and have been enjoying it. Have you had any concerns about the thrust bearing issues people seem to have had with upgraded clutches or is that just a case of the Internet exaggerating things? I’d like to reflash the car but this issue has made me leary.
I haven’t had any concerns about the clutch itself. My concern comes from when I’m backing my trailer up a dark driveway. I tend to slip the clutch more when I cannot see where I’m going. Sometimes, it’s to the point of being really smelly. Even with that, the clutch seems to be fine after ~85,000 miles. As for the thrust bearing, there’s no way to check it, to my knowledge. It’s either doing fine or it will suddenly fail on me. HAHA! I’ll just drive it until I have a problem. 😉 Thanks for visiting!
As someone who recently went Stage 2, my local VW mechanic recommended the RSR clutch for when my ’17 Sport starts to slip (56k and nothing yet!). Not sure if I’ll go the IS38 route in the future but how’s yours holding up? And did you replace the rear main seal as well? Thanks
Thanks for writing, Petey! My RSR clutch was great at Stage 2 levels. With IS38, though, I do get a little bit of slipping. I cannot seem to replicate it; so, it’s kind of random. Given my towing habits and the fact that my RSR clutch has over 100,000 miles on it, I think things have gone quite well! I think my next clutch will be a Stage 2 Endurance by South Bend Clutch. So far, I’m not in a terrible hurry to replace anything since the car is driving great. Take care!