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E46 M3 (2001-2006) Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006.

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Old Fri, Jan-12-2018, 08:38:26 AM   #1
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Default South Bend Pressure Plate Failure

Let me start off by saying, I think South Bend makes some quality products for our cars. I believe my failure, whatever the cause may be, is unique and was simply handled poorly.

A few months ago I started a thread on the cause of my shredded bellhousing. I recently got around to getting the trans off and the issue was clear. The drive straps on the pressure plate had sheered away, disconnecting the friction surface from the pressure plate. I have some theories on possible causes but nothing definite.

Last year my OEM flywheel started to rattle so I decided to do a clutch job. Besides the flywheel rattling, everything looked like it had a lot of life in it. I ordered a JB aluminum flywheel and southbend stage 2 daily kit from ECS. The southbend kit comes with an unsprung disk which wasn't ideal for a SMF. So I called southbend about using the kit with the SMF, which they said was fine, but offered to swap the disk out for a sprung hub. So I sent the clutch kit and flywheel to them and got back what I believe was the same exact disk, just with a sprung hub.

Installation was uneventful, also replaced the slave, pivot pin, pilot, and throwout. Pedal feel was the same as stock, although it did engage much higher than stock. However, more notably was how the clutch would bounce on engagement in first and reverse. It was clearly engaging and disengaging rapidly. I thought it would disappear once it broke in but never did. I did not think much of it then. Looking back the rapid shocking and unloading must have contributed to the failure.

I did the standard 500 mile break in period. All of the driving was daily commuting, never really taxing the clutch at all. Never raced or dropped the clutch once, never aggressively downshifting if I did at all. After around 8k miles with no issues I finally did a hard pull and from 2nd to 3rd. I didn't no lift shift but I shifted hard and roasted the clutch. I let off and drove normally and all was fine. Months later I tested it and got the same slip. I was confused as to why a newish clutch was already slipping, especially considering my car makes marginally more power than stock and this clutch was rated for 340ft/lbs. I figured it got glazed somehow and planned on replacing it in a few months.

A few days later, with probably around 10k miles, I took a friend for a quick ride. On the first pull in 2nd gear at around 6000rpms, the pressure plate went bang with sparks out the back and everything. It exploded the entire bellhousing, cutting the clutch line in two. I limped it off the freeway without the clutch and towed it home the next day.

I think the bouncing engagement caused the initial damage to the pressure plate. As to the source of the bouncing, I think the pressure plate was either defective from the beginning or was a poor match for the sprung disk. The lack of dampening from the SMF could have possibly exaggerated the stress to the straps. These are just my guesses.

I understand that buying aftermarket performance parts isn't the same as OEM and carry some risk. Unfortunate but my biggest issue is with the customer service at South Bend. I called to see if there was some sort of warranty on the kit, expecting for there to be no such thing since its a clutch. To my surprise there was. I explained the situation and was told it was definitely under warranty, just send it in. So I did just that.

I called South Bend today to make sure they got everything. Whoever answered the phone was not as reassuring as the person I spoke with earlier in the week. He began with saying the pressure plate is junk but the clutch disk is still good. Which makes me wonder if he was even looking at what I had sent him because there was a gash in the disk from the pressure plate sitting off center. He followed by offering me an upgraded pressure plate to use with the same disk for $600. Puzzled as to why he was trying to sell me a pressure plate for more than the entire clutch kit costed, I explained it was supposed to be under warranty. He then informed me that the failure was due to driver error and not covered by warranty. He was reluctant to elaborate on how driver error was at fault.

Having driven manual cars for years, including around 30k miles on the M3 with a stock clutch with no issues, I have a hard time accepting driver error to be the issue here. The lack of explanation further adds to the frustration. Above all is being told the clutch was under warranty, rushing to ship it out, only to find out they changed their mind.

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Old Fri, Jan-12-2018, 12:46:57 PM   #2
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Default Re: South Bend Pressure Plate Failure

In these instances , it's best to go a bit higher for quick resolution.

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Old Fri, Jan-12-2018, 10:40:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: South Bend Pressure Plate Failure

That sucks. I second the idea to elevate the issue.

JB Racing markets the flywheel to work with clutches that would otherwise work with the OE flywheel. Don’t think the flywheel would be a problem.

A manufacturing defect in a pressure plate wouldn’t be unheard of. Unless the clutch was roasted, not sure what kind of damage driving could cause.

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Discussing South Bend Pressure Plate Failure in the E46 M3 (2001-2006) Forum - Engine: S54 - Max Hp: 333 hp at 7,900 rpm / 262 lb/ft at 4,900 rpm
Total Produced: 45,000+ - Years Produced: 2001 to 2006. at BMW M3 (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)