If your car has a manual gearbox, your car will have a clutch. As you might have experienced in the past, a clutch is particularly susceptible to wear. Especially if it is not used properly. If you remember clutches cost usually cost upward of 200 pounds, excluding labour it’s clear it makes sense to reconsider how one uses the clutch. Therefore let’s have a look at how to use a clutch sensibly to prolong its lifespan.
Taking account of the following tips you might be able to improve clutch life. In turn, it could be that you are able to minimise the intervals at which you will need a costly and time-intensive clutch replacement and possibly saving you many Pounds over the lifetime of the car. Taking care of how you use your clutch on your daily drive will mean that it will stay in the best working order for as long as possible.
When changing gear
One of the key points to minimise wear to the clutch is to remember where the biting point of the clutch is. This is the point where the clutch plates meet; essentially the point when the car starts to move when you slowly get off the clutch pedal after having depressed it. If the clutch has reached its biting point it is thus important you release the pedal as to not inflict unnecessary wear upon it through clutch slippage. Remember, the biting point is different on every car.
When changing gear this would mean that, if you want to change gear, you rapidly depress the pedal, change the gear with your gear stick and slowly release the clutch again. Making sure it does not travel too slowly, causing clutch slippage, or too quickly causing an unsmooth and clumsy gear change. Over time you and through regular driving, you will establish an understanding of where the biting point is. Changing gear correctly reduces the amount of time the clutch discs are engaged.
To save fuel and extend clutch life it is important you make use of the engine braking when you lift off the accelerator and brake. The generally accepted way to operate your clutch under braking is not to use it at all to just before the point that the engine starts to struggle and cut out. The basic rule here then is to depress the clutch if your car’s speed is too low for the gear selected.
That said, under heavy braking one would usually depress the clutch at the same time as the brake. Ensuring, on the one hand, that the engine does not cut out and, on the other, that you retain better control over the car under braking (fewer load shifts to cope with).
Coasting is another way to slow the car down (very slowly). By ‘freewheeling’ the car along the road fuel can be saved. In this case, you would depress the clutch fully, to disconnect the engine from the rest of the drive train. For short periods you could just do this by depressing the clutch pedal, for longer periods it is important to change into neutral and let the car roll that way.
In the same sense, you can use engine braking, to slow the car down. In this case, you would not touch the clutch at all to retain the connection between the gearbox and the engine. This sort of braking is especially useful when rolling downhill, as using the brakes when rolling down steep inclines continuously is not advisable. The brakes can quickly overheat, leading to brake fade, meaning that when you really need them the brakes will not stop the car adequately or at all. Moreover, braking on slopes wears out the brake pads much quicker. Of course, when you find the engine chokes, depress the clutch and change down a gear.
During driving school, a useful way to learn how to operate the clutch quickly is to “ride” it. This means that your clutch pedal is pressed lightly down permanently to allow a faster gear change. In reality, this is a bad habit you should stop immediately. Keeping your foot pressed on the pedal and therefore the clutch discs engaged at all times puts additional strain and friction on the parts. A better way is to learn to read the road and anticipate behaviour ahead of time. The sooner you can identify a potentially dangerous or tricky situation, the sooner you can act accordingly.
It is tempting to keep the clutch engaged either fully or at the biting point when you’re stopping at a traffic light or are sat in stationary traffic. This, however, puts more strain on the mechanism and as a result will add to faster wear and tear. The better way is to change gear into neutral, engaging the clutch swiftly rather than keeping under prolonged strain and friction.
In the end, it comes down to engaging and disengaging the clutch only when truly necessary. Moreover, if you do (dis-)engage it, do carefully. Always try to limit the amount of time you do not fully depress the clutch pedal (as the clutch slips it will chafe against the flywheel, gently wearing it out). When you can, do not touch the clutch at all. It will not only extend the lifespan of your clutch but will also save fuel and brake pads. It requires a little practice, but you’ll be able to reap the rewards fairly soon in hard Pound savings.
Of course, this is just an impression of methods that can be used, it is by no means exhaustive. As with most things in life, experiment and find the right way for you. Different people prefer different methods, therefore always follow the guidance by a manufacturer and driving experts to prolong the lifespan of the clutch and ensure a safe driving experience.
Should you experience problems with your clutch, and if it prevents you from changing gear properly, it might be time to replace it. Clickmechanic is here to help in that case, get a quote from us here.
Photo: Ford (via)