How To Use A Clutch To Prolong Clutch Lifespan

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 usually cost upward of £300, excluding labour it’s clear it makes sense to try making your clutch last longer. In this article we will look at how to use a clutch sensibly to prolong its lifespan.

How to make a clutch last longer

The following tips may be able to help you improve clutch lifespan. They could help minimise the intervals at which you will need a costly and time-intensive clutch replacement and possibly save 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

Key point 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 in 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. Make sure it does not travel too slowly, causing clutch slippage, or too quickly causing an unsmooth and clumsy gear change.

Over time and through regular driving, you will establish an understanding of where the clutch biting point is. Changing gear correctly reduces the amount of time the clutch discs are engaged.

Under braking

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 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).

When ‘coasting’

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.

Engine braking

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.

When driving

When learning how to drive 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.

When stopping

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 sitting 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 it under prolonged strain and friction.

Clutch and clutch pedal overview

How long should a clutch last?

The average lifespan of a clutch is around 60,000 miles, however, this will depend heavily on your driving style and where you drive. If you drive in city stop-start traffic the clutch is more likely to wear out quicker than when you mostly drive on motorways. Ultimately, it is all about how often you engage and disengage your clutch. Hence, some clutches may need replacing after as little as 30,000 miles while some last as much as 100,000 miles.

How to keep your clutch in good condition

In the end, it comes down to engaging and disengaging the clutch only when truly necessary. Moreover, if you do (dis-)engage it, do it 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 of 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.

Book a clutch replacement

Photo: Ford (via)


Marketing at ClickMechanic

Meet Kurt, an automotive industry expert with over 13 years of experience. He currently leads the Marketing & Growth team at ClickMechanic, of which he has been an integral part of for the past decade. He has been involved with most parts of the business helping grow the company to new heights, from the creation of the innovative quote engine, and operations, to content and growth marketing automation.

With his extensive background in car repairs and customer support, Kurt is well-positioned to share his expertise on automotive technical topics. A car aficionado from an early age, his physical journey in the automotive world began with his trusty VW Golf 4, which took him on memorable adventures throughout Europe during his student days.

Outside of work, Kurt is a maker, as well as a design and technology enthusiast, embodying a unique blend of creativity and precision with an international outlook. He has a keen interest in the latest advancements in car maintenance and clean vehicle technology, as well as a heart for classic cars. His favourite classic cars include the Lancia Fulvia Series 2 and the Citroen DS, showcasing his appreciation for timeless automotive craftsmanship.

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