First things first, how do you know if you have a clutch? Well, if your car has a manual transmission, your car also has a clutch. If you have an automatic transmission, then this may not apply to you. The clutch is used to shift into various gears that control the vehicle. So it’s safe to assume that the clutch is a device that’s particularly susceptible to wear. If you’re lacking in your car’s maintenance and driving with a rough hand, replacing clutch mechanisms in your vehicle might be something to consider in the near future. But how can you prolong it until the time comes? Here are a few things to consider when extending the life of your clutch.
What Does the Clutch Do?
Simply put, the clutch is a tool that moves the rotational energy the engine produces onto the car’s wheels. This part only pertains to manual vehicles because automatic vehicles don’t have this device. Automatic cars have a shifter that allows you to change between drive, neutral, reverse, and park.
The clutch is crucial to how a manual car works because the engine constantly generates power. However, we don’t always want the engine to send power to the wheels at the same speed. In some cases, you need the vehicle to stop or change speed without turning off the engine. To do either one of those things means you need to break the connection between the wheels and the engine. This responsibility is the clutch’s primary role!
How Long Should a Clutch Last?
According to AutoZone, the lifespan of a clutch is about 60,000 miles before needing a replacement. However, this will heavily depend on where you drive as well as how you drive. If you drive in a city with stop-start traffic, the clutch is likely to wear out quicker than someone who drives mainly on the highway. Ultimately, it comes down to how often you engage and disengage the clutch.
How Can You Prolong the Life of Your Clutch?
Here are some tips for how you can prolong the lifespan of your clutch. You’ll find that many of these tips are also essential, safe driving practices.
Go Into Neutral When Stopped
Sitting with first gear engaged and the clutch down can be tempting when stopping at junctions or red lights. After all, we’ll only be there for a few seconds, and being ready for motion will let us quickly engage the car.
While this is an understandable mindset, it’s a bad habit because it puts unnecessary tension on the clutch. Instead, if you expect to stop for longer than a handful of seconds, take your foot off the clutch, and go into neutral. You can use the handbrake if you need to prevent the car from moving.
When Parking, Use Your Handbrake
If you leave the car in gear when you park, you’re putting unnecessary strain on the clutch. You should always go into neutral gear and use the handbrake to park because it helps avoid putting undue pressure on the clutch disc.
Avoid “Riding the Clutch”
A lot of drivers tend to press the clutch down partially when driving. This activity is “riding the clutch.” You don’t want to do this because it wears the equipment down because the motion presses the clutch plate and the pressure pad together. It’s not totally engaged, so it wears the clutch down faster because there’s more friction.
What can you do instead? Practice keeping your foot off the clutch except when changing gears. When slowing down at a traffic light or turning a corner, use the brakes and a downward gear change rather than the clutch.
Try to Avoid Unnecessarily Changing Gears
You’ll want to survey the road ahead as far as possible to avoid unnecessarily changing gears, as avoiding improper technique is about anticipation. Scanning ahead helps you identify changes or hazards and identify any hazards due to road conditions. Taking a moment to do this gives you the advantage of foresight; you’ll be able to set your speed earlier and reach an acceptable level.
This process is safer for you and better for your clutch. Having to speed up and slow down constantly means you’re always going up and down in gears. As a bonus, you’re also exhibiting a safer driving style. Additionally, this could bring discounts regarding driver’s insurance for younger drivers.
How Do You Know If Something Is Wrong With Your Clutch?
You can use the method below to diagnose if your clutch has any problems.
- Ensure the handbrake is engaged, turn your vehicle on, and put it into neutral gear.
- Leave the car on, but don’t press on the clutch or the accelerator. At this time, listen to your car. Is there a little bit of noise, like a low growl, or is it a smooth purr? You can move on to the 3rd step if you hear a smooth purr.
- However, if you hear a low growling noise, this indicates that there’s most likely a problem with your clutch. At this point, it’s a good idea to take your car to a mechanic and let them know the situation.
- Don’t put the car in gear; press the clutch down lightly. Press it down until it’s half-depressed. At this time, do you hear any noises? If you hear a squeaking noise, this indicates there’s most likely a problem.
4. Lastly, press the clutch as far down as possible. Do you hear any unusual noises now? For example, if you hear a squealing, whining noise, you probably have a problem with the bushing or the pilot bearing.
Your clutch is most likely fine if you don’t hear any unusual noises apart from your car’s typical rumble during the process above.
The Bottom Line
While the tips above are great ways to prolong the life of your clutch, they can still wear down even if you use proper techniques and maintain your vehicle. Doing a full maintenance detail will prolong each component of your car, including your clutch, reducing the opportunities for future costly repairs.