You use your clutch every time you change gears, so it’s easy to take it for granted. The good news is that the clutch can be maintained quite easily with good vehicle maintenance and driving skills.
“If your clutch fails, you won’t be able to change gears,” explains Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options. “Just like any other car components, your clutch may wear out over time. In the old days, people would often replace their clutches themselves at home on a Saturday morning but with today’s cars becoming increasingly complex it’s more difficult to do that.
“Usually a clutch replacement is quite costly, depending on the make, model and year of your car. If your motor plan has expired, shop around for the best quote. Be sure that you’re using a reliable RMI (Retail Motor Industry organisation) approved dealer.”
It’s difficult to say how long a clutch should last, but it’s a given that your clutch will wear out before your car does. “Your driving can greatly impact the longevity of your clutch,” says Smit. “Without meaning to, most people use their clutch more than is necessary.”
Here are five ways to increase your clutch lifespan, ensuring it performs at its best for as long as possible:
- The clutch should be used as a switch
The clutch is meant to be operated either completely engaged or completely disengaged. Keeping the clutch pedal slightly depressed (known as clutch riding) should be avoided. There might be cases where you must do a bit of clutch riding, especially when starting to move from a standstill but in all other cases where it can be avoided, it should be.
“Clutch riding reduces the efficiency of the clutch by wearing it down and soon you will experience all sort of troubles like false shifts, gears not shifting properly, loss of power and a lot of noise and heating issues,” says Smit. “Usually, drivers resort to clutch riding for a smoother drive. Instead, time your gear shifts, acceleration and braking in such a way that there is no jerking motion from the car.”
- Never rev when the clutch is engaged
Smit says another rather common but highly damaging habit that most drivers have is revving the engine when the clutch is still engaged. The engine revs a lot faster when the clutch is engaged, and the high RPMs encountered in such cases can be lethal to the clutch. Most people do this inadvertently during gear shifts where they are still revving the engine while depressing the clutch pedal to change gears and the clutch pedal is usually still partially depressed when they begin revving again after shifting gears. Time the gear shift and acceleration in such a way that the RPM never spikes, and the entire operation takes place smoothly.
- Don’t be aggressive
“You might feel good speeding off from a traffic light as if you’re escaping from a fire or coming to a stop really aggressively, but it puts huge amounts of force and stress on different components of the car, including the clutch,” says Smit.
The clutch should be engaged when the engine is at idle RPMs. Always be aware of the conditions around you and start slowing the car down well before you have to stop. This will allow you to avoid situations where you have to drop the clutch at high RPMs which can lead to clutch slippage as well as more permanent damage.
- Learn the right way to deal with hill-climbs
If a novice driver is put in a hill-climb situation without any previous know-how, they inadvertently end up riding the clutch. Clutch riding on a hill climb is even more detrimental to the clutch and should be avoided at all costs. The answer is to use the hand brake instead of riding the clutch. Again, this is not something that comes naturally to most people and as such can be difficult to implement. However, not only is it the right way from the point of view of clutch longevity but also from a safety perspective.
- Look out for signs that the clutch is suffering damage
Keep an eye and ear out for signs that the clutch is not operating in an optimum manner.
“The most important thing to watch out for is a slipped clutch. If the gears are shifting too easily and the engine revs abnormally then it could be a sign of a slipped clutch,” cautions Smit. “Also watch out for noises or a burning smell. If anything feels wrong with the clutch, then have it checked by a professional so that corrective measures can be taken before the clutch is damaged beyond repair.”