On vehicles with standard transmissions, the clutch plays an important role in the operation of a vehicle in that it serves to connect the engine to the transmission. Clutches are no different than most other parts in your vehicle; they encounter a certain amount of wear and tear during normal driving circumstances and require replacement. Below we explain what a clutch does, how often they need replacement, and some tips on how to prolong the life of your clutch.
Clutches exist in many devices, from drills to chainsaws to Yo-Yos, and they are used to connect two shafts so they can either be locked together and spin at the same speed, or be decoupled and spin at different speeds.
In a car, you need a clutch because the engine spins all the time, but the car’s wheels do not. In order for a car to stop without killing the engine, the wheels need to be disconnected from the engine somehow. The clutch allows us to smoothly engage a spinning engine to a non-spinning transmission by controlling the slippage between them.
Symptoms of a worn out clutch include:
- The clutch slips as you apply power: The engine speed will increase greatly when you try to accelerate, even though the clutch pedal is not pressed. Under normal driving, a healthy clutch will ‘lock’ the engine to the transmission, so its speed should be directly linked to changes in the vehicle speed.
- Clutch chatter is the sudden shudder that occurs when a faulty clutch disk or clutch component is initially engaged. This shudder or vibration may vibrate throughout the entire vehicle. It is often the result of worn or contaminated clutch components
- Grinding when you put the vehicle in reverse is another clear sign, it means the clutch is not disengaging and is causing catastrophic wear.
A clutch replacement generally involves a new pressure plate, clutch disc and release bearing (sometimes called the throw-out bearing). These parts should ALL be replaced, even if they don’t appear worn. The pilot bearing or bushing, which sits at the end of the transmission shaft should also be checked or replaced. The flywheel will need machining at best, or at times full replacement. Some vehicle clutches are operated by cables, and others by hydraulic cylinders that also need replacement after time.
When your clutch is worn out and you leave the repair, eventually your car will be undrivable. If it cannot engage a gear, you cannot accelerate, so you will just be revving your engine sitting in your driveway. Best not to wait too long or you will be left stranded at the worst possible time.
- There are a few things you can do to dramatically increase the lifespan of your clutch, and they all revolve around not using it when you don’t have to. Here are some examples:
Dont use the clutch when you don’t need to. When you are sitting at a stop light for more than 10 seconds, don’t use the clutch as a way of making the car stand still. Just rest on the brake while your car idles in neutral to give the clutch a break from constant pressure.
- Don’t use your clutch to adjust your speed. You can control your rate of acceleration down hills by partially engaging the clutch, but it will greatly reduce its life when it is driven under so much extra pressure.
- Riding the clutch produces extra pressure as well, the longer you take to let it out after each gear change the more it wears.
- Don’t teach someone how to drive stick in your car! Bad changes and bad timing can ruin a clutch in no time. You should definitely teach someone, just use someone else’s car 🙂