As the clutch in your car is constantly subjected to friction (its job after all) it is hardly any surprise that it will wear out one day. Depending on many factors, including your driving style, your clutch could wear quicker than it might. You might get 30,000 miles or less from a clutch, or if you look after it you could get 5 times that! (At the time of writing, my 2002 BMW E46 320ci is still on the original clutch, 146,000 miles in…)
How you drive your car is the main factor in how long the clutch will last. As the replacement will be a big expense (even at A1 Clutches great rates) you may want to adjust your driving style to help look after the clutch and make it last a bit longer. Here are some of our top tips:
1. Riding the clutch
Riding the clutch is a phrase you will hear often – usually from parents or your driving instructor, but what do they actually mean when they say it? Riding the clutch means: keeping the clutch pedal partially pressed down (resting your foot on the clutch pedal), after your have changed gear. By all means let the clutch out smoothly after changing gear, but not labour it and leave it partially down. Riding the clutch causes the pressure pad to push against the clutch plate – because you are only partially depressing the pedal though it does not engage fully, this creates the friction that will wear the clutch out sooner.
An easy fix for this behaviour? Unless you are changing gear, don’t have your foot anywhere near the clutch pedal – particularly don’t part-depress the clutch when stopping at traffic lights, or going round bends!
2. Neutral is for stationary vehicles
When you are stopped at the lights, or in traffic, put your car in neutral and get your foot off the clutch. Keeping the car in gear, either at the biting point or with the clutch fully depressed, puts unnecessary strain on the clutch and should be avoided. Simply put the car into neutral, and if needed use the handbrake to stop the car rolling.
3. Change gear quickly
You are in second gear, coming up to 23mph, time for third gear – change gear quickly (most new vehicles have gear change indicators which will let the driver know when to change gear). Do not dilly dally, engage the clutch, change gear, release the clutch smoothly but quickly. Common amongst newer drivers, the habit of holding the clutch in too long when releasing it is both unnecessary and can cause damage to your vehicle. Even if it is only for a few seconds, this soon adds up to a significant chunk of time when you consider how many times you change gear in a week/month/year.
4. Leaving your car in gear – i.e. don’t do it
The same goes for when you park your vehicle, put it in neutral and apply the handbrake. Leaving your car in gear will put extra strain on the clutch – even when the engine is not running. So, if you do not have enough faith in leaving your car on a hill with only the handbrake to stop it, make sure you get your handbrake checked!
5. Think about your gear changes
Think about your gear changes – are they absolutely necessary? Do you have the chance in any given situation to avoid changing gear as frequently as you do? Try looking further down the road, seeing hazards or other reasons you may have to change gear. This fore thinking could allow you to drive a bit better and maintain a constant speed for longer, without changing gear every two minutes.
What about using your gears to slow your car down? Well this is a bit of a double edged sword – ok, it is effective and can stop your car considerably quicker than using the brakes alone, so in the case of an emergency if you have the opportunity to use engine braking then fine, by all means do it. However it does mean you will be using your clutch more than you if you just used your brakes. Here’s the double edged bit – not using your engine to brake will result in your brakes wearing out sooner. Striking a balance between the two is pretty simple though – check out the price of brake pads and the price of a new clutch. Stop using your engine as a brake!