Riding the clutch is something all manual drivers do from time to time, whether we admit it or not. It may be excess slipping when moving a heavy load, or just lack of attention. The real problems don’t come from occasional additional pedal time, but rather, when you habitually keep the third pedal depressed just enough for the throw-out bearing to engage.
Traffic is oftentimes an absolute nightmare on our busy roads and highways, with afternoon traffic seeing us sit on one road for up to an hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic. While there’s not much you can do if you’re coming to a sudden and constant “stop-start” motion, there are other ways to prolong the life of your clutch.
In a vehicle with a manual transmission, riding the clutch refers to the practice of needlessly keeping the clutch partially disengaged. This results in the clutch being unable to fully engage with the flywheel and so causes premature wear on the disc and flywheel.
A common example of riding the clutch is to keep slight continual pressure on the clutch pedal whilst driving, as when a driver habitually rests his/her foot on the clutch pedal instead of on the floorboard or dead pedal. Although this slight pressure is not enough to allow the clutch disc itself to slip, it is enough to keep the release bearing against the release springs. This causes the bearing to remain spinning, which leads to premature bearing failure.
Riding the clutch simply refers to the act of keeping the clutch pedal partially pressed down. This pushes the pressure pad against the clutch plate but doesn’t engage completely, therefore creating more friction and wearing out the clutch faster. The best way to avoid this from happening is to keep your foot well away from the clutch unless you are actually changing gear. Don’t go round corners or slow down for traffic lights with the clutch semi-depressed.
Waiting at traffic lights or junctions with the clutch down, first gear engaged and your foot on the brake can put unnecessary strain on the clutch. It is much better to change into neutral if you are going to be stopped for any length of time and to use the handbrake to keep the car stationary.
Leaving the car parked in gear puts strain on the clutch even when the engine is switched off. If at all possible you should use the handbrake to secure the car when parking instead of leaving your vehicle in gear. This will reduce the amount of pressure put on the clutch disc when you are not driving.
Don’t linger when changing gears. This is a common problem with new drivers when they are first learning how to drive a manual vehicle. Changing gear doesn’t need to take a long time, the longer you keep the clutch pedal pressed down, the more strain you are putting on your clutch each time you change gear. This may only be a matter of a couple of seconds but think of the number of times that you will change gear on an average journey and you will see how quickly this can add up over time.
Don’t change gear more times than necessary. If you can see far down the road, try to think ahead about the obstacles which you will encounter so that you can try to maintain a constant speed rather than changing gear every few minutes. Bear in mind that many of the things you do to reduce the amount you use your clutch can end up putting more strain on your brakes instead. A piece of advice often given to increase the shelf life of your clutch is to not use the gearbox to slow down. Changing down through the gears will mean that you use your clutch more often but not doing this will put more pressure on your brakes and wear them out faster. It is a fine balance.
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