Preserving The Life Of Your Clutch

If you drive a car with a manual transmission, then you probably know that you have to take good care not to damage the clutch. Even if you're the most perfect driver in the world, each time you press down on the clutch, you are inevitably causing wear. You may be accelerating that wear without even realizing with certain driving habits. Here are some ways to keep your clutch in good working condition for as long as possible.

Do not ride the clutch:

This is when you rest your foot on the clutch pedal or push it down part of the way even if you're not changing gears. Many people don't even realize that they are doing this and it can quickly become a habit. Putting just a little bit of pressure on the pedal can cause unnecessary wear. Your clutch pedal should either be all the way to the floor when you change gears, or totally untouched when you're not. Keeping the pedal anywhere in between means that there is unnecessary friction which adds to wear.

Take it easy when engaging first gear:

Don't rush out from a stop light as if you're in a race. Keeping RPMs low as you start out can help keep clutch wear to a minimum. However, you don't want go so low that your engine stalls out. Some experienced drivers have mentioned that their "magic number" is about 1100 RPM, but your vehicle might be different and you may have to experiment to find the optimum speed. Make sure you press and release the clutch smoothly and completely as you shift into gear.

Use the brakes, not the clutch:

While there are certain situations where you should engage in "engine braking," such as when you are going down a steep hill, in general you should rely on your brakes to stop. Downshifting to slow down puts a lot of wear on the clutch and if you do it a lot, it could cause premature failure. On a related note, keeping your transmission in neutral when coasting to a stop could slow wear on several components over time. You can do that without the clutch, but it takes practice to get it just right and it's not for everyone. Doing it wrong may actually cause more wear or even damage, so it's not a good idea to practice this on a new clutch.

If you take care of your clutch, then it will last a very long time without a lot of problems. However, you should still take your car in for inspection and adjustment on a regular basis. And even if you take good care of your clutch, sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. That's when you need a good transmission shop to keep everything in good shape.