What Is a Clutch?
If your car has a manual transmission, its clutch is the lifeline between your running engine and your turning wheels. It is a spinning friction plate that separates and mates the (of course) powered, spinning engine and the unpowered transmission when you depress and let off of the clutch pedal. Clutches are wear items, so it’s a matter of when – not if – they wear out. When they do, we’re here to replace it for you.
Symptoms of a Worn Clutch
A worn-out clutch will leave you stranded, but under normal driving conditions, it will thankfully give you plenty of warning signs before doing so. Keep an eye out for:
- Slipping clutch. If you give the car gas and the RPMs increase without an increase in speed, your clutch lacks enough friction material to successfully mate the engine and transmission together. As a result, your clutch is failing to successfully engage. Given enough miles driving like this, you will eventually burn through all your clutch material and be left stranded.
- Burning smell. If you smell this while accelerating from a stop or while attempting to gain speed, it is probably in correlation with #1 (slipping clutch) and should be addressed immediately.
- Difficulty shifting or grinding sounds when shifting. This can result if your clutch plate has broken apart. There will be sharts of clutch material inside the clutch assembly making noise, grinding into smaller pieces, and in all causing further damage to your transmission. Have your vehicle towed and remedy this immediately.
How to Prolong Your Clutch’s Life
Slipping your clutch is a necessary evil whenever you put your car in motion – it’s what the component is made to do. However, the clutch is not engineered to be excessively slipped. When you begin moving from a stop, you should elevate your RPMs at most a couple hundred above your baseline idle, let the clutch pedal out smoothly and continue adding more gas as the clutch continues to engage. Starting from a stop each time by revving your engine into the 1500-2000+ RPM range puts unnecessary friction on the clutch disk and wears the clutch prematurely. Additionally, when the clutch pedal is depressed between gear shifts you should do your best to match the needed engine RPMs with your throttle pedal. So if you are shifting out of 3rd gear at 2000 RPMs and into 4th, you know the engine will be settling in around 1700 RPMs once the clutch is fully engaged. Don’t completely let off the gas in the middle of the shift and let the RPMs drop to near idle. Instead, just give the engine a little less gas so that the engine settles around 1700 RPMs before you re-engage the clutch. This will put less wear on your clutch plate as well as result in significantly smoother shifts.
We recently had a 2010 Mustang Cobra at the shop that needed a new clutch assembly. The stock component had the option of being replaced with an upgraded dual-clutch on a single flywheel assembly, which the customer opted to install. This upgrade will result in a better clutch feel when driving the car, as well as better rev matching when shifting.