Five tips to help your clutch last longer

If you drive a manual car, you use the clutch every time you change gears, so it’s easy to take it for granted. The good news is that the clutch can be maintained quite easily with good vehicle maintenance and driving skills.

“If your clutch fails, you won’t be able to change gears,” explains Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions. “Just like any other car component, your clutch may wear out over time. Usually, a clutch replacement is quite costly, depending on the make, model and year of your car. If your motor plan has expired, shop around for the best quote. Be sure that you’re using a reliable RMI (Retail Motor Industry organisation) approved dealer.”

Smit points out that most vehicle maintenance plans cover wear and tear parts such as clutches and clutch cables. “Having a maintenance plan for your car covers you for these unexpected repair and replacement costs with an easy and more affordable monthly payment plan. A maintenance plan is far more inclusive than a service plan and includes the cost of replacing car parts that get damaged or worn out. Generally, a maintenance plan will include brake pads, wiper blades, globes and fuses, engine, clutch, gearbox, electrical components, exhaust systems and clutch repairs. However, it’s important to shop around for the best quote and understand what coverage you’re getting.”

MotorHappy specialises in sourcing a variety of quotes for maintenance plans, service plans, extended warranties and insurance.

It’s difficult to say how long a clutch should last, but it’s a given that your clutch will wear out before your car does. “Your driving can greatly impact the longevity of your clutch,” says Smit. “Without meaning to, most people use their clutch more than is necessary.”

Below, Smit outlines five ways to increase your clutch lifespan, ensuring it performs at its best for as long as possible:

  • The clutch should be used as a switch

The clutch is meant to be operated either completely engaged or completely disengaged. Keeping the clutch pedal slightly depressed (known as “clutch riding”) should be avoided. There might be cases where you must do a bit of clutch riding, especially when starting to move from a standstill but in all other cases where it can be avoided, it should be.

“Clutch riding reduces the efficiency of the clutch by wearing it down and soon you will experience all sorts of troubles like false shifts, gears not shifting properly, loss of power and a lot of noise and clutch overheating issues,” says Smit. “Usually, drivers resort to clutch riding for a smoother drive. Instead, time your gear shifts, acceleration and braking in such a way that there is no jerking motion from the car.”

  • Never rev when the clutch is engaged

Smit says another rather common but highly damaging habit that most drivers have is revving the engine when the clutch is still engaged. The engine revs a lot faster when the clutch is engaged, and the high RPMs encountered in such cases can be lethal to the clutch. Most people do this inadvertently during gear shifts where they are still depressing the accelerator pedal,  while then also depressing the clutch pedal to change gears, causing the engine’s revs to shoot up and leading to a harsh gearshift. Time the gear shift and acceleration in such a way that the RPM never spikes, and the entire operation takes place smoothly.

  • Don't drive aggressively

“Aggressive driving, like pulling off quickly from a red robot, puts huge amounts of force and stress on different components of the car, including the clutch,” says Smit.

The clutch should be engaged when the engine is idle. Always be aware of the conditions around you and start slowing the car down well before you must stop. This will allow you to avoid situations where you must drop the clutch at high RPMs which can lead to clutch slippage as well as more permanent damage.

  • Learn how to deal with hill-climbs

Clutch riding on a hill climb is even more detrimental to the clutch and should be avoided at all costs. The answer is to use the hand brake instead of riding the clutch. This is not something that comes naturally to most people and as such can be difficult to implement. However, not only is it the right way from the point of view of clutch longevity but also from a safety perspective.

  • Look out for signs that the clutch is suffering damage

Keep an eye and ear out for signs that the clutch is damaged.

“If the gears are shifting too easily and the engine revs abnormally then it could be a sign of a slipping clutch,” cautions Smit. Also, watch out for noises or a burning smell. If anything feels wrong with the clutch, then have it checked by a professional so that corrective measures can be taken before the clutch is damaged beyond repair.”