A clutch is two metal plates in the engine. When you press the clutch pedal down the plates come apart separating the engine from the drive wheels allowing you to change gear. Releasing the clutch pedal and bringing it back up, re-engages the plates which in turn connect the engine to the drive wheels. As your car engine is constantly running, a clutch is needed to separate the engine from the drive wheels when you stop the car. Pressing the clutch down just before you stop does just this, otherwise the car would stall, causing the vehicle engine to cut out.
The clutch is a mechanical device which transfers the kinetic rotational power from the engine to the wheels via two or more rotating shafts, this process occurs in any manual vehicle. Both the clutch and the shafts are a vital part of the car´s working machinery as the engine generates power, and has parts which are constantly rotating, but the wheels are not constantly spinning. To allow the car to both change speed and to come to a complete stop without turning off the engine, the connection between the wheels and the engine needs to be temporarily broken. There are two main parts to your clutch: the clutch plate and the flywheel. If your foot is not pressing down on the clutch pedal, there are a set of springs which keep a pressure plate pushed up against the clutch plate. The pressure from the springs also pushes the clutch plate up against the flywheel. When your foot pushes down on the clutch pedal, you press down on a release fork, which, through a series of springs and pins, pulls the pressure plate away from the clutch plate. This breaks the connection between the rotating engine and the wheels, meaning that the wheels continue to spin but under their own momentum (neutral gear) not through the power of the engine. This design allows you to dis-engage the wheels from the engine in order to change gear, allowing drivers to have a great amount of control over the speed of their car.
- Don’t ride the clutch - “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.
- Sit in neutral when stopped - When waiting at traffic lights or junctions with the clutch down, first gear engaged and your foot on the brake you are putting unnecessary strain on the clutch. To avoid this, change gear into neutral and to use the handbrake to keep the car stationary.
- Use the handbrake when parking - Leaving the car parked in gear puts unnecessary strain on the clutch even when the engine is switched off. whenever possible you should use the handbrake to secure the car when parking instead. This will reduce the amount of pressure put on the clutch disc when you are not driving.
- Change gear quickly - Don’t hesitate 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 those seconds do add up and over time you have put a huge amount of excessive and unnecessary force on the clutch.
- Be decisive about gear changes - 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.
- Turn on the ignition, make sure that the handbrake is on and put the car into neutral.
- With the engine on but without pushing down the accelerator or the clutch pedal listen out for a noise which sounds like a low growl. If you don’t hear anything then continue onto step 3. If you do hear a growling noise then it is likely you have an issue with the your clutch. If you do not know how to fix this yourself then you should take your vehicle into a garage, alternativly you can find detailed Haynes DIY Vehicle Specific Workshop Manuals Here Where you can see detailed step by step instructions on how to fix every aspect of your vehicle.
- Keep the car in neutral and push down the clutch pedal partway and listen out for any noises it makes. If you don’t hear anything, again proceed to the next step. If you hear a high-pitched squeaking as you press the pedal then you know that you have a problem with your clutch. This sort of noise is usually associated with problems with the clutch release bearings.
- Press the clutch pedal all the way down. Again, listen out for any unusual sounds coming from the car. If it starts to make a squealing noise then it is likely that you have an issue with the pilot bearing or the bushing.
If you don’t hear any noises during any of these tips then it is likely your clutch is fine.
If you do hear any of the noises mentioned above then it is worth making a note of exactly what sort of noise you can hear and precisely when it happens. This may allow you to only replace the exact part of the clutch which is damaged which will be much cheaper than having to replace the whole thing.