The clutch: our tips on how to maintain it

The clutch system is put under great stress, especially when driving in town. A damaged clutch can lead to breakdowns, vehicle immobilisation or costly repairs. Learn how to detect the symptoms of wear and tear and find out what you can do to protect your clutch.
The clutch: our tips on how to maintain it
©Mihajlo Maricic/iStock

What are the symptoms and causes of clutch wear?

Friction between the flywheel and the clutch disc is the cause of clutch wear; the more it is used, the faster the clutch will wear. This friction increases if:

  • You regularly tow a trailer.
  • You frequently start on a hill.
  • You press the clutch pedal unnecessarily.
  • You start in a gear other than 1st.

You can recognise a faulty clutch system from:

  • Clattering when the vehicle is idling.
  • A slipping clutch.
  • Difficulty shifting gears.
  • A burning smell in the passenger compartment.
  • Vibration of the pedal when declutching.
  • Vibration of the pedal when disengaging the clutch -a bell-like noise in the engine that stops when disengaging the clutch.
  • The pedal jerks when declutching.
  • The pedal is difficult to depress or can be too easily depressed with no resistance.
  • Sudden engine noise with an increasing rev counter but without any gear change.

Tip: to test the condition of your clutch, try starting in 3rd gear. You will stall if the clutch is in good condition. If it is slipping, it should be replaced.

What are the best ways to maintain your clutch?

To maintain your clutch:

  • Avoid keeping your foot on the pedal, even partially, if you don’t need to change gears.
  • Shift into neutral when stopped (at a red light or intersection).
  • Use the handbrake when parking rather than putting the car in gear.
  • Maintain a constant speed by anticipating obstacles to avoid repeated gear changes.
  • Change gears quickly: the longer you hold the clutch pedal down, the more pressure will be put on the clutch.
  • Do not overload your vehicle.

While the life of a clutch system is usually 20,000 to 150,000 miles, its longevity depends on your driving style! Smooth driving and good driving habits will help prevent premature clutch wear.