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UNDERSTANDING YOUR CAR’S CLUTCH AND THE CLUTCH KIT

WHAT IS A CLUTCH AND WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?

If you’ve ever driven a manual transmission car, then you will be familiar with the clutch pedal you need to press in order to change gears. But you may not be familiar with the clutch system itself and how it works.

Put simply, the clutch is the mechanical device that transfers the rotational power from the engine to the wheels in any manual vehicle and is a vital part of your car’s machinery. By engaging the clutch, power transfers from the engine to the transmission and drives the car. The clutch is made up of two main parts, namely: A clutch plate and The flywheel

Your car’s engine is constantly spinning but you do not want the wheels constantly spinning. There needs to be a way to disengage the wheels when you bring your car to a stop without killing the engine and that is where your clutch comes in. The clutch allows you to change speed and to bring your vehicle to a stop without stalling the engine or turning the engine off by temporarily breaking the connection between the wheels and the engine. 

The clutch also interrupts power to the transmission when changing gears so as to avoid gear crunching when shifting.  So the mechanism both engages and disengages power transmission: When the clutch pedal is fully raised or fully engaged, power is sent from the engine to the transmission, and when the clutch pedal is depressed or disengaged it stops the power from the engine to the transmission.

WHAT IS A CLUTCH KIT?

A clutch kit consists of three manual transmission parts, namely: a pressure plate, a clutch disc, and a release  (thrust)  bearing. Some kits provide an alignment tool as well.

When the clutch fails, it is advisable to replace the entire kit versus individual clutch parts as this way all of the parts will be of the same age and will wear evenly. If you only replace one of the parts there is a strong chance one of the older parts will fail, which will cause clutch failure.

HOW LONG WILL A CLUTCH LAST?

This is difficult to answer as it depends on each individual’s driving style and usage conditions. Ideally, it should last 100,000 to 150, 000 miles but on average most clutches last approximately 60,000 miles before needing a replacement. This will vary depending on driving styles and some may need replacing as early as 30,000 miles and if you treat it well you could get up to 80,000 miles or more. Experts also recommend that the flywheel is skimmed before replacing a clutch which will ensure smooth gear change and prevent clutch shudder.

FACTORS THAT WILL INFLUENCE THE RATE OF CLUTCH WEAR

Because the clutch works on the principle of friction which causes heat and wear, a clutch has a limited life. There are some common factors that could cause your clutch to wear faster. These are:

  • Popping the clutch – releasing the clutch too quickly (it should be released slowly)
  • Riding the clutch – using the clutch instead of the handbrake by holding the clutch in the half position
  • Inexperienced drivers – inadequate driving skills could cause clutch damage
  • Overloading the car can put an extra load on the clutch which will hasten wear
  • Towing can also cause additional clutch wear
  • Frequent clutch use – for example in the midst of city traffic

THE MOST COMMON CLUTCH PROBLEMS

  • Wear: this is due to constant friction which causes heat and will cause the materials to wear out
  • A broken cable: if the tension is not enough to push and pull the cable, it will cause damage
  • Leaks: Leaking fluid from the cylinders will cause a lack of pressure
  • Misalignment: this will cause the incorrect amount of force to be transmitted when you press the clutch or gas pedal.
  • Air in the Line: If air gets in the line where the fluid needs to be, there will not be enough pressure in the system
  • Hard clutch: if you need a lot of force to get the clutch to work, there could be a problem

WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF CLUTCH PROBLEMS

  • Slipping clutch. If your car is slow to start, feels sluggish or it is difficult to move it even when the engine is revving, the culprit is usually a slipping clutch. This occurs more often in higher gears, If the clutch is badly worn it will not grip the flywheel and the engine power cannot be transferred efficiently.
  • Difficulty to get into some gears or the gear shift is not smooth. This could indicate a problem with the linkages or a damaged clutch plate
  • Dragging Clutch. If you hear grinding noises while shifting gears,  or if gears clash when you try to shift, or the clutch doesn’t release fully even when the pedal is fully depressed, you more than likely have a dragging clutch. This could indicate a problem with the clutch pedal itself or with the release mechanism.
  • Strange and Unusual Noises.  If you hear noises when you depress or release the clutch pedal it could indicate a lack of lubrication in the release mechanism or the bearing could be worn out. An indication of a worn-out input shaft could be noises the car makes when it is in Neutral and the sound goes away if the clutch pedal is depressed.
  • The Clutch Pedal itself feels strange, or too hard or too soft. 

If your vehicle is exhibiting any of the above signs, please get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to investigate and fix the clutch.

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