In a car with a manual gearbox, the clutch sits between the engine and the gearbox. Its purpose is to connect / disconnect the rotating engine to / from the gearbox and drive wheels.
The clutch provides one of two ways to disconnect the rotating engine from the gearbox and drive wheels (for example preparing to stop at a traffic light or to park).
- Press and hold down the clutch pedal.
This retracts the clutch plate’s contact with the engine flywheel. The car can be braked to a standstill without stalling the engine, which continues idling.
- After the action above, put the gearbox in neutral gear.
The clutch pedal can be released. The clutch plate makes contact with the rotating engine flywheel and starts rotating, along with the gearbox input shaft. But because the gearbox is in neutral, no rotating input shaft gears are in mesh with the gears on the output shaft, which is stationary, as are the drive wheels.
There is ongoing wear and tear of the clutch while you drive. Every time you pull off or change gear, you release the clutch pedal. The clutch friction plate moves forward to press strongly against the engine flywheel. Both surfaces experience a momentary scraping together before they lock up. Add up all the clutch releases you perform every time you drive and that’s a lot of wear!
If you want your clutch to last longer, never ride the clutch when stopped on an uphill. Use the hand brake and keep the clutch depressed until you drive off.
HOW A CLUTCH FAILS
There are generally two types of clutch actuation usually found on a car with a manual gearbox: cable and hydraulic.
Besides normal wear and tear over time, it is failure of the actuation systems – snapped clutch cable or loss of clutch hydraulic fluid – which renders your car un-driveable. In both cases, the clutch pedal sinks to the floor when depressed and won’t spring back up. And it doesn’t do its job which is to disengage the clutch plate from the flywheel.
Clutch actuation failure is rare, but it can happen unexpectedly. A loss of hydraulic pressure disables the clutch just as you’re about to shift from neutral into 1st gear before driving off. Or the clutch cable snaps just when you’re changing up or down a gear while driving at speed.
It’s important to understand what is happening here. Clutch failure reduces your control over your vehicle. If it happens when you’re stationary, you’re essentially stuck there, stranded.
If it happens while you’re driving, your car becomes a guided missile, almost unstoppable. You can’t gear down; the clutch is inoperative. You can brake, but the engine is still running and propelling your vehicle at speed. It becomes a power struggle between your engine’s idling speed torque; the strength of your right leg and the efficiency of your brakes….
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Turn off the ignition. Don’t remove the key. Leave it in the ignition slot. This will cut the coil’s electric pulses to the spark plugs, and the fuel pump. But it will not lock the steering wheel, so you can still control your car’s direction. The engine immediately loses all power and torque and starts slowing. Gently apply the brakes and pull over where it is safe to do so. Remember to apply the hand brake.
Now you’re back to the first scenario – stuck and stranded. Call RDG for Roadside Assistance. We will recover you and your car to our nearest workshop, and get you home safe. Then let RDG solve your car’s faulty clutch problem with a new, guaranteed replacement clutch kit and RDG’s excellent peace-of-mind 1-year warranty.
Don’t forget, we also repair and exchange manual and automatic gearboxes and transmissions; propshafts, CV-joints, differentials and steering systems. Find your nearest RDG by folloing this link or leave us a message and have an RDG service advisor contact you directly here