Have you ever wondered exactly what happens when you push down the clutch pedal? Without the clutch you would not be able to disengage the power of the engine or change gears! So how does it all work? A clutch is used to connect two moving shafts that are moving at different speeds. This allows us to disengage engine power without stalling the car or to be able to drive off smoothly allowing the engine’s power to transmit to the road gradually.
What is the clutch made up of? There are several major components starting with the flywheel which is connected to the engine, followed by the clutch plate which is connected to the transmission. Next is the pressure plate which holds the friction between the clutch plate and the flywheel. This part of the clutch takes an incredible amount of force & pressure. Next are the studs & the diaphragm spring. As the middle of the diaphragm spring is pushed in, a series of pins near the outside of the spring causes it to pull the pressure plate away from the clutch disc. This releases the clutch from the spinning engine. The next component is the throw-out bearing which is also known as a ‘clutch bearing’. It aids the smoothness of the transition and noise reduction. Next you have the clutch housing and release fork. The release fork’s job is to put force onto the pressure plate causing the pressure plate fingers to release. The bell housing contains all of the clutch components. The final part of the jigsaw puzzle is the gear box.
How can you look after your clutch? Don’t ride your clutch. We are all guilty of sitting in traffic jams or waiting for the lights to change, by holding the car steady on the clutch rather than the brakes. This can take years of life from the clutch! Intense heat builds of within the clutch and this can lead to the clutch burning out. Simply by holding the car on the foot brake or handbrake will dramatically reduce clutch wear. When you have fully released the clutch move your foot off the pedal as having the clutch slightly depressed will also increase wear to the clutch.
What are the signs of clutch wear? A slipping clutch can mean a new clutch is required. A simple way to see if your clutch is slipping is to find a reasonable hill or incline. Get your vehicle to a reasonable speed around 30-45 should be fine then select a high gear 4th or 5th and push the accelerator to the floor (if it is safe and legal to do so). If the vehicle’s rev counter suddenly raises with no equal sign of acceleration this can be a sign of clutch wear. Some vehicles do have the facility to adjust the clutch cable which can extend the life of the clutch.
Another sign of clutch wear is clutch judder. You would feel this feedback through the clutch pedal. If you feel a judder or thump during the gear change this may be an indication. This is generally felt at slower speeds or changing gear in the lower gears. The usual cause of this is that the clutch plate has moved slightly and become misaligned. This can also happen if the clutch plate or other parts have been renewed and not aligned correctly. The worst outcome from this would be that the flywheel has become damaged, and if this is the case specialist advice will be required, as the flywheel would generally mean the clutch assembly would also require changing!
Yet another sign of clutch wear is any unusual noises. Most noises on older cars are only to be expected; you would expect to hear some creaks and groans and whines after a few years. A bit like the wife (only joking)!! One noise that would be cause for concern would be if the whining noise also had a crunching sound within it. If you hear this type of sound then it is definitely worth getting your car repaired as soon as possible. This could be a sign of the clutch bearing beginning to wear. This component would need to be replaced as soon as possible. If it were left it would cause further damage and would cost a lot more money to rectify.
What else has a clutch? Well some people with automatic cars maybe surprised to find out that automatic cars also have clutches and some even have two? Lots of power tools are equipped with clutches as well. Drills are usually fitted with clutches so the user can disengage the drive faster. This allows the user to have far more control of the equipment. As you can imagine the safety benefits make the clutch a necessity. The strangest thing that I have come across that requires a clutch is a Yo Yo!