Take care of your clutch

After spending many hours in heavy traffic and at traffic lights, a lot of us can relate to having a stiff left thigh from prolonged periods of exercising clutch control. Yet Dewald Raft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), warns that incorrect clutch control is the most common mistake motorists make causing their vehicle’s clutch to burn out.

“We advise motorists to never regulate the vehicle’s speed in heavy traffic conditions by means of clutch control. Instead apply the park brake at traffic lights and select neutral until it’s time to take off. Also don’t press the clutch pedal unnecessarily while driving or when the vehicle is stationary.”

Ranft says the reason clutch control – also known as controlled slipping – leads to clutch burnout is because prolonged slipping time causes clutch temperatures to rise excessively. Racing starts have much the same effect.

However, installation errors and other components related to the clutch can also add to this increased slipping time.

“It’s safe to say that drivers as well as clutch installers can both play a very big role in this unfortunate phenomenon, which can cost anywhere from R2 000 to R20 000 to repair, depending on the vehicle type and availability of parts,” he says.

Besides quality of installation and driving style, other variables that play a role in the life expectancy of a clutch are general levels of vehicle maintenance, road conditions as well as the vehicle’s normal labour load.

“That’s why it varies. Some people need clutch replacements after only a few thousand kilometers, while others drive with the same original clutch in their vehicle for ten or even twenty years.”

Apart from minimising the use of clutch control, here are more ways to preserve the life of your vehicle’s clutch:

  • Allow the vehicle to warm up (reach normal operating temperature) before applying aggressive load to the driveline.
  • Keep the vehicle’s revs per minute (rpm) as low as possible and the slip-time as short as possible when you pull off from a standstill.
  • Never pull off in a higher gear than first gear.
  • Do not overload. Avoid pulling heavy trailers.
  • Avoid launching the vehicle on an uphill or in muddy conditions if possible.
  • Maintain the condition of the hydraulic fluid by visiting your local MIWA workshop and filling up with the correct specified fluid according to the Original Equipment (OE) manufacturer.
  • Have the hydraulic system bled properly when gears are starting to grate during gear changes and have the system flushed every 40 000 kms.
  • Only fit OE or quality aftermarket clutches.

“This goes to show that while it’s not always 100% in the hands of the driver, there is a lot motorists themselves can do to care for their vehicle’s clutch. Why not take it to heart, and save yourself a lot of money and trouble? And remember to visit your MIWA accredited workshop for a regular service where your clutch will be checked,” Ranft concludes