How to replace your car’s clutch
AT some point in every car’s lifetime, a clutch replacement is in order — unless the car was hardly driven or was written off, suffering a premature demise.
However, for those of us who keep our cars beyond their service plan, or have older cars that we cherish, a new clutch is a reality that must be faced. The question is, how do you choose the right clutch?
The first step, even if you aren’t going to fit it yourself, is to find out what clutch fits your car. A number of companies make quality replacement clutch kits for all makes of cars - or you can get the original clutch for your car from the dealership.
Once the parts have been sourced and the mechanic lined up, the job can start!
Usually, replacing the clutch requires removing the gearbox, so expect to be without your car for at least a day .
In a normal situation, with a car that hasn’t been modified, the engine’s flywheel must be checked for uneven wear whiel the clutch is out, and skimmed if necessary. New flywheel bolts are also advised but may not always be necessary.
At the other end of the scale however, are those cars that have been modified from standard, and need different, unusual or even specially made clutch components.
An example of this is when the car has been modified to produce more power than its original specifications; in this case the standard-issue clutch may not be able to handle the extra torque, and will slip continuously, drastically shortening its lifespan.
Often, all that’s needed is a copper-threaded organic clutch; a number of aftermarket suppliers produce these as upgraded alternatives to the factory parts. They’re built to handle significantly more power than the standard parts, and may be just what your performance car needs.
In more extreme cases, there are cars that have been modified to the point where no “off the shelf” clutch is able to cope; in that case, you’ll need a custom clutch.
Very often, multiple stacks of smaller diameter clutch plates are used so that the power load is spread across multiple clutches, enabling the clutch assembly the ability to handle the power. Examples of these are in the application of copper and button clutches, which take up so aggressively that they’re a challenging to use in ordinary traffic yet, on a drag strip or a track, they give you the extra bite for a really hot start. Ceramic and carbon-ceramic clutuch materials are usually indicated for ‘Supercar’ or extreme racing applications and are best fitted by performance vehicle specialists .
Paddle shift or dual-clutch transmissions very often what are called ‘wet’ clutches, which run in an oil-bath rather than dry as in conventional clutches. They usually last longer, while gear shifts are smoother and more instant than with conventional clutches.
Next time you sit in traffic and keep your car steady by balancing it at the clutch takeup point, think about what your next clutch replacement will entail, as this driving habit wears the clutch out very quickly by, allowing it to ‘slip’ against the flywheel, causing unnecessary wear.
Rather be kind to your vehicle, select neutral, pull up the handbrake and wait patiently to get going again.
Tips on how to extend the lifespan of your clutch:
Release the clutch A common mistake drivers make - especially when in traffic — is to keep their foot on the clutch or ‘ride it’ when driving which speeds up wear and tear drastically. Keeping your foot on the clutch, even lightly, wears the clutch. A better approach would be to gear down to slow down or control your speed.
Gear changes — make the full motion When changing gears, be sure to press the clutch all the way in. Likewise, when you have selected your chosen gear, release your clutch fully. If you don’t go through the full motion, in either situation, your clutch may stay in contact with the engine which can cause significant damage.
Let your handbrake do some of the work Your clutch takes a lot of strain when doing all the work (clutch control) to get uphill. Consider using your handbrake instead to keep the car from rolling back. When you want to start moving forward again, use both your accelerator and clutch and then slowly release the handbrake.
Your clutch is one of the most expensive components to replace on a car, and can cause a lot of trouble if you don’t know how to look after it.