The average car owner will do whatever they can to protect the important parts of their vehicle. This includes the clutch which is a simple-yet-complicated component of many cars that can be difficult to understand. That is why many car owners struggle with how to avoid burning the clutch.
The best way to avoid burning the clutch is to change gear as little as possible during a trip. Never ride the clutch by constantly using the clutch pedal or it will quickly burn out. Use your handbrake when you park or whenever you stop on a steep hill to protect your clutch and avoid rollback.
Your clutch will also burn out if you upgrade to a new engine with too much torque in some cases. Try to sit in neutral when you stop at a traffic light to reduce the stress on your clutch. Follow along as we explore how to avoid burning the clutch so it will last as long as possible.
What Causes Clutches To Burn?
Bad habits such as riding the clutch and switching gear too frequently can cause your clutch to burn. Clutches can also burn out if you upgrade your engine without replacing your clutch. Not all clutches will work with every engine, especially if the engine provides too much torque.
Your clutch can also burn out if you consistently change gear too slowly. Keeping pressure on the clutch pedal for too long adds unnecessary stress that is harmful in the long run. Fluid can leak within your car and settle on your clutch which can greatly reduce its lifespan.
Unfortunately, your clutch is more likely to burn out quickly if you live in an area with lots of slopes and hills. That is because your car will roll back more often which puts stress on your clutch. Failure to use your handbrake while parking is also bad for your clutch
How Quickly Can You Burn Out a Clutch?
The fastest way to burn out a clutch is to ride it. Riding the clutch is consistently the most common cause of premature repairs and replacements. Repairs often aren’t an option when you burn out a clutch from riding it.
That is because the most important parts of the clutch take the brunt of the damage. A clutch can burn out in under 20,000 miles if you ride it frequently. Otherwise, clutches typically last between 50,000 and 150,000 miles depending on how well you take care of your car.
Main Symptoms of a Worn Clutch
It is important to identify the symptoms of a worn clutch before it’s too late. Clutch damage can lead to expensive repairs and replacements that are worth avoiding. Let’s take a look at the main symptoms of a worn clutch.
1. Burning Smell
A burning smell is a clear sign that something is wrong with your clutch. Clutches feature discs that have a coating meant to reduce friction. Bad clutch habits and time can cause this coating to wear out so that the discs rub together roughly. This rough friction will create a foul burning smell that can be alarming at first.
2. “Slipping” Out of Gear
Slipping is a common and sometimes scary symptom of a worn clutch. You slip out of gear when the disc in your clutch doesn’t connect to the flywheel as it should. This is dangerous because your car will slip out of gear and into another without your control.
3. Soft or Spongy Clutch
You can tell that your clutch is bad if the pedal feels soft or spongy. It should feel firm, but your clutch pedal will feel soft if your clutch fluid is low or if there is air in the line.
Usually, you can fix this problem if you replace the clutch fluid, but it’s worth visiting an autobody shop in case something else is wrong.
Best Ways To Avoid Burning Your Clutch
The last thing that you want is to spend a fortune on repairing or replacing your clutch. You can save time and money if you are careful with how you handle your clutch and car. Let’s take a look at the best ways to avoid burning your clutch.
Be Decisive About Gear Changes
You will put more stress on your clutch if you make several gear changes during a single trip. Unfortunately, you may have to change gear multiple times if you drive through heavy traffic amongst unpredictable drivers. This can lead to burning the clutch because you put extra stress on it.
This is unavoidable at times, but you should try to do it as little as possible. Pick routes with less frequent stops where you can maintain a consistent speed to avoid burning your clutch.
Don’t Ride The Clutch
Don’t ride the clutch or you risk burning it out which will reduce its lifespan. Riding the clutch is when you frequently put your foot on the clutch pedal while driving. Don’t put more pressure on the clutch pedal once the clutch is in gear or you may burn it out.
Your clutch won’t be able to engage fully if you ride it. Key components, such as the flywheel and disc will quickly wear out if you ride your clutch often. Riding the clutch can make it last for at least 10,000 miles less than it traditionally would, if not more.
Sit In Neutral When Stopped
Switch to neutral when you are stopped to avoid burning your clutch. This will put less stress on your clutch than if you were to engage first gear while stopped. Of course, you should only do this if you are going to stop for a little while.
This isn’t necessary if you quickly stop at a stop sign, but it is useful at stop lights. Simply use your handbrake and put your car in neutral if you have to stop for a minute in heavy traffic so you don’t strain the clutch.
Use The Handbrake When Parking
Your handbrake can work wonders to protect your clutch. Ideally, you should shift to neutral and engage your handbrake when parking. This will put as little strain as possible on your clutch to avoid burning it out.
Much like how your handbrake can help when idling, using it when parking can protect your clutch and car. Handbrakes are also a great backup for your rear brakes in the event of an emergency. Modern cars feature electronic handbrakes, but mechanical handbrakes can protect your clutch just as well.
Change Gear Quickly
Changing gear slowly can put unnecessary stress on your clutch. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s better for your clutch if you change gear quickly. The strain comes from putting pressure on the clutch pedal.
You put more strain on your clutch the more time you spend depressing the pedal. It should only take a second or two to change gear, and anything beyond that may put too much stress on your clutch.
Holding a Vehicle on a Hill Using Your Clutch
Rollback is one of the worst things that can happen to your clutch. It may not burn out your clutch right away, but it can cause damage over time. This may seem unavoidable while on a large hill or slope, but it isn’t.
You can avoid this if you simply use your handbrake whenever you have to stop on a steep incline. This will stop your car from rolling back if you simply rely on your handbrake. Let go of your handbrake before you accelerate to avoid damage as well.
You’ve Added More Power To The Engine Bay
You may notice that your clutch feels different when you upgrade your engine bay. That is because you are now using more torque than what was originally intended for your clutch. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can cause your clutch to wear out faster than it would have before.
Find a clutch that is compatible with the torque that your new engine produces. Now, you won’t have to worry about your clutch slipping or burning out and you can enjoy your upgraded engine bay.
Clutch contamination is a common and serious problem that can make your clutch fail. This happens when the clutch disc gets covered with grease and oil. Over time, the moisture will weaken your clutch and you will likely burn it or experience slipping.
This can happen accidentally if fluid leaks within your car. However, this also happens when you poorly install or repair your clutch. Check your engine or the hydraulic fluid in your cylinders and look for leaks that would contaminate your clutch to avoid contamination.
Letting Someone Borrow Your Car
It is generous to let someone borrow your car, but it can also be bad for your car’s health. That is why it’s important to communicate and let them about your concerns with the clutch. Tell them to be considerate of gear changes and to try not to ride the clutch.
However, you may not want to loan your car out at all if you are concerned about your clutch. Don’t let someone borrow your car if you’ve recently noticed that your clutch is spongy. Otherwise, you should tell the person that is borrowing your car about any bad clutch symptoms you’ve experienced so they are aware.
Do You Need To Repair or Replace Your Clutch?
You can repair a clutch instead of replacing it depending on how serious the problem is. It is generally cheaper to repair a clutch than to replace it by at least several hundred dollars. For example, it costs between $580 and $730 to repair a clutch between parts and labor.
It costs an average of $1,500 to replace your clutch, but it can cost much less than that. Costs vary based on the make and model of your car as well as the severity of the problem. You may spend as little as $500 or as much as $2,200 to replace your clutch, but it’s worth the cost.
The only time it’s not worth it to replace your clutch is if it would cost over 50% of your car’s value. This is especially true if your car is old and has over 150,000 miles on it. In that case, you may want to put your money towards a new car.