If you drive a manual transmission car, you may be surprised to find out that it has more than one clutch. This turns out to be the same with automatic transmission vehicles as well. In fact, there are clutches in many things we probably see or use every day: Many cordless drills have a clutch; chain saws have a centrifugal clutch etc. Wheeling puts a huge strain on your clutch.
The life expectancy of a clutch on a paved road can be in excess of 160,000km but for those that more than often venture off the paved roads (off-roaders), you’ll be lucky to get 60,000km out of it.
There are measures you can take while driving to maximize that mileage.
That said and done, how can you protect your clutch and get the right mileage out of it? Most off-roaders do abuse the clutch to some extent, and that’s to be expected.
It is possible, though, to make some small adjustments to minimize clutch wear, without taking all the fun out of your ‘wheeling. First, don’t slip the clutch when you can avoid it.
Also, keep your left foot on the floor when you aren’t actively shifting. Do not rest your foot on the clutch pedal or hover over it.
Doing so causes the throw-out bearing to connect with the pressure plate, which leads to unnecessary wear.
Even the slightest force on the pedal is multiplied at the clutch, which reduces the clamping pressure. The clutch could slip as a result.
When idling in place for long periods of time, on- or off-road, make sure you put the vehicle in neutral and release the clutch. Just this will extend the life of your clutch and, in particular, the life of your throw-out bearing.
For those of you that own the 4X4 or SUVs, considering the way you use and abuse your 4x4, stock clutches generally aren’t adequate for frequent off-road driving.
This doesn’t mean you need to replace the clutch if it still works. But know that your stock clutch will eventually give out, because off-road driving is inherently clutch-intensive. When that happens, be prepared to invest in a quality clutch rather than a cheap or a rebuilt model.
Buying the cheapest clutch you can find in the spare parts store will only end up costing you more in the long run. It’s really important to make sure your vehicle is geared properly.
Weight, tire size, and terrain all impact the appropriate gearing for your 4x4. Even if the gearing is off just slightly, your clutch will face more wear and will break down that much faster.
You can easily tell that your vehicle is not geared correctly if you find yourself slipping the clutch to avoid stalling. As noted above, terrain can be a factor here.
Maybe you venture into off-road territory on occasion and you have to slip the clutch to get across the more difficult landscape.
That’s certainly reasonable. But if you are driving that way every time you leave the road, consider a gearing adjustment, unless you want to get stuck out on the trail with a burned-up clutch.
If you only drive your 4x4 off road, the appropriate gearing is more subjective. Your gearing should be low enough that your vehicle can idle up a shallow grade in low gear without stalling.
Then, from there, you should be able to accelerate without issue. Many Off-roaders usually need the lowest gearing, because they need to climb more aggressive terrain, basically at idle, and then respond to acceleration from there.
Off-roaders is the major example of where a good clutch becomes a vital element in the trail durability equation.
However good the clutch though, it doesn't make up for having the wrong gears for the tire size, weight and engine power of a given vehicle.
A clutch’s ability to link the engine to the drive train is based on three factors; how well the clutch can handle heat, torque capacity and drivability. For on-road and off-road vehicles, the clutch must demonstrate a smooth transition between the released and connected states.
Clutches that grab quickly are better suited for drag racing. These basically function like a toggle switch, such that the clutch is either connected or it’s not, and there’s no middle ground.
This doesn’t serve you when you’re navigating an unpredictable trail and you need full control of your vehicle.
(To be Cont’d)