Regardless of how you use your car, the clutch will generally fall victim to wear and tear. This will likely happen before your whole car succumbs to that same force. This is because, during regular use, they undergo wear and tear from constant changes to your gear when driving.
Then, how long will your clutch last in a manual or automatic transmission?
The clutch is connected to the shaft in your car, and it is responsible for adjusting the amount of power that goes to the engine. A lot of people believe that clutches only feature in manual vehicles; this is a misunderstanding because both manual and automatic cars have clutches. The only difference is the fact that there is no clutch pedal in automatic vehicles. However, the clutch is incorporated into the engine system of the car and works a bit different from manual cars. But, the primary purpose of a clutch is not defeated in both types of vehicles.
When you apply the clutch, the clutch plates are jammed together. This brings them in contact with each other, which leads to the wearing of the plates. The higher the frequency of usage, the faster the clutch wears. This is evident in cars that stop-and-go regularly, especially those used for Taxi, their clutch plates are put to work for them to come to a stop, and this increases the rate at which they wear. The more weight a vehicle sets in motion, the harder the work demand on the clutch, making them wear faster. On the other hand, the lighter the car, the longer the lifespan of the clutch. Also, the clutch of vehicles that are used mostly on highways lasts longer than vehicles that frequent in-city roads.
There are generally two types of clutch in Automatic cars. The first one is the automatic torque converter (ATC). This clutch automatically comes to action and changes the gear when the torque of a vehicle increases as a result of increased wheel rotation. The second is the dual-clutch system. This clutch system has a respective clutch for gears, whether even or odd-numbered. Most of them utilize an electro-hydraulic system, which makes the dual-clutch system one of the most efficient clutch systems around. You can also find paddles at the edge of the steering wheel of most semi-automatic cars using the dual-clutch system. This allows you to change the gear manually also.
Clutch in Manual Car
In manual cars, there is the clutch pedal, which is just an extension of the clutch system itself. However, most people make the mistake of calling it the clutch what many refer to as a clutch. To engage the clutch, manual car drivers have to depress or turn the pedal. Unlike in automatic cars where the adjusting of the clutch is automated, Manual car drivers have to pay attention to the speed and revolutions of the vehicle. Clutches tend to wear out faster as a result of misuse. Therefore, drivers have to pay attention when changing the gear to make it smooth and reduce the wearing of the clutch.
Clutch in Automatic Transmission Car
In cars that have an automatic transmission, the parts that wear out are the clutch plates, rings, bushings, pivots, frames, sealing rings, propulsion disks, and other metal parts. All these are a consequence of friction. One of the most critical parts of the transmission is the clutch plates. This because in cars that have an automatic transmission, the clutch plates are what propel the car instead of a gear.
In an automatic transmission, there are clutch plates assigned to each gear, about three to six in number, and they are found sandwiched between flat steel reaction discs. When you put the gear selector forward or press reverse, a valve automatically opens, the piston begins to move as a result of high hydraulic pressure. The car responds by moving forward or backward. Anytime there is a change of valve in the transmission, the system automatically opens a different valve and switches gear, and the process continues.
The lifespan of Manual & Automatic Clutch
The clutch of most cars is designed to cover a maximum mileage of about 60,000 miles before it is replaced. Others may not last that long and may breakdown after 30,000 miles while some can cover more than 100,000 miles; however, this is rare.
If you drive mainly on highways, there will be lesser work on your clutch, and this will likely improve its lifespan. But, driving inside a city is a different story because you get to find yourself in more stop-and-start situations, for example, when you wait for the traffic, when a car stops in front of you, etc. The attendant effect of all these is a clutch with a shorter lifespan.
A manual clutch will last about 60,000 miles to 100,000 miles in its entire lifespan. This is because clutches in a manual transmission wear out faster as a result of the nature of driving and maneuverability of the car. Improper handling of the clutch pedal throughout a ride is bound to deteriorate the clutch faster.
In automatic cars, the clutch will cover a mileage of about 120,000 and 170,000 miles. The transmission tends to last longer when used more frequently on Highways. A few decades ago, the maximum transmission went before they succumb to the forces of friction was approximately 70,000 to 90,000 miles. However, the durability of the automatic car’s clutch has been improved dramatically over the decades due to the mechanic technology advancements.
Symptoms of Clutch Failure
The most common symptom of clutch failure you will notice is the changing of gears more often. This is as a result of your clutch plates wearing out. It is not a strange occurrence as the clutch plates do the hard work of propelling the car. Generally, the symptoms you are likely to notice when your transmission is failing is a malfunctioning of the part that has succumbed to wear.
Another thing that should alarm you is when you notice that your vehicle is not moving as it should in terms of speed. Furthermore, as the speed of your car reduces below standard, other parts such as the engine and RPM needle increases in sound and goes higher, respectively. This is an indicator that the clutches have worn out as a result of long-time abrasion, which then makes it hard to move the car forward and faster.
What Causes Premature Clutch Failure?
Quite a lot of factors can lead to premature clutch failure. One of those factors can be your geographic location. The transmission fluid in your car is likely to heat up faster in areas with hot climates, for example, deserts, and this affects the clutch negatively. Also, your clutch is more likely to wear out faster if you reside in an area with high altitude. This is due to the effect of gravity on your manual transmission.
An important thing you should note is, the lesser workload or strain you put on your clutch, the longer the before you will need a new one. Therefore, if you think you are in some car racing competition and you continue shifting your gear as you please, you will need a new one sooner than later.
Preventing Premature Clutch Failure
Most times, the driver is the one responsible for all the bad things that happen to a car’s clutch. Some drivers usually use the clutch when it is not needed. They do this while being oblivious to the negative impact it will have on the clutch, a typical example of a situation where you use the clutch to hold the car in response to a traffic light. This will lead to your clutch wearing off quickly. A proper thing to do is to stop the gear, match the brake, and maintain a neutral transmission.
Another important thing you should not do is using the clutch to control your speed. If you do otherwise, you put more stress on the clutch. If you neglect other controllers such as the gas pedal and the brakes and focus more on using the clutch to control your vehicle, you are going to experience a clutch breakdown sooner or later.
Therefore, by maintaining good driving practices and following the above suggestions, you can boost the lifespan of your clutch. Generally, being nice on your clutch will give you a minimum of 50,000 miles before you start planning to get a new one. Some can go for as much as 150,000 miles and above. All these are attainable by adhering to proper driving techniques.
How to Increase the Lifespan of a Clutch
Generally, if you put little work on your clutch, it will likely last longer. This is targeted to motorists who are not driving in racing competitions or driving huge trucks around rugged terrains. If you fall into that category, then there is a couple of things you should look out for to prolong your clutch’s life.
Firstly, only use your clutch when necessary. Whenever you have to stop for a traffic light, don’t use your clutch to hold your car when you are likely to spend over ten seconds there. Instead, take the car out of gear, apply the brake and keep your transmission at neutral till you are ready to move. Actions like this will help reduce the pressure on your clutch.
Avoid riding your clutch pedal as a mechanism for adjusting the speed of your vehicle. The accelerator and brakes are specially designed to perform that function. Although it is possible to use the clutch pedal to increase or reduce the speed of your car, however, this means that your clutch will stay with you for a short time. So, while you are using your clutch to control speed, ensure you don’t keep it in a halfway position for a long time.
By following the above recommendations, you are likely to get a minimum of 50,000 miles (80,467Km) from your clutch and, on rare occasions, reach a staggering 175,000 miles (281,635 Km). It is interesting to know that some drivers have claimed to beat this mark. You might be the next person with a record-breaking clutch lifespan thanks to your ability to maintain your clutch at an optimal level.
Changing the clutch of a car is not dependent on a specific duration or the number of miles covered. A lot of it is dependent on the issues treated above, most of them unnoticed. Having a lot of ‘stop and start‘ tends to wear the clutch of your car compared to driving on highways where there are little or no stops. Finally, the most important thing is to pay attention to your vehicle and watch out for strange sounds or a decrease in performance and other indicators that point out a faulty clutch. These and more should inform when to get a new clutch.