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Riding the clutch: What does it mean?

March 01, 2022 by

Riding the clutch is something most of us will have done at some point, but it’s a habit to avoid getting into.

Normal clutch control in a manual car involves you pressing the clutch pedal, selecting a gear and gently lifting off the pedal completely.

Riding the clutch however is when you leave some pressure on the clutch once the car is in gear. This will leave the clutch partially disengaged, causing it to wear out more quickly.

When might you ride the clutch?

It’s quite common amongst learners or new drivers to inadvertently ride the clutch. However, for some, it may be a habit that subconsciously continues.

One time you may intentionally ride the clutch is in stationary traffic rather than switching your car into neutral. Sure, you may get moving a little quicker but doing this long-term could see your clutch wear out prematurely.

Is riding the clutch bad for your car?

Though riding the clutch on the odd occasion won’t cause any significant damage, doing this long-term could cause excessive wear on your clutch.

This will mean you need a replacement sooner than expected. The clutch is considered a wear-and-tear item, so is unlikely to be covered by your car’s warranty.

How to avoid riding the clutch

If you seem to be riding the clutch often, there are a few steps you can take to try and break this habit

  • Adjust your driving position

If you’re sitting too close to the pedals, you might find yourself resting your foot on the clutch for comfort’s sake. Try moving your seat further back to give your foot a little more space. This should help you to avoid resting it on the clutch pedal.

  • Bring your foot off the clutch pedal when driving

Most modern cars will have a footrest to the left of the clutch pedal. Try to get into the habit of bringing your foot off the clutch pedal once you’ve changed gear and resting it here instead. This will prevent you from inadvertently depressing the clutch.

If your car’s footwell is a bit cramped, try finding a driving position that allows you to comfortably rest your foot on the floor just in front of the clutch pedal.

FAQs: Riding the clutch

Where is the clutch pedal?

The clutch pedal is the furthest to the left of your three pedals on a car with a manual gearbox. The centre pedal is the brake, with the furthest right the throttle.

What does the clutch do?

A clutch transfers power from your engine to the gearbox, and ultimately to your wheels

How long should a car clutch last?

The lifespan of a clutch will vary depending on your mode and how you drive. It could be as low as 20,000 miles or less, or up to 150,000 miles and beyond.

What happens when your clutch goes out while driving?

Your clutch failing will stop any connection between your engine and gearbox, meaning a total loss of power.

It’s unlikely your clutch will fail without any prior warning. However, if it does — don’t worry too much about catastrophic damage immediately. Pull up when it’s safe to do so, and you shouldn’t pick up damage beyond needing a new clutch.

However, if you try driving on with a broken clutch, you will risk causing serious damage to your gearbox.