Clutch control is a technique that allows a driver to control a cars
speed. Learning clutch control is essential for passing the driving test
as you may be required to demonstrate hill starts to the driving examiner, plus the driving manoeuvres
require a high level of clutch control by keeping the car incredibly
slow. Learning clutch control for the first time should be done on a
flat, even and quiet road. Ensure the car is setup correctly so that
you can depress the clutch fully without overstretching, you are wearing
your seat belt, the engine is turned on and the handbrake is OFF.
- Depress the clutch fully and select first gear.
- Provide the engine with a little extra power by very gently pressing
the accelerator so that the rev counter reads around 1500 rpm.
- Ensure before your car moves that it is safe to do so and now very slowly, raise the clutch.
You will know it’s the bite point at the car will slowly start to move.
The clutch bite point can occur at any point during the clutches
working travel as you lift it, as all clutches are different. The bite
point however will always be in the same place for that particular
clutch. The key here is with plenty of practice is to remember where the
bite point is.
Now that we have found the bite point, the car is slowly starting to
move forward, now fully depress the clutch and gently brake to a stop.
Keep repeating the process by giving the engine a little power and very
slowly lifting the clutch till the car starts to move and fully
depressing the clutch. By repeating this, you will gain an understanding
where the bite point occurs.
Once you have got the hang of that, try it again but instead of fully
depressing the clutch once the car starts to move, press the clutch
just a small amount; try and think the thickness of a one pound coin. By
doing this you are slightly releasing the clutch plates, disengaging
the wheels and letting the car slow down. As soon as the car has slowed
slightly, lift the clutch around the thickness of a one pound coin again
to move the car again. Essentially what you are trying to achieve is to
keep the car moving but at the slowest possible speed. This
technique is called slipping the clutch and is required to perform the
driving manoeuvres on lessons and the driving test.
Moving a car off quickly
Moving a car off quickly is the same technique as above except you
will need to provide significantly more gas/revs to the engine. By
providing more gas, in the region of 2500 rpm, you are able to bring the
clutch up faster without fear of stalling. This will enable you to move
the car off much faster in situations such as busy roundabouts and
pulling out of junctions. Be a little cautious however as giving
the car too much gas and releasing the clutch too fast may result inwheel spin.
Clutch control techniques
More advanced clutch control techniques will need to be mastered for
holding the car steady on the clutch bite point. These techniques are
important for safely moving a car off on a hill. Further information can
be found in How to stop stalling a car.
Clutch control on a hill
A driving test may involve the examiner requesting you stop and move off again on a hill. This depends on the location of your driving test centre
as certain parts of the UK are very flat. If you stop on a hill,
the process is similar to above, except you will require the use of the
handbrake. Once stopped:
- Apply the handbrake and select first gear.
- Provide the engine with a little extra power, again around 1500 rpm to 2000 rpm on the rev counter.
- Gently raise the clutch until you reach the bite point. You will
know when you have the bite point as the car may creak a little or the
bonnet may rise slightly as the car tries to move forward but cannot due
to the handbrake being applied.
- Provided you have the clutch bite point, the car will not roll backwards when you release the handbrake.
The hill starts
tutorial explain how to move park up hill and downhill, plus how to
correctly make hill starts and downhill starts in detail with the
emphasis being on clutch control. Explained also are frequent mistakes
learner drivers make during a driving test and how to avoid them.
Do automatic cars have a clutch
Automatic cars do not have clutches and instead use a device called a
torque converter. A torque converter is a circular object that rotates
with the engine and uses oil to drive the transmission which turns the
wheels. As the engine spins faster more oil is released at higher
pressures into the torque converter. Centrifugal force drives the oil
onto fins, which provides the energy needed to the transmission.
Clutch control in traffic
During driving lessons and the driving test, there will be plenty of
occasions that you stop in traffic. Look well ahead for any indication
that the traffic is starting to move. This can be traffic lights
changing ahead or through other car windows. This will better
prepare you to move the car off and less likely to stall. Some driving
instructors teach learner drivers to keep the clutch bite point whilst
waiting (same technique as clutch control on a hill). Whilst this may
reduce the chances of stalling, it cause the clutch to wear at a much
higher rate. Try to get into the habit of fully depressing the clutch
while stationary and finding the bite point just before moving off.
Clutch control at junctions
During the driving test, you will likely be taken through many different types of junctions.
Often the most challenging are closed junction. A closed junction is
very difficult to observe and approaching traffic as there are often
obstacles blocking your view.
These can be tree’s, bushes, fences etc. A high level of clutch
control is required at these types of junctions as you will need the
ability to move forward very slowly. Fractionally pressing the clutch
just under the bite point to slow the car and lifting very slightly to
move forward. The technique for Learning clutch control should be
employed in such instances. Quick and constant observations should be
made and the ability to quickly depress the clutch and brake if there is
need to stop.
Clutch control tips
Practice learning clutch control until you are confident you can move the car off in a reasonable time and without stalling.
Slipping the clutch
Slipping the clutch is referred to when the clutch is lowered and
raised in the bite point area to keep the car moving slowly. Slipping
the clutch is used when moving very slowly in traffic or when performing
driving manoeuvres such as the turn in the road. Certain
drivers may leave the car in gear and slip the clutch whilst stationary
in traffic. This practice significantly increases wear on the clutch
plates. Replacement clutches are expensive so if stationary in traffic
either fully depress the clutch and apply the handbrake or if for a long
period, place the gear lever into neutral and release the clutch.
Riding the clutch
Whilst driving at a steady speed on a clear road, ideally the driver
should remove their foot from resting on the clutch and place it on the
foot well floor or a dead pedal (place to rest your foot) if the vehicle
has one. If a driver rests the foot on the clutch whilst driving, this
is referred to riding the clutch. Clutches contain a clutch release
bearing which applies pressure to the pressure plates to aid releasing
the clutch plates. Resting your foot on the clutch can cause wear on the
release bearing and too much pressure can cause the plates themselves
to slip, causing significant wear to the clutch plate friction material.
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