If you know how to drive a manual car, you will already be very familiar with the term "clutch", but how exactly do they work and what do they do?
What is a clutch?
The clutch is the mechanical device in a vehicle that allows for gear changes and engages power. The clutch allows movement energy to be transferred from one part of the vehicle to another, and is essential in manual, automatic and semi-automatic cars.
How does a clutch work?
A clutch works by disengaging the engine from the wheels. The clutch is operated by the pedal on the left-hand side of the driver’s footwell and is used to allow the driver to change gear in a manual car. For example, if you wanted to change your car from first gear into second, your foot would need to have the clutch pedal pressed to the floor to do this before moving the gearstick.
Automatic cars do also have a clutch, however this is operated automatically based on the vehicle’s speed. Automatic cars do not have clutch pedals for this reason.
Do I need to know how to use a clutch?
If you are driving a manual car, or learning to drive one, you will need to know how to successfully operate a clutch to drive the car. If you are struggling to get to grips with the use of a clutch, you can learn to drive an automatic car instead. It is worth noting that if you pass your driving test in an automatic, you will be limited to the cars you can drive as you will only have an automatic license. Even if you know you want an automatic car once you pass, it can be highly beneficial to learn and pass in a manual car for future situations.
How long do clutches last?
On average, clutches in cars last around 80,000 miles. This can be less depending on how the car is driven. You can help preserve your clutch by:
Making sure that you take your foot off your clutch pedal completely when you do not need to use it.
Using your handbrake on hills rather than holding your clutch.
Using the gears appropriately to slow down and power the vehicle smoothly.
Do electric cars have a clutch?
Most electric vehicles do not have a clutch system. This is because they work using an electric motor to power the vehicle, and this has only one gear so there is no need for a mechanism that is used to switch between gears.