The Clutch

For the car to be driven, there needs to be a connection from the engine, through the gearbox, to the wheels. The clutch is the link between the engine and gearbox. It’s made up of two plates that are held together by a spring when the clutch is up. Pressing the clutch down forces them apart.

This allows you to:

1. Select a gear.

2. Keep the engine running as the car stops.

Where you might get confused:

  • The clutch can stop the car.
  • It feels like the engine will always stall if the clutch comes up too fast.

The reality:

Sometimes, the clutch can stop the car. But this only happens at very low speeds – below walking pace, in fact. This is because that break in the connection between the engine and gearbox means that nothing is pushing the car anymore. So if the road is level, it’ll roll to a stop. However, this also means that if the car is going uphill, it will still roll to a stop – but then gravity takes over and pulls it backwards. So it follows that if the car is going downhill, pushing the clutch down will allow gravity to make the car go faster. The trick is to learn to recognise what biting point feels like and keep a mental picture of those clutch plates.

When you move off, there is a strong possibility that the engine might stall when you lift the clutch.

But what causes stalling?

It’s anything you do that forces the engine below its “idling speed” (see the section on the accelerator). So that will be either:

· Lifting the clutch too quickly when you move off – the car weights at least a ton and all that resistance being put on the engine that suddenly will force it to slow down so much that it won’t run anymore.

· Being in a gear that’s too high for your speed. When you slow down and keep the clutch up, yes the engine will help you slow down. But once the car slows below a certain speed, the car starts to shake. This means that the engine is just starting to go below its idling speed. Now unless the clutch goes down then, that’s when the engine cuts out. You then need to either select a different gear, or stop the car.

Clutch Control

This is the way to move the car as slowly as possible and is especially important when:

  1. Emerging from a junction with limited vision
  2. Moving forward in very heavy traffic
  3. Performing any manoeuvre that needs a high degree of accuracy
  4. Reversing 

This is done in first gear and the gas pedal needs to be held steady. Now, clutch control can be done without the use of the gas pedal and the engine will run at idling speed, but if the engine is running a little faster, you’ll find things easier. You then need to raise the clutch pedal to the biting point in the usual way. Once the handbrake has been released, the clutch then needs to be lifted just a fraction until the car begins to move. Now, if the clutch stays there, the car will then begin to gather speed. When the car reaches the desired speed, bring the clutch down just below biting point to prevent the car from going any faster. The car will then begin to slow down again, so you’ll then need to repeat the process of bringing the clutch up and down to nudge the car inch by inch.

More driving advice on driving can also be found here:

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