Riding the Clutch Explained

To ride the clutch or riding the clutch meaning is technically the same as slipping the clutch, though slipping the clutch is intentional but riding the clutch isn’t.

Riding the clutch however differentiates from slipping the clutch because unlike slipping, riding the clutch causes unnecessary damage and wear to the clutch due to the driver of the vehicle being either unaware that they are riding the clutch or unaware that their actions are causing unnecessary wear.

Every driver of a manual vehicle must slip the clutch to move off or to move very slowly such as in very slow moving traffic or when performing a slow manoeuvre such as parallel parking for example. Slipping the clutch converts some of the engine power to be lost as friction.

This friction is generated by the clutch plate and flywheel slipping and allows the vehicle to be moved at a very slow speed. This process does however cause significant wear on the clutch. Although slipping the clutch is essential and unavoidable on certain occasions, riding the clutch is avoidable and will sooner rather than later require an expensive clutch replacement. Explained are some examples of riding the clutch and how to avoid.

Riding the clutch definition

Riding the clutch definition is that the clutch pedal must be somewhere between fully depressed (clutch plates disengaged) and fully released (clutch plates engaged). Fully engaged and disengaged clutch plates do not cause wear and is therefore not riding the clutch.

Driving for longer than normal distances with the clutch pedal fully depressed is known as coasting. Although not generally harmful to a vehicles components, it comes with its own potential dangers.

What is riding the clutch

Below provides some examples of riding the clutch.

Riding the clutch explained
Riding the clutch is where the driver keeps the clutch pedal partially pressed down. This prevents the clutch plate from fully locking to the clutch pressure pad, therefore spinning at different speeds which results in wear on the clutch
  • Waiting in traffic queues

    When you are waiting stationary in a traffic queue for example and the car in front is moving backwards and forwards ever-so-slightly. The driver of this vehicle is holding the car relatively stationary by riding the clutch. Although there are no dangers associated with riding the clutch providing it is done accurately, the driver is causing unnecessary wear on the clutch plates. If in a stationary position waiting in traffic, apply the handbrake and if stationary for long periods, select neutral.

  • Resting foot on clutch

    Another common example of riding the clutch is driving whilst resting and keeping a foot on the clutch pedal. Whether actual riding the clutch (clutch slippage) takes place depends on how much pressure is exerted onto the pedal and how light the pedal mechanism is to press. If it is causing clutch slippage however, it is a rather expensive place to rest your foot as you will require a clutch replacement much sooner. If you are not using the clutch, simply remove your foot and rest it on the floor.

  • Moving the car off

    Learner drivers are taught to find the clutch bite point whilst practicing clutch control. Finding the clutch bite point is a good method to help reduce stalling the car when moving off although it does significantly reduce the life of a clutch.

    After a learner has gained confidence with their ability to control the clutch, they should be taught to keep the clutch fully depressed and release it slowly, hovering over the bite point area for a little longer before lifting. This is much kinder to the clutch, but unfortunately not all instructors teach this and stick with the riding the clutch method.

    If you are in the habit of still using the bite point method, other than hill starts, there is no need. Practice moving the car off by releasing the clutch from the floor and holding the clutch in the bite point area just till the car gains momentum which is when it can be fully released.

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