Did you know that it is possible to change gear on a car fitted with manual transmission without using the clutch? However, this is not recommended for an average driver but only for the expert who knows exactly how to match the engine's speed with the road conditions beneath. Most of the time, a driver can rely on a manual mechanism to do the work, but poor driving behaviour can cause issues and lead to failure. If you're worried about the condition of your clutch, what do you need to bear in mind?
How the Clutch Works
The driver is responsible for choosing the proper gear for the road ahead in everyday operation. Most drivers can do this intuitively and will change through the box by depressing the clutch pedal. When this happens, a mechanical linkage will pull the release bearing away from the back of the engine, disengaging the pressure plate and isolating the flywheel. As the shaft is no longer spinning, it's relatively easy to choose an alternative gear before releasing the pedal and allowing the parts to re-engage.
As you can imagine, many of these parts have to deal with tough operating conditions, high temperatures and a deal of friction. The release bearing, in particular, needs to spin at high speed at one moment and slow to a halt at the next, so, given time, it will eventually wear out.
Unfortunately, the bearing (and other parts) could wear out more quickly if the driver is not careful. They may rest their foot on the top of the clutch pedal, and even a small amount of pressure may push the bearing towards the pressure plate. When this happens, the bearing will spin unnecessarily, invariably reducing its lifespan. These parts may come in for even more abuse should the driver decide to skip some gears when decelerating. For example, they may go from third down to first without selecting second, and this will put the system under even more pressure.
Signs of Impending Failure
If you've noticed some strange vibrations that you can feel through the ball of your foot when you depress the clutch pedal, this could be a sign of a developing problem. You may also hear a "chirping" sound when you first depress the clutch pedal or notice a whining noise when you release it. In any case, this indicates that the bearing is on its way out and you should contact a mechanic as soon as possible. Better still, keep up with your regular service visits and your mechanic will be able to advise you of clutch-related issues.