March 15, 2013

Car Talk

Is Dad's 'foot off the clutch' rule too intense?

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:
One of my dad's many, many rules of driving is "Foot off the clutch when you turn a corner." And when he's with me and I'm driving, every time my foot is even near the clutch, my dad barks "Foot off the clutch, foot off the clutch!" He claims that by leaving my foot off the clutch when taking turns, I will extend the life of it. I think he's full of it and likes to critique all aspects of my driving and find "faults." Please help! Tesa

Tom: Well, your dad technically is correct, but he needs to switch to decaf.

Ray: There are times when you simply can't avoid using the clutch when you're turning a corner.

Tom: There are two parts of the clutch that tend to wear out. The one you should be most concerned about is the clutch disc, which is the "gripping surface" that does the bulk of the work of transmitting power from the engine to the transmission. The way you can abuse the clutch disc and send it to an early grave is by riding the clutch — which means spending too much time with your foot in between "fully on" and "fully off" the clutch pedal.

Ray: The other part that sometimes wears out is called the clutch release bearing, which is a device that applies pressure in order to separate the clutch plates. You use that bearing every time you step on the clutch pedal. But it's very difficult to abuse your clutch release bearing unless you make a habit of sitting at stoplights for minutes on end with the clutch fully depressed.

Tom: So Dad's being a little overzealous here. Plus, sometimes you have to push in the clutch when you're taking a corner. Let's say you're in second gear and you're making a left turn at a traffic light. He wants you to just stay in second and then accelerate out of the turn.

Ray: But what if leaving it in second gear makes you go too fast through the turn? Or if traffic in front of you slows down? Then the right thing to do is push in the clutch. That allows you to slow down and control your speed.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)

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