Automatic cars move through the gears smoothly without the driver having to depress a clutch pedal, whereas a manual transmission puts the power in the driver’s hands. It’s a little more complicated to learn, but once you master the relationship between the clutch pedal and the gear stick, it’s more than worth it.
So what exactly makes a manual car different to one with an automatic transmission?
Well, there’s that extra pedal on the left known as a clutch pedal. When it’s time to change from gear to another, you depress it with your left foot and slide the gear stick to the next gear. Every engine has a maximum at which it can perform, and this is known as its redline.
The car’s engine will explode if pushed beyond this redline. As the engine speeds up and slows down, you have to change gears accordingly so that it stays below the redline for optimum performance. Beginners are told to listen to the sound of the engine as they accelerate – the noise of the engine turning over will climb higher and higher, signaling the need to shift into the next gear.
When slowing down, you’ll know to change gears when the car stutters slightly as you roll to a halt. It might cut out completely if you wait too long to change down.
This is known as stalling.
The clutch itself is comprised of dual rotating discs that move away from each other with each depression of the clutch pedal. These discs provide the link between the car’s gearbox and the wheel, pressing down onto the clutch pedal causes the engine and gearbox to disengage so that you can change the gears manually.
As technically advanced as your car may be, problems with the clutch are bound to surface. The first and most common of these is known as slipping. Technically, slipping is supposed to happen when changing gears, but only when the clutch is engaged so that the car doesn’t jerk forward when it starts. Once fully engaged, the clutch should be solid and firm as it links the engine and the gearbox. You’ll notice slipping most if you’re driving slowly in a high gear. Clutch slipping is dangerous because the increased friction results in increased heat, which in turn causes the clutch to lose its grip.
This can seriously damage other components inside the clutch mechanism. Another common clutch problem includes clutch chatter where the car jerks every time the clutch is engage. This is usually the result of worn components.
Clutches have been known not to release, others are too hard to depress due to worn seals or blockages and some fail completely as a result of a faulty hydraulic system. The clutch is like your car’s central nervous system. The business of slowing down and speeding up needs to be communicated through the clutch mechanism.
If you’re experiencing problems and you’re advised to replace faulty components, it’s best to have the whole clutch overhauled and have every part replaced. This will guarantee a better relationship between the clutch, the gearbox and the engine, and thereby increasing the longevity of your car.