Taking Care of Your Clutch

Most drivers can expect their clutches to last 40,000 to 60,000 miles but your clutch can be good for as little as a few thousand miles or as long as the life of your vehicle depending on the type of vehicle you drive, the way you drive it, and how much maintenance it receives.

Most newer vehicles with manual transmissions have self-adjusting clutches that require no adjustment, but if you have an older model without self-adjustment, you can cut down on the wear on your clutch disk by keeping your clutch pedal properly adjusted.

Because excessive wear on any part of your clutch results in wear on the other parts, it’s generally a good idea to have the clutch assembly, levers, clutch disk, and throw-out bearings checked and, if necessary, replaced at the same time.

You also can have the pilot bearing (located where the crankshaft meets the flywheel) checked then, too, which saves you money on labor charges by eliminating the necessity of getting into your clutch and putting it back together a second time.

Undertaking Transmission Repairs Wisely

Your first line of defense against unnecessary transmission work is to have your automatic transmission serviced periodically, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually around every 24,000 miles). Your second line of defense is to understand what the basic kinds of transmission work involve.

If your transmission must be replaced

The old transmission must be removed and a new one installed. You do have an option as to whether you replace it with a used, rebuilt, or new transmission. I make the distinction between used and rebuilt because you can buy a transmission from a wrecking yard that has salvaged one designed for your vehicle’s year, make, and model.

This option is cheap, but risky. Your other option is to find a rebuilt transmission that has been salvaged and then completely refurbished and comes with at least a three-month guarantee. These cost a bit more, but you get a chance to make sure that the thing is in good working order.

How to Keep from Driving Your Transmission Crazy

Driving your vehicle with expertise can prevent many of the most common causes of transmission failure. If you have a manual transmission, you should shift into the proper gear at the proper time to reduce the strain on the engine and the transmission and should not ride your clutch.

Many drivers with automatic transmissions just shift into Drive and go up steep hills, carry heavy loads, and bounce into jackrabbit starts, happily oblivious to the fact that even automatic transmissions have gear selectors that provide one or two lower gears for these occasions. On the other hand, if you stay in a low gear unnecessarily, you’re transmitting excessive power to your rear wheels, and your transmission feels the strain.

If you attempt to speed in a low gear, you strain the transmission even more. On the other hand, if you attempt to climb hills in high gear, you force the engine and transmission to make the effort in a gear that lacks the power for the job. The result: more strain.

When you need a sudden burst of speed, use passing gear.

On vehicles with an automatic transmission, passing gear provides the same kind of increased power as downshifting a manual transmission. You use passing gear when you’re already in high gear and need an extra burst of power to pass a car or enter a freeway. If you’ve been traveling at less than 50 mph, suddenly flooring the accelerator makes your car downshift automatically to the appropriate lower gear to provide more power by speeding up the engine.

Last word

Continuously variable transmissions (CVT) move smoothly from one speed to another without any physical gears at all. They respond to all road situations faster and more efficiently. You may want to ask Santa for a vehicle that has one.

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