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Saturday, June 4, 2011 | | |

Good clutch control begins, as with most things, with a clear understanding of the actual purpose for which it was designed. Once this is established an individual can then gauge when particular techniques are working and adapt them where necessary.

The clutch exists for one reason; it has a raison d’etre, that is to provide a means of controlling the transfer of power from the engine to the gearbox and consequentially to the road wheels. That’s it; if we can understand that simple concept then proper use of the clutch becomes much more attainable.
Driving is such a dynamic activity that there is no ‘one size fits all when it comes to dealing with the situations we often encounter. There are times when immediate transfer of full engine power would be unhelpful and often dangerous, similarly there are situations where careful and steady transfer of engine power is just unnecessary.
The clutch enables us to vary the supply of power in a way that is adaptable for any situation we can ever need to deal with. A very rough guideline is that the quicker the power needs to be transferred the more power is needed to cope with the transfer, and obviously the flip side of this is that if it is necessary to transfer the power very slow and carefully then not a lot of power will be required.
There are a number of exercises that will clarify this understanding and improve clutch control; here we’re going to look at three of them.
Practise moving off without using any gas. Of course gas will be used because the engine is running, but in most situations, in most cars the power that is provided when the engine is ticking over is sufficient to get the car moving. Try it very slowly, listen to the engine and try to pick out when it is beginning to struggle, try to ‘coax’ it along.
Once you can move off without extra gas, step it up a little and try it in second gear. Train yourself to help the engine along, if it needs a little gas then give it a little, but at all times use as little gas as possible. Then try it in third gear.
Finally take your car to a hill and park half way up it. Be very careful when trying this exercise; in fact don’t even attempt it without having someone with you to watch out for cars coming from behind. Select first gear and drop the handbrake to allow the car to start to roll down the hill, then use the clutch to transfer engine power to the gearbox and the forward moving first gear. Add gas where necessary but again only as much as you really need, get the car moving forward then practice holding it rock steady on the slope. Repeat until you feel confident.
Once you can do these exercises without too much trouble the clutch shouldn’t be much of an issue any more, however don’t be afraid of stalling, we all do it from time to time, it’s the driving equivalent of spilling your coffee or stubbing your toe, it just means our concentration slipped a little.
Don’t just take my word for it, do some more research, see what other people say about it then get out and practice, it’s a simple mechanical procedure and is only complicated by lack of understanding

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