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Best way down a STEEP mountain pass

A while ago, I moved from the States to Switzerland. I’m more or less surrounded by very high mountains, and often have to decide the best way to get down in my old VW with manual transmission.Coming down the St Bernard Pass, my choice was to either tap on the brakes all the time (and burn them out), or downshift to third or second (and feel the transmission rev). I chose to pull over as often as I could, and go in as low a gear as I dared.

But 3 weeks later, the clutch seems shot: more and more often, when I try to shift gears, the engine speed will increase but the gears do not engage and the car will not go faster. Other times, the I can feel the clutch chatter when I try to engage.

Is it possible coming down that 8,000 foot pass did something to my car? What should I do next time around? Brakes or downshift? And does my clutch really need to be replaced, as my mechanic has told me?


PS – I came to this part of the world to work at a physics research facility that shall remain nameless. (Hint: “Black holes R us”)

But none of the physics or engineering guys could help me with this question.

It’s possible that you were riding the clutch unconsciously as you went down the mountain. It’s also possible that your old VW had an already worn clutch and it just happened to start slipping when you changed your driving location. Either way, it’s new clutch time.

The best way to get down mountain hills is to go down in lower gears. You’ll go through brakes like crazy otherwise.

Enjoy your work at LHC :wink: I’ve been following its development and operation with interest.

Your clutch is shot. It’s an old VW. An old clutch struggling with minimal excess power and steep hills. The reason the clutch is shot now could be clutch technique that needs work, but it could also be just a good old-fashioned worn out clutch.

I believe the key to good clutch echnique is to simply visualize the speed of the flywheel vs. the speed of the tranny input shaft. If you can learn to get those almost exactly the same whenever you engage and disengage the clutch you’ll have virtually no clutch wear at all. Slip the clutch only to the extent absolutely necessary. Finesse on the gas pedal can be learned. Clutch longevity can be acquired.

I think TSMB hit the nail on the head (or muon with the proton…), you’re also having to go up steep hills, and, unless you’re very careful with both, you’re probably slipping the clutch quite a bit. Replace the clutch and make sure you’re cleanly engaging it when you shift, both up AND down.

Don’t ignore this, you don’t want your brakes going out on the way down. With a good clutch and good technique, you will not be wearing out things using engine braking and you will maintain braking ability all the way down. Using the brakes can over heat them.

Thanks all. I guess I should also add that I bought the car used over here in Switzerland, and I have no idea how many previous owners it had nor how they each treated the car. It does have 165,000 kilometers on it, which is . . . well . . . you do the math. (1 km = .62 miles)

Am pleased to hear that someone got the LHC reference; I sometimes wonder if anyone back home is paying attention! After some false starts, the whole thing seems to be picking up steam. Er, muons. Quarks? Bosons? Whatever. The administrators even put up computer displays in the cafeteria, so you can watch what’s happening live.

I only the utmost respect, but I have to laugh at the irony of a bunch of atom smashing physiscists who spend their days trying to prove the existance of dark matter being unable to help with a simple worn out clutch. It ain’t rocket science.

Meant in only good humor. Please accept it as such.

Oh, don’t worry. They’ve actually got a pretty decent sense of humor around here. and I myself thought it was pretty amazing when some distinguished-looking old physicist came up to me, all excited, and said: “I learned how to change the oil on my car! I just did it yesterday!” He was so thrilled.

Meanwhile, I have to spend half an hour trying to decipher some of the insider jokes. As in the following:

Question: "How’s it going?"
Answer: “Oh, two Ups and a Down.”

Whoops! I also meant to say that I’ve had it a couple of years now, and it’s been pretty faithful otherwise. So, I guess it’s worth forking over the money, but - wow, are prices higher here than back in the USA. We’re talking about the equivalent of about $1100 US dollars, for the clutch itself and related components. Hope I’m not getting overcharged. (Then again, gas is about 6 bucks a gallon at moment; it was closer to 9 bucks per gallon when I first got here.)

That has GOT to be a fun place to work.

Have a great weekend.

I have been down that pass in many different BMW’s without issue, it is the vehicle you are driving that is not up to the task. That 'Old VW" passes inspection? Switzerland has some of the toughest every 3 year inspection standards (no oil leaks at all,not even a mist)but it is neccesary because of the speeds on the AutoBahns (when you visit outside CH,or just driving internally) and the existance of steep mountain roads.Your vehicle must be up to task.No engine mods that increase power at crank by more than 15% over manufacture,nothing screwed on the outside that will not break off with contact (no rail road tie bumpers)I worked about a year for garage Stocker AG near Zurich,he sells BMW.

I just thought,how can a mechanic afford 5 different BMW’s and a Physicist working at the most prestigueist lab in the world be driving an old VW?

The physicist can’t change his own oil, the mechanic can. Oil needs changing, smashing atoms doesn’t need doing. Perhaps the market values people who can change oil more than people who can smash atoms?

There’s a bit of being facetious in my statement, but there’s also some truth. In order for physicists to make a living they need to either go to work for a private company, teach, or find a way to get government funding for research…which is doled out to universities. Pure research by itself doesn’t pay.

Until someone finds a way to power a car by smashing atoms, it won’t change.

He would be sleeping in that VW in the CERN parking lot if he is making less than I was. Physcists surely can change their own oil, most definitly not MY oil though.

"Question: "How’s it going?“
Answer: “Oh, two Ups and a Down.””

How Strange. . .

And yet Charming :wink:

(from Top to Bottom)

Physcists surely can change their own oil,

…but into what? ;^)

“trying to prove the existance of dark matter”

Good humor usually has an element of truth. That’s not at all what they’re doing, so that horse has left the barn.

My own thought, worth what it cost you, is that dark matter doesn’t even exist.

“or find a way to get government funding for research…which is doled out to universities. Pure research by itself doesn’t pay.”

Who exactly do you think pays for pure research? Who do you think pays the rather large tab for the LHC?

q: “I just thought,how can a mechanic afford 5 different BMW’s and a Physicist working at the most prestigueist lab in the world be driving an old VW?”

a: The mechanic buys one BMW at a time and sells the old one; the physicist is confident in his own self-worth.

There is much less status connected with owning a BMW in Europe, not all are 50K road burners. It did help being a BMW mechanic, seemed kinda logical to own the type of car you worked on 5 days a week, hey logic in a atom smashing post, I am almost as creative as the wolf.

Use the brakes…Yes they will wear faster but a VW Passat has well designed brakes. This is not some cruddy braking pre 1980’s car with drum brakes rear and front disc brakes.

Brakes are also far cheaper than replacing the clutch as you should soon find out.