My guy and I are about to drive from Seattle to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We have a “disagreement” about the proper way to use the clutch when stopped at a light or in stop-and-go traffic. He says that I should ALWAYS have the clutch engaged while the car is standing still - that the more I put the car in and out of gear, the more wear and tear on both the clutch and transmission. I’ve been drivng standard shift cars for 40+ years and ALWAYS disengage the clutch and shift to neutral when at a full stop. Then, when the light changes or the traffic starts moving again, I re-engage the clutch and shift into gear. We have to face 3800 miles together (with two cats riding in carriers in the back seat) with this constant disagreement riding as a third passenger. I’m not looking to be “right,” I just need some insight as to which method is better for the clutch and transmission? We’re leaving in less than two weeks and the life you save could be his or mine! HELP!

Oh, we are driving a 1969 VW Jetta, if that matters.

PJ in Seattle

There’s nothing like a nice little power struggle,is there? What is the prize if you are right? Bragging rights? I vote for…It DON’T MATTER!

Lots of people do it your way and it will keep you from accidently moving and hitting the car in front of you. The driver in front of you is probably doing it too and he’s going to take a second to get started.

“Then, when the light changes or the traffic starts moving again, I re-engage the clutch and shift into gear.”

You are absolutely right. 110% if needs be.

Ignore the safety item mentioned wich is also absolutely correct, thus no discussion needed.

Compare, When you have it engaged and foot on clutch.

You are running (ideling) with a load on the “Throw out bearing”, which was not designed for continunus loaded operation, thus shortening it’s life.
Your foot gets tired, thus releases the clutch “just a smidgen” this causes the plates and disks to rub a little more… thus wearing both plate, disk and flywheel, thus shortening it’s life.
Even if you did not release the pedal any, the disk drifts back and forth on teh main shaft and grazes and idle blow to either the flywheel or the plate and wears a “gnats hair” off it with every touchdown, and also heats up in the process.

Consider the continuous load and strain on the pedal pivot bushing (which is plastic) and the cable which is being extended and all the other (really cheap) plastic bits and pieces in teh cable. (VW’s have cables, right… my Golf did. 1969 I’m not so sure about, did Jettas exist in '69, my first Golf was in 76???) Even if hydraulic, why do you want the seals under pressure when not necessary?

What are you going to damage by letting the car in N for 3~4 minutes… absolutely nothing… other than listen to the gears rolling over for a while… (the only benifit of having the clutch pressed is you do not have to listen to the gears turnign over and “chattering” lightly, otherwise, there is none.)
You can get it into gear in a flash thus minimizing the duration the clutch is slipping, the bearings and cables (or seals) are under load.

Overall, the less time you have your foot on the clutch, the longer it lasts, in fact you can take it our of gear, sans clutch, if you so wish.
It’s not the number of times you engage in using the clutch, but the duration of time you spend doing it.

I have NEVER worn out a clutch by doing what you are practicing… and as the engine gave us at 240K mls with the clutch still in PMO, I’ll never know what I could have achieved. I’m at 190K on the truck, Buuuut, my friends wife, who we know rides the clutch is requiring a clutch @ 75K on her Camry, if that is any guide

Now, I hope you (nor he) do not press the clutch when rounding bends… Confess, confess.
Otherwise you are not only forgiven, but Angelic in your clutch useage.

If you are stopped for a long train, take it out of gear. Otherwise when you drive do what he things is correct and when he drives do what you think is right. In short: It does not matter

That said with a 1969 Jetta (did they have Jetta’s in 1969?) you should be a little more concerned about the possibility of wearing the through-out bearing. If it has an old style it could suffer additional wear.

If you don’t own the car in common or don’t share the repair expences, then I suggest that whoever owns the car wins.

The price of sitting at a light with the clutch depressed may be minor in the long run (perhaps the throw-out bearing will wear out sooner).

The price of ruining a cross country trip and maybe a relationship is huge.

So while you could argue the safety issue of getting bumped at a light while in gear, or the additional wear on a throw-out bearing, those details pale in comparison to enjoying each other.

The only reason to keep the car in gear and the clutch pressed is for safety. Suppose you are sitting at a red light and you are approached by a car jacker. If you have the car in gear and you are first in line at the light, being ready to go might save your life. Also envision yourself sitting alone at a red light and a car is approaching you from behind. If you are aware enough to notice the approaching car isn’t slowing down, you might benefit from being in gear. Some claim that being in gear will cause premature wear to the throw out bearing, but I believe that you are likely to burn out the clutch before the throw out bearing causes any problems. So if you are boxed in by other vehicles sitting still in traffic, there is little benefit to leaving the car in gear. But there might be a time in your life that you can benefit from being in gear.

It really doesn’t matter enough to make an issue of it and both answers are correct, depending on the situation.

“If you are stopped for a long train, take it out of gear. Otherwise when you drive do what he things is correct and when he drives do what you think is right. In short: It does not matter.”

I agree, It does not matter.

Suppose one was actually approached by a car jacker, locked doors and closed windows would be a first line of defense.

Whether you are being hijacked or in danger of being run over, by the time you have the latter figured out, you are run over… you’d have to do 0-60 in 5 sec to make any difference. Most people in most cars, particularly a 69 Jetta, haven’t a hope in hell of making that Andretti like standing start.
And where dies one go to avoid this situation, the only way out is forward, into the path of whatever is crossing… it may be an 18 wheeler or a train or a granny crossing the street… so from the firepan to the fire… great!

And if you really were being approached by a hijacker, reverse may be a better option and take them out with the door, then forward.

And what good is being in gear (assume 1st forward) if the colliding object is approaching from the front… if you were in a turn lane, the oncoming traffic is passing with feet of you… one could suddently go off track and hit you. in which Reverse would have been a better choice.
So overall your chances of escape are few and far between.

Again WRT safety. Suppose you are sitting at the light and you have a vehicle with an engine strong enough that you can drop the clutch and it does not stall, eg a V8 Powerstroke Ford 250 diesel, which have tremendous torque at idle, you have a sudden weakness, your foot releases the clutch and your truck begins to crawl forward. At that very moment a very bothered lady with an overloaded shopping cart which is loosing items and 3 toddlers in tow are slowely working their way across the intersection…only for the littlest one, whom nobody was watching lags behind and gets run over by your truck and it keeps going into the intersection where it gets clipped by a car which then looses control and takes out the remainders of the distressed family in the cross walk, meanwhile your truck is still crawling forward over the kerb, the flowers and now headed for a gas pump…
Hours later you wake up in hospital unscratched, dazed and confused and the first item on the evening news is a story of death and distruction at an intersection…

Even if you consider somethign much less disasterous, you simply get “nudged” your foot may slip off the clutch and/or your other foot may get thrown onto the accelerator and as you do not have a park brake applied (nobody ever applies them for any reason) you get a rolling start right into cross traffic, an applied park may have been more effective in this situation.

Most people do not scan the horizon for “trouble” like they might in Baghdad while stopped at lights, they preen, adjust mirrors, adjust radios, read maps/directions, pretend they do not see the pan-handlers, text message, make calls, watch the color of the cross light, so they can put their car into gear ahead of the light turning green or doze.

Overall I think if you really really want to be safe, keep your doors and windows closed & locked.
Keep your valuables off the seats, where a “smash and grab” artist cannot see or reach them.
Stay in N, so Rev. or For. is an equal opportunity choice.
Apply your Park Brake, (easy on a Jetta. you can use your hand.

You may not believe it is a safety issue, but every commercial truck driving instructor, motorcycle safety coach, and driver education instructor I have discussed this issue with concurs. In gear you are more likely to have alternatives than in neutral.

Long wait, take it out of gear. Short wait, just put the clutch in. You probably are not going to have much stopping to do in a drive like that so you better find something better to bicker about anyway.

If you are having trouble with a topic, I can suggest some of the many that my wife and I use.

If stopped for a long train, I leave it in gear with the clutch engaged, my engine switched off, unless it’s so hot that I need the AC going in order to not die. Even then, I’ll sometimes just get out of the car while waiting.