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Extending clutch life

To maximize the life of a clutch, is it better to keep it engaged when stopped at, say, a long red light or to disengage the clutch and put in neutral (i.e., is it harder on the clutch to be engaged more frequently or to be engaged for longer periods of time)?

it’s better to put it in neutral, but for safety reasons you shouldn’t do this if there’s any significant traffic, because it’s better to have it in gear ready to go if you’re about to get rear-ended.

In your scenario the difference in wear (provided the clutch completely disengages from the flywheel and pressure plate is good) would be so insignificant it might add 500-1000 miles to the life of the clutch. Good shifting and starting from a stop correctly will affect clutch life more.

Keeping the clutch pressed at a red light could shorten the life of the throw-out bearing, but clutch life isn’t as important as safety, so I do the following:

– If I am first in line at a red light, and I can’t see the traffic lights of the cross traffic, I keep my foot on the clutch and the car in gear so I am ready to go as soon as the light turns green.

– If I am first in line at a red light, and I can clearly see the traffic lights of the cross traffic, I shift to neutral and take my foot off the clutch. As soon as the cross traffic light turns yellow, I press the clutch and shift into gear so I am ready to go as soon as my light turns green.

– If I am not first in line at a red light, I shift to neutral and take my foot off the clutch. I watch the light, and as soon as it turns green, I almost always have time to press the clutch and shift into gear before the car in front of me moves.

How you use your clutch should depend on the situation.

After 12 years and 191,000 miles, my Honda Civic still has its original clutch and transmission.

Thank you all. I guess I’m doing Ok by keeping it engaged then - have 121K on this clutch thus far!

Clarification: the clutch is engaged when the pedal is released, not when it’s pushed in.

If you’re going to be stopped for any amount of time it’s better for the throwout bearing to put it in neutral and let the pedal out (allow the clutch to engage).

At a long stop, pop the gear selector in neutral and take your foot off the pedal. For short stops, don’t worry about it.

My VW has a throwout bearing internal to the transmission and is lubricated by trans lube so it does not matter if the clutch is disengaged for extended periods.

You might want to determine if yours is similar.

Otherwise, put the trans in neutral and release the clutch if you must wait for an extended period of time. If at a red light, keep the trans ready to go until the car behind you has come to a stop but have first gear ready to go when you get a green light.

Exactly what VW is that?
I want to look up its parts fiche to see how they did it.


Honestly, the longest life you are going to get from a clutch assembly is whatever it takes to have your foot off the clutch pedal as much as possible.

If you live in a city, and do mostly city driving, you’re going to see lots of worn clutch friction material, and toasted throw out bearings. Probably glazed flywheel and pressure plate surfaces due to constant stop light drag racing scenarios, like what happens all the time in NYC.

If you do mostly highway driving, you should have a nice long clutch life, unless you’re slipping the clutch a lot getting the rpms high to either get under way, or merge onto a highway from a standstill.

But the longer you don’t have your foot pushing in the clutch, the longer all the parts are going to last on your car.

The one thing no one mentioned about the stopped for a red-light scenario with their car in gear is this:

When you get hit from behind, the force of the impact, if great enough, will lift your feet right off the clutch and brake pedals. Then then sends your car straight into the intersection, under the power of the engine at idle speed. That’s not a good thing, and shouldn’t be done by car drivers.

For a motorcyclist, where you life is in danger, sure, keep the bike in gear, and hold the clutch with your hand. I hope you’re not riding a Ducati, because that gets real heavy after a while! Typically, a bike being hit from behind is going to fall over, and not get too far into the intersection. A car, on the other hand, can go right into cross traffic, which can be going anywhere from 25 mph to 55 mph, depending on the cross street.

Horrible crunching noises might ensue.


Thanks for the clarification!