Lengthening/evaluating the life of a clutch

I recently purchased a 2002 Honda civic ex (4 cylinder, 5-speed manual) for commuting.
Car is up there in life 177k, but fits my needs.
Water pump, timing belt, and brakes were all done recently but there is no record of the clutch ever being replaced or serviced. While the clutch is not slipping and grabs fine I’m worried that her days are numbered. From what I have found online there seems to be a lot of debate on what driving strategies lead to a longer clutch life aside from “just use the clutch as little as possible.” I plan to take it into a local mechanic once I have the money but I wanted to open the floor to what really lengthens the life of a clutch and what can be done to pre diagnose things like a worn pressure plate, faulty bearing, etc.

“just use the clutch as little as possible” . . . might as well not even get a stick shift, in that case

The best thing you can do is not ride the clutch. And don’t get in the habit of using the clutch to hold the car when you’re stopped on a hill

I know of no way a mechanic can accurately tell you a clutch has X miles left on it.

IMHO the best thing is to understand how the clutch assembly works. An understanding of it leads one to realize that a clutches life depends upon how little it’s allowed to slip, how little it has to by itself try to get the flywheel and the clutch plate (tranny input shaft) to match speeds. If you’re on the clutch pedal a lot using slippage to match the speeds of the engine and the tranny, you’ll wear out the clutch prematurely. If you only use the clutch to connect and disconnect the engine and the tranny, using the gas pedal (“blipping”) to match the speeds sufficient to allow easy engagement without undue slippage, the clutch can last the life of the vehicle.

I’ve driven clutches most of my life. The only one I ever wore out was at 295,000 miles after teaching two kids to drive on it and then giving it to my daughter years later. It is possible that had I kept the truck the clutch would have lasted forever, but at 295K I cannot in good conscience say my daughter was responsible for wearing it out. I’m sure the kids learning to drive on it was also a factor.

In summary, a clutches sole purpose is to engage and disengage the engine from the tranny. While it must by its function allow some slippage, or the vehicle would never take off from a stop, it should be slipped only to the extent absolutely necessary.

Alright that’s interesting. Maybe not how many miles but an idea of the wear and condition would be nice.

“Riding the clutch” is something that I couldn’t find a definitive definition for either. Whenever moving from gear to gear I release the gas, engage the clutch, change gears, as I disengage the clutch I rev match with the gas to make a smooth shift, release the clutch completely once engaged. Riding the clutch is like keeping unnecessary pressure on it? or spending too much time releasing it between shifts?

Additionally, when approaching a red light/other stopping need, is the clutch necessary to take the car into neutral from say 3rd gear? Sometimes it slides out easily but other times it fights so I’ hesitant to force it.

Use it but don’t slip it, is the clearest instruction I’ve ever heard. A clutch is like a brake pad. If it doesn’t slip it essentially won’t wear. Yeah, there is a little dragging on a brake pad or a clutch when they are not pressing against the flywheel or brake rotor that will cause a tiny bit of wear, but it is tiny. If you don’t slip the clutch a lot, hold the car on a hill by slipping it or constantly travel in heavy stop and go traffic, the clutch will last a long long time. 177K doesn’t sound too long.

Use the clutch when shifting out of a gear. Your tranny will thank you.

the same mountainbike So far I have owned 42 cars, 3 vintage pickups, and 3 motorcycles. At least 70% were M/T. I have never had to replace a clutch. Twice I replaced a perfectly good disc and bearing when engine and transmission were already removed.

Unrelated question. Do you know what happened to ranger09 AKA “Mud Flap Boy”? His discussion was completely deleted.

Trippyrain, You’re getting the hang of it.

“Riding the clutch” is, in fact keeping unnecessary force on the pedal when not engaging or disengaging the clutch. Depending of the car’s design and your foot, just resting your foot on the pedal can cause enough pressure to cause premature wear. There’s an assembly called a “release bearing” or “throwout bearing” that slides up & down the transmission shaft to push the levers on something called the “pressure plate assembly” to relieve the pressure on and engagement of the clutchplate. Leaving your foot on the pedal can present load to the “release fork” that slides that assembly and constant low-level loads on the throwout bearing, causing premature wear. The way to avoid this is to simply get in the habit of taking your foot off of the pedal when you’re not intending to push the clutch in

The clutch pedal should be used when taking the shifter out of gear and into neutral. It releases forces on the gears that you need to manually overcome if you don’t use it, and those forces cause wear if you don’t use the clutch. It’s sort of analogous to releasing the lever on the can opener in the kitchen instead of just ripping the can out.

One added point: don’t get in the habit of using the clutch to hold the car in its spot when stopped on an incline. That is VERY wear-promoting on the clutch. Unfortunately, it’s also very common. Put the tranny in neutral and use the brakes instead.

As far as “mud flap boy” goes . . .

I have noticed that when discussions completely disappear . . . presumably because they’ve been deleted . . . it’s because the user that started the discussion has been banned

Maybe I’m wrong this time, but I’ve seen it happen on this forum

But I never got an answer to my question!!!
Seriously db, you’re probably right, but I would argue that it’s unfair to Trippyrain to use her thread to make the unrelated point.

Another hint - the only time the car should be accelerating while using the clutch is when you start moving in first gear. For each later shift ease up a bit on the gas, push in the clutch, shift, release the clutch, THEN apply gas to keep accelerating. This minimizes slipping the clutch, which folks have already explained.

Also, don’t slow the car routinely by downshifting, that’s what brakes are for.

I’m not sure about the Civic, but many manuals have an inspection plate that can easily be removed to inspect the wear on the clutch.
It could give your mechanic an idea of how much material is left.

This of course is not a definite guarantee. A pressure plate spring could break, or something else that could break or wear out a week later. But it’s a fair assessment.

The next time you have any work done, ask if he can assess the clutch… for your peace of mind.



I was just responding to @sgtrock21

Use it until it breaks, Shifting into neutral without using the clutch has never caused me any problems, driving conservatively and no jackrabbit starts will help clutch life. The less time the clutch is slipping to mesh gears the better, ie 1 second on the pedal while changing gears will produce less wear than 5 seconds. Do not use the clutch to hold you in place on a hill, and only downshift if you are in the mountains, shift into neutral and use the brakes when coming to a stop. My 2¢.

Besides a lot of freeway driving, where for the most part the clutch isn’t even used …

Gentle starts and shifts are probably the most important thing. The clutch wears as a result of the wheels rpm not matching the engine rpm. Gearing math ignored for sake of discussion.

So when you start, that’s a situation where the engine rpm won’t match the wheels, since the wheels rpm is zero by def’n. So accelerate from stops as gently as possible. And when up shifting try to match the engine rpm to the wheels at the next gear, which means avoid aggressive upshifts where you press madly on the accelerator as you quickly upshift from gear to gear. Likewise with downshifting, avoid shifting into a lower gear with the wheels running fast. It’s better to use the brakes unless you know how to double clutch. Which by the way is a good thing to learn if you want a long lasting clutch.

As mentioned by the experts above, it isn’t unusual for a clutch to last well over 200K. My Corolla’s clutch has over 200K and most of my miles are short trips involving urban and suburban driving, not much in the way of long freeway drives. I seem to recall a thread here on the topic: what was the longest a clutch ever lasted? And one owner reported their clutch was original to the vehicle at over 600K.

Db, no problem. I never ever noticed that question in Sgtrock’s post.

And now, back to clutches. It’s good to see a lot of good advice in the thread, and even better to see the OP asking for advice. If more people did, there’d be fewer prematurely worn clutches.

A rough guesstimate about clutch wear could be made by paying close attention to the engagement and disengagement points when operating the pedal.

If there is minimal free play (1/2") before feeling the clutch pressure while depressing the pedal and if the clutch engages soon (say 1") when releasing the pedal it could be assumed the clutch is still in good shape.

Other than really abusive driving my feeling is that most premature clutch failures are due to riding the clutch; a common habit in city traffic.
Except on some Subarus where the throwout bearing guide sleeve can have a tendency to hang on the transmission snout and that issue has largely been resolved.
It was problematic due to the machinist who turned out the parts not knowing what a deburring tool is or he couldn’t be bothered with it…
I still have scars on my hands due to the lack of deburring.

Sounds like a personal problem. {:smiley:

Just “ribbing” you in good humor. Or perhaps a bad attempt at good humor.

I have an '03 Civic EX 5 SPD manual. Bought it new, 160K miles now. I think I am relatively easy on the clutch and brakes. Good tips in the posts so far. I always take my foot completely off the clutch petal between gears. Never use the clutch petal as a foot rest. In general smooth driving tends to be easier on the clutch.