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Riding the Clutch

I recently started learning how to drive manual, and I decided to take some professional driving lessons after getting some from my boyfriend. The instructor immediately insisted I had picked up some bad habits, including sitting in neutral at stop lights. He said that it was safer to sit in first with the clutch at the bite point so that if someone hits me from behind, I will not go flying into traffic or the car in front of me. My leg gets really tired like this. Is this really the best thing for my safety and my clutch? He also said that I should always completely take my foot off the clutch before applying any gas when shifting gears. Is this correct? My boyfriend didn’t agree! He said I should slowly apply gas as I am letting the clutch out.

Your boyfriend is right, and the professional instructor is a pointy haired boss.
One. when at a full stop, your right foot should be on the brake fairly solidly to keep you from getting pushed into the car in front by a rear ender. The left foot should be on the clutch peddle, but not depressed at all, and your right hand should be on the shift lever so that you can plush in the clutch peddle, put it in gear and begin to apply the gas after taking your rt. foot off the brake and thus begin to move forward before the idiot behind you honks his horn.

Fire your ‘pro’. He’s just wrong on several points, as Ig said. I don’t even understand the ‘clutch at the bite point’ part - that’ll wear it out quickly, and will do nothing to prevent the car from moving forward. Really odd directions…

I’m with your boyfriend. Put it in neutral at stops and then take your foot completely off the clutch (you can “cover” the clutch peddle, but you shouldn’t be pressing down on it at all). If the car is already moving, when you up-shift you can wait until your foot is completely off the clutch before giving it gas–but if you try that when you’re shifting from neutral to first you’re probably going to stall. I always give it gas slowly as I’m letting the clutch out, regardless of what gear I’m shifting up to, and all of my clutches have lasted well over 100K miles.

I guess I was confused about the applying gas as I am releasing the clutch thing (for transitions above stop to 1st) because this sounds like riding the clutch. But it’s also really hard to keep up with traffic if I do it the way the instructor told me to . . .

“Riding the clutch” is when somebody keeps a small amount of constant pressure on the clutch pedal at all time. This wears out the throwout bearing, and, if they push too hard, allows the clutch to slip, wearing it out rapidly. It is not what you do when getting going or when shifting gears.

You guys are awesome! Thank you so much for answering my questions – I have been worrying about these things for a week!! But it sounds like I have to go back to the drawing board and learn how to start from 0 to first without sitting at the bite point because at this stage I would probably stall if I tried to get things going on the fly :expressionless: There goes a week of practice. Man, I wish I could get my money back.

I driven a lot of miles in a manual and I almost always sit in neutral with the clutch out and my foot on the brake petal. Whether this is correct or not for all situations, I don’t know but that’s my habit.

As for taking your foot off the clutch petal, I think you may have poor communications from the pro instructor and I lay that on him not you. I think he wanted you to completely remove your foot from the clutch petal between gear shifts and certainly once you are cruising along in top gear. The saves wear and tear on the clutch.

If you take your foot off the gas completely between gears you could get some “herky, jerky” shifts. You want to let off the gas enough to drop the motor rpm’s about 800 rpm between gears in a Honda. Then when you let out the clutch you should not feel any jerky action from the car. Do what makes for nice smooth shifts. You will learn to get smoother with time and practice. Use your “ears” to judge the motor speed and seat of your pants to feel how smoothly you are shifting. If your passenger’s head is bouncing around like a bobble head doll your technique needs some work.

Sometimes when you need to get on the gas and accelerate quickly to get in front the semi as you enter the interstate; smoothness goes out the window and you just let 'er rip and throw some “power shifts” as fast as you can. Different driving situations dictate your shifting patterns making any hard and fast rule pointless.

“Riding the clutch”, as I’ve always understood it, usually refers to keeping the clutch partially depressed when you’re doing anything other than shifting. If you’re slowly releasing the clutch as you slowly apply the gas, you’re not really riding the clutch. If you never released the clutch all the way, then you would be riding it. In fact, “holding the clutch at the bite point” like the instructor told you to do, that is riding the clutch and will wear it out prematurely.

Agreed. Your pro is an idiot. First off, sitting in first with the clutch at the. . erm. . “bite point” makes it easier for the car to go forward. So if you get hit from behind, it’s not going to stop you from going into traffic. If anything it’s going to send you farther into traffic. Second, he’s advocating that you wear the hell out of your clutch.

His second point about taking your foot off the clutch before applying gas is stupid too.

Your “pro” is giving you really bad advice.

If you should get hit from behind and your clutch is right at teh “bite point”, your leg is sure to wobble and the engine will help DRIVE your car into the car in front of you!

And, your “pro” knows little about the internals cars. Doing that at stoplights will lead to premature throwout bearing failure. Unloadiing the bearing by taking your left foot off the clutch pedal is the best way to prolong the throwout bearing life.

Your best habit is to keep the trans in neutral, your foot off the clutch pedal, and your right foot firmly on the brake pedal. That’s the safest configuration and it’s the easiest on the car.

Fire the “pro{”. Your leg will feel better, you’ll be safer, and your throwout bearing will last longer.

“But it sounds like I have to go back to the drawing board and learn how to start from 0 to first without sitting at the bite point”

Start with the transmission in neutral. Depress the clutch and ease the transmission into first. A little throttle and ease the clutch out. Easy.

ANY time you use the clutch, whether starting from a standstill, shifting up or shifting down you have 3 goals:
1.) Off the clutch completely in half a car length.
2.) Don’t stall the engine
3.) Don’t make your neck snap.

It takes practice, but if you master this you’ll probably never wear a clutch out.

DO NOT sit with the clutch at the “bite point” as your instructor calls it unless you want to ruin the clutch. You can sit at the light with the car in first gear and hold the clutch all the way down, just in case you have to get out of the way fast. I am taking my daughter out tonight to begin to teach her how to drive a stick and the most important thing I will teach her is how not to stall out in the left turn lane and how to get off the clutch as soon as possible after a shift.

I know that this is the sort of thing that you really have to learn by being present, but if you have any thoughts that you can type up about how not to stall in the left lane and how to get off the clutch as soon as possible after a shift, please feel free to offer them :slight_smile: Thanks again to everyone!

Left lanes are no different from right lanes or anywhere else from the car’s point of view. Find an empty parking lot and practice until taking off is easy and natural.

I’d sure like to have a long chat with that “pro”. He needs a LOT of auto education!

The crazy thing is that in Ontario a driving instructor is supposed to pass a certified college course!

This one must have gone to Clown College.