Tips for babying a clutch/transmission?

ford
mustang

#1

So I just came into possession of one of my dream cars: a 5 speed Mustang GT. I was able to find an absolutely pristine 2007 that has clearly been dearly cared for by its previous owner. It is, in a word, perfect. That being said, it does have 88,000 miles on it. It drives like new, and given the condition of the car I’m quite sure the prior driver took excellent care of the clutch and transmission. I aim to keep it that way.

I’m a competent manual driver. I’ve driven stick occasionally for the past 15 years, and I definitely know the basics of keeping the clutch and transmission healthy. Don’t ride the clutch, don’t slip it on hills or in stop and go traffic, etc. That being said, I’m certainly not an “expert” with a 5 speed, and quite frankly, I was never trying to “take care” of any of the prior manual cars I’ve driven. I’m sure I did them some harm from ignorance, lack of proper technique and laziness.

I want this car to last as long as possible. Does anyone have some tips for how to “baby” a high mileage clutch/transmission? I’m much more interested in maintaining the health of my car than peeling out or racing away from red lights. I’m happier letting her rip on the open road.

More specifically, I’ve read that the general “theory” of clutch health is to minimize the time that it is partially engaged. You either want the pedal down or up as much as possible. Of course when shifting gears there must be some time the clutch slips. My question primarily applies to starting from a stop. If I’m extremely careful, I can slooooooowly ease the clutch up and get the car moving with no gas at all. I’ve heard some people say this is the best thing for the system. That makes sense on the one hand, as I’m sure it is harder on the clutch to engage when the engine is revving. On the other hand, the slow clutch release means more time partially engaged.

So my first question in its most specific sense is: is it better to start up with a slow clutch foot and minimal gas? Or a smooth but quick release with more gas?

Any other tips to “baby” the clutch? I’ve heard people say that ideally, don’t give the car any gas until after you complete an up-shift. Is this true? What about down shifting?

Thanks in advance for helping me keep my new car happy!


#2

Ideally, yes, don’t give it gas until you complete an upshift. Realistically your upshift should be pretty quick, so this shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, you can shift it without the clutch once you get it rolling, but that takes a lot of practice and doing it wrong can break things.

For downshifts, you should rev-match. Clutch in, Blip the throttle to get the RPM’s where they will be in the gear you’re shifting into, and then clutch out. This reduces friction wear significantly.

Double clutching is also a good technique, but it’s a bit more advanced, and is more to preserve the synchros than the clutch. To doubleclutch in the above downshift, you would:

Clutch in, shift to neutral, clutch out, blip to revmatch, clutch in, shift to the new gear, clutch out.

I rarely bother with it. The whole point of synchromesh is to make you not have to do all that. :wink:


#3

To answer your first question, both techniques will work. I do the fast out method, with the very same car model (2007 GT 5 speed) as well as the other manual cars I’ve owned. The clutch could last 150,000 miles depending on how the previous owner treated it. I agree with @shadowfax on question #2. If you stay in gear and de-clutch before you stop and THEN downshift while stopped, you’ll put very little wear into the trans. Don’t shift really quickly and don’t force the lever into gear, ever and you’ll have a happy transmission. Enjoy your Mustang!


#4

That ‘start from a stop with no gas’ is to get you familiar with the clutch, not how to drive it every day. Minimizing the time for partial engagement is the key, as you said, which means a carefully coordinated gas and clutch.

To maximize clutch life, downshift only when required, use your brakes to slow the car, they’re way cheaper and easier to replace.

One thing I would do is bleed the clutch system. We always talk about how it’s important to bleed brakes to remove old fluid every 30k or so, but I don’t remember the same advice for the hydraulic clutch. It would seem to apply there, too, to minimize corrosion in the master and slave cylinders.


#5

Thanks for the tips!

The prior owner added a custom cold air intake, custom manifold, and a custom exhaust system that looks like it goes pretty deep back. At least that’s what I’ve found so far. Something tells me he didn’t stop there…

Long story short, the car hauls, so part of the reason I’ve been really light on the gas when starting is that I’m still not used to the power (only second day driving the car). Right now the “no gas” method is preventing me unintentionally zooming forward. Sounds like it would behoove me to get accustomed to the throttle and minimize the time of partial engagement.

I definitely don’t down shift to brake. Thankfully I don’t even have to down shift to accelerate. The only time I’m down shifting is when traffic slows to the point that my speed and revs significantly drops, and I’ve found those shifts to be fairly smooth given the low speeds.

So would it be accurate to say that there is a “sweet spot” between a painfully slow clutch release with no gas and a exceptionally quick release? Or do you actually want to develop a technique that allows you to release the clutch as quick as possible?

Sorry to keep hammering this question!


#6

Yes, there’s a sweet spot for reasonably quick release, combined with adequate (but not excessive) throttle. Practice will get you there. A good indicator is to minimize the ‘head bobbing’ of your passengers. You don’t want abrupt engagement, or too slow…


#7

Clutches wear out just as you think, by spending time partially engaged. There is no magic to clutch preservation. Just get it engaged fully, then go. I suppose the less you use it, the better, but don’t be silly about it because lugging or over-revving the engine is also not wise. With a car this powerful you certainly can skip gears, driving 1st to 3rd to 5th. You’ll know if you are straining things doing that; you can feel it in the way the car responds to the throttle.

My daughter has a 1998 Toyota Tacoma with 185000 miles on it and the original clutch is fine. Lots of those miles were on long drives in 5th, with no shifting. It certainly has done its share of back roads and trails and hauling around all sorts of stuff, but generally it’s been driven deliberately, shift then go.

The final point to remember is that a clutch is a wear item, and it’s not a crime or sign of abuse if it wears out someday. You bought a powerful, performance machine meant to be used and enjoyed. So use it. If you don’t enjoy it you can drop it off at my house and I will.