OK- so I had a 2002 RAV4 and finally had to put her down after 250,000 miles and still using the original clutch which worked fine. From listening to Cartalk- and my mechanic- this seems unusual. I would chalk this up to a one time fluke- but had a Chevy Cavalier for almost 200,000 miles and same thing- original clutch. Could there be something wrong in the shifting to be getting this kind of longevity from the clutch? Or am I doing something right?
Yes. A clutch that is not abused or has never had to pull a lot of weight will last a long time. I once owned a 1953 Chevy pickup that still had the original clutch and the odometer had turned over several times. My brother bought the truck and drove it for several years before replacing the drivetrain. Another brother of mine still has his original '66 Malibu SS (over 200K) and has never replaced anything but the alternator and water pump (a few times actually). Whatever you are doing…keep it up.
Clutch longevity has a lot to do with types of driving.
Highway driving will lead to a very long clutch life. Clutches don’t wear when the clutch pedal is all the way out or pressed all the way in (although pressed all the way in puts wear and tear on the thought-out bearing and hydraulics). With highway driving you rarely if ever shift for miles and miles and miles…thus putting no wear on the clutch. City driving you’re constantly shifting…causing the clutch to wear our much quicker.
The other factor is weight of vehicle. I’ve always found smaller vehicles to have longer lasting clutches (everything else being equal) then larger vehicles.
The best I could do with my Pathfinders was about 90k…But I did a lot of towing during the summer. Other past small vehicles I’ve owned with clutches - well past 150k miles.
The range of clutch life is extremely broad.
The clutch in my current Toyota Matrix failed at 32k, but it was obvious the previous owner abused it in its first 8700 miles.
I’ve had clutches replaced in two other cars ~100-150k not because of clutch problems but as prevention since the transmissions had to come off for other reasons (leaking crank seal & trans bearing failure).
Both of those clutches had plenty of life left.
I think the record clutch life reported here is in the 600k mile range. A clutch could easily outlast the rest of any car if most of the miles are driven on the freeway in high gear. In high gear the clutch isn’t doing anything, so no matter how fast you go, or how far, there’s absolutely no wear on the clutch. The only time the clutch would experience any wear at all if all you did was drive on the freeway in high gear is when you pulled off to get gas.
Even suburban driving where you do have to shift quite a bit a clutch could last 300K miles probably. There’s very little wear on the clutch w/normal shifting with a careful driver behind the wheel. What wears the clutch fast is when the engine is rev’ing very fast as the clutch is partially engaged. That causes the clutch material to heat up, and not wear, but melt. It’s like if you rub two pieces of wood together, you can do that all day long and not wear much of the wood away, but if you rub the wood together fast enough, it catches on fire, then the wood is immediately toast. That’s not a wear-effect, it is that the materials experience a change of state.
I am amused by the OP’s statement ( could there be something wrong in the shifting to get this longevity ) How the heck could something be wrong to get that many miles?
Well Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. You guys didn’t leave anything for me to say.
edit to add; But maybe it would be good to know the condition of the rest of the drive train. Have any repairs been necessary?
I feel better now.
Sounds like you’re doing fine. While it’s not unheard of it is uncommon for me to see clutches last that long. I see clutches gone at 60,000 miles under normal conditions with no abuse. Spend some time driving 40 miles one-way to work in constant stop and go traffic, and spend some time in a hilly area. You’ll see how fast you can wear out a clutch.
I see many modern automatics with 8 speeds and low first gear while only uber sports cars have seven speeds close ratio manuals. The rest of us luddites make do with five speeds. I believe that manuals can handle hill starts and towing with a lot less wear on the clutch if the drivers have the choice to wide ratio spread transmissions with crawler gears.
My original clutch in my '89 Toyota pickup lasted 295,000 miles. I even taught both my kids to drive manuals on it.
I’ve driven other manuals for hundreds of thousands of miles on the original clutch. Driven properly, I believe most manuals can go hundreds of thousands of miles on their original clutch. The key phrase is “driven properly”. Many aren’t.