Until engineers designed an automatic system, a car driver was responsible for selecting the correct gear for the appropriate road conditions. Many vehicles are still equipped with a manual gearbox, and the driver has to depress the clutch pedal to change gear. This system works very well most of the time, but it will need some care and attention occasionally if it is to continue to operate without issue. So if you've noticed some problems recently, what could be going wrong and what should you do?
Understanding the Mechanism
Before you can change gear to overtake a slower vehicle or conduct some other type of manoeuvre, you have to disengage the engine from the transmission. Of course, you will only need to do this for a second or two and will want the engine to continue revolving at high speed.
To disengage these two major parts, engineers have designed a clutch mechanism. It consists of a pressure plate and release bearing that spin around the gearbox input shaft and interact with the engine's flywheel to conduct the manoeuvre.
Clutch in Action
When you press the pedal, a cable moves the clutch fork attached to the bearing. This bearing will slide forward and engage the pressure plate, which will, in turn, push against the flywheel and separate the two components. This will allow you to change gear and, once the pedal is released, the bearing will return to its original position.
When a clutch begins to go bad, it is usually the bearing. While it is well-engineered, it's only designed to last a certain time and may need to be adjusted periodically. If it is not in the correct position, then it may not slide along the output shaft as it should, and this may cause a vibration that you will feel through the ball of your clutch foot. You may also notice some strange noises, which may indicate that the rollers within the bearing have started to perish.
Try not to rest your foot against the clutch pedal in between gear changes. This can stretch the cable and put unnecessary pressure on the bearing.
You should take the car in for a service and ask them to adjust the clutch mechanism from time to time. They can alter the position of the clutch pedal or the length of the connecting cable to make sure that the bearing is always in the optimum position. If the bearing is past its better days, the technician can swap it out for a new one.
For more information about clutch replacement, contact a local auto technician.