It never fails- a family member or friend takes on the charitable role of teaching someone how to drive, and providing a personal car in which to practice. After a couple of weekends of abrupt stops and starts, as well as the occasional near miss, or a noticeable grinding of gears, the new driver has learned enough to be properly functional on the road. Unfortunately, an additional few weeks later the charitable car owner begins to notice issues with his clutch not engaging properly between gears. The issue might start small with an occasional slip, or delay in catching the desired gear, but eventually the problem becomes worse.
New drivers and their road training are a preventable death knell for a used clutch. Many drivers get their first taste of a manual transmission working on a clutch that has probably already seen 50,000 or 75,000 miles of use. That being said, the assembly system, and how it meshes with the engine gears’ teeth, isn’t exactly fresh off the assembly line. The strain that can be caused by a misaligned rookie shift, or an outright bad release of the clutch, puts a tremendous demand on the related parts. The clutch, by design, will break first to save the more valuable engine gears from irreversible damage. This scenario typically involves clutch plate burnout or chipped teeth. Further, once one part of the clutch doesn’t work, the stress and impact increases on the remainder of the assembly. No surprise, more parts begin to break and the ability to engage an engine gear grows progressively worse.
From a mechanic and hindsight perspective, used cars and their clutches can last a whole lot longer by avoiding their use as training vehicles in the first place. There are easy alternatives available, which can be can be had in most communities. First, one could rent a car for the day, for each driving lesson. The beginner’s mistakes are then taken out on a rental vehicle, versus one’s own car. Second, one could hire a driver training course lesson. Most driving schools provide their own vehicles for students’ use. Again, the training expense is far cheaper than what it will cost a car owner to replace his clutch or, worse, replace bad engine gears. With a bit of planning, both options can be mapped out, and a beginning driver can be road ready in few weekends of training. Additionally, your clutch will thank you for the reprieve by providing many more miles of life.