Detailed explanation of clutch release.
And why you don't need it
Author - Prodigal Son
Submitted by - jomotopia
Prodigal Son wrote:
The reason that your mother can still do it after 15 years, and can't explain how she does it, is muscle memory, which is a way of saying that the knowledge of how to do physical tasks (walking, shifting, releasing the clutch) gets transferred from the conscious mind to the cerebellum, which is the bit at the back of your brain that is responsible for all the things you do without thinking about them. The cerebellum never forgets. But it is not part of your conscious brain, so it can't express what it knows in words.
Now, why are you continuing to have problems? In a nutshell, your conscious mind is not letting go. You are thinking about it to much. The only way I know to help you with that is to really give you something to think about. So pull up a chair and get comfy and let's review every stage of the release of the clutch pedal, starting from when it is pressed all the way to the floor and moving all the way through until it is full engaged and your foot is fully off the pedal.
Stage 1: Full disengagement to the friction point
As you begin to bring up your foot, you release a spring that pushes the clutch plate toward the flywheel. The point as which they first touch is called the friction point. The friction point is always at the same place in your car, no matter what gear you are in or how fast the engine in revving. (It may change slightly over time as the clutch wears, but too slowly to notice.) Not a lot happens at the friction point. You may hear a slight drop in the engine note. You may see a slight dip in the tach. You may feel a slight vibration in the clutch pedal. However. the car will not move.
Why does the car not move? Because there is not yet enough friction between the clutch and the flywheel to transfer enough torque to the wheels to overcome the inertia of the car.
You can complete step one as fast as you like as long as you do not overshoot the friction point. Once you learn where the friction point is, this step will be virtually instantaneous.
Step 2: Friction point to catch point
As you continue to release the pedal, the pressure between the clutch and the flywheel increases until the friction is great enough to transfer enough torque to the wheels to overcome the inertia of the car. The car then starts to move.
So, where is the catch point? It depends. The catch point is the point at which enough torque is being transferred to move the car. Where that is depends on a lot of things. If you are on a hill, more torque will be needed to move the car than on flat ground. If you have four people in the car, more torque will be needed than if you were alone. On the other hand, the amount of torque available at the flywheel depends on how high you rev the engine. So, the location of the catch point is different every time depending on the weight of the car and the speed of the engine.
This means that you can't learn where the catch point is. You have to feel for it. Because the amount of gas you give changes the catch point, you can also move the catch point forward and back with the gas pedal.
You can't go too fast through this step because, although the car is not moving, you are feeling for the catch point. Over time you will get better at feeling it and you will be able to find it faster.
Step 3: Catch point to sync point
When the car starts moving, the clutch is still not fully engaged and is still slipping against the flywheel. You have to keep letting the clutch out until the you reach the sync point, where clutch and flywheel are travelling at the same speed. As you do so, the amount of torque being transferred from the flywheel to the clutch increases, which means that the car accelerates. Just as with the catch point, you can change were the sync point is with the gas pedal. If you give more gas, the sync point will move outwards and the clutch will slip longer. If you let off the gas (or if you move the clutch too quickly, the clutch may sync up abruptly) causing a bump.
The sync point is also to a certain extent a function of time. If you hold the clutch above the catch point, the clutch and the flywheel may be able to sync up over time without you advancing the clutch. Not recommended, but the point is that the syncing of the clutch and the flywheel depends on time, pressure, resistance, and force. Things sync up when these things even out.
This also means that you can control the amount of acceleration you are getting by manipulating the clutch between the catch point and the sync point. This is often done to control speed while reversing.
This step must be done at a moderate speed if you want the clutch and flywheel to sync up smoothly without jerking. This can actually be done very quickly once you get the feel for it, but it has to be done more slowly while you are learning. Like finding the catch point, this is done by feel, and by a balance between the gas pedal and the clutch pedal.
Step 4: Sync point to full engagement
Once you pass the sync point you can move to full engagement with your foot completely off the clutch. You can do this as fast as you like, since the clutch is already in sync with the flywheel. However, since you have to feel your way to the sync point, and the sync point moves depending on a bunch of variables, you can't simply learn one position where you can jump off the clutch. Once the clutch is in sync, you can jump off the pedal. Learn to feel for the sync point and then release the pedal.
So, what is the point of telling you all this? It is to show you just how complex it is so that you will accept that you can't think your way through the engagement of the clutch. You have to feel it. It's like walking over rough ground. No two steps are exactly the same, and if you think about what you are doing you are likely to fall flat on your face. But leave the job to the cerebellum, and you can walk over uneven ground without even thinking about what your feet are doing. Feel it, don't think it.
So, forget all that stuff, and all the other stuff people have been telling you and just do this: Release the clutch until you feel the car start to move, then use the clutch and the gas to accelerate smoothly until you feel everything hook up. Then get off the clutch.
That's it. Pretty soon your cerebellum will take over for you and it will all just be natural and will seem like a single quick motion.