Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

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Jon2000
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Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by Jon2000 »

Hey everyone,

I picked up my first manual transmission car, a 2007 Mazdaspeed3 in December and have put about 8000km's (about 4000km highway) on it. I may have logged about about 4 hours of manual driving before this. I'm looking for some advice on how to be get moving smooth consistently in first gear with such an abrupt grabby clutch with a very, very small friction point - the car also has touchy a throttle and over 280lbs of torque. I can modulate the clutch fairly well for the most part and have had days where everything seems to come together and I have the clutch out at 1000rpm and am taking off quick ...other days the revs quickly dip down as I didn't pause enough in that tiny sweet spot (changing from Puma's to Doc Martins to sandals can throw things off a bit) or clutched to the friction point a little too quick . I don't have any issues with the other gears just occasionally the 1-2 shift can be a bit jerky if I don't let the revs drop enough. I've never had a problem stalling the car although I did once which was a panic clutch dump on a hill when I first got it . I drove automatic for 10 years so training my right foot to have more precision and finesse has been something I've been focusing on. I drove my girlfriend's Focus 5-speed yesterday and was completely smooth see-sawing the clutch and gas and keeping the revs below 1500rpm for starts - it was so much easier than mine.

Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated as I often feel that I should have this thing mastered by now (I feel like an OCD perfectionist every time I drive stick). I'm still trying to get better at rev-matching my down shifts - I sometimes blip too much or too little while dumping the clutch.

Thanks,
Jon
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by Jastreb »

It sounds like you're doing just fine. You will gradually get more consistent at launching as you build up the muscle memory. I used to have a car with a similar clutch and it took me about 5-6 months to get fairly consistent, and that's with driving to work every day. The pause at the friction point is key and you're already aware of it. I think the your biggest problem is:
feel like an OCD perfectionist every time I drive stick
I used to have the same mentality, but you gotta realize nobody notices if your downshifts aren't perfect or your revs dip down a bit during your launch. The car doesn't hold a grudge against you either. Don't over-think things.

And welcome to the site. Congrats on a sweet ride!
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by theholycow »

Jastreb wrote:I used to have a car with a similar clutch and it took me about 5-6 months to get fairly consistent, and that's with driving to work every day. The pause at the friction point is key and you're already aware of it.
I too had (and still have) a 2008 VW Rabbit.

All you need is seat time, and lots of it. Lots of stalling, lots of awful launches, eventually you'll get good at it. It took me forever to realize that I need to pause; I thought if I just slowed down enough, that was good enough.

Another thing I failed to realize was that just because the car seems to be moving fast enough doesn't mean I'm done with the clutch. Once the car was going fast enough I'd dump the clutch the rest of the way. Really, in the VW (and possibly your Mazda), it's necessary to continue pausing after you think you're done pausing.

Here's a couple exercises that can help you practice:

1. No-gas launches. Get good at them. Do it in an abandoned parking lot. You've got all that torque; try getting up through all the gears without touching the gas pedal. My VW can do it. No-gas launching and no-gas through all the gears will train your clutch foot very well, without any distraction about other pedals.

2. Free-rev to various RPM in neutral at a stop. Rev to idle + 200, idle + 400, idle + 600. Once you get good at that, do it in 100 RPM increments instead of 200. This will train your throttle foot without any distraction from anything else. Just remember that it takes more throttle for a given RPM when you're launching than when free-revving.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by watkins »

Arent Mazda clutches usually pretty soft and easy? You want abrupt, try a Rustang.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by FDSpirit »

I didn't test drive it sadly, but I sat in one of the new Mazda 3s. I was just messing around with the clutch pedal and it felt much like the one in that Mercury Cougar I drove. VERY light. It took next to no effort to push the pedal in. As for driving, we all have good days and bad days, but it seems like you're doing well. It just takes more seat time.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by AHTOXA »

Yeah, I agree with the guys here. You're doing fine - you just need more practice doing it - that's all.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by Jon2000 »

Thanks for the advice and tips so far! You're all saying the same thing - more seat time. I know you're right. It's hard though when you wake up in the morning, jump in the car to go to work and try to drive away and feel like you never driven it before. It doesn't help I live only 4 mins from work and have no traffic and only a few stop signs. Sometimes I get there and am pissed off after screwing up all my take-offs.

I have tried the no-gas launches a few times while practicing in a parking lot and was able to get the car rolling at a decent speed after a bit of feathering. It did help me find the friction point although you can really feel it snap on then off - like a bump.

It seems my clutch is like this: ==||==== the vertical lines are the friction zone
The other manuals I have driven: ==<|||||==

As far as the soft Mazda clutches, I think most are except for the Mazdaspeed3 and Mazdaspeed6 clutches. According to a number of reviews, my 2007 clutch (I believe it's a ceramic hydraulic clutch) is very unforgiving and even frustrates manual drivers who have been doing this for 20+ years. The clutch feels very light at the start of travel then like an on/off switch it feels like your pushing an oar through water. The other two manuals I drove, a new Acura TSX and a 2006 Ford Focus have a more progressive/gradually engaging clutch which is far easier to operate. As soon as you feel the *bump* where mine engages you've probably already brought it through the friction point - that's when the revs dip to near idle.

I'm not sure if the right thing to do is to hold the grabby clutch at the friction point while increasing the revs slightly then finishing the clutch release..seems like gassing through the clutch.... if I hold it at steady revs at the friction point for a second then try to balance off with throttle and clutch, the clutch seems to fully engage before the revs increase and once again - the rpm dip. I've put pressure back on the clutch to keep it in the friction zone which sometimes works but it requires a bit more concentration and finesse. Most people who have taken my car for a spin are a little surprised when they end up accidentally stabbing the gas to 2500 rpms to try to get moving off the line.

Thanks again for the time!
Jon

PS: check out the following link if you want to see a graphical representation of the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 clutch (it's more gradual and forgiving than the 2007 that I have).
http://blogs.insideline.com/roadtests/2 ... -pull.html
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by six »

watkins wrote:Arent Mazda clutches usually pretty soft and easy? You want abrupt, try a Rustang.
While this might be true for the regular Mazdas, the Mazdaspeeds are an entirely different beast.
Jon2000 wrote:According to a number of reviews, my 2007 clutch (I believe it's a ceramic hydraulic clutch) is very unforgiving and even frustrates manual drivers who have been doing this for 20+ years. The clutch feels very light at the start of travel then like an on/off switch it feels like your pushing an oar through water.
Hi Jon, and welcome to the site.

As someone who used to drive a first-gen Mazdaspeed6, I know exactly what you're speaking of. Truly one of the trickiest clutches around. On the MS6, the clutch was very unlinear, where the travel at the bottom was relatively light, then right before the catch point, the clutch effort necessary suddenly increased two to three-fold, and in the middle of this small increased-effort range, was the engagement point. And yes, it was just a point. Then after that, it was light again. I'm sure yours is pretty similar.

I actually learned standard on the Mazdaspeed6, and trust me, learning on a Mazdaspeed will make most other cars a cinch to drive. Like the others here have said, don't overthink it and let your body learn the natural way. Eventually, you will get everything perfect without even thinking about it. I found that the more you think about your actions, the worse you get.

I have gotten use to the tricky clutch of the Mazdaspeed6 so much that I even foregone the TSB clutch adjustment. I have grown to love the feeling of the tricky clutch. Once you get used to the Mazdaspeed3's clutch, I'm pretty sure you'll feel the same. After that happens, all other manual cars you drive will feel mushy and unresponsive, and way too light. It's a weird phenomenon, but I loved it.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by 1974Alfa5spd »

Jon2000 wrote:PS: check out the following link if you want to see a graphical representation of the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 clutch (it's more gradual and forgiving than the 2007 that I have).
http://blogs.insideline.com/roadtests/2 ... -pull.html
Wow, and I thought my clutch was hairtrigger.

The best remedy for this is practice, grasshopper. Soon it will become entirely automatic, and your hands and feet will know exactly what to do. :mrgreen:
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by scionkid »

Jon2000 wrote:It seems my clutch is like this: ==||==== the vertical lines are the friction zone
The other manuals I have driven: ==<|||||==
At least the friction zone is at the bottom 1/2 of the travel. Try to drive a truck sometimes. They have narrow friction zones at the top, with clutch brake at the bottom. You'll be dangling your leg one foot up in the air for a good second or 2. I stalled those things about 30 times on my 1st day, even with 2 years of manual experience.

I'd say be smooth on your clutch release when going to the friction point, the lower edge of the friction zone. The last thing you wanna do is go to the friction point quickly and overshoot it. If it is a ceramic clutch, go ahead and let it slip more.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by Jon2000 »

When you guys slip the clutch more are you just holding the clutch at the friction zone and keeping the gas steady or can you start to increase the gas a bit then as you're pulling away and getting up to speed then let go of the clutch ...I've done this before and it was really smooth but it feels strange give more gas while the clutch is grabbing and I'm holding it there. If you no gas launch it you can get on the gas pretty quick after but when on an incline you need to give gas while clutching out. I noticed my clutch alone will not hold my car on my steeper driveway - just rolls back quickly. I have to do the foot shuffle fairly quickly and very precise as to not overshoot the tiny friction zone. I swear this car has been a real confidence killer while learning to drive stick ...it feels good when veterans get in and start jerking around and almost stalling.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by theholycow »

Adding more gas or more clutch is situational for me. Sometimes I do one or the other or both and I can't say exactly when. I suspect that it's just as much about my mood as it is about traffic and terrain.

I'm a fan of the no-gas launch followed by flooring the gas, it's a very effective strategy at times.

For hills, if the foot shuffle isn't working out for you (or if you're in England where this is required by law) then just use the handbrake.

I had the same feeling when I found out that experienced clutchers have trouble launching my car, too.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by 1974Alfa5spd »

theholycow wrote:I had the same feeling when I found out that experienced clutchers have trouble launching my car, too.
Of course, when in doubt, pull a Roman launch. 5000RPM, 1st gear, drop clutch.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by FDSpirit »

^ :lol: . I think I'm with theholycow on it being situational. In most cases, I add gas before I even begin to release the clutch. If traffic is bad, its a no-gas launch since I know I'm not going anywhere any time soon.
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Re: Advice needed - new manual driver with abrupt/grabby clutch

Post by LHOswald »

adding gas before letting out the clutch is normal in a honda though. i couldn't even no gas launch in my buddies integra. but i think the ls has less torque low end than vtec motors.
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