Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's a Clutch Moment: Understanding the Clutch in Your Vehicle

The modern vehicle is a complex object, full to the brim with parts and pieces doing all kinds of jobs. It can get pretty intimidating up under that hood. And when the car starts to act funny, even a mechanic can have trouble explaining it. If your mechanic has diagnosed your car or truck with a clutch problem, here's a quick overview of what the clutch does, and how things may have gone wrong.

The clutch is a mechanical device in a vehicle's engine that allows for the transmission of power and motion from the engine to the wheels. It can be engaged (so the wheels receive power) or disengaged (so they don't). Different engines have different settings for the clutch, allowing for multiple gears, which vary the amount of power that the wheels receive.

Without a functioning clutch, no power reaches the wheels of the vehicle and it won't move. A malfunction can happen with the mechanism stuck in any position, or even between gears, leaving it "stuck" or "jammed."

Clutches have different designs in different kinds of vehicles, which makes it difficult to speak broadly about them. They can be structured differently to provide more or less power overall (from a racecar to a scooter, for example), and can have virtually any number of gears. The average consumer car has 4 to 6 gears, plus reverse, while it's not uncommon for 18-wheel tractors to have 10 or more, including several reverse gears.

A manual transmission, in which the driver uses the clutch pedal and his own senses to control when the gears shift, is also called "standard." In the US, automatic transmissions are common, in which a mechanical system automatically senses engine demands and sets the gears without input from the driver. Some cars feature a sort of transmission where the driver can switch between these two options.

There are a lot of moving parts in the clutch assembly, and therefore a lot of places where things can go wrong.

One of the most common causes of clutch problems is user error. Any vehicle that is driven too roughly suffers a greater amount of damage, including on the clutch assembly. A manual transmission has the added threat of inexperienced or careless drivers causing damage.

Even with careful expert driving, the clutch still experiences wear and tear. The friction material on the disks and gears will wear out eventually, causing slippage, and need replacement.

If slipping isn't the problem, it's probably sticking. Sticking can be caused by a number of factors, such as a broken or stretched clutch cable, air in the hydraulic system, misaligned linkage, leaks or defects in the clutch cylinders, or mismatched clutch components.

An automatic transmission depends on a sensor system and hydraulics to shift gears, and a failure in any of these parts can cause an overall failure in the system.

If you drive an automatic, you probably never think about the clutch in your transmission. And if you drive a manual, you're so used to clutching and shifting that you don't think about it either. But there's a lot of mechanical pieces, and a lot that can go wrong. Don't let clutch problems grind your gears - contact your mechanic or transmission specialists to get a diagnosis and a repair estimate today!

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/7235822