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Today: Still Not OK to Overuse the Clutch.

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Dear Tom and Ray:

I am an old-timer and have driven manual transmissions since the late '60s. In those days, I was told that it is not good to leave the clutch depressed when at a stoplight, as it would prematurely wear out the throw-out bearing. I am now driving a 2009 Mini Cooper with a six-speed manual transmission, and I'm wondering if this old rule still applies. Or has modern technology improved to the point where this is no longer an issue? Thank you!

-- Joe

TOM: No. Modern technology has not improved to the point where this is not an issue.

RAY: In other words, it's still an issue.

TOM: In fact, back in the late '60s, it was far easier to change a release (aka throw-out) bearing when one went bad. Many simple, rear-wheel-drive cars from that era had transmissions that you could take out with half a dozen bolts.

RAY: Or, put a less-appealing way, the transmission could fall out of the car if only half a dozen bolts worked themselves loose!

TOM: On some cars, like Chryslers and AMCs, you could have the transmission out and on the floor, and a new release bearing in, in half an hour!

RAY: These days, it's a nightmare. You have to pull the sub frame down, and sometimes you have to pull the engine and transmission together. So you want to do everything you can to prolong your release bearing's existence.

TOM: To do that, you do exactly what you've been doing since the '60s, Joe: You don't sit at a traffic light with your foot on the clutch; instead, put the transmission in neutral, and take your foot off the clutch pedal. Your release bearing is working only when the clutch pedal is depressed.

RAY: By the way, if a customer ever does need a release bearing these days, we will always put in a completely new clutch at the same time. With all that labor involved, you'd be really ticked off if you replaced the release bearing only to have the clutch fail six months later.

TOM: And the reverse is true, too. If a person needs a clutch, we always put in a new release bearing at the same time.

RAY: But at $1,800 for a clutch job these days, you want to put it off as long as possible. So rest that left leg, Joe. 

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