What Is Riding The Clutch and How To Stop It?

If you’re a motorist, you must have heard the term ‘riding the clutch’ in driving techniques. The clutch is a vital transmission component in manual transmissions. The driver needs to depress it before shifting gears.

The way the driver operates the clutch plays a huge role in vehicle performance. The clutch requires special treatment from the driver to deliver a smooth and seamless driving experience.

But what is riding the clutch, anyway? To start with, riding the clutch is bad. This article will explain what riding the clutch means and outlines some parameters to prevent riding the clutch in traffic.

What Is Riding The Clutch, And Why Is It Bad?

what is meant by riding the clutch

In manual transmission cars, riding the clutch is the act of unnecessarily and partially depressing the clutch pedal. This keeps the clutch system partially engaged, causing accelerated wear on the clutch disc and flywheel.

An example of riding the clutch is when a driver rests his foot on the pedal while driving instead of keeping his foot on the floor mat. While this slight pressure may not be enough to cause clutch slipping, it can keep the throwout bearing against the clutch disc. This will keep the spring spinning when it’s not supposed to and unable to fully engage.

If you ask, what is riding the clutch on a motorcycle? It is the act of partially holding the clutch cable while riding.

Here’s the right way of shifting gears. The driver should depress the clutch pedal to disengage the transmission from the engine. Then, he’ll shift to the appropriate gear and remove his foot from the clutch pedal to return engine power to the wheels.

If the driver removes his foot too quickly, he’ll feel a definite lurch as the engine and transmission re-engage. On the other hand, if he releases the pedal too slowly, it’ll cause the clutch to slip against the flywheel. Of course, clutch slippage in this condition will cause premature wear.

However, some amount of clutch system component wear cannot be avoided. But with the right manual driving techniques, you can minimize the wear.

I know you will be wondering how bad is riding the clutch. Riding the clutch can cause clutch slipping and accelerated clutch component wear. Remember, riding the clutch differs from ‘coasting’ or ‘freewheeling’. Freewheeling is when the driver depresses the clutch pedal fully, allowing it to roll from inertia or downhill.

Freewheeling does not pose any direct danger to the vehicle. But it can be dangerous since the driver does not have the ability to accelerate quickly if necessary. Although, it is a common practice when rolling over speed bumps via inertia.

How Do You Know If You’re Riding The Clutch?

Anytime your clutch pedal stays in a state between fully released and fully depressed unless when shifting gears, you are riding the clutch. Try as much as possible to avoid controlling your car’s speed with the clutch.

As explained earlier, riding the clutch puts more pressure on the clutch components. When you depress the clutch pedal to downshift or upshift, do not remove your legs too quickly or too slowly.

Let the engine and transmission spin at the same speed before taking off your foot from the clutch pedal. Taking off your foot too quickly will cause a lurching feeling. Removing it too slowly will cause slippage.

If you notice you’re always touching the clutch pedal with your foot while driving, you’re riding the clutch. Another scenario is if you are fond of not completely taking off your foot from the clutch pedal after shifting gears.

how to stop riding the clutch

What Happens If You Ride The Clutch?

Riding the clutch mistakenly will not cause any severe damage, but doing it frequently could cause excessive wear on the clutch components. Of course, this means you’ll be replacing them much faster than you should.

The clutch is likely to be covered under your warranty. So, if your vehicle is under warranty, you may have to contact your warranty service provider.

How Do I Stop Riding My Clutch?

As a motorist, you need to learn how to avoid riding the clutch in traffic. This will help you extend the life of your clutch system. Here are the things to do.

Put your car in neutral when in traffic.

Many motorists are guilty of riding their clutch in traffic or intersections. Doing this will put more stress on the clutch. If you have to stop in intersections or traffic, put your car on neutral and hold it at that spot with the emergency brake.

Engage the parking brake when parking.

Many experts believe that parking a vehicle with the gears engaged adds stress to the clutch even when the engine is off. Thus, it is best to engage the parking brake when parking your car instead of leaving it in gear. This will keep the vehicle safe and prevent stressing the clutch when the engine is at rest.

Shift gears properly and do not delay

When shifting between different gear ranges, you need to do it properly. Do not delay while shifting gears. As a driver, you must not depress the clutch pedal long enough before shifting the gears.

Be quick about it (not too quickly, though). Imagine how many times you shift gears when driving and how much friction you’re creating between the clutch disc and the flywheel.

Practice emergency stopping

The emergency stop is a driving technique that every skillful driver should know. Practicing it will help you avoid riding the clutch and save you from accidents.

If you haven’t mastered emergency stopping, refrain from doing it at night. Practice emergency braking during the daytime when you can see clearly.

Make decisive and swift gear shifts.

Do not shift gears excessively. Instead of shifting gears now and then, aim high, plan afar, and shift gears to avoid obstacles on time. Remember, when you cut down on how often you depress the clutch, you may use the brake more often, thereby applying more friction.

Don’t ride to the clutch.

Even though you may have heard ‘riding the clutch,’ many still do not know what it means. Oh! You already know what it means. As we explained earlier, don’t partially depress the clutch. Resting your foot on the clutch is known as riding the clutch. Don’t do it.

what is riding the clutch in a car

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is riding the clutch OK?

Riding the clutch or resting your foot on the pedal is not good. It means adding extra pressure on the clutch while keeping it partially engaged. This can cause slippage and accelerated wear. This will shorten the clutch shelf life.

What does it mean to ride out the clutch?

‘To ride out the clutch’ means ‘riding the clutch.’ Whichever way you express this act, it means the same thing, and you should avoid it.

Should I press the clutch while braking?

Always depress the clutch when braking. This is a tip for learners and inexperienced drivers. Have you seen a scenario where a learner depresses the brake and forgets to clutch down? You guess right. He’ll stall out of the car.

Stalling the vehicle will cause accelerated wear on the clutch. Thus, you should depress the clutch when braking, at least when driving in lower gears.

Can you burn a clutch in one day?

On average, clutches last for 50,000 miles. Some can last 100,000 miles, while some can last only 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Now, can you burn it in a day?

With very poor driving skills, a learner can burn a clutch in one day. But this is unlikely and happens only on rare occasions.

What happens if you keep driving with a bad clutch?

Driving a vehicle with a bad clutch is very dangerous. The clutch system can scatter, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere. The damaged component can cause catastrophic damage to other components. For this reason, do not drive with a bad clutch.

Contact your mechanic if you notice any symptoms of a bad clutch. He will run a professional diagnosis and fix the problem.

Final Words

I hope this article has answered the question, what is riding the clutch? I have explained what it is, how bad it can be, and why you ride the clutch. However, prevention is better than cure.  That’s why I also outlined preventive measures to avoid riding the clutch.

Follow the preventive measures above to avoid riding your clutch. This will save you from unnecessary headaches someday.


Hi there, I am R. Hasan Tito, a mechanic, and owner of this website. My friend and I created this website to share our knowledge, expertise, and experience with our fellow mechanics' community and car users. I am a specialist and certified automotive mechanic (Both Heavy Commercial and Private Cars). I worked as a Mechanic and Mechanic Supervisor for over fifteen years at Global Rebound Automotive companies - Toyota, TATA, BMW, Nissan, TVs, and Others. Now, I enjoy my new role of leading a team of automotive experts (in their respective fields) and publish new content on a regular basis on my website and social media.

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