Probably the most difficult aspect when first learning to
drive is mastering the clutch. Incorrect use of the clutch can result in some
of the more common problems like stalling or jerking the car. But once you have
learnt to use the clutch, driving and controlling the car is much easier.
Therefore we recommend spending plenty of time practicing this skill.
Basics of how the clutch works
The clutch is made up of two plates that separate when the clutch pedal is pushed down and come together when the clutch pedal is lifted up. When the clutch plates are separated the engine is not connected to the wheels so it won't drive them. When the clutch plates are together the engine is connected to the wheels and so it makes them turn.
It is important to understand that, in order for the car to respond smoothly, you MUST NOT allow the clutch pedal to come up too quickly so that the plates slam together. Smoothness comes from allowing the clutch pedal to come up slowly and very carefully so the plates join together gently.
The Biting Point
The biting point is the moment when the two clutch plates just start to touch together and the wheels begin to turn. This is the critical point where the term "Clutch Control" gets its name. Being able to control the clutch pedal around the biting point is tricky to learn but once mastered makes driving and controlling the car far easier.
To master clutch control take the car somewhere quiet that has a flat surface. Practice feeling for the biting point. First of all start practicing in first gear, moving the car slowly forwards. Try to see how slowly you can move the car by adjusting the pressure on the clutch pedal in tiny amounts. When we say tiny we mean "TINY!." We are talking about moving the clutch pedal either up or down by the thickness of two £1 coins! Seriously that’s all it needs to control the speed when you are traveling that slowly.
Whenever you move your pedal it may take a few moments for the change to take effect so be patient and hold your foot in position. Many modern day cars will let you manoeuvre the car around like this without using the accelerator pedal. However be aware you may need to keep very light pressure on the accelerator pedal whilst trying to control the clutch so that the engine doesn't stall.
You can view a video of CUTCH CONTROL on the mini Drive website. Click here to see it.