'Should I step on the clutch pedal at a complete stop?' [Newbie guide]

Updated Mar 01, 2021 | Same topic: Beginner's Guide

It’s a habit many manual drivers seem to have adopted.

For those driving a manual transmission, stepping on the clutch is an important part of propelling the vehicle forward. It’s what makes shifting possible, whether we’re talking about any of the forward gears or engaging reverse gear.

However, the thing about disengaging the clutch, throwing the shift lever on the preferred gear, and then letting the clutch bite again is that it all takes time (and effort) on the part of the driver.

Car pedals

Many drivers are tempted to step on the leftmost pedal even during a complete stop 

>>> Related: Car clutch: How long does it last and tips to extend its life

For instance, you find yourself rolling into a complete stop since the traffic light has turned red, or you come across a queue of cars at an incline. Since you wouldn’t want to expend the extra energy shifting back and forth between neutral and gear, you just decide to disengage the clutch by stepping on the pedal while leaving the transmission in gear.

It certainly sounds like you’re about to shave off a few seconds when you get to advance after the light turns green or when the vehicle in front starts moving.

Convenient, yes. But is it safe? Not likely, both for you and the car.

First, riding the clutch (or stepping on it in a way that puts it somewhere between fully-depressed and fully-engaged) wears out the clutch components such as the spring, bearing, and diaphragm at a faster rate than if it was used normally.

Remember that the clutch uses friction to operate, linking one part of the powertrain that moves (the engine flywheel) to another part that is stationary (the gearbox) so that they move in sync with each other, transmitting power to the wheels.

>>> Related: Maintenance tips: DIY discovery of bad car clutch plates

Clutch disc

Riding the clutch exposes its components to accelerated wear and tear

When you ride the clutch, you are able to move the car in small increments, but the tradeoff is that you apply unnecessary pressure on the clutch components. This accelerates their lifespan, and when you do this often enough, the clutch will eventually slip and no longer hold any of the forward gears you select.

The result will be a hefty repair bill just to replace the parts needed to make your transmission run properly again – assuming you don’t get into an accident first on account of a faulty gearbox.

The second danger is when you’re holding the clutch and another vehicle happens to collide with you from behind. The sudden shock of the impact will cause you to immediately drop the clutch and complete the powertrain.

If the collision was particularly severe, the car’s abrupt forward momentum could possibly be more than what the transmission can handle at that moment, resulting in even more damage to the gearbox. And we’re not even talking about the damage you’ll cause to the vehicle in front of you after your car has lurched forward.

Car collision

An impact like this from behind can cause severe damage to your transmission components

>>> Related: How to fix common problems with car's clutch hydraulic

The third danger comes in the form of putting additional strain on your left leg as you hold down the clutch in an attempt to keep the car from moving. A sore leg won’t help you focus on driving especially during long journeys, impairing your alertness and making you more prone to mishaps.

Gear shift

Shift to neutral and use the parking brake during extended stops

The next time you need to bring your manual transmission car to a complete stop, shift to neutral and engage the parking brake. You won’t get to accelerate a few seconds faster, but you’ll be preserving your clutch and your leg, while avoiding a bad habit.

Learn more about proper practices behind the wheel at Philkotse.com.

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being Philkotse.com’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kapatilya

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