You need to make your truck last to keep costs under control as an owner-operator, and that requires proper maintenance. While regular maintenance of your engine, brakes, and suspension is essential, your transmission is just as important. If you still use a manual transmission, then your clutch and flywheel are two of its most critical components.
Unlike passenger cars, semi-trucks come equipped with clutches that can go the distance. In many cases, a truck’s clutch can last for half a million miles or more. As with many vehicles, of course, improper driving habits or heavy-duty usage can wear out these vital transmission components before their time. These four facts will help you to understand the maintenance lifecycle of these crucial parts.
1. Driving Habits Matter
How you drive your truck can be the difference between a clutch that lasts thousands of miles and one that fails after a single cross-country trip. Your truck’s clutch may not be as fragile as those found on sports cars or family sedans, but that doesn’t mean that it can withstand daily abuse. Keep your foot off the clutch when you aren’t shifting, but there’s also more you must do to protect your transmission.
Most importantly, you should avoid unnecessary use of the gas pedal during shifts or starts. Unlike most passenger cars, your truck’s engine provides enough oomph to get moving on its own. Keep your foot off the gas pedal while you slowly release the clutch pedal to do wonders for the longevity of your clutch’s friction surface.
2. Warning Signs May Be Subtle
A clutch that has worn out entirely will be obvious: your truck probably won’t start at all. Your clutch wears every single time you engage the pedal, however, which means that the symptoms of wear occur gradually. Early warning signs can be subtle and easy to miss, which can potentially leave you in a lurch if your truck suddenly becomes undrivable.
To avoid this situation, pay close attention to the feel of your clutch during engagement and disengagement. Has the amount of resistance in the pedal changed? Is there a loud chattering or grinding during engagement? While occasionally grinding your gears is nearly inevitable (nobody’s perfect, after all), frequent noises during shifts are never normal.
3. Your Pilot Bearing Is a Potential Failure Point
While the clutch and flywheel are the heavy-hitters between your engine and transmission, your pilot bearing also has a vital role to play. This simple bearing helps to ensure that your truck’s input shift can spin independently of the flywheel, which gives it time to spin down when disengaged. If you experience apparent clutch issues, then your pilot bearing may be to blame.
Most pilot bearings will last at least as long as the clutch, but be aware of loud squealing noises when you engage the clutch. Depending on the level of insulation in your truck’s cabin, you might only hear the sound with the window rolled down. As the bearing wears further, the noise will become progressively louder and more of a challenge to ignore.
4. Adjustment and Resurfacing Are Options
If you experience transmission problems, then you may still have options before you have to replace your clutch and flywheel. In most trucks, clutch adjustment allows you to restore some of your pedal travel when the engagement point is too high up. This adjustment can buy you some time if the clutch friction surface has partially worn away.
Likewise, you may be able to resurface (or turn) your flywheel rather than replace it altogether. The option to reuse your existing flywheel can save a significant amount of cash, which potentially makes your clutch replacement job less of a financial burden. A qualified mechanic can check the thickness of the flywheel to determine if resurfacing is an option.
If your manual transmission semi-truck experiences clutch or flywheel problems, then Godfrey Brake Service & Supply can get to the bottom of the trouble. Get in touch with us today to get your rig’s transmission to shift smoothly again.