What Causes Clutches to Burn?by Laura Stuart
Burning the Clutch
"Burning the clutch" can mean multiple things, but in common terms, burning the clutch is wearing down the clutch. It does not actually catch on fire. Wearing down the clutch is the aftermath of increased pressure and heat on the clutch plate, which files or shaves down the plate making it glass-like and smooth. Since a clutch works by creating friction between the grooves of the two plates pressing together, a smooth plate changes the kinetic energy the clutch produces. This can happen due to "riding" the clutch, meaning the vehicle driver rides with his foot on the clutch and weakens the springs on the pedal, which alters the performance of the clutch.
Hills and Clutches
Vehicles traveling through hilly regions will burn through clutches much quicker than vehicles that drive on flat land. This is because holding the clutch and rolling backward on a hill will cause more friction and wear down the clutch plates faster.
In a manual transmission, the lifespan of a clutch is a wide range. Generally, begin to check the clutch for damage at 50,000 miles.