High Clutch Biting Point? Here's Why

Jack Dreyer | Friday 10th February 2023 10:30am

A booted foot rests on a car's brake and clutch pedals.

If you’ve had your car for a number of years now, have temporarily driven another person’s car, or are considering buying a second-hand car, you may be wondering what a high clutch biting point signifies. In many cases, this can signify a costly repair – but you may get lucky and find it just needs an adjustment!

Read on to learn all about clutches!

Understanding clutch biting point

It’s first important to quickly run through how a clutch works and what it’s there to do. You can read the full process of how an engine moves a car here, but the short version is that the clutch exists to engage and disengage the engine from the gearbox in order to facilitate changing gears while the engine’s running.

There are lots of specific clutch designs, but the main concept is that there are two components that slot together with friction – when they slot together, the engine and gearbox are mechanically connected. Imagine this like a brake mechanism that clamps both sides together with friction pads.

Now, when you press the clutch pedal down, it puts tension on a mechanism and pulls the two halves apart – and this lets you change the gear on the gearbox before reconnecting the engine.

The “biting point”, as you’re likely aware, is the point at which the clutch is engaged enough to be transmitting power, but not enough to fully go yet.

The biting point is a helpful ready-point

Because hovering at the biting point gives you control to accelerate quickly (after all, the clutch is already mostly-engaged), it’s great when you need to use it to quickly pull away – such as at roundabouts.

But it’s also helpful as an extra brake. For hill starts, it’s usually a good idea to find the biting point with the handbrake still up so that you can gradually lower the handbrake as you accelerate. This stops your car rolling backwards in the moment between finding the biting point and having enough power supplied to go uphill.

But using the biting point wears the clutch

A technician tweaking a deconstructed clutch assembly.

So this long preamble has been necessary to clearly understand why the biting point might be higher than it should be.

Much like a brake pad, the friction elements of a clutch assembly wear down over time. Their main role is to hold the clutch together but, in doing so, tiny parts are shaved off each time by virtue of having to counteract the force of an engine and a moving car. Over-relying on using the biting point for driving, then, puts a lot of undue strain on the clutch itself.

So a high bite point indicates one of two things:

a.) The clutch has worn heavily

The option you usually don’t want to face is that the clutch has worn down to the point that it needs to physically travel further to make contact. While worrying, however, this isn’t usually an emergency fix and isn’t necessarily a bank-breaker for some vehicles. While a clutch replacement is usually considered a big, expensive fix for second-hand vehicles – it usually gives the vehicle a whole new lease of life!

b.) Adjustments need to be made

If you’re lucky, it could also just be that the clutch plates need adjusting or, in some vehicles, the cable that goes from the pedal to the clutch needs re-tightening. An improperly tensioned clutch or pedal can also be a reason for a vehicle not going into gear properly while the engine’s on.

Free assessment at your local Kwik Fit

For a free assessment to figure out what’s wrong, get in touch with the experts at your local Kwik Fit centre!

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