No Clutch

A few years ago I was just driving through Trowbridge on a day out with my son, when we came to a roundabout. We were turning left and down into first gear after giving way, I pulled away and went to change into second gear when the pedal suddenly went right to the floor without any resistance. We had no clutch so pulled up on the side of the road and I got out to investigate. On lifting the bonnet I could see the broken cable.

Now I thought this wouldn’t be much of a problem as I had the same thing happen years ago with my Cortina 1500 GT. So my son and I got out and began pushing until we were rolling, the idea is, with the engine running, you then jump in and pull gently back on the gear lever and it pops into second gear and off you go.

However the gear stick would just not go into gear how ever much I tried, in any gear whilst the car was rolling. Then I remembered my stuck in Cutwell ford event, and discovered that if I put it into second gear first of all whilst stationary, and then turned the starter motor, it would fire up and go. So now we had to work out a plan for what to do next. We abandoned our day out.

We had pulled over again in a safer place to examining the cable and decided there was nothing we could do so it was a case of driving home without a clutch. Not as easy as you think, but I had done it before, when I drove to Swindon and back again to Malmesbury without a clutch and I had also taken a works van without a clutch from Wootton Bassett to the garage in Cirencester.

What you do is drive using all the gears but without using the brakes. This means you have to change down and use the engine as your brake. You have to drive looking far ahead, as usual, to anticipate the traffic on all junctions and traffic lights. Lift your foot off the accelerator and use engine braking to slow you down, and double de-clutch without the clutch, to go down a gear, i.e. a few revs as you go into neutral and then pull the leaver gently into the next lower gear.

The whole idea is to keep a large space between you and any traffic in front, watching ahead at roundabouts, and controlling your decrease in speed to a suitable rate, so as to arrive at the junctions, when no other traffic is approaching from your right. The same at traffic lights, slow your approach so as you arrive after they change to green.

You always have the back up, of being able to push the gear lever into neutral, from slowing to a crawl in first or second, when you can brake to a halt, turn off the engine and then select second gear, then turn the starter motor, to set off again. However it is best avoided if possible because any traffic behind you will get annoyed when you don’t pull away as expected, but instead appear to be kangaroo-ing the car, as a new learner driver might, as the car doesn’t like being started in gear and it doesn’t really do it any good.

I had made it all the way from the far side of Trowbridge at our last bonnet up inspection, dropping my son off whilst crawling up to the Tesco lights in Trowbridge, and then going all the way to Malmesbury without stopping once.

On the day, a busy Saturday, I had a lot of luck, to go with my carefully calculated approach to 15 sets of traffic lights, 34 roundabouts and 5 junctions, with the last leg being my own narrow road, where again I was in luck as no one was coming out as I turned in, then I pressed the switch on the dash board for the electric garage door to open, so as I could drop into first gear and drive straight in, to complete my journey.

Fitting a new clutch cable to an Escort RS Turbo is a whole new story in its self.

12 February, 2015

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All images and written works by David Forward are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License