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Yesterday we went on a steep hill and suddenly we stopped because the cars in front of us weren't moving..so my mom kept on holding the clutch of the car, then the car started to smoke, maybe it took up to 1 minute before we were in a good position, one guy helped us and he tried to check if the car is overheating but, he said it wasn't and it's fine when we gp back driving in to the highway..the car, seems to be fine, we're still able to get back home, but there's still a little smell of smoke because of earlier. I'm just wondering if the car needs repair and if it's a big deal because the car was smoking earlier? Also if it's good to not use the car or we should often use it after what happened? Did it damage the car?

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  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 16:04
  • Familiar with the smell of burned brakes? Did you smell a similar odor from the smoke as a hint of burning the clutch since they share similar materials? Being stuck on a steep hill in traffic can damage clutches from continually slipping the clutch, moving a few inches or feet attempting to keep up with the conga line. Perhaps the next time this occurs, if you can, pull off to the side and park without interfering with traffic until conditions allow normal driving. Slipping the clutch in slow crawling traffic on a steep incline is a recipe for premature clutch wear.
    – F Dryer
    Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 19:28
  • This isn't a site about driving techniques, but IMO it's best to wait on the brakes, in neutral, until enough gap has opened up in front to move forwards by fully engaging the clutch and driving at a steady speed in low gear, with the accelerator. Of course on a hill start you need more clutch slippage to get rolling, but it's best to minimise that. It's the same in a traffic line on the flat: I try to maintain a steady speed projecting towards the traffic ahead, but it's no use to many cars behind. I can see in my mirror they are still stop-starting with jerky driving instead of rolling on. Commented Aug 26, 2023 at 20:33
  • Thanks for all the advices everyone, appreciate it a lot
    – JessicaB
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 11:11

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From this sounds of it, this is typically what is known as "smoking the clutch" ... go figure. This happens when you overheat the clutch/flywheel due to excess slippage. The clutch is one big friction device. There is friction material (not unlike brake pad material) which is suspended between two large, flat pieces of metal. When used normally, there is a small amount of heat generated as the clutch is applied. There is a small amount of slippage, and then the two metal parts grab hold of the friction material and it all becomes like one large mass. At that point no more heat is generated and it starts too cool. When someone is slipping the clutch for a long period of time, the heat continually builds up to the point where the fine particles from the friction material start to burn. This is the smoke you saw. If the slipping continues beyond that, both metal surfaces can become glazed (as well as the friction material) and they will not hold as well. Continue on beyond that and the flywheel can start cracking due to the excess heat.

In your case, if you saw smoke, there is damage. How much damage is unknown without taking things apart. If it is still working, then you may have escaped without too much damage. However, you'll want to be on the lookout for if the clutch starts slipping when you don't want it to. This will usually manifest itself in higher gears. If you find that you press on the gas pedal and the engine increases in speed (tachometer goes up), but the speed really doesn't follow (it should all be very linear), then the clutch is slipping. The other thing to look out for is if the flywheel has heat cracks in it, your take off from a stop may feel more jittery then you are used to. In either case, you're going to want to plan for a clutch replacement sometime in the near future.

I think you're aware of this, but using the clutch to hold the vehicle on the hill is not something which should be done. This is the best/easiest/fastest way to kill your clutch. Use the brakes instead. Not as easy to take off from a stop on a hill, but you'll save your clutch and a large mechanics bill in the process.

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  • Thanks for the advice, i will tell my mom about this. I really appreciate the response 🙏🏻 Also my mom tried to use the car the other day and she said that the clutch seems fine and the smell of the smoke was already gone.
    – JessicaB
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 10:59

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