how the clutch works and you'll understand what the bite point is and you'll know why it's so important.The bite point is the point at which the clutch is raised just enough that it allows some transmission of drive power to the cars wheels so that the car is just on the point of moving. Read the tutorial on
Where the bite point can be found is different on different cars. Even cars from the same manufacturer can be very different. There are so many factors that can change the position of the bite point, such as how old or worn the clutch plates are. You'll find as you get more driving experience in a variety of vehicles that the biting point is often completely different in all of them.
Finding the biting or 'bite' point is a routine that all learners have to go through. As time goes by and you get more and more practice at driving, you'll find that you don't have to think about it and you just do it. Eventually it really does become second nature, but often learners have difficulty with this longer than they really need to.
You need to find the bite point every time the car is moving off from a stationary position or even when you're having to control the car at slow speeds such as entering a roundabout in a traffic queue. Hill starts, stopping at stop lines then emerging from junctions, joining a queue of traffic for any reason, these are all examples of when you'll need to be able to find the bite point.
Finding the bite point is just about always done at the same time as setting the gas. We need to set the gas by gently squeezing the gas pedal, raising the revs just a little above normal tick over. The bite point is different on different vehicles, and how much of the gas we need to set depends on the circumstances we are in. We'll need more on a steep hill start, less if we're moving off from a level position.
We need to be able to find the bite point easily and quickly because we use it almost all the time. When trying to control the car at slow speeds we use the interplay of the gas pedal and the clutch just around the bite point. When moving off from the side of the road or when we do a hill start we need to find the bite point to help us control the car.
So, how can we find it easily and quickly?
Just to help out, here's 3 ways that you can use to help you find the bite point.
In all three ways I'll assume that you:
- Have handbrake on
- Have the clutch to the floor and the car in 1st gear.
- Are in a safe position in which to practice
Method 1. Using The Engine Revs
As I've mentioned, the first thing we need to do is to set the gas. As you do this you'll hear the sound of the engine change. The engine will turn faster and you'll see the needle on the rev counter on the dashboard move slightly from its normal tick over position.
It's a good idea to leave the engine just at tick over speed to start with and to look at where the needle is. Then squeeze the gas pedal gently and raise the revs as your instructor tells you to.
Once you have the gas set and you've heard the difference in the engine and seen the needle move, it's time to use the clutch to find the bite point.
If you've read the tutorial on how the clutch works you'll know that you can rev the car as much as you like, but with the clutch pedal pressed down all the way the car will not move. It's quite important to read that page to find out why.
As you slowly and carefully lift the clutch pedal concentrate on the sound of the engine and look at the rev counter on the dashboard. If you keep your right foot still on the gas pedal, any change in the sound of engine revs can only come from your use of the clutch.
Keep looking at the rev counter and keep listening to the engine as you raise the clutch pedal. You'll find that at a certain point the sound of the engine will change, often quite markedly. The tone will lower and it often seems to go a little quieter. The rev counter needle will drop very slightly, showing that the engine is starting to strain.
These are the indicators that you've found the bite point. You may also feel the engine wanting to move the car.
Well done, you've found the bite point.
The sound changes and rev counter dips slightly because when you're at the bite point the clutch plates are almost locked together but still slide past each other a little. The engine is straining because as the clutch plates lock together more and more, the car wants to start moving, but the power and energy needed to get the car moving is quite substantial. With no more gas applied, the engine 'feels' the effort needed to overcome the cars weight (mass) and it struggles to keep turning.
The engine is trying to move the car by forcing the clutch plates to rotate, but simple laws of physics show that the car is trying to stay absolutely still, it doesn't want to move. As the engine tries to overcome this resistance the friction between the clutch plates works the opposite way and tries to stop the engine from turning. That's why the revs dip unless you apply more gas.
It all sounds very complicated but it's really very simple indeed. Make sure you read the page on how the clutch works and a lot of this will make sense much quicker.
Method 2. Using The Interior Mirror
The interior mirror has absolutely nothing to do with the clutch or the engine and it has no connection at all to any of the machinery that gets the car moving, so what does it have to do with finding the bite point?
Good question, but many learners find this little trick quite helpful when starting out.
As you start to lift the clutch to find the bite point, if you have difficulty judging it's position by the sound of the engine or the feel of the car wanting to move, a great technique is to simply look in the interior mirror.
Think about what is happening at the bite point. As I've described above, at the bite point the clutch plates are just about locking together to get the car moving. But 'just about' isn't enough to get the car moving. As the engine strains to overcome the inertia of the car it will struggle more and more to get the car to move as you slowly and carefully lift the clutch pedal.
Because the car won't move (you do have the handbrake on, don't you?) the front of the car will start to dip down under the force of the engine pulling you forward.
If you look into the interior mirror as you lift the clutch and concentrate on some point behind the car, you'll find that the point you're looking at will start to move as the engine strains and the front of the car starts to dip.
Well done, you've found the bite point.
As the front of the car dips down the effect is the same as if you tilted the mirror by pulling the bottom of it towards you. You may know from experience that you move the mirror just a little, but the view behind you changes a lot. That's because of the distances involved.
In fact, this movement of the view behind you amplifies the movement of the car significantly, particularly if you look at a point quite far away.
Using this technique you can see when the clutch is starting to reach the bite point much sooner that you can with any other method. It's often quite easy with this method to see when the car is reaching the biting point well before you can feel the engine pulling the car or hear any difference in the engine.
Because of this, this method is good for beginners, but it might not give you enough information about the location of the biting point as you advance in your driving.
Method 3. Feel
This is the method of finding the biting point that you should aspire to. To be honest, it's not really a method, it's more of an instinct and it comes with time, knowledge and practice.
Many learners have real trouble using the clutch when they first start, particularly getting to the biting point and holding the car there, but with experience and practice you should be able to do it almost instantly.
There's often a fear that the car will stall. With experience the risk of that will be very small but it's extremely important to make sure you know what to do if you do stall. It happens, don't be afraid of it.
As you progress you should be able to lift the clutch pedal a little faster and the combination of the dip in engine revs, the dip at the front of the car and the feeling that the car wants to move all combine to give you the feeling that you're at the biting point.
A great practice technique is to simply sit in the car with the car prepared to go, handbrake on and in first gear, and then to try to lift the clutch pedal quite quickly to the bite point without stalling the car. Make sure it's safe to do this. As soon as you find the bite point press the clutch back to the floor. Now lift the clutch again as quickly as you can but without going too far so the car stalls. Do this over and over. You'll soon get the feel for exactly where the bite point is in various situations.
If you do stall the car, that's no problem at all. Think of it this way, you haven't made a mistake, you've discovered what it feels like when you lift the clutch too far or too quickly. That's a good thing, it's not a problem. It gives you valuable experience and enables you to develop an instinct for where the bite point is.