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Clutching the knowledge

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While the components might look the same to an untrained eye, clutch development continues behind the scenes, which affects the fitting procedures greatly. Rob Marshall looks at the latest training and information-gathering opportunities that are on offer for the year ahead.

Whether fitting a self-adjusting clutch, or a clutch pack to an automated manual gearbox, the chance of an angry customer returning soon after the work has been completed is reduced considerably if you keep your knowledge up-to-date. Like any garage, clutch manufacturers aim to suppress returns and warranty claims, which is why they are keen to reach out and help installers understand the latest in clutch developments, why changes have been necessary and how the fitting procedure might have altered.

Despite offering training opportunities at their various HQs, clutch manufacturers are sensitive to the challenges that independent garages face of losing a single technician for the day, which explains why some of them are taking their training on the road. Most notably, Schaeffler’s REPXPERT Academy Live was launched last year, providing a convenient and cost effective way for garages to upskill their technicians. Conducted on a Saturday, the course content have also evolved. An increased number of presentations make the most of the time available and live demonstrations are also included to show the practice behind the theory. Schaeffler also reports that, as the day-long event is held in partnership with the IMI, CPD points can be claimed by members as an extra incentive.

The success of the first REPXPERT Academy Live, held at Lincoln College on Saturday 16th November 2019, led Schaeffler to confirm the next venue as Basingstoke College on Saturday, January 25th. Other venues planned for 2020 include Blackpool, Warwick and Swansea but, should extra demand dictate it, Schaeffler told AT that it may also look at adding more dates and locations, so watch this space.

First Line highlights that significant investment has been made in testing equipment for its on-site Technical Centre for developmental reasons. While the company does not schedule specific events, it extends an invitation for technicians to visit for training, or meeting purposes. It comments that it is dedicated to provide both technicians and factors with as much support as possible and supplies product updates and technical bulletins, where applicable. This includes details on its own WebCat (https://webcat.firstline.co.uk/home) as well as a technical hotline, 01869 329 709.

THE E-ALTERNATIVE

Valeo is another clutch supplier that also supports the OEMs and the aftermarket. It agrees that training is crucial to keep pace with technological developments, but it states that this is a challenge, where almost three quarters of employees in independent garages have not received training of any kind within the past 12 months. Valeo, therefore, has launched three technical digital services recently, in what it calls a ‘technical revolution,’ after interviewing 600 retailers and mechanics in seven countries, including the United Kingdom.

As it continues to establish its Blue Print brand as an all-makes clutch brand, the Bilstein Group highlights not only its dedicated telephone support with a technical team but also its online cataloguing and tech tips.

GOING OLD SKOOL

Occasionally, you may be requested to replace the clutch on an historic vehicle. Borg and Beck, now part of First Line, told us that it has been expanding its catalogue of quality replacement clutches, which caters for over 200 applications, dating back to 1935. While the brand was an OE supplier to many British brands in their heydays, note that many ancillary parts on classic cars have far exceeded their intended design life and require additional close inspection. While release arms, pivots and bushes, as examples, wear out like those on a modern vehicle, those parts tend not to be supplied with a replacement clutch kit and clear technical information might not be available. In those cases, you may have to try alternative sources for technical information and spare parts, such as owners’ clubs, or specialist classic car companies.

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Valeo’s Tech @ssist is available via: www.valeoservice.co.uk and boasts a parts search service, which includes technical and compatibility information with accompanying images. It also brings together technical information, including TSBs and installation videos. Of more interest are the on-demand training modules and webinars that are delivered by longstanding professional trainers.

Schaeffler emphasises that it has also been working on its online support. Its REPXPERT knowledge portal, including the LuK DMF CheckPoint, has been condensed into an app for iOS and Android devices. A new barcode scanner facility also sends you straight to the relevant product information pages. Schaeffler told AT that it is encouraging garages to download and use the app, in order for it to continue to evolve in line with technicians’ requirements.

While ZF highlights its online WebCat catalogue at: www.aftermarket.zf.com for accurate parts identification, it has also just launched a ZF Partsfinder App for more convenience. However, more comprehensive support is offered by two levels of optional membership. While ZF [pro]Tech start provides information about tools, labour times, tightening torques and step-by-step fitting instructions, ZF [pro]Tech plus includes not only an installation hotline and on-site assistance but also technical training sessions.

ZF has Clutch and DMF training courses available throughout the year. For more information, email: protech.zf-aftermarket.uk@zf.com

WHERE ARE YOU GOING WRONG?

According to Valeo, the following percentages of common errors found by its warranty team are:

  1. Excessive/incorrect type of grease used on the input shaft during fitment – 18%
  2. Incorrect bearing preload on the cover – 17%
  3. Contamination caused by the clutch operatinghydraulics – 11%
  4. Damage to the friction plate splines during fitting – 6%
  5. Friction plate fitted the wrong way round – 2%

All of these issues are discussed in detail in the company’s Clutch Care & Repair Webinar, which is produced by Valeo Service UK.

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