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Pardon my ignorance but this is the first auto clutch machine I have ever owned. What gear are you supposed to start moving in? I let my grand kids ride around in 3rd gear all the time. They have a 15 mph speed limit. I can tell no difference if I start off in 1st or 2nd other than I have to shift sooner if I start in 1st. The dealer told me I could start off in what ever gear I was going to be using and on flat level ground it did not matter. Does starting off in a higher gear put a strain on the clutch or other parts? "Inquiring minds want to know".
Your dealer evidently didnt know what he was talking about. It will wear your clutch out a lot quicker becuase it's slipping a lot more before fully engaging if youre not starting out in 1st gear. How quick? Who knows. I've seen clutches last as long 10 years when taken pretty good care of. I would never start off in 3rd though. My foreman can start in 2nd failrly easy but it is geared extremely low.
Sport quads- 1st gear, except maybe when drag racing. There I use 2nd so I don't do a wheelie off the line.
Autoclutch utility- 1st gear is an ultralow "granny" gear, so if I am on level ground I start out in 2nd. On a slope or under low traction conditions, I would start in 1st. I would never start out in any gear higher than 2nd. Do it to often, and you are going to ride the clutch and wear it out prematurely!
There is so little wear on wet clutches (its not zero, but close), it isnt like a dry clutch in your car or truck. Its bathed in oil, and as long as the slip time is kept to a minimum, there wont be much wear. They arent that difficult to change, so even if it gets trashed, its not a biggie. Keep an eye on the oil, makes sure its up to snuff, and its not looking too dark, or thickened up.
You didnt say what specific quad, but if its 350cc and up, level ground, and a small kid driving....dont worry about it. I usually start out in second on my foreman ( first is so low, its practically useless for trail riding), and it hasnt suffered at all. And if my es system failed, I would probably pick 3rd gear with the manual shift lever, to drive out of the woods, and I dont think id even think about the clutch wear. Just make sure the motor is running above 1800 rpms or so, and at that point and above there is no slippage. The centrifical clutch is all locked up , depending on the model, at 1800 rpms and up. So the quicker they get to 1800, (idle is about 1400 -1500 rpm), the less wear that happens.
But a better thing, would be to teach the youngster how to shift. If they are so young as to not understand a reasonable speed, they probably shouldnt ride, alone.
It will mainly cause the centrifugal clutch shoes to slip a little more.
Really shouldn't hurt anything with the kids riding itthis way. I could see more of an issue if a couple hundred pound adult were starting off in 3rd or 4th constantly but under light loads it should not hurt the unit
----- Gregg -----
Not all winners are heros
Honda Pro Wrench - Red Level Certification