Starting in 3rd Gear - Caution!


The Favor Factory™
Staff member
Le Mans 2010 Supporter
Jul 30, 2005
Metro Detroit
A common problem that claims the lives of Ford GT clutches is accidentally rolling out from a dead stop in third instead of first.

Be cautious when starting out and be sure you are in first, not third. It's a common error and you will immediately know when it happens. The car's prodigious torque will undoubtedly move you forward, but you may pay with your clutch if you do it repeatedly. Likewise for burnouts. I've witnessed two clutches become toasted as owners attempted to roast the tires accidentally in third gear.

Copied below are some posts from older threads.

Here you go:

Need an opinion? I have an elevated driveway, angled to the street. This requires that I place trailer ramps and 2/4s to clear the street and driveway so I don't scratch my GT. Have to put the car 90 degrees to the street and then check it to make sure I am lined up on the ramps. Accidently yesterday, I had set the car up, by the time I had done this I had people north and south of me waiting to see me drive the car up the driveway. I accidently started out in 3rd gear which seemed okay to start as there is enough torque to get across the semi level ramps, but once I started up the grade I started to lose clutch engagement. No noise, no clanking in the transaxle, just some smoke out the tire wells. I realized I was in 3rd, immediately downshifted to 1st and got up the hill. There was a fair amount of what I assume was smoke from the clutch, which quickly dissipated and the clutch works fine now and it worked fine then when I downsifted into 1st. Is there anything I need to be concerned with the clutch? It only lasted a second or so, when I realized what had happened by releasing the clutch from a slow start on a mild grade in third gear to a steeper grade. Shifting to first was no problem and grabbing the gears in 1st also no problem. Has me a little worried?

Your thoughts would be appreciated
A clutch has wearable material on it not unlike a brake pad. Through normal usage, the material starts to wear away. Drivers who consistently engage the clutch with minimal slippage are rewarded with a very long clutch life.

What you have done is to wear away some of the material very quickly. Perhaps the equivalent of 1'000's of miles of "normal" use. Likely, the smell of that smoke was the same as hot brakes.... because it is largely the same material, but it was from the clutch.

No worries, however. If everything is working OK, you are fine. Obviously, try to avoid this in the future and your clutch may wear out a few thousand miles (big deal!) before someone elses.
I did a burnout in mine in third gear by mistake and totally toasted my clutch in 5 seconds. It jerked and jumped and smelled terrible. I had to replace it immediately. Biggest waste of $3000 I ever made.

If yours is working allright, don't worry. Just don't do it again!
Fortunately mine was a couple of seconds at low RPMs, took it out tonite and it seems fine. No problems that I could detect not even the smell from yesterday. I guess I am alright. $3000.00 eh, sounds like an expensive 5 seconds for sure. Funny now how I absolutely make sure I am in 1st gear, every time, Guess it is a learning curve???
There is a very informative thread about clutch wear and starting the car in third gear. It seems to be much more common than one would expect due to the spring loaded shifter but, as one would expect, it also seems to wear clutches very quickly.

I sent a personal message to BDK, his advice was the same, it happens frequently, if the clutch works then there is probably not a problem, if, as in the about Texas case, replacement can be extensive. I will check by the dealership this AM on the way to work. They have a pretty savy GT technician.

One problem I have found is 1st and 3rd look almost in the same spot when you shift into them and you really need to pay attention to being far left but not in reverse. One thing I have noticed is I have less grabby 1st gear, less rumbling that I first experienced when I bought the car two months ago. Maybe that is just normal wear changes, but after my little episode the other day, seems smmother (maybe that is just me trying to convince myself everything is OK?) Also I have not had any 2nd gear grinding sensation that occasionally came shifting into 2nd. I started double clutching a while ago when the tranny is cold, but that problem seems also to have gone. Maybe this was therapeutic???
Atomic, you have most of the advice and reassurance you need already....

As described above, you will have lost a little of the sacrificial material from the clutch plates - nothing to worry about really - I've done this (accidentally) on a number of cars over the years and still had years of clutch life left.

What can happen, on occassion, is that you can build up excessive heat in the clutch and the plates can warp a little - I'm told (by Aston Martin) that a few high speed gear changes (a slowish gear change but travelling at speed) will 'skim' them back into shape. On the Vanquish there is a 'clutch re-learn' routine too (a series of on, off, on, on, off switches on the ignition) which re-sets the stack height - I've no idea if this is needed or indeed possible on the GT.

My instinct and experience says that you've not done any damage - you've just made the car go 'ouch' and you won't do it again!
Well, Looks like you guys were correct. Clutch seems fine, had it out the last two days and absolutely no problems, in fact I don't have the "grabbing" sensation starting out in 1st gear, and have yet to have any cold grinding into 2nd. So maybe this little clutch burn smoothed everything out. Not sure I can recommend it but if you have a grabby 1st gear and occasional grind into 2nd, maybe a little clutch burn is warranted.