Posted in: Clutch General

Clutch system and how they function

Clutch system and how they function

A clutch is a metal disc with friction material bonded to it, much like brake pads. When a clutch has no pressure against it, it freewheels. But when pressure is applied to a clutch, it engages against another part, so they rotate at the same speed.

While you might find clutches in other places, they’re always found in a transmission. A manual transmission clutch, it is positioned between the engine’s crankshaft and the transmission housing on an input shaft, inside the bell housing. In an automatic transmission, a series of clutches are located inside the transaxle assembly.

Although they last a long time under normal usage, clutches are wearable components and may eventually need to be replaced. Luckily, you can get a new clutch kit and all your other clutch parts delivered right to your door from Kamsiparts Automotive Limited.

What’s the difference between manual and automatic transmission?
There are a few major differences between a manual and automatic transmission:
There’s only one large clutch disc in a manual transmission where automatics have a series of smaller clutches.
The clutch disc remains dry in a manual system where the clutches are oil-bathed in an automatic.
A clutch pedal engages the clutch disc on a manual while the torque converter on an automatic transmission is what causes the clutches to engage.
Clutches in an automatic are serviced during a rebuild
Clutch in a manual transmission is replaced as a maintenance item

Clutch main parts and their functions

While there are many related parts, these eight parts are the major players in a clutch system on a manual transmission.

1. Clutch disc: The purpose of the system revolves around one component, the clutch disc. A large round disc typically more than 30 cm in diameter, it slides onto the transmission’s input shaft. On both flat surfaces is bonded friction material that’s commonly semi-metallic like brake pads. When the clutch pedal is pressed, it spins freely and no power transfers between the transmission and engine. When the clutch pedal is released, it is squashed between the flywheel and the clutch pressure plate to match the transmission’s rotation with engine speed.

2. Clutch pressure plate: The clutch pressure plate is on the opposite side of the clutch disc from the engine. Its purpose is to release pressure from the clutch when the pedal is pressed. Metal fingers in the middle are actually springs that, when pressed together, lever a pressure disc away from the friction material.

3. Flywheel: The flywheel is bolted securely to a flange at the rear of the engine’s crankshaft. It’s a heavy steel plate that performs a few roles. First, it’s a weighted mass that minimizes vibration by balancing the engine’s rotation. As well, the flywheel smooths the engine’s revolutions per minute (RPMs) up and down to make engaging the clutch less jerky. Its main purpose is for the friction material on the clutch disc to lock against, letting the transmission carry away the power the engine produces.

4. Release fork/release bearing: The pressure plate is spinning at the same rate of rotation as the engine, and a stationary part need to engage it to release pressure from the clutch when needed. That’s the job assigned to a release fork and release bearing. When the clutch pedal is depressed, it extends a rod at the transmission to press against the release fork. In turn, the fork uses lever motion to press toward the fingers of the clutch pressure plate. A release bearing at the end of the clutch fork allows the non-rotating fork to release pressure, disengaging the clutch.

5. Slave cylinder: The clutch slave cylinder has a single purpose. When activated, a rod extends from the slave cylinder to press against the release fork. Typically, the slave cylinder is hydraulically operated although in some instances it could be cable operated as well.

6. Master cylinder: In clutch systems that use hydraulic pressure, a master cylinder is a crucial part. It’s mounted to a car’s firewall directly opposite the clutch pedal. When the pedal is pressed, a piston in the master cylinder compresses fluid into the hydraulic line toward the slave cylinder. That fluid pressure activates the slave cylinder and so on. When the pedal is released, fluid returns to the master cylinder and the clutch disc re-engages.

7. Clutch pedal: From inside your car, the only clutch component you can visually recognize is the clutch pedal. It leverages the energy from your foot pressing on it to move the piston in the master cylinder. A heavy spring on the clutch pedal is used to return it to the top of its travel when you lift your foot.

8. Pilot bearing: While not exactly a clutch part, the pilot bearing is included because it should be replaced when changing the clutch. It’s a small ball bearing or needle bearing assembly that fits perfectly into the end of the crankshaft. The transmission input shaft fits into the center of the pilot bearing, both centering the transmission and clutch and stabilizing the transmission with the engine.

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