All About Car Clutches

Drive a manual? Then you’re familiar with the clutch.

If you are familiar with driving a manual transmission car then you know that your car has a clutch – that third pedal on the far left that you need to press when making a gear change. But do you know how your car’s clutch really works, why you need one, or if an automatic car has a clutch?


What is a Clutch?

In a car, the engine is always spinning, but the car’s wheels need to be able to start and stop. In a manual transmission car, the clutch is the way for the driver to disengage the wheels from the engine without killing the engine.

close up of a manual transmission car pedals with clutch pedal on the far left


How Your Car’s Clutch Works

Your car’s clutch has a flywheel that connects to the engine, and a clutch plate that connects to your car’s transmission.

When your foot is not on the clutch pedal there are springs that put pressure on the clutch disc, which in turn puts pressure on the flywheel. This then locks the engine to the transmission shaft and allows them to spin at the same speed, allowing your car to move.

When the clutch pedal is being pressed, a hydraulic piston is pushing on a release fork, which then presses on a bearing in the middle of a spring. As the middle of this spring is pushed in, a series of pins around the outside of the spring causes the spring to pull the pressure away from the clutch disc and this releases the clutch from the spinning engine.

cars clutch disk that a mechanic in gloves is changing


What About Automatic Transmissions Vehicles?

Automatic transmission cars technically have a clutch system.

However, in an automatic transmission, the clutch is part of a larger series of systems that comes together to form the torque converter, rather than the clutch you find in a manual transmission car.

The torque converter connects the engine to the transmission so that the wheels will turn, similar to how a clutch in a manual transmission car functions. Want to learn more about torque converters…check out this article!


Common Clutch Problems

If you treat your clutch well it can last up to 80,000 miles.

However, if you don’t care for them, or are constantly overloading your car and carrying heavy loads you may see your clutch lasting on 35,000 or less. Some of the most common clutch problems include:

  • Wearing: The most common problem is the material on the disc wears out due to constant friction.
  • Broken Cable: The cable needs tension to push and pull.
  • Leaks: Leaks within the cylinders keep them from building up the right amount of pressure to function normally.
  • Misalignment: When you press the pedal the linkage transmits the wrong amount of force
  • Air in the Hydraulic Line: Air gets into the line where fluid needs to be in order to build pressure.
  • Hard Clutch: If you need more force than normal to press your clutch this can indicate a problem.

Related: Trouble Shifting Gears


Ways to Avoid Wearing Out Your Clutch

Your clutch is subjected to constant friction.

Eventually, your clutch will wear out, but how long your clutch is able to go is dependent on the way you drive your car. Clutch repair can be expensive, so here are our tips to avoid wearing out your tips prematurely.

  1. Change gears quickly and be decisive when changing gears. The longer you keep the clutch pressed down the more strain you are putting on it when you are changing gears. The same goes for changing gears more than necessary, reduce the amount you are unnecessarily using your clutch to lengthen its life.
  2. Use your handbrake when parking. If you leave your car in gear when parking this puts a lot of strain on your clutch. Instead of you use your parking brake, rather than leaving your car in hear you will reduce the amount of pressure on your clutch when you are not driving.
  3. Don’t ride your clutch. Riding the clutch is the act of keeping your clutch pedal partially pressed down all the time. This puts pressure on the clutch plate but doesn’t allow it to engage completely creating more friction that will cause your clutch to wear out faster. Keep your foot away from your clutch unless you are changing gears.


Clutch Repairs at AAMCO Colorado

The clutch is one part of your car that is subjected to almost constant use and friction. If you suspect that you might have a problem with your clutch is it important to come into to your nearest AAMCO Colorado service center where can perform a multipoint inspection and diagnostic service to determine your issue.

At AAMCO Colorado we offer a wide range of services to help keep you safe on the road – from free seasonal safety check, to regular maintenance and more. Trust in AAMCO for all your Total Car Care needs, schedule an appointment online today at the location nearest you.

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