Performance clutches, clutch modifications and clutch problems.

"Don't clutch at straws!"

The clutch takes the engine power, and puts this down through the drive shaft, to the driven wheels on the road but allows you to disengage the engine whilst performing a gear change.

Contact like this requires a lot of grip and a fast response.

The more power you have the harder it is for the clutch to operate.

Power is potentially lost if the clutch slips, failing to make steady contact with the contact plate when the clutch is first released - power clutches have high friction surfaces and sometimes 2 or 3 contact plates. 

Big power requires a powerful clutch unless you want to change the clutch every few weeks!

The heavy-duty race clutches have less feel and are pretty much on or off. This can make it hard to drive smoothly in traffic or pulling away smoothly on a hill and requires a fair bit of leg muscle.

The clutch release spring is somewhat heavier on most race clutches and a Torquecars member found to his cost that clutch cables need to be perfectly aligned and installed or they snap with alarming regularity (It was actually the plastic retaining clip that snapped rather than the cable but the clips come as part of the clutch.

A fast road power clutch makes more sense for road use – although the high spec multi plate race solution would seem the best, it is not very well suited to domestic driving for most vehicle types.

Most clutches come with a power rating - if your engines output is greater than the rated power of the clutch you will experience clutch slip (see below for explanation) while you are accelerating and the clutch will wear out very quickly.

As the clutch is a relatively straightforward job (although complete removal of the gearbox and or engine on some cars is required!) I would still recommend consulting a specialist or someone with a similar car to ask for their feedback on your requested application before your spend the money and end up with an impractical daily drive.

Clutch Slip

A sudden surge of power can cause the clutch to lose its grip and the power is not transferred to the wheels - evidenced by a rise in the revs but not in the road speed. Clutch Slip - a bit like pulling a table cloth off a table and all the crockery staying in place.

A power clutch is more grippy and has a much stronger tension between the two plates and eliminated clutch slip. (A bit like trying the table cloth trick when the crockery has been glued down and the force of gravity has been doubled.)

Clutch judder

The clutch does not engage properly causing a kangaroo start or intermittent power to the wheels while the engine is engaged. To address this you need to check your

1) Driving style 'the clutch operation should be smooth',
2) The clutch release mechanism and
3) The cable.

Clutch problems

I had a Toyota with a worn release bearing - this meant that the clutch did not fully release the engine from the gearbox causing clutch drag. Gear changes became more and more notchy - particularly the 1st and 2nd gear.

A new clutch almost sorted the problem but permanent damage to the synchromesh has been done and 1st remained notchy. Get a problem sorted out as soon as it manifests itself.

When adjusting a hydraulic clutch remove the mats from the car - particularly if they are thick because this can reduce the pedal travel significantly and will make the clutch appear to wear out much sooner.

How to tell if the clutch is going

As the clutch wears out it will usually start to slip or even seem sticky, not fully engaging or disengaging. First and then Second gear will become increasingly hard to select.

Eventually the car will stall every time you try to put it in gear from stationary (if your lucky 3rd and 4th might still work and you can limp to a garage). New clutch - New Cable - New release bearing DO NOT CUT CORNERS!

If your clutch has gone you can generally engage 3rd and 4th easily without using the clutch if you carefully match your engine speed to the gear you select 'providing the car is moving' - I drove 400 miles including a stint on the M25 with a dodgy clutch cable changing gear just 20 times, and because I didn't stop the car and kept in 3rd and 4th gears I got home - I consider myself to be really lucky.

Don't forget that the clutch can become 'stuck on' when the hydraulic fluid leaks from a hydraulic operated clutch, and, it can also slip if the master or slave cylinder sticks. A much easier job replacing either the master or slave cylinders than the clutch so investigate this first.

One other thing when you do replace a clutch is to watch out for the release bearing 'cage' which is usually plastic nowadays. One owner replaced a clutch on a Lancia Thema and the new cage they gave him was slightly thicker than the old one! This resulted in having to do the job twice when, after assembly, the car crawled forward with a mega slipping clutch because it was not fully released!

A clutch cable stretching can also cause similar symptoms to a faulty clutch. Join us in our forum to disuss your clutch problems in more detail with our friendly and enthusiastic members.

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