Informational Guide

How Exactly Does A Clutch Work?

How exactly does a car clutch work? We will also show you what to do if you have trouble with the clutch.

Whether you drive an automatic or manual transmission vehicle, it contains a clutch. But, how does a clutch work, and why is it important to you?

We've put together a detailed guide that answers your top questions, such as - how does a car clutch work? We will also show you what to do if you have trouble with the clutch.


image source:

Clutches operate with two rotating shafts. One shaft is driven by the motor, while the other drives the gears in the transmission.

The car engine is always spinning, but the wheels are not. Because of this design, the wheels cannot be connected directly to the engine. With a clutch, it’s possible to engage the spinning engine and connect it with a non-spinning transmission to control slippage.

The clutch itself works due to the friction between the flywheel and the clutch plate. As you look at each part, it becomes easier to answer how does a dual-disc clutch work?

The clutch transmits power from the engine to the gear box, allowing power to be interrupted at the transmission while a new gear is selected. If this process happened while the gears were moving, it could be disastrous.

Here are a few parts of the clutch you should know about.

Clutch cover assembly

This part is bolted to the flywheel, with the clutch disc located between the flywheel and pressure plate. Springs in the cover create a force against the pressure plate.


The flywheel balances the engine and creates mass for rotational inertia. Without the flywheel, the engine would still rotate when you release your foot from the accelerator.

Pilot Bearing

The pilot bushing supports the transmission input shaft and clutch disc. Any time the clutch becomes disengaged, the bearing permits the flywheel to maintain engine power.

Clutch (friction) disc

This disc is located on the input shaft of the transmission. It rests between the pressure plate and flywheel, so it spins with the transmission. The metal surfaces on either side help it rotate with the engine.

Here’s a helpful video that shows how clutches work.

Different Types of Clutches Explained

Basic friction clutch

The majority of vehicles contain a friction clutch that’s either operated with a cable or hydraulically. This type utilizes a pressure plate, a release bearing and clutch plate for operation. Most cars only need a single-plate clutch to operate.

Wet and dry clutches

Wet clutches contain multiple plates. These use oil to cool and lubricate the components. You will find a wet clutch in vehicles that require high torque applications to keep the temperatures lower. Most powertrains with more than 250 pound-feet of torque will use a form of wet clutch.

Multiplate clutch

Racing cars will use multiple friction plates stacked on each other to amplify the friction that’s generated and deal with higher torque input. Because of the stacking method, the friction amount required can be fitted into the diameter found with a single-plate clutch.

Dual-clutch systems

How does a dual clutch transmission work? Premium vehicles rely on this design, but how does a dual clutch work? A larger clutch is used for the odd gears and a smaller for the even gears, allowing for quicker gear changes.

Electromagnetic and electro hydraulic clutches

How does a hydraulic clutch work? Electromagnetic clutches use a button or sensor to operate the force needed to engage the transmission and engine, commonly found in the paddle shifter design. The electrical signal disengages the clutch hydraulically.

Centrifugal clutches

How does a centrifugal clutch work? These are common designs in the biking and moped industry. With this type of clutch, shoes, such as a drum brake design, are used to engage or disengage the clutch.

Common Clutch Problems

Sticking Clutch

This occurs when the clutch plate doesn’t release from the flywheel. Because the gearbox continues to turn, it’s difficult to get the car into gear without hearing that dreaded grinding noise.

Slipping Clutch

This problem occurs when the clutch engages and disengages on its own. During this time, no power can be delivered to the wheels, so the vehicle stops moving forward, either temporarily or permanently.

Rumbling Clutch

This is often described as clutch chatter because it creates a vibration or stutter as the clutch is released. You might notice it most when you start from a complete stop. It’s one of the most complicated clutch problems to diagnose.

Hard Clutch

There's always some amount of force needed to depress a clutch, but if you have to press harder than expected, something is wrong. Pedal binding or sticking can be caused by failure of the pivot ball, cross shaft, cable, or linkage.


How to Diagnose Problem Clutches - Tips For Car Owners

How does a motorcycle clutch work, and how does a Rekluse clutch work? These are valuable questions that you should understand the answer to, but more importantly, you want to know how to diagnose a potential problem. Here are a few steps you might be able to take.

  1. 1
    Pay attention to the clutch's actions. If you notice something unusual, make a note of when it happens and what the symptoms are.
  2. 2
    Be aware of any burning smell, which could indicate an electrical failure.
  3. 3
    Push the clutch pedal. You should have an inch or two of free movement before the clutch disengages.
  4. 4
    Check the clutch fluid level.
  5. 5
    Test drive the car and pay attention to the RPMs. When you downshift, the RPMs should go up.

If you are unsure what clutch problem you are facing, it’s best to take your vehicle to a qualified professional.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can you start a car without pressing the clutch?

There is a clutch safety switch that must be engaged for you to start the car. It’s only engaged if you push down the clutch pedal.

How does a clutch burn out? Can you burn a clutch in one day?

A burnt-out clutch occurs because of the excessive heat generated by the slipping. It’s unlikely that it will happen over a day unless you are abusive to the clutch.

What can I do to keep my clutch in good condition?

Don’t leave your foot on the clutch when you aren’t using it. Additionally, you want to come to a complete stop and pull away smoothly.

Do automatic cars have a clutch?

An automatic transmission contains a clutch, just not the clutch pedal. All of the gear shifts occur automatically, hence the name.

What happens when a clutch goes out?

You may feel the clutch start to slip, or it could fail to disengage altogether.

Should a clutch be hard or soft?

When the clutch feels too spongy, it could mean that you are low on fluid. However, the clutch should feel relatively soft, with plenty of play.

Can I drive with a bad clutch?

Now that you know the answer to - how does a double clutch work, you want to ensure you don’t drive when it is bad. You can create further damage to the clutch, starter motor, shifter or gearbox.


How does a fan clutch work? We’ve reviewed several types of clutches and showed you the difference. Our guide should also help you pinpoint when clutch troubles begin to arise so you can get back on the road with smooth-shifting ability.