How Do the Parts of a Clutch Work? (Manual Transmission)

(Updated on July 27, 2021)

If you’re driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, then you need to operate the clutch and know how it works. In layman’s terms, the clutch is the link between the wheels and engine of your vehicle. It gives you the ability to disengage the engine when you step down on the clutch pedal. This will cause the vehicle to roll and turn no matter what speed you’re going. You’ll typically want to disengage the clutch when you stop and need to make a turn. The engine will continue to turn, even though the wheels have stopped. When you go to drive again, you will engage the clutch and give engine power back to the wheels.

The clutch assembly doesn’t just engage and disengage with the engine crankshaft. It also engages and disengages the transmission input shaft as well. As you probably know, the transmission of a vehicle is what ensures the wheels have enough power being delivered to them. This power comes from the engine and the transmission needs to have its gears shifted for it to successfully deliver this power. All this exchange of power between the engine and transmission could not happen without the clutch assembly.

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Common Clutch Components

Clutch Release Bearing

The clutch release bearing is what makes the whole clutch process work. It is responsible for allowing the clutch to engage the engine and disengage the engine. The bearing rides on the clutch spring and connects the gearbox’s release mechanism to the pressure plate. After you press down on the clutch pedal, the clutch release bearing causes the pressure plate to engage the clutch disc. If you take your foot off the clutch pedal, the pressure plate disengages the clutch disc.

Pressure Plate

The clutch pressure plate and clutch flywheel are bolted together. The pressure plate comes loaded with release springs and its function is to secure the clutch assembly in place by putting tension on it. When the clutch assembly needs to rotate, the pressure plate will ease up on the tension and allow it to be free. The pressure plate consists of the springs, sheet metal, release levers, a thrust ring, and a metal pressure ring. The latter provides a surface for the clutch disc to create friction. The thrust ring assists the clutch release bearing in engaging and disengaging. As you disengage the clutch, the release lever takes tension off the springs. This is how the clutch assembly is able to rotate on its own.

Clutch Disc

The steel plate between the pressure plate and flywheel is called the clutch disc. This component is like a double-sided brake pad in the sense that it engages and disengages the surface of the pressure plate and the flywheel. There is a hub in the middle of the disc which fits on top of the transmission’s input shaft spines. When you press down on the clutch pedal, the pressure plate and flywheel make contact with the clutch disc and creates friction. This allows engine power to be transferred to the transmission’s input shaft from the hub of the clutch disc.

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Average Clutch Replacement Cost

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If one of these components in your clutch assembly were to malfunction or go bad, you wouldn’t be able to do just replace that one component. Instead, you’d have to replace the entire clutch which would be a little bit costly. For most economy class vehicles, you can expect to pay anywhere from $765 to $1,500 for a typical clutch replacement job. The parts cost and the labor costs would actually be able the same price. Parts would be between $360 and $720, while the labor would be between $370 and $800.

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