Automotive Q&A

Learn about your Clutch

What is a clutch check and adjustment?

Clutches are used in many different devices, not just vehicles. Clutches are used in any device that has two or more rotating shafts. Usually, an engine drives one of the shafts and the other shaft, powered by the first shaft, will drive a separate part. For instance, in a vehicle the engine is constantly turning and when in contact with the transmission, the vehicle’s wheels turn. Clutches are used to separate the engine from the transmission. When you want to stop or slow down in a manual transmission vehicle, the clutch must be engaged in order to keep your engine running but to stop the wheels of the vehicle. Now, to understand what may go wrong with a clutch, it is important to understand how a clutch really works. Clutches operate by using friction to keep your engine and transmission connected. This friction is created between a clutch plate, which connects to the transmission, and a flywheel, which connects to the engine. When your clutch pedal is not engaged, your clutch contains springs that force a pressure plate to press the clutch plate into the flywheel creating the necessary amount of friction force to keep the engine and transmission connected. When this happens, your engine and transmission spin at the same rate. Then, when you do engage your clutch pedal, a cable or hydraulic piston pushes on the clutch’s release fork to release the springs. When this happens, the pressure plate pulls away, and the clutch plate separates from the flywheel. Again, when this occurs, your engine and transmission are now separated. During a clutch check and adjustment service, your clutch will be examined for signs of excessive wear and will be adjusted so it can release properly. If you have a hydraulic clutch, it will be inspected for leaks and adjusted if necessary. If you have a cable operated clutch, the condition of the cable will be checked and adjusted if necessary. Your clutch pedal will also be checked. The pedal’s free play distance will be checked and adjusted if necessary (there should be an inch or two of free play before the clutch is actually engaged).