Understanding How Clutches Work in your Corvette
The clutch is an integral part for any Corvette to function, whether you have an automatic or manual transmission the clutch is what allows for the power to be transferred from the motor to rest of the automobile. Clutches are not only used for transferring power from the motor to your wheels but clutches also allow for component accessories that are belt driven to engage and disengage, we’ll leave that alone for this article and just stick with the purposes the clutch serves in the drivetrain
So, why does every automobile have a clutch? This is because once a motor is started the pistons keep cranking and if it weren’t for clutches when you came to a stop you would have to kill your motor and then fire it back up to go. You can imagine how annoying that would be driving in city traffic. Essentially the clutch engages and disengages the transmission from the motor for purposes such as stopping at a red light to shifting gears.
The clutch system is comprised of several parts that allow for the engaging and disengaging of the transmission which function from one basic principle, friction. The parts of the clutch assembly are the clutch plate, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, clutch housing, release fork, and bell housing. Each of these parts are sandwiched between the flywheel mounted on the engine and the transmission. To get a firm understanding of how the clutch works we will follow the flow of energy from the engine through the clutch assembly and to the transmission.
Engine – Obviously the engine is the power source for your Corvette and without the engine operating properly the rest of the drivetrain will not serve a purpose.
Flywheel – The flywheel is mounted to the crankshaft of the engine and is located on the rear of the motor, since all Corvettes are rear wheel drive. There are three functions to the flywheel. One is to perform the initial crank of the motor upon start-up, which is initiated by the starter that meshes with the flywheel via gear teeth. Secondly, the flywheel helps balance the rotational inertia from the crankshaft into a smooth even flow of energy to the input shaft of the transmission. The third function is to provide a friction surface for the clutch plate.
Clutch Plate – When hearing about clutch wear and clutch slippage this is the part where this occurs. This is because the clutch plate is what is constantly being put into contact with the flywheel wearing down the fiction material of the clutch plate. The clutch plate is engaged until the clutch pedal is pushed then it releases from the flywheel allowing for you to shift gears without grinding them to shavings or to stop at a red light without stalling. To help reduce the wear and tear and extend the life of your clutch plate for a street driven Corvette is a torsion damper system that consists for springs located around the hub of the clutch plate to help absorb the impact of being pushed against the flywheel. This torsion damper system is not applied to race oriented clutch plates because in a race application instant transfer of power is essential, these clutch plates are usually replaced after every race or set of races.
Pressure Plate – Since the clutch plate functions by way of friction, this is the device that applies the pressure to the clutch plate. The pressure plate is bolted to the flywheel and surrounds the clutch plate; it constantly applies pressure until disengaged by the throw-out bearing.
Throw-out Bearing – Controls the release of pressure being applied by the pressure plate by being pushed against the pressure plate fingers. When this is done the pressure plate allows for the clutch plate to disengage from the flywheel.
Release Fork – The release fork is controlled by the clutch pedal in the cabin of your Corvette and is what pushes the throw-out bearing into the pressure plate fingers.
Bell Housing – Serves as a protective shield to eliminate debris from damaging the clutch assembly as well as being the mounting bracket for the transmission.
Transmission – Applies different gear ratios to the varying speeds of the motor. This prevents the motor from exploding by allowing the car to continue to speed up without constantly being redlined.