What Does a Car Clutch Do

The purpose of a car clutch is to disconnect the engine from the gearbox. The engine needs to be disconnected from the gearbox so:

  • that the driver can change gear
  • the engine doesn’t stall when the vehicle comes to a stop

This diagram illustrates where the car clutch is in a car followed by a description of what a car clutch does. From 1 to 4 and by following the red arrows, you can see where the car’s clutch location is in this diagram:


What does a car clutch do diagram
The car clutch sits between the engine and the vehicle’s gearbox

1. Engine

The engine, which is usually located at the front of the car provides the power. The energy created from igniting the fuel generates combustion and this energy is converted into kinetic energy that rotates a shaft.

2. Clutch

The rotating shaft from the engine then goes to the clutch. The clutch is essentially two friction plates that can join or separate the rotating shaft. In its basic form, when the driver pushes the clutch pedal down, the two plates come apart separating the engine from the gearbox.

When the driver lifts the pedal back up, the two plates firmly come together, reconnecting the rotating shaft, therefore reconnecting the engine to the gearbox. You can read a basic understanding of this procedure in what is a car clutch.

3. Gearbox

From the clutch, the rotating shaft enters the gearbox. A manual gearbox if full of 5 or 6 forward gears and 1 reverse gear. The clutch pedal must be pressed down so that the engine is separated from the gearbox before the driver can change gear. You can read more on the gearbox in how gears work in a manual car.

Just before a car comes to a stop, the clutch must be pressed to prevent the engine from stalling. Once neutral gear is selected, the clutch can be lifted. Neutral gear is similar to pressing the clutch pedal down, but rather than breaking the connection from the engine to the gearbox, neutral gear breaks the connection between the gearbox and the wheels.

4. Wheels

From the gearbox, the rotation shaft, now called the drive shaft finally ends at the wheels, where the generated kinetic energy rotates the wheels at varying speeds depending on the gears selected in the gearbox and the power output of the engine.

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