This Video Will Show You How Your Car's Clutch Works in Just 7 Minutes

The clutch is one of the most important parts of any manual transmission. But why is it so critical, and what role does it really play?
Shelby Rogers

A lot of car enthusiasts know the importance of a clutch, particularly if they're fans of manual transmission vehicles or love changing gears. But what exactly does a clutch do in relation to a car's engine? Why don't automatic cars have a clutch? And why is it so crucial to keep your car's clutch in good 'health'? This video from the team at Learn Engineering details those questions and more, unpacking the answers in just under 7 minutes. 

In short, the transmission helps control the drive wheel speeds on a car. That's not always easy to do in a manual car. In order to have a smooth gear change in a manual transmission vehicle, the engine power flow needs to be discontinued to the rest of the transmission. However, rather than turning off the engine for every gear change, the clutch 'disconnects' the flow of power between engine and transmission during gear changes. Ultimately it saves you from having to turn off your engine. 

But what happens when you're driving uphill and relying on the clutch pedal? In uphill starts, both the brake and clutch pedal should be pressed. Then you release the clutch pedal just enough to feel it bite (which should feel almost like the engine just shivered under your foot). The vehicle won't roll in this state even if you take your foot off the brake pedal. Why? The partially released clutch doubles as a brake pedal in this situation. This video continues to explain the physics behind force balance that keeps your manual transmission vehicle from rolling backward downhill.

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