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Choosing the Correct Clutch for Your Mustang

Written By: Andrew Cilio

A bad clutch will cause you to lose races and possibly cause damage to the rest of your Mustang. This guide will help you to pick the right clutch for your Mustang!

American Muscle

Clutch Overview

We've covered the various parts of the clutch system, but now comes the difficult part: choosing which clutch is best for your application. Choosing the correct aftermarket Mustang clutch means taking into consideration several operational features, including: clutch feel, operating temperature range, wear characteristics/durability, clamping force, the break-in period, and the clutch material.

There are a lot of people who believe if you choose a clutch made of extremely aggressive material, it will be better for your Mustang, no matter what situation you drive in. This is not true. Choosing a clutch that is too aggressive for the driving you do means compromising on some of the above features.

2015-2017 Mustang GT 800HP Twin Disc Clutch
800hp Twin Disc Clutch Kit

TIP: Every clutch, regardless of type, has a break-in period. This means you need to be careful not to overheat the clutch from excessive slipping. Always follow the suggested break-in guidelines, or risk clutch failure.

Before you buy a clutch, you need to ask two questions to understand the characteristics of your Mustang:

  • How much power does your Mustang make?
  • How is it used? (street driving or track use, or a combination of both)

You’re also going to want to know which type of disc you will need – puck-style or full disc? Should I get one with or without a torsion dampener? And what material should the clutch disc be made of? Should you go with a compound or Kevlar, or a Carbon-Kevlar mix? What type of flywheel should you get: steel or aluminum? The amount of information out there can be dizzying, but we’re here to make sense of it for you.

Exedy Puck Style Mustang Clutch
Puck Style Clutch

Different Types of Mustang Clutch Discs

There are two types of clutch discs – full discs and puck-style.

Full Disc: You will find OEM replacements and aftermarket Mustang clutches designed with stock applications in mind, usually have full disc clutches.

Puck-Style Discs: These discs – available in multiple puck configurations – cool better than full discs. This style of disc is usually found in clutches meant for racing applications.

Stage 3 Exedy Mustang Clutch with Torsion Dampeners
Example of a clutch with a torsion dampener. In the clutch plate on the left, note the spring loaded circle that surrounds the hub.

Mustang Torsion Dampeners

Clutch with a Torsion Dampener: Also called the sprung hub disc, the hub floats in a spring loaded assembly which is attached to the carrier plate – the circular metal plate that holds the friction material. When the hub is loaded – when the clutch is engaged – the springs help absorb the load, rather than transfer it directly to the carrier plate. This keeps the shock of aggressive engagement from damaging the drivetrain.

Clutch without a Torsion Dampener: In this case, the hub is connected directly to the disc carrier plate.

Mustang Clutch Without Torsion Dampeners
Example of a clutch without a torsion dampener. In the clutch plate on the left, note that the hub is riveted directly to the plate.

Different Clutch Materials

There are many different types of material used on clutches. It would be impossible to go into detail about all of them, so let’s just talk about the most common ones.

Organic: Organic means the clutch disc is made of a blend of several different materials. The disc is generally steel-backed, and the material includes metal fibers that are woven into a multi-compound material. Most stock clutches are made of organic material such as fiberglass, which is similar to a brake pad.

Clutches made of organic material are generally very similar to the OEM clutch, and are known for smooth engagement, long life, broad operating temperature, and a very quick break-in period. An organic clutch will stand up to hard use, but it won’t be able to take repeated abuse because it will overheat.

Carbon-Kevlar Mix: The materials in these discs are segmented together to make a very friendly material for your Mustang. A disc made of this material has a similar feel to stock.

Exedy Mustang Clutch with Exposed Surface
Flywheel Side of a Clutch Exposed

Kevlar: Kevlar is a highly durable material that is more resistant to hard use. It has similar engagement to discs made of organic material, but it may glaze slightly in stop-and-go traffic. However, with Kevlar once you’ve broken in the disc, if it glazes over it doesn’t stay that way. It can overheat and will go back to its original state once it has cooled down. This doesn’t mean you can completely cook the clutch and have it still be okay though. If you “cook” your clutch, the disc will not return to its original form.

Hybrid Carbon/Ceramic/Organic: These discs have organic material on one side and a segmented carbon or ceramic material on the other. The idea behind these is the organic side will help smooth the engagement and reduce the shuddering from the segmented side. However, they can be used in the same situations as regular organic clutches, though the carbon or ceramic side will wear the flywheel and pressure plate surface faster in traffic situations.

2011-2014 Mustang GT Semi-Metallic Carbon Clutch Kit
Semi-Metallic Carcbon Clutch Kit

Carbon: Carbon is a material that can withstand a lot of heat. However, clutch engagement is more abrupt, and the flywheel surface will wear faster, especially in traffic situations. Still, carbon is more flywheel-friendly and slightly more durable than ceramic.

Ceramic: Like carbon, ceramic discs can also withstand a great deal of heat – more than carbon. Ceramic discs will cause the flywheel to wear faster, and puck-style discs with ceramic can result in slight shuddering when used in stop-and-go traffic situations. Since ceramic is a more aggressive material, it will hold more power.

Ceramic Clutch Disc in a Kit for 1986-2001 Mustangs
Ceramic Clutch Disc on Left

Sintered Iron: This is the type of material you want your clutch to have if your Mustang is strictly a racing car. Clutch discs made of sintered iron can withstand very high temperatures, and will accommodate more that 700 hp. Engagement is immediate on or off, and a clutch disc made of this material will require a special flywheel surface.

A sintered iron disc is primarily used in high-horsepower, endurance racing applications. If you run quarter-miles only, then this is not the clutch for you. Clutches like these do not work as well when the weather is cold, and a high-durability flywheel surface is required. If you use a standard flywheel with a clutch disc like this, be prepared to change it out after every race.

Overview of Clutch Materials and Their Differences

Clutch BreakdownNoiseBest UsePowerStrength to EngageLife of clutch
OrganicQuiet, not noisey, like stockGood for daily driving and minimal racingCan take varying levels of power, but not a lot of abuseLow strength, typically easy to engageLast long, like OEM clutches

Carbon-Kevlar Mix

Typically quiet, low noiseSplit use between street and track drivingCan hold high amounts of powerSimilar to stock, light weight engagementTend to wear more quickly than others
KevlarMinimal noise, may become louder over timeBetter for race-oriented carsWill hold high amounts of powerSimilar to organic clutches, slightly heavierResistant to hard use, but will succumb to stop-and-go traffic
CeramicLouder, chatter can be commonBetter for race-oriented carsWill hold more HP and TQSomewhat stiff, rough grabbing of the clutchVaries on use, but can last for long periods of time
Hybrid Carbon/Ceramic/OrganicSome noise, but not over the topStreet cars that see track timeWill hold more HP and TQMiddle of the road, not too bad but harder than stockDecreases when driven in traffic, but can last a season of racing or two
Sintered IronLoud, a decent bit of noiseRace onlyCan hold high levels of power with easeA lot of force, can be heavy to engageShort life, need to be changed often

Understanding Clutch Material And How To Purchase One

It is worth repeating that picking out the right clutch for your Mustang is a difficult process that ultimately takes a good bit of research. There is really no definitive power range you can assign to one type of clutch, yet at the same time, it's not going to make a whole lot of sense to use a sintered iron clutch in a sub-500 HP Mustang. When purchasing a clutch, take into consideration everything you plan on doing with the car and use the above chart as a reference tool to help make your decision a more confident one.

2006 Mustang GT Setup for Track

What Stage Clutch Should I Buy?

Determining which clutch is right for you depends upon how much power your Mustang is making at the time of install. Some manufacturers, like SPEC, rate their clutches based on torque ratings. Other companies, like RAM, rate them based on horsepower at the crank. When choosing a clutch you should always select the clutch that fits your needs based on these numbers. Keep in mind that the higher stage the clutch is, the firmer it will be.

At the risk of being repetitive, DO NOT BUY MORE CLUTCH THAN YOU NEED. If you have a mildly modified Mustang, you don’t want to purchase a clutch that is meant for a racing application, and vice versa. Putting a clutch meant for street driving on a Mustang built for racing means that it will not last as long as you may need it to.

A simple organic disc will handle a wide variety of uses, including street driving and racing. A Kevlar disc is a good choice for a Mustang that races heavily on the track or the road, especially if you have forced induction. Carbon and ceramic discs should be left to high-horsepower Mustangs that see lots of drag racing, or are only track/drag cars. And sintered iron should only be used on high-horsepower, endurance racing Mustangs.

2013 Mustang GT at a Parking Garage

What is Over Clutch?

Having more clutch gripping power is always better than not having enough. If you plan on making additional modifications in the near future, but are in need of a clutch now, it is better to go with a stronger clutch that will handle your future mods.

Do I Need to Replace the Flywheel When Replacing a Clutch?

When replacing a clutch, you should ALWAYS either resurface your flywheel or replace it with a new one for the following reasons:

  • Prevents installation of a warped flywheel
  • Creates a better gripping surface for the clutch
  • A new clutch and a new flywheel will match the performance of your Mustang’s power
  • Along the same lines as the gears, it can be costly to install a new clutch. Installing a new flywheel will ensure that you only have to pay the shop once.
Spec Mustang Flywheel

What is the Break in Period for a Mustang's Clutch?

The typical break in period for a clutch is about 500 miles of mixed highway and city driving. It is recommended to take it easy on the new clutch until the break in period is over to avoid any potential damage. Allowing the clutch to break in will ensure that the clutch and flywheel seat together properly and you will get the best performance out of the combination.

Why Should I Buy an Adjustable Clutch Kit?

When installing an upgraded, aftermarket clutch, the normal clutch engagement point will no longer be applicable. Adding a clutch adjustment kit will allow you to adjust the tension on the clutch cable so that you are able to engage your clutch properly.

McLeod Mustang Clutch Adjuster Kit
Clutch Adjuster Kit

Stock Mustang Flywheel Material

Stock flywheel was generally composed of friction material. Friction material is known as "paper, elastomerics, graphics, and sintered metals. A wide variety of other materials are also used, such as ceramics, advanced fibers and different metal alloys." However, on 2003/2004 Cobra models, an aluminum flywheel was utilized in the stock setup.

Slave Cylinders - Why They're Important

A slave cylinder is similiar to a master cylinder in that it stores hydraulic, uncompressible fluid. This is primarily utilized for hydraulic clutch setups. A hydraulic clutch setup generally has less pedal pressure than a traditional mechanical assembly, but still utilizes a traditional throwout bearing.

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