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Ford Mustang Clutch Parts & Explanations

Written By: Andrew Cilio

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The stock clutch on the Ford Mustang, especially the older models, is a glaring weakness . Luckily, the aftermarket has been hard at work for years developing more options so you do not have to settle for anything less than the best.

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Knowing how to drive a manual Mustang is well and good, but knowing how the components interact will allow you to make educated decisions as to what goes in your Mustang.

American Muscle

Clutch Operation Basics

If you drive a car with a manual transmission, you know what to do to move the car: press the clutch, select a gear, and release the clutch while pressing down on the gas. Because the engine is constantly turning and your wheels are not, the clutch also allows you to disconnect the wheels from the engine without killing it. Pretty simple, right? But, what’s happening to your car when you do that? The clutch connects two rotating shafts so that they can either be locked together to spin at the same speed, or detached to spin at different speeds. These actions provide the two basic functions of your Mustang’s clutch:

1. To gradually apply engine power when the car is moving

2. To interrupt power to avoid gear crunching when shifting, or stalling out when stopping

When you’re driving, this engages the clutch and allows power to transfer from the engine to the transmission and wheels. When the clutch is disengaged (while shifting), the power transfer stops, and the engine continues to turn without force to the wheels. To fully understand how a clutch works, however, you need to know all of the parts of the clutch system, and how they work together.​

Mustang Fidanza Clutch
Above: Fidanza clutch, street application. In the clutch disc (the part in front on the right), the raised portion is the central hub

The Ford Mustang's Clutch System

There’s more to the clutch than just the disc and the pressure plate. There are actually seven different parts to the system that you should know about.

  • Engine: generates the power needed to move your Mustang
  • Flywheel: bolts to the engine crankshaft and provides a friction surface for the clutch
  • Clutch Disc: a friction surface that transfers power from the engine to the transmission
  • Pressure Plate: provides the clamping power needed to lock the clutch to the flywheel
  • Throwout Bearing: sometimes called the release bearing, this part reduces the friction between the clutch fork and the springs in the pressure plate
  • Clutch Fork: provides a lever action to engage or detach the clutch
  • Transmission: provides a lot of selectable gear ratios, which allows the driver to match the power the engine puts out to changing driving conditions

Let’s take a look at each of these parts a little more closely, so you know just how to optimize your Mustang's clutch system.

Throwout and Pinion Bearing with the Alignment Tool

Your Mustang's Engine 

You already know the engine runs the car. The backbone of the engine is the crankshaft, and it is the hardest working part of your engine. The crankshaft drives all belt-driven accessories, such as the water pump, the alternator, the A/C, and the fan. However, its primary function is to change the give-and-return motion of the piston and rod into a circling motion that is transferred to the transmission and drive wheels. As the fuel/air mixture in the cylinder burns, it forces the pistons down. Each piston is connected to the crankshaft by a connecting rod. As the piston goes down, the connecting rod causes the crankshaft to turn. This isn’t a big deal if your car is a daily driver that you never race. For highly modified cars putting out extreme amounts of power, this task can be hard on the engine.

1999-2004 Mustang with a Coyote Engine

The Mustang's Flywheel

The flywheel does a lot of things – it maintains engine momentum, reduces vibrations caused by cylinders firing, and it provides a smooth friction surface for the clutch. The flywheel’s main function is to transfer engine torque (the turning effort produced by the pressure from the crankshaft on the pistons) from the engine to the transmission. The flywheel connects the clutch and the driveline to the engine. One side is bolted directly to the crankshaft, and one side is bolted to the clutch assembly.

Mustang Flywheel

The Clutch Disc 

Sandwiched between the flywheel and the pressure plate, the clutch disc is covered with friction material on both sides. The center of the disc – called the “hub” – is splined to match the splines on the input shaft of the transmission. Each clutch disc comes with a set of springs, located in the hub, called the torsion damper system. These springs are designed to cushion engagement by absorbing a portion of the impact when the disc is squeezed between the flywheel and the pressure plate. In street applications, the central hub is a separate part connected to the clutch with marcel cushion springs. This absorbs any engagement impact.

TIP: In racing applications there is no central hub, and because there is no torsion damper and no marcel, you feel instant power.

The springs push the pressure plate against the clutch disc, and that in turn presses against the flywheel. This locks the engine’s crank shaft to the transmission input shaft and makes them spin at the same speed. When your foot depresses the pedal, the clutch and pressure plate are pulled away from the flywheel, and no power gets transferred from the engine.

Mustang Fidanza Racing Clutch
Above: Fidanza clutch, racing application. In the clutch disc (the part in front on the left) there is no torsion damper, no marcel, and no springs

Mustang Pressure Plates

The pressure plate is a spring-loaded clamp that is bolted to the flywheel. As you can tell by the name, the pressure plate presses the clutch disc and allows for the transfer of power to the transmission.

Throw-out Bearings

When the clutch pedal is pressed down, this bearing – also called the release bearing – moves toward the flywheel. It pushes in against the pressure plate’s release fingers and moves them against the force of the plate’s springs. This action moves the pressure plate away from the clutch disc, interrupting the flow of power and reducing friction.

The Clutch Fork

This piece provides a lever action to engage or disengage the clutch. It forces the throw-out bearing into the pressure plate.

Mustang Clutch Fork and the Cable

Mustang Transmissions 

The transmission provides several selectable gear ratios, which allows the driver to match the engine output to a variety of driving conditions. Say you’re starting from a dead stop. As you accelerate, the engine needs to spin quickly to make the necessary power to move the car. Once you’ve reached the speed limit, your car needs less power to maintain speed. So, the transmission uses a high gear ratio (lots of torque, but not much speed) during initial acceleration or when climbing hills. It uses a low ratio (lots of speed, but not much torque) when you’re cruising.

Mustang Interior with Billet Trim around the Shifter
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