GM S10/S15/Sonoma Pick-Ups 1982-1993 Repair Manual

Understanding the Clutch


See Figure 1

The transmission varies the gear ratio between the engine and rear wheels. It can be shifted to change engine speed as driving conditions and loads change. The transmission and clutch allows disengaging and reversing power from the engine to the wheels.

The purpose of the clutch is to smoothly connect and disconnect engine power from the transmission. A truck at rest requires a lot of engine torque to get all that weight moving. An internal combustion engine does not develop a high starting torque (unlike steam engines), so it must be allowed to operate without any load until it builds up enough torque to move the truck. Torque increases with engine rpm, to a certain point, then torque will level or fall off. The clutch allows the engine to build up torque by physically disconnecting the engine from the transmission, relieving the engine of any load or resistance. The transfer of engine power to the transmission (the load) must be smooth and gradual; if it wasn't, drive line components would wear out or break quickly. This gradual power transfer is made possible by gradually releasing the clutch pedal. The clutch disc and pressure plate are the connecting link between the engine and transmission. When the clutch pedal is released, the disc and plate contact each other (clutch engagement), physically joining the engine and transmission. When the pedal is pushed in, the disc and plate separate (the clutch is disengaged), disconnecting the engine from the transmission.

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Fig. Fig. 1: Operation of the diaphragm spring clutch

The clutch assembly consists of the flywheel, clutch disc, clutch pressure plate, throwout bearing and fork, the clutch pedal and the actuating linkage or clutch master and slave cylinder (as applicable). The flywheel and clutch pressure plate (driving members) are connected to the engine crankshaft and rotate with it. The clutch disc is located between the flywheel and pressure plate, and is splined to the transmission shaft. A driving member is one that is attached to the engine and transfers engine power to a driven member (clutch disc) on the transmission shaft. A driving member (pressure plate) rotates (drives) a driven member (clutch disc) on contact and, in so doing, turns the transmission shaft. There is a circular diaphragm spring within the pressure plate cover (transmission side). In a relaxed state (when the clutch pedal is fully released), this spring is convex; that is, it is dished outward toward the transmission. Pushing in the clutch pedal actuates an attached linkage rod or hydraulic slave cylinder. Connected to the other end of this rod or slave cylinder is the throwout bearing fork. When the clutch pedal is depressed, the clutch linkage/slave cylinder pushes the fork and bearing forward to contact the diaphragm spring of the pressure plate. The outer edges of the spring are secured to the pressure plate and are pivoted on rings so that when the center of the spring is compressed by the throwout bearing, the outer edges bow outward and, by so doing, pull the pressure plate in the same direction - away from the clutch disc. This action separates the disc from the plate, disengaging the clutch and allowing the transmission to be shifted into another gear. On linkage equipped vehicles, a coil type clutch return spring attached to the clutch pedal arm helps eliminate slop and makes sure the pedal returns fully to the upward position. Releasing the pedal allows this coil spring to pull the throwout bearing away from the diaphragm spring resulting in a reversal of spring position. The hydraulic actuating system works similarly, but differences are described later in this section. As bearing pressure is gradually released from the spring center, the outer edges of the spring bow outward, pushing the pressure plate into closer contact with the clutch disc. As the disc and plate move closer together, friction between the two increases and slippage is reduced until, when full diaphragm spring pressure is applied (by fully releasing the pedal), The speed of the disc and plate are the same. This stops all slipping, creating a direct connection between the plate and disc which results in the transfer of power from the engine to the transmission. The clutch disc is now rotating with the pressure plate