How a Clutch Works: A Complete Guide

Did you know that there are more than 45,000 industrial machinery and equipment manufacturers in the U.S. alone? With that many manufacturers, there are countless more industrial machines that use clutches to perform their essential operations.  

Read on to learn how a clutch works. 

How a Clutch Works

A clutch is a bridge between two rotating shafts, one shaft is typically connected to a motor, and the other is connected to another device. For many industrial machines, the other device is the drive shaft.

The clutch is the mechanism that allows the two shafts to either be connected or disconnected. When connected, these two shafts are running at the same speed. When they are disconnected, the motor is still running, but the machine is idle to allow for pauses in work

Different Types of Clutches

Multiple types of clutches offer different advantages. The following is a clutch guide to the major types.

Friction Clutch

A friction clutch is the most popular type. This system operates by the friction created between two shafts. The material lining the shafts impacts how much friction is created.

Multiple Plate Clutch

This type uses multiple plates to contact the engine flywheel and transfer power. Besides industrial machines, these are often used in racing vehicles because of the high torque they transmit. 

Cone Clutch

This type uses two conical surfaces to generate torque rather than disks or plates. Compared to other clutch types of the same size, it can transmit more torque. A disadvantage is that it needs significant maintenance.  

Centrifugal Clutch

This automatic type operates one centrifugal force with an output shaft. As a result, there isn’t much maintenance required, and the design is relatively simple. 

How To Tell If A Clutch Is Working Properly

Regardless of the clutch a machine uses, some issues require maintenance. Knowing what to look for can help you spot a problem before it gets more serious. The following clutch tips may help.


If the engine is revving at a high rate, but the machine is moving slowly, this could be a sign of slipping. This happens with a worn-out disk or plate. Another sign is hearing strange noises when you are shifting gears.

Pedal Give

If you have to press hard on the pedal or are sensitive to the touch, you are experiencing pedal give. This is a sign that a replacement is needed soon.


This is sticking if your foot moves from applying pressure to the pedal, but the clutch doesn’t follow. This can make changing gears difficult. 

Understanding Clutches and Their Importance

Now that you know how a clutch works and what to look for if malfunctioning, are you ready to learn more? Not all clutches are the same, as different types offer unique advantages. 

Read our blog for more great content like this. 

Posted in Industrial Brakes and Clutches.