How a Hydraulic Clutch Works

Your vehicle could be fitted with a hydraulic clutch and you may be curious as to how this component operates. Most regular clutches, especially those on older cars, have a system of cogs which assist in the changing of gears when you drive your vehicle. If your vehicle is automatic, your clutch system will not actually be used by you but will be automated every time your transmission engages a higher or lower gear. In manual cars, you have a gear shift lever or stick which allows you to select a gear. When you engage the gear lever on your vehicle, the clutch system will interject and will take over the operation of the change of gear.

Set Up

The way a clutch basically works is via the initial gear shift lever or gear stick. You press your foot into the clutch pedal and that action spins the flywheel into motion. This in turn acts with the pressure plate to disengage the clutch disc and stop drive shaft from turning. Inside the lever is a thrust bearing ring. The clutch plate is then released and the teeth reengage in the selected gear.


There are actually quite a few different types of clutch designs. They are all based on similar premises, however, using friction as the main generator. They contain a flywheel, which presses onto discs via the use of springs. When you change gear in your vehicle, you press the clutch with your foot and this motion engages a diaphragm on the plate which then engages the cogs. These cogs contain ‘dog tooth’ cogs which correspond exactly to the teeth on the other side, so when selecting a gear the cogs know exactly where to place themselves.


With hydraulic clutches it is the same principle, minus a few details which differentiate between mechanical clutches and hydraulic counterparts. The clutch carries a reservoir of hydraulic fluid, which, when the clutch is engaged during gear changes, is pressurized. It acts in conjunction with the clutch plate to disengage one gear and re-engage another. The hydraulic fluid (or brake fluid) is used in the reservoir and must be kept topped up at all times.

If you notice your gears are not operating exactly as they should, you would be advised to check the fluid levels and maintain them correctly. As with all fluid systems within a vehicle, periodic bleeding is required to prevent grime build up and air locks. In similarity to a brake system, your vehicle should not actually consume a great deal of fluid unless there is a system leakage somewhere. Your reservoir should remain easy to see and the mark line to indicate where the fluid levels should be will tell you whether there is a marked drop in the fluid levels.


You can increase the life of your hydraulic clutch by caring for it when you drive. If your car has manual operation, try not to ‘ride’ the clutch when you drive. Keeping your foot continuously on the pedal, with it slightly poised and depressed will mean that the clutch is still partially engaged and it will wear out much quicker than if your foot is nowhere near it. Take proper care.