How to chose the right diesel pickup clutch
There are usually three main reasons you would be reading this trying to figure out what clutch you should put in your diesel pickup. First and most common is it is just plain worn out and needs replaced. Second, you have increased the horsepower of your Powerstroke, Cummins, or Duramax beyond what the factory clutch is designed for and now it is slipping. Or third, you tow heavy loads beyond the weight the stock clutch was designed for. Most often when customers call us for a new clutch it is a combination of these three reasons as honestly. So the same clutch upgrade is not going to work for every customer. Choosing the right clutch for your individual situation will ensure you get the most out of your diesel pickup.
First and foremost, the biggest, baddest clutch you can find will not be the best for all situations. Taking your time and being honest about your actual usage and horsepower level will help you when following the guidelines below.
There are basically three styles of upgraded diesel pickup clutches:
Single Disc Clutches
Street Dual Disc Clutches
Competition Multidisc Clutches
Single Disc Clutch Suggested Applications:
- Great for stock to 450 Horsepower
- Good for towing 10,000 lbs or less occasionally
- Stock pedal feel
- Not good for extreme towing or horsepower
- Not good for any competition
Single Disc Clutches are what come in all diesel pickup trucks standard from the factory. This means there is one friction disc that has clutch material on both sides to transfer the power between the engine and the transmission. A single disc clutch is great for smooth engagement and nice street manners but is limited to the amount of horsepower it can hold. To make a single disc clutch hold up to higher horsepower levels and increased towing weight the material on the clutch disc can be changed to a material that grabs better. Also the clamp load the pressure plate puts on the clutch disc once the pedal is released can be increased with aftermarket pressure plates. While both of these things can make a clutch hold up to higher horsepower levels, they can make the truck a bear to drive. This is one of those situations where a little is good and a lot just plain sucks. So if you are roughly stock horsepower to 450 at the rear wheels you can get away with a good upgraded single disc. Try to pick one just above your power level, but no higher. Single disc clutches in this range will be very similar to stock in feel and engagement. They are great for daily drivers and light towing. If you are towing heavy or running 450+ horsepower, the next option is probably better for you.
Street Dual Disc Clutch Suggested Applications:
- Perfect for 450-750 Horsepower
- Great for heavy loads 15,000 lbs and up
- Stock or mildly stiffer pedal feel
- Quiet engagement and operation
- Smooth engagement for towing
- Not good for competition use
Street dual disc clutches have come a long way in the past ten years. I’m sure everyone has heard the old one size fits all dual disc that rattled like crazy when the clutch was pushed in and are a little scared to have to deal with that every day. But today there is an option call the street dual disc. The one we recommend is made by South Bend Clutch and has great street manners. A dual disc clutch actually has two of the same friction discs that the single disc clutch has. So you have four friction surfaces holding the power. Not only does this greatly magnify the holding power of the clutch, but it also provides a nice smooth engagement. One of the big problems with a single disc clutch made to hold big power is that they are like a light switch when disengaging. Spreading this load over more surface on the dual disc makes backing up trailers and towing heavy loads very much like using the stock clutch. Most street dual discs will hold 650-750 horsepower which is well above most daily driver trucks. It also does a great job standing up to the abuse that towing 15,000 – 20,000+ lbs puts on a clutch. So if you use your truck hard but not for competition, a street dual disc is the best bet for you. If you use your truck at all for sled pulling or drag racing, you need to move on to the third option.
Competition and Extreme Horsepower Multi Disc Clutch Suggested Applications:
- Great for 750+ Horsepower
- Perfect for Sled Pulling and competition use
- Carries SFI Certification usually
- Increased pedal feel
- Noisy engagement and operation
- Not good for street use
- Extremely tough to tow with
Competition clutches by their very name were designed for competition. They have stronger friction material and higher pressure plate clamp loads to help hold extreme horsepower and loads. They are not designed to be user friendly and nice on the street. They are simply made to keep the engine coupled to the transmission and transfer all the power you can make to win the event. Can you run a competition clutch on the street? Yes, and some people do. But we wouldn’t recommend it unless you have to. The engagement is usually pretty harsh and the pedal is most often much harder than stock to push. Both of these are fine as a trade off for competition, but quickly gets old for daily driving. Some folks will be ok with this because a single disc clutch will simply not hold up to sled pulling. A street dual disc may hold up to an occasional sled pull, but only a competition clutch will hold up to abuse every weekend. Also, some organizations require the SFI certification that comes with competition clutches to be legal in some classes.
Lastly, let’s remember a couple more things about aftermarket clutches. First, they are different than the stock clutch. The stock clutch was designed to be quiet from the factory with smooth engagement. It was not designed to hold massive amounts of power or tow extreme loads. While most street aftermarket clutches are extremely street friendly, they are slightly louder and do sound different than the ones they replace. Don’t be surprised if you hear some occasional noises you didn’t before. Most of the factory clutches use a dual mass flywheel design that dampens the normal vibrations from a diesel engine. The aftermarket clutches usually change to the much more reliable solid flywheel. Unfortunately as a trade off some of that engine vibration is transferred to the transmission. This is perfectly normal.
Next, along with transferring more engine vibration, the aftermarket clutches are usually not friendly to you driving the truck like an idiot. They are not designed to be slipped hard on every take off, they grab and go. Also, for all the guys that like to lug the trucks really hard you can experience some odd noises or bucking. Stop doing that. It’s not good for the engine or transmission.
Lastly, remember that a clutch is a friction device. That means it does its whole job by grinding against a harder surface to transfer power. Even the best biggest and baddest clutches out there will and do eventually wear out. While how you drive the truck has a large role in how long the clutch lasts, do not think you will never have buy another clutch again if you put on a lot of miles or use your truck hard. A good aftermarket clutch driven properly should outlast the stock clutch by at least two to three times under normal use.
While we hope this article gives you enough information to help select a clutch on your own, if you have questions at all about your individual application, please feel free to give us a call at 1-877-367-9351.