This Neat Animated Video Explains How A Car’s Clutch Works

Americans are driving more than ever before—but how many drivers actually understand how their car works?

Ever looked under the hood of your own car and had no idea what’s what? Take the car’s clutch, for example. If you’ve owned a car—especially one with a stick shift—you’ve no doubt heard that term before, but do you have a clue what it does?

For those of you interested in what exactly this crucial part of a vehicle does, the folks at Learn Engineering on YouTube created a simple animation that describes everything you need to know, in simple terms. No guarantees, but after watching this video, you might be able to sound like you know what you’re talking about when chatting with your mechanic.

Essentially, the clutch uses friction to engage or disengage the power coming from the engine. Its main purpose is to disconnect the flow of power to the transmission—without turning the engine off—until a gear shift has been made.

When you press the clutch pedal, a hydraulic system transfers the clutch motion to the center of the diaphragm spring. When the spring is pressed, the power flow is discontinued, allowing you to make a gear change.

clutch plate photo
Flickr | andrew davidoff

Of course, research shows that manual transmissions—and their really cool clutch technology—have been an endangered species in the United States for decades. Research from Edmunds found that in 2016, less than 3 percent of all cars sold in America were stick shifts. It’s a nightmare for gearheads, as automakers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz have stopped offering models with stick shifts, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Vehicles with automatic transmissions obviously don’t have clutch pedals. Instead, they have a device called a torque converter … along with many more moving parts. It turns out that automatic transmissions are much more complex than manual ones. A post from Jalopnik that explains how an automatic gear-shift works chalks the system up to “pretty much black magic.”

clutch pedal photo
Flickr | matramurena

Now you know what a car’s clutch actually does. But who knows how much longer vehicles with that magical third pedal will be around. Do you know how to drive a stick shift?