Clutch pressure plate – everything you need to know

Whether you drive a car with a manual transmission with a clutch pedal or an automatic with an integrated clutch, the clutch itself is one of many critical components that the vehicle simply cannot do without. In manual transmissions, one specific component that matters to the clutch assembly is the clutch pressure plate.

In today’s blog, we’re going to dive in and see how this particular component works, what it does, symptoms you can spot to see when something might be going wrong, how to fix the board, and much more.

What is a Clutch Pressure Plate?

The clutch pressure plate is a component found in manual transmission clutch components. It is a heavy metal circular plate that works in conjunction with springs and levers to apply pressure to the clutch master plate. When pressure is applied, the main plate moves against the flywheel, allowing power to pass from the crankshaft to the gearbox before passing to deliver torque to the wheels.

There are 3 main types of pressure plates:

  • long style – has 9 springs, 3 levers and is mainly used in racing cars
  • Borg and Beck – has 9 springs, 3 levers and is mainly used in street cars
  • Diaphragm – has 1 Belleville spring, and is used in most modern vehicles as it requires less effort to press the clutch and change gears

How does the clutch pressure plate work?

Manual cars have clutch pedals that, when pressed, disengage the pressure plate, clutch plate and flywheel, interrupting the flow of energy and allowing the driver to change gear ratio, i.e. up or down gear.

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Clutch pressure plates fail?

In a word, yes. Like any other part of your vehicle, the clutch pressure plate is vulnerable to the same wear-and-tear rules as any other part. In fact, your clutch pressure plate is subject to a lot of wear and tear as it is constantly being used during any drive in a car with a manual transmission.

clutch plate

The good news is, first and foremost, the clutch pressure plate is one of your heavy-duty components, which means it’s built to last. You shouldn’t need to replace a clutch until at least after 60,000 on average, but a well-maintained one that isn’t subject to unusual wear and tear—for example, due to bad habits like riding the clutch—can last well over 100,000 miles.

Best case scenarios aside, there are warning signs that your clutch pressure plate has a problem, we’ll deal with them below

What are the symptoms of a clutch pressure plate failure?

The following are all the classic signs that your clutch pressure plate may be failing and in need of service. Pay close attention to the following occurring in your own clutch pressure plate:

  1. Spongy clutch pedal

When we say “spongy” here, what we mean is that the clutch feels loose. You may find that you are pushing down to the ground much more easily than usual. A loose pedal is normally an indication that you have a loose clutch spring or diaphragm spring. If you take a look at the clutch fork, you can see if those springs look out of place or damaged in any way.

  1. Gear Slip
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Have you put the car in gear, only to put your foot on the gas and be greeted by little or no real acceleration? What’s really weird about this situation is that you can see the tachometer going crazy, RPMs going through the roof, but your car isn’t moving forward like you might expect with all those revs. This is a phenomenon known as gear slippage and is caused by a worn clutch pressure plate.

  1. Clutch Pedal Pulsation/Pulsation

Manual car drivers know that pressing the clutch and shifting up or down the gears should be as smooth as butter. There should be no extraneous feedback, noise or sensation other than smooth, pleasant shifting. If, on the other hand, the clutch pressure plate has a problem, such as the flywheel being out of order or the release lever needing adjustment, you may get some weird pulsating feedback from the clutch pedal.

  1. Noise when releasing the clutch

Another signal that we can feel through the clutch pedal is a squeak when we release the clutch after shifting gears. There are actually several possible causes of this noise, but a faulty clutch pressure plate is definitely one of them. There shouldn’t be any noise as you release the clutch, so look out for anything out of the ordinary.

  1. You struggle to engage the clutch or shift gears

Finally, in contrast to the first sign we mentioned, another sign that your pressure plate is having trouble is that you’re finding it harder to step on the clutch and shift gears. If gear shifting is having trouble, it points directly to that little network of gears and interconnected flywheels that aren’t shifting as smoothly as they should. There may be deformation or other damage there.

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clutch pressure plate failure

Are there ways to test a failed pressure plate?

The best way to test if your pressure plate is failing is to watch for the above symptoms, some of which you can test yourself in a safe and controlled manner, perhaps driving at low speeds around your neighborhood or in a parking lot. You can try moving the clutch pedal and shifting gears quite easily to see if you experience any of the things we mentioned above. If you spot even one of them, it’s worth letting a professional take a look.

Can you repair a clutch pressure plate?

Like almost everything else in your car, not only do things wear out and break, they can be fixed. The question is how much does it cost and should you just replace the pressure plate or just get a brand new clutch?

How much does it cost to replace the clutch pressure plate?

The bad news is that if and when the pressure plate fails, it can take a number of other components with it: output bearing, clutch disc, springs and levers. Repairs and replacements can range from $90 to $400 depending on how many parts needs repair or replacement🇧🇷

Should you replace the entire clutch at the same time?

The answer to this question depends entirely on the extent of damage your clutch has suffered. If the pressure plate is the only part that is seriously damaged and needs replacing, you can save some money by just replacing it. Chances are, however, that you’ll have multiple damage points, and so it becomes more cost-effective in the long run to get a new one.

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