flywheel vs flexplate – What are the differences?

People who are up to date in their clutch knowledge are likely to be familiar with terms like flywheel and flexplate. They know that there are two transmission components that help transfer torque. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but they are actually two separate and quite different components.

In today’s blog, we’re studying the difference between a flywheel and a flexplate. We’ll also give you some tips on how to tell when these components need service.

What is a flywheel and its purpose?

Let’s start with the steering wheel. This is a heavy circular metal plate found in your car’s transmission. It is mainly used for manual transmission vehicles and performs three vital functions. The first is to give the clutch a surface to which it can grip. The second is to add additional weight which increases rotational inertia within the engine. The ultimate goal is to provide the necessary gear teeth that the starter connects to and makes the engine move from the moment you turn the key.

The flywheel can be found screwed onto the engine outlet, and the wheel turns along with the crankshaft. Its surface is where your clutch fits, and the flywheel is also a critical device for storing rotational energy. While the energy source is not continuous, turning the flywheel maintains a constant supply.

When you depress the clutch, the output bearing kicks in, pushing and forcing the pressure plate away from the clutch disc. Without this pressure, the clutch no longer receives power from the engine, a necessary condition to change gears without damaging the transmissionπŸ‡§πŸ‡·

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What is a Flexplate and its purpose?

A flexplate is also a heavy, circular metal plate that you’ll find as a key part of your car’s transmission. One difference here is that flexplates are typically used in automatic transmissions. Its main function is to connect the engine output to the torque converter, which has the same function as the clutch in an automatic car.

flex plate

Similar to the flywheel, the flexplate has teeth around the outside that the starter motor uses to bring the engine to a stop. We can already begin to see the emerging similarities and differences. Since their primary function is essentially the same, it’s easy to see why people sometimes use these words interchangeably. However, there are many important differences that we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.

What are the differences between the two?

They are similar in general form and function, but the flywheel and flex plate come with several key differences.

  1. manual vs. Automatic

We touched on this a bit in the previous section. The flywheel is mostly found on manual transmission vehicles while the flexplate is found on automatic transmission vehicles.

  1. Physical appearance

Both components are normally heavy, but the flex plate is much thinner and therefore lighter than the flywheel. This is because the flexplate, as the name suggests, needs to be flexed on its main axis as rotational speeds around the torque converter change.

The flywheel is normally cast or billet and, in addition to being noticeably thicker and heavier, it is also characterized by its large, smooth surface, ideal for clutch friction disc contact. The physical differences are quite large, although the basic round shape and jagged edges are similar.

  1. Location

Both components are connected to the transmission, but in different ways. The flywheel is bolted to the crankshaft and works in conjunction with the clutch pedal. The flexplate is also bolted to the crankshaft, but also to the huge and heavy torque converter

  1. screws

Another key difference between the two are the screws that come attached to them. Flexplate screws are typically longer and come with a larger flanged head. Flywheel bolts also often have star-shaped washers and do not have a flanged head. If you try to use the screws interchangeably, you could do some damage to the crankcase lip, depending on the vehicle.

flex plate vs flywheel

Signs of a bad steering wheel

There are three main signs to look out for that indicate your steering wheel may need repair or replacement.

Sign 1: Gear Slippage πŸ‡§πŸ‡· This can happen for a number of reasons, and refers to when you find yourself unable to keep your car in the gear you changed into. It β€œslips” back into a lower gear. You’ll know the flywheel is causing this by looking at the quality of your transmission fluid (or pairing it with other signs mentioned below). If the transmission fluid appears to have metal chips in it, it is a classic sign of plate wear resulting from gear slippage.

Sign 2: Burning smell – Do you smell something like burnt toast? This could be the plates rubbing together as the flywheel is causing issues like gear slippage. Burning smell is usually one of the first things people notice when their steering wheel has problems.

Sign 3: Clutch vibrations – Do you feel any weird vibrations happening when you press the clutch? They can be the result of a failed flywheel spring assembly mechanism. Vibrations are a serious problem because if this mechanism is really failing, the performance of your steering wheel is already seriously impaired.

flex plate vs flywheel

Typical flywheel/flex plate replacement cost

Costs can vary greatly when you’re considering replacing or repairing your flywheel. The flywheel should outlast the clutch, but at the very least it will need resurfacing if you are installing a new clutch. Resurfacing the steering wheel shouldn’t cost more than $50, and maintenance costs are typically part of the annual service costs.

If you want to replace the steering wheel, it can cost anywhere from $50 to $400 for parts, depending on how fancy your car is. In general, high-end cars cost more for steering wheel replacement. You’ll likely need to add a few hours of labor on top of that, which means a replacement could cost anywhere from $100 to $500.

For the flexplate, the costs are similar, even though it is a thinner and smaller component. The flexible nature of the function makes it a bit more expensive despite its smaller size. Expect to pay about the same for flexplate replacements on your car.

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