Here’s a for instance for you. You’re sitting in your car at a red light, your foot pressing the clutch pedal firmly against the floor. You plan to annihilate the tires on your car as soon as the light turns green. You know your car can do it; you’ve got a turbocharger, a performance tune, and a set of gears to make it all happen. As soon as the light goes green, you side-step the clutch and start your smoke show. But, something doesn’t seem right. You see the smoke, but the smell is different. It doesn’t smell like tire smoke, and then you see it. You see the guy filming video of you trying to do a burnout, and smoking the stock clutch in your car. You my friend are about to go viral on YouTube as a fail.

While the OE clutch in your ride worked great when your car was all OE, upgrades tend to put more stress on parts—some of us learn that the hard way, but I digress. Anyway, your car came equipped with a single-disc clutch, which means that your “clutch” consists of a flywheel, clutch disc, and a pressure plate. When you push the clutch pedal, the pressure plate releases the pressure on the clutch disc, and you don’t move. When you release the pedal, pressure is applied, and your car moves.

Anyway, now that the only thing left of your factory clutch is the smell, you need to figure out how to fix this little situation. Replacing the clutch with another OE unit will heed the same results, so it’s time to step up. But, stepping up requires a little knowledge. How do you know what you need, if you don’t know what’s available?

Friction Materials

As the performance of your car increases, so should the characteristics and durability of the clutch material. The following is a brief synopsis of clutch materials available, and when each should be employed.

Organically Speaking Organic material is what’s used in the making of stock clutch discs. This material works great in normal driving conditions and usage, but as operating temperatures rise, or under high loads (which is usually accompanied by slippage), they fade. This is because their coefficient of friction drops off. In addition, at high rpm and/or when they get hot, they tend to fail structurally.

Bullet Proof Kevlar material offers a much higher coefficient of friction than organic material, but with some loss in drivability (i.e. it gets grabby when releasing the pedal). As the coefficient of friction goes up in the disc material, so will the aggressiveness of the material when the clutch is engaged. This usually results in clutch “chatter.” Since Kevlar is compatible with stock flywheels and pressure plates, it makes a good upgrade choice for later model vehicles, but using it takes some getting used to.

Aggressive Grabber Bronze metallic is the most aggressive material in regards to your clutch friction. Since it is aggressive, it offers extended life by reducing static pressures, and usage results in a quick, clean clutch engagement. Since it is the most aggressive material, it will also cause the quickest wear of the flywheel surface, and should only be used with steel or nodular-iron friction surfaces (pressure plate and flywheel). If used on the street, this material will cause chatter when the clutch is engaged.

Iron Age Sintered iron is great for street use, as it has a great ability to withstand some slippage, and not lose its friction coefficient. Sintered iron is great for high horsepower applications, and for drag racing and truck pulling.

To Date Twins or Not

Not only do you have choices to make in regards to what material your disc needs to be, but you also need to decide if you need one or two—discs that is. When discussing clutches, you need to consider a few things; the inertia of the clutch, the clutch’s torque holding-capacity, the “feel” of the clutch when releasing the pedal, and the particular application or intended usage of the clutch. Clutches are generally rated by their torque holding-capacity. A single-disc clutch will have less holding capacity than a twin disc, based on solely on their surface area.