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The Importance of Clutch Break In Explained

The Importance of Clutch Break In Explained

If you ask 100 people about how to break in your new single disc or dual disc clutch, you will get about 99 different answers.  We have heard some crazy ones over the years! 

“Pull up against a solid object and slip the clutch until you smell it.”  

“Take off in third gear a couple of times to get it good and hot.”  

“Drive 20,000 miles.”  

“Break in is not necessary, just let ‘er rip!”  Ugh!

What is really important to know about breaking in your clutch?

The act of breaking in a clutch is really about seating the friction material of the disc, or discs, to the metal surfaces that they contact when the clutch is in the engaged position, and making full contact across these surfaces.  We surface grind our friction surfaces on higher performance pressure plates and RAM flywheels to ensure that you have a perfectly flat mating surface for this to work properly.  This surfacing is critical to proper break in – flywheels that have a machined or lathe turned finish are much harder to get an initial seat of the clutch disc against.  Yes, there are performance clutch companies out there that skip this critical step.

Once you have those perfect surfaces, you can achieve the proper break in and seating.  Think of breaking in your clutch much like you bed in a set of brakes – you want to achieve a couple of complete heating and cooling cycles to help set the fresh metal surfaces without overheating them, which can cause uneven seating, distortion, chatter, or warping of the pressure ring or floater plate on dual disc units.

How to Break In Your Clutch

To begin, take the car out on a ride around the neighborhood or local area.  You want to have lots of engagements and disengagements as you drive to bring the engine and drivetrain completely up to temperature.  Next take the car back home or to the shop and let it cool down completely.  Repeat this cycle 1 to 2 more times.

At this point you should have decent contact with all the metal and facing components.  Time to put some miles on the unit, driving in a fairly conservative manner for a couple of hundred miles with lots of shifting before you really pour the steam to your combination.  Driving 100 miles down the highway to Aunt Nancy’s house and back is NOT what we mean here!

And finally a note about chassis dynos – this is the hardest load you can possibly submit your clutch system to.  Do NOT take the car directly off the installation lift and onto the chassis dyno unless you plan to be replacing the clutch again soon.  Complete the break in process first, or even consider making your tuning pulls with your old clutch system just in case there is a problem that subjects the clutch to an extreme torque load.

Taking care to properly break in your clutch system will ensure a longer life, smoother engagement, and better long term performance.

Size Matters! Selecting the Proper Clutch for your Application

Size Matters! Selecting the Proper Clutch for your Application

Often overlooked when comparing clutch systems in single and dual disc is the clutch size, diameter, and mass.  The simple fact is that a larger diameter clutch is going to give you better holding power. As added benefits, the increased surface area of a larger clutch will dissipate heat better to keep the clutch surfaces flatter, and the increased mass of the clutch is going to require less slippage to take off from a stop. All these points are essential to consider in selecting a street clutch system.

Let’s look at 4 clutch sizes – 9.5 inch, 10.5 inch, 11 inch, and 12 inch. If all clamp pressure specifications were equal on these units, the largest unit (12 inch) would have the highest holding capacity, followed by the 11, 10.5, and 9.5 inch units. 

A good example is RAM LS single disc clutch systems. These packages include a steel flywheel and feature a 12 inch pressure plate and disc, which gives you a nice increase in clamp load yet easy pedal effort. The mass of this unit is going to allow a driver to slip the clutch less on takeoff to get the car moving, and the surface area will wick heat away to keep the pressure ring flatter and less susceptible to hot spotting. Without this, the life of the clutch would be reduced over time and also can lead to premature chatter and ultimately, inability of the clutch system to hold.

The same goes for selecting a dual disc clutch system. While some of our competitors tout smaller diameter systems, we have learned that for street use, especially in heavier late model musclecars, there is no substitute for using a 10.5 inch clutch over a 9.5 in terms of both driveability and longevity in the clutch system. Additionally, the larger clutch systems offer increased clamploads, which can only further increase the life of the clutch system. Think about a Dodge Challenger at 4400 pounds weight – is it going to like a larger/heavier or smaller/lighter clutch better for street use?

There are certainly situations where a lighter clutch system is better. These center around applications where you want to have faster acceleration and deceleration of the engine such as autocross, road racing, circle track, or drag racing where gearing can be optimized. In a drag car, smaller can be quicker. The tradeoff here is that the ‘window of adjustment’ on these sophisticated systems becomes smaller, sometimes making it more difficult to hit on the exact setup that will optimize the performance of the car.

Not sure what you really need for your car? Use our E-Tech tool to send us specs on your car and we will be glad to help you select the best system for your application. 

Think carefully about your application before selecting the clutch system that is best. Smaller is definitely not always better, and as they say, size does matter.

The Mysteries of Factory Hydraulics Explained

The Mysteries of Factory Hydraulics Explained

Back in the day, installing a clutch in a vehicle was much simpler. Mechanical linkages made it easy to readjust the release of the clutch, and if your new clutch was a slightly different height from the old one, it was simple to compensate for the difference.

Not so with today’s modern hydraulic release mechanisms. Most of the newer vehicles utilize an internal hydraulic bearing (often called the CSC, or concentric slave cylinder.) These slave bearing assemblies work on the principle of preload, or a certain amount of push back on the bearing as the transmission is slid back in place. There is a limit to this total amount of preload, and a delicate balance between getting enough preload for the clutch to disengage properly, and having enough remaining room for the bearing to retract to allow for wear in the clutch over time.

Clutch manufacturers must keep this variable in mind when designing new clutch systems such as our Pro Street dual disc. We have to carefully evaluate the stock clutch system and measure for overall height constraints as well as examine and test the factory slave cylinders to insure compatibility with the new clutch unit.

If you have ever purchased a RAM clutch system for one of these later model vehicles, you no doubt read your instructions (you did, right?) and saw the setup height measuring charts and instructions. Then you probably said, “Do I really need to do this?”

The answer should be yes. While double checking these setup measurements might take a few extra minutes, the time it will save you if there is an incompatibility or oddity with your application will be minor in relation to the time it takes to completely disassemble the car and start over.

The easiest way to understand how to do these setup measurements is to watch our detailed video on factory hydraulics setup, also see below. It will give you a good visual on how the process works and what you are actually looking for.

Are there situations where a RAM clutch may not work with factory hydraulics? Absolutely. In those cases there will be a RAM aftermarket hydraulic bearing assembly that will facilitate your install. And if that factory slave is worn out, this might be the perfect time to upgrade to our bearing unit.

Take your time, take the measurements, and ensure that you will not have any issues with your clutch install down the road.

Heavy or Lightweight Clutch? The Great Debate

Heavy or Lightweight Clutch? The Great Debate

There seems to be a common misconception that a lighter weight clutch and/or flywheel is going to make your car faster or perform better.  We even have one manufacturer in our industry that tells you “put in an aluminum flywheel and make more horsepower!”  The fact is it depends on how you use your car or truck that determines whether you can benefit from a lighter weight clutch or flywheel.

Remember the job of the flywheel – to transmit inertia to help you get your car moving.  On the street, this means slipping the clutch less on takeoff to get rolling and make a smooth transition.  At the drag strip, balancing flywheel weight with gearing will allow you to launch most efficiently without excessive tire spin or bogging the engine.  This is especially true in heavier vehicles!

It Depends…

In general, a street car benefits most from a moderate weight flywheel and clutch package that provides the best driveability, both on takeoff and at low speeds driving along.  If you have ever been in a heavily cammed car and driving along at lower engine speeds, you may have noticed a ‘bucking’ or ‘jumping’ that occurs when the RPM drops too low.  Having more flywheel and clutch weight in this case helps to smooth out the lower RPM engine pulses and keep the driveability smooth.

Drag cars of all different power levels can use lighter weight units IF the proper gearing can be used in the transmission and rear end.  If these gearing options for the transmission are not available, some extra flywheel weight may be needed to achieve a proper launch.

When Lighter is Better…

Applications that can really benefit from lighter weight clutch and flywheel combinations are in circle track, road race or autocross vehicles.  These applications require the engine to accelerate and decelerate quickly to make the most of the combination.  A lighter assembly allows you to drive further into the turns and have the engine decelerate quickly, and accelerate quicker out of the turns to get the engine back up in the peak operating RPM range.  This is why circle track clutches are often multiple disc and smaller diameter.

Balance is Key

So for street, balance is the key.  To that end, RAM introduced a line of lighter weight steel flywheels over the last 2 years that help provide the inertia needed for good driveability, yet allow for a crisper throttle response than you would get with a heavier steel flywheel.  Pair these with the Concept 10.5 dual disc for a great combo of holding power and driving experience!

As with most decisions you make about what parts to use in your vehicle, it pays to carefully consider what you expect from it in the situations you encounter daily.  Do I need this system to allow me to comfortably cruise around, or do I have a different performance objective?  Carefully considering these ideas will help you make the best choice for your car or truck.

Navigating RAM’s New End User Technical Support

Navigating RAM’s New End User Technical Support

During the crazy period of Covid 19 ‘lockdown’, we have taken the time to revamp many of our internal procedures at RAM in order to faster and more efficiently support our RAM end users.  One of these is revising how we handle technical support questions and issues.

Clutches and hydraulics are some of the most technical products to recommend and troubleshoot.  There is a variety of information we need in order to either recommend a clutch system for a specific application, or to troubleshoot problems.  Having all of this information up front helps us to not only make the best recommendation for your specific application, but also to more easily and quickly help solve any problems or answer any questions that may come up.

To achieve this goal, all future end user technical support will be initiated from the website ramclutches.com.  By clicking on the ‘Get Technical Support’ button at the top of all the pages, you will be able to submit a support request that will provide us with all the necessary information to help you with your application.  This saves numerous phone calls back and forth just to get the initial information we need to best assist you.  Once this information is received, we will be able to quickly analyze the questions or issues, do any research that is necessary, and get back to you with good answers to your questions.  Additionally, you will have a hard copy of these answers that you can refer back to in the future.

Once you enter this technical support space, you will find many other useful documents.  All of our instruction sheets are available from this section, as well as many helpful videos that cover subjects such as ‘How to set up your RAM hydraulic release bearing’.  We also offer a large FAQ section, which may answer your questions without ever having to submit a support request.  We will continue to build on this section to help make it easier for you, our customer, to find the information you need to solve a problem, even on the weekends.

And speaking of weekends, we often check these support requests during off hours, as we are able.  So even though it may be Saturday when you are working on your project, you may be able to get the help you need without waiting until Monday.  More involved requests that require us to check or measure parts will be handled the first following work day.

Digital technical support is not going to solve all questions and situations, but by providing the initial information, we can then call you with additional questions or recommendations as needed, or if the questions or recommendations are just too detailed to be handled electronically.

We are excited about these changes and keeping RAM Clutches on the forefront of technology, not only with our products but also with our procedures to better serve you, our valued customers.

How Do We Design a New Clutch System for a Specific Application?

How Do We Design a New Clutch System for a Specific Application?

When we decide to create a new clutch system for an application, there are many factors that need to be evaluated before the chips start flying!

The first thing we do is evaluate the clutch that came in the vehicle.  How is the pedal effort?  Where is the engagement point on the pedal?  Does it take much RPM to take off right now?  Is there any chatter?  Does the car accelerate well or feel like it lags?  By evaluating these ‘driveability’ factors, we are better able to decide what the features and benefits of a new clutch system will be.  This helps guide the R&D process.

For instance, the first time we drove a fifth gen Camaro, we immediately noticed that the clutch engaged right at the top of the pedal, and that the release length (point when the car begins to move on the pedal stroke, to the point when it is fully engaged) was very long.  This actually led to the creation of another product that has become very popular, our Pedal Height Adjuster system.

The next step is to disassemble the car and evaluate the factory unit.  Later model vehicles utilize internal hydraulics, so it is critical that we design our package to fit not only within the constraints of the bellhousing, but also within tolerances that will make it compatible with these factory hydraulics.  We also look closely at the unit overall weight, and try to determine if making the clutch either lighter or heavier would be an advantage in driveability for our new unit.

Many of the later model clutch systems are much heavier than most people realize.  The clutches in newer Mustangs, Challengers, C7 Corvettes, and Camaro’s are upwards of 55-65 lbs.  These units are roughly 20-30% heavier than the assemblies found in earlier generations of these vehicles.  The additional mass can greatly improve the low end driveabililty in today’s performance cars.  Coupling this increased mass into a dual disc clutch system and you now have a setup with a relatively light pedal effort, great holding capacity, and nice smooth engagement and street manners.

Once the system is designed around the factory hydraulics, holding capacity, and pedal effort we then begin the process of machining the components and doing the installation.  After the clutch system is assembled and tested in the shop we do the initial installation and begin testing the unit’s performance – in other words the fun part of our job!

So as you can see, we put a lot of thought into what we want a clutch system to be based on the vehicle itself.  It is not enough just to take your last great design and adapt it, we must always be thinking ahead to the next great design!

What You Need to Know About Shipping Charges

What You Need to Know About Shipping Charges

Over the last year we have seen a pretty good spike in shipping charges from both FedEx and UPS. Shipping companies know EXACTLY what it is costing them to ship these packages based on weights and dimensions. We certainly deal with this increase on our end when we ship products to our customers.

But very often, customers ship us parts for repair, and we know everyone wants to pay the least amount for shipping as possible. Here are some things that we’ve learned, and you should know, to minimize these shipping charges.

How to Save Money When Shipping Packages TO RAM Clutches

Heavy Packages Get an Extra Charge – FedEx is now placing surcharges on shipments over 50lbs. This is pretty easy to achieve when shipping clutches and flywheels. UPS does this also but it is not shown on the shipping label detail and thus ‘hidden’. Breaking up your packages into multiples under 50lbs may save you money.

Package Dimensions Matter – When shipping parts, it can pay to keep dimensions to a minimum. Of course you need to package your shipment well, but using a huge box may cost you more than you need to be spending. Try to use a box that best fits your needs instead of just any old box that might cost you more in the long run.

How to Save on Shipping Charges When Ordering FROM RAM Clutches

Home Delivery – A bonus of FedEx shipping home delivery is that now your package can get delivered up to 7 days a week. The downside is that they apply a special fee for home delivery versus a business.  We are checking all shipping addresses prior to shipment to make sure we are using the correct service.

Ship to Your Place of Work – Having your package sent to your place of work/business will save you shipping charges versus home delivery. Keep in mind, if you ‘work’ at home or your shop is located at your home, for shipping purposes UPS and FedEx MAY treat your location as a home delivery.

Ship Using Your Account – You may receive a special discount or perk if you regularly ship from your business. We can ship your order using your UPS or FedEx shipping account on request.

By being aware of these tips, you can help save yourself some extra cash! If you have any questions about packages being shipped from RAM Clutches, or need to make a special shipping request, email us at [email protected]. We’re here to help!

What We Need to Know to Build your Race Clutch

What We Need to Know to Build your Race Clutch

When putting together your race car, the clutch is often one of the final pieces that brings everything together. For a clutch to perform well it has to have enough capacity to handle your combination – the engine, chassis, gearing, and tires. Too little capacity and your clutch will have a very short life with disappointing results and elapsed times. As a general rule, it is always better to have a little more capacity in your clutch system than you need. Always consider the load factors below in selecting a clutch system:

  1. Engine – we need to know a little about your engine. How many cubic engines is it? What is the horsepower and torque of the engine? Even if you do not have precise dyno numbers, a solid estimate will help. Lastly, we need to know the intended operating RPM of the engine – what the RPM will be when shifting and leaving the starting line.
  2. Chassis – it is important to know how much the car weighs (with driver) even if it’s a close estimate. Is this a complete tube chassis car or a back half car?
  3. Tires – what size tires are you planning to run along with the rollout of the tire? The tire is what is applying the grip to the racetrack, and ultimately provides the load back through to the clutch system.
  4. Gearing – what are the rear end gear and the transmission ratios? Ultimately, the rear end gearing should be determined through the engine operating RPM, car weight, and tire size so that you cross the finish line at the upper limit of your desired RPM range. The transmission should then be geared to optimize acceleration and traction through low gear with the subsequent ratio drops in each gear keeping the engine in the optimum RPM range.
  5. Other factors such as rear shocks, struts, four link settings, and tire pressures will also affect your clutch system, but they should be able to be worked around in the clutch adjustments if you have properly applied the information from the engine, chassis, tires, and gearing above.

Lastly it is always good to understand your expectations of the clutch system as well. With a clutch system that is frequently serviced like a Pro Stock Car, you can push the capacity harder (smaller size, less plate load) because it is constantly being maintained. In other applications where the clutch is serviced periodically, you need more capacity (larger size, additional pressure) so the clutch system will provide a more consistent and longer period of use between servicing.

If you have further questions about selecting the right clutch system for your race car, please reach out to us at [email protected].

8 of the Slowest Ways to Resolve Your Tech Issues

8 of the Slowest Ways to Resolve Your Tech Issues

We receive many technical phone calls with questions on our products, and at RAM Clutches, we’re always here to help. But like you, we want the quickest answers to our questions, and the quickest way to resolve our problems. There are many things that are a big hindrance to us helping you quickly and efficiently, but these are a sure fire way to slow down that process. Here are our tech line’s greatest hits:

1. I didn’t read the instructions

Yes, we always think we know exactly how to put things together and don’t need to read instructions. Some products are simply more involved to install than others. Just like IT support will ask if you’ve turned it off and on again, we’ll ask if you’ve read the instructions first.

2. I don’t have the part number

If you really want us to be able to help you with your application or part, we really need to know what you have. Just describing it makes it very difficult to diagnose any problems or help you deal with an issue.

3. I haven’t checked the website for more information

Every RAM instruction sheet is available on our website.  Additionally we have product install videos that help you step through the installation of items such as our hydraulic bearings.

4. I don’t have the setup measurements

To help troubleshoot any hydraulic bearing installation, we MUST have the setup information included on the worksheet with your instructions. You cannot diagnose bearing problems by looking through the inspection hole and guessing. This form gives us the information we need to help you troubleshoot your hydraulic bearing install.

5. I didn’t do the setup measurements

In this case, there is NOTHING we can do to help you until you drop back and follow the instructions to set the hydraulic bearing up properly. Chances are pretty good that if you do this, you will solve your own problem.

6. I didn’t measure the factory bearing preload before installing my hydraulic clutch

Perhaps it seemed like a pain to do, but the extra 15 minutes to verify preload when installing a clutch with factory hydraulics may have saved you hours of work later if you have a disengagement issue. We provide very detailed video instructions for this procedure in the hydraulics section of our instruction pages on the website. We WILL ask you for this setup number information if you contact us and say your clutch won’t release.

7. I bought a used clutch, it’s red

There are many used clutches out there floating around. These can range from 1 to 45 years old.  We cannot possibly tell you what clutch you have by describing it, let alone know what the static pressure is. We can POSSIBLY help you partially identify it if you take pictures and email them with your question to [email protected].

8. I bought a used billet race clutch. How should I set it up?

This is similar to the above except more dangerous. There are many of these units floating around and some could be 30 years old or more. Before even thinking about buying a used race clutch, look for the most recent SFI certification date, as well as the first, to determine how old it is. If the unit is out of date, it will have to come back to us for inspection and recertification, at which time we can check the static pressure, what levers are in it, and possibly help you with setup. Remember, if the deal  looks too good to be true, it probably is.