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Clutch Install Anatomy, Tips, And Tricks

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on March 1, 2012
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Our Cummins-powered ’96 Dodge Ram 3500 dualie has over 274,000 miles on the ticker. A couple of years ago we hastily purchased it from a private owner in Iowa when our Power Stroke-equipped Super Duty left us stranded on the side of the highway near Des Moines, so we know little about the 3500’s history except that it was used on a farm. The truck is equipped with the NV4500 five-speed manual transmission, which has performed flawlessly so far. However, recently the clutch began to show signs that it was nearing the end of its service life. Its demise was hastened by some engine mods that increased the Cummins’ horsepower and torque, thus resulting in clutch slippage even during normal driving.

Our first call was to Centerforce. Centerforce has been in the clutch business for about 30 years and the company offers a wide range of options. Centerforce provided us with a Dual-Friction clutch set that is designed to offer exceptional street characteristics while offering outstanding holding capacity and durability. This is a perfect combination for our farm-based diesel Ram.

Work began inside the truck first. The shifter boot was pulled up to provide access to the bolts holding the boot plate to the floor of the truck. An internal clip holds the shifter to the shaft on top of the transmission and a strong two-handed tug allowed the shifter to be removed.

The second call was to Larry’s Automotive in Davis, Illinois. This 15-year-old shop does everything from general passenger-car maintenance and repair to heavy-truck maintenance and repair. We like that the shop has the space and a hoist capable of lifting our big Ram so we don’t have to lie on our bellies to shoot photos.

Installing our new Centerforce clutch was surprise-free and Rust Belt corrosion didn’t haunt us at all, which is surprising. Here are the highlights, as well a few clutch install tips that will work on any vehicle.

The transfer case skidplate and both driveshafts were removed. The T-case was then drained of fluid and all vacuum and electrical connections were disconnected. The six bolts holding the T-case to the transmission were removed and the unit was taken out of the vehicle.

Here you can see the parts we received from Centerforce. Shown here are the new Dual-Friction clutch and pressure plate, throwout bearing, pilot bushing, and clutch alignment tool. Centerforce also offers new flywheels, but we took a chance and gambled that ours was resurfaceable, which it was.

A Few Tips
Here are few general tips that may be helpful when you replace your vehicles clutch.

Be patient. The transmission may remove easily from the truck with gravity on your side, but it can take some finesse and time to reinstall properly. Bulldozing it back into position isn’t acceptable and can cause damage to the transmission or vehicle.

Don’t pinch wires. Be careful when bolting everything back together to ensure that you haven’t pinched wires between components like the bellhousing/engine, transmission/bellhousing, or transfer case/transmission.

Install the clutch disc correctly. Most clutch discs are marked with a flywheel-facing and/or pressure plate-facing notation. Some clutch discs won’t install backwards, but some will.

Keep it clean. Don’t get oil or grease on any of the clutch components as this can cause them to fail quickly. And when you grease items like the pilot bearing, don’t overdo it because the grease could fling onto the clutch contact surfaces.

Bottom Line
Since the install of the Centerforce clutch components we’ve piled thousands of miles on our Illinois-based Ram 3500. The truck just returned from a trip to Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas, during which time it pulled a heavy livestock trailer. Throughout the entire trip the clutch performed flawlessly. It provided the grip needed to transfer power to the wheels, even under heavy load on soft sand roads on a ranch in northern Nebraska.

PhotosView Slideshow


Prescott, 86301
Larry’s Automotive
Pfeiffer’s Engine Specialties, Inc.

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