There are a number of reasons you could be experiencing sloppy clutch action in your Jeep CJ-5 or CJ-7. A few thousand miles and a few thousand clutch engagements (especially involving slipping and heat buildup) can reduce the clutch’s performance, pilot bearings can go bad, pressure plates can lose their spring. However, before you finish diagnosing your clutch trouble, consider that the trouble (or part of trouble) may be a worn out linkage. This is especially true on ’72 to ’86 Jeep CJs because the factory linkage features metal-on-metal moving connections; and the linkage is mounted on both the bellhousing and frame, two things that are not always aligned, especially when driving off-road.
Barnett Performance Products offers a number of parts to upgrade and accessorize your Jeep, and one of its products for the CJ5 and CJ-7 is its Clutch Rod Kit: (BP-CL7275) for ’72 to ’75 CJ-5s and (BP-CL7686) for ’76 to ’86 CJ-7s. Each kit includes all the parts to replace the worn-out or bent bellcrank and clutch rods for that vehicle, and all the hardware and bushings to complete the job.
Barnett Performance Products offers a complete kit for replacement of the tired and worn-out clutch linkage on ’72 to ‘’75 CJ-5 (BP-CL7275) and ’76 to ’86 CJ-7 (BP-CL7686) Jeeps. Included in the kit are three rod-end heim joints, the bellcrank, threaded stainless upper rod, and 3/8-theaded SAE lower rod (shown with loose hardware, and without washers, bushing or boots in place). Replacement bushings for the bellcrank, and all the hardware for the installation are also included.
Not only are the clutch rods studier than the factory parts, but the pedal rod is bent to better conform to its path through the firewall and down to the bellcrank, and adjustable heim ends replace the bare metal factory rod end-flange connections to provide a more durable clutch rod assembly that can help deliver smoother and more precise clutch engagement. This entire job took about one hour to complete and made a big difference. See how we did it.
The bracket for the inside end of the bellcrank to the transmission bellhousing was unbolted, leaving the short clutch rod connected to the bellcrank. The bracket that held the outside end of the bellcrank to the frame was also unbolted at this time after disconnecting the longer “pedal rod” from the bellcrank.
This is what you are replacing. Over time and thousands of clutch applications, the rod ends can wear down, the holes in the bellcrank flanges can wear into over-round or oval shapes. As well, the bellcrank flanges and mounting brackets can become bent because the bellcrank is mounted on the frame at one end and the bellhousing at the other end, and these two points are often not aligned during off-road driving due to the movement of the frame or powertrain in relation to each other. All that was retained for installation of the Barnett Performance Products replacement are the adjustable ball-end, and if they are not torn, the rubber boots of the ends of the bellcrank.
The Barnett Performance Products kit’s stainless steel rod (top) is bent so it better conforms to the path it needs to follow from the bellcrank up through the firewall and to the clutch pedal. This helps to more squarely place force on the connection at that end of the bellcrank. Unlike the factory rod, the Barnett Performance Products rod has adjustable ends.
A key ingredient in the Barnett Performance Products clutch linkage replacement kit is the three small heim joints that while allowing for a smoother and more precise movement (and thus smoother and more precise clutch engagement) of the entire linkage from pedal to clutch, also reduce wear and tear on the rod end connections to the pedal and bellcrank.
Here you see one part of the problem with sloppy clutch engagement in this CJ-7. The old rod had worn an oversized hole in the top end of the clutch pedal, creating free-play between the pedal and rod. To fix this, the hole in the pedal was plug-welded and then re-drilled to match the diameter of the new heim’s bolt. This saved the cost of buying a new clutch pedal.
The new Barnett Performance Products bellcrank was completely assembled, mounted to its brackets with the supplied C-clips, and then the two bellcrank brackets re-installed. To ensure proper fitment, the new clutch rod and lever rod were then adjusted for approximately proper lengths (but locking nuts left loose). The hiem bolts were then tightened to the flanges, and after a final check for proper rod lengths, the backing nuts behind the heims and the adjustable ball end were tightened.