The stock clutch that is coupled with any vehicle usually works perfectly, if the rest of the components are still untouched, and performance modifications are left alone. Chances are, if you are reading this article, one of the vehicles sitting amongst your collection has, or had, a clutch issue at one point in its life. Maybe it's due to added power, the way you drive, or simply because it's finally warn out. If it hasn't started slipping yet, eventually, a replacement clutch, upgraded or not, will have to be installed.
Let's just assume that your ride, for the purposes of GM High-Tech Performance, is not stock. That high-performance ride of yours sounds similar to a top-fuel dragster (at least you think so), and consequently, the windows are surely rolled down when cruising around town, creating a custom eight cylinder symphony for your listening pleasure. One time, sitting in rush hour traffic, a sneaky smell wafts its way into your left nostril, and it doesn't smell like raw, unfiltered exhaust. BAM! It hits you. During all of the stop and go rush hour rubbernecking nonsense, you've finally noticed that your clutch is slipping, and it's emitting a putrid scent while doing so. Has it started slipping because you've been dragging your left foot?
Alternatively, at the track, the tree turns green, and like a finely orchestrated and synchronized dance move (…not the sprinkler) the left foot slides rearward, while the right one smashes oh so carefully into that throttle. BAM! You should've cleared 60-feet by now, but instead, you're wondering what that smell is, and that maybe it's time to kick that ill performing stock single disc to the curb, in favor of a beefy twin disc.
Okay, okay. Enough with the scenarios. The clutch is worn out, and it needs to be replaced with an adequate version, single or twin, that's able to hold up to whatever abuse you intend to punish it with. On the contrary, a full race-spec clutch is not the answer for a heads and cam 5th-Gen. Or, is it? Where do you begin? The RAM Clutches team has provided some valuable insight, and graciously provided some pointers with pictures. You see, increased horsepower is often assumed to be the only factor, when in fact, multiple factors are in play. We'll address those “other factors” that impose additional loads on the clutch and transmission, which are gearing, tire selection, and power adders. Finally, we'll take a look at signs of wear, to determine how the clutch beneath your body was lost, in order to find the best replacement.
Tips, with the help of the RAM Clutches team:
If you run a higher gear ratio (lower numerically) it will severely overload the system, meaning your clutch and transmission. For example, a 3.55:1 rear gear will introduce a significantly greater load on the clutch than a 4.10:1. If you've messed with the gearing in your chariot, make sure that you're not going to prematurely wear down your clutch. If it's already slipping, and you know the ratio has changed from stock, the answer is an improved clutch.
If you run a drag radial, the car will have a tendency to hook the tires rather than spin them. As a result, it too will impose a greater load on the clutch system. Leaving the line on sticky (thanks to a good burnout) tires instantly puts tons (literally) of increased stress through your entire setup. Think of the induced load like a shockwave from an explosion. It's going to go from that engine, all of the way to the tires (clutch in-between), before you get that perfect launch. Even if you're not an eight-second regular, swapping on those stickies may be of concern for your clutch down the road.
Q: Given the amount of bluing on the friction pads of this clutch plate, is it completely toasted? Can it ever give service again?
A: The outer area of the pad has more blue than the inside, indicating that the pressure ring has warped. This disc could not be used on a new plate, and would result in uneven contact on the friction surface
Q: Also, how much bluing can the friction pad take?
A: While it’s difficult to predict, it most likely has to do with how much glazing or hot spotting the pressure ring has on it.
Q: Does the pressure plate blue before the friction pad, or versa visa?
A: Usually, the ring will hot spot, or smear, around the same time.