Mustang Clutch 101

Created by Jay Walling
Date Created: 5/10/2013
Last Updated: 11/22/2022

Selecting the correct clutch for your Mustang can be a challenge. Check out LMR's Best Mustang Clutch Replacement Guide.

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Mustang Clutch 101 - Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide

Selecting the correct clutch for your Mustang can be a challenge if you do not know what exactly you need. Whether you are looking to replace your stock clutch for your Mustang GT or a more serious twin-disc clutch for your Boss 302, having the correct information to purchase the best clutch for your specific application is paramount!

There is such a thing as having too much clutch for your Ford Mustang. You do not want to pick up a SPEC stage 3 clutch for your New Edge Mustang that makes 260 horsepower at the wheels, primarily if it is daily driven. Some other critical areas to consider when purchasing the correct clutch are the material used, the number of discs, and the disc shape. The best clutch for 2015 Mustang GT’s may not be the best clutch for Fox Body Mustangs.

This Mustang Clutch Guide is designed to lead you to help select the best clutch kit for your ride!

What Is A Clutch & How Does It Work?

The clutch transfers the power from the engine to the rear wheels in a manual transmission-equipped vehicle. It allows the driver to change gears while driving so the transmission and the engine are not damaged. The “clutch” consists of a clutch disc or friction disc and a pressure plate. The pressure plate is bolted to an aluminum or steel flywheel with the clutch disc sandwiched in between.

When a Mustang or any other rear-wheel-drive car is driving and in gear, the pressure plate squeezes the clutch disc against itself, and the flywheel then transfers engine power to the transmission. Then, power leaves the transmission out to the driveshaft, which transfers energy to the differential, and ultimately to the rear wheels. The process is the same on a front-wheel-drive car, except for the power leaving the transmission. A driveshaft is not present, but rather the power leaves the transmission and passes through the axles right to the front wheels.

With the clutch engaging, the power is always transferring through the rest of the drivetrain. However, in order to change gears, the clutch pedal is pressed down, which compresses the springs of the pressure plate resulting in the clutch disc releasing from the flywheel. This allows the engine to rotate separately from the transmission so a proper gear change can be made. Once the transmission is shifted into gear, the clutch pedal is released, allowing the pressure plate to compress the clutch disc to the flywheel once more and transferring power back through the drivetrain.

Benefits Of Replacing Your Mustang's Clutch

Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide - Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide

Over time, the clutch components become worn or damaged and need to be replaced. Symptoms of a worn clutch would be slipping and/or excessive chattering. If the RPM of the engine climbs rapidly without proper acceleration, that is a blunt sign of a slipping clutch. Your transmission may also be stuck in gear due to a faulty clutch cable, damaged clutch fork, throwout bearing, or pilot bearing.

The clutch disc, much like brake pads, has constant use and will naturally lose material during actuation. This will require you to consider replacing your clutch for a stock replacement unit for unmodified Mustangs or something more heavy-duty for your bolt-on or highly modified Mustang.

In some cases, you may only need to replace the clutch disc and pressure plate without the need of replacing the flywheel. However, something to consider is that just about all clutch manufacturers will require the flywheel to be machined or resurfaced in order to keep the warranty on their replacement clutch kits. If you do not know if your flywheel has enough material left to machine or if your Ford Mustang is a high mileage pony, replacing the flywheel will be the better choice.

Replacing your Mustang clutch will restore your muscle car to a proper operating condition allowing you to go from point A to point B and down the 1,320 as you would expect!

Clutch Stages & What They Have To Offer

When it comes to clutch stages, there is not an industry standard or an “end all - be all” chart stating that a particular stage clutch handles a particular amount of power. This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, SPEC clutches may have a Stage 1 Clutch kit rated at 300 horsepower, whereas RAM clutches do not have stages but list differences in friction disc material and clamping load.

So, when shopping clutches, it is important to know the manufacturer and how they rate their products and see if they have a horsepower rating associated with their Clutch kits. If they do list a specific stage next to their product, you can refer to this guide as a starting point but not as a written-in-stone method for choosing the proper clutch.

How Long Do Mustang Clutches Last?

Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide - Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide

This is a bit of a loaded question. There have been cases of OEM clutches lasting 150,000 miles with light, daily driving use, and other cases where clutches last only a few thousand miles. Driving style is a significant factor when considering the longevity of any particular clutch kit.

If the driver tends to let the clutch slip quite a bit during take-off, more material will be removed from the clutch disc, causing the lifespan to shorten. Even the pressure plate and flywheel could develop “hot spots” and become glazed, reducing grip reducing the life of your clutch kit as well.

Cars used for drag racing with stickier tires and higher RPM launches will also reduce the life of the clutch. Learning proper driving habits will be a good practice to extend the lifespan of your clutch components, whether you race the car or load groceries in the trunk.

What Else Should Be Replaced Along With The Clutch?

When replacing the clutch kit in your Ford Mustang, a list of other items to consider replacing will include the following: firewall adjuster, clutch cable, clutch quadrant, clutch pivot stud, clutch fork, pilot bearing, throwout bearing, and even the throwout bearing retainer. These are worn items that should not be overlooked when the transmission is out of the car.

The pilot bearing and throwout hearing usually are included with aftermarket and replacement clutch kits, but the other parts listed above are offered separately and most likely will need attention. You do not want to neglect their replacement and then, after reinstalling the transmission, develop unnecessary noises or vibration from old, work secondary items!

Clutch Guide For Mustang Street Applications

The traditional street-driven Mustang, contrary to popular opinion, does not need a carbon/ceramic puck-style clutch with Stage 3 written on the box. The customer will find that these styles of clutches wear faster, produce more noise and vibrations, and most likely will chatter at low RPM engagement.

If your Mustang is a daily commuter or even a bolt-on pony that will not see much track time, consider staying with a Full Disc, Organic Material clutch. These will have a smooth operation, a quieter application, and much higher longevity compared to your other high-dollar clutch kits. These types of clutches are good for cars with up to 400 horsepower and will take hard use but will overheat. If allowed to cool down, they will return to their intended operation.

Kevlar clutches will be on the higher end of the spectrum of street Mustangs and dip between street and street/strip. They are not the best for stop-and-go traffic because they may glaze over but can be worn clean under harder use. Street driven cars up to 500 horsepower that will see some track time is recommended to use this option.

Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide - Mustang Clutch Buyers Guide

Clutch Guide For Mustang Racing/Drag Racing

Purpose-built Mustangs that are set up to see more drag racing or auto-x time than street use have more options to plant the power to the ground. Ceramic or Sintered clutches are designed to take the abuse of High horsepower applications.

Ceramic discs are a great drag racing clutch and even heavy track use with power ranges of 500 hp or more. They have a high heat resistance but are more prone to vibration and can produce some noise so they are not recommended for street use.

Sintered Clutches are for the dedicated racer who is pushing extremely high horsepower of 700 plus!. Most always made of Iron, these are extremely heat resistant and actually produce more grip with increased temperature! Sintered Clutches have a sharp engagement, and due to their high friction material, a very strong flywheel is required. They are strictly for high-horsepower endurance racing and not a Drag Racing option.

Clutch Guide For Street/Strip

Carbon Fiber clutches are resistant to heat, are lightweight, and much stronger than your traditional organic disc. They can wear the flywheel faster in stop-and-go traffic and with their usual puck design, can shutter slightly with low RPM engagement. Designed to handle 500hp and higher, they will take abuse and will have extreme clamping power.

With Hybrid clutches (carbon/ceramic/organic), one can find a mix of the materials that are needed for their car that may be on the lighter end of the drag racing spectrum or if they are a more serious road racer. This style will give more options depending on the combination of materials used.

Puck Or Full Disc | Single Or Dual Disc

OEM clutches are a full disc design and are ideal for street and mild street/strip use. The puck design has less surface area so it will dissipate heat faster compared to the full disc design. These usually have more clamping pressure so they tend to get to proper operating temperature faster. A byproduct of this type will mean that more noise and quicker wear on the materials will occur.

In regard to single or dual disc clutches, there are pros and cons to each. The single-disc version can provide strong clamping force but something to remember is that the stronger the clutch, the more pedal effort will be required. The benefit from the dual disc clutch is that the clutch discs tend to be lighter weight and allow for more gripping force. Because there are two discs present, the pedal effort is much closer to an OEM feel of an organic full disc clutch. If you have a high horsepower application and do not want to perform leg presses each time you shift gears, a dual-disc clutch is something to seriously consider!


Clutch options and styles can make your head spin! However, that does not have to be the case! A good rule to stick by would be that if you have a mild streetcar, an organic full disc design will be the best all-around setup. If you have a high horsepower street car and want to keep an OE pedal feel, consider going with a dual-disc clutch to keep the power planted to the ground.

Dedicated race cars that do not see as much street time can benefit from a carbon/ceramic puck design that may have some chatter in the low RPM. However, the trade-off is strong gripping power throughout the rest of the RMA range where it is needed.

For more informative tech articles and all things Ford Mustang and SVT Lightning, keep it here with the real Mustang enthusiasts,!

Thumbnail image of the author of this article, Jay Walling.

About the Author

Jay has written content for Late Model Restoration for over 10 years, producing over 120 articles. Jay has an extensive 25-plus-year background in automotive and is a certified Ford Technician. Read more...