cable clutch vs hydraulic clutch

Cable Clutch Vs Hydraulic Clutch | Which Is Better – Hydraulic Or Cable?

Two popular choices available for choosing a clutch are hydraulic and cable clutch systems. Both have advantages and disadvantages, but which is more suitable for you?

The primary difference between a Hydraulic clutch and a cable clutch lies in the way they transmit the force. Hydraulic clutches use hydraulic fluid and a series of cylinders to transfer force from the clutch pedal to the clutch mechanism. On the other hand, cable clutches employ a cable to transmit the force from the clutch pedal to the clutch release mechanism.

In this article, I’ll go over the specific distinctions between hydraulic and cable clutch systems to help you make an educated decision. 

Hydraulic Clutch

Hydraulic clutches are a type of clutch system that uses hydraulic fluid to operate. Hydraulic clutches have fewer parts than mechanical clutches, which rely on cables, levers, and springs, and provide more accurate and slick control over clutch engagement and disengagement.

The mechanism of a hydraulic clutch

 A hydraulic clutch system consists of a master cylinder, a slave cylinder, and a hydraulic line that connects them. A rod or cable connects the clutch pedal and the master cylinder, which are mounted on the firewall or the pedal box, respectively. A rod or cable connects the slave cylinder, which is mounted on the transmission bell housing, to the clutch release fork or bearing.

A hydraulic clutch’s primary parts are:

  • The clutch pedal, which a pushrod or cable connects to a master cylinder.
  • The master cylinder, which contains a piston that moves when the clutch pedal is pressed or released, creates or releases pressure in the fluid.
  • The liquid that fills the hose or tube connecting the slave cylinder to the master cylinder, which is typically mineral oil or brake fluid.
  • The slave cylinder, which is fixed to the housing of the transmission or clutch, houses a second piston that moves in response to fluid pressure, pushing or pulling a rod that controls the clutch fork.
  • The clutch fork, which moves the release bearing to engage or disengage the clutch disc from the flywheel.
hydraulic clutch

When the driver depresses the clutch pedal, hydraulic fluid is forced from the slave cylinder through the line to the clutch release fork or bearing, which is then forced up against the pressure plate.

This allows the driver to change gears by separating the clutch disc from the flywheel.

The clutch release fork or bearing separates from the pressure plate. When the driver releases the clutch pedal, the master cylinder releases the hydraulic pressure, and a return spring pulls back the slave cylinder.

With the clutch disc and flywheel engaged, power is transferred from the engine to the transmission.

Principle of operation

A hydraulic clutch works on the principle of transmitting force from the clutch pedal to the clutch disc through a hose or tube filled with fluid. Pascal’s law, which states that the pressure in a confined fluid is equal at all points and can be transmitted in all directions, serves as the foundation for how a hydraulic clutch works.


A hydraulic clutch is commonly used in vehicles with manual transmissions, especially those with high torque or power output. In comparison to a mechanical clutch, a hydraulic clutch can withstand greater loads and temperatures.

It can also account for the wear of the clutch’s individual parts. Some examples of vehicles that use a hydraulic clutch are sports cars, trucks, motorcycles, and tractors. Additionally, hydraulic clutches are better for cars where the clutch and pedal are far apart, such as rear-engine cars.

The advantages of hydraulic clutches

  • They require less pedal effort because hydraulic fluid can increase the force that the driver applies.
  • They offer smoother, more consistent clutch operation due to hydraulic fluid’s ability to account for temperature, wear, and alignment variations.
  • They do away with header clearance, linkage adjustment, and firewall flexing issues because hydraulic lines can be routed around obstructions and do not require routine maintenance.
  • They are flexible and more compact than mechanical components, allowing them to adapt to a variety of applications.
  • It is capable of handling more torque and power than a mechanical clutch because it can transfer more force through the fluid.

The disadvantages of hydraulic clutches

  • It may leak or lose fluid as a result of hose or tube damage or deterioration, which would reduce clutch performance and pressure.
  • It can be affected by air bubbles in the fluid, which can reduce the pressure and cause a spongy or inconsistent pedal feel.
  • It can be more difficult to diagnose and repair than a mechanical clutch, as it involves more components and requires bleeding of air from the system.

Cable Clutch

A cable clutch is a mechanical system used in vehicles to engage and disengage the transmission. It operates using a cable that connects the clutch pedal to the clutch release arm, which engages or disengages the clutch.

How a cable clutch works

A cable clutch consists of four main components: the clutch pedal, the clutch cable, the clutch release fork, and the clutch assembly. The clutch assembly is located between the engine and the transmission and consists of a pressure plate, a clutch disc, and a flywheel. Typically, the pressure plate and release arm are made of cast iron or other robust materials, while the cable is usually made of steel.

When the driver presses the clutch pedal, the pedal pulls the clutch cable, which in turn pulls the clutch release fork. The clutch release fork pushes against the pressure plate, which releases the clamping force on the clutch disc. This allows the clutch disc to disengage from the flywheel, interrupting the power flow from the engine to the transmission.

Principle of operation

cable clutch

A cable clutch works on the same principle as a coiled spring. However, instead of using a piston to push the cable (like a water pump), the cable is connected to a shift lever and a throttle plate.

When the cable is pulled taut, it forces the clutch disk into engagement with the drivetrain.

It is based on the mechanical linkage between the clutch release arm and pedal.

In order to disengage the clutch, the release arm must be pulled by the cable when the clutch pedal is depressed. When the pedal is released, the spring in the clutch pressure plate re-engages the clutch.


Cable clutches are used in a variety of applications, including commercial vehicles such as; cars, trucks, motorcycles, and even some industrial machinery.

They come in handy, especially in cars with manual transmissions, and are frequently discovered in older cars and in some more recent cars that put an emphasis on a more tactile driving experience.

Advantages of a cable clutch

One of the main advantages of using a cable clutch is that it is simpler and more reliable than other types of clutches.

A cable clutch has fewer moving parts and less potential for leaks or failures than a hydraulic clutch, which relies on fluid pressure and seals to operate. A cable clutch also has less friction and wear than other mechanical linkage clutches, which use metal rods and joints to transmit force.

Another benefit of using a cable clutch is that it gives you more control and feedback over your clutch operation. A cable clutch allows you to adjust the tension and length of the cable to suit your preferences and driving style.

You can also feel the exact point where the clutch engages and disengages, which can help you shift gears more smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, it is simpler and more inexpensive to install and replace.

Disadvantages of a cable clutch

  • It is prone to wear and tear due to friction and stretching of the cable.
  • It requires periodic adjustment to maintain proper free play and engagement points.
  • It may not perform well in extreme temperatures or humidity.

The Difference Between A Hydraulic Clutch and A Cable Clutch

1. Materials used

The clutch disc in a hydraulic clutch system is typically made of organic fibers like kevlar, carbon, or aramid. These materials offer smooth engagement and disengagement, strong thermal stability, and lessened clutch plate wear.

In contrast, the clutch discs in a cable clutch system are made of metals like bronze, copper, and iron. Metallic materials are preferred for cable systems because they are better suited for heavy-duty applications because they can withstand higher pressures and temperatures than organic materials.

2. Slippage

Clutch slippage is a common problem with cable clutches. This occurs when the cable stretches over time and allows the clutch to slip. This can lead to disastrous results if you are not careful. Hydraulic clutches overcome this problem by using fluid instead of a mechanical cable.

In these clutches, a hydraulic pump pumps fluid into an accumulator, where it acts on a piston to press against the disks. The accumulator makes sure that there are no pressure swings that could lead to clutch slippage.

Additionally, hydraulic fluid is typically a silicon-based substance, making it much more resilient than typical clutch fluid.

3. Horse-power and Torque

In general, hydraulic clutch systems are preferred over cable systems because they can transmit more force and torque to the clutch.

This is because hydraulic systems, which offer a higher level of control and precision over clutch engagement and disengagement, use hydraulic fluid to transfer force from the clutch pedal to the clutch assembly.

On the other hand, due to the mechanical linkage between the clutch pedal and the clutch assembly, cable clutch systems might not be able to handle as much force and torque as hydraulic systems. This can result in less precise clutch engagement and disengagement and may limit the overall performance of the vehicle.

4. Flywheel

The choice of a clutch and flywheel may appear to be black magic, but it is actually quite simple. When the right choices are made, you get an unbeatable clutch and flywheel combo that will serve you well for years to come.

In the long run, you will save a bunch of money by making the right decision, to begin with. And can you afford to choose poorly?

Consider this; in comparison to a cable clutch, the flywheel of a hydraulic clutch typically weighs more. This is because a heavier flywheel can absorb more engine vibrations and provide more inertia for smoother shifting.

Additionally, a heavier flywheel slows down and decelerates the engine. A lighter flywheel can improve gear shift times and increase engine revs, but it can also increase clutch chatter and engine noise. However, a cable clutch is appropriate for lighter flywheels, while a hydraulic clutch is appropriate for heavier flywheels.

5. Tire Type

For better traction and more power, hydraulic clutches are better suited for cars with high load tires. On the other hand, cable clutches should not be used with tires that have a high load capacity because this could lead to wear and reduce the performance and longevity of the clutch.

6. Vehicle Weight

In general, hydraulic clutch systems are preferred over cable systems because they can transmit more force and torque to the clutch. This is particularly crucial for heavier vehicles because they might need more force to engage and disengage the clutch.

Additionally, hydraulic systems frequently have smoother engagement and disengagement, which can enhance the vehicle’s overall stability and handling.

On the other hand, because they might not be able to handle as much force and torque as hydraulic systems, cable clutch systems might not be as suitable for heavier vehicles. This could lead to less precise clutch engagement and disengagement, which would be bad for the car’s overall performance and handling.

7. Rear end gearing

Higher rear end gearing is a popular option for performance-oriented vehicles because it can enhance acceleration and fuel economy. For higher rear-end gearing, hydraulic clutch systems are typically preferred because they can transmit more force and torque to the clutch than cable systems.

Contrarily, cable clutch systems are better suited for minimal transportation requirements. This may result in lower overall performance and power delivery, which may not require higher rear end gearing.

8. Interference

The interference of a clutch system refers to the amount of force required to engage or disengage the clutch. Due to the fact that hydraulic clutch systems use hydraulic pressure to transmit force to the clutch, they typically exhibit lower interference than cable clutch systems.

Cable clutch systems rely on mechanical linkage, which can result in higher interference and less smooth engagement and disengagement.

9. Engagement Quality

Engagement quality refers to how smoothly the clutch engages and disengages. In comparison to cable systems, hydraulic clutch systems typically provide smoother engagement and disengagement.

This is due to hydraulic systems’ ability to control clutch engagement with greater accuracy, which can lead to a more gradual engagement and a less jerky start.

10. Thermal Capacity

The ability of a clutch system to manage the heat produced during operation is referred to as its “thermal capacity.” Since hydraulic clutch systems use fluid to transfer force and can effectively dissipate heat, they typically have a higher thermal capacity than cable clutch systems.

The friction produced by the mechanical linkage in cable clutch systems can cause more heat to be produced, which can shorten the lifespan of the clutch parts.

11. Control Medium

The control medium in hydraulic clutch systems is a hydraulic fluid, whereas in cable clutch systems the control mechanism is a mechanical linkage. Due to the fluid’s ease of manipulation compared to a mechanical linkage, hydraulic systems enable more precise control over clutch engagement.

12. Fuel Consumption

In comparison to cable systems, hydraulic clutch systems typically require less pedal effort and engage more smoothly, which can lead to a more fuel-efficient operation. This is due to the fact that a smooth engagement can aid in preventing abrupt jerks and lurches that may waste fuel, especially in stop-and-go traffic or when operating at low speeds.

Additionally, hydraulic clutch systems—particularly in high-performance applications—can be more effective at transferring power from the engine to the wheels. This is due to the fact that they are able to manage higher torque loads and provide better clutch engagement control, both of which can help to optimize power delivery and fuel usage.

However, compared to hydraulic systems, cable clutch systems can be simpler and lighter, which can help reduce the overall weight of the vehicle and increase fuel efficiency.

In addition to the above-mentioned aspects, hydraulic clutch systems and cable clutch systems may differ in terms of other clutch characteristics, including price, toughness, maintenance ease, and accessibility to replacement parts. 

Hydraulic Clutch Vs Cable Clutch [Comparison Summary]

CharacteristicsHydraulic ClutchCable Clutch
ApplicationThey are frequently utilized in high-performance automobiles and heavy-duty machinery where a dependable and consistent clutch operation is necessary, particularly in automobiles with automatic transmissions.  On the other hand, a cable clutch is typically found on manual transmissions and is frequently used in older or less expensive cars.  
For RacingBecause a hydraulic clutch is more predictable and responsive, it is perfect for racing applications. In comparison to a cable clutch, they can also quickly grab and release the vehicle.They are not the best options for racing.
Principle of operationHydraulic fluid is forced through the clutch line from the master cylinder to the slave cylinder when the clutch pedal is depressed, activating the clutch release mechanism.  The cable is attached to the clutch release fork on one end and the clutch pedal on the other. Clutch disengagement occurs when the release fork is pulled by the cable while the clutch pedal is depressed.
PerformanceSince they remove the friction and slack of the cable, they provide a smoother and more reliable feel than a cable clutch. It also allows for more precise control of the clutch engagement and disengagement.Since a cable clutch provides the driver with more feedback than a hydraulic clutch, it can be more immediate and responsive. However, it can also be harder and heavier to operate, especially in traffic or on hills.
LifespanBecause it is not affected by the cable stretching or breaking, it can last longer than a cable clutch. Additionally, because it offers a more uniform pressure distribution, it lessens stress on the clutch disc and other components. Given that it is more vulnerable to heat and friction damage than a hydraulic clutch, a cable clutch may deteriorate more quickly.  
Torque Capacitygives greater torque capacity.has a smaller torque capacity.
DesignThe design of hydraulic clutches is more complex than that of cable clutches.The less complex design of cable clutches makes maintenance and repair easier.  
Costdue to the additional parts and more complex design, more expensive. A hydraulic clutch could cost between $300 and $600, depending on its less expensive to purchase and keep up. Usually, the cost is between $50 and $150.  
DurabilityThey are not as strong.They have greater durability.
PrecisionThe hydraulic system allows for more precise control of the clutch engagement point, making it easier to shift gears smoothly.For this clutch, precision control is more challenging.
AvailabilityThey are relatively scarce.They are easily available.
LubricationThey require hydraulic fluid to operate.They require cable lubricant to prevent cable wear.  
MaintenanceIt requires less maintenance because it doesn’t require lubrication or routine adjustments. However, it can be more expensive and difficult to repair if there is a leak or a failure in the system.You should adjust them frequently to ensure proper clutch engagement. Additionally, it is less expensive and simpler to fix, but to avoid wear and tear, it needs to be adjusted and lubricated frequently.    


In conclusion, it is impossible to say for sure which kind of clutch is best for you and your vehicle. Your personal preference, financial situation, riding style, and maintenance routine all play a role. Although cable clutches are less expensive, some riders prefer hydraulic clutches because of their simplicity of use and smooth operation. 

I have used both hydraulic and cable clutches, and I have not noticed any appreciable performance differences between the two. The hydraulic clutches can be more reliable and may not require frequent adjustments. However, when they do fail, they can be more expensive to repair than cable clutches. Cables can also fail due to rust or seizing.

Hydraulic clutches are well-suited for cars where the clutch and pedal are far apart, such as in rear-engined cars, and can navigate tighter corners than a cable. However, cables are less expensive to produce and require less space as they do not need cylinders and reservoirs.

Summarily, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your original mechanical clutch in your vintage car or truck. But if you’re working on a big rebuild, a hydraulic clutch kit can be a worthwhile addition. The smoother, easier clutch pedal actuation can make driving much more enjoyable.

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