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Multi-Plate Clutch Issue


jrbartlett
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Does anyone specialize in diagnosing problems with multi-plate clutches? I have a 1919 Locomobile clutch with 20 plates (dry) that sometimes fails to disengage -- it's not stuck on the flywheel, because it will disengage one moment, and then fail to disengage 30 seconds later. Any specialists out there? 

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Is the issue not or cold? Or both? Ten to one.......incorrect material on the friction plates........or is it all steel? 
 

Also.......transmission alignment and input shaft binding could cause it.........loosen up all the bolts so there is just a little bit of slop and run it around the neighborhood a bit........

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Here is a strange clutch effect that is common.......the exhaust manifold is on one side of the car, causing the transmission and bell housing to expand more than the cooler side.....thus causing heat induced thrust clearance issues. That is why many people have a harder time shifting a car without clashing the gears when the chassis is at full operating temperature. Certain cars we drive we mill the bell housing or transmission housing about 7-10 thousandts on an angle.......presto....shifts fine when hot......but it's fussy when cold. 

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In a dry clutch wear occurs on the contact face of the drive and driven plates. There is a hardness difference between disk and the stationary slide blocks to resist wear. But over time they create wear notches on the drive blocks and reduce the drive tangs of the plates.

As Ed states the diminishing of clutch material contributes lost of the plate stack height. Multiple dry disk clutches get hot pretty fast. The heat causes warping. Saw blade steel was used to help with that issue.

Locomobile dry clutches have a double row ball bearing deep in the clutch with no way to lubricate without complete removal.

Make sure the sliding release collar has smooth and complete movement.

Only way to inspect is to remove the whole clutch intact and get someone who can properly open the clutch and not get killed or harmed in the process. Best of luck, George 

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Thanks for the insights. I've been in touch with a shop in California that has worked on Loco clutches and that was recommended to me by several owners of these cars. I may take either the clutch pack or the entire car out there for service. I had identified the spring as a serious risk just from its fearsome look in the diagram. Although I do have a press, and did work on heavy stuff while in the Navy Seabees, I've not worked on a clutch like this before. In the meantime, I had also identified the release collar as possibly not traveling its full distance. I'll investigate that further. Thanks for the insights. 

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One of the hardest lessons to learn in the car hobby, is to take your problem to the right shop........since you can count the shops that are familiar with this clutch on one hand of a fingerless man, bringing to to someone with experience makes you start 50 hours ahead of the game. Generally speaking, on a problem like this.......I would be prepared to make every disk new.

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Dear James,

all that has been said before makes sense, and the various design improvements over a comparably short period of time show that Locomobile was not 100% happy with the earlier versions.  When you read what the driver has to do and what lubricatns to use for proper treatment of the leather cone clutches, then it becomes clear why they invented the dry clutch. For safe transmitting the high torque of a model 48, you need either one plate of very large diameter (friction area) and a very strong spring (which has certain disadvantages), or many smaller plates and comparable less spring force. You must also take in consideration: The operators manual states: The car can be started in high gear. (see the manual shown above). Many people didn't have much driving skill yet, and owners of such cars expected the chauffeur to drive smoothly, less shifting was probably expected, and the manual states several times that the car can climb nearly every hill in high gear.

I would like to share my limited experience with Loco clutches: They work well on both of my cars, until now I have not found a reason for dismantling and inspecting them. I have driven the 1921 Sedan in hills, on highways, in Cologne's heavy traffic jam, no problem at all. Always disengaging well (and noiseless shifting into first due to the clutch brake), and never slipping under load.

But: I mentioned before I live in a region with many hills, the road in front of my house has a 16% slope. Once we had an appointment, I had planned to take the Loco, but we were already too late. I wanted to use that trip as a test drive because I had re-adjusted the carburetor float level once again. But this time it was obviously too low: when getting into the slope the engine stalled several times, and when it finally kept on working it had no power because it was too lean. I had to increase the engine speed more than usually necessary. Under these circumstances I had to re-start in the slope several times within a short period of time. This obviously made the clutch heating up. Then shifting became difficult, and when I stopped at the first cross road, I could not engage first gear without scratching. Ok, engine off, first in, starter, and off we went. And now comes the interesting part: Already at the next crossing, app. 1/2 mile away, the clutch worked again as usual! Until now I never experienced that clutch trouble again. I believe the plates deformed (like a dish) when warm, and flattened againg when cooling during driving.

I think you should check the temperature of your clutch housing when driving. Usually it stays quite cool. You can try driving without the floor board and use an infrared thermometer while in motion. Maybe the pedal adjustment is not ok? Or the linkage is not releasing the pressure completely? Or the clutch brake is too tight? Whatever, if it is not spinning freely somewhere, you will notice the heat increase it that part.

Another bit of experience, but only second hand: My friend with the red Loco race car had cutch trouble already several times. He told me that the last time one of the lining rings broke, two pieces wedged together and made the clutch stuck. End of the race. He found a shop in Nürnberg specialized in brake and clutch repairs. They were able to make the new lining for him according to one original sample and the disk size. Now it works again.

Good luck!

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