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Fluids for Multiple Plate clutches

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Four of our cars have multiple plate clutches. The Hupp 20 runs in the engine oil. The 1923 Packard 6 233 I can’t remember, also can’t remember it ever being an issue, so I presume it’s dry.  The 1912 Pratt Thirty has a typical canister behind the flywheel housing the plates. There’s an oil plug in the housing.   The 1912 Babcock carries a Hele-Shaw clutch. It’s distinguishing feature is thin plates and many of them. They are indexed by a single annular V-groove. All sorts of wonderful properties are ascribed to the Hele-Shaw. 

In our modern age, we have a large selection of possible lubricants/hydraulic fluids that could be used in these multiple plate clutches. Engine oil of various viscosities, 90-140, GL1, GL4, ATF, Marvel, straight Lucas, you name it. 

What do you use and why? Do you vary the product with temperature?

Do you get along well with your MP clutches? Do you use a stick to relieve some or all of the clamping pressure at rest ?  You get the idea. What about oil level? I’m assuming a horizontal level just under the shaft. What more can I learn ? Thanks!


Jim Mead

Owego, NY

still West of Pluto


Reference: “Clutches”, compiled by Lou Iaccino, privately published 


Edited by Jim Mead (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

My 10 Maxwell 4cyl uses engine oil, supplied by a lubricator and drips right on top of the clutch plates. Level eventually works its way up to the rear main and makes its way into the crankcase to get drained periodically. 

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