We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Cone Clutch?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
WikiMotors is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WikiMotors, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A cone clutch is a type of clutch that utilizes a conical friction surface which meshes into a conical flywheel, wedging itself into a locked position. The act of the cone clutch wedging into the cone-shaped flywheel produces a much stronger lock up than that of a flat clutch and a flat flywheel. Used in early automobiles, this type of clutch is now found mainly in high-performance racing applications as well as off-shore racing boats.

One of the benefits of this type clutch is that the clutch pedal does not need to be depressed completely in order to shift the transmission. Unlike a typical flat clutch system that requires complete pedal depression in order to release the clutch from the flywheel, the cone clutch requires only partial depression to break the friction bond of the clutch and allow easy shifting. In racing applications this often means an advantage in coming up to speed. In off-shore racing boats, this can mean faster acceleration from plane.

A clutch provides grip through friction, and wear is a by-product of this friction. As the clutch material is allowed to slip against the flywheel, the clutch material is worn away. In a cone clutch application, less material is worn away due to the nature of the cone pulling into its cone-shaped flywheel. The need to depress the clutch pedal minimally in order to shift means less slippage between gear selections, which results in less wear.

One factor making the cone clutch system popular in racing applications is its ease of reconditioning. A cone clutch can be rebuilt and reused many times instead of replacing the clutch with a new unit. The materials used in the typical flat clutch are far more lightweight than those used in a cone system. Where the clutch disk in a flat system is made of very thin and lightweight steel, the cone unit is made of heavy, solid steel machined into the correct tolerances.

The very strength of this type clutch unit eliminates the need for a flywheel. By packaging the entire clutch unit into a smaller rotating mass, the vehicle is able to accelerate much more quickly and the engine is able to reach its peak operating power level much faster than a flat clutch system model. In a racing application, this means that the vehicle can accelerate faster out of a corner and reach its top power-producing abilities much quicker than non-cone clutched competitors.

WikiMotors is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Dec 09, 2011

@feruze-- A cone clutch is also used for tractors, not just race cars and boats.

I think what you mentioned might be specific to boats because I've had my tractor's cone clutch fixed at a mechanic several times. I'm guessing the system on boats is different and more sensitive. But someone who's good with cars could probably look at and fix a cone clutch system themselves. I don't think it's that hard.

A cone clutch does require relining from time to time. So that might be one difference from other kinds of clutches. But there is no guarantee that the same isn't going to be necessary for a mechanic, centrifugal, or a magnetic clutch either.

By bear78 — On Dec 09, 2011

Yea, cone clutch accelerates really well and is great for racing and boating. But it's also really hard and expensive to do maintenance on it.

My boat had an issue with the cone clutch last year. It had a difficulty going into gears. I had to get an engineer to fix it because the system is so sensitive and a mechanic can't do it. I paid a lot of money for it.

I'm not sure how it would be different with a different type of clutch system but I think it would be easier. At least it wouldn't require an engineer.

By fify — On Dec 08, 2011

As someone who's used a regular stick shift car with a mechanical clutch, I understand exactly what the article means when talking about the difficulties of a flat clutch.

When I first started learning how to drive a stick shift, I often made the mistake of not pressing the clutch pedal all the way which would cause the car to stop. Or I would forget to do it properly while driving and the clutch couldn't shift making a horrible sound.

If the cone clutch system existed in stick shift cars, driving would be so much easier. The car wouldn't stop in the middle of traffic, or slide back while trying to change gears. I wouldn't have so much trouble making turns either, just as the article said.

I can definitely see the advantages of the cone clutch system for racing, but I think it would also be great to replace the mechanical clutch system in stick shift cars.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WikiMotors, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.