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Old 02-06-2012, 01:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Cable operated vs. hydraulic clutch?

I've spoken to several people on the Forum - directly and via PM - about the reasons for/against a cable operated vs. hydraulic clutch - and frankly, it's been difficult to get a concise definitive answer.

I know a clutch cable can (will eventually) break - but my Build School notes indicate that an OEM Ford clutch cable is far superior to the FFR supplied clutch cable.

And I understand that a hydraulic clutch can (might) leak and can be a bit tricky to initially install/set up.

So - tapping into the broad expertise of the Forum, what are the reasons "for" and "against" a cable operated clutch?

And the same for a hydraulic clutch?

Thanks

Lynn

(BTW - if it's engine/powerplant dependent - I'm planning a 302 at approx 340 hp (COMP cam, Edelbrock Performer RPM heads, MSD ignition and aftermarket efi ... specifically the new MSD "Atomic EFI) with a T-5 trans from an '89 Mustang GT)
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:15 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Ford built millions (literally and figuratively) of Mustangs with cable operated clutches. How often do you see one stranded due to a cable failure? With your combo you won't be running an exotic or ultra high pressure clutch so use an OEM Ford cable and move on...

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Old 02-06-2012, 02:30 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lynnhowlyn View Post
I know a clutch cable can (will eventually) break - but my Build School notes indicate that an OEM Ford clutch cable is far superior to the FFR supplied clutch cable.

And I understand that a hydraulic clutch can (might) leak and can be a bit tricky to initially install/set up.
I can't compare what I have (Ford OEM Cable) to a hydraulic clutch, because I have only driven my cobra. However, I have found my clutch action to be very nice. I have no complaints at all. Also, installing the Clutch cable was very simple and if you are really worried about it breaking, then carry an extra one in the trunk (use the FFR one as your emergency spare after you replace it with the ford one). It would be a bit dicey, but you could theoretically replace it roadside if you can just jack up the driver's side of the car to get at the clutch fork.

On the contrary, if you had a mechanical problem with the hydraulic clutch (also very rare, but if you want to compare apples to apples...) then you are stranded no matter what and you need a tow truck.

Just my 2c

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Old 02-06-2012, 02:45 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I've had both. Hydraulic hands down. If you are going for a basic build and you want to stick to the donor approach then go wth the cable as it is easy and straight forward. However, the hydraulic is smoother, feels better, is more consistent, and predictable. Now that I have used both, if I have a choice, hydraulic.
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:47 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I got a cable and find it hard to use. I kind of got used to it but if I ever let someone drive the car, it's their first comment. "Man, that clutch is a bitch to use!!" I would go hydraulic if I was do it again.

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Old 02-06-2012, 03:22 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I have had both I prefer the cable . Simple, effective and cant leak . Been driving Mustangs since 86 and no failures street or strip. Bob
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:43 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I did my build with the cable/quadrant system and a heavy duty cable-not sure if it was the ford part-at about 7,000 miles I started getting unusual slack in the cable-when I investigated I found only three strands of wire doing the work-the rest had broken-after replacing the cable and at 8,000 miles the wilwood pedal broke-thanks to the quadrant stresses-so I went with hydraulic. my buddies spec racer has the stock mustang pedal box and his cable has probably well over 100,000 miles on it-pulled it out of the donor mustang when he built his snake, then put an additional 20,0000 miles on it, and it's still working fine.don't matter if it's fuel-water-or oil (hydraulic) there should never be a leak-I'd recommend either the mustang pedal box with cable (and carry a spare cable) or go hydraulic (and if it's built right it won't leak)

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Old 02-06-2012, 03:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobcat View Post
I'd recommend either the mustang pedal box with cable (and carry a spare cable) or go hydraulic (and if it's built right it won't leak)

Bob
+1

Bob has it right - if you have the basic FFR kit and are using a donor Mustang pedal box, then use the cable by all means.

If you have the Complete Kit and plan to use the included Wilwood pedal box, do not use the cable as your pedal will eventually fail. Convert it to hydraulic before you have the footbox all buttoned up and the body installed.
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Old 02-06-2012, 04:41 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ram_g View Post
+1

Bob has it right - if you have the basic FFR kit and are using a donor Mustang pedal box, then use the cable by all means.

If you have the Complete Kit and plan to use the included Wilwood pedal box, do not use the cable as your pedal will eventually fail. Convert it to hydraulic before you have the footbox all buttoned up and the body installed.
Thanks for the responses thus far. I was hoping for more of the "why" regarding a hydraulic. Seems that a properly set up hydraulic is (can be) "smoother, feel better, be more consistent, and predictable) while a cable has millions of miles of successful, reliable use in Ford (factory built OEM) Mustangs.

Didn't realize the kit-type would make that much difference .... mine is a complete kit (Anniversary kit) and I'd doing hydroboost brakes so there's LOT of room in and around the FFR supplied Wilwood pedal box for a hydraulic clutch master.

I do (BTW) understand that the FFR supplied Wilwood masters (that they included for use as a brake masters) prolly do NOT have sufficient capacity (size) to serve as a clutch master ....

So it's likely down to a choice between $400-ish (or more $$$, haven't seriously priced one yet) to go hydraulic or $100-ish (SWAG) for upgrade to a Ford OEM clutch cable and call it done.

Thanks ....

Lynn
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Old 02-06-2012, 05:05 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Here's the why on hydraulic clutches-

1. Most importantly, the pedal will require less effort and be smoother. This is because there is a certain amount of bind in the cable. It seems minimal while not under load, but in actually testing one clutch cable next to another, the difference can be clearly visible. They all bind, but some more than others. A hydraulic clutch, of course, has no cable bind.

2. There is a certain amount of dead pedal throw with a cable, because as you put load on the cable, It stretches, and finds the most direct route to the load source. So the first 1/2 inch or so may not be so precise. To those of you who say it doesn't matter- it does. It's a half inch less movement you get.

3. The difference in precision is tremendous.

4. They self adjust.

5. You can change your master cylinder size to match your driving style. (street, track, etc) and by the time you buy the new MC and sell the old one, you're only down $30 and you didn't have to modify a thing.

That's not to day cable clutches dont work. They do, just fine. It's kind of how we all thought CRT televisions looked great for years. It's not until you are spoiled with LCD or plastma that you realize what you are missing.

That being said, yes they can leak. If you have a sticky MC, you can also burn through throwout bearings. (i've never had it happen, but i have heard of it happening)

I was spoiled years ago by motorcycles with hydraulic clutches. Night and day difference. Now I won't have it any other way. I have never had any problems with any hydraulic clutch in my life.
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Old 02-06-2012, 12:39 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Using a hydraulic clutch in a FFR means you will never have a burned clutch cable.
I built my own bracket to hold the slave, and probably only have about $150~200 in the system, including the clutch master cylinder and slave.
Most clutch slaves are around 7/8" diameter so you will need a master at least that size, depending on the pressure plate you are using. I used a centerfofrce pressure plate which has a light pedal feel, so I used a 1" master for a little more throw. I tried a 7/8 but it was just too light with my pressure plate. Wilwood makes a 1", but it's a different style than the ones supplied with the kit. It will still bolt in but it's just slightly larger.

Someone made the statement that you can have leaks in a hyd clutch system Well, you can have leaks in your hyd braking system, but no one is advocating going back to mechanical brakes. I used to have a 31 Model A with mechanical brakes, and believe me, you don't want that.
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Old 02-06-2012, 01:14 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I love my hydraulic clutch. There is no reason to think it will leak... do your brake lines leak? Mine don't either. There was almost no adjustment needed when I set mine up, I just set it up and forgot about it. Works great.
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Old 02-06-2012, 01:17 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Another Hydraulic person here. Made my own back in 2005, have yet to have any problems with it after 21,000, 12,000+ of that on the track. Also has three clutch failures, never a hydraulic issue.

With above, the hydraulic when properly set up gives you a light pedal, precise engagement, and never having to adjust. Do it right the first time and forget.

BTW - Do NOT use an internal slave, that is where the bad reputation comes from. I have an external slave, all CNC componernts, bulletproof.
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Old 02-06-2012, 01:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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While it is true that both systems have the potential for breakdown (what systems don't), the hydraulic system will be far more reliable - just as reliable as your brakes, and you trust them with your life every day.

About the only advantage that a cable system has is initial cost. Hydraulic wins every other category. Also, as someone else mentioned, the FFR solution for a cable using the Wilwood pedal box is a poor design that will likely eventually fail. Though the newer forged pedals make that less likely, it is still a bad design.

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Old 02-06-2012, 01:57 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spaceclam View Post
Here's the why on hydraulic clutches-

1. Most importantly, the pedal will require less effort and be smoother. This is because there is a certain amount of bind in the cable. It seems minimal while not under load, but in actually testing one clutch cable next to another, the difference can be clearly visible. They all bind, but some more than others. A hydraulic clutch, of course, has no cable bind.

2. There is a certain amount of dead pedal throw with a cable, because as you put load on the cable, It stretches, and finds the most direct route to the load source. So the first 1/2 inch or so may not be so precise. To those of you who say it doesn't matter- it does. It's a half inch less movement you get.

3. The difference in precision is tremendous.

4. They self adjust.

5. You can change your master cylinder size to match your driving style. (street, track, etc) and by the time you buy the new MC and sell the old one, you're only down $30 and you didn't have to modify a thing.

That's not to day cable clutches dont work. They do, just fine. It's kind of how we all thought CRT televisions looked great for years. It's not until you are spoiled with LCD or plastma that you realize what you are missing.

That being said, yes they can leak. If you have a sticky MC, you can also burn through throwout bearings. (i've never had it happen, but i have heard of it happening)

I was spoiled years ago by motorcycles with hydraulic clutches. Night and day difference. Now I won't have it any other way. I have never had any problems with any hydraulic clutch in my life.
This is EXACTLY the kind of information I was looking for.

Many thanks!!

Lynn
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Old 02-06-2012, 02:26 PM   #16 (permalink)
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switching cable to hydraulic cost for parts= $287.00

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Old 02-06-2012, 03:11 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Here's a couple of pics of my system that uses the Fox pedals and a T-5. These are not the final pieces used in the quadrant, but the operation, size, motions, and dimensions are quite close.

The new "Quadrant" that pushes the clutch master cylender -



The slave on the trans -



The slave kit -



Adjustable both up at the pedal, and down at the clutch, had ZERO problems since completed!

Dan
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Old 02-06-2012, 03:54 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Hydraulic gets my vote. I did mine for ~ $160 from Summit Parts and find it much better.


Loose the Cable
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Old 02-06-2012, 05:01 PM   #19 (permalink)
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I have Forte's hydraulic setup and love it. 10,000 miles with no issues of any kind. Pedal effort is low, feel is good.

If you are worried about leaks, think of all the fittings in the brake lines. Done right (and that isn't difficult) the hydraulic will give you years of trouble free service.

Arch
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