Many vintage cars and hot rods lacked factory clutch hydraulics, using a mechanical hand lever to operate the clutch. Converting to a foot pedal hydraulic clutch offers easier use and smoother shifting. Hand clutch conversion kits provide all the components needed to switch to pedal operation. Understanding what’s involved ensures proper installation and function.
Table of Contents
Original Hand Clutch Operation
Early automobile clutches were actuated by a hand lever mounted on the steering column or floor. The lever pulled a mechanical linkage connected to the clutch fork. While effective, holding the hand lever while shifting gears was awkward.
Advantages of Hydraulic Clutch Actuation
Swapping to hydraulic pedal operation provides key benefits:
- Easier clutch control using foot instead of hand.
- Smoother engagement through the master cylinder.
- Lighter clutch effort from hydraulic amplification.
- No stiffness from mechanical linkage wear.
- More comfortable shifting without repositioning hands.
- Safer control keeping hands always on steering wheel.
The hydraulic clutch pedal makes driving manual transmission cars much easier and convenient.
Hydraulic Clutch Conversion Components
Typical kits to convert from hand to pedal clutch control contain:
- Clutch master cylinder that bolts to firewall
- Flexible hydraulic line to transmit fluid pressure
- Slave cylinder mounted to transmission bellhousing
- Steel braided hose connecting master to slave
- Pedal linkage and return spring for firewall
- Necessary fittings and fasteners
Having all required parts in one kit ensures proper compatibility and fitment for the swap.
Installation Overview and Process
Switching clutch actuation from hand to foot involves:
- Removing mechanical clutch linkage components.
- Installing pedal mount brackets on firewall.
- Mounting master cylinder and running steel line forward.
- Removing transmission inspection cover.
- Bolting on hydraulic slave cylinder.
- Connecting flexible hose from slave to master cylinder.
- Bleeding the hydraulic system fully.
- Testing clutch function before reassembly.
No internal transmission modifications are needed for the conversion.
Stage by Stage Installation Steps
Careful work is required to ensure smooth conversion to hydraulic operation:
- Disconnect old hand clutch linkage and verify no binding remains.
- Position new pedal precisely relative to driver position.
- Check master cylinder alignment to prevent flex hose kinking.
- Ensure solid mounting of slave cylinder to avoid movement under pressure.
- Finger tighten all fittings before final torque with wrench.
- Slowly fill and bleed system to purge all air bubbles.
- Adjust pedal height and free play for proper clutch release.
- Road test feel and engagement before considering installation complete.
Taking the time to perform the swap methodically avoids issues with the new hydraulic system.
Potential Installation Pitfalls
Some common mistakes to avoid when converting from hand to hydraulic clutch operation include:
- Pulling hard line too tight leading to cracks or leaks.
- Letting air remain trapped in hydraulic system.
- Mounting slave cylinder crooked causing drag.
- Using wrong fluid that degrades seals.
- Forgetting to reconnect critical electrical connectors.
- Allowing fittings to loosen through engine vibration.
- Neglecting to adjust pedal free play for full release.
- Not testing thoroughly before pronouncing installation complete.
Carefully following kit instructions and applying mechanical common sense prevents problems.
Bleeding the New Hydraulic System
Perhaps the most critical step is slowly and fully bleeding the hydraulic circuit once assembled. This involves:
- Adding correct fluid to master cylinder. Never use just brake fluid.
- Opening bleeder screw on slave cylinder.
- Slowly pumping pedal while catching released fluid.
- Tightening bleeder before pedal reaches floor.
- Repeating process until no air bubbles emerge.
- Wiping spilled fluid and closing fill cap.
Bleeding removes air that can cause spongy pedal feel and prevent full clutch release.
Testing Clutch Operation
Before considering the clutch conversion complete, thoroughly test operation:
- Feel for proper pedal firmness and height.
- Listen for odd noises during clutch cycling.
- Confirm gear changes are smooth without grinding.
- Ensure no evidence of clutch slip under moderate acceleration.
- Check for fluid leaks at master, slave and fittings.
- Assure normal engagement and feel after system has warmed up.
Carefully verifying proper hydraulic clutch operation avoids problems down the road.
Converting from hand to hydraulic pedal clutch actuation provides big dividends in driving ease and quality of shifting. With care taken during installation and bleeding, the swap can be completed smoothly with all the benefits of hydraulic control.