Clutch Installation

Last updated: September 8, 1999

Date: Wed, 8 Sep 1999 22:28:18 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Steven N. Burkett" (

All original content copyright 1999, and opinion of, the author, see disclaimer for more info.


Time for a clutch so soon?

The original equipment clutch on the '93 and '94 models (through VIN R300031) was simply to soft for the driving style of many RX-7 owners. It is not at all uncommon to have to replace a clutch within the first 50,000 miles, and many were replaced while the car was still under warranty. The clutch facing was changed in October of '93 (A HREF="">TSB #001/93) to help relieve this problem, but if you plan to hold on to your '7 for any length of time, plan on a clutch replacement somewhere along the way. Lest I add more fuel to the "RX-7 lemon" fire, I should point out that for hard-driven high performance sports cars, 70,000 mile clutch changes are the norm. This isn't you're one-clutch-for-life 323 we're talking about.

Should you do it yourself?

Make no mistake about it, replacing a 3rd gen clutch is a big job. Several special tools are required. My first clutch job, upon which this how-to is based, took a total of 35 hours*, all told. I should point out that this is the biggest piece of automotive maintenance I have ever tackled, but I have always done minor maintenance (fluid changes, brakes, tune-ups, etc.). The next time I do it, I expect to spend less than 20 hours. This time also included a number of time-consuming items above and beyond a minimal clutch job.

Before you begin, you will need to have access to garage space, the means to get your car at least 18" off the ground, and a way to get around while your car is disassembled. It may be possible to do this over the weekend, but if you break an exhaust stud on Sunday afternoon, you're likely to be stuck.

If you have the time, space, energy, and motivation, there are two major benefits to doing the work yourself. First and foremost, you will know that the work was done right, and that no corners were cut. Unless you have access to a real RX-7 specialty shop, the mechanic who does the work has probably never replaced a 3rd gen clutch either. Second, there is a lot of money to be saved. I received two quotes for the work I wanted done, one was $1100, the other was $1300. I spent almost $500 on parts, and another $200 on tools, but I still feel like my time was well spent, considering the cost savings.

What's involved?

To summarize, here's what a full-blown clutch job entails:

There are a few other bits of maintenance you may want to do while you have the tranny off:

Parts and Tools

General tools:

If you've done other non-trivial auto maintenance you probably have most of the basic hand tools you'll need. Here are some specific general purpose tools that you'll want to have on hand:

You'll also need a big floor jack, and jack stands, sufficient to get the car at least 18" off the ground.

Specialty tools (SST's):

These are the special tools that, in my opinion, are indispensible. There are a few others called for in the shop manual, but I didn't find any of them strictly necessary. Others have gotten by without using all of these. Personally, I wouldn't even consider it without the following:


I ordered most of mine from Mazdatrix. You can also get them from your dealer, but Mazdatrix via priority mail is quicker than any of the dealers around here. There are lots of other vendors to choose from, particularly if you want a performance clutch. I needed to go with all stock parts, to stay stock legal for SCCA Solo II. I have listed the approximate cost (rounded to the nearest U.S. $1.00) from Mazdatrix for your information. I have no affiliation with Mazdatrix, but was happy with their service (if not their phone demeanor).

Parts are listed by common name. For those that have a Mazda "technical name", that name is listed in [brackets].

Clutch Parts

Miscellaneous Parts and Assembly Stuff

You should also locate a machine shop that can resurface (turn) your flywheel for you. They need to be able to deal with a two-step flywheel (the pressure plate mounts at a slightly lower level the the clutch contact surface). You'll want to know what the turnaround time is, for planning purposes. I got lucky and found a shop a couple miles down the road that did it beautifully in under 2 hours, for $40.00.


Jack the car up 18" above the ground, and very steady at that height. (Use jackstands!) You'll be putting a lot of torque on some of the bolts. Don't put your life at risk by working with inadequate support!

You may also want to disconnect the negative battery cable to be extra safe.

Transmission Diagram

Put the tranny in neutral, and release the parking brake.

  1. Remove all the stuff that's in the way of the tranny. Here are the parts to remove, in order:

    Inside the car:

    Under the Car:

  2. Break time. You need to get out from under the car now, anyway.

  3. Support the engine with the SST, or put the transmission jack under the tranny to support it.

  4. Put a jack or block of wood or something under the differential to hold it in place. Make sure whatever you use will hold it at the same angle it is sitting right now.

  5. Time for the 21mm (or 13/16) six-point socket and breaker bar. You may even need a pipe to extend the bar. Remove the power plant frame (8 nuts and a bolt).

  6. Disconnect the connectors on the side of the tranny, and unscrew the back-up light switch (screwed into the passenger side of the tranny, near the top at the extension housing, close to the shifter). This needs to come out so that it doesn't get damaged when raising and lowering the tranny.

  7. Remove the two inspection plate/service covers from the tranny. One is immediately obvious, it has the "Warning - this is a pull-type clutch" sign on it. The other is on the side of the tranny, to the left of the hole where the slave cylinder used to be.

  8. Separate the clutch cover from the throw-out bearing [release collar].

    [Place holder for picture of separating the release collar - I just have to get some digital camera issues worked out, so check back soon!]

  9. Break time. You need to get your courage up to lower the tranny.

  10. Maneuver the transmission jack into place, and support the transmission by at least three points. The center of mass is not exactly at the center of the flat spot, it's actually a bit farther back. Raise the jack until the transmission starts to move up. It will actually be a little easier to remove the bolts if you push the engine forward a bit.

  11. Put a catch pan under the extension housing. If you lean the tranny backward, fluid will spill out. If you want to save your fluid, there is a Mazda SST to plug the output opening. Some folks have had luck snapping a spray paint cap over the opening, I tried this, but it leaked badly.

  12. Remove the mounting bolts. There are five. The bottom two are easy, and there is another one that is accessible from under the car near the top left corner. The top right corner is another story. There are two bolts there, both of which can only be reached from above. You can squeeze a wrench in there from the passenger side if you have small hands and remove the brake vacuum booster line. This is where a long-handled, flat, 14mm box-end wrench comes in handy. Whatever you do, don't try to use an open-end wrench, it'll just round them off (Ask me how I know).

  13. If you find yourself in "I just can't get those bolts off" Hell, you can remove the intake extension, after which they are much easier to get to.

  14. Lower the transmission down and out of the way. It helps to tilt the tail down a bit. Lower and tilt as needed until the tranny is clear. Be careful not to smash the secondary air pipe, clutch slave, or wiring harnesses.

  15. Move the transmission out of the way. Now for the really fun part...

Inspection and Replacement of Parts

Keep your face out of the line of fire while you remove these parts, and plan on getting really, really dirty. All the clutch dust has been building up for a long time, and it's main goal is to jump directly into your eyes, mouth, and nose.

  1. Remove the Clutch Release Fork and throw-out bearing from the tranny as an assembly. There are two bolts. It may be frozen to the bell housing, a few taps with a rubber mallet will jar it loose, then just slide it off.

  2. Remove the pressure plate and clutch disk. There are six bolts, loosen them gradually in a criss-cross fashion to release the spring pressure evenly. Don't worry, it's not going to fly off. It may be stuck on the studs, just pry it off gently. You will probably be able to do this without locking the flywheel in place, as the bolts aren't torqued down all that tightly.

  3. Remove the pilot bearing and oil seal. Put the chuck of the SST in and then hammer the handle into the chuck. Screw the handle in. Whack the bearing out with the slide hammer. If you didn't get the SST, I can't help you with this, except to say be very careful not to damage the flywheel face or bearing hole.

  4. Decide whether you need to remove the flywheel. If you do, this will be the toughest part of the job. But it will be necessary if:

    If scoring and burning are minor, you can remove them with emery paper. However, I personally recommend having the flywheel resurfaced, if at all possible. You won't believe the difference.

    If you won't be removing the flywheel, skip the next step.

  5. Removing the evil flywheel: Removing the locknut:

    If you are using impact tools, just lock the flywheel in place with the SST or flywheel stopper bar, and go "nuts".

    If you are using the hand wrench, prepare for a struggle. First of all, the precat will be in the way of getting any good leverage on the wrench, unless your car is very high off the ground. I ended up supporting the wrench against the ground on the passenger side, then bolting the stopper bar on and jacking the stopper bar upward with a floor jack to turn the flywheel clockwise. This worked for me. I can't say it's the greatest technique, but it got the nut loose. Pulling the flywheel:

    Bolt on your gear puller. You can use two transmission mounting bolts, but be prepared to replace them if they get stripped or bent. Protect the eccentric shaft end with something, and pull the flywheel. It is on there VERY tightly, so keep out of the way in case your puller breaks! There is another option, involving a wood splitting wedge, detailed below. I tried it, it didn't work; I bought a puller. Your mileage may vary.

    The shop manual says to remove the "key", that little piece of brass set into the eccentric shaft. It's a lot easier to get out than to get back in, I'd recommend just leaving it alone.

  6. Take the flywheel to the machine shop. Note that it is machined at two levels. Make sure that they can deal with this! The pressure plate must bolt on at a slightly lower level than the clutch contact surface. Expect to pay 30 to 40 U.S. dollars for the service.

  7. Replace the rear main seal, if needed. Pry the old one out with your big-ass screwdriver, being careful not to score the seal contact surface. Dunk the new one in clean motor oil, then pound it in evenly. The ideal tool for this would be a piece of 2x4 with a hole big enough to fit around the eccentric shaft end. You'll have to pound pretty hard, so be careful to make sure that it's lined up properly.

    Clutch Diagram

  8. While you're waiting on the flywheel, take the opportunity to clean up your work area, and inspect and clean all of the parts that you'll be reusing. Don't clean your throw-out bearing in solvent, though, it's a sealed assembly! Grease all the moving parts and contact points on the release fork. Grease the transmission input spline and the clutch disc teeth. If you're planning to torque the rear housing bolts, do it now.

  9. Reinstall the release fork and new pilot bearing. 24-33 ft lbs on the mounting bolts.

    Flywheel Nut Preparation
  10. Go get your flywheel. Marvel at its freshly machined beauty. Line up the groove with the key, and slide it into place. Apply gasket compound to contact surface of the flywheel nut, and apply thread locking compound to the threads. If you're using Loctite green, you'll have to work quickly at this point, or wait until the nut is almost tight, and then apply it to the threads and let it "wick" it's way into the threads for a moment before tightening it completely.

  11. Install the flywheel stopper, and crank the nut down. 290-361 ft lbs. Make it TIGHT!

  12. Install the new pilot bearing with an appropriately sized socket, dowel, etc. There is a special service tool, but it's not really necessary. Again, you'll be doing some serious hammering, so keep it lined up! It should almost bottom out. If your pinkie is clean, you can reach in periodically and feel how close it's getting. It will end up just under 1/2" deep.

  13. Install the pilot bearing oil seal. Just push it in deep enough to contact the pilot bearing.

  14. Position the clutch disk on the flywheel with the alignment tool. Don't put it on backwards! The "flatter" face of the clutch goes toward the flywheel. Note the disc position in the assembly diagram above. The contact surface should fit firmly against the flywheel.

  15. Look at the clutch disc again, and make sure you didn't put it on backwards.

  16. Slide the pressure plate on to the flywheel studs. Bolt it down, criss cross fashion, using new lock nuts. 14 - 19 foot-pounds here.

  17. Look over your work. You should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel clearly by now. Don't let it make you impatient, take your time, it's almost done...


  1. Raise the transmission into place, and reinstall the mounting bolts, tightening 28 - 38 ft-lbs. The longest bolt goes below the starter.

  2. Install the back-up light switch, harness connectors, service hole covers and front tunnel reinforcement.

  3. Reconnect the release collar to the pressure plate. Through the upper left service hole, swing the release fork end backwards. The throw-out bearing will snap in with a satisfying >click<. Check that it is firmly attached by wagging the fork back and forth. The release fork should stop no closer to the engine than the center of the inspection hole.

  4. Power plant frame. Assuming that the differential was held level, this is a snap. Hold in in place with the nuts, then tighten the differential nuts and bolt FIRST. 109 - 130 ft lbs. on the nuts, 55 - 68 ft-lbs. on the differential alignment bolt. I suggest a little Loctite, as well. The owner's manual suggests replacing the PPF mounting hardware, but conventional wisdom is that it's unecessary.

    After tightening the nuts, the distance from the PPF to the bottom of the front tunnel reinforcement should be close to three inches. If it's more than a quarter inch off, readjust the power plant frame.

  5. Carefully fit the driveshaft back into the transmission output housing. Squeeze it past the exhaust pipe, align your paint marks, and bolt it on. The nuts go toward the front of the car, in case you forgot, you should only need one wrench, the bolts are held in place by the differential flange. Use new lock washers, and your big-ass screwdriver to hold the driveshaft still while you torque them to 40 ft-lbs.

  6. Install the front U-joint cover (bolts to the PPF) and rear tunnel reinforcement.

  7. Install the main catalytic converter. Use new gaskets if necessary. Be sure to clean the gasket mating surfaces thoroughly before assembling. The shop manual recommends replacing the mounting bolts. If you don't, clean them and the studs in penetrating oil, and be careful not to cross-thread them. Re-attach the secondary air pipe, if you disconnected it before.

  8. Install the center tunnel reinforcement, clutch release cylinder, and undercovers (left, right, and transmission).

  9. (Inside the car). Fill the shift select case with oil, to the level where the aluminum cover bolts to the extension housing. I have not been able to find the "correct" oil specification. I used 75W-90 gear oil, I don't think it matters too much.

  10. Install the shift lever (the notch slides over the peg at the front of the housing). Slide the insulators over the shift knob (a little grease helps here, they're a tight fit). Reconnect the harness connectors and ashtray light, and snap the console back into place, then screw the shift knob back on. If you disconnected the battery cable, reconnect it.

  11. Lower the car and take it for a test drive. Rejoice. You may also need to adjust your clutch pedal height and freeplay, if you had previously adjusted them to make up for a worn clutch.

Congratulations on a job well done!


  1. Be sure to properly break in the new clutch. Drive it gently for the first 500 miles or so. (Note: these should be stop and go miles, not 500 miles on the highway where the clutch was used exactrly once.)

    (This last step was added by the editor.)

Editor's note: The following are some old posts that originally made up the bulk of this page. I have not gone over the preceding in any detail so I just left the old posts below. Steven said he referenced the old page in creating his excellent write-up above. I also wanted to give credit the people who wrote the original posts below (not to take away at all from the time and effort Steven spent on the above article). --Steve

Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 16:13:55 -0700 (PDT)

From: NetBlazer

Since I just last weekend did a clutch job on a 95 I think I might be able to answer this :)

The service manual shows two options for removing the tranny. One is to stick a screwdriver through that inspection window and pry the pressure plate away from the clutch fork. This is a pain in the ass, and I have yet to be able to do it properly. The other option they list as doing if the first option failed (IMO they should have listed thie second option first, but heh)

The second option is to unbolt the pressure plate from the flywheel by putting a 14mm wrench on each of the 8 bolts in a criss cross fashion (and holding the flywheel still with a large flat head through the location where the starter once sat (you can also put a 19mm socket on the front eccentric shaft bolt...)

The criss cross fashion statment above means take one bolt off one side, rotate it 180 degrees, and get the oposing you would do when torquing down one of your wheels...

When putting it all back together, install the clutch plate, and pressure plate back onto the tranny shaft, and you won't need to use a clutch alignment tool. When bolting the tranny back up, put the bolts in, but don't tighten them down very far. (leave a gap between the tranny and engine). This will make it easier to turn the unbolted down pressure plate...otherwise it gets caught...

Have fun

Date: Mon, 21 Jul 1997 21:18:49 -0400
From: Jake Kohl
Subject: (rx7) removing the flywheel with out special tools

>Any hints on removing the flywheel without the special
>locking tool?
>I assume that I will need flywheel puller and 54 mm socket.
>Can I use an impact wrench to remove the nut?
>I still need a way to torque it down for installation.

Here's a trick I used to use (I have reworked better than 20 rotaries this way with no problems). Sears sells a 2 1/8" socket that will fit that nut very well and gives you a cost advantage over a metric socket that size here in the USA.

For removing the flywheel nut you MUST have an impact wrench - no way around it (the intake/exhaust valve sounds like a great idea but you shouldn't need it with the impact wrench). (refers to using a bent intake or exhaust valve to hold the flywheel.)

To remove the flywheel, try this "shade-tree" process: Go to the hardware store and purchase a wood spliting wedge (a cast triangular wedge about 7-8" long and about 2 to 2.5" wide at the base.

Remove the thin metal dust plate from the back of the engine on the intake/exhaust side and tap the wedge in behind the flywheel where the plate used to be (slightly angled up or down so you don't damage the excentric shaft).

Now, after you have backed the flywheel nut off to protect the eccentric shaft threads, pound the nut with a rather large mallot (preferably a very hard rubber or plastic mallot but metal will do if you go slow). Turn the flywheel and replace the wedge a couple of times and voila! I broke several pullers before a fellow rotary mechanic enlightned me to this method.


Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1998 10:51:53 -0400
From: "Alan Beder"

You will need an impact wrench capable of at least 350 ft-lbs. and a 54 mm socket. Sears sells a 3/4 drive that is 2 1/8" for around $22. A slide hammer with an internal collet is needed for removal of the pilot bearing. Mazdatrix does sell this but is around $100. I'm trying to find out if I can adapt my slide hammer to save the cost.

To get the flywheel off you will probably need a puller. Someone told me they used a std. gear puller. The tool from Mazda is $80. Again I'm going to see if I can adapt what I have.

With everything apart it is a good idea to change over to the new style "spindle spring" if this has not already been done. This is accessible from outside the transmission and is supposed to prevent damage to the fifth gear syncro. If your car has had the 5th gear syncro replaced the TSB called for the upgraded spring.

Finally on the advise of Cam at Pettit when the flywheel is off you should check the torque on the bolts that hold the engine housings together. He said that they have found many cars where they are very loose. Torqueing these to the correct value is supposed to extend the time before the coolant o-rings will start to leak. Although this assumes they haven't been fried already.


From: Carlos Iglesias (
Date: September 28, 1998

It is easy to install a clutch disk backwards. When installing the disk, the central hub spline is offset from center. The part of the spline which is most flush with the disk, goes TOWARDS the flywheel.


Date: Wed, 7 Oct 1998 14:04:06 -0400
From: Steve

>Now I need a way to figure out how to pull that flywheel off and swap it
>with my new 8.5 lb. unit!  I was told to just use a brass hammer to
>knock the flywheel off once the nut is loose; using a gear puller might
>just break it. Any suggestions from you seasoned mechanics out there
>would be greatly appreciated. Break in suggestions would be welcome too!

A couple of things to do while you are in there:

  1. 1. Retourque all the bolts that hold the rotor housings together. If you give them a good twist, they will crack loose and you will be able to get 1/4-1/2 more of a turn on them. (like retorquing the head on a boinger)

  2. 2. Replace the rear main seal. It is VERY easy to do, is right there, and costs like $4! (I know, it must be a mistake...$4 for a Mazda part!?)

  3. 3. While you have the tranny off, it is easy enough to replace the rear seal of that too. (It's like $20).

  4. 4. Replace the pilot bearing.

  5. 5. Replace the throwout bearing, of course.


Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 00:07:14 -0500
From: Dale Clark

  1. Remove the shift lever in the interior (pretty easy - pop up the trim panel, remove a few bolts, and it's out)

  2. Remove the heat shield and main cat. You can leave the cat-back section and precat on.

  3. Drain the tranny of gear oil. Mark the relationship of the driveshaft to the differential flange (grease pen, spraypaint, whatever) so you can put it back in the same relationship, then take off the driveshaft (4 bolts on the differential, slides out of the back of the tranny)

  4. Remove the powerplant frame. This is the structural member that joins the tranny and differential together. After you remove it, support the differential with something - with the frame off, it will sag.

  5. Remove the starter and clutch slave cylinder.

  6. Disconnect the wiring to the tranny and unscrew the speedometer cable. The wiring has one main clip (if I remember right).

  7. Here's the big trick. There's an inspection plate on the tranny bellhousing. Open it - you can see the pressure plate. Unbolt the pressure plate from the flywheel - I would use a socket on the bolt and a screwdriver wedged in there to keep the assembly from turning. After you get one off, rotate the assembly with the screwdriver to the next one. Since this is a pull-type pressure plate, you have to do this.

  8. Put a jack under the tranny. Undo the engine to tranny bolts and tranny mount bolts. Bring the tranny back and down until you get it clear. Have a few friends on hand when doing this - the tranny is NOT light, especially when you're on your back under a car.

  9. After pulling the tranny out from under the car, you can unclip the throwout bearing and remove the pressure plate. The clutch disc will be floating at the end of the input shaft. See how thin it is compared to the new one? :)

  10. You might want to do the pilot bearing if you have access to the tool. With the removal tool, it's a piece of cake. If you don't have the tool, just make sure it's in good shape and re-lubricate it.

Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1999 11:16:37 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Steven N. Burkett" (

  1. Rent a transmission jack! Having done it both ways (floor jack first time, tranny jack to re-orient clutch disk) it is crazy not to spend $11 to rent a tranny jack. You'll save yourself a ton of time, risk, fear, etc.

  2. The top right tranny bolts are a real pain to get at. If you can, get a long, flat 14mm box end wrench for these. The ones with the bend at the box-end just won't quite fit. An open end wrench will round the bolts off handily (ask me how I know).

  3. I used the Mazdatrix flywheel nut wrench and flywheel stopper to remove the locknut and flywheel. The wrench isn't bad as a cheap alternative for those who don't have impact tools. I don't recommend the stopper, though, as the holes aren't really in the right place. It can be made to work, but if you can get hold of the real SST, I think it would work much better.

    I used a harmonic balancer puller to remove the flywheel. This worked well, but be sure and get one with a long enough span. You can use two tranny bolts to attach the puller to the flywheel, especially if you've just rounded them off and don't intend to reuse them anyway. ;-)

  4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I recommend the shop manual preferred technique for detaching the thow-out bearing from the pressure plate. If you pull the release arm back through the top right inspection plate on the bell housing, they pry apart easily. It's MUCH easier to bolt up the pressure plate with the tranny off.

    The one downside is that it's a little harder to reinstall the tranny, since you have to get the input shaft through the pressure plate without mashing the wedge collar. I'll be putting pictures of the actual separation technique online. It's really not that hard, once you figure out exactly where to put the screwdriver.

  5. Buy/borrow/rent the pilot bearing tool. It's a piece of cake that way. If you happen to be in the St. Louis area, I have this, the flywheel tools, a home-made but effective engine support, a clutch alignment tool, and a slightly-too-short-but-useable puller. If you'd like to use, them, let me know and we can work something out.


Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 12:37:27 -0500
From: "glenn lemmers" (
Subject: (rx7) [3] Clutch Release

I have found (for me at least) that the easiest way to remove the throw-out bearing from the pressure plate is to;

  1. Reach in through the drivers side access panel on the bell-housing, and pull the clutch fork towards the back of the car. This pushes the throwout bearing into the pressure plate. Note: the wedge collar will be between the throw-out bearing and pressure plate. The wedge collar is coated (I believe with zinc) and has is a goldish color.
  2. While continuing to hold the throw-out bearing against the pressure plate, reach through the lower access panel with a long wide flat blade screwdriver (or pry bar), and push it between the throw-out bearing and wedge collar.
  3. Push the wedge collar into the pressure plate by applying pressure with your screwdriver or pry bar. Use the bell-housing as the pivot point.
  4. Now while holding the wedge collar against the pressure plate, throught the drivers side access panel, push the clutch fork towards the front of the car. The throw-out bearing will slide right out of the wedge collar.

I have used this method three times now. There is no need to twist the wedge ring and risk possible damage. Installation is opposite the above steps.

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