Wet clutches are used in automatic transmissions to enable gear changes and also to reduce energy loss in the torque converter. These friction devices are susceptible to stick–slip effects, which result in the vehicle giving an unsteady ride. Stick–slip effects can be avoided by ensuring the wet clutch and lubricant combination produces a friction coefficient that increases with sliding speed. Although wet clutches have been studied throughout the industry for many decades, the mechanism of the generated friction is still not fully understood. It is known that, because of the fibrous nature and thus very large roughness of friction material, the overall contact between clutch plates actually consists of many small, independent, contact units, which are the sites of the generated friction. Some authors have suggested that a temperature rise due to friction either at these contact units or of the overall clutch plate may be important in controlling friction behaviour. In this study, the flash temperatures at the contact units formed in the wet clutch contact have been measured using an infrared camera. Three friction materials have been tested. It was found that measured flash temperature in a pure sliding system similar to that present in a slipping clutch remain well below 5 °C, and are therefore unlikely to play a major role in the observed friction-speed dependency of slipping wet clutches at speeds below 2 m/s.
Keywords: Clutches, Automatic transmission fluids, Boundary lubrication thermal effects