Hydraulic clutches for manual transmissions use brake fluid to supply pressure to disengage the clutch from the engine. Pushing in the clutch pedal makes fluid flow from a master cylinder (or fluid reservoir) to the slave cylinder, which moves the pressure plate, allowing the driver to shift gears. Seals and hoses can leak, and if enough fluid doesn’t reach the slave cylinder the clutch pedal may go all the way to the floor or the driver may not be able to shift gears. Air can also get into the hydraulic system, causing the clutch pedal to feel spongy. Some slave cylinders are mounted on the outside of a manual transmission, while others are inside the transmission bell housing.
The slave cylinders in a car are therefore used to finish the amplification of the forces from your foot inputs through to the clutch and brakes respectively. In the case of the clutch, the slave cylinder actuates the clutch fork to disengage the clutch friction plate from the flywheel, with a return spring reversing the process. And the slave cylinder found at each set of brake calipers on a car is used to close the brake pads around the brake disc. To add assistance to the braking system, a brake servo sits in front of the master cylinder and uses the vacuum created within the inlet manifold to further amplify the hydraulic pressure within the braking system.
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