Is there a healthy future for dual mass flywheels and conversion kits? Daniel Moore investigates.
Dual mass flywheels (DMFs) absorb excess torque and dampening vibrations to allow smoother engine running at lower rpms. This process is carried out by storing rotational energy and releasing it over short periods of time, which, in turn, provides a silkier ride for the motorist while conforming to VMs’ objective to lower fuel consumption and emissions.
However, some problems can occur if DMFs wear, usually manifesting in a noisy and unpleasant journey for drivers, along with potential damage to the gearbox and crankshaft before the DMF fails alltogether. Nick Symons, Clutch Product Manager at ZF Services UK, notes. “Driving in high gear at low rpm or running the engine while stationary for long periods (to maintain air conditioning while parked for example) can cause premature wear to the dampening mechanism of the flywheel due to low-speed oscillation”. Frank Massey, Owner of ADS Automotive expands on Symons’ statement. “Most DMF clutches are wet clutches that require services and oil changes. Incorrect servicing and oil being used, or the wrong tools used for transmission work can be contributing factors to DMF failure”, he said.
Miten Parikh, Product Manager at Comline, explains that a trend towards VM’s fitting DMF’s on newer vehicles could result in increased labour time and a cost for the garage, especially if a replacement clutch is needed. He elaborates. “Vehicle manufacturer production lines are increasingly utilising the more complex DMF clutch options with around 50 percent of all new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles are equipped with a dual mass flywheel. From the garage perspective, this means more DMF clutch issues arriving in the workshop requiring increasingly complex and time-consuming repairs”.
During a time where most consumers are driven on price, there’s also been an uptake in solid mass flywheel (SMF) conversion kits entering the market, often used as a budget alternative and time-saving option to replace worn DMF’s and their associated components. Some may recall the four-piece clutch kit developed by clutch maker Valeo, introduced in 2005 that was produced as an alternative to cut out expenses and fitment times for workshops.
However, technicians are still faced with a dilemma whether to replace a similar DMF originally manufactured for the vehicle or order in a conversion kit to complete the installation procedure. According to Malcolm Short, Technical Services Manager for Schaeffer Automotive Aftermarket UK, there can be risks involved with installing conversion kits that don’t match the same criteria as the DMF taken off the vehicle. “Fitting conversion kits, essentially a solid flywheel conversion, doesn’t have the same conversion or capabilities that a DMF does. You can run the risk of damage to the gearbox and crankshafts”.
Malcolm White, Product Director at FirstLine, which owns the Borg and Beck brand, believes there is space in the market for conversion kits and DMFs to co-exist with one another. Speaking about his firm’s range of conversion kits he says, “This has been made possible by the development of the long travel damper, which uses advanced vibration clutch damper technology to create a damper capable of 40 degrees of torsional movement and is therefore comparable with the movement that was typical from the equivalent DMF at the time of the vehicle’s original manufacture”.
Aisin Europe’s Pierre Grégoire said the firm has developed a twin disc technology specifically for its SMF conversion kits. He elaborates. “Aisin Europe has developed a conversion kit to a single mass flywheel (SMF). What sets our conversion kit apart from our competitors is the utilisation of our unique twin- disc technology, a quality alternative for the price conscious customers who do not want to compromise on reliability, driving comfort and fuel efficiency”.
So the question on a stock vendor’s mind is ‘will there be market growth for DMF’s and conversion kits in the near future?’ As anticipated, there have been mixed responses from clutch makers and suppliers primarily down to electric cars that won’t require conventional transmission.
That said, LuK’s Malcolm Short notes: “There will definitely be market growth for DMF’s especially with the P2 Hybrid Electric Motor that is going into production this year which features a DMF on it”. First Line’s Malcom White takes a different view, saying that there will be a decline in the DMF and clutch market with the uptake of plug- in hybrids that incorporate an automatic or CVT transmission. “The growth of the latest petrol/ plug-in hybrids will represent a reduction for Dual Mass Flywheel and in fact clutch” said White. “VW being the exception as they continue to offer the DSG alternative on vehicles like Golf where customers are still looking for the manual experience”.
Peter Horton, Marketing Executive at Motaquip concurs. “Electrical vehicles don’t use conventional drivetrains, however are intelligence suggests we’re still over two decades away from electric vehicles making a Aisin Europe clutch disc significant impact on the clutch aftermarket”.
There are other opportunities as well. “Double clutch is now fitted to VW, Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Fiat”, LuK’s Malcolm Short tells us. “We’re doing double clutch training every week now to emphasise to garages that this is something they should be getting involved with”. FLG’s Malcolm White takes the same stance as Short, noting that DCT is the next largest development project underpinned by VMs worldwide. “The growth of Double (Dual) Clutch Transmission is predicted to be more than 11 percent per until 2020”, he said. “These clutch solutions offer increased fuel efficiencies as well as an improved driving experience for motorists”.
Whatever the future brings, you can be sure that the long running debate over DMFs and solid f lywheel conversions has a little while to go yet, as the number of vehicles fitted with these transmissions runs in the tens of millions.
CENTRIFUGAL PENDULUM ABSORBERS
Some may remember the introduction of centrifugal pendulum absorbers on the BMW 320 in 2010. Although still classed as a newer technology, LuK’s Malcolm Short told CAT that the firm has developed this technology further by incorporating it into its dual mass flywheels to dampen judder and improve the overall driving experience. He added. “We now have a pendulum absorber contained in our DMFs. This started out on BMW where we developed it for them but now it is being fitted to high end passenger cars like Audi and Mercedes which will get spread across the board as it becomes more popular”. When first introduced, LuK produced a one-off solid conversion for the BMW and fitted it to a car. Visitors to the clutch fim’s factory in Baden-Baden would then be invited to go for a spin in the converted car and in a regular one in order to feel the difference for themselves.