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1953 Willys CJ3B Jeep Clutch Replacement

1953 Willys CJ3B Jeep Clutch Replacement
Making replacements to any sort of vehicle requires special care, so it should go without saying that vehicles that are north of six decades old require extra-special care when you’re putting them back together. This certainly doesn’t mean classic vehicles are beyond repair; that’s just not the case. However, as you’ll learn below, even making a mistake as simple as applying too much pressure when installing a pilot bearing can cause major problems with your clutch.

To help you navigate the subject of clutch replacement, we’ve put together a guide to helpful tips. Specifically, we’ll be diving into 1953 Willys CJ3B Jeep clutch replacement advice. Small mistakes can cause big problems, but if you have the right knowledge of the subject beforehand, you can avoid making those small mistakes in the first place.

Getting the Right Gear

Before you begin your clutch replacement, it’s vital for you to gather the right gear together. This first section will introduce you to two of the most important pieces of equipment you can have with you for this project—a clutch aligning tool and a dial indicator.

Clutch Aligning Tool

Right off the bat, we’ll cover a topic that isn’t a specific part of your Jeep, but it will allow you to properly handle clutch components—clutch aligning tools. When installing the clutch on your Jeep, or any vehicle for that matter, always use a clutch aligning tool. The reason you need a specialized tool like this is because it is vital for your transmission and pilot bearing to properly line up. Without proper alignment, the transmission won’t be able to remain in gear when running.

Dial Indicator

A dial indicator allows you to measure the distance between two surfaces as well as small component travel ranges. In other words, a dial indicator will help you understand the clearance/runoff between two components of your engine/clutch. As you’ll learn throughout this guide, getting measurements like clearance correct is crucial to bringing your CJ3B back to life.

When working with car parts, especially when it comes to the engine, you’re going to be making precise measurements that are smaller than an inch—you’ll be looking at thousandths of an inch. While some folks might be good at eyeing the distance between two objects, these measurements call for the help of special precision tools like dial indicators.

Replacing the Clutch

In this section, we'll be addressing specific parts of the Jeep, such as your pilot bearing, bellhousing, flywheel, pressure plate, and clutch disk. You need to install these parts with the right care and knowledge in order for them to function correctly when the project is complete.

Pilot Bearing

This is one small piece of your CJ, but it plays a key role in allowing proper clutch usage. Pilot bearings (or “bushings”) require only light pressure when installed in the crankshaft bore. If you apply too much pressure when installing pilot bushings, you run the risk of damaging them. If you leave damaged pilot bushings inside a vehicle, when you power it up, the clutch wheel isn’t going to be able to properly disconnect from the flywheel when the driver attempts to control the clutch. After you install the pilot bearing, there should between .002-.003-inch’s worth of clearance on the CJ’s transmission shaft.


You need to make sure the bellhousing is properly aligned when the crank replacement is all said and done. In fact, technically, you should make sure it’s aligned before it’s all said and done.

As we mentioned above, proper alignments and measurements play a key role in clutch replacements. If you don’t take special care during bellhousing alignment, you can wind up damaging the transmission. It should go without saying that during and after your clutch replacement, you need to take special care with the transmission.

Before attaching the bellhousing to the Jeep’s engine, make sure that both the engine and the bellhousing are free of any dirt, dust, or debris. After ensuring that both areas are clean, you’re going to begin attaching the bellhousing to the engine. Next, you’re going to attach the dial indicator to the Jeep’s crankshaft. You can attach the indicator with the help of a magnetic base or by simply using suitable clamps. Before moving on to the next step, make sure that both the indicator and the bellhousing remain securely attached to both surfaces.

Something else you’ll need to do before going any further is to remove the spark plugs from the engine. Once the spark plugs are out of the way, begin rotating the engine. If it would be more convenient, don’t be afraid to ask someone else for help in rotating the engine. While monitoring the dial indicator in relation to the engine rotation, the readings shouldn’t tell you that runoff exceeds .07" or .10". If your readings do display these numbers or greater, use offset dowel pins to correct the issue. Once you make any necessary changes, use the indicator to double-check the runoff readings.

Keeping the Flywheel, Pressure Plate, and Clutch Disk Clean

It’s no secret that grease is frequently used in the automotive industry, but that doesn’t mean it’s always beneficial. So when you’re handling the flywheel, pressure plate friction surfaces, and clutch disk, make sure not to dirty them up with grease, oil, or any other type of gunk.

These substances shouldn’t be on your hands before installing the flywheel, pressure plate, or clutch disk, and they shouldn’t be on those components when you’re done—it’s as easy as that. If you don’t take the time to keep these components free of substances like oil and grease, then the clutch will begin grabbing or chattering when you try to engage it.

As you can see from the tips above, having exactly the right parts and tools are essential if you want to properly repair your CJ. These tips for completing a 1953 Willys CJ3B Jeep clutch replacement will help you revitalize this classic vehicle the right way. If you find you’re missing one of these components or one of them breaks during installation, don’t worry—classic Willys Jeep parts aren’t as hard to come by as you might think.

1953 Willys CJ3B Jeep Clutch Replacement