Surprisingly, the stock LUK clutch that Jeep Wranglers are equipped with usually last a pretty long time and are even known to survive an off-road smoking or two. Nonetheless, the time will come where the friction material is just too glazed or worn out to effectively transmit power. When this happens, you'll be stuck with the decision of going with an OEM replacement or an aftermarket upgrade. What exactly does the aftermarket have to offer, and is it any better? Let's find out.
'Stage' clutch kits: Aftermarket clutch manufacturers often designate their clutch kits as a stage 1, stage 2, or stage 3 upgrade. All of these designations are relative to the holding capacity and thermal capacity of the stock clutch.
A stage 1 clutch system will be similar to an OEM clutch but with a little more holding capacity. Engagement, friction material (typically organic or a hybrid), clutch life, and overall feel will remain the same however it will be able to hold more torque.
A stage 2 clutch kit will build on the prowess of a stage 1, being more aggressive and with even more holding capacity. The clutch disk may be fully lined (entire surface is covered with friction material) or feature many smaller puck areas. Friction material is often still resin-based but may be blended with additional metallics in order to produce more bite. Spring pressure will increase as well to give a stage 2 more holding capacity. The result of all of this is a clutch kit that holds a significant amount of torque over stock but for the most part is still very streetable. Clutch life, on the other hand, will be slightly diminished.
Stage 3 clutches are reserved for high horsepower, high grip applications. These clutches use almost exclusively a blend of metal, ceramic and/or kevlar as their friction material, which provides an extremely strong grip. The downside is that streetability suffers, as these clutches tend to have an 'on-or-off' feeling associated with them. In terms of a Wrangler, this type of clutch functionality is not desirable for any street or trail going Jeep.