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A fan clutch is a thermostatic device that exists as an integral component of certain automotive cooling systems.
When the engine is cool or even at normal operating temperature, the fan clutch partially disengages the engine’s mechanically driven radiator cooling fan, generally located at the front of the water pump and driven by a belt and pulley connected to the engine’s crankshaft. This saves power, since the engine does not have to fully drive the fan.
However, if engine temperature rises above the clutch’s engagement temperature setting, the fan becomes fully engaged, thus drawing a higher volume of ambient air through the vehicle’s radiator, which in turn serves to maintain or lower the engine coolant temperature to an acceptable level.
Most fan clutches are viscous or “fluid” couplings, combined with a bi-metallic sensory system similar to that in a thermostat. Some clutches are electronically controlled. These provide the potential to control the level of engagement depending on any number of inputs. Common controlling factors might include engine oil temperature, transmission oil temperature, coolant temperature, AC system pressures and ambient air temperature.