Used for gearbox [Sep 04,2014]
A sprag clutch is used in some automatic transmissions as a method of allowing the transmission to smoothly change gears under load. Various models of General Motors' turbo-hydramatic gearbox have used this system.
A sprag clutch is used in most older automatic transmissions and some newer ones for shifts which require the synchronized engagement of one clutch with the disengagement of another. Using an overrunning clutch instead of a hydraulically actuated one makes this synchronization automatic. The sprag clutch simply "lets go" once the reaction force it provides is no longer needed.
In a Simpson gearset, common to many automatics, this happens on the 1-2 shift, and reverses on the 2-1 downshift. The 2-3 shift is done by engaging a single clutch, and nothing is released. Some newer electronically controlled transmissions make "clutch to clutch" shifts, without any sprags.
This can also be used exclusively in first gear (transmission shift lever in D, but auto valve body or management selecting 1st) on some autos. That way it will automatically provide forward drive, but will not provide any engine braking. This is done not so much to avoid engine braking per se, but rather to allow a low throttle opening 2-1 downshift as a car decelerates, to avoid a loud (and potentially abrupt) and unnerving jolt as a result of the downshift. On transmissions so equipped, manual selection of 1st gear typically engages an additional band that grips the same section as the one way clutch would engage, and thus allows for engine braking.