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Your Clutch cable worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Mechanical connection with the gearbox: the clutch cable
The clutch cable is a component of the power line between clutch pedal and gearbox, transferring leverage of the pedal to the master cylinder. The clutch cable is a simple technical component and can usually be replaced without any problem.
Construction and location
The clutch cable is a Bowden cable running through a sleeve. On both ends the clutch cable has special brackets which differ from car to car. The Bowden cable is lubricated in its tube by a dry lubricant, mostly talcum powder or aluminium oxide. Although the Bowden cable is open on both ends, the wire is adequately protected against moisture by the lubricant. The clutch cable connects the release bearing directly with the clutch pedal. Alternatively, it makes a connection between pedal and master cylinder. Nowadays it is gradually being replaced by fully hydraulic systems.
Clutch cable defects?
Two conditions make a clutch ripe for replacement:
A gradually stretching cable eventually becomes too long to adequately fulfil its task. Most clutch cables can be adjusted to compensate for the stretching. Nevertheless, a stretched cable gets thinner and a cable rupture is unavoidable sooner or later. In most cases a clutch cable snaps without warning, pulling the clutch pedal out of reach into the far end of the foot-well. The clutch is no longer functioning and the car must be towed away. The cause of stretching or snapping clutch cables is usually moisture. When the lubricant becomes musty, the cable wire is no longer protected against corrosion. The rust causes the cable to swell up, generating friction in the sleeve. The friction between sleeve and wire stretches the cable. Sooner or later the wire is fully corroded and the damage continues to spread.
Symptoms of a defective clutch cable
A defective clutch can be noticed by the clutch pedal giving off a grinding noise when stepping on it. The use of the pedal becomes heavier. This is a certain sign that the cable is rubbing against the sleeve. As emergency repair, lubricating with WD-40 or some other penetrating oil is an option and this is best done by two people: one to continuously step on the clutch pedal while the other person sprays the exposed cable liberally with penetrating oil. This is repeated until the resistance and the gnashing noise are gone. However, this is not a lasting solution. The replacement of the clutch cable is unavoidable.
A clutch cable cannot be repaired, only replaced. Repair attempts would not make sense with prices for a new spare part starting at 15 EUR (± £13). Very few or no tools at all are necessary for a clutch cable replacement. Nevertheless, it requires safe working underneath the car. Ideally, ramps are used for this. These offer a secure hold and sufficient room to enable replacement of the clutch cable underneath the car. Ramps are available in the accessory trade at ca. 25 EUR (±£22) apiece. After replacement of the clutch cable, the clutch must be adjusted. This is different from car to car, and therefore a type-specific maintenance manual is indispensable for this repair.