How to Make a Motorcycle Cable

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How to Make a Motorcycle Cable

John H Glimmerveen Licensed to About.com

Motorcycle cables have been used since motorcycles were first manufactured. These simple mechanical devices give the rider a means of controlling the throttle, clutch, and brakes (where applicable) from the handlebars or foot pedal. For motorcycles in need of replacement cables, the good news is that most cables are available or can be manufactured to order. However, occasionally, a mechanic or classic owner may need to make a cable from a kit.

Making a motorcycle control cable is relatively easy and requires few tools. A number of companies supply kits or sell separately all of the individual items needed to make a cable.

Tools

The tools needed to make a cable include:

  • Gas fueled heat gun or heavy duty soldering iron
  • Good quality pliers
  • File
  • Solder
  • Soldering flux

Parts

In addition to the tools required, the mechanic will need the various component parts required to make up the cable. These include:

  • Inner cable (typically sized ‘1’ for throttle cables, ‘2’ or ‘3’ for clutch cables and ‘4’ or ‘5’ for heavy duty brakes—rear brake applications on sidecars, for example)
  • Outer cable
  • Cable ends
  • Cable end nipples
  • Adjusters
  • Rubber dust covers

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Example, Making a Throttle Cable

John H Glimmerveen Licensed to About.com

If the old cable is still available, the mechanic can duplicate the inner and outer lengths. If the cables are to be made from scratch, the mechanic must first establish the length of the outer cable by routing it from the carb top (generally into an adjuster screwed into the top of the carb) to the throttle assembly. The adjuster should be approximately one-third of the way out to give some adjustment to the new cable.

Note: Sizing a cable is about establishing the free length. This length is the difference between the shorter outer cable and the longer inner cable. However, this sizing must be done carefully as a cable cut too short cannot be used for obvious reasons. In the case of a throttle cable, for instance, the mechanic should cut the inner cable too long initially and final size it after the carb end nipple has been soldered into place.

Attaching the End

Having established the outer cable length, the mechanic should attach/solder the inner cable’s end (nipple) at the carb end; this is accomplished by first threading the inner cable through the nipple (photo ‘B’) before splaying the cable’s wires (‘C’). The cable should now be dipped in soldering flux (D) before soldering (E).

Once the nipple has been soldered into place, it is good practice to invert the cable and apply gentle heat to the nipple. This will allow any excess solder to flow back from the cable. The nipple/cable assembly should be quenched in cold water after heating.

The final phase is to clamp the nipple and file any access wire and or solder from the end (F).

With the first nipple located, the mechanic must secure the outer cable’s end (‘A’). These ends should be lightly crimped onto the outer cable to locate them.

Setting the Adjusters

Before moving to the final phase of making a cable, it is imperative to position any inline adjusters (especially on twin carb systems) and such items as rubber dust cover as often these cannot be added to the cable after the other nipple has been soldered into place.

Throttle End Nipple Soldering

With the carb end of the cable positioned into the carb’s slide and the adjuster set at one-third out, the mechanic can determine the final length of the inner cable. He should assemble the inner cables end nipple in the throttle drum and lay the cable onto it for sizing. Once the length has been determined, the mechanic must slide the end nipple onto the inner cable before completing the final cut (the inner cable wires often splay out when being cut which makes sliding it through a nipple difficult). Note: The mechanic should allow approximately 1/8” (3 mm) of cable beyond the end nipple for soldering; this extra length will be filed back after soldering.

To complete the cable making process the mechanic should lubricate the cables to ensure free movement.