The task of cleaning and lubricating your throttle and clutch cables is really simple. But quite often, it gets overlooked. If you let it go for too long, you could be creating a dangerous situation where a cable gets stuck or even breaks.
You see, after a while, a bunch of junk will build up inside the cables protective sheathing. This can cause the cable to stick, or it could wear the cable down over time until it breaks. The build up comes from mud, dust, and other dirt or debris. Normal wear and tear also plays a factor here, you’re using the controls a lot while riding. Every throttle movement and every gear shift adds up over time wearing at the cables.
How Often To Clean ATV Throttle And Clutch Cables
How often you should clean your throttle and clutch cables depends a lot on how often you ride and in what conditions. For example: I always ride my motorcycle on dry roads during nice sunny days. Because of that, I only really need to clean my cables every couple years or so. The ATV is a different story. I sometimes clean the throttle and clutch cables twice a year. For the average rider taking their quad out on weekends here and there, you’ll probably be fine doing it once a year at the beginning of the riding season.
You should be able to tell by the feel of the clutch and throttle if they need to be cleaned. You will notice the clutch feeling a little stiffer than usual, and maybe the throttle is a little tougher to work than it used to be. Those are signs that it’s time for a good cleaning. If you let it go for too long like that, the throttle cable could get so gummed that it sticks. That could be a dangerous run-away ATV situation that you’ll want to avoid.
Replace Cables? Or Clean And Lubricate?
The cables themselves should last you a fairly long time if you keep them cleaned and lubricated properly. I have sets of cables that have lasted me almost ten years now.
You do want to inspect them for wear and tear though. If the cable seems to be worn or even fraying a little, it’s time to replace them. If you notice any of the fittings have been damaged or worn too much, you should replace them. It doesn’t matter if you’re replacing or cleaning the cables, you’ll need to remove them either way.
Remove Throttle And Clutch Cables From An ATV
It’s best to start by removing the cables to see if they need to be replaced or simply just cleaned and put back together. You could always check your factory service manual for your ATV to see how the manufacturer recommends doing this. I will explain how to remove the cables here, but not all ATV’s are the same, you might have slightly different steps to take than me.
First you’ll need a couple T-Handles, like this set I use from Amazon. You’ll probably only need the 8mm or 10mm for this job. You’ll also need a Cable Luber Tool like this one by Motion Pro, and of course, some Cable Lube.
Removing The Clutch Cable
To start removing the clutch cable, you’ll want to line the notch in the adjuster wheel up with gap you’ll see where the cable sits. This is found by the clutch lever. You could try loosening the clutch cable enough so that you have slack to get the cable out.
But I prefer to just remove the clutch lever itself, this is where those t-handle wrenches come in handy. Simply pull back the rubber guard to access the clutch lever bolt and remove with a wrench. When the bolt is out, the lever will simply pivot off of the clutch cable.
Now you want to remove the other end of the clutch cable where it connects to the actuating arm. This is usually found down on the engine near where your left foot rest is. This part is usually as easy as removing a couple nuts, giving the cable enough slack to pivot off of the actuating arm. If your cable is in a housing like the one in the picture, that’s ok, you can remove the housing from the actuating arm while it’s still attached to the cable.
That’s it, you can now remove the cable from the ATV. It is not entirely necessary to remove the cable completely from the machine if you are just going to be cleaning and lubricating the cable. You can use the cable luber tool with the clutch cable still wound through the ATV.
Removing The Throttle Cable
The throttle cable is a little more difficult to remove. You start by removing the cover that protects the throttle cables on the throttle body. You may need to remove the seat and gas tank for this step depending on your model ATV.
There are usually a couple of nuts to loosen before you can remove the throttle cable from the throttle body.
Then you can remove the throttle cable from the throttle lever up on the right side of the handle bars. This step is similar to removing the clutch cable from the clutch lever.
There that’s it, now you can remove the cable from the ATV. This is just like the clutch cable though, you don’t need to entirely remove the cable from the machine if you’re just going to clean and lubricate it with the cable luber tool.
Lubricate Throttle And Clutch Cables On An ATV
The method for cleaning the cables themselves will be the same for both the throttle cable and the clutch cable. The cable luber tool makes this job 10 times easier so I highly recommend using the tool if you can. If you don’t have the tool, and don’t want to get one. You could do your best to spray the cable lube in one side of the cables protective housing and hope you see the dirt and junk leaking out the other end.
If you do have the tool. Or want to buy one from Amazon here, Cable Luber Tool. The job becomes a lot easier. You simply insert the top end of the cable into the cable luber tool. Make sure the tool covers part of the protective sheathing and part of the bare cable.
With the cable held vertical so the lube can flow down with the help of gravity, you’re ready to clean and lubricate the cable. You will notice on the tool there is an opening where you can spray the lube into the cable luber tool. This will force the lubricant down through the protective sheathing and clean the cable. I suggest using a rag to hold the tool when you do this because the tool may leak a little.
Give it a few quick burst from the can of lube (you could also use WD-40) until you see the lubricant leaking out the other end of the cable. A long continual burst may send lube spraying about everywhere. Just small quick bursts should do the trick. Move the cable back and forth inside the protective sheathing every here and there to help move the liquid through the cable.
Re-Install The Throttle And Clutch Cables On An ATV
Once the cable has been cleaned and lubricated, you can re-install it back onto the ATV. This may not even need an explanation. You simply put the cable back onto the machine in the reverse order you removed them.
Connect the clutch cable (and housing if there is one) back to the actuating arm and tighten the nuts. Then hook the cable back up to the clutch lever and bolt the lever back onto the handle bars. Now you can tighten the adjuster wheel to where the slack in the cable feels comfortable to use. If the clutch cable is too tight (has no slack) the clutch could slip more often. If it is too loose, it can make it harder to shift.
Re-attach the throttle cable to the throttle lever on the handle bars and re-connect the other end of the cable to the throttle body. Some throttle cables have two threaded ends that connect together to adjust the slack in the cable up by the throttle lever. This is mostly for fine tuned adjustments. The bigger adjustments should be made down at the engine where the cable connects to the throttle body. If you didn’t make any changes to either of these adjusters, you should be fine to re-assemble the way it is.
If you tighten the throttle cable too tight, it could cause your engine to rev when turning the handle bars all the way. Try to get it back to where it was when you removed it. You could always check with your manufacturers service manual for exact specifications. But this is usually pretty easy to figure out when your actually putting the cable back on the ATV.