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If your car has a cable-operated clutch and you find that the gears are difficult to engage, the pedal action is stiff, or there is any sign that the clutch pedal is reluctant to come back up again, then the chances are that the clutch cable is damaged.
The most likely cause is that the inner cable has frayed and the ends are snagging on the outer cable. Other possible causes are that the cable needs lubricating or that it has fallen close to the exhaust pipe and been damaged by the heat.
Another possible problem with a cable-operated clutch is that the pedal flops uselessly to the floor. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that the cable has simply broken, though you should have had warning of this by the clutch becoming increasingly stiff to operate. The only remedy is to fit a new cable.
The second possible cause is that the metal of the bulkhead has collapsed or rusted where the cable passes through. The outer cable sheath can then pop into the car and the whole cable moves uselessly backwards and forwards without operating the clutch.
Find the problem
If the clutch feels stiff, you should first inspect the entire clutch cable. Start where it is connected to the clutch pedal under the dash, and follow it until it disappears into the bulkhead. Look for signs of the inner cable fraying. The fractured strands may lie very close to the inner cable and be difficult to distinguish, so look very carefully. Do not ignore even the slightest damage.
If there are no signs of damage at the pedal end, find where the cable emerges from the engine bulkhead and follow it down to the clutch housing. Look for areas that are broken or for kinks that might restrict the inner cable.
If the cable runs close to the exhaust pipe, check that it hasn't slipped out of place and got too close to the pipe. The heat may have melted the outer cable's plastic covering and, if fitted, the nylon covering on the inner cable.
Finally, check where the cable attaches to the clutch housing, again looking for signs of fraying of the inner cable.
Check the pedal
If the cable appears to be intact, check that the clutch pedal itself is not causing the problem. The pedal pivots on a shaft and occasionally the nylon or metal bush in the pivot seizes up.
Use a torch to examine the pivot shaft, while you move the clutch pedal with your other hand. The pedal should move but the pivot shaft should not.
If the pedal is stuck, give it a good squirt of penetrating oil and leave it to soak in. Check the pedal now moves freely. If there is still no improvement, you will have to remove the clutch cable and try lubricating it.
Lubricating the clutch cable
If the cable is undamaged, it may simply require lubricating. You can sometimes oil the cable while it is in the car, but to do a really good job you need to remove the cable first.
What you lubricate the cable with depends on what type of inner cable is fitted. If the inner cable is made of plain metal strands, use a light machine oil. Hang the cable up, and make a funnel around the top end using modelling clay . Fill the funnel with oil and allow it to soak down the cable overnight. If the cable is still stiff after oiling, you will have to buy a new one.
Where the inner cable has a nylon covering, you must use a silicone lubricant— never use ordinary oil as it will attack the nylon covering and make the cable stick. These lubricants come in aerosol cans. Use the extension nozzle supplied to squirt oil down inside the outer cable.
If possible, lubricate the cable regularly once it's back on the car. Metal inner cables need doing about once a month or so to keep everything operating smoothly. You will need a pump-type oil can to get oil on to the pedal end. Nylon-covered cables need attention only about once a year because they are self-lubricating.
Jack up the car and support it on axle stands. Chock the wheels left on the ground. Find where the clutch cable fits to the clutch operating lever at the bell housing. The connection may have a rubber dust cover, so pull this back along the cable.
The most common design of connection has the end of the inner cable threaded, with an adjuster nut and locknut mounted on it. The inner cable passes through the clutch lever and the nuts fit on the end of the cable to secure it.
Hold the adjuster nut with one spanner and undo the locknut with another. Remove both nuts completely from the end of the cable and put them somewhere safe as the new cable may not come with any. If the inner cable tries to move round as you remove the adjuster nut, hold the metal end of the cable with pliers until the adjuster undoes.
The other connection, used extensively on Fords, has a nipple on the end of the cable that fits into a slot on the end of the clutch lever. You may be able to disconnect this by pushing the clutch operating lever away from the nipple with your fingers, then pulling the nipple out of the lever with pliers.
But if the cable is too tight, you must slacken the cable tension. Look back along the cable and find the cable adjuster. It may be at the point where the outer cable passes through the gearbox bell housing, or where it passes through the bulkhead (see Mechanics 35 and 36).
Once the cable is loosened enough, pull the cable nipple out of the clutch lever. Remove the rubber boot (if fitted) and check it for holes. Replace it if necessary.
Disconnect cable from clutch lever
If a rubber dust cover is fitted over the cable-to-lever connection, ease it away — it will stay hanging on the cable.
If your cable has a threaded end with adjuster and locknut on the end, remove them and pull the cable free.
Where there is only a nipple connection, push the clutch lever as far forward as it will go and pull the cable sideways with pliers until the nipple fits through the hole in the lever.
Free from pedal
There may be some trim in the way, so have a look under the dashboard
to see if there are any trim panels covering the top of the pedals. You may have to undo a couple of self-tapping screws to release the trim, or it may be clipped under metal tags that you bend down.
With your access clear, find where the cable fits to the top of the pedal. If it is obscured, press down on the pedal so that the top comes into view. The cable will be held in one of several ways. The simplest has a nipple or hook on the end that fits into a slot in the cable. You simply use pliers to pull the cable out of the slot.
On other cars the cable has an eyelet on it that fits on to a pin on the pedal or alternatively that is held to the pedal by a clevis-type pin. On Fords the pin just sits in a recess in the top of the pedal so that it is retained by the tension of the cable. The pin is simply lifted out.
Other designs use a spring clip or circlip that fits to a recess in the end of the pin. Lever it free with a screwdriver.
The other common arrangement has a clevis or fork attached to the end of the cable and secured to the clutch pedal by a clevis pin. The pin may be a tight fit into the connection, in which case push it out with a screwdriver. Alternatively it may be held in place by a split pin - remove the split pin and push out the clevis Pin.
Release cable from pedal and bulkhead
With the inner cable now free at both ends, the outer one has to be disconnected. Find where the cable fits through a hole in the clutch housing. Pull the cable from the hole (it is just a push-fit).
Now look at the cable run and find where it runs through any guide brackets or clips. Make a note of where they are for refitting, then disconnect the cable from them.
The cable will now be held in place only at the bulkhead. In many cases the connection is simply a shaped rubber pad on the end of the cable that fits into a hole in the bulkhead. The whole assembly simply pulls free. The other common fixing has a metal plate on the cable that is secured to the bulkhead by two screws or bolts. Undo these and pull the cable out.
Some manufacturers fit slightly more complicated fixings. Sometimes the outer cable has a tapered
end that slots into a shaped plastic grommet in the bulkhead. To release this, you pull the cable out of the grommet as far as it will go, then collapse the grommet and remove it from the hole. The cable will then pull out.
Yet another design has two lugs on the cable end that hold it in place. The hole in the bulkhead is more like a slot. To remove it, turn the cable through 90 degrees so that the lugs are in the wider part of the slot, then pull it free.
If the bulkhead is showing signs of corrosion or metal fatigue, or if the cable has already pulled through, you need to reinforce the area with a metal plate. You may be able to get a ready-made plate for the job because on some cars the problem is common - ask your manufacturer.
Even if a plate isn't available, the chances are that your dealer will have instructions and dimensions for making one up. You can then either make it up yourself out of a suitable piece of scrap steel; or have a garage do the job.
Offer the plate up to the engine side of the bulkhead. Drill holes and secure it with self-tapping screws or bolts.
Fitting new cable
Before you fit the cable, lubricate it thoroughly using the correct type of lubricant (see sideline previous sheet). Grease the working area of the clutch lever with high-meltingpoint grease to ensure smooth operation.
Reconnect the cable, starting at the bulkhead. When you route the cable, make sure it fits through all the guide brackets and clips and is well away from the exhaust pipe. Fit the outer cable through its hole in the clutch housing, then reconnect the inner cable at the pedal and at the clutch lever. Don't forget to refit the protective rubber grommet, if necessary.
Adjust the cable correctly (see Mechanics 35 and 36) then check that the pedal moves smoothly and easily and that the gears engage without crunching. After about 500 miles (800km), recheck the adjustment in case the cable has stretched, and readjust if necesssary.