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10 steps to clutch cable inspection and maintenance

The phrase "Don't bite the hand that feeds you" may not have been written with your motorcycle's clutch lever in mind, but certainly, truer words have never been spoken. Relying on this simple mechanism to bring you up to speed, help control your deceleration and "feed" you the appropriate power off road, every time one hops on the bike, that poor lever is squeezed and abused in a way that doesn't give most riders even a second thought. That is….until you're left stranded in a Walmart parking lot or "chunking" along until you lurch and grind to a stalled-out stop.

Of course, it doesn't have to be like this. Clutch lever and cable maintenance is a rather simple task and one that should be performed as necessary with periodic condition inspections. To illustrate just how easy it can be, I headed over to Truitt Motorcycle Education to work with friend and motorcycle expert Jesse Murphy. It is with his guidance that we put together the following:

1. Inspect the cable for water leakage, cable fraying and cuts in the cable's rubber housing.

Starting at the bottom of the clutch cable (closest to the engine), inspect the connection for any signs of water penetration/leakage. Moving upward (toward the clutch lever) along the cable's plastic housing, inspect thoroughly for any nicks/cuts that may allow debris or water to come in contact with the cable. If there are large cuts or signs of rust, it is probably time to replace the cable and patch the housing. Arriving at the clutch lever, squeeze and visually investigate for any fraying or damage.

2. Remove the clutch lever pivot bolt.

This will be the most obvious bolt that runs through your clutch lever. In some cases (as pictured) it may run through your hand guard as well.

3. Increase the clutch cable slack using the screw adjuster.

With the pivot bolt removed, locate the screw adjuster that controls the clutch cable slack. Often times, this is located under a protective rubber sleeve that can be easily pulled back to reveal the slack control. It's revealed in the lower left of the photo.

4. Remove the clutch lever and cable.

Now that the clutch lever and cable are free, gently remove them. This is an excellent time to thoroughly inspect the cable's head (usually a barrel type ferrule) for any excessive wear or fraying. Also note the condition of the clutch lever itself. Is it bent a little too much? Dual sport riders know that the occasional drop can really wreak havoc.

5. Lube the cable.

Before starting this step, a word of note. Many clutch cables now come with a plastic lining (nylon or Teflon) that traditional lubricants may damage. If you have a plastic lined cable, #1 you may not need lubrication and #2 if you do, be sure to choose one that is ok for plastic (a Teflon lubricant is a safe choice). With that said, if you do require lubrication, attach your cable lubing device and gently add lubricant until it drips out at the cable's bottom.

6. Lube the clutch Lever.

Where the barrel of the clutch cable inserts into the clutch lever is an often overlooked area that requires periodic lubrication. Take a small dab of grease and place it in the socket.

7. Re-insert the clutch cable into the clutch lever.

With the clutch lever lubed, insert the clutch cable.

8. Put the clutch lever pack into place and install the clutch lever pin.

Reversing the process found in step #2, re-install the clutch lever pin and if necessary, your hand guard.

9. Tighten the clutch lever lock nut.

Gently tighten the lever nut so that the lever/cable assembly stays in place.

10. Check your owner's manual for specific tensions and free play adjustment.

Now that the clutch lever is back in place, refer to your owner's manual for the specifics in adjusting your clutch control free play. Free play relies on a combination of personal comfort and your machine's requirements. Too little free play and you risk excessive heat and clutch slipping, and too much will not allow the clutch to disengage when shifting.

With the above skills now thoroughly in hand, you've got one more way to keep your bike in excellent operating condition. Consider adding a spare clutch cable to your touring tool kit knowing that with the basic skills an emergency install will be a breeze.

Derek Roberts/November 17

Thanks to Jesse Murphy of Truitt Motorcycle Education for assisting in this article.


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