Why Does My Motorcycle Clutch Cable Keep Breaking?


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Your motorcycle’s clutch assists in smooth shifts and being able to really get up to speed safely. While they mostly do a good job at helping us shift and keeping us safe as riders, they’re still susceptible to faults and mechanical errors.  You may be a victim of this if your clutch cable keeps breaking.

 Why does my motorcycle clutch cable keep breaking? Your motorcycle clutch cable likely keeps breaking because it is too short, it is rubbing up against another part on your motorcycle, was improperly routed during installation, or is rusting. A new clutch cable may be necessary to ensure a proper route of the cable and safe ride for your as a rider.

While these are some of the more common reasons why a clutch cable could break, there are a few other reasons why it could break. We will touch on those and other important tips about a broken motorcycle clutch cable. 

Why Your Motorcycle Clutch Cable Keeps Breaking

Motorcycles are one of few motor vehicles that have a lot of their mechanical functioning parts open to the elements. Being exposed to direct sunlight, water, and dirt opens up a world of possibilities for mechanical failures. 

One of the most common reasons why your clutch cable can break is lack of maintenance. These cables are made of metal, and over time they can break down due to the elements it is exposed to. Lubrication is needed to ensure a clutch cable lasts as long as it was designed to. 

Another reason why your clutch cable could be breaking is that it is too short. Sometimes a parts manufacturer sends the wrong part and unknowingly we put these on our bikes and it doesn’t last more than a few thousand miles. It could also be that we have adjusted it too tightly causing a constant strain on the clutch cable.

Your clutch cable could be rubbing on another part of your motorcycle as well. This causes friction and depending on where it’s rubbing, to be exposed to high heat temperatures. Constant rubbing will cause the clutch cable to fray and eventually break. 

The clutch cable may also not be routed properly since the last time it was replaced. A lot of motorcycle enthusiasts will work on their own motorcycles when needed. Sometimes that results in forgetting how the cable was routed through the motorcycle and can cause the rubbing as mentioned above. 

If you have checked all of those things and it is not rubbing, it’s not old and weathered, and it is routed correctly, it may be time for a new clutch. Your clutch is made up of a few different parts. The pressure plate is what is controlled by your clutch cable. If your pressure plate is going bad it can cause too much resistance in the cable and cause it to stretch and break quickly. It’s not always a bad idea to get a 2nd opinion from a certified motorcycle technician if you are experiencing this. 

Luckily, a clutch cable replacement isn’t too difficult for a motorcycle rider to perform themselves. Alongside that, they’re not that expensive either.  $20-$30 and an afternoon in your garage is all you need.

How To Fix A Broken Motorcycle Clutch Cable

There are a few different ways to fix a broken clutch cable. The first and most effective way is to replace the entire cable. This ensures that the parts you have are new and won’t need to be serviced for a while. 

Do not remove your current clutch cable until you are ready to replace it. Take notes and lots of pictures and videos of the route of the current clutch cable before removing and replacing it. . Always check your clutch cable replacement route in your owner’s manual to ensure it wasn’t installed incorrectly previously. 

Next, disconnect your clutch cable from the clutch lever. At this point, if it is hard to see where your clutch cable is routed, you can use tape to wrap your new cable to your old one. This will let you pull your old cable out and your new cable will follow it and be routed just like your old cable. 

Once you have pulled your new cable through, disconnect your old cable from the bracket down by the transmission. Take off the tape and connect your new cable to the bracket down by the transmission. Then connect it to the clutch lever. Ensure everything is tight.

The alternative is repairing a broken clutch cable. There are kits that you can buy that allow you to use your broken clutch cable and add cable to it for a temporary fix. These kits will come with instructions on how to repair your clutch cable. If you are going on a long trip on your motorcycle, it is a good idea to bring one of these kits so you don’t get stranded without a properly operating clutch. 

While this may be a cheaper option, it is a temporary solution. Your clutch cable broke because it was compromised for some reason. If you do not replace the clutch cable soon after repairing it, you will be left with a broken clutch cable soon after. Replacing the entire clutch cable is inexpensive and not difficult to perform as we have previously laid out.

Once you have replaced or repaired your motorcycle clutch cable, pull the clutch lever to verify the correct operation. Sometimes you may need to adjust your clutch cable so it can operate correctly. This procedure can be found in your owner’s manual. If it is not, consult some online videos or a motorcycle technician to ensure it is done properly specific to your motorcycle.

How To Maintain A Motorcycle Clutch Cable

The best way to maintain your clutch cable is to inspect it often. You will want to lubricate it at the same time you perform your routine oil changes. 

A clutch cable should last tens of thousands of miles when it is cared for properly. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you notice your cable is stretched and in need of an adjustment.  Just know your clutch cable’s life is going to be coming to an end soon. 

If you are occasionally (or even regularly) riding in the rain or snow, pay special attention to your clutch cable and its condition.  Since they’re made of metal, they’re susceptible to rust when constantly exposed to the elements.  This is also applicable if you park or store your motorcycle outside. Extra lubrication can help with this.  If you notice any rust at all, you’ll need to replace it.  

Each motorcycle will have a similar way of lubricating the clutch cable. It is best to follow your owner’s manual and use the lubricant they recommend when doing this service. This will ensure that the cable will last as long as possible. 

Sometimes the cable may break even if we service it when we are supposed to. It is possible to keep riding if it breaks during a ride, but it will be difficult to shift and will need to be addressed as soon as you get home.

How To Ride A Motorcycle When The Clutch Cable Breaks

A failure that you want to avoid is breaking your clutch cable. Your clutch is responsible for disconnecting the engine from the transmission during shifts and when coming to a stop. When your clutch cable breaks, you will lose control of being able to drive your motorcycle as you normally would. 

It is not recommended that you ride your motorcycle like this for long. If you do, it can cause premature clutch failure and transmission damage. This method should only be used in an emergency. Make sure you keep your motorcycle current with its clutch cable maintenance to ensure a long clutch cable life. 

While it will take some experience to learn how to drive your motorcycle without the clutch cable, it is fairly simple to do. First, if you are starting from a stop, ensure your bike is in neutral. Then you will want to push your motorcycle until you are rolling. While you are rolling, make sure you keep your engine RPMs low to ensure you can change gears safely. Then you can slam it into first gear. When you change to your next gear make sure you let off the throttle when you shift up.

When slowing down you will need to downshift. When downshifting, slow down to the speed to which that next gear down is appropriate. For example, when downshifting from 3rd to 2nd gear, make sure you’re below 20 MPH.  Do not rev-match and downshift if you are not slowing down. You may lose control of your bike.

Remember, if you recently purchased a used motorcycle, inspect it for any potentially failing parts. Just because it runs and drives well today doesn’t guarantee it will tomorrow. Even if your bike is new, inspecting your clutch cable before a long ride; this can save you a lot of headaches. Keeping a clutch repair kit with you will also help in an emergency. Ride safe, have fun, and keep cruising! 

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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