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Clutch cable replacement

Clutch Cable Replacement                                                                                            
by: Bob Ellis


 Let’s just make a scenario and say that you’re driving and you feel your clutch pedal go all the way to the floor. You now realize that you cannot release the clutch. Maybe you were lucky, and it broke only a couple of blocks from home. Most of the time, it only happens when you’re trying to race that Honda at the light. Either way, you are challenged with the task of installing a new clutch cable. This is a very easy job and can be done in about two hours.

You will need:

  1. Start by jacking up the rear of the car and supporting it on jack-stands.
  2. Slide underneath with the pry bar, and Vise Grips. Clamp the Vise Grips around the unthreaded portion of the clutch cable end and let them hang there.
  3. Use the pry bar to undo the tension of the throw-out arm from the cable.
  4. Now turn the winged adjustment nut all the way off.  On pre-1961 cars there are 2 nuts, one 14mm and one 11mm.  You may want to spray the threads with a little penetrating oil to loosen up the crud that has accumulated on the threads over the years.
  5. After you have removed the nut(s), go inside the car and take the 17mm socket and remove the bolts that hold down the pedal assembly.
  6. Pull the pedal assembly out to remove the clutch cable out of the hooked part of the operating shaft. While you’re down there, stick your finger inside the brake master cylinder. If your finger comes out wet and rusty, the Brake master cylinder is leaking, and will need to be replaced soon.
  7. Now pull the cable out of the tube. If the cable has broken into two pieces, you’ll have to pull the other end out from underneath the car.  If your car has been converted from an auto-stick to a manual transmission, you won’t have the clutch cable guide tube, so you will need to attach a wire to the transmission end to assist in getting the cable in the right place.
  8. Now get the new cable out and somehow compare lengths to make sure you purchased the right length. Not all VW clutch cables are the same length, and should be ordered for the year of the car.
  9. Smear some grease on the whole length of the new cable.
  10. Insert the cable from inside the car. Push the cable all the way through and hook the clutch end to the pedal assembly.  I use electricians tape to temporally keep the cable on the hook while inserting into the tunnel. This is also a great time to rebuild/refinish your pedal cluster. If it feels loose, the bushings probably have worn out. We carry the repair kits and pedal pads to make it new again. A nice sandblast, rebuild, and repaint will make it feel and look like a million bucks.
  11. Bolt the pedal assembly back down and go back underneath the car.  Check that the “Bowden” tube has the correct 1” of droop. If not, adjust the amount of droop with washers
  12. Slip the threaded end of the cable through the hole in the throw-out arm and put the adjustment nut on. Tighten the nut down until the slack is just taken out of the cable.
  13. Get inside the car. The clutch pedal free-play should be no more than 3/4" and no less than 3/8”. If it is more than this, tighten the adjustment nut until you achieve 3/4" or a little less. Remember, one turn at the nut gives a big difference at the pedal. Certain aftermarket performance clutch manufacturers, (Kennedy and others) suggest that the measurement be made at the throw-out arm. The spec. here is 1/8” If you have a “performance” clutch.
Take a test drive. Do all the gears engage properly?  The clutch should engage in the middle of the pedal stroke.  If not, you can adjust the nut one way or the other just a little to have the clutch to release in just the right place.

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