Tech Tip: Lubing Motorcycle Control Cables

They don't require much attention, but motorcycle cables are important. From the October 2003 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine. By Mark Zimmerman.

Sticky, binding motorcycle control cables are the worst. They make it hard to control whatever it is they are connected to. These days, that's most likely your motorcycle's clutch or throttle, and they like to go "ping" at inopportune times, which really takes the glide out of your ride, and may make for a long push home.

A little routine maintenance and the occasional inspection will go a long way toward keeping your motorcycle's control cables operating smoothly and extending their life.

Control cables come in two basic flavors. The first is the plain old multi-stranded wire surrounded by a spring steel-cover-style cable that's been around since day one. The second is the high-tech plastic, or more accurately Teflon-lined, variety.

In the main, the Teflon-lined cable needs no lubrication, and in fact oiling one may be detrimental to its health. Check your owner's or shop manual as to what, if any, type of lube is recommended.

Unlined cables should be lubricated using a dedicated aerosol spray and a pressure lubricator, available at any motorcycle shop. To lube the cable, remove it from the lever or throttle drum. Install the tool per the photo and pressurize the whole shebang until lube drips from the opposite end.

Inspect the nipple at the end of the cable wire and adjacent cable area for any signs of damage, and give the nipple a dab of grease to prevent it from binding before you reinstall it.

Perform the cable dance once or twice a year and they should live happily ever after.

For more articles on how to maintain and modify your motorcycle, see the Tech section of

A dedicated lubricant is the best solution to apply to motorcycle control cables. The ends that fit into the levers (and must pivot within them) should be greased.