Throttle & Clutch Cables

In my shop I saw many control cable failures from these things.

1. Throttle cables on the Airheads: Left cable failing at the carburetor, due to the throttle cable being bent as owners checked the oil dipstick. Do not bend the throttle cable at the left carburetor when checking your oil. There is no need for the oil dipstick to be overly-tightened. Bending the left throttle cable is a prime cause for that left cable to have increased friction, possibly spread some coils on the wrapped sheath (& making that carburetor difficult to synchronize, if bad enough), & eventually you might break an inner strand …usually where you can see it between the throttle lever on the carburetor, & the sheath. A single strand found broken (You do inspect these cables regularly, don’t you?), will usually cause other strands to eventually break from the same reason why the first strand broke ….this will …or can …result in total cable failure in as little as few hundred miles or so.

2. The bushing at the clutch lever at the handlebars is a replaceable plastic part and as it wears the result is the lever can move up and down & also allow angular motion. If worn enough, the stranded core of the cable will start rubbing, or even catching, on the sharp edged guiding slot in the lever. Eventually a strand breaks, failure comes soon as more strands break. The bushings are easy to replace and not expensive. If your new bushing does not finger press into place, heat the lever first. The Nylon-like bushing is 32-72-1-232-662 and has been used from 1976 onwards. That bushing may need light reaming for a good fit to the pin. If you do not have a 8 mm tapered ream, you can use very carefully selected drill bits, to progressively remove a quite small amount of material, a few thousandths at a time …until the pin fits properly …an easy, but not loose, push-sliding fit. The lever has a recess, and in that recess must be a waverly washer, 32-72-1-230-871. I recommend the sharp edge of the slot in the clutch lever be filed smooth. Be sure the crimped end of the cable that fits into the clutch lever at the handlebars is not fouling the lever.

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Clutch – Maintenance

Warning!   Warning!!   WARNING!!!
Under no circumstance should the flywheel or clutch carrier on any model be removed without first blocking the crankshaft from moving forward!!

You must block the crankshaft! Do not take a chance on serious damage to the engine!

Many have removed & replaced an Airhead flywheel or clutch carrier without blocking the crankshaft with no problems. My advice, very strongly given here, is to take a minor amount of time & make & use at least my simple crankshaft blocking tool. If you do not use some sort of crankshaft blocking tool, & your crankshaft should happen to move forward enough (does not take much pressure nor does it have to move far!) to have one or both of the thrust washers fall off their pins, you could cause very serious damage as you attach & bolt-up the flywheel or clutch carrier. Even if you do not cause serious damage, if the forward thrust washer drops, you may be unable to get it back on its pins without a very considerable amount of work. Do not take a chance!

Since it is a must, in my opinion, to mechanically block the crankshaft from moving forward at any time during the process of removing or replacing a flywheel (or clutch carrier as it is called on 1981+ including some 1980 models), you need to know how to best do that.   

This can be done in several ways. I recommend you do not use ‘a towel’ between the front cover & the alternator rotor, as is sometimes done. I recommend a simple & neat method …just make a tool out of a piece of Allen wrench material, weld a disc (fender washer) on one end, making the length such that the Allen end fits into the alternator bolt, & the disc end presses against the inside of the outer timing chest cover. Usually 3/4 inch overall. The length should be such that there will be some light pressure applied by the cover to the tool, the cover being screwed back towards the engine lightly (but not touching the engine case). The tool should be just long enough that the cover can not be fit fully home all the way. Obviously you don’t want to tighten the outer cover very much & you do not need to!

A further treatment of how to make this tool, & a photo of it, is in , as item #8A. Note that making the tool requires a very small amount of welding. If you do not have a welder, or do not wish to have the tool made that way, you can just use a piece of allen wrench. The tools article also has photos of the clutch disassembly & assembly tools …you may need three if you have an early model; although three common bolts work well.

At this point I strongly suggest you go look at:

Whatever tool you use, be sure it cannot rotate such as to loosen its pressure on the inside of the outer cover if you rotate the flywheel in either direction. The advantage of my tool is that it is unlikely to allow the alternator bolt to loosen if the tool is made and installed correctly, as you rotate the flywheel. Be sure the tool is not ‘captured’ by raised grooves on the inside of the cover, etc. Think!

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