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Thread: Cable Lubrication?

  1. #1
    Registered User dieselyoda's Avatar
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    Cable Lubrication?

    Somewhere I read that you don't routinely lubricate BMW cables because their construction using a liner and doesn't like to be lubricated. I don't know if that is just another BMW motorcycle urban legend.

    However, the manuals, BMW OE, Clymer and such list cable lubrication every 5k miles or so. This is mostly for the years from the '70's to 2000 and a bit on newer bikes that still used a cable throttle.

    The reason I post this is that for some reason, I have been changing cables this riding season as often as a goose passes effluence after eating corn. I had wondered if this was failure of routine maintenance on my part on all my buddies bikes and that I drank the kool-aid that BMW cables are special.
    1997 R1100RT, 1981 KZ 440 LTD, R80RT, R90/6 sidecar, K1100RS,1983 K100RS (Cafe now)

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  2. #2
    Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Omega Man's Avatar
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    I lube cables. I use a Motion Pro cable lube tool and cable specific lube- or Tri-Flow TF20027. No specific interval, just as needed.
    Im a bad man.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Woodbutcher's Avatar
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    Old cables yes, new cables don't need it, in theory. The liners on modern cables usually are teflon or some other embedded lube so they don't need it. However, once you start lubing a modern cable, I've read you need to continue to do it.

    Hope that helps.
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  4. #4
    MOA #24991 Pauls1150's Avatar
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    I've NEVER lubed a teflon-lined cable, and never had one break or hang up inside. This includes throttle cables, but the CHP breaks those on occasion, maybe due to snapping it open quite hard or perhaps just not changing them out once in a while (36K miles is the recommended interval, but they'll last longer). (Do make sure that the cable distributor box is Absolutely clean.)
    All of the shops around here are quite adamant that you shouldn't lube those, because most lubes will damage the lining and cause issues; I think that the lube carrier would actually be the damaging agent.
    On the other hand, I don't see that a little teflon lube (or maybe even dry graphite?) would hurt, but I'm not willing to sacrifice a cable to find out.
    Note that too much lube in any case (including the older lines that DO require lube) will hold more dirt, right where you don't want it.

  5. #5
    The issue is that the teflon lining will swell with some petroleum lubricants. No lube is really needed. But if you do use a lube, and then the lining does swell, then the cable can bind and the swollen, softened lining gets cut by the cable. I do not lubricate BMW cables.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
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  6. #6
    Dress for fall & avoid it AlanColes's Avatar
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    It has been my understanding for some time now that lubing modern cables will create problems. What I was aware of was that it would increase the resistance of the cable due to destroying the cable housing liner.

    I did a quick search and came across the following:
    Snowbum's Encyclopedic BMW Motorcycle Repair & Information Website:
    Lubricating BMW cables ...lubrication attracts abrasive dirt and may swell the liner (a nylon-like material). Only the very earliest original-as-shipped /5 cables were not lined.
    That basically states that if you have a BMW cable that is less than approximately 50-years old don't lube it or you will damage it.
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  7. #7
    Registered User AKsuited's Avatar
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    I didn't lube the cables on my '86 K75 - I lubed the ends of the cables, the round thingies. "Ferrules?" Not sure what they are called. For example, the back end of the clutch cable pulls a lever. When it pulls that lever, that round thingie must be free to rotate, otherwise there are enormous stresses placed on only one side of the cable since it is not an axial force, it is an axial force plus a severe rotation force due to friction. If that round thingie is well lubed, it can rotate freely and that rotational force will be minimized and the stress concentration on one side of the cable will be avoided.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by AKsuited View Post
    I didn't lube the cables on my '86 K75 - I lubed the ends of the cables, the round thingies. "Ferrules?" Not sure what they are called. For example, the back end of the clutch cable pulls a lever. When it pulls that lever, that round thingie must be free to rotate, otherwise there are enormous stresses placed on only one side of the cable since it is not an axial force, it is an axial force plus a severe rotation force due to friction. If that round thingie is well lubed, it can rotate freely and that rotational force will be minimized and the stress concentration on one side of the cable will be avoided.
    Indeed. Good point. Applying grease to the cable end "barrels" is a regular recommended service. When the barrel rotates the cable doesn't flex. If not, then the cable flexes right where it attaches and strand by strand the cable breaks.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
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  9. #9
    Doug D
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    Teflon cables are made not to lubed, but I have done it with good results. On a 15 year old motorcycle what do you have to lose? I use WD-40 PTFE, which is a dry lube. When I lube the cable I always make sure there are no low areas for lube and contamination to settle in. I spray and work the cable back and forth, flushing the whole assembly. After everything has drained out, cables get reinstalled. I did this on my RT two years ago, and made a noticeable difference. Greasing the barrels is important also. Using oil in Teflon cables is a no-no.

  10. #10
    3 Red Bricks
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    1. No lube on teflon lined cables.

    2. Clean and grease barrels on both ends (and hole in lever and area on tranny bellcrank).

    3. Felt at top and accordian boot at bottom keep grit and moisture from getting into cable.

    Lack of #2 is the #1 cause of clutch cable failure. Most cable failure is right near the barrels due to repeated cable bending because the barrel is stuck.


    If you carry a spare clutch cable, always carry a spare upper barrel (NOT included with new cable) taped to the new cable. Barrel could fall out on the road when the cable breaks. DAMHIK!!!



    LONG MAY YOUR BRICK FLY!

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  11. #11
    3 Red Bricks
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    [QUOTE=drost;1176813
    I did this on my RT two years ago, and made a noticeable difference. Greasing the barrels is important also. Using oil in Teflon cables is a no-no.[/QUOTE]

    Usually, if it makes a big difference, it means the inside is dirty (see #3 above) OR the teflon sleeve is starting to get a groove worn in it and you are due for a new cable.


    LONG MAY YOUR BRICK FLY!

    Ride Safe, Ride Far, Ride Often

    Lee Fulton Forum Moderator
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  12. #12
    Left Coast Rider
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    And while we're all lubing or not lubing our cables, don't forget to grease the lever pivot points. Pull the pivot bolt out, clean the lever, bolt and interior of pivot assembly, apply grease to pivot bolt, reassemble in reverse order. Helps keep the levers from developing any play. Depending on the mileage I do this about twice a year. A five minute operation x 2.

  13. #13
    I knew not to use oil based products on teflon lined cables, anyone have any information or opinions on graphite? I haven't done it, but I've thought about it.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Stebe View Post
    I knew not to use oil based products on teflon lined cables, anyone have any information or opinions on graphite? I haven't done it, but I've thought about it.
    The problem with what is called "graphite lubricant" is the necessary carrier. It would be impossible to stuff much powdered graphite into a motorcycle control cable. After the first inch or so - good luck. So what we usually find as a graphite lubricant is powdered graphite in a liquid carrier. This is very often found as lock oil where the graphite is in a light petroleum carrier which is supposed to evaporate leaving the graphite in place as a lubricant.

    I have never seen such a mixture that didn't contain a petroleum liquid as the carrier. I suppose a glycol based carrier or other alcohol based carrier is possible but I have never seen one. Further, I have no idea what either a glycol or other alcohol based carrier would do to the cable sheath lining so would certainly avoid using either until I knew what the likely result would be.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by PGlaves View Post
    The problem with what is called "graphite lubricant" is the necessary carrier. It would be impossible to stuff much powdered graphite into a motorcycle control cable. After the first inch or so - good luck. So what we usually find as a graphite lubricant is powdered graphite in a liquid carrier. This is very often found as lock oil where the graphite is in a light petroleum carrier which is supposed to evaporate leaving the graphite in place as a lubricant.

    I have never seen such a mixture that didn't contain a petroleum liquid as the carrier. I suppose a glycol based carrier or other alcohol based carrier is possible but I have never seen one. Further, I have no idea what either a glycol or other alcohol based carrier would do to the cable sheath lining so would certainly avoid using either until I knew what the likely result would be.
    Thanks. Makes sense. I'd chosen not to for a couple reasons, mostly that I thought it possible that any solid might be more likely to create friction than lubrication, and as you say the problems with getting it to distribute down the length of the cable. Hadn't thought about "carriers". So, just the barrels. Appreciate the feedback.

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