While most newer cars use drive-by-wire electronic throttle control, physical accelerator cables are still commonly found on many vehicles out on the road. An accelerator cable, sometimes called throttle cable, is a metal braided cable that serves as a mechanical link between the gas pedal and the engine’s throttle plate. When the gas pedal is pressed, the cable is pulled and opens the throttle. As the throttle is what controls the power of the vehicle, any problems with the cable can quickly translate into problems with the drivability of the vehicle so it should be inspected as soon as possible.
The most common way that accelerator cables fail is that they break. Over time, they can simply weaken with age and use, until they eventually snap. It is also not uncommon for them to come out of adjustment, to the point where a noticeable effect is produced. If the cable breaks, or comes out of adjustment far enough, it can affect the drivability of the vehicle to the point where the car will not be drivable until the problem is addressed. Usually, there will be a few symptoms displayed when the accelerator cable is having a problem.
1. Damage to the outer covering
The accelerator cable on most vehicles is covered by an outer rubber sheath that protects the braided metal cable inside. Sometimes the cable can come into contact with sharp edges or moving engine components that can wear into the sides of the covering. If you notice any damage or wear on the covering, then there is the possibility that the metal cable inside has received damage. Because the cable is under constant stress any damage to the cable can leave it more susceptible to breaking.
2. Delayed accelerator response time
When the gas pedal is depressed the engine should respond immediately and the vehicle should begin to accelerate. If when you press the pedal, there is a delayed response, or a significant amount of motion before the vehicle responds, then that may be a sign of a problem. Sometimes a cable can become stretched over time, which will not only delay the response of the throttle, but can also leave the cable more susceptible to breaking. Delayed response may also be indicative of the need to have the cable slack adjusted.
3. Problems with cruise control
Because most cable operated throttles also use a cable for the cruise control, if you notice any problems when using the cruise control, that may be a potential sign of a problem with the accelerator cable. If you notice any sudden changes in tension from the pedal, such as jerking or binding when you activate the cruise control, then that may be sign that there may be a problem with the accelerator cable. As both cables are connected to the same throttle body, any problems with the operation of one can affect the other.
Because the accelerator cable is basically what allows the engine to accelerate, any problems with it can greatly affect the performance of the vehicle. If you suspect that you may have a problem with your throttle cable, have it inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic. They will be able to replace your accelerator cable as necessary.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Accelerator Cable and was authored by Eduardo Ruelas.