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Troubleshooting Article Archive:  January 2007      
Correcting Hard-To- Operate PTO Cables
When I talk with drivers about power takeoff (PTO) cables on tow trucks, the driver often finds it baffling that the PTO cable is hard to operate on one tow truck, and easy on another truck.  One cable will be so difficult to use that he needs two hands to push it in, while another cable moves so freely it can be operated with one finger.  Because I also push and pull on PTO cables all day long, I'm sympathetic.

Three Factors Affecting PTO Cable

Three factors make the PTO cable hard to push and pull:  tight bends, overall cable length, and age.

*  Tight bends in the cable make the cable difficult to push and pull.  Route the cable so that all bends will be wide, not acute.  Make bends in an 8-inch radius or greater.

*  The longer the cable, the harder it will be to push and pull.  Lengths over 8 feet make operating the cable extremely difficult, even when all other conditions are ideal.  Cut the cable as short as it can be without being so short as to necessitate tight bends.

*  The older the cable gets, the more corrosion it develops inside the cable liner and the stiffer it becomes to push and pull.  Although lubricating the cable may help temporarily, solve the problem by installing a new cable.

Key Point About Cable

The key point to remember is these three factors add onto each other to produce the total effective stiffness of the cable.  If you have a long cable, it's going to be hard to operate even if it's totally straight, and very hard if it has any bends.

It's a good idea, when the truck's in the spec'ing stage, to try and spec a combination of transmission and cab which places the PTO shift cover in such a spatial relationship with the desired location of the PTO knob in the cab that the path of the cable between the two will be short, straight, and clear of obstructions.