How To Adjust OEM Mustang Clutch Cable
***THIS HOW TO APPLIES TO OEM ADJUSTER ONLY**
It seems that most Mustang owners encounter shifting difficulties due to inadequate clutch disengagement either sooner or later. Many solve this with aftermarket quadrant/adjuster setups but there is another way… it doesn’t take long and it costs nothing but it does require some skill and mechanical experience. This can make a huge difference, you may not even notice the issue even though you have it so take a few minutes and check it out. If you have to push your clutch in more than a half an inch before the clutch slips (while holding the gas constant at a constant speed) or you have a floppy clutch petal then chances are it needs an adjustment.
I know it sounds like overkill but trust me you will be a LOT happier if you do this first. Lying upside down over the front of a seat is one of the most unpleasant positions. If you are skinny or have don’t this before then you can probably get around this step by just sitting the seat back as far as it can go and raising the steering wheel up as high as you can. You can also get a friend to help to make your life easier while doing this.
Lie flat on your back and look up directly between the steering shaft and the gas pedal, you’ll see an off-white plastic thing that looks like part of a gear with a hook on it, let’s call it the “add-tension” adjuster. With your other hand depress the clutch pedal back and forth and observe the motion of the adjuster. If you look carefully you’ll see that it’s teeth are interlocked into another smaller off-white plastic piece closer to the firewall. When you release the clutch pedal notice that the smaller piece (“release-tension” adjuster) rests on the edge of a flat grey piece of metal. Essentially what we will be doing is defeating the ability of these 2 parts to make contact, turning our auto adjuster into a manual one. If we don’t disable this first, any tension that is put into the cable will just be taken out by the release-tension adjuster the next time the clutch pedal is pulled up or released quickly during a spirited shift.
Here is a side view of both pieces of the adjuster from a passenger side perspective inside the dash. I’ve posted this only so you can see the innerworkings which are not normally visible. The off-white gear on the left is the add-tension adjuster and on the right the release-tension adjuster, in the upper right quadrant of the circle you can see the release-tension adjuster resting on the metal plate.
We’ll need to remove the hook from the add-tension adjuster so we can access that metal plate more easily. Using a Dremel with a cut-off wheel, cut the hook off almost flush with the bottom, so it looks like the pic below. You could cut it with a pair of dikes but you’re definitely risking collateral damage to the adjuster. The hook is only there to keep a spring from unwinding when the assembly is removed from the car, it has no purpose during normal vehicle operation.
Now the fun part: Get a friend to hold the clutch pedal all the way to the floor and keep it there. You could cut a piece of wood or find something to wedge against the pedal and something else if you’re in a pinch but the pedal must remain pressed as far as it can go. You can try holding the pedal with one hand while working with the other (while trying to hold the light as well) but again, not recommended if you want to remain sane. When the pedal is fully depressed it will expose the top of the metal plate of which you will want to cut the upper part off flush like the plate.
If you don’t have a Dremel you can bend the top of the plate out (away from firewall) and down 180* but this is not easy to do because that plate is pretty thick and there is limited room to manipulate tools. Plus you have be sure the bent piece is clear of the adjuster when it moves. It’s much easier to cut it, just don’t push the cutting wheel in too deep because there is a switch right behind the plate.
When you’re done observe that the release-tension adjuster no longer comes into contact with the plate when the pedal released. If not, you will need to cut or bend some more until the plate is clear of both parts of the adjuster. Also be sure the push button switch attached behind the plate is still properly aligned and actuating along with the clutch.
The easy part, the clutch cable adjustment: With the clutch released simply place the butt of a hammer or something with a rubberized handle on the bottom of the add-tension adjuster as shown:
Slowly and carefully apply pressure until you hear a click. If it took a lot of pressure then maybe that will be enough. Stop here and test the clutch pedal engagement height. If the first click required only light to moderate pressure then you will probably want to pop the adjuster up at least one more click. Each corresponding click tightens the cable further and will take more effort than the one before but most people should see definite improvements with just 1-2 clicks of added tension. I would be concerned about adding more than 3 clicks of tension. This could overtighten the cable or indicate that you may have a stretched/damaged cable or other issue. If you feel there is too much tension use a big flat head screwdriver and push the release-tension adjuster up right at where you cut the metal plate and it will pop loose, releasing cable tension. Be careful when releasing tension because some have had the cable end come off at the clutch fork.
WARNING: Overtightening the cable could result in damage to the cable, pressure plate, TOB, adjuster or excessively high pedal engagement along with a slipping clutch. IMO a properly adjusted clutch should be close to fully engaged about halfway through it’s range of motion off the floor. You may also notice a pop or clank sound when you push the clutch all the way to the floor after an adjustment. This is normal because your TOB is now moving further than it has in a long time or even ever before. Over time the noises should get quieter or completely stop. I think it’s a good idea to lubricate the TOB/retaining sleeve occasionally as this will quiet down and extend the life of these parts, just be sure not to get lubricant on the clutch. You can go for a drive at about 55mph or so and hold the gas constant and push in the clutch. You should get a half an inch more pushed in before the rpms start to jump up (clutch slips). If you smell any clutch burning you may be riding the clutch due to to much tension on the cable as well. As said above do a couple clicks and test it out and then if needed you can do more later.