The Jammed Cable Head


Your heart sinks when your brake cable won’t come out of its lever. After years, perhaps decades, of pulling on the cable as well as from the build up of dirt and rust, the nipple end of the cable can get squeezed deeper into its barrel hole and get completely stuck. This has happened to me a number of times and it can be really difficult job getting the stuck nipple out. Yes, it’s up there as one of the most tedious problems, and expert the worst; the nipple may very well be jammed into place and may have been there for years. There’s no trick to getting one of these things out, but I thought I would post a method that worked for me with this problem lever above.


The Problem


CLB Brakes: Typical


I am not an admirer of CLB brakes, and I’ve mentioned this before in other posts. The quality of their calipers was much lower than the more reputable brands of the era, and most I’ve come across have lost their spring tension. Indeed, most CLB calipers look dreadful, just worn out and not up to the job. With this in mind, I was cautiously hopeful that these CLB levers would be in usable condition, but alas, poor quality again sank my hopes. The nipple was the colour of dark rust and was lodged deep in its barrel. Try as you might, you just know that pushing the cable out by hand won’t work, and once you replace your hand with pliers for extra force, the cable will begin to bend, weaken and fray. So, let’s just make it clear: its best to just accept that you’ve lost your cable and will need a replacement, whatever happens.


Top View


Generating Force


Because the barrel spins within the lever housing, it’s difficult to generate force to push the nipple out without the barrel turning. So what you get is a push – slip effect as you push on a rotating object. The best thing, I find, is to cut the cable; the less of it you have coming out of the nipple, the more you can focus the necessary force on the nipple itself. However, cutting the cable close to the nipple is nearly impossible with normal cable snippers, as there is very little space in the lever where the barrel sits. Another technique is necessary.


Cut and Twisted Cable


Twisting the Cable


A small and thin pair of “needle nose pliers” can get into the space where the stuck nipple sits. As the pliers can’t cut the cable, it is necessary to get a good purchase on it and twist, fraying it and weakening it to the point when it only held together by a few strands. At this time, a larger pair of pliers can be used to finish the job, basically pulling the cable at the damaged point. You really only want to have 1 or 2mm of cable extending from the nipple at this stage. Now the rest of the cable has been removed, the nipple rim is more accessible and now greater pressure can be applied at the right onto the nipple itself.


Nipple Unstuck


The Push


The final stage is really just about getting the force onto the now exposed nipple. I used a medium sized pair of needle nosed pliers at this stage to finish the job. Gripping the remains of the cable firmly, I could feel the extra power I now had to push onto the nipple, adding a bit of lubricant to help the release process. You still have to contend with the spinning barrel, which makes this whole repair tricky, but with good downward force  so the barrel stays in place long enough for you to push the nipple out. Even if it slips only minutely, you will be able to grab the nipple from the rear side by the pliers to help pull it out.


If That Didn’t Work..

If the force from the pliers isn’t enough to release the jammed nipple, then other measures can be taken to force the thing out, though with the danger of damaging the lever itself:

  • A screwdriver lodged in the lever to hold the barrel and a hammer to knock out the nipple can be used, though this can damage the barrel axle.


  • Heat could be applied to the barrel if the nipple metal has melded into the barrel over years of time. This is unknown territory for me!




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