7 Symptoms of Loose Throttle Cable in Motorcycles

Loosened throttle cable on motorcycle

A loosened throttle cable is a pain. An annoyance. And possibly a danger.

If your motorcycle’s throttle cable is loose, identify it. And tighten it. Coming to the crux…

What are the symptoms of a loosened motorcycle throttle cable?

Here are the symptoms:

  • Slow throttle response
  • Delay in acceleration
  • Poor pickup
  • Lower idling rpm
  • Too much slack in the throttle
  • Power lags
  • High throttle free play

Let’s dive into each of these symptoms one by one in detail.

#1: Slow throttle response

Decelerating the motorcycle throttle

This is the main problem with a loosened throttle cable.

There will be a delay between the time you roll the motorcycle throttle and its response in the carburetor and the throttle system.

It’s almost like you need to wait a few seconds after rolling the throttle to see its effects.

Why is it bad?

You always want a faster throttle response.

Imagine you roll down the throttle to decelerate. But the motorcycle won’t decelerate instantly!

Sure, it will eventually. But it takes time.

And that gap, the delay in response, can cause lots of anxiety to the rider.

Not to mention the rider can overcompensate with increased throttle rolling.

#2: Delay in acceleration

Motorcycle riding in speed

What’s the direct effect of slow throttle response?

It’s the delay in acceleration. And deceleration.

You want to speed up and accelerate the motorcycle. You twist the throttle.

But guess what?

The slow throttle response leads to a delay in the motorcycle accelerating.

There is a major downside to it.

What’s the downside?

You could go overboard with accelerating the throttle.

The delay in response can cause the rider to twist the throttle more. And when the motorcycle finally accelerates, it speeds up far more than expected.

This can lead to all sorts of problems. And can even cause accidents.

So a delay in acceleration, as well as deceleration, is one of the main symptoms of a loosened throttle cable in your motorcycle.

#3: Poor pickup

Motorcycle odometer and speedometer

This is in continuation of the above two symptoms.

Whenever there are problems in acceleration, there are bound to be pickup problems.

So if the throttle cable is loosened in your motorcycle, expect the motorcycle to have speed pick-up issues.

The motorcycle won’t pick up speed easily.

This is of course because the bike won’t accelerate fast.

The slow acceleration results in the motorcycle not able to pick up speed easily.

No matter how hard you accelerate, the motorcycle will take some time to accelerate. Even then, you feel the speed is lower.

#4: Lower idling rpm

Motorcycle Exhaust Popping On Deceleration

Depending on whether the throttle cable is too tight or too loose, the idling rpm will either be higher or lower than the normal.

If the throttle cable is loosened, i.e., has too much free-play, then the idling rpm will be lower.

The rider needs to twist the throttle more to increase the rpm.

On the other hand, if the throttle does not have enough slack, there will be a higher idle rpm. The throttle raises the rpm with a small twist itself.

So, if the throttle cable is loosened, you can expect a low idling rpm on your motorcycle.

#5: Too much slack in the throttle

Motorcycle with two throttle cables

This is a major giveaway.

Too much slack in the throttle happens when the throttle cable is loosened.

How do you know if the slack is too much?

You need to twist the throttle longer to feel its tension.

Only when you feel the throttle tension, will you be able to accelerate the motorcycle.

The increased slack in the throttle is the cause of all other symptoms here.

So if you sense too much slack on your motorcycle throttle, you can conclude that the throttle cable is loosened. And the locknut on the cable needs to be tightened.

#6: Power lags

Motorcycle Throttle Blipping

One of the consequences of delayed acceleration and slow pickup is a noticeable drop in power.

You might even feel power lags when your motorcycle is running at higher speeds.

Power lags are basically the motorcycle not accelerating despite you throttling up.

While the acceleration eventually happens, but in a delayed form. The drop in power and power lags still persist.

That’s why it is essential to address the loosened throttle cable in your motorcycle as early as possible.

#7: High throttle free play

Locknut in the motorcycle throttle cable

Lastly, the main giveaway of a loosened throttle cable is lots of free play in the throttle.

Now, how do you measure throttle free-play?

To check the free-play:

  • Roll the throttle forward until it stops. You can no more roll forward.
  • Now, gently roll back the throttle until you feel the tension. (Only when the tension starts in the throttle cable, will there be acceleration/deceleration.)
  • The distance from the stop position to the tension position is the throttle free-play.
  • You can also make use of the parting line and the horizontal grip lines on the throttle to measure the free-play easily.

Ideally, there should be a free play of 2 to 3 mm.

But you will notice that in a loosened throttle cable, the throttle free-play far exceeds that.

This increased free play on the motorcycle throttle confirms that the cable is loosened.

The solution is of course to tighten the throttle cable now.

How to tighten the throttle cable?

Tightening the throttle cable is a 15 minute task. Literally.

Here are the simple steps:

  • Locate the locknut on the throttle cable
  • Slide the protective cover
  • Tighten the locknut with a spanner
  • Leave a slack of 2-3mm
  • The throttle cable is adjusted

That’s the short version.

If you are looking for a step-by-step version of tightening your motorcycle throttle cable, here is your guide.


Tighten the locknut on that throttle cable. There. You should be fine with that advice.


How do I know if my throttle cable is bad on my motorcycle?

Check the throttle free play. If it exceeds and is higher than 2 to 3 mm, the throttle cable has too much free play. It is bad for your motorcycle.

What happens when the accelerator cable is loose?

The problems include – slow throttle response, delayed acceleration, slow pickup, power lags, and low idling rpm.

How do you tighten a throttle cable on a motorbike?

Take an open-end spanner (wrench). Locate the locknut on the throttle cable. And tighten the locknut with the wrench.

Before you go…

Now that you know the symptoms of loose throttle cable on your motorcycle, here are our posts that will help you further:

Steps to adjust the throttle cable on your motorcycle

Why do few motorcycles have two throttle cables