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Many cables these days are Teflon coated or don’t require lubrication, so you probably don’t have to oil them anymore — but if you do, a cable oiler seems to be the way to go. Of course, you should check with the manufacturer before you try to lubricate it or you could just make things worse.

You clamp the first type of cable oiler over the end of the cable and spray lubricant through a straw into a small hole in the block — though I’ve read using this method can be quite messy. Another method is to use a hydraulic cable oiler. You stick the cable into the end of the oiler and tighten down the cap, which compress the rubber disks around the cable to make a seal. Then fill the tube with oil and screw in the end with the T-handle. Twisting the T-handle forces oil into the cable.

You can pick up the block-type cable oiler starting around $6. For some reason the hydraulic cable oilers are more common over in the UK, so next time you’re overseas you can pick one up for £17 ($26). Unfortunately I couldn’t find any suppliers in the States.

Cable Oiler [Harbor Freight]
Hydraulic Cable Oiler [Wemoto]

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8 Responses to A Well-Oiled Cable

  1. Robert says:

    I have an expensive (not Harbor Freight) of the block type cable oiler. I doesn’t work well at all. It will get lubricant all over you and any thing else nearby.

  2. Luke says:

    I just bought and used the cheap Harbor Freight one. A little tip: tightly squeeze a rag around the thing to avoid blowout.

  3. Stacy says:

    The “cable oiler” in the top photo is a waste of money. Unfortunately, I paid $10 for mine and it’s $10 I’ll never get back.

    I’ve had much better luck using a small syringe with a fine metal tip.

  4. PutnamEco says:

    There is always the old trick of submersing the whole cable in oil for a day or two, along with the old duct taping a funnel to one end of the cable, or for a home made version of the hydraulic oiler, a syringe, a short piece of hose and a few hose clamps.

    I’m with Luke on the rag trick. I like to use Protect All cable life as my lube of choice.
    There is some debate over whether the single screw or double screw version of the clamp on luber is better, I prefer the single screw version, as it seams to leak less.
    Some cables have a liner that is degraded by some lubricant products,(something about permanently lubricated cables or some other low friction liner nonsense) something you may want to be aware of, really sucks when your expecting your freshly lubed cable to be smooth as silk, when instead, it ends up feeling like cold taffy. Some of the “high tech wonder lubricants” work well on these.

  5. tmib_seattle says:

    I’ve used the block type many times on motorcycle throttle & clutch cables. They do occasionally spray oil everywhere, but most of the time it works well. The thing I’ve found to be most helpful is to ensure the cable protrudes out the “closed” end through the slit, and that the cable sleeve is well secured (sealed) by the other end. Then when you spray oil into the tool, the open cable sleeve is the path of least resistance and the oil is most likely going to take that route.

  6. Joe C says:

    A slightly different version of PutnamEco’s duct-taping a real funnel to the cable end: cut the corner out of a plastic bag, stick about one inch or so of the housing into the bag, tape the bag to the housing, pour in your lube of choice, then hang it up and let it flow.

  7. rg says:

    Heh. I’m glad I’m not the only fool who fell for the snazzy oiler in the top photo! I keep mine on display in the top of my tool chest to remind me not to waste money on gimmicks.

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