The Accelerator Cable Broke On My VW Bus

Douglas Pilarski

With No Tools, I Had To Think Fast
VW BusPhoto by Serge van Neck via Unsplash

I was the last person to leave the office. I was the first one there in the morning and always the last to leave. That meant, today, I would not have someone to help me. Sure enough, I hopped into my sweet ‘73 VW Bus and turned the key. I put it in reverse and nothing. Well, something. The pedal felt like I was stepping into a pile of mashed potatoes. The accelerator cable had snapped.

The VW Bus is a rear-engine vehicle - about 50 horsepower, maybe less. When you press the gas, the cable that runs under the entire length of the floor pulls the throttle lever back - the bus goes forward. Without the throttle cable, the bus just does not move.

I removed the toolbox out of the back a few days earlier. It was getting darker. I was stuck.

I went to the engine compartment to have a look. I could see the frayed cable and the throttle lever less the connection. I got up and paced a bit, thinking. By the way, there were no cell phones, roadside assistance, or any other possible remedy available at that moment. I had to use my wits.

I thought if I could retie the cable somehow to the lever, I would be good to go. The problem here was that it was shorter than I needed since it sat broken and frayed. The bus itself was great fun to drive, all original, but not in its best condition. My friends would not ride with me, but that is another story. I looked around and saw a wire hanging from the upper right-hand corner. It was dangling.

That was it. Retie the accelerator with the wire. Hold on a minute. It was a loose end of unused copper speaker wire. It was softer than the steel cable so the two parts would not hold. I tried it anyway. My first try didn’t work. It was too tight, meaning the accelerator was trying to do 25 mph, but the bus was just standing there. I tried a couple more times - it worked. I was able to tie the broken steel cable to the throttle lever. Still in my suit and tie. Off to the races! Well, that's if you call a top speed of 52mph with a tailwind a race.

Could I get home without the rig breaking?

I called the VW dealership the next day (land-line) and ordered a new cable. I drove the bus to the dealership to place the order. The guy took my eight dollars - that was that.

I got the new cable and changed it in about five minutes.

The copper wire repair held for the two weeks I needed to get the new cable.

My friends still wouldn't ride with me.

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Douglas Pilarski is an award-winning writer & journalist based on the west coast. He writes about luxury goods, exotic cars, horology, tech, food, lifestyle, equestrian and rodeo, and millionaire travel. He is a regular contributor to and

Beaverton, OR

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