First-generation minivan speedometer repair

There comes a time in the average car owner's life where they make a repair, only to have to make that repair less than a year later because it wasn't done right the first time. I had one of those repairs. I lost my speedometer cable for the second time in a year because I kinked my old one. I didn't know it was kinked until it snapped. I figured while I was in there I would make a DIY about its replacement.

minivan speedometer cablesThe original cable, which I bought a year ago, came with a bit of grease which leaves the owner making a grease mess and not necessarily completely greasing the inside of the cable. I have a hunch this accelerated the damage to my old cable. The new Autozone speedometer cable unit came prelubed, and didn't slide back and forth like the old one.

Tools you'll need:

  • 10mm socket or socket screw driver
  • adjustable crescent wrench (may not be necessary)

First, disconnect the speedometer cable from the cruise control servo. You can identify the servo as the cylinder shaped module underneath the battery cradle. (In the process of troubleshooting, I had replaced the servo. If it doesn't work, expect me to do a cruise control DIY soon.) You'll see two thick wires coming out the back and a wire harness with two leads, as pictured.

You're concerned with the two thick cables. One on top will lead to the firewall and eventually your speedometer. The other will lead down to underneath the car and to the top of the passenger side axle where it meets the transmission. If you look just below the air cleaner you should see it. Disconnect the cable from the servo using your cresent wrench or an open-ended wrench, or if you're lucky like I was, simply unscrew it with your hands.

cable socketNow go under the car and reach to the passenger side of the transmission. As you work your fingers across the top, you'll feel the cable where it meets the transmission. There is a single 10mm screw holding the cable in. Unscrew that, being sure not to lose the screw when it comes out. Onces that is out, simply wiggle the cable out from the transmission, it may take a lot of wiggling. Once its out, you can go back on top of the car and pull the whole cable out.

At the bottom of the page is a photo of the two cables, side by side. On the left is the new one, and the old one on the right.

You need to take the yellow gear off the old cable and put it on the new one. There's a clip you remove off the black casing, which allows the yellow gear to drop right off. To get the black casing off, simply separate the cable and the black should pull right off with a little effort. Likewise, to put the casing on the new cable simply do the reverse. It will all snap into place. Then put the yellow gear back on and the clip to secure it. (Make sure the yellow gear's square hole meets up with the square peg in the cable. To test it simply spin the gear...if the other end of the cable was done right!).

Now feed the cable back down between the air cleaner and the firewall. Be sure not to kink the cable or you'll be doing this again in a year.

Connect the cable to the servo, hand tightening it should be fine. Go back under the car and place the other end of the cable in the transmission, it'll need some wiggling to get it in there. Screw in the 10mm screw and now you're ready for testing! If you take a drive and the speedometer flows smoothly up and down, your cable has been fixed. If it jostles up and down especially at low speeds, the cable is kinked and I'd suggest taking it out and trying again.

Editor’s note: Chrysler phased in electronic (cable-free) speedometers through the early 1990s.

speedometer cables

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