Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Speedometer Cable

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As your car accelerates, the easiest way to determine your precise speed is by simply looking at the speedometer. Believe it or not, this usually reliable device can be compromised and display inaccurate information to the driver; which not only could be a safety issue, but could cause the driver to get a speeding ticket. Most of the time, problems with the speedometer can be traced to a problem with the speedometer cable.

The speedometer cable is connected to the back of the speedometer and runs through the gearbox of today's modern cars, trucks and SUV's. The cable is powered by the drive shaft and turns a magnet that creates an electrical current and sends this information to the onboard computer. Once the ECU receives this data, it calculates the vehicle's speed and sends the information through the cable again and displays the speed on the speedometer.

Because the data has multiple touch points and moves through so many different areas, there are several parts of the speedometer cable that can – and often will go bad over a period of time. Like any other electrical or mechanical component, a bad or failing speedometer cable will display a few warning signs or symptoms of being bad. Noted below are a few of these symptoms that should alert you that a potential problem with the speedometer cable exists.

1. Speedometer needle wavers

The speedometer is supposed to move fluidly as the vehicle accelerates or decelerates. However, there are times when the speedometer will waver or move erratically. When this happens, it is usually due to the speedometer cable or speedometer sensors inside the transmission sending inconsistent data to the speedometer. This symptom is usually noticed when you're driving down the freeway, especially if the cruise control is set. You'll see the speedometer move higher and lower, within 10 miles per hour if the speedometer cable is damaged.

If you notice your speedometer moving rapidly but the vehicle's speed is not changing, it is most likely caused by a problem with the speedometer cable and should be inspected or replaced by a certified mechanic as soon as possible.

2. Squealing noises behind dashboard

A squealing noise is never a good signal. It can be caused by loose belts, or other mechanical systems that control the operation of your vehicle. However, if you notice a squealing sound coming from behind the dashboard, this might indicate a problem with the speedometer cable. This is typically due to a speedometer cable that is going bad and sending sporadic data to the speedometer. If you hear any noise coming from the dashboard, contact a mechanic to pinpoint the precise location of the problem so it can be fixed.

3. Speedometer needle does not move

When the speedometer cable is broken, the needle on the speedometer will not move at all. If you notice this issue, it's important to contact a mechanic as soon as possible. A malfunctioning speedometer is not only a potentially bad safety issue, but it is also a traffic infraction if you're pulled over by police for speeding. Make sure to take this issue seriously to avoid any issues.

4. Check Engine Light comes on

Since the speedometer cable is electronic and sends data to the onboard computer, a problem with this unit will often trigger the Check Engine Light. This light comes on anytime an error code is registered in the vehicle. However, anytime the Check Engine Light is illuminated, it's not a good sign; which is why you should always contact a certified mechanic to diagnose the issue correctly before they repair any damage or replace mechanical parts.

It is extremely rare that a problem with the speedometer cable will ever occur while you own your vehicle; but it can happen. When the issue does happen, it's vital that you have the speedometer cable replaced by a local ASE mechanic that can arrive to your home or office to complete this service.


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Bernie

50 years of experience
41 reviews
Bernie
50 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I specifically asked for Bernie to come back, since I was so pleased with the work he did on our other car. This time I got to meet Bernie personally. He is a kind family-man who exhibited the quiet confidence of someone you would expect with the 50 years of automotive experience that he has. I felt very comfortable giving him the key to my car. Two of my kids (ages two and four) came out to greet him, since they remembered him from his first visit. Bernie is great around kids and was very kind to my two-year old son who was trying to "help" Bernie do his job. Thanks again, Bernie!
Honda Odyssey - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I was very pleased with Bernie's work, professionalism, and courteousness. Best brake job I have ever had, and I have had many done (and several done myself, but not on this vehicle). This was a maintenance appointment -- not a repair of something broken -- so I was surprised when the brakes felt so much better after Bernie did the work. You can really see the care he took with our vehicle when I examined everything after he was finished. Thanks, Bernie!

Daniel

9 years of experience
17 reviews
Daniel
9 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Sacramento, California
Awesome customer service. On time and answered my questions with patience. Listened to my concerns and made helpful suggestions. Seemed very knowledgeable and experienced. I will be glad to request him again. Thank you!!

Breck

18 years of experience
532 reviews
Breck
18 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Conroe, Texas
Breck was awesome! He called ahead of time and asked if he could arrive early. He was friendly and easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable with the service he was going to provide and explained things clearly to me. He smiled and made this experience a good one. I will absolutely be booking future appointments with Breck and I will recommend him and Your Mechanic services to others I know. Thank you!

Brian

19 years of experience
101 reviews
Brian
19 years of experience
BMW Z4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenix, Arizona
Brian knows what he is doing and I am so happy yourmechanic.com suggested him for my Z4 car inspection prior to purchasing and even happier he was available to perform my 1st service on the vehicle I purchased. His knowledge on the brand gave him ability to to an in depth inspection and he communicated very well informing me what to prepare for in ownership of my BMW. When he came to perform maintenance on my vehicle he shared so many tips with me. I will absolutely be having Brian come back out when I need future servicing on my car.

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