Mechanical control cables provide a push-pull or other action to actuate components mechanically. They consist of mechanical cable with attached eyes, forks, studs, handles, or other fittings. Depending on the type of motion employed, mechanical control cables are often referred to as push-pull control cables or pull-pull mechanical control cables.

Mechanical control cables are available in push-pull or pull-pull applications. With push-pull mechanical control cables, compression pushes motion in one direction while tension pulls it in the other direction. Mechanical control cables that use a push-pull action can be used as replacements in hydraulic, pneumatic, and electrical control systems. With pull-pull mechanical control cables, tension applies motion in one direction while spring-actuation returns the control back to its starting point. These types of mechanical control cables are used in applications where transmission forces require tension.

There are important specification considerations to be made before selecting mechanical control cables. Specifications include length of mechanical control cables, thickness of the mechanical control cables, the maximum pull or push loads that a mechanical cable must handle, the length of travel required, the type of duty for which the mechanical control cable will be employed, and the type of housing material. Housing materials for mechanical control cables are available in aluminum, steel, rubber, etc. Mechanical control cables can be used in tubular or square housing. Other types of housing are also available.

An additional consideration for selecting mechanical control cables is the type of clamps or fittings that the application will require. The two ends of mechanical control cables can be fitted with similar or different types of accessories. In some cases these accessories can be changed as part of a tool kit, but most of the time they are hardwired into mechanical control cables. Types of accessories for mechanical control cables include quick release clamps, clips and ball joints, threaded end connections, connection pins, throttle arms, returns and spring mounts, eyes, forks, studs, handles, brackets, and core and conduit fittings.

Mechanical control cables meet the following military specifications: MIL-DTL 83420L, 87161F, 18375H, 87218D, 83140A, and more. Other specifications for mechanical control cables are Boeing material specification (BMS) 7-265 and Douglas material specifications (DMS) 2187 and 2192. Mechanical control cables are designed to meet many more specifications.