Broken Cam Cap question
I've read through the threads asking where to buy a cam cap alone (to get new cam caps, you have to buy the whole cylinder head assembly for $900). However, I have a different question.
I had a local shop install a helicoil on one of the threads where the valve cover attaches to the header. I am convinced they are the ones that stripped it when tightening a loose bolt, but I can't prove that. Later events detailed below would lead me to believe the owner of this shop is a crook. On the way home from picking up the bike the bike suddenly started making a loud knocking noise from the cylinder head area and lost most of its power. I pulled over and had a buddy trailer the bike back to the shop immediately. The next morning, the owner of the shop calls and tells me I have to buy a new head assembly (the part they just repaired) because the guide lip on one of the cam caps broke... $900. Then he told me they were going to charge me $100/hour to look for the little piece of aluminum down in the engine, which may take 1 hour or may take 10 hours. He quoted me at somewhere between $1000 and $2000 for the whole fix. I paid $1,200 for the bike... He claimed the cam cap breaking had nothing to do with the fact that they had taken the cylinder head apart less than five miles before it failed. I called b.s.
I felt I was being swindled, so I went down to the shop and asked him to explain what was going on. He gave me the same story and was a condescending jerk about it. He recommended I post the bike on Craigslist for $500 and cut my losses. He then pointed at the Doohickey and recommended that I upgrade it while we had the bike apart. He assumed I knew nothing about KLR's. I told him that the bike had an eagle mike aftermarket doohickey. He said, "No, this is stock". I then proceeded to pull the stock doohickey out of the pannier which embarrassed the hell out of him and he walked away knowing he'd been busted.
At this point, the jr mechanic turned to me and said.. "Don't give up on the bike, this thing is sweet and you'll get a lot of mileage out of it. We don't need to replace the cylinder head. The guide lip on the cam shaft is not necessary. The bike will run fine with the broken part. Also, we found most of the aluminum piece. The rest is probably ground into tiny bits (we had found one such tiny piece) and sitting in the oil pan. They will come out with your next oil change. I recommend we put the bike back together and you ride it.".
Since I had no intention of burning $2K on mechanic labor for a $1,200 bike, I went with option #2. I've put about 50 timid miles on the bike since then and she seems fine other than a burning smell here and there (I'm guessing from oil residue on the exhaust from taking her apart) and she sometimes makes a popping sound out the exhaust when decelerating (is this normal?).
The Big Question
Is the second mechanic right? Can I ride the bike with the broken cam cap? There are no cracks or imperfections on the internal surface. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the damage. It is the rounded lip on the top outer surface of one half of the cam cap that broke off. Is it true that these caps were made to fit into only one head assembly? That seems crazy to me that Kawasaki would do one-off machining like that on a mass production bike. If I find a used set of cam caps, can I use them to replace mine?
I appreciate you reading my story and any advice you may have. I am brand new to motorcycles and this has been a rough intro.