What causes KLR head failure? - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 10-15-2014, 07:22 AM Thread Starter
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What causes KLR head failure?

Lately Ive been seeing several KLRs with bad heads popping up in our classified ads.It seems a common problem to these engines.
Ive heerd all sorts of reasons the heads fail. Poor Design with the exhaust cam lobe getting oil last.(I think BS on that) or over revving or bad oil.
Can it be as simple as just running the bike really low on oil? Or is there something else I should look out for? Some sort of preventive thing I can do..
This is not an oil thread and oil should only be refereed to as "oil".
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post #2 of 20 Old 10-15-2014, 07:59 AM
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What years are those KLR's. I've noticed that the majority of KLR's for sale locally are in the 2008 -2009 years. Bad years for that slippery juice which when run low cause havoc.

My Kaw Barn - 2004 KLR, 2006 Concours (sold), 1997 Bayou 400.

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post #3 of 20 Old 10-15-2014, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeepflambe View Post
Can it be as simple as just running the bike really low on oil?
Yes.

From my observation (have pictures), oil starvation results initially in galling/grenading the exhaust cam bearings (cam caps and machined journals in the cylinder head). Further collateral damage may occur.

Beyond this point, the cylinder head is toast. Re-buildable, but at a price approaching that of a new part.

Now, oil threads?

The ONLY KLR oil problem I've ever known of has been . . . running out of oil, regardless of the source and specifications of the lubricant.
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post #4 of 20 Old 10-15-2014, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeepflambe View Post
Lately Ive been seeing several KLRs with bad heads popping up in our classified ads.It seems a common problem to these engines.

Can it be as simple as just running the bike really low on oil?
YES.

From what I have seen once personally, and understand from hours of reading klr forums, the engine will continue to run until about the Last Pint of oil.

But In My Opinon Only, it takes 3/4 of a Quart or 750 ml to keep the oil Filter Full Enough to deliver ANY Oil to the cam bearings. (Oil Filter cavity holds about 8oz.)
The crankshaft is still receiving oil by 'Gravity Feed'. And the engine is still burning it.

Neglect to check oil level at Every fuel stop on any oil burner KLR or other engine, and your engine can be Trashed.

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post #5 of 20 Old 10-15-2014, 02:07 PM
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Here's what happens when oil starvation walks the land:











Moral of this photo-essay?

Check your oil level, early and often!

DISCLAIMER: Wasn't my bike!
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post #6 of 20 Old 10-23-2014, 01:26 PM
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Yep, run them out of oil and the cam bearing bores cook. This is typical of bike engines which run rolling element crankshafts because the balls/rollers/needles will survive with less oil than will the oil wedge cam bearings.

Run an oil wedge (insert) type engine low on oil and usually the first failure is of the connecting rod bearing(s). Try an experiment and run 10 KLR's out of oil versus 10 CBR600RR. The KLRs will cook the cam bearings while the CBRs will cook the rods. ;-)

I've seen quite a few bikes with cooked cam bearings (KLR, KLX250, several MX engines) and all were out of oil.

Paul (and anyone else who cares to comment), what do you consider to be the critical minimum oil level? Have you any concerns with regards oil levels for off road such as steep climbs, descents?

I've been meaning to check out the oil sump effects of radical engine angles but haven't remembered when had an engine out and right cover off. (Face palm) I have no concerns in this regards so long as the oil level is reasonable to simply education.

Nothing better than to hear what someone like Tom has to say when he has a set of cases in hand, or Paul's guesstimate based on his oil flow mods.
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post #7 of 20 Old 10-23-2014, 03:22 PM
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What would be fun (and I may try it some time) would be to take the cases and seal them up and fill with water to the oil level, then slosh them around a bit to see what it takes to expose the oil pickup.

Unfortunately, I have no oil pickup to play with. Might have to fetch one up.

Tom

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post #8 of 20 Old 10-23-2014, 04:18 PM
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So, you're saying that you need to pickup a pickup? Will you use your bike or your....wait for it.....


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Schmitz View Post
What would be fun (and I may try it some time) would be to take the cases and seal them up and fill with water to the oil level, then slosh them around a bit to see what it takes to expose the oil pickup.

Unfortunately, I have no oil pickup to play with. Might have to fetch one up.

Tom
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post #9 of 20 Old 10-23-2014, 04:23 PM
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"That's the worst pick-up line I've ever heard", Tom said fetchingly.

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“'Why' and 'How' are words so important they cannot be too often used.” -Napoleon Bonaparte


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post #10 of 20 Old 10-23-2014, 06:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdwestman View Post
YES.

From what I have seen once personally, and understand from hours of reading klr forums, the engine will continue to run until about the Last Pint of oil.

But In My Opinon Only, it takes 3/4 of a Quart or 750 ml to keep the oil Filter Full Enough to deliver ANY Oil to the cam bearings. (Oil Filter cavity holds about 8oz.)
The crankshaft is still receiving oil by 'Gravity Feed'. And the engine is still burning it.

Neglect to check oil level at Every fuel stop on any oil burner KLR or other engine, and your engine can be Trashed.
Normk,
I already did, but I can add to it.

If you can Not see oil In The Window, on Level ground, bike held Vertical, YOUR ENGINE is AT-RISK!!!!
I think I remember, that bottom of window is about 28-32 oz. LOW! I could be incorrect.
But how much Below the Window is it?
No One Can tell, at that point! That is the Point!
Needs oil, Add some, any oil is better than Too Little.

pdwestman
Modify at "YOUR OWN RISK"!

Still riding my 1987 KL650-A1. 85,000+ miles & counting
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