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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What’s up everybody! New to the forum, but need some feedback so I’m skipping the intro post for now. This post is long despite my obsessive edits trying to shorten it. I apologize.

To summarize, this post includes the following themes: “bike won’t start” saga (shortened for your reading pleasure), cylinder head removal, camshaft expansion plug failure, valve assembly inspection, oil drain plug stripped head removal, and the real adventure for a noob like me: traveling deep into the unfamiliar jungles of an engine.

Background: ‘99 KLR, bought 4 months ago at 32k miles (~35k mi. now). I’m a novice with motorcycles and a full-on noob with anything mechanical, electrical, etc. So I’ve been learning a lot.

Saga: The bike had been running great since I got it. A few weeks ago, I started it early in the morning, like I always do. Started right up (with choke) and I walked into the garage to put my gear on. A minute or two later, the bike died. I thought I heard a snap or pop of some sort, but I couldn’t say for sure, since I wasn’t looking at the bike and stalling out can cause a noisy lurch anyway.

The bike wouldn’t start back up. It was turning over but wouldn’t fire up. I inspected my new manual enricher plunger first, since I had installed it about a week prior (although it hadn’t caused any issues all week). No luck.

I troubleshooted for about a week and a half, from simplest on up. (If nothing else, this has forced me to do a full top-to-bottom inspection of the bike, to learn a lot, and to fix a laundry list of minor issues along the way). I started with fuel, moved on to spark, and reluctantly ventured into compression…

And then I found my culprit.

Our Story’s Antagonist: Apparently there’s an expansion plug in the right intake camshaft that is not considered a separate part by Kawi, likely because it’s never supposed to separate from the shaft. Mine ejected from the camshaft somehow, scratching up the cylinder head and, crucially, getting in between the valve shim and the camshaft lobe. (I’d add pics if I wasn’t too new! Sorry)

So, while the other three valve clearances were all a good smidge out of spec and will all be re-shimmed upon reassembly, my right intake valve is too far outta wack for shims to solve it (spec = 0.10-0.20mm; current gap = 2.70mm). Plus, even if a shim could fix the clearance, I think it’s pretty clear that something else has been damaged or knocked out of place to cause that gap, so I need to trace it regardless.

The Plan: So my next step is to remove the cylinder head (which sounds like an absolute PITA based on Clymer’s instructions) and take a gander at the valve springs, valve seat, etc.—Yet another layer of complex mechanics I know nothing about and will soon become an unintentional expert on…

So, Questions:
(1) Any tips for cylinder head removal and/or the process of disassembling the valve assembly underneath?

(2) Anything in particular you’d recommend looking for or checking out/measuring/etc. once I’m in there? (As of now, I plan to follow Clymer for everything, inc. cleaning/inspection of valve components. My uneducated guess is that the right intake valve spring(s) are compressed or stuck somehow (at least I desperately hope it’s that simple).
Also, anything in addition to the valves you think I should check while I already have it all disassembled?

(3) Do I need to drain the engine oil prior to removing the cylinder head and accessing the valve springs/seats/etc?

(4) If so, (well actually either way) I over-torqued my oil drain plug a couple months back (didn’t realize it was a low-profile plug & torqued it to Clymer’s stock rec) and it is stuck. The head is fairly stripped (I don’t know the state of the threads). I tried everything I had and when nothing worked I ordered a stripped bolt extractor socket set, which comes in this Tuesday.
However, I’ve seen warnings online to warm up the bike before trying to remove the stuck bolt, so as to decrease your chances of cracking the oil pan/case. Since I can’t start my bike, is there an alternate option? For example, if warmth is helpful, could a heat gun or hair dryer on the outside possibly help?

Thanks in advance!!!! I’d be lost without places like this.
 

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If, after this misadventure, the valve lash (pseudo technical term used to make me sound smart; it means nothing other than the clearance in the valve train between the shim and the cam) has suddenly increased the likely reason is that the valve is not returning to its seated position. The likely cause of this is a bent valve. When the plug came out the valve train lost all oil pressure. Whether the Bad Thing happened because of lack of oil or it happened because there was a plug flying around in the head will become evident once you get the head off. You can take pictures and post them, you don't need to have a certain post count. You will need to remove the head to fix it in any case. The best thing you can do is get the head off so that you can see with the issue really is. It's not that bad if you just put your mind to doing it. You don't need to drain the oil to do it. Position the piston at top dead center. Tank off, valve cover off, top motor mount off, drain the coolant and remove the hoses, two screws at the front and back of the cylinder head that go in from the cylinder side, one screw at the forward portion of the cam tunnel on the inside of the cam tunnel, four cylinder head bolts, Cam caps off and cams removed without dripping the cam chain into the cam chain tunnel, etc. Just start going through the process with a modicum of care. Don't remove the spark plug. Take pictures along the way to remind you later of what you did and in what order.

When the head is ready to come off it will do so quite easily. If it doesn't then you've likely forgotten something.

A hairdryer set on high would be a decent way to heat the case up before removing the bolt if you feel inclined to do that. Won't hurt a thing.

To help you we are going to need to see pictures of the cam caps removed from the head, the combustion chamber, especially in the area of the right intake valve head.

If you need help with the pictures, send me an e-mail or a PM.
 

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Tom has got you mostly covered.

The erroneous soft plug might be the same size as the crankshaft Bottom Rod Pin soft plug.

The erroneous soft plug definitely caused the RH intake valve to stay open too far or too long and cause it to get bent by the piston.

If you grind the chamfer off of a 6 point socket to fit 'tightly & flush' against the flange of the oil drain plug it should readily unscrew.
If the oil drain plug is a TUSK plug with a 6mm allen drive, you may need to use a sharp chisel and hammer to snag the flange and initiate the rotation. Just BE Certain to drive Lefty-Loosey! Check to see if the 'gasket' is really a soft aluminum Gasket. It it sticks to the magnet it is Simply a Steel Washer!! Grrrrrrrrr! Lucky it wasn't dripping.
 

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Bummer, you "ran great" for until recently which suddenly turns into one of the most oblique quirky items. At first glance does not pass the smell test (ie, dad made me true my own bike tires at 6 yrs old, tore down a riverside at 9 yr old, dad hated me so made me learn to run tire machine at Skelly shop at 14 yrs old. ran sleds for 40 years. still have a 140hp high perf sled. have had a KLR for +25 years. not claiming to be an expert in everything, but generally my smell test is pretty good.) but the guys on here will help you sort it out. I am not trying to be critical, but once I had a flat tire because my girl friend threw her curling iron out the window and the steel belts on my firestone 500 tires broke out of the carcass and lightning hit them. It was the best view of girlfriends butt flying out in front of the car I ever could have asked for . . . . so I hope you get to the bottom of this quagmire. I mean no offense, but this one is out there . . . . when ever someone starts with "ran fine for months:" the answer is change the oil and all will be well line6 ride safe
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You can take pictures and post them, you don't need to have a certain post count. You will need to remove the head to fix it in any case. The best thing you can do is get the head off so that you can see with the issue really is. It's not that bad
Tom, thanks for the advice and for hitting all the main points. You helped get me back to work, I spent half the day in the garage today.

I had the cylinder head cover, camshafts, etc. removed already, but I’ve never done most of the other stuff—like removing the exhaust etc.— and I’m trying to be thorough and take my time, so as of now I’ve got everything off except the last couple nuts n bolts on the cylinder head. Was tempted to push on, but I’m calling it a day (it’s 105 F out and my “shop” is a standalone metal garage, fully exposed to the sun any time of day, with a gravel floor and no electricity). I plan to wake up @ 3AM tomorrow to work without the sun for a few hours.

Glad to know about the pics. Will post more as soon as the head is removed. For now here is the cam lobe/valve shim area and the little “culprit”
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I’ll update soon!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
The erroneous soft plug might be the same size as the crankshaft Bottom Rod Pin soft plug.

The erroneous soft plug definitely caused the RH intake valve to stay open too far or too long and cause it to get bent by the piston.
Thanks Westman this is very good to know! I will update tomorrow when I get a look under the head. I just posted a photo of the plug above and I’ll add more pics as I go.

I’m assuming a bent valve will require a replacement, right? I’m broke until Monday anyway though so I’m not looking up any prices until I see what’s busted first!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
At first glance does not pass the smell test
Not really sure what you’re saying here. Based on the rest of your comment I’m assuming you’re either saying that you don’t think the bike ran well before this or that you think I caused the issue with old/low oil. As I said I’m very inexperienced so any insight you might have I’m all ears!

As far as I could tell it ran well. That obviously comes with a huge grain of salt. But I did have a family friend test ride it and look it over before I bought it— he’s spent his life on & around dirt bikes —and he didn’t notice anything wrong at that point. (Again, obvious grain of salt as it was a quick ride and a once over, not an inspection or anything like that). I’ve ridden it daily since I got it though, and it’s never left me stranded or even struggled to start in the morning. Did have some fuel tank ventilation issues as the summer temp started heating up, but those seemed to settle down after I cleaned the tank cap and vent line under the seat.

I’ll have to pull out my notebook tomorrow to see exactly when I changed the oil, but one definite mistake I made was not changing it right when I got the bike—I had no idea when it was last changed so it should’ve been the first thing I did…
Inexperience + Procrastination = Regret.

Another mistake I made was not warming up the engine before doing the oil change. I noticed within a day or two the new oil was black again, but honestly I still don’t know if that’s normal or not—my online searches didn’t end with a solid answer.
So this time I planned on changing it well before the recommended window. I’ve got the oil, filter, gasket, new drain plug/seal washer, etc. but needed the bolt extractor kit which came today. So that’s coming up as well.

Then I found out recently that the PO who I thought changed the doohickey actually doesn’t even know what that is, so once I can get the oil drained I’ll be looking into that too. PO didn’t own the bike long though, and it’s clear that whoever owned it before him knew KLRs and their common mods (found the “22-cent mod” in the carb, all the ignition stop switches are disconnected, Cali emissions system removed, converted petcock, etc.) so I’m hoping that means it was already done. If not, that’s happening next week before I get on the road again.

So yea it’s a party over here. But yea any info helps! I’ll keep you all posted the next few days.
 

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Buddy, please do not take offense, yes I said smell test, and yes it was mostly for entertainment purposes. you cant take everything on this list too seriously and humour can be helpful, in writing what I did I was really just looking for a laugh. I wish you the best and trust me you have come to the right place. It is obvious you have inherited this situation. Example - you noticed your oil was black after a short time??? I have never seen my oil get black on my A16. if it gets looking liking amber beer after a thousand miles it gets replaced with fresh synthetic. So, again all the best to you. if you have been unfortunate enough to truly taken possession of a lemon I am sorry. it was wrong for me to chime in as you have substantial challenges ahead. my apologies. line6
 

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There's no way we can say that the situation is good with a cheap and easy fix. This is a domino thing; the bent valve leads to a need for a new one, but the whole head ought to be examined and refreshed. That means one new valve, perhaps a new valve seat, all four seats should be cut and lapped, the valve guides should be replaced, the valves measured and tipped for a good set of fat shims, the head skimmed, yadda yadda.

In short, you're going to have to make some value judgments on the repair. The quick and dirty is to get a new valve, lap the crap out of the seat, put it all together, and see what shim you need. If you can get the shim, fine, get it and use it. If not, get the valve tipped. @GreatWhiteNorth can show you how to do it at home. The repair will lie somewhere between almost free if you can scrounge stuff off of e-bay (or I might have an intake valve around here for the cost of postage) to mebbe $400 for a righteous head refurb.

This is assuming that the plug came out and almost immediately got caught up in the valve train, stopping the engine. In that scenario, the cam journals wouldn't have had time to burn up from the loss of oil. That pretty much scraps a head and it either needs to get replaced or fixed in Petaluma, CA at Engine Dynamics.

By the by, having that plug come out is extremely rare. This is the first one I have heard of.
 
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By the by, having that plug come out is extremely rare. This is the first one I have heard of.
3rd one that I have read of since about 2012, when I got into the KLR forums.

I've also read of 1 crankshaft soft plug coming adrift inside an engine. Total of 3 on crankshaft. One on inner throw of RH crank half. One on each end of Bottom rod Pin.

Totally ODD, because the cold oil pressure is not 'That high' for very long. Even less so at the intake camshaft.
One can read here, OIL Pressure, How much Ya got?
 

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@KnowledgeLackingRider : line6 is just joshing ya. I doubt oil changes had anything to do with that cam plug coming out. As PDW replied, it’s extremely rare.

Finish disassembling and post pictures here, especially the cam journals. Then the experts can advise you what to do next.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@line6distortion oh dude not offended at all! If I was I wouldn’t have replied to you lol. Part of what drew me to this forum was seeing zero argumentative BS or insults etc between members—just a bunch of people with a common interest genuinely trying to help each other out!
I appreciate the reassurance tho.

you noticed your oil was black after a short time??? I have never seen my oil get black on my A16
This is VERY good to know, thank you! Yea when I got the bike the oil was B L A C K—i was actually surprised when I saw a photo in Clymer where you could see thru the oil in the sight glass, so that should tell ya how gross it was.

This time I bought a bunch of extra oil to potentially do sort of back-to-back oil changes n see if that helps flush out whatever grime is in there.

I suspect this bike was well maintained for years and then shamefully neglected more recently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@Tom Schmitz thanks for the straightforward description of what I’m likely up against here. Doesn’t sound great, esp. with this bike being my only transportation right now, but I’d rather have an idea of how steep this uphill climb could end up being.

Out in the garage now, will update later on.
Thanks everyone!!
 

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Good luck; Paul and Tom have you covered. If you didn't need the bike right away and it was in the budget, I'd just send the head to Engine Dynamics or Eaglemike, but it sounds like that isn't in the cards. On the oil color; frankly I find that normal and wouldn't worry about it - you never get 100% of the oil out and the remaining stuff turns the new oil black almost immediately IME......and others.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Alright boys! Photo time.

Mind the Gap.
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Intake Valves as seen thru the carb inlet (betcha can’t guess which one is which!)
30448



Cylinder —Is this a normal amount of buildup? And are the indents normal?
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Photos of the full cylinder head
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Ok so next up would be removing the valve. In order to do that, Clymer says I need a valve spring compressor (part# 57001-241) and adapter (part# 57001-243). Is that accurate or are there other options? And if it’s necessary are there cheaper alternatives you’d recommend as far as brands go?

Done for today, stoked to be closer to the “whole truth” here and I’m looking forward to hearing all of your thoughts! If other photos might help let me know. Thank you all!
 

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The good news is that your cam journals look great.

Being the knuckle-dragger that I am, I will say that this is a job where a poor quality tool may suffice, so this might do the trick:

You are right that the next step is to get the valve out of there so that the seat and guide can be assessed for damage.

@pdwestman may have some tips and tricks for getting the valve out with or without special tools.

The deposits look pretty much par for the course and the crescent-shaped cutouts in the piston are supposed to be there.

A favor, if you will; can you raise the piston to top dead center and measure how far below the top of the cylinder the piston sits?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@DPelletier Honestly sending the head out isn’t totally out of the question, especially if getting the valves in order would be part of the deal. I’m kinda starting from scratch here—when I bought the bike 4 months ago this was literally the entirety of my tool collection:
30452

Since then I’ve just kinda added what I needed when I could; I’ve got a good amount of the necessities now but when it comes to the more complex stuff, paying for service vs. buying new tools could end up working out to a similar price, and since idk what I’m doing I’m not exactly speeding thru the process anyway lol, so it might take just as long as sending it out.

Depending on how these next couple days go, that’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind. Thanks for the info and for the alternate opinion on the oil, I appreciate it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
@Tom Schmitz Yea that’s about my budget right there lol thanks.

And thanks for all the info. Yea from what I can tell so far, the damage looks to be isolated to that area around the right intake cam lobe, and then of course we’ll see in full what happened to the valve soon. Far as I can tell thru the intake port, the valve stem looks about as straight as its neighbor, so I’m hoping that’s good news too. (Here’s a photo w/ flashlight—the one on the right side here is the “problem child.”)
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Now, per your “favor” request:
Set TDC like this, yea?
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If so, it’s there already (and in case it matters here, the cam lobes were all facing out before removal).
So with that, I’m struggling to get a solid measurement at the moment, but averaging between the caliper & measuring tape, it’s about a 7-8mm drop.
Lmk how that sounds, I can try getting a more accurate measure in the morning too.
 

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I believe that you are at the 30* before top dead center mark. That is the full ignition advance mark. The true top dead center would be two marks further in the counterclockwise direction of crank rotation from that mark. The mark is called the Lazy T - a "T" laying on its side.

The piston top should be pretty much flush with the top of the cylinder, but the question of the hour is "how close to perfectly flush is it?".

30455
 
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