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I'm feeling kind of stupid here... Can someone help me figure out why my clutch won't disengage?

975 Views 33 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  MN Willie
I wanted to check my clutch for wear. It was well within spec but I did notice the basket had lots of chatter marks.
Looking back I think maybe I should have just left it alone but I went ahead and removed the basket to smooth them out. Put it all back together looking at the Clymer manual and it all seemed to go well.

I'm now reinstalling the cable and I cannot get the darned thing on there! I huffed and puffed and pulled on the cable and finally got it in but now no matter how it's adjusted, the clutch won't fully release. I can open the oil filler cap and see it moving the way it's supposed to but in 1st (engine off) I can't get it to release fully.

Thinking maybe I manhandled the cable and stretched it out, I tried a brand new one. I cannot for the life of me get it hooked onto the clutch arm, even with tension fully off at the lever and down near the arm. Cable is routed just like the old one.

I've already filled it with oil, and the gasket surface was not pretty so I used some gasket dressing on it with a new gasket, but if I can avoid draining and pulling it apart again I'd very much like to.

TL;DR: had the clutch apart with the basket out. Now even a new cable seems impossible to hook up. What could I have done wrong?
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Thanks for the reply, but I don't think that's it. The arm rotates and at least appears to be in the correct position. It actually rises up that little bit as it "locks" into place and finds its groove. It even disengages the clutch SOMEWHAT, just not all the way - not enough for me to be able to rotate the rear wheel, even with my weight on the bike trying to push it forward.
You need to post some pics of what you have done.
You will need to get your post count to 10 to do so.
Utube clutch cable vids for KLR.
Calm down it’s easy to adjust once you figure it out.
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Just to be clear, I've unhooked the cable before to lube it, and it wasn't much trouble getting it back in, and it certainly worked fine then.....
Although now that has me thinking, part of the reason I was looking at it in the first place was I had a couple weird incidents where I was accelerating quickly, got into 5th gear and had this sudden, complete loss of power - lasted for a fraction of a second - where it felt just as if the clutch become completely disengaged and then re-engaged just that quickly. The engine raced, I nearly threw myself over the bars, it was scary!
No idea what that was, but I was told by a few people it might be the clutch slipping. That seemed hard for me to believe, since it was not consistent, but maybe it's a clue?
Just to be clear, I've unhooked the cable before to lube it, and it wasn't much trouble getting it back in, and it certainly worked fine then..... Although now that has me thinking, part of the reason I was looking at it in the first place was I had a couple weird incidents where I was accelerating quickly, got into 5th gear and had this sudden, complete loss of power - lasted for a fraction of a second - where it felt just as if the clutch become completely disengaged and then re-engaged just that quickly. The engine raced, I nearly threw myself over the bars, it was scary! No idea what that was, but I was told by a few people it might be the clutch slipping. That seemed hard for me to believe, since it was not consistent, but maybe it's a clue?
clutch slipping if you are not activating it, should not behave this way. It will slip under power in any gear, plus it would not act as an on / off switch, A MISSEDSHIFT ..ie not engaging the dogs, can rotate a few times before engagement. and the engine will race but only very briefly. this is a sign of worn shift dogs, worn shifter drum or forks. Or just a occasional lazy shift. . BUT if the clutch were slipping it would not be a fast rise in rpm then engage. AS for what you have now. Check the climber manual again. open the clutch cover and run through what you did with a video. you may have a screw sitting in the way etc. If that does not work, just haul the thing to a dealer 2 hrs of shop labor will take care of it. just a pain to transport a bike. I find a buddy and a bottle of Jack Daniels usually will do the trick.
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You need to post some pics of what you have done.
You will need to get your post count to 10 to do so.
I think that only applies to the Marketplace at this point.
A slipping clutch cannot give sudden bite. Even a sudden bite will throw you backward instead of over the handle bar.
A slipping clutch cannot give sudden bite. Even a sudden bite will throw you backward instead of over the handle bar.
What I said is I nearly threw myself over the bars. Whether you realize it or not, when you accelerate you compensate for that tendency you are referring to of the bike to throw you backwards. When suddenly those forces are removed, guess what happens.... I can tell you from personal experience, you nearly throw yourself over the bars.

Your point that a slipping clutch can't do this sounds spot on to me though.
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clutch slipping if you are not activating it, should not behave this way. It will slip under power in any gear, plus it would not act as an on / off switch, A MISSEDSHIFT ..ie not engaging the dogs, can rotate a few times before engagement. and the engine will race but only very briefly.
Thanks. That was exactly what I was thinking, I just didn't have the words to articulate it. Since it happened MAYBE 5 times over 12k miles, I'm just going to go with the occasional missed shift explanation. Total mileage on the bike is only about 24k so I doubt the dogs are that worn. Although it is just slightly bothersome that it only ever happened in 5th.

Guess I'm just going to have to open it back up again. I can't see it being anything to do with the cable, since the cable worked before and I didn't mess with it. And I did, unfortunately, mess with the clutch itself.

I'll post back with what I find.
I had slipping clutch before and it happened on every gear and on the certain RPM. It also happened after certain period of time when the oil gets hot.
Are you sure it's not ignition cutting off? Check the rusty connection just to make sure.
I know you said you didn't play with the cable before disassembly but check both cable adjustment on the lever and on the clutch side. Lose them up to get most slack.
I don't mean to be an asshole, because I'm not. I'm a dick.

Can you restate what your current problem is? I don't care what you did a year ago, or last week, or even yesterday. What is the problem today?

I originally read the problem as this: "Thinking maybe I manhandled the cable and stretched it out, I tried a brand new one. I cannot for the life of me get it hooked onto the clutch arm, even with tension fully off at the lever and down near the arm. Cable is routed just like the old one."

To which you responded "The arm rotates and at least appears to be in the correct position. It actually rises up that little bit as it "locks" into place and finds its groove. It even disengages the clutch SOMEWHAT, just not all the way - not enough for me to be able to rotate the rear wheel, even with my weight on the bike trying to push it forward." That makes no sense, as even ArnoldfuckingSchwarzenegger doesn't have enough strength to operate the clutch from that wee lever.

If you can't get the cable onto the lever, with the lever in this position:


Automotive tire Motor vehicle Rim Bicycle part Gas


Then you don't have the slack in the cable that you say you do. If you have pictures that prove otherwise, post them up. But enough with the red herrings and dogs and slipping. Just, what's the problem on the bench today?
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Tom, you're obviously a good dude who clearly has a mission to help others. I have a deep and genuine gratitude for that. I apologize if I'm not the best communicator, but there are no red herrings or any other attempts at manipulation, obfuscation, or really, anything at all other than to provide enough information to get the help I need. And I reiterate, I'm grateful for that help.

I just re-read my very first post to the thread, and the whole story is there. I'll try again and attempt to streamline it.

1. I noticed a few of these occurrences, described in Post #5. As noted in a followup post, these happened approximately 5 times over the course of 12,000 miles. I only mention this because I thought it might provide a clue as to what's going on. Whether it's relevant, I don't know.
2. I had the clutch apart
3. I put the clutch back together
4. I tried to hook up the old cable, struggled mightily even with the tension all the way off at both ends but finally got it hooked up. (I didn't explicitly mention this earlier, but I then adjusted for correct free play). All seemed normal.
5. After filling it with oil, I put the bike in gear, not running, and attempted to check the function of the clutch.
6. I determined the clutch was not fully disengaging, regardless of any cable adjustment. FULLY is a keyword here, since again as noted, the clutch can be seen from the oil fill hole to be disengaging - just not enough to free the rear wheel.
7. I thought maybe I damaged the cable, stretching it out in pulling so hard to get it connected, so I mounted a new cable.
8. Again with the tension entirely slack at both ends of the cable, I'm unable to hook it up. I opted not to pull so hard on this one so as to not mangle it up too much.

The arm is in the position shown in the picture. It clearly pulls on the pressure plate, just not enough.

If you've got any ideas I'd be happy to hear them but I assume I'm going to have to drain the oil and look inside. I will reply with what I find.

Thanks, sincerely, for the help.
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Have you tried to start the bike and put it through gears to make sure it really has problem to disengage the clutch?
In order to disengage, the clutch only needs to move a visible amount. That's it, just enough to relieve the pressure on the pressure plate. At most, that is an inch of stroke at the handlebar lever. If you have the free play set at a quarter inch or so and can pull the handle fully to touch the bar, then you're all set. If you can't, then we need to find the reason you don't have a full stroke. And, if the full stroke is not releasing the clutch, then there is a very strange reason behind that that needs to be uncovered.

Now, if you are struggling to attach the clutch cable to the release lever then there is something wrong straight off. This is something I can do with one hand, laying on my back, with my body on the opposite side of the bike at night in a rainstorm with intermittent hail while wearing only a Speedo. Perhaps we should start with that.

Put full slack in both ends of the cable. Remove the screw that is holding the bracket to the clutch cover. It should be easy to remove the clutch cable. Put the bracket back and let's see some pictures of where the clutch release lever is and where the end of the cable is. This involves the basic geometry of the clutch system and if it is difficult to attach the ball-end of the cable into the release lever clevis we ought to be able to see why and by how much.

A picture of the clutch stack from the oil filler hole might also be helpful. Like this one:
Automotive tire Motor vehicle Automotive design Rim Alloy wheel


"Tom, you're obviously a good dude who clearly has a mission to help others."
Yeah, maybe, but I'm really just a dick.

Don't worry, we've tackled weirder shit than this before.

You might want to look through is article and see if anything in the words or pictures jogs your memory of something you might have thought, seen, heard, or felt as you put things back together. Inspiration is found in odd places. Philip Marlowe didn't say that. I did.
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CAUTION: Possibly irrelevant comment follows:

Sometimes, WARPED (as in, not sufficiently flat) clutch plates may inhibit total clutch release (that's what the big boys on the playground say, anyway).
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@Gloopis, Tom’s sarcasm is only outmatched by his knowledge of the KLR and willingness to share that with anyone in need on the forum. AND…. he’s Tom, stick around and you’ll see what I mean. That said, we are very fortunate to have him, and he will help you till it’s fixed, even when says he’s gonna be a dick (his words, not mine 🤣, I hope I don’t get put on the bus to banned camp)

When you have a spare minute, check out Tom’s website listed at the bottom of his signature.

Hang in there, you’ll get it sorted!
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@Gloopis, Tom’s sarcasm is only outmatched by his knowledge of the KLR and willingness to share that with anyone in need on the forum. AND…. he’s Tom, stick around and you’ll see what I mean. That said, we are very fortunate to have him, and he will help you till it’s fixed, even when says he’s gonna be a dick (his words, not mine 🤣, I hope I don’t get put on the bus to banned camp)

When you have a spare minute, check out Tom’s website listed at the bottom of his signature.

Hang in there, you’ll get it sorted!

Folks like Tom were the ones my father said to
Trust and listen to though …..

Disregard the rest of the fools son …..

Good stuff , Definitely an asset for other folks seeking some common sense .

We are kinda short and blunt in my business in helo maint as well…. It kinda cuts out the filler (bullchit) that stands in our way of completing said task … !
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Gloopis: I don't understand why you would have a hard time hooking the bullet end of the cable to the clutch release arm either. Did you unscrew the bracket that holds the lower end of the clutch cable casing to the top of the engine case? If not, that's why you can't get it attached. Unscrew the bracket, then hook up the the cable end to the arm, then screw it back down.

And post pics.
Folks like Tom were the ones my father said to
Trust and listen to though …..

Disregard the rest of the fools son …..
Seriously, no one is better in a clutch than Tom Schmitz... There's got to be a perfectly rational solution to this clutch problem, as there's only so many pieces that can be fit together. Good luck and please keep us posted!
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