Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Motorcycle Maintenance - Valve and Drive Chain and Gas Additives

I spent Saturday adjusting the chain on the Kawasaki KZP 1000 and adjusting the valves and synching the carbs on the Kawasaki Concours.

Actually I spent about 15 minutes adjusting the chain on the KZP and most of the rest of the time disassembling and reassembling the Concours. Getting the valve cover off, and back on, that bike is a fun puzzle.

I ended up re-adjusting the chain on the KZP after I rode it. The adjustment range is 1.2 to 1.4 inches and I had it on the tight end which was causing shifting to be a little harder than I thought it should be. The slight clunk when I shift is gone now - which is what I wanted. I was a little worried that the chain might be stretched beyond it's service limit, but it wouldn't pull away from the rear sprocket at all so that wasn't a problem. That bike has a heavy 630 type chain which looks like it should last a long time.


It had been about 10,000 miles since I adjusted the valves last summer, but none of them were out of spec. I just tweaked a few back to be in the middle of the adjustment range; which is .006 intake, .008 exhaust. The bike seems to run a little smoother, but it might just be wishful thinking on my part.

I had a new pulse cover gasket but didn't need to use it since the old one came off intact and was in good shape. I went by the book and didn't try the unofficial bump-the-starter, or turning the back wheel, methods to get the cam lobes horizontal. I did try turning the engine over with the spark plugs out by rotating the back wheel - no joy with that method. The whole point of either of those methods is to avoid taking the pulse cover off - so you save maybe 10 minutes and maybe a gasket that cost a few bucks, and risk adjusting the valves at the wrong point; and burning or bending a valve and end up spending hundreds of dollars on repairs. It probably works fine - but I like going by the manual for certain critical things.


I put a couple of extra bolts in the top case of the Concours to hold it on if the locking latch fails. I never take the top case off anyway so I didn't need the quick removal mechanism.


I dumped some Shell V-Power gas additive in all three MC's. Not sure why, but it was on sale and I like thinking I'm doing something good for the engine. I figured if it what made by Shell it wouldn't hurt anything. Not so sure with some of those additives - some contain solvents that react with rubber or synthetic rubber pieces used in the fuel system possibly causing them to swell or degrade. Some people say the same thing about ethanol, but I don't have any evidence that ethanol causes any problems in any of the vehicles I've owned.

Arco gas, which has ethanol in it, is about 25 cents a gallon cheaper than the Top Tier Gasoline (Chevron, Shell, etc.) in this area. The Tappet Brothers recommend buying the cheap gas and putting in an additive every so often - if you like doing that sort of thing. Gasoline and ethanol are pretty good cleaners to begin with; so it's probably a waste of money. Ethanol might not make sense from a macro-economic or overall emissions standpoint but it burns just fine in my experience.

I think people who complain about bad gas or gas causing problems in vehicles have one of three things going on - (1) some other problem that's causing the engine to run poorly, electrical, air, compression or maybe something with the fuel system (not usually the fuel itself). (2) they actually did get a batch of bad gas, which in my experience is very rare, actually never in my particular case. (3) they let a vehicle sit for a long time and the internal parts of the fuel system start to corrode/degrade/stick. I'm talking long time here...not a couple of weeks or even over a winter.

The best thing you can do, if your concerned about this, is run the engine to operating temperature for 20 to 30 minutes once a week or so and keep the gas tank topped off to keep condensation/rust to a minimum. I've left gas in lawnmowers, edgers, pressure washers, my pickup truck for long periods of time without starting them with no ill effects. I've used Arco 87 octane regular gas with 10% ethanol in my 26 year old pickup for it's lifetime, and never had a problem with the fuel injection or other parts of the fuel system, so at least I have that data point. I use that same gas in the two Kawaski's as well and no problem with the carburetors so far. Ditto for the Harley using Arco premium.


All three motorcycles are running great. I'm really glad we have weather that allows me to ride almost every day of the year.

I really like reading about, riding and tinkering with motorcycles.