Showing posts with label r80 maintenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label r80 maintenance. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Brigitta's stripped transmission input spline

I got Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer back from Pete Homan today. Pretty fast work really, the most time was spent trying to fix the neutral sensor switch and they ended up replacing it instead.

I thought I'd show you what went wrong this past Saturday, which left Brigitta and me stranded for a short while on the side of the road.

Basically, the transmissions on these airheads use an input spline to mate with the clutch plate to engage and disengage the gears in the transmission when shifting gear. I thought you were supposed to lube them with special lubricant every 15,000 miles, no more than 18,000 miles. Well, according to Pete, one should do this service with every major service, every 10,000 miles!

I had been planning to lube the input spline when Brigitta hit 79,000 miles which I had calculated was roughly 15,000 from when I got her. I guess I should have done it sooner. Here's the result of what happens when this is neglected:

Here's the forward end of the old transmission, note the plentiful shiny metal flakes splattered about, they're the metal that was sheared/worn off of the input spline's gear teeth!

A closeup of the failed input spline, note how far down the teeth had been worn down! The correct height for the teeth is shown at the base of the input spline. Yikes!

Here's a shot of the input spline from the transmission I bought on Ebay and which now is mounted on Brigitta.

Pete Homan was able to get Brigitta back on the road in two days because I had bought previously a used 1981 airhead transmission thinking it would take the place of the one Brigitta came with when it came time to rebuild it at 100,000 miles.

Turns out, I was wrong about that too....sure the engine might go to 100,000 miles before needing an overhaul but transmission are really expected only to possibly make it to 50,000 miles! I'd been on borrowed time ever since I bought the motorcycle it seems.

I cleaned up the failed transmission this evening, I think I'll be having it rebuilt with a new input spline (rumored to cost $300), have the rest of its innards checked out and have it ready if/when the one I got from Ebay fails or needs work.

Pete wants me to change out the transmission fluid about 500 miles from now, or when Brigitta hits 76,000 miles to check out the fluid's condition. He'd noted some water had leaked into the Ebay transmission and was not 100% sure of it without cracking it open.

So, hopefully this Ebay transmission will work out well for a long time. I've got to save up the money to have the failed one rebuilt so I hope it lasts at least that long!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brigitta gets a new tire

To go along with the milestone of crossing over 75,000 miles yesterday, Brigitta got a new rear tire today. Got lots of riding planned this coming Fourth of July weekend and I didn't want to do it on a worn rear tire!

The Beemer dealer had Metzeler Lazertec 120/90s in stock so I went by after work and picked one up along with an oil filter change kit. It was a bit awkward riding to Pete Homan's Bavarian Motorcycles West mechanic shop with the new tire strapped on the pillion but I got there fine.

It's amazing, how with the right equipment, bike stand, tire changing machine it all seems so fast and simple to do. I've done tire changes before on both my bikes and since I lack most of the good stuff Pete has in his shop, it takes me much longer.

I've reached a point where I decided that sure, I know how to change a tire, but my time is limited and using it up changing tires vice getting it done for a fairly cheap price, fast and while I wait is the better way to go.

Brigitta on one of Pete Homan's three bike lifts.....nice stuff those lifts

Pete had the old tire off and the new one on in less than five minutes I think!

The new tire gets mounted and secured onto Brigitta

Brigitta's new tire

As Pete got Brigitta off the stand once he was done and rolled her out the door. He had me hold down the rear portion of the bike while he checked the play on the head bearings by turning the handlebars back and forth.

He stated that they felt "loose", as in there was no preload on the head bearings. He grabbed some tools, five minutes later, he was satisfied. I could feel just the slightest hint of resistance now as I moved the handlebars back and forth. Apparently, you need this or the bearings tend to move and wear into the sides of the spindle that hold them. It should help her handling as well, Pete stated. All this came at a cost of an additional $5, can't beat that with a stick!

I was out of there in about 30 minutes, humming along with good rubber on both tires now. A warm ride home in heavy traffic saw me arriving home in time to do a quick oil change for Brigitta. My almost ten year old son helped me out, so the task took a bit longer than usual! :)

Still, it was a good bonding moment. He found it quite amusing that I kept dropping tools and oil filter covers into the dang oil disposal canister which was full of the old hot oil. Next time I'll have him dip his gloved hand in there to fish that dropped item out of there! : )

Now to figure out whether I want to try and do the transmission spline lube at 78K miles or have Pete do it for $200.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Brigitta offers up a First Day of Spring Libation

Ah, the first day of spring here in the Front Range of the Rockies. Temperatures in the mid-40s and overcast. Still, it's supposed to get into the 60s this afternoon so no complaints from me!

Brigitta, my 1987 R80, hopefully as a mark of homage to the motorcycling gods, decided to offer up a libation to them. This was in the form of gasoline leaking out of my right side carburetor bowl as I was sitting on her, right after I'd cranked her up for the ride into work.

As soon as I backed off the choke control, I heard an unusual dull metallic clattering noise. It was like something was loose and vibrating. The motorcycle vibrates a lot before she settles into a nice idle once barely warmed up. I was looking around the motorcycle and finally noticed the spreading pool of gasoline by my right foot. Whoops!

I shut Brigitta off, got off the motorcycle and removed the float bowl which was overfull. Salvaged the fuel in the bowl and poured it back into the tank. I checked, with the bowl off, the action of the floats and they seemed fine. No debris in the bowl, so I put it all back together and fired her up again. No leaks.

I am thinking I might have accidentally kicked the bowl when dismounting the motorcycle yesterday after coming home from work. So that, when I fired her up the first time this morning, it vibrated the bowl loose enough to spill fuel. Perhaps the choke cable on the right side was binding, I'll look at that as well.

If not, then I guess I'll be working on the right-side carburetor this weekend. I still rode Brigitta in to work since the weather would turn sunny and warm by the ride home. No further leaks. So maybe it's all good.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Done with Brigitta's Major Service

This morning I finished most of the remaining checks and services for Brigitta's "major" service.

You are supposed to use the 5k to 10k rule when it comes to services for Airheads. The rule is you check your valve lash settings every 5000 miles when a "minor" service is due. Then when you hit 10,000 miles, you check the valve lash again while doing the "major" service. Since I picked her up with 61,300 or so miles on the odometer from Pete Homan, I think I am slight ahead of schedule in terms of the major service.

Still better too many than too few. I've annotated my logs and will follow the 5k to 10k schedule from now one, still changing out the oil every 3K though.

Based on the example below, I've got good amount of adjuster threads left (red arrows)

Photo courtesy: Matt Parkhouse's article in BMWMOA ON: Valve Recession
Left: adjuster nut almost against rocker arm = bad
Right: More thread is better.

I found the left side intake valve a bit tight, adjusted it. I also found the right side exhaust valve a bit tight, adjusted it as well. Just a slight drag on the feeler gauge is what you're going for in terms of clearance.

The items listed in the manuals for minor and major services are well know so I'll not list them here. I go by the Clymer manual and the info from sites such as Snowbum's great info site for airhead maintenance and repair: LINK

After having changed out her engine oil+filter/transmission/driveshaft/final drive oils yesterday; today I did the valve lash check, cleaned out the air filter and renewed the heatsink compound on the ICM or Ignition Control Module.

I thought I had to replace the spark plugs but the log says they're not due out till 78,000 miles so I am done. I am going to forego a carburetor sync as I did not mess with the throttle cable settings or idle screws. The rest of the week is packed with work-related stuff.

The test ride went well, no explosions or weird noises. I'll monitor for oil leaks from the valve covers over the next day or so closely. Brigitta sure lets you feel the breeze without her fairing! I picked up some jb-weld and will see how it does on repairing that mounting point.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Maintenance on Thanksgiving Day

Greetings and Happy Turkey Day!

A cold and blustery day here in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I spent part of the morning doing the annual clutch circuit bleed on Maria, my '87 1150RT Beemer. No issues arose as I was using the speedbleeder I'd installed last year around this time. Here's some pics for ya:

Pretty important to have a paper towel as shown above, to catch the occasional spurt of brake fluid which will happen, no matter how slowly you press on the handle to drain the fluid out.

I put most of a new bottle of DOT4 Brake Fluid through the circuit

A Closeup of the SpeedBleeder, what a great device!

Afterwards, I put her left-side fairing back on which had been removed to check the freeplay on the shift pedal. (I ended up putting back on the stock shift pedal until I resolve the issues I discovered with the extended shift lever from which I bought on Ebay a while ago).

The test ride with the stock shift lever, freshly-bled clutch circuit went fine and she's shifting a whole lot better now. The gears did not pop out of first into neutral at all on the 12 mile or so test ride and it was a nice and firm engagement of the gears each time.

On my return home, I switched motorcycles and headed out on pretty much the same route I'd just ridden, except reversed, on Brigitta to warm her up for a different check.

Apparently during the years 1984-1995, BMW had foolishly tried to save a few pennies by not installing what is known as a circlip on the end of the shaft on which the transmission gears ride and rotate. After a lot of miles, the gears would sometimes "fall or shift forward" I believe, and cause damage within the transmission and lots of expensive repairs.

Left: Without Groove for Circlip Right: Grooved for Circlip
(Photo courtesy of Anton Largiadier's Website)

My Brigitta, being a 1987 motorcycle, falls squarely in the above year bracket. An article by Matt Parkhouse in the DEC 2008 BMWMOA Owner News detailed some checks one can do to see if one's transmission is having this "issue".

It involved warming up the motorcycle, hence the ride I took her out on this morning in some chilly weather, and then placing her on the centerstand upon returning to the garage. Make sure the rear wheel is in the air and transmission is in neutral. Spin the wheel forward while placing a hand on the transmission cover nearest the output shaft and feel for "notchiness or lumpiness" which is indicative of a gear having fallen forward on the shaft and working on causing damage by shedding metal parts and having said parts float about the transmission causing more damage!

I am happy to report I felt nothing as I rotated the wheel forward. I even used a mechanic's stethoscope to listen for any rubbing noises and the only sound was the rear wheel rotating on the final drive assembly. I hope this is a good check on my part. The other check I'd done was when I changed out the transmission's fluid at 63,769 miles, as expected there was dark grey metallic fuzz on the magnetic plug which is normal. No metal shards in evidence which is a good thing.

Lots of great info on Snowbum's Site: LINK

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Oil Change and Pretty Sunset for Brigitta

It was in the low 30s heading into work today on Brigitta, a bit more "brisk" than I like. The gear did ok, except for the tip of my right thumb. Oh well. I took Brigitta in to work since I wanted to fill up her tank as I'd neglected to fill it yesterday afternoon after my ride and I wanted to prevent condensation of water within the tank.

After work, I got home in temps that were in the low 50s to high 40s by the end. Good riding weather. It was time to change out the oil, but not the filter, on Brigitta and so it was done using the Spectro Golden #4 10W40 oil recommended by Snowbum's Site. The filter is good for another 5K miles I read so I am going with his experience/recommendations.

Afterwards, I took Brigitta out for a short test ride to check for leaks at the oil drain plug. None are apparent, I'll check again in the morning.

Since I was out at around 1630, I saw the sun was setting and found myself at the "Plains Conservation Center" and posing Brigitta for a sunset shot. I shot my pictures with different aperture and shutter settings, this is the best I could come up with:

Hope you like it, I must research how to take sunset pictures, and bring a tripod next time!

Maintenance Note: Brigitta's oil changed/filter kept at 66,777 miles.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Flushing Brigitta's Disc Brakes

This afternoon I took 30 minutes to perform the annual brake fluid flush on Brigitta, my 1987 R80. Her last major service, which should have included a brakes flush was October of last year so she was due. Either ways, now I have a good baseline.

I took the opportunity to swap out the stock bleeder valves with ones from Speedbleeder. I love these things, they truly make a two man messy job into an easy one man job with little to no mess.

Note the color of new brake fluid in the reservoir

A Closeup above of the new speedbleeder valve

A simple job, went for a short ride around the block and tried some hard stops from up to 40mph. Brigitta stopped just fine, no leaks where the new speedbleeder valves were installed and I had her rear drum brake as backup!

Half a 8oz bottle went into each brake circuit, one for the left and one for the right. The old fluid came out clear and I added new until I saw no bubbles....

Good to go! Maria's next.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Battery for Brigitta

Ever since I bought her, I've a bit distrusting of the battery that came with Brigitta from the previous owner. I had no idea how old it was but it was exhibiting some "strain" at times in starting the engine.

A few times, which I thought was due to rain (fixed by replacing the coil), or flooded carbs, I had a heck of a time getting her to crank over and start. You could hear the engine trying to turn over but it sounded labored.

This behavior was most evident in cold weather or if I did not remember to put her battery on a trickle charger before going to bed at night.

Even with a "good checkup" from the auto parts store guy, and with the trickle charger reporting full charge, she'd still labor through 3-4 engine turnover attempts before the engine would crank. Worrisome at best.

So my loving wife got me a new battery from, less than $88 with shipping! The BMW dealer had quoted me closer to $100 for a similar battery from Westco. The battery arrived this morning, I put it in with minimal fuss and under 30 minutes. It came fully charged up since the trickle charger went to green in less than 3 minutes I think.

Digikey P/N: P231-ND

Once I had Brigitta put back together (the securing rubber straps gave me some grief as the battery terminal posts were in a bit different location), I geared up and she fired right up after just one single labored turnover....not bad. We'll see how the new battery does in the coming cold weather.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Airheads and Heated Grips

Yesterday I found out the hard way that using one's heated grips on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, on a short ride is probably not such a good idea.

The temperatures were in the high 40s to low 50s during my 11 mile commute to work and I turned on the heated grips on low. They really felt nice and warm and my medium gloves were all I needed. I made sure to turn off the heat of course once I parked Brigitta in the work parking lot.

The work day over, I go out to her, gear up, get on and tried to crank the engine. I could hear it turning sluggishly. Damn, I I tried half choke, almost caught but then just a weak turning over of the engine. Full choke, same thing. I checked the throttle and choke cables and they seemed OK.

I placed her on her sidestand, checked for fuel in both carburetor bowls and they were full so probably not a fuel issue. Another rider had come out while I was doing this and asked if my battery was dead. I told him I did not think so as I put Brigitta up on her centerstand and made another quick check of all the connections to the coil and spark plugs.

I went to crank her one more time while still on the centerstand and this time she cranked over and caught! I quickly gave it some throttle to keep the revs up and breathed a sigh of relief.

I am thinking I just drained the battery enough so that it would not crank the engine when I first tried. Either that or I flooded the engine with the multiple attempts. Could be either. Must be more careful about both. These Airheads are known for having pretty weak charging systems after all. I think my alternator puts out just 280 Watts when new, as opposed to Maria my R1150RT which I believe has an alternator with a 700 Watts output.

I took Brigitta over to the local auto parts shop and had them put a battery tester on her. The tester declared the battery good, with a 12.89 Volt Charge and 165 Cold Cranking Amps. So I know for sure the battery is good.

I do recall that I'd not put the battery on the trickle charger the last couple of days before yesterday so that perhaps did not help things. I usually rotate the trickle charger between both my motorcycles to keep their batteries topped off.

So, moral of the story? Break out the heavier gloves for the early morning rides and avoid using the heated grips unless on long rides where the alternator has a chance to recharge the battery!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sometimes, an Airhead's owner is also an Airhead

Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, aka an airhead within the Beemer community was the deliverer of a lesson to its owner, me, today.

I'd rolled out of the garage backwards as usual and went to turn the ignition on this morning. Hmmm, no christmas tree lights on the dash. Christmas Tree lights is what the airhead community sometimes refers to as the lights which light up when you switch the ignition on.

This is what I got with ignition turned on

These are the lights you're supposed to see when you turn the ignition key

I remembered the sparks that I'd seen when I stupidly inserted the voltmeter's lightbulb onto its socket while the ignition was on last night. Damn, I thought to myself, I've blown some fuse I bet.

Off came the helmet, gloves, jacket. Up came the seat and I inspected the two 8amp fuses at their location below the rear end of the motorcycle's upper frame. Nope, they looked fine.

I recalled seeing fuses inside the headlight on the stripped down R90s I'd seen recently. I removed the nuts fastening the S fairing in order to remove the headlight mounting ring. Took a look inside. Nope, no fuses.

No fuses, but some unconnected wires....hmmm

I then tried to follow some of the troubleshooting diagnosis steps in the Clymer manual and got nowhere fast. Tried switching out the ICM with the spare, nothing.

In the process, I discovered how to "hotwire" an airhead so you don't need the ignition on to start it. Apparently, they're one of the easier motorcycles to steal out there.

So, my pitiful attempts at electronic diagnosis over with, I pulled off the three relays and went off to Pete Homan's shop hoping for some help.

Pete graciously took time from a motorcycle he was working on, tested each of the relays and pronounce the 30amp main relay as bad. Great I said, now to find a replacement since Pete did not stock any. His diagnosis cost me only $10 for ten minutes of his time.

On the way back from Pete's I figured I'd stop at the CarQuest auto parts store near the Beemer dealer since the dealer was closed on Mondays. Turns out that their p/n RY116 or perhaps V08183 is an exact replacement for the main relay on my R80! What luck! Something to keep in mind if your own airhead's main relay craps out on you while on the road and nowhere near a BMW dealer.

I get home, pop the new relay in, switch the ignition on....NOTHING, still no Christmas lights! Aaaaarrrggghhh! Now, here's where the lesson is taught to me by Brigitta and why the title of this posting says that I am an Airhead: The damn kill switch was in the off position on the handlebar control unit! I must have accidentally moved it while trying to put the replacement bulb in last night onto the voltmeter. The kill switch is not something I normally use, prefering to switch off the motorcycle using the ignition key, so its not something I conciously check before riding.

The Kill Switch, off above, on below

The Main Relay is the silver box closest to bottom of picture

So, with the kill switch now in the on position, the new main relay works fine and I get the wanted Christmas Lights on the dash. Just for GP, I pop in the old relay and damn if it doesn't work too! What the hell?

So now the question is: Was the diagnosis by Pete faulty or did the old main relay fail his testing because it's slowly going bad? Something else to worry me when things are quiet at night. I put the motorcycle back together and alls well once again, for now. I'll carry the new relay as a spare on the motorcycle just in case of course, its cost was $16 so the lesson was not expensive this time.

So yeah, sometimes the airhead is not only the motorcycle, it's also the owner. In this case, yours truly!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exhaust Nut - Yearly Maintenance

I bought Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer back in June of 2008, not much in the way of maintenance records came with her. One of the things I did not know enough about then was to ask when was the last time the Finned Exhaust Nuts which hold the front portion of the exhaust pipes onto the engine's jugs had last been lubricated with anti-seize lubricant.

The BMW Finned Exhaust Nut

As my knowledge grew, thanks mainly to the Airheads Email List, Snowbum's excellent site on Airheads and their maintenance and troubleshooting and such other sources, I learned one should lubricate the threads for these exhaust nuts on a yearly or so basis. Failure to do so, will result in jammed exhaust nuts which then have to be cut off (if you're lucky and no other damage ensued) or more costly repairs involving exhaust pipe replacement.

So, today the wrench I ordered off some outfit on Ebay arrived. Its pretty lightweight and it seemed to be made of ceramic based on its surface texture. The seller says its aluminum I think. Regardless, it works as advertised. I did have to use a mallet to break the grip loose on the exhaust nuts but otherwise smooth sailing.

The exposed threads before cleaning with wire brush, they were not bad at all

The special tool one needs, although some have used a strap wrench successfully

I applied a light coat of anti-seize lubricant from the auto parts store onto the threads and carefully spun the nuts back onto them till finger-tight.

I then used the wrench to secure the exhaust nuts firmly into place. There's no real published values as to torque for this item. Snowbum says to give it a good grunt while tightening. I used the mallet to further tighten it a bit as well.

I turned on the engine, could not feel any exhaust leaking from the exhaust nuts so am calling the job good for now. I removed the engine guards which were in the way and may place them back on in a few days. I'd been having to remove the darn things to pull the valve covers and now the exhaust nuts....they may be more trouble than they're worth?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Swapping Carburetor Bodies @ Matt's Place

Today was the day I was scheduled to ride Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer Airhead, down to Colorado Springs to Matt Parkhouse's place for him to swap the damaged carb body Brigitta came with for one I got from

Matt Parkhouse is one of the recognized gurus of the Airheads Email List which is used to spread wisdom/knowledge/fixes/info amongst Airheads all over the world. I just lucked out in that he agreed to help with me with the swap and that he was close by.

I got there a little after 1030am, having had to return shortly after leaving home to retrieve my camera. Just as well I was running late since Matt was tied up with another Airhead owner of a stripped down 1977 R90S. It was part of a ground up restoration and I'll cover the pictures I took of them working on that bike in a later posting.

A bit after 1200 or so, Matt was finally free and ready for me. I rode Brigitta into Matt's yard and next to his shop. He got to work immediately and within a minute or so had the carb off the left side of the bike and into the shop.

Matt has done hundreds of these carb jobs so he moved fast. I tried to keep up with photos but really, I was trying to actually see him do the actual work for when I do the rebuild next time they're due. He made it look so easy but I was comforted to see even he used an assembled carburetor as a guide when it came to putting things back together! In fact, as I'd read online somewheres, he also recommends keeping one carb assembled while you work on the other when doing rebuilds. It prevents mixing parts up since some of them are "handed" in that they are made to be on the specific side's carburetor, otherwise you reverse their function/range of motion which is not good.

The part of the swap process, the removal of the throttle plate and the peened mounting screws which I'd feared doing alone the most, proved anticlimatic as the screws appeared to Matt not to be peened. He did start dremeling one of the them so I got to see how that's done. In the end though, not much dremeling was needed.

Here's the left Carb without the cover

Disassembly begins, note the broken end on the mounting post that caused all this to occur

Most of the parts, removed, they were cleaned as they were taken off

The new carb body

Most of the parts on the new carb body

Old floats back on, new pin in place as the old one was bent

Carb Needle and old float

Old and New Diaphragms comparison, old is near top of pic

New Carb Body in place

Matt Parkhouse/Guru and Brigitta

Matt's wife's R100/7, note the well worn seat! This one has 107,777 miles on it, Matt's got another airhead with over 440k on it! He rebuilds the engines about every 100k miles. You can bet this bike is in much sounder mechanical condition than mine is!

Matt made it all look easy but I am sure its all a result of years of experience and practice/learning on his part with great mechanical talent thrown in.

Once he had Brigitta put back together, there was some tweaking of the carb floats to be done as I'd bent them before to deal with the vagaries induced by the bent mounting pin for the floats. He got that squared away easily enough though and I took Brigitta out for a test ride to warm her up prior to Matt doing a carb sync.

Once I got back I watched Matt do a carb sync by shorting each spark plug in turn as he made adjustments to the opposing carburetor. It was simply amazing how he did it. His method, he says, is more accurate since it balances the whole power process and not just the vacuum as the manometer method I use does. He's made from a couple of used /5 spokes, two rods which attach respectively on each spark plug end, the other end connects to the spark plug cable. To short out the plug he wants to short, he just touches the rod with a screwdriver! Cool stuff. I wish I'd thought to take pictures of them.

He got the idle correct using these tools, now I know you're supposed to adjust it so that the respective carburetor just barely stays running. Again, he made it look so easy.

He then ran up the rpms to about 3000 with a throttle lock and quickly switching between spark plugs with his shorting screwdrivers balanced the carbs at speed as well! Amazing. No pics, I was just barely keeping up with him just watching and I did not want to miss the Master at work! He works fast since its not good to run the engine without air moving over the jugs!

Brigitta is running sweetly now, her throttle response is snappier I think and I'm having to relearn my shifting/throttle operation due to the changes for the better. She sounds great, a bit throatier actually. Matt did preemptively replace both carb diaphragms since they were coming close to needing replacement.

Not expensive either, the whole thing came to $139! Labor and parts! Matt will probably be the guy I take the transmission on Brigitta for rebuild when that's due. He's a great teacher and mechanic and I can see why he's recognized as a Guru amongst Airheads.

Thanks Matt!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Leaking Oil Pressure Switch Replaced on Brigitta

I'd noticed, upon my return from Wyoming, a small pool of oil under Brigitta's centerstand's left foot. Not good. Oil was flowing down the leg and onto the ground.

I made a close inspection of her yesterday and it seemed like two possible spots. I saw oil drops hanging from the wires connected to the the Neutral Sensor Switch under the transmission housing and some seepage evidence on the frame portion under the Oil Pressure Switch.

Of course, since the Neutral Sensor Switch showed more oil accumulation underneath it, I concentrated on that. It was incredibly hard/ackward to get a 19mm Open End Wrench on it but I managed after loosening the rear mounts for the exhaust pipes. I could not get it to move so figured it was tight enough. I did not try applying a lot of pressure since I did not want to strip the nut on the sensor!

So, in an effort to get clear diagnosis of the problem. I sprayed down the sensor and the surrounding areas with carb cleaner/engine degreaser and hosed it down thoroughly with water. I cleaned off the area as much as I could then placed a paper towel right under the sensor to check in the morning for new leakage.

I also cleaned off the area under the Oil Pressure Switch and the switch itself just in case.

I woke this morning and checked, no evidence of leakage! Strange. There was, however, evidence of new seepage on the Oil Pressure Switch's electrical connector. Hmmmm.

Rode Brigitta to work and checked out both spots once I parked her. I lucked out and saw an actual drop of oil roll off the electrical connector on the oil pressure switch! Aha, I said, there's the damn leaker.

Got a replacement unit for $10 from the dealer on the way home and here's photos of the before and after shots. I had to buy a deep well 15/16th inch socket to remove/install the switch by the way. I lucked out, Advance Auto Parts was having a clearance sale on their AMPRO brand tools and they were 5o% off! I got both the 15/16ths and the 1 and 1/16ths (very close to a 27mm) sockets for less than $10 together! I'll be using the 1 and 1/16ths for the swingarm nuts some day when I do the lubing of the splines on the transmission.

Above is the old switch and the new socket

The hole where the switch goes, I lost just a few drops of oil, a mere dribble came out when I took the old switch off.

The new switch, all snugged up

Removal and installation could not have been simpler. I started the engine and checked for leaks and there were none, I will ride with the wrench tomorrow though just in case. : )

Now to monitor her for leakage for the next few days. I am keeping the old switch as a "spare" since it might have been just the failure of the crush washer it came with that caused the leakage.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ready for my next ride in the rain

The new spark plug cables came today from for Brigitta, my 1987 R80 who has had "issues" when riding in the rain, specially if she's sat in the rain for a while getting soaked.

I did some research on the airheads archive site, posted questions on the airhead list and the consensus seem to be to replace the existing spark plug cables with new ones. After all, I had already replaced the cracked coil and ignition control module. Those were usually the culprit of rain-related sputtering/failing to hold idle issues on these Airheads.

The new cables were $16 so it's a cheap thing to try and make Brigitta scoff at rainy days. I used dielectric grease on the connectors for the new cables, on the plugs themselves and the coil towers as well. Anywhere I saw exposed wire on a grounding point, I covered with dielectric grease as well.

This should leave only one issue that arises when I ride the R80 in the rain, somehow water is getting under the gauge lenses and fogging them up a bit. However, if that's the only thing that happens untoward in the next rainy day, I'll be happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rain Riding Issues

Today I had a meeting at the university where I'm adjunct faculty and teach part-time. It was softly raining as I looked out the garage door and the weather guessers were calling for the same all day.

So, did I make the rational decision and take the cage? Or at least take the motorcycle with the most weather protection? Nope, took Brigitta, my 1987 R80 with an S fairing. I wanted to get a ride in with the new ICM from to see if it cured the tachometer needle twitchiness.

So, some issue arose:

1. I had a heck of a time getting her started after she'd sat in the rain for about 3 hrs or so. The battery sounded pretty weak as I tried to crank her over. I even tried bump-starting it using a very slight incline in the school parking lot. Several attempts later, involving pushing the motorcycle back up the incline, failed miserably. She finally did crank over and I was quick enough to rev her up high enough to catch and stay on. Sheeesh. Not exactly my idea of fun. I guess my using the heated hand grips on the short ride to the school was not the best idea. After all, these Airheads are known to have weak charging systems. Sigh. I must get a voltmeter mounted on this motorcycle.

1a. Update: 1710hrs: Got a cheapo voltmeter from the autoparts store, hooked it up first to the switched connections for the heated grips, not good when the grips are on. Left the hot wire on the heated grip switch and ran the ground to a ground screw under the tank. More better. This will do till I find a BMW or VDO Voltmeter for a reasonable cost.

2. There's still some twitchiness with the tachometer's needle, so I guess it's not the ICM but the motorcycle still needs some work in that regard. It's worse in driving rain too, on the return trip home she was not holding idle even when warmed up. Rather disappointing in a way, I had been thinking of upping the idle somewhat and this clinched it. She then held idle fine once I tweaked it upwards when I got home. I really hope the new coil is not defective somehow. Still, it works much better than the old cracked one.

3. The most serious is I've got to figure out how to keep the inside of the helmet visor from getting wet and foggy. I am thinking perhaps a towel that's accessible at stops. The visor I had on the helmet had the Fogshield brand anti-fog mounted and it failed pretty miserably in rain.

So yeah, riding in the rain specially on a motorcycle with a minimal fairing is something to be experienced once, next time I'll know better. I do plan on a short ride through the neighborhood later to make sure the higher idle setting is a real solution or not.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Rain-Testing the New Ignition Coil and ICM

To go with the new ignition coil I'd recently installed on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, I'd shopped around and found a direct replacement Ignition Control Module for the most up to date ICM sold by BMW that was supposed to be used with the new ignition coil. Why not get the BMW one? $139 vs $25, quite a difference. The source is, and Stan the owner had a good reputation in the Airhead community.

Here's the two ICMs side by side, pretty much the same form factor, the changes are internal. The main one being that the new one does not send power to the coil until the engine is cranked over to prevent overheating the coil. More info here if you're really curious: LINK

I'd also discovered a small leak at the drain plug for the bevel final drive, the slow leak had spread hypoid gear oil all over the rear wheel. I tightened up the drain plug a bit more, cleaned off the wheel and will monitor for more leakage. Yes, I did use a new crush washer when I did the fluid change last week.

After the kids were in for the evening, I readied to go for a short 12 mile ride to check out all the changes I'd made Well, as I suited up I discovered that I'd left my wallet at work when changing into my riding gear. Dang. Instead of a short 12 mile ride, it was more like 24 miles there and back to retrieve my wallet.

Why do I mention this? Because it rained on me on the way home. Of course, since I was on a test ride, I did not put the sidecases back on and that's where my rain gear is stored. Sigh, got wet on the way home, not too bad.....just that cold Colorado rain while riding at night. The silver lining is that it was also a good rain test for the new coil and it did great! Held idle just fine, no sputtering, no complaining.

I did notice some slight twitchy behavior on the part of the tachometer needle though around the 4000 rpm mark. I'll have to watch that, am pretty sure its tied to the new ICM, hopefully its just part of the "burning in" process for a new ICM. I'll be carrying the old one as a spare anyways.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Quicksteel Repair for the Bing Carburetor - NO GO!!!

Update: 02AUG08:

Well in spite of the instructions that came with the Quicksteel, about it being impervious to chemicals, it's not...gasoline in the float bowl quickly softened it and it came apart. So this material and solution does not work. Sorry to get anyone's hopes up.

Just tried again using real thin safety wire and using a drilled hole in the mount as anchoring point. NO GO as well. Even though when I manually move the float up and down it seems free and operation, as soon as I put the bowl back on, turn on the gas, it overfills the bowl and starts leaking out of the carburetor! Tried a couple ways, no go. Back to the old drawing board.


I'd written before about finding a damaged/missing end of the portside mounting post on the left-side BING carburetor: LINK

Today I tried for a while to use safety wire to rig some kind of support cradle for the free-floating end of the floats support pin. No luck.

So, I decided to try what a member of the airheads email list suggested. He'd suggested JB Weld as the material to use, but I tried Quicksteel since I had it on hand from before, did not involve me removing the carburetor and inverting it to pour the stuff in and JB Weld was $13 for a kit that was way too much more material than I needed. Worth a shot anyways. Thanks Bud H.!

I cut off a small piece, kneaded it till it felt warm in my hand and applied it, Cutting / molding / pressing as needed onto the mounting post. The instructions said you could sand it, drill it or whatever after one hour but I'll wait till tomorrow to do anything further to it. I made sure I could put the float bowl back on before it hardened and it's a good thing I did. More trimming later while the stuff hardened, and the bowl fit back on just fine.

I made the sure the floats still move freely up and down, totally unhindered by the Quicksteel material.

Does not look too bad eh? Tomorrow I might sand it a bit to give it a smoother look using a dremel tool, or I might not. Depends on whether it remains stuck to the remnants of the mounting post when I give it a good tug in the morning.

For the long run, I'll keep my eyes open for a used carburetor body on Ebay and such. I hope this repair works until I find something more permanent.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Joys of Problem Diagnosis on an Airhead Motorcycle

So, for the last three weeks or so, I had been experiencing following symptoms on Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer Airhead motorcycle.

1. After about 25-30 of riding, she'd cut out on me while slowing down to a stop light, she would however restart right away. This would not happen initially during the morning commute but did occur at least once on the afternoon commute, so I thought perhaps it was the hot weather. This behavior got worse, occurring recently during the morning commute as well when its cool.

2. When riding in the rain, she would not hold idle when at a stop, I'd have to keep revving the throttle to keep it going.

3. In conjunction with #1 above, she'd also sputter/surge on me at low revs, which is rather unnerving when leaned over on a curve or starting off from a stop with a cager behind me. This was the most annoying of all.

4. Once the engine warmed, the tachometer needle would get bouncy and twitchy, specially when my revs were below 4000 rpm. I had checked all visible/reachable electrical connectors and grounding points and all seemed clean and secure.

Here's my sequence of troubleshooting that I've been following in the last couple of weeks or so.

Since I thought it was a hot weather related issue at first, I thought something was getting heated up and sticking, causing fuel flow issues at the carburetors.

a. Checked out gas flow, they flowed fine, checked right after getting home with the engine still hot.

b. Replaced the spark plugs as part of her 64k services. Replaced the oil and oil filter/transmission/final drive/drive shaft fluids as well.

c. Checked the floats in the carburetor bowls and float tested one, it seemed fine. Didn't do the other one since the mounting post was broken off at the top and I didn't want to dink with it until I safety-wire it or something first. However, both floats cut off fuel at the right level.

After much reading on the airhead forums I frequent and much counseling/guidance from one of the Gurus of the Airhead community: Snowbum, aka Robert Fleischer, he walked me through, with a series of emails through the following diagnostics:

Preface: He said my descriptions of the symptoms pointed to three possibilities:

***The ignition modules can be damaged permanently from too many cycles of 'cutting out from overheating'. NOTE that cutting out is also possible from damage to the Hall element in the ignition canister. It is not always easy to determine which part is the problem....this is particularly so when the engine will restart immediately.
USUALLY when either electrical part overheats, the engine will not restart until it has cooled-off some. Thus, I am a bit suspicious about YOUR bike. Your 1987 R80 probably has the SINGLE, dual output, ignition coil. Those coils have been known to fail. They have enough current in the primary winding that does heat them a bit in normal operation....and your problem occurs after some riding minutes. I would inspect that coil visually. In particular, if it has a GRAY body, it is suspect.
Look for cracks in the plastic housing, that was the typical visual appearance on failed gray bodied ignition coils.
Thus, whilst I DO suspect an ignition problem in your bike, it could be three things!

Armed with the above guidance, I took the tank off Brigitta yesterday and with a bright flashlight looked at the ignition coil while it was mounted on the bike. Saw nothing that looked like cracks (more on this visual inspection later). All the connections looked good. I did unmount the ignition control module and apply some heat sink compound on it before mounting it back up since I had the tank off anyways.

I reported back to Snowbum that no cracks seemed evident and he then suggested using a multimeter to check the OHM resistance values on the unit.

This is how I had the coil looking on the first ohm meter test, this is wrong

I tried my first ohm meter measurement with one of the battery wires still attached, big mistake, which caused bad reading which I sent to Snowbum:

Hi Bob, I placed the leads from the ohmmeter on the terminals which I assume lead to the battery. I disconnected the black wire from the starboard terminal before doing the reading since the clymer manual said to disconnect it. (it also gave me a reading of 15.4-15.6 with the wire hooked up so it was reading the battery probably)
I got a reading of .011, which is way outside of what the manual says I should get which is 0.67 - 0.77, am I right to assume the coil is toast? See attached photo, I placed the leads in the red circled areas, the one to the right is behind the heat sink/shield. Note, I did not disconnect the port side terminal wire, should I have?

I got this information over two emails:

***Measure the coil primary and secondaries with an ohmmeter. The first indication of a failed gray coil IS TYPICALLY a problem in riding in the rain, or, high humidity. That may NOT be your eyeball the coil very carefully for cracks, and use an ohmmeter on it. Coil or ignition wire failures can cause real idling problems, yes.

The Airheads with ONE coil, that coil having two towers on it, is usually called a 'dual coil', confusingly. It has a primary resistance of a nominal 1.15-1.32 ohms. There are some later ones with somewhat lower resistance, but certainly NOT 0.011 ohms. Its secondary is 7500 to 9150 ohms. You measure that between the two towers, down deep inside them. Be sure to measure that secondary, as it is usually the secondary that opens.

The wires should have NO POWER on them with the ignition OFF!!! Disconnect both primary wires, these are the two spade terminals.

Put the ohmmeter on the lowest range, if it has adjustable ranges. Short the two ohmmeter leads together. If you have a knob to zero the ohmmeter electrically, do that with leads shorted, otherwise read the ohmmeter with leads shorted. Subtract any reading above zero from the reading between the two coil spade terminals.

I have no idea about your 0.011...that has to be wrong...meter, or? There should be near infinite ohms readings from any of the 4 terminals to the chassis ground.

Note, I had been using the Clymer manual up to this point and their stated values for a good coil differed from the above, I now know to go with Snowbum on this.

So, when you do it you have to disconnect both spade terminal connectors! I had just unhooked one since the other was a PITA to get to without unmounting the unit which at this point I was not ready to do. Because I did not, I got a bad reading of 0.011 ohms which I sent to Snowbum.

So I dismount the coil finally, should have done that in the first place! Using my multimeter, I got a 0.2 reading when shorting the leads so I subtracted that from the 1.4 reading I got when measuring the primary resistance between the two spade terminals. Had I been paying attention the the above information from Snowbum, I would have realized that it fell within the parameters Snowbum had specified! Foolish me. I however could not get a ohms resistance reading off the secondary resistance connectors! Struggled with that for a bit, then had to go in to work, reported my failure to Snowbum via email.

So, the next morning, I took Maria over to Pete Homan's shop to return the windshield that came with Brigitta since I was not using it for some money. I brought along the ignition coil and showed it to him.

Now, here's the DOH! moment. Apparently, there were, obvious (to him) cracks all along the casing of the coil Once he pointed them out to me, they were obvious to me as well. I had mistaken the cracks to be just scratches on the casing. He also tried to measure the secondary resistance setting between the two "towers" where the spark plug cables plug in. He also was unsuccessful, had him scratching his head saying he'd never seen a coil fail in that way before. I felt better at my own diagnostic results at this point.

those faint greenish/gray diagonal lines are actually cracks

So, I bought a new Bosch Coil from Pete, using the cash he'd given me for the windshield as credit so it only cost me $86 and change.

I got both coils back home and took some comparison pictures so you can see the difference between the old coil and the new coil:

old coil on the left

p/n for the new coil, old one had 200 as last three numbers, all others the same

New Coil, mounted

I took a 15 mile or so test ride tonight and Brigitta rode beautifully. Not a sputter was felt, the tachometer was nice and steady, no surging, no cutting out when coming to a stop or otherwise. So, initially results from the coil replacement look good. We'll see in the next few days of riding, the weather is supposed to be a scorcher for the Front Range.

I'd like to express my thanks to the people who contribute to the riding forums I frequented with what turned out to be mostly solid advice and pointers in terms of diagnosing this issue. But mainly I'd like to thank Snowbum who took the time to help me via email and pointed me finally in the right direction in terms of diagnosis and confirmation of such. Thanks Bob!

LINK to Snowbum's Wealth of Wrenching Information on Airheads. If you own an Airhead, you need to become familiar with his site!

02AUG08 - The R80 continues to run great with the new coil. However, it was brought to my attention by MarkDS that BMW had also updated the Ignition Control Unit the same time they updated the Ignition Coil to deal with the cracking problem. Based on some more research, it appears that the old ICUs weren't design to handle the current draw of the new coils and after a while would start giving problems. See below links for more info.

LINK1 (you've got to join Airheads List first) By OAK, well known Guru in the Airhead community.
LINK2 by Anton Largardier who runs a nice tech info site as well.
LINK3 search results on "Failure Mode of Ignition Module" on Airheads List Archives

06AUG08 Update:
I got a new Ignition Control Module (ICM) aka Ignition Control Unit (ICU) from Their p/n 9604 is, according to them, a direct replacement for BMW p/n 12 14 2 325 284 which is the one recommended for use with the newer coils by the Beemer dealer. The dealer wanted $139, the ICM from rockypoint was $24.95. I'll keep the old stock one with the white lettering as a "spare".

old ICM on left, new ICM on right

New ICM installed, with heat sink compound of course!