Spannerman – June 2014

Date 10.6.2014

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LETTER OF THE MONTH:

SPOIL THE OIL

I was watching a hot-rod video recently and the featured mechanic said that you should never break in a fresh engine with synthetic oil.

His recommendation was a single viscosity oil with added zinc and in the US this is sold as “break-in oil”. After a reasonable run-in the engine should be drained and refilled with 100 per cent synthetic.

He claimed the synthetic oil was too efficient and didn’t allow the rings or valves to properly bed in.

I’ve been lucky enough to have bought two new bikes and one new engine, and at no time has any dealer mentioned this. It sounds like good advice and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the subject.

Laurie Faen,
NSW

The American mechanic would have been right perhaps 10 to 15 years ago and is still right if you rebuild an old engine, Laurie. Modern metallurgy and the increasingly common practice of coating the bores of new engines with advanced materials, though, means manufacturers now often specify synthetic oil right from the start.

Triumph, for example, starts the engines on every bike it makes on a ‘rolling road’ at the end of the assembly line. It uses a non-synthetic oil for this but, after the engine demonstrates its integrity, the oil is dropped at the factory and replaced with Castrol Power 1 racing oil which is a full-synthetic. This is the oil the bike leaves the factory with and full synthetic is the recommended oil for the life of the bike.

Manufacturers vary their recommendations for what used to be the ‘running in’ period and it’s wise to follow their advice. For new bikes, the recommendations will be in the owner’s manual.

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LEAK SOUP

Well I’m not sure how many BMW fuel pumps have experienced leaking in Australia and not been repaired under warranty but one thing I do know: mine is one of them.

I have recently contacted my local BMW dealer and lodged a Vehicle Complaint form with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development which carries out safety investigations and monitors vehicle recalls on behalf of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), asking if they will be following North America in executing the fuel pump recall on select BMW models.

I repaired the leak two years ago with putty, sealant and a clamp but I’m hoping this will only be a temporary repair.

I’ve since contacted my local BMW dealer (1500km away) and they in turn contacted BMW and a new fuel pump is on the way. It’s good news for me and a message for all owners with the same problem to contact their dealer. Now to plan for a quick ride to get it fitted…

Cameron Raudino,
email

The US recall is a result of how that country had defined ‘safety’ in its legislation. BMW Australia isn’t obliged by law here to recall the affected bikes but has a fuel pump service campaign in

place to address the problem. All affected bikes will be checked at their next service and the fuel pump will be repaired or replaced if necessary. The repair work is free of charge for owners.

Here’s a list of the affected models:

All K2x models which includes R 1200 GS, R 1200 GS Adventure, R 1200 RT, R 1200 R, R 1200 ST, R 1200 S and HP2.

All K4x models which includes K 1200 S, K 1200 R, K 1200 GT and K1300 R, K 1300 S and K1300 GT.

The K46 (S 1000 RR).

K48 (K1600GT and GTL.

It’s good you got the result you wanted, Cameron.

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IKONIC ISSUES

Regarding your exchanges with Darren Ogden on Ikon shockers (read more here), I was astounded to see that 20,000km is considered a ‘reasonable service interval’. Back in 1983 I was disappointed when one of the original shocks on my Suzuki GS1000G haemorrhaged after 48,000km.

Imagine my disappointment when the replacement Konis took a smoko at 26,000km. The company that rebuilt them for me told me Koni made a faulty batch which included mine. The rebuilt Konis finally croaked 162,000km later so all was forgiven.

I replaced them with Ikons, one of which started bleeding after a mere 800km. I returned it to Ikon who I must say got it back to me promptly free-of-charge in time for the toy run I had planned to ride in. I was a bit miffed, however, at their failure to reimburse my $17 freight charge. It might sound trivial but, apart from me surviving on a pension, I would have thought it was mandatory in the context of good customer relations.

The old Lita G (lita, Litre, 1000cc G – get it?) is a bit like its owner these days. She doesn’t get around as much as she used to having done just 2300km since the shocks were replaced. In the old days we’d cover 20,000- 30,000km a year which, if you believe the claimed service life of new shocks, would have meant a new set every year!

Given I’m now only doing around 1500km a year (which includes a fortnightly run up Arthur’s Seat in Victoria to keep us bonded plus the annual local toy run), I wouldn’t want to be looking for a new set of shockers for a long time, if ever.

Aussie Sadler,
email

I think what you’re doing here, Aussie, is assuming that if a rear spring/damper unit isn’t leaking oil, it’s fully serviceable. We humans have the happy ability to live with declining performance while subconsciously changing our behaviour to compensate for it. I was involved in some research years ago for a state motoring organisation that concluded the headlights on cars could lose 70 per cent of their brightness before drivers started to notice. It wasn’t tested but I’m sure while this was happening, the drivers were slowly moving their heads closer and closer to the windscreen.

The moral of the story is, if you’re a driver, clean the headlight lenses when you clean your windscreen.

The oil in rear damper units works fairly hard as it gets heated and cooled while being squeezed through various orifices. It does deteriorate over time but, if the damper seals remain intact, the damper unit always looks exactly the same from the outside, incorrectly indicating that it remains exactly the same inside.

Ikon’s service intervals are about maintaining the best possible performance from the product. If you’re happy to let the performance decline slowly over time, 160,000km is certainly possible before the seals finally give up and cover the outside of the damper body with oil.

Nobody should feel guilty if they don’t get their rear suspension serviced according to the book. Rob Blackbourn enjoyed a ‘spirited’ ride to the recent Broadford Bonanza on his aging Yamaha XJ900 and reported very good rear suspension performance from the 45,000km-old Ikons he has fitted. The Konis on the back of my own Suzuki GS1000G have done well in excess of 100,000km and I can still detect useful changes in the damping performance when I change the settings. I’m not racing the bike and can live with the fact that performance isn’t quite as good as new.

If the damping characteristics of the rear units deteriorates to the point where the bike continues to pogo after you’ve ridden over a bump, it’s past time to have them serviced. Bob Gentz is right in his letter in this issue that non-serviceable shocks will seriously affect tyre wear.

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MORE ON IKON

In response to Darren Ogden’s letter in MT #281, a bad experience is a bad experience, though I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with your response as it reflects the experiences I have had over the years with Proven Products.

While working in the automotive trade, I have had the opportunity to see behind the scenes. Proven Products is an Australian company and, I believe, still a family owned business with its roots in the Sydney suburb of Guildford.

With the knowledge and experience they have regarding shock absorbers, it would be irresponsible of them to suggest that their products do not eventually degrade in performance.

The service life of damper units is, as you point out, dependant on many variables but we change engine oil without a second thought because we know it degrades in use. Why don’t we extend the same courtesy to the other fluids in our bike? Are they expected to last the life of the bike?

It’s common sense that if your shocks perform poorly, so will your tyres which then affects cornering, braking and acceleration as well as eating up the tyres themselves.

I’ve found the services offered by Proven Products first class and it would be more than a pity not to support a well-respected and worthy Aussie icon.

Bob Gentz,
NSW

Despite service schedules requesting owners to, for example, replace the brake fluid every 12 months, it’s rarely done. The brakes still work, of course, and I’m sure there are plenty of bikes which live their whole lives without the fluid ever being changed. The same goes for fork fluids. You make a good point, Bob. Read the response to Aussie Sadler’s letter for the full story.

 

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ElSIE FAIRINGS

In a recent issue a reader was asking about the provenance of a fairing he had for a Yamaha RD350LC (read more here). It took me a while to remember but these were made by a mob called Cycle Craft and were quite popular in the day.

The strips on the one you had pictured indicate it was set up for a later model 350 (three blue stripes) as earlier models had two stripes and 250s were always in red.

I loved my 250LC back then. As a poor student I was going to get a Honda CB250N but, fortunately, my uncle, who was racing an LC at the time, talked me into saving the extra and getting the Yamaha.

I got it new in 1981 from Eltham Yamaha and had it set up with flat bars, heavier fork oil, smaller main jets and Michelin PZ2 tyres. It went like stink and had obscene levels of grip.

Having said that, I am reminded that the older I get, the faster I was, so it could all be faulty memories.

Raf Hamilton,
email

Thanks for this Raf. I think the mystery has finally been solved. I also had an email on the subject from the admirable Ray Birchall who though perhaps La Parisienne (no) but also named Cycle Style.

The point is these fairings were never a factory fitment – genuine Yamaha fairings were plastic, not fibreglass.

 

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