Monday, May 27, 2013

Final Drive: I Am Not a Professional: But I play one on TV

There are days I wonder to myself, what the hell am I doing? Have you had these days? Sometimes it's like everything I touch turns to crap. This doesn't happen often, may be every few or a little more years, but it is disconcerting none the less. I recently found myself asking myself that very same question after doing the 18K mile service on my R1200RT.

I had planned for the 18K mile service well in advance. I bought 4 quarts of Mobil 1 V-Twin the month before, which was $2 off a quart on sale at O'Reilly's, a quart of Valvoline Synthetic 75w-140 for the transmission, a quart of Mobil 1 75w-90 for the final drive, 4 NGK DCPR8EIX spark plugs (which were harder to find than a set of points for a 1923 Excelsior), a Mann MW75 oil filter and I already had the crush washers for the transmission and oil drain. I started at 9am on a Saturday morning, which is actually late for me. First, off with all the Tupperware, which takes 15-20 minutes to remove 90% of it. I started from the front, with the valve adjustment and spark plugs. Oops, the lower spark plugs have a retainer that requires a T-30, which I don't have. Off to O'Reilly's to pick it up. Just a comment here: Why does BMW, in their wisdom, make the bosses that the spark plugs are ensconced so small that anyone that changes plugs needs a socket that is as thin as a crepe? Can you say wafer thin? Valves were marginal in needing adjustment, which is a good thing. They've needed adjustment each time I adjusted them at 6K and 12K miles. Hopefully it is a sign that things are settling in. I then cleaned up the gaskets and mounting surfaces for the valve covers, mounted them and torqued to spec. My iPhone came in handy as I put in all the torque specs for the bike before I started work. Next, time to install plugs. Another lesson learned here on the lower spark plugs: Do not try to be GI Joe with Kung Fu grip when removing coils. Carefully wiggle the boot on the insulator to get the coil off the plug or it might be possible to break the plastic boss for the voltage lead plug for the coil. Talk about wafer thin, the plastic on that coil plug boss is thinner than this, but not nearly as enticing, but almost as expensive.

Next I moved on to the oil change, changing out the oil filter and replacing the crush washer on the drain plug. Torque to spec, or so I thought (later on that), I added 4 quarts of Mobil's best to the engine and on then next, on to the transmission. I drained the transmission, new crush washers on the fill and drain plugs, torque the drain plug to spec, fill with 75w-140, torque the fill plug to spec and move on. What is truly lovely about draining transmission fluid from a RT is that not only do you have to take off the right side body work to drain and refill, you need a small funnel or an ad hoc representative (I used a 1 liter water bottle. Aqua Fina seems to work fine) to route the fluid into a drain pan or the catalytic converter and god knows what else will get bathed in the stuff. For those that don't know what gear lube smells like, you are in for a treat. It's smells like a cross between turmeric and cat piss. It might appeal to someone that lives for Indian food, but it does nothing for me. Get it on your clothes and you'll hear from whomever does your laundry, I guarantee it. Next up: The final drive and I don't mean another column here, but the gear lube change for the final drive on my RT.

Changing the final drive fluid isn't bad. Remove the left pannier, muffler hanger bolt, loosen the muffler clamp, rotate the muffler clockwise (another idiom that has fallen out of favor in the digital age. If I have to explain it, you probably shouldn't be doing this.) which turns it down. When the muffler is at the floor, then we can remove the 5 bolts for the wheel, remove wheel and set it aside. At this point, I can open the fill plug, which is on the upper left side of the drive on the back and then remove the drain plug at 6 O'Clock (Here I go with the anachronistic idioms again), draining the drive, or remove the ABS/Speedometer sensor on the upper right on the back of the drive. I chose the latter (on model years prior to 2009 I believe, there is no fill plug. You have to go through the sensor hole.). It's a good idea to see if there is any metallic particles on the sensor and if so, clean it. The drive requires 180ml or cc of gear lube. It used to be something like 230cc's, but BMW revised this figure downward when there was a spate of final drive failures, which is a subject that lives on it's own. At this point, it's just wait for the drive to drain, reinstall the drain plug, torque to spec, fill the drive, and reinstall the sensor. All is well, right?

Well, as they say, all that glitters is not gold and Murphy was indeed an optimist. I've also come to some conclusions when working on BMW's. The week following the service, I smelled that lovely and familiar turmeric/cat piss smell after riding. Upon inspection, I saw the transmission drain plug was leaking. I also noticed some weeping of he engine oil drain plug. I checked the plugs with a torque wrench. The transmission was in spec, the oil drain wasn't (and stopped weeping after this.). Since I didn't have spares for the transmission and I didn't trust the third party I bought them from, I decided to go to the dealer and get some replacements, which I did. I again did the Tupperware dance, drained the transmission and installed the new, BMW crush washers. They seemed tight after this but...I smelled that familiar smell in ensuing days. In keeping with the Shakespeare theme here, O what smell through yon drain plug stinks of cat piss and turmeric? This time it was the drain on the final drive, which used an O-Ring. I had replaced the O-ring at 3500 miles when I changed the final drive fluid last, so I figured it was still good. I was wrong. What is interesting is that in between the transmission and final drive seepage/weepage was a fuel strip failure. When I had the bike in for that warranty repair, I asked the service writer to look at the final drive to see how it is, in terms of tightness (a sign of impending failure is too much movement while rocking the wheel while holding it at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock and it's not much movement either.) and the service writer said everything was fine. I wonder what the techs thought of the weepage on the final drive drain plug and the spotting on the wheel? I won't mention names here as I have already laid a stinker in the room in regards to GOAZ, but there was some evidence on the wheel of seepage/weepage on the wheel as well as the drain plug. This weekend I drained the final drive and replaced the o-rings for the sensor and the drain plug. We'll see, but I am hopeful.

So, Jim's Law of working on BMW Motorcycles:
  1. Always clean gasket/sealing surfaces scrupulously and use a solvent like acetone. 
  2. Always replace  o-rings and crush washers with each service where the drain/fill plugs are removed and use BMW parts. No exceptions.
  3. When unplugging connectors or removing an item that is plugged in, use extra-special care. BMW does not engineer these parts to withstand the power of Thor and you'll find that flimsy plastic piece will cost you a small fortune to replace, because you'll have to replace the whole unit of whatever it is.
  4. When their are requirements in the owners or shop manual, follow them to the letter. BMW is made by Germans. They are an exacting people, unlike Americans or the Japanese, who give a little more leeway at times. I have no idea about Italian bikes, other than being half Italian would lead me to believe that with a Ducati or Motoguzzi or other Italian bikes, it all depends...
So there you have it. An 18K mile service that seemed to span a few weeks. Normally I am very good about these things, but this time it was a real Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment or moments. The good thing is we live and learn, at least some of us do. We also have "those days" where we wish we could get a do over. In the end it's all good. I think...

Thank you for reading this blog. 

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