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I've been riding a 1981 KZ550 LTD since last summer and it's been a blast. It has just under 10K. All is well, except for a noisy clutch basket. My mechanic explained that it will not affect reliability and that new parts would be about $300 and about a half hour to install. I've seen used baskets on e-bay go anywhere from 30 to 80 bucks. Any comments?
 

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Some times a heavier weight oil will reduce/eliminate the clutch noise. Are you running 10 or 15 weight oil(10W40,15W40)?

Best Oils To Use In Your Bike

Engine oil : The commercial grade oils are clearly superior to the mass market oils. For the best protection in your bike or car, use Shell Rotella Synthetic, available at Wal-Mart in blue containers . For the best petroleum oil you can buy, get Shell Rotella T, Mobil Delvac 1300, or Chevron Delo 400, available at any auto parts store. On the back of most oil cans is a circular stamp with the certification. Avoid oils that say "energy conserving" in the bottom half of the donut. These oils contain friction modifier additives that could cause clutch slipping over time. All XXw-20 and XXw-30 oils are energy conserving, and should not be used in your motorcycle. Don't buy any oil additives like STP or Slick-50. Here's several pages All About Oil justifying these conclusions.

The Recommended Synthetic Oils
Shell Rotella Synthetic
5w-40 Delvac 1 Synthetic
5w-40 Mobil-1 SUV/Truck Synthetic
5w-40 AMSOil AMF Synthetic
10w-40 Golden Spectro Synthetic
10w-50 Motul 5100 Synthetic
10w-40 Mobil-1 Synthetic
15w-50 Mobil-1 MX4T Synthetic

The best synthetics are: (in no particular order)

Shell Rotella-T Synthetic 5w-40 (blue container, not white), gallon at Wal-Mart.
Mobil Delvac-1 5w-40 (grey container, not black), gallon at Petro stations, gallon at Farm and Fleet.
Mobil-1 SUV 5w-40, qt anywhere.
AMSOil AMF 10w-40 synthetic motorcycle oil, about qt.
Golden Spectro Supreme, (no price).
Motul 5100 Ester, (no price).

Mobil-1 automotive oils all contain small amounts of moly - about 100 to 200 ppm. This can cause clutch slippage in some motorcycles. I've only heard of this being a problem in Honda Shadows.

For temperatures below -40, I strongly recommend either Mobil-1 0w-30 or the Canadian Shell 0w-40 Rotella. At these temperatures, your car is your life. Using cheap or incorrect oil is risking your life.

For temperatures below -55c, -65f, stay home. Really.

The Recommended Petroleum Oils

Chevron Delo 400 15w-40
Delvac 1300 15w-40
Shell Rotella 15w-40

The best petroleum oils are: (in no particular order)

Chevron Delo 400 15w-40 (blue container) gallon at any auto parts store, gallons at Costco.

Mobil Delvac 1300 15w-40 (black container) gallon at any auto parts store, gallons at Sam's Club.

Shell Rotella-T 15w-40 (white container) gallon at Wall-Mart or any auto parts store, gallons at Sam's Club.

If you live in another country, you'll have to do a bit of research to decide on an oil. Generally, any oil certified for use in a late model Volks wagon or Mercedes turbo diesel is a good choice. Another good idea is to go to a truck stop and ask the truckers about brands. Rotella is marketed all over the world, but in other countries it's called Rotella or Rimola or Helix Ultra, and the formulation may be a bit different, depending on local climate and preferences. It will likely also be a lot more expensive than it is here.
 

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Some times a second opinion helps too. Have another mechanic listen to it. Make sure it's a trained mechanic for sure. I've heard of and actually heard the Kaw inline four primary chain rattle along with the cam chain rattle. The former is normal and really hurts nothing, the latter happens when a tensioner quits working properly and can mess with valve timing starting and performance. I've not heard of them having clutch basket issues in normal use. That's not to say it isn't possible.

The best way to tell what is what would be to use a mechanic's stethescope to listen to different parts of the engine. If the noise is in the back center area of the cylinder - cam chain tensioner. If it's down in the bottom center of the engine - primary chain (no tensioner there). If it's actually in the clutch cover area it may be the clutch basket.

One test for the primary/clutch versus cam chain is to start the bike, put it in gear, hold the brake, and start to slip the clutch - sort of power braking - a bit. If the noise either goes away or gets significantly quieter it is either the clutch or primary chain. The primary chain is no problem. If there's actually a clutch basket problem it IS a problem. Only two possible problems I can think of with clutch baskets. One is if the plates have notched the basket a bit, but that usually creates problems with smooth clutch engagement and putting the bike in neutral. The other is if the basket assembly itself is starting to break apart (I've not looked at a 550 basket that I remember, but most clutch baskets are built up with the basket attached to a ring gear or the like) and that is not good.

Get a second or even third opinion. Do so before you blow money on something you may not need. Have it thoroughly explained to you until you understand the specific problem.

I do have a bit of experience here in that your 550 and my Zephyr are almost identical mechanically. Your drive line is virtually a match, many parts swap directly but the cam tensioner is different in design. My 550 has a bit of primary chain rattle, which will affect very little. It has no cam chain rattle because I have a manual tensioner I put in it in place of the trashed stock unit.

My other experience comes from spending about 7-1/2 years full time and another 13 years part time in a bike shop selling bikes, parts and accessories, and doing set up work. I spent a fair amount of time hanging out with the mechanics since they were friends and I have a mechanical nature/curiosity having done a lot of work myself. Just can't see it being a clutch basket and not being critical.
 
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