Kawasaki Motorcycle Forums banner
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,
Last year I bought an '83 550LTD, after I bought it I did quite a bit of research on it... this forum was a great resource.
I rode it most of last season, by the end of the season I noticed some things that need attention.... small amount of oil coming out of the head gasket on left side, valve cover leaking a bit too. Other than the visibly noticeable stuff, it runs good though does have a spot in when accelerating that is a bit weak... I attribute it to a few things...exhaust leaks, valves need adjusting, and carbs probably need cleaning/ readjusting/ syncing as well.

The ol' girls got ~28k on her.. last year I put about 1200-1300 on her. Anyhoo, seeing the age and mileage I've been reading that it would be a good idea to bring the head in and have everything checked/adjusted/replaced and machined (if need be).

For the work I and a friend will be doing, I've got a service manual on the way and I'll be ordering a gasket kit, clutch plates (did clutch springs last year), and oil filter from Bike Bandit. Anything else I should be aware of and/or need? Also since I'm changing clutch plates/ oil filter how good of an idea is it to switch over to synthetic?

Thanks in advance for any help :)
 

·
KZ geezer
Joined
·
718 Posts
Good to hear that it worked out for you. I pondered the same oil change philosophy when I first got my 550 and actually bought 4 liters of Amsoil 10W40. The local vintage bike shop recommended against it, saying gasket leaks could result, costing around $1000 to repair. So I now use Castrol 10W40 and have run used oil analysis which has proven that the viscosity degradation and wear metals are minimal with oil changes every 2,300 miles. I like to do a seasonal oil change just before the weather turns hot, and the timing of subsequent changes works out just right based on the mileage I put on the bike.
 

·
Navy Vet Search & Rescue
Joined
·
8,843 Posts
I'd re-torque the head, adjust the valves, then check compression. If it still has the oil leak, or compression is low, then I'd consider pulling the head. If you're going to pull the head, plan on installing new cam chain guides while you're in there. I wouldn't switch to synthetic at this point but that's me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses. I'll definitely try re-torquing the head first then.. much less work than pulling it if I don't need to.
Also a couple more questions.. exhaust needs welding, so that means removing the pipes, what kind/size of seals does it take also where would I find them?
For adjusting the valves, what size shims will be required? obviously I will need multiple different thicknesses.. but as I've been looking for valve shims I see many different options, and don't wanna get something theats not for my bike. Where would a good place to find them be?

edit: I do realize the service manual will have that info as far as sizes of seals and such.. but I want to get as much information I can so I can order parts as soon as possible... manual wont be here for a bit.
 

·
itching to ride
Joined
·
2,238 Posts
Yours will take the smaller shims which I believe are 13 mm. It may be possible to swap some around so you only have to buy a few. Just log everything and keep track of what bucket goes to what valve.
 

·
Navy Vet Search & Rescue
Joined
·
8,843 Posts
Exhaust uses a copper crush washer/gasket.
Copper Exhaust gaskets KZ550/650/700/750 ZR750 ZX750A/E KZ1300 OEM: 11009-1866, 11009-1408, 11060-1388 from Z1 Enterprises, Inc.

As Paul said, your bike uses the 13mm under bucket shims. That means the cams have to come out to change the shims. You'll have to make a log of what everything measures (clearance wise) pull the cams and buckets (keeping track of which part goes to which position, see what size it has now, do the math to figure out what size it needs for correct lash, then make the change.

The shims are still an active part so you should be able to get them from a dealer. They may even swap a new size for your old shim for a reduced price if your lucky. Of course you can also order them online if there's not dealer close to you.
Z1 Enterprises > Make > Kawasaki > Small Fours > KZ550 > KZ550-A4 1983 > Engine > Shims
 

·
Navy Vet Search & Rescue
Joined
·
8,843 Posts
For the exhaust gaskets I wouldn't take the risk of getting the wrong size for the little bit that might be saved. For the shims, I'd say the odds of finding all the sizes you need and only those would be slim to none. So if you get some from ebay and some from Z1 or other supplier, you're going to be paying dual shipping charges and that would probably negate any possible savings.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
thanks for the help. I was gonna get the shim kit.. but it looks like the kit the shim sizes are.10 apart.. where as if ordered separately they are available in .05 increments... for the price of the kit I'm surprised at how few shims are in it. Looks like I'll be ordering shims after the bike is apart. I don't like leaving it apart while waiting on stuff though.

edit: I'll check for a local Kaw dealer, see if they carry em.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
818 Posts
I've got the later 550 that used basically the similar design engine, the Zephyr 550. I will say a lot of the older in-line 4s would end up with head gasket leaks. Usually it's due to the head torque not being redone back when. Usually a gasket takes care of it.

I will tell you one issue that does crop up on some Kaws are cam chain tensioner failure. You will know it if it is bad, there's a buzzing noise from the center of the engine where the cam drive is. Both of mine failed, the KLX had 2 go bad. No one listed one for my Zephyr, that's why I ended up making the parts and selling them. It is also one reason most all racers will go to a manual cam chain tensioner. When it's adjusted right you know it.

You may not need to replace it, but just don't take it for granted that these engines make a lot of noise normally. They may, but it isn't right. The second tensioner on the KLX took the cam chains and required the top end tear down. If you hear a buzzing or rattling there are usually two sources, the primary drive and the cam drive. The quick test is to put it in gear while running, hold the brake and start to let the clutch out the primary drive slack will be taken up and less noisy. Cam chain noise won't change. My tensioner on the 550 kind of went in spurts, quiet sometimes and noisy other times. Changing the tensioner to a manual unit made it quiet.

I got that "Kawasakis are noisy" on both my KLX and Zephyr. One customer also got the reply "they're just old technology" when he told his dealer about noise on his Concours. Again the tensioner was the culprit a manual unit made the engine quiet.

Keep this in mind if your bike starts to make noise like I speak of. I've got a $30 cure if it's the tensioner. But know that tensioner failure isn't some catastrophic thing, the engine will continue to run. It just wears things out eventually and can eventually cause you to have a valve hit a piston if run long enough. So if there's no noise there's no problem. Just be aware.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
UPDATE!!!!! ok.. so it's been quite a while. Took me forever and a year to do a relatively simple job (arg!) But in compliance with Murphy's Law, any time you fix one thing.. another goes wrong. As I took it out for a first ride...it's now started acting like fuel is being choked out at aroung 6~7000 rpm. under normal acceleration (it was light sprinkling out didn't want to chance gettin into it.) I rode around for a bit 5~10 miles. symptom happens in every gear and starting at the same rpm range. as soon as rpms drop to 6k and under it runs beautifully.

Any suggestions?



p.s. And thanks for all the help thus far.. and that yet to come.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Pretty darn sure I got em right.. I'm gonna pull my valve cover off tomorrow just to be sure, a buddy on the phone just brought that idea up as I was reading you're post..lol. (He had the same problem with a V8 once)

I have a funny feelin that's what it is, in a way I hope it is....it's easier to check than pulling the carbs to check floats (which I had first suspected as the cause)
 

·
itching to ride
Joined
·
2,238 Posts
Pretty darn sure I got em right.. I'm gonna pull my valve cover off tomorrow just to be sure, a buddy on the phone just brought that idea up as I was reading you're post..lol. (He had the same problem with a V8 once)

I have a funny feelin that's what it is, in a way I hope it is....it's easier to check than pulling the carbs to check floats (which I had first suspected as the cause)
Yeah but you can check the float level without pulling the carbs. I was just going by you saying it ran fine before you went into the engine to adjust the valves. Low fuel height could also do that as could the timing advance not working properly. Had the timing retarded once on a datsun 1600 and it would hit the wall at about 65 mph. Retimed it and she ran like a different car.

Get a piece of clear hose that will fit on the fuel drain at the bottom of the float bowl. Hold the other end above the float bowl and open the drain screw and observe the fuel level without pulling the carbs.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Than you for the tip. I think I might know where during reassembly I got my timing off a bit.. how much droop should the timing chain have between the cams? The service manual says to line the markings level with the head (EX for exhaust and Z/5 for intake) after the slack is taken up by the tensioner... thus I would assume no droop. I don't recall leaving any droop in the chain between the cams.

Thanks for the help :)

p.s. Yes, I'm using a Kawasaki service manual, not a Chilton, Haynes, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
340 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yup, timing.. thanks alot for your help. I noticed in the book on the picture of the cams and chain a note pointing out how many pins in the chain are between the cams.
#1 pin lines up with exhaust mark and head surface, #43 above the intake mark,#44 below it. Most annoying part was counting the pins in the chain.
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top