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This thread is meant to either scare me a bit, or put my mind to rest a bit. And maybe get some good advice of what the problem can be, and what should i tell the mechanic to throughly do on my bike, as i will not start digging so deep into my motorcycle by my self (lacking the tools and the time to do so).

Let's get things straight: i'm talking about a 1993 Kawasaki EN500A (Vulcan 500), 41000 km (25 476 miles), but i cannot guarantee for this as i am about the 4th owner of this bike. I've had it for one year now.

About a month ago I couldn't see enough oil through the little round glass that helps me check the oil level. I thought my engine was consuming the oil so i went to my mechanic to have some more oil put in it. It turned out that it was some white-grey foam that was preventing me to see oil through the little glass. He told me i had coolant mixed with the oil. From the bikes history (he had been looking for the bike the past 3 years) he told me it has to be a worn cylinder head gasket. I ordered a new one along with a clutch cover gasket and oil pan gasket (as the mechanic told me he wants to throughly clean the water from the engine).

I never got around to taking the bike to him as it sat 2 weeks without turning it on, and when finally i tried to do it i discovered i had some electrical problems that i could only recently solve ( http://www.kawasakimotorcycle.org/forum/mechanics-corner/63035-starter-relay-trouble-shooting.html )

My intention was warming the engine up, taking out the oil+coolant mixture and putting in some cheap oil just until i could get the motorcycle to the repair shop. So i wasn't able to do that. But come the new year I will do that right away.

So here are my questions:
1. How bad is for the engine having the mixture sit in it for 3-4 weeks? I can imagine the oil has already separated from the coolant. Having this situation, what should my mechanic do about it?

2. What are possible causes for my problem that I should ask my mechanic to look for ? I have been told that the cylinder head gasket is just one of the possible causes. Another one would be the water pump. Any other ideas?

3. If the cylinder head gasket it the cause, then what caused the cylinder head gasket to get worn? I have never gotten any signs of overheating from my temperature sensor. It's true though that we have very warm summers here. This last summer i used to ride the bike in traffic jams at at least 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). So i wouldn't rule out the overheating problem. If it turns out to be an overheating problem is it true that the cylinder head gets deformed and that it should be mechanically reshaped in order to restore it's flatness.(this is something someone told me and i can not be sure of the accuracy of the technical info as i am not a auto/moto mechanical guru)

4. Any other ideas on how the current problem should be treated from now on? How should the engine be cleaned, what other parts need cleaning, any special treatment that should be applied to engine parts and all this considering the engine has been sitting with the oil/coolant mixture inside it for about one month?

Thanks in advance for all of you showing interest in this thread. Have a happy new year and may the road incidents avoid all of us!
 

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Sounds like to me from, what you have stated above, to set your mind at ease, with all your questions!! I would start over with a new fresh engine. You fix one thing there are no guarantees that another problem wont pop up.
Could be just a head gasket, could be cracked head, wont know for sure until teardown.
You could do a teardown to see where you are!
 

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The Cruising Gunsmith
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So here are my questions:
1. How bad is for the engine having the mixture sit in it for 3-4 weeks? I can imagine the oil has already separated from the coolant. Having this situation, what should my mechanic do about it?s!
Probably not that bad. Rust is possible but not that likely. You should do what you started to do: drain it, fill it with decent quality (cheap) oil and run it about 10 minutes then dump the oil to flush the water out.

So here are my questions:

2. What are possible causes for my problem that I should ask my mechanic to look for ? I have been told that the cylinder head gasket is just one of the possible causes. Another one would be the water pump. Any other ideas?!
Head gasket is the most likely, could also be a cracked head or cylinder (less likely).

3. If the cylinder head gasket it the cause, then what caused the cylinder head gasket to get worn?
They can fail just from the stresses they get from starting cold and warming up. An aluminum head torque sealed to a steel sleeve may rely on the gasket for compression seal until it wwarms up and all metal reaches full temp. Nearly every mid-80's MOPAR 2.2L engine ate the head gasket eventually, so it's not that uncommon.

So here are my questions:

4. Any other ideas on how the current problem should be treated from now on?
Better quality head gasket, make sure it's torqued right and then re-torque it after a few hundred miles.

How should the engine be cleaned, what other parts need cleaning, any special treatment that should be applied to engine parts and all this considering the engine has been sitting with the oil/coolant mixture inside it for about one month?

Thanks in advance for all of you showing interest in this thread. Have a happy new year and may the road incidents avoid all of us!
You can flush it with any good crankcase cleaning solvent from the auto store.
 

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probs

Prob the head gasket but you will have to have the head checked for cracks and warpage. the antifreeze in the oil has probly eaten into the main and rod bearings by now and they should be changed. Should also change the coolant as there could be oil in it and you would have to make sure you get all of the old coolant out of the motor.i would add everything up and see if it wouldn't be cheaper to throw a new motor in it. just my 2 cents
G
 

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You might consider a used engine. By the time you factor in labour and any parts/refinishing you might need you'll probably be better off finding a salvage bike and swapping engines. The good news is that the Ninja 500 (EX500), ER-5 (naked bike) and KLE500 all use the same engine as the Vulcan and are generally very easy to come across whole engines on ebay or at a scrap yard, some with very low miles on them.

A Ninja 500 engine puts out a few more horses (Around 50 at the wheel, compared to 40 with the other models) but everything else is the same (except they're painted black instead of polished aluminum!).
 

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Not to scare you, but depending on how long the coolant was mixing with the oil before you noticed it, it's possible that there was damage to the rod and main bearing surfaces. Honestly I don't know if the motor uses needle type bearings or automotive type split bearings, but when the coolant mixes with the oil, acids are formed that can eat away at the bearings. As an old Chrysler technician (you called it Bountyhunter) I saw plenty of those 2.2l motors exhibit a hellacious rod knock after replacement of the headgasket, even with a good flush. At this point it's a crapshoot. You may come out just fine, or you may have lower end damage that you'll never know about until you have the work done.
 

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Patriot Guardian
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At this point it's a crapshoot. You may come out just fine, or you may have lower end damage that you'll never know about until you have the work done.
Bingo.

If budget allows, split the case and replace the bearings. If money is too tight, go ahead and "repair" it, but monitor it closely and expect that it may need a rebuild.
 

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The Cruising Gunsmith
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when the coolant mixes with the oil, acids are formed that can eat away at the bearings. As an old Chrysler technician (you called it Bountyhunter) I saw plenty of those 2.2l motors exhibit a hellacious rod knock after replacement of the headgasket, even with a good flush.
Maybe I got lucky, or maybe it was the synthetic oil. My 2.2 failed as I was driving home from Sacramento at Xmas. 1AM, the thing blew all the water out (or into the crankcase) and so it overheated. The temp gauge went all the way off the end of the gauge, but I just kept driving (not stopping on the highway with my wife at 1AM).

It got home, and I raised the hood: the engine was so hot I couldn't stick my head under the hood to look at it, I just let it cool. I did change the oil after I got a new gasket ($800, thanks Chrysler).

The engine seemed to run fine after.... but then, it only ran about another 15,000 miles until the main transaxle bearings failed and I donated that pig to a charity with only 67,000 miles on it.

That thing was bad news from day one.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
the conclusion:
it was a blown head gasket. the mechanic got it replaced, took the head to solve the warpage, did something to the valves (i think it was lapping them he was talking about) and valve guides, replaced oil, oil filter, coolant, flushed the engine with some cheap oil, cleaned and synchronized the carbs, replaced the spark plugs. the engine feels a lot more powerful now, and sounds great too.

the only different thing i have noticed is that the fan on the radiator starts almost every time after a trip(maybe it also starts during the trip but i don't notice it). considering that outside temperatures currently vary from 7 to 15 degrees Celsius (45 to 60 Fahrenheit) is this a normal thing to happen? will it not get worse in the summer(temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit)? is it possible that the new coolant is of lower quality than the previous one? should i suspect a problem to come or should i be happy with the fan coming on every time?
 

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Could be an air bubble trapped in the system. Some bikes are a pain to properly fill and "burp"... or it could be low coolant.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
it is not low coolant as i can see its level through the plastic container. is the "burp" procedure a complicated one? by the way, the manual does not mention any burp procedure when changing coolant. is it possible that my motorcycles doesn't need such a thing?
 

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is the "burp" procedure a complicated one? by the way, the manual does not mention any burp procedure when changing coolant. is it possible that my motorcycles doesn't need such a thing?
I'm not familiar with the 500.

Is the cap at the highest point in the system? If so, when the bike is cold, is coolant all the way up to the neck?
If it's not the highest point, there should be a bleed valve of some kind at the highest point.
 

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The fan coming on should not be an issue. My 83 Interceptor fan comes on every time I shut the bike down after it has already reached operating temperature (in other word after a ride). Most vehicles with an electric fan come on for a limited time period after the engine is turned off to dissipate some of the heat in the coolant in the radiator.
 

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Mine only comes on after I shut down on extremely hot days. Well, okay, 85+ isn't that hot by California standards. Anyways, it will come on when I'm sitting in traffic, but if I'm moving and temps are below 70, I never hear or feel it come on.

I this case, the key thing is that something has changed since the repair was done. The way it "was" is "normal" for this particular engine. The way it is might be normal for another engine.
 

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If the cooling system is air locked, what Rich refered to as having a bubble in the system, the coolant level in the jug may appear "normal". In fact it, could still be low because the airlock is preventing the coolant from getting all the way through the system, and thereby giving an inaccurate level reading.

I had the coolant changed in my car about a month ago, and the shop didn't get the airlock out comepletly :mad:. The resevoir showed normal level, but this was wrong. Even though the temp gauge was pegged on nearly redline, the cap on the radiator was cool because the radiator was down just over 4 litres of coolant. Here's me at 10 at night in the fricken freezing cold doing the job I just paid to have done...grrrrrrrrrrr.

So to set your mind at ease...look over the cooling system piping and hose for bleed valves. Once you find them, start the bike and get it to operating temp and open these valves slightly. If it is airlocked, they will spew air and fluid. Do this until a good stream of coolant spews out. If it isn't airlocked, they will just spew a stream of coolant.

If there aren't any bleed valves you can still remove an airlock if it has a pressurized style rad cap similar to those on car rads. Once the bike is up to operating temp, just crack the cap....use a rag to cover the cap....do not remove the cap, just crack it. Air will purge out. This is how I used to do it on cars before bleed valves. Always worked.
 

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The 500 likes to be burped.

I personally wait until the engine is cool, take the rad cap right off and start the engine, squeeze lines and see if any air bubbles come up. There isn't a bleed valve on our bikes, to the best of my knowledge.

The only other thing I can think of is that your fan switch has kicked the bucket. Is it always on or just coming on after a ride? Both my En500 and EX500 usually have the fan on in the temps you mentioned, especially if I"m doing a lot of city riding. Just watch your warning light.
 

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Coolant Mixture

I once did a cooling system flush and discovered something interesting. Prior to the flush I had 50/50 mix in there, then when I refilled it after the service I put in 70/30 antifreeze/water mix. The operating temp hopped up about 15 degrees Fahrenheit with the new stuff.

In hindsight, it makes sense, because water absorbs a lot more energy per unit of heat than ethylene glycol does. Long story short, if you live where it's cold, you might do better with more antifreeze, when it's hot, use more water.

I don't know if this has anything to do with your bike; but maybe the mechanic put in a mix with more antifreeze than you had in there previously.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
the fan isn't always on. in fact now it is not coming on after the ride. this made me worry a little as i got used to the thought that it coming on after a ride even on this pretty cold weather (55 Fahrenheit) was a normal thing.
i started suspecting the thermo switch of the fan and the temperature gauge. so the fact is that neither the fan nor the temperature light don't come on. So i assume everything is fine as the possibility of both of them malfunctioning at the same time is very low.
Any thoughts on this?
 

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It probably did have and air lock that worked itself out.
 
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