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V-Strom in Baja Fun & Consequences: Loss of power w/ high revs; Oil leak on its side?

Hi folks:

I am taking my V-Strom to Argentina; and currently playing around in Baja California. You can see my route here: SPOT Shared Page.

We were taking the route from Bahia de la Conception => San Juanico to go surfing and have a few days of downtime. There was a particularly gnarly section where there was a hill with two deep ruts running along the middle. I fell into a rut and the bike went down going 5MPH or so. It wasn't really an issue with my aluminum panniers and crash bars; but the bike was on its side for a good 10 minutes or so. My riding partner James helped me right my bike.

From there we re-positoined the bike on the hard packed dirt to get the bike up there. And here I found the FIRST problem:

As I revv'd the engine and let the clutch out; there was a curious lack of power. By this time I had removed my top case, alumninum panniers, and dry bags to make it easier on the bike to get up the hill. Without these things and given the hard pack of the dirt I would expect to get up the hill without issue. However as I revv'd the bike up to 6,7,8K RPMs I barely moved forward.

I was able to make it up the hill (i.e. the bike moved forward; albeit with significantly less power than I waa used to); but then I discovered the SECOND problem:

The left side of the oil case was covered in oil. At this point; I decided to call it a day; as I didn't know what was going on. Found a Mexican ranch with a truck and loaded up; paid about $60 to get to town; and then another $30 to a police officer in town to take me to San Juanico to a mechanic.

The mechanic adjusted the clutch trigger point and proclaimed that issue much better. I rode it after he had done the adjustment and while I can still get up to 60Mph; I detect a lack of speed given the number my tachometer shows.

For the oil issue; he had us pressure wash the bike and me to run it for about 20 minutes to see if we could duplicate the oil leak and find out where it was located. I noticed at this time that the oil cap was loose (although there was no oil leaking from it; and it looks like it appeared only on the left side of the engine case (the side that was facing down for 10 minutes or so; after I had crashed). I rode the bike up to speeds of 60MPh and we couldn't find any new oil. His theory was because the bike was on its side and he couldn't see a leak; it was due to the bike being pretty well up side down.

My friend James thinks the power issue is that I blew out the clutch plates; which he says could go at 30-40K miles; and costs about $120 to replace plus parts (according to the mechanic). Given that I have around 35K miles on mine; I'm hoping this is the issue as opposed to a transmission or engine issue. The mechanic is not a Suzuki specific one (San Juanico is a pretty small town) but there should be good moto shop in La Paz where I'm pretty sure I can make it.

I'd love your thoughts on both issues; and would be happy to answer any clarifying questions you might have.
 

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FORUM GODFATHER.....R.I.P. PAT
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Chances are good the oil from the crankcase migrated through the breather hoses into the air box and soaked the air filter. That's common especially on left side drops because the breather hoses run to the left side of the air box. An oily paper filter prevents proper air passage.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Chances are good the oil from the crankcase migrated through the breather hoses into the air box and soaked the air filter. That's common especially on left side drops because the breather hoses run to the left side of the air box. An oily paper filter prevents proper air passage.
An interesting thing i never thought of!

1) is it dangerous to ride it in its current condition if that's actually the root cause? could i ride it 4 hours to la paz to get the air filter down there? or should i find a way to get an air filter up here before riding it anymore?
2) is there any way to clean it; or just chuck it and i need to get a new air filter?
 

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FORUM GODFATHER.....R.I.P. PAT
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If that's it You can ride it. It's probably easier to get a new filter than to get all the oil out without damaging the fibers.
 

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I assume after it fell over you checked the oil? If it was low and you dumped it I agree with Greywolf. However if the cap was loose also I wonder if you were riding without much oil at all, and it is a wet clutch.
 

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The lack of power relative to the engine RPMs does sound like a clutch issue, but why the clutch would give out right after a tip-over is a mystery to me.

Is there any chance that the tip-over moved something between the clutch lever and the engine that caused there to be tension on the clutch cable? With your handlebar risers, you have less available play in the cables than a stock bike. Did you happen to notice whether there was still the normal amount of play in the clutch lever after the crash? If there wasn't, that would be consistent with the cable being in tension. This is a pretty far-fetched idea, but I'm struggling to come up with a theory that explains why a clutch would start slipping after a tip-over.

If the clutch is truly toasted, and it sounds like it may be, there may not anything to be gained by trying to adjust it. However, the procedure to adjust it isn't complicated, so you could give it a shot. If you have the service manual, the procedure is on page 2-17. I've summarized it below.

I'm not sure what the mechanic did when he "adjusted the clutch trigger point," but if all he did was adjust the cable play, he didn't really adjust the clutch.

Before you adjust the clutch, you need to first ensure that there's some play in the cable, that is, that you can move the lever toward the handlebar some distance before you feel significant resistance. Don't worry about setting it to spec (approx 0.5 inch at the outside end of the lever), just be sure there's at least some free play. You can put play in the cable with the adjusters at the clutch lever end or at the engine end of the cable. (I'm assuming that you've confirmed that there isn't something stressing the cable as a result of the crash.) If you don't know how to manipulate the cable adjusters to increase slack, check the owner's manual or do a search online.

First some diagnostics: After you've confirmed that there's some slack in the clutch cable, take the sprocket cover off if you haven't already done so. Then, with a 10mm wrench, loosen the nut (#3 in the picture) a couple of turns. Then, with a flat-blade screwdriver, see if the adjuster (#4 in the picture) will easily turn clockwise a little bit. If it won't turn clockwise at all (don't try to force it if it doesn't turn easily), that's an indication that your clutch plates have worn down significantly. If it turns easily a quarter of a turn or so before it stops, your clutch hasn’t worn much since the last adjustment.



Now, to actually adjust the clutch: Turn the adjuster screw (#4) back and forth a bit to get a feel for the point where it stops as you turn it clockwise. The exact point is sometimes a little hard to determine because the screw may not just slam up against a hard stop as you turn it clockwise. With a little back and forth, you can make a pretty good judgment call of the point where it stops. From this point, turn the adjuster back counterclockwise (i.e., loosen it) 1/4 of a turn. While watching the end of the adjuster to be sure it doesn't rotate (if it does, hold it with a screwdriver), tighten the lock-nut (#3).

Now, adjust the play in the clutch cable. The manual recommends doing this at the engine end of the cable (#5 and #6), but you can also do it at the clutch lever. The clutch lever should move about a half inch before you feel tension. Make sure the cable adjuster lock-nuts on both ends of the cable are tight. Put the sprocket cover back on, and you're done.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I examined the air filter today... and there was no oil in the air filter box; although it does look like a bit of oil had leaked out of that.

I like the idea of adjusting the clutch. At this point; I don't have anything to lose. I'm wondering if the only way to know whether you need new clutch plates is " see if the adjuster (#4 in the picture) will easily turn clockwise a little bit. If it won't turn clockwise at all (don't try to force it if it doesn't turn easily), that's an indication that your clutch plates have worn down significantly."

I.e. if I'm able to make it work with this clutch adjustment, how do I know when I should be replacing the clutch plates in the future?
 

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Discussion Starter #8
This link seems to add a few more indicators of worn clutch plates... just seems a bit of a PITA to get to them.
 

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... how do I know when I should be replacing the clutch plates in the future?
The “diagnostic” I described in the earlier post is pretty crude. It’s just one indication suggestive of whether your clutch plates have changed (gotten thinner) since the last clutch adjustment.

The specification is for the adjustment screw to be a quarter of a turn back from fully screwed in. With normal wear of the clutch plates, this quarter-turn of slack will gradually decrease over time as the bike is ridden. (I wish I had a picture to illustrate how this works. It probably seems very counter-intuitive for something to get tighter as a component wears.)

I've checked the adjustment on my bike several times over approximately 15K miles, and I've never found much of a change in the amount of rotation of the adjustment screw required to reach the point where it stops. Each time I've checked it, it has required almost exactly 1/4 of a turn to reach the stopping point. From that observation, I'm reasoning that normal wear of a few thousand miles wouldn't wear the clutch plates so much that all the slack is taken up. If all the slack is gone, i.e., the adjustment screw won’t turn clockwise at all, that would mean that your plates have worn a lot in a short period of time. It's not a definitive indication that your clutch is shot, but it's a clue that it's wearing faster than normal.

I think people normally notice some mild clutch slippage well before the symptoms get to the point that you've described. You didn't mention that you'd noticed any slippage before the tip-over. As I said before, I don't have a good explanation of why a tip-over would result in immediate, severe clutch slippage. I can't help but wonder if something else is going on.

From what I've read on this forum and elsewhere, it's common for the DL650 clutch to be pretty long-lived; certainly more than 35K miles.
 

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FORUM GODFATHER.....R.I.P. PAT
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I missed the fact that the revs were high when the bike was moving slowly. That will cause clutch wear in a hurry.
 

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I ended up doing the clutch adjustment this morning. It definitely felt better and there was a better connection between the # revs and the speed/power I felt. When I started out; the screw seemed like I could move it clockwise a little bit from where it was to start; so I was hoping that things were going to be OK.

Made it about 150-175 miles; and then felt the same issue. Specifically, I was in the 5th or 6th gear (whatever the freeway one was). I would give it gas, and I'd see the revs go up but the speed didn't go up. It seemed like there was simply a point at which the revs and the speed just aren't linked anymore. As time wore on, I could only go 55 then 50MPh, and finally I dropped down to 50-45MPh before pulling over at a Pemex gas station.

There I went ahead and looked at the clutch adjustment again. After loosening up the lock nut; the screw seemed tighter than when I adjusted it in the morning. I went ahead and did the adjustment again and ended up loosening up the screw some (I'm trying to recall; probably a half turn to one turn).

Put it all back together and the issue went away; and was able to make it here to La Paz, Baja California. Here there are some great motorcycle shops; so I'm going to see if I can have a mechanic take a look at it. But I'm wondering if this evidence is pointing directly to needing new clutch plates.

And if so,
1) Are OEM clutch plates sufficient or should I be looking for some after market ones?
2) How much would the labor be in the USA (so I have a rough cost comparison)?
3) About after how many miles is this an expected service item? Am I particularly hard on my clutch?
4) Are there ways I can be easier on my clutch in the future?

Best,
David

PS: The police motorcycle here in La Paz is .... you guessed it a DL-650. Blue/black with lights and sirens.
 

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1. Barnett makes clutch kits that are well-regarded. An ebay search found several offerings. I'm sure you can find a range of opinions as to whether they're better than OEM. I have no opinion.
2. The average of a few shops I contacted was 2 hours of labor and I think they charge around $90 an hour. Cost of parts will vary widely depending on whether you go for a total rebuild or if only the fiber plates need to be replaced. Looks like the range would be between about $150 and $250, based on Suzuki list prices.
3. Varies so much with different riders and type of riding that it's probably meaningless to throw out a number.
4. I don't know enough to give a good answer. The obvious advice is to limit the amount of time you're in the friction zone and to try to match engine rpm to bike speed during shifts. If you don't use engine braking while downshifting through the gears you'll conserve the clutch but you'll wear the brakes more.

Something that I'm surprised hasn't come up before now: Is there any chance that an oil with friction modifiers was put in the bike? This seems unlikely if you had the oil changed at a motorcycle shop. However, if automotive oil was used, it probably had friction modifiers, which will contribute to clutch slippage.

I found a good two-part video of a guy replacing the clutch plates on his SV (just like a DL650):
Maintenance: Clutch Replacement Part 1(2008 Suzuki SV650-S) ft. Chris - YouTube
Maintenance Clutch Replacement Part 2(2008 Suzuki SV650-S) ft. Chris - YouTube

Good luck, and let us know how this turns out.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
1. Barnett makes clutch kits that are well-regarded. An ebay search found several offerings. I'm sure you can find a range of opinions as to whether they're better than OEM. I have no opinion.
2. The average of a few shops I contacted was 2 hours of labor and I think they charge around $90 an hour. Cost of parts will vary widely depending on whether you go for a total rebuild or if only the fiber plates need to be replaced. Looks like the range would be between about $150 and $250, based on Suzuki list prices.
3. Varies so much with different riders and type of riding that it's probably meaningless to throw out a number.
4. I don't know enough to give a good answer. The obvious advice is to limit the amount of time you're in the friction zone and to try to match engine rpm to bike speed during shifts. If you don't use engine braking while downshifting through the gears you'll conserve the clutch but you'll wear the brakes more.

Something that I'm surprised hasn't come up before now: Is there any chance that an oil with friction modifiers was put in the bike? This seems unlikely if you had the oil changed at a motorcycle shop. However, if automotive oil was used, it probably had friction modifiers, which will contribute to clutch slippage.

I found a good two-part video of a guy replacing the clutch plates on his SV (just like a DL650):
Maintenance: Clutch Replacement Part 1(2008 Suzuki SV650-S) ft. Chris - YouTube
Maintenance Clutch Replacement Part 2(2008 Suzuki SV650-S) ft. Chris - YouTube

Good luck, and let us know how this turns out.

Thanks for your detailed help Sprocket aka Steve! I ended up going to a recommended shop called Motosport here in La Paz. They test rode it and said they definitely felt the clutch slipping. I was thinking, "how could they possibly know from riding it"... but then again, all the police take their V-Stroms here so they probably have a pretty good idea how to fix it.




It turns out that the clutch discs and the plates were pretty far gone... and one of the discs was actually broken! They say they see this in 1 in 1000 bikes. But I have to say, I'm not the first owner, and the previous owner put 29,000 miles on this bike, and so I'm blaming her. That and I don't really ride the clutch except when I was doing maybe 200-400 miles of offroad. From here on out; I will definitely make sure that the free play adjustment is well done; as this is an annoying problem I'd rather not duplicate. As it turns out I'm *really lucky* the police bike is the V-Strom 650 as they had some crashed V-Stroms and simply took the clutch plate out of a crashed bike. Had they not had this; its a 10 day wait for parts!

Don't know what the bill is; but I'm writing this while they finish it up so I can do it myself the next time (hopefully there is no next time). It seems like a good shop; so should be reasonable.

Thanks for all the help folks!
 

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Uh yeah, that looks like a real problem with the clutch alright! Glad you got it sorted out, good luck the rest of the way!
 
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