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Old 11-08-2013, 11:19 PM   #1
syzygy9 OP
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about to tackle my first valve check . . .

I am about to tackle my first major service @15,000kms including a valve check. Bike is a 2011 KTM 990 non-R with safari tanks. I have owned the bike since new (Mar 2012) and a first timer on this, but reasonably handy with tools and like to do my own wrenching (therapeutic until something goes wrong!) so I can get to know the bike and also know the job has been done properly.

I will use paochows excellent valve check guide (http://paochow.com/forum/index.php?topic=45.0) and other guides on the howto including the shim calculator. I will also obviously do an oil change and clean the clutch oil jet.

Any advice on feeler gauges (brand / type) would be greatly appreciated. Reading around the topic it appears in can be a struggle to get access to the valves to accurately measure the gap so very 'flexible' or slightly 'bent' feeler gauges seem to be recommended.

I am also hearing a rattle which sounds very much like pinging/pinking (pre-ignition) emanating from the front counter sprocket area at certain revs - I am running a very slack, dry chain, so most likely to be chain rattle but anything I should look at while I am there.

I am also tempted to check the clutch bolts and maybe swap out the water pump seal while I am there as well. Again all advice greatly appreciated!

I am not dependent on the bike and have no trips planned and so will tackle the job *very slowly* over a couple of months of weekends.

Tips, advice on how to avoid any gotchas, things to check while I am 'in there' are all very much appreciated.

Just finished a 2 week trip through central Australia on this bike - lots of dirt - after getting some of the ergonomics sorted out I am really beginning to love this bike. Now time to return some of the love!
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Old 11-09-2013, 02:23 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by syzygy9 View Post

very 'flexible' or slightly 'bent' feeler gauges seem to be recommended.

^^^ This.

I almost botched my first valve check because I used straight gauges. Buy soft (cheap) ones and put about a 60 degree bend in em, makes a big difference. Heat them or they'll just snap when you bend them.

Don't try and force the gauges in there, you should be aiming for a firm drag. Get a micrometer (or a good set of calipers), set it to a given clearance, and see what it feels like getting your shim through it. You should expect something just a little more 'draggy' on the bike itself, due to the oil reducing the gap minuitely (I know it shounds like oil should make it more slippery, but apparently not so).

Try to get all your intakes and exhausts about the same, if you can. I assume you found the speadsheet on the HOW with the part numbers of the Harley-D shims? They make this a much more achievable task, the KTM shim intervals are too large.


Other shit you may as well check while you're down there:

-Cam chain tensioners
-Replace the low oil pressure switch (probably dont have to do this one on such a young bike)
-Water pump seal (Just do this one now, so you DON'T have to do it in a mate's shed at 2am the night before a trip to Birdsville...)
-Possibly consider scrapping the emissions controls stuff?

This isn't really 'servicing', but if you have the time/inclination, I also installed an oil pressure gauge on my 950 on my first valve check, running a sender out of the rear cylinder cam chain tensioner bolt (had to get it drilled and tapped). Sound like a lot of work, but isn't really. It's a cheap mod, but a bloody advisable one I'd say - oil pressure helps to diagnose a lot of problems (water pump seal comes to mind), and is also something you really should be able to keep an eye on with high performance bikes like this.

Also, try an do it with only the tools in your under-seat kit - you'll quickly discover what extras you should add to it.

That oughtta keep you busy

Jdeks screwed with this post 11-09-2013 at 02:31 AM
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Old 11-09-2013, 05:38 AM   #3
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If you don't have a special, small diameter spark plug socket, designed for this bike, you will need one. (Not in my tool kit???) I tried at least 6 different sockets - none would fit into the spark plug well.
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Old 11-09-2013, 07:55 AM   #4
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For the spark plug you can order a KTM 250F spark plug wrench

Part Number: 77029072000
Description: SPARK PLUG KEY 250 SX-F
Retail: $29.95
Your Price: $25.46 (KTMTalk Savings 15% discount)
use a 13mm 3/8 drive socket, taped to the wrench to keep it all together.
A short length of hose to remove/refit the plug
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Old 11-09-2013, 05:31 PM   #5
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Thanks for the tips.

I do have CJ racers 'thin walled' spark plug socket so should be right there, the hose looks like a great idea to grab and reseat the spark plugs. But do these actually need to come out when doing the valves or is it just a good idea to check them while in the area (check, clean, regap).

Are there any particular sort or brand of feeler gauges that work best or just grab some cheapies and heat and bend slightly.

Rattle around the front sprocket area - chain rattle? or possible something loose in there.
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Old 11-09-2013, 07:39 PM   #6
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Rattle around the front sprocket area - chain rattle? or possible something loose in there.

Hard to tell without hearing it. The 9*0's are by nature a pretty noisy engine!! I thought I had a dud, coming off my previous transalp - sounded like somoen shaking a box of gravel in comparison!!


The most common and notable rattle from the LC8's in the cam chain. It's normal to get this for anywhere up to 30 seconds or so, at idle, from cold start, until the hydraulic cam chain tensioners pressurize. If you have a dud tensioner, the rattle will persist, and re-appear when you start running the bike in hot conditons (hence why I'd suggest checking your tensioners while your down there).

If you can post a quick video of the sound, that would help.
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Old 11-09-2013, 09:38 PM   #7
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Hard to video as it seems to come on under throttle at 3500 to 4000 rpm under load (lugging slightly) which initially made me think pre-ignition.

But the same sound seems to occur when the rear wheel goes over a bump which then seems to suggest chain rattle from a too slack chain. Riding next a riding buddy on a very corrugated dirt road (he was on a F800GS) I can hear exactly the same rattling sound from his bike which I presumed came from his chain as it slapped around.

I will tighten and lube the chain and see if that changes anything, and when stripping the bike down will have a look at the cam chain tensioner as well.

I am not overly concerned about it, but just wanted to make sure there wasn't some reasonably common/known fault that I should be looking at.
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Old 11-10-2013, 12:07 AM   #8
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Hard to video as it seems to come on under throttle at 3500 to 4000 rpm under load (lugging slightly) which initially made me think pre-ignition.

But the same sound seems to occur when the rear wheel goes over a bump which then seems to suggest chain rattle from a too slack chain. Riding next a riding buddy on a very corrugated dirt road (he was on a F800GS) I can hear exactly the same rattling sound from his bike which I presumed came from his chain as it slapped around.

That does insdeed sound like its your drive chain. Mine does that too when I run it loose/it gets worn. It's just hopping a bit side to side. Hang a few kgs off the lower length of the chain to tension it a bit and measure your chain stretch (18 links/pins should be less than 272mm).

Actually, at 15 000 k, the OEM sprockets and chain are usually close to worn out, especially if you've run them off-road for any extended period (ie through the red center). I'm betting you're close to, or overdue for a swap. You may as well do it now anyway.


Look into dirt tricks hardened rear sprockets - they last for yonks and cost about the same as a KTM OEM rear cog in Aus. Team it with a DID 525 ZVM-X chain (get it from ebay for about half what you'd pay at the dealer for a worse chain) and you're usually set for at least 25 000 k. But DO NOT USE AFTERMARKET FRONT SPROCKETS. On the big twins like the LC8, they'll eat your drive shaft splines. Stick to KTM front sprockets.

If you're feeling bold, try swapping from 17/42 sprockets down to 16/45. Waaay better in technical offroad (esp single and sand), and more fun on the street too It's what they were originally designed to run on anyway.

Jdeks screwed with this post 11-10-2013 at 12:17 AM
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Old 11-10-2013, 02:18 AM   #9
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I would not fit anything other than a KTM sprocket. Definately not a harder one. Its much easier to change a worn sprocket than a gearbox shaft where the splines have been worn by a hard sprocket
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Old 11-10-2013, 03:11 AM   #10
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I would not fit anything other than a KTM sprocket. Definately not a harder one. Its much easier to change a worn sprocket than a gearbox shaft where the splines have been worn by a hard sprocket
For sure. Thats exactly wheat I mean, stick with KTM front sprockets, so you know the splines wont wear through.

Aftermarket rears however, are fine.
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Old 11-10-2013, 10:42 AM   #11
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I would not fit anything other than a KTM sprocket. Definately not a harder one. Its much easier to change a worn sprocket than a gearbox shaft where the splines have been worn by a hard sprocket
Though not a KTM, this should add emphasis for anyone who doubts.

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Old 11-10-2013, 10:56 AM   #12
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DO NOT USE AFTERMARKET FRONT SPROCKETS. On the big twins like the LC8, they'll eat your drive shaft splines. Stick to KTM front sprockets.

I must admit I never really thought of that before! I always thought the harder the better but of course you are correct. The spline is the leading part. The rest is sacrificial. Thanks.
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Old 11-10-2013, 04:54 PM   #13
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It really depends on the bike, and the rider too.

I know a few blokes who have always run aftermarket front and rear sprockets on their bikes, mainly because they're cheapskates. But, they're all small capacity ag bikes or 250 cc twins - low torque, fairly smooth delivery.

You run into trouble with big thumpers. All the torque comes in one big hit every stroke. As soon as you get a big of wiggle room in the splines, every stroke mashes them against each other, the gap gets bigger, the mashing gets worse, until the softer splines loose
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Old 11-10-2013, 06:03 PM   #14
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The only way I know how to tell whether a particular aftermarket sprocket will destroy the shaft on a particular bike is to is to run it, then look to see whether it has done so.
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:08 PM   #15
syzygy9 OP
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Thanks for the insight, I have done about 8,000kms (of the 12,000kms on the clock) on dirt up through central Australia from Perth, always running a dry slack chain so I wouldn't surprised if it is a little worn. And it is very rusty! I will buy a new KTM front sprocket (which are also damped) and DID X-ring chain. I can package up the old sprockets and chain (with a new master link) as a spare that my wife you courier to me if I ever get into trouble and need one in a hurry.

So the ever increasing work scope looks like this,
  • strip the bike down and give it a good clean,
  • valve check and adjust as required,
  • oil change including filters and clean screens,
  • clutch oil jet clean,
  • clean air filter pre-cleaner (uni filter), replace air filter,
  • check cam chain,
  • check clutch basket bolts,
  • replace water pump shaft and seal (precautionary) and also flush out cooling system to rid it of any residual sand,
  • fuel filter replace,
  • replace chain and sprockets,
  • I might also replace the wheel bearings and keep the old ones as spares (package up for couriering as emergency spares if required).
My annual 'get out of the office and clear my head' trips are generally into remote areas of the beautiful and very lonely Australian outback, so reliability is paramount ... and knowing your own bike is critical as you need to be self reliant.

The good thing is I have no annual leave left so no trips for another year or so! I will slowly work on the bike a few hours each weekend taking my time and at least comfort myself preparing my bike for my next trip - wherever and whenever that might be.

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