KTM 950 990 LC8 water pump and low oil pressure issue: What up KTM?

Discussion in 'Crazy-Awesome almost Dakar racers (950/990cc)' started by Joe Motocross, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    OK, I'm going to talk about my experience with the well known issue of the KTM LC8 950 and 990 water pump and low oil pressure issue, then bitch about why KTM has let this be an issue, then figure out what to do about OUR (950-990 owners) situation.

    I've recently acquired a 2007 950 Super Enduro with 11,000 miles on it. I did a couple day rides to get to know the bike. Then, I planned a quick two day journey to get to know it better before I really get serious with it out in the desert.

    After 180 miles on my two day journey I stop at a friend's place and the bike cools off. Later that eve I fire it up and the oil light starts flickering then stays on. It goes off after the bike warms up and I ride another mile to my destination knowing I'm gonna have to look into it in the morning.

    What I find in the morning is all the classic symptoms of a leaky water pump seal: radiator fluid a bit low, oil light coming on (caused by low oil pressure), excessive cam chain noise (caused by the low oil pressure not tensioning the cam chain properly).

    What I've learned is that there is no water pump weep hole (what the Fu@# KTM??!!) on the 950s & 990s. So, if the water pump seal goes bad, the water that would, on almost every other water cooled internal combustion engine that I've owned, drip out the weep hole. But instead, on these bikes it drips into the engine oil! If you are using a paper oil filter, the water in the engine oil will ruin it and not allow the proper amount of oil to flow which in turn causes low oil pressure which causes excessive cam chain noise which would eventually cause (I suspect) bad things to happen to that nice LC8 engine.

    I laid the bike on it's side and pulled out the oil filter to see if it was bad and sure enough! Here's the classic "crapped out" oil filter after it's been subjected to water. Note how it's wavy rather then straight:
    [​IMG]

    I put the cover back on without the filter and fired the bike up. Good oil pressure and no cam chain noise. I don't know this bike real well just yet having only owned it a couple weeks but this really points to the water pump.

    DEAR KTM,

    WTF with your water pump gaskets/shafts?! I also own a 2001 520EXC that has the same issue! Water pump seals eventually wear a grove in the cam shaft that turns the impeller. I've replaced the cam shaft twice because of the grove the seal wears! I know others who have had problems with those seals. Now I acquire another model KTM and learn that it's an even more common and documented issue? I'm bummed ,to say the least, and would ditch the bike in a heart beat if I thought there was another bike that would handle what I want to do. With the possibility of these seals going out in the middle of BFE, perhaps even this bike can't do it. KTM, if you're going to build a bike that's supposed to handle extremes, consider there will be guys that actually do this more then just a "weekender" who only puts on a thousand miles a year! You guys have it so far better then other bike builders in many ways but there are a few things that make me scratch my head. Even a "garage engineer" like myself would put in a weep hole for a water pump. Get it together on this, how long have you been building the LC8?

    On to what to do. The first thing I did was get a stainless steel filter coming. Some guys like em, some don't. I run em in my 520. With the 950, low oil pressure really scares me and the stainless will let the oil flow even if there's some water in it. So that'll take care of the oil pressure when THE NEXT TIME the water pump seals fail. WHERE WILL I BE WHEN THIS HAPPENS??!! *

    That's what pisses me off! Does changing them every 15,000 assure you they won't fail before that? My bike has only 11,000 and they failed. I've read about others where they've gone out sooner. I'm having a hard time trusting this new bike especially knowing that other KTM models have issues with water pump seals/shafts. At least the 520s/525s have a freaking weep hole! (Again WTF KTM??!!) With those models at least if the seal goes you can add a little water without it WEEPING INTO THE CASE!

    I've done some reading on the internet about this problem with the 950s/990s. It looks as if KTM has changed the seal and shaft since 2007? I'm not quite up on what's what with this just yet but this tells me they've acknowledged this is an issue.

    I've checked out ktm950info.com and a few others and haven't seen any solid fixes/retrofits yet. I've seen the guy who's machining the custom parts to install a weep hole as well but it sounds like he's not quite there yet.

    For now, I'll get a new seal and shaft, flush the cooling system good and put in the stainless oil filter. But, the question will always be in the back of my mind, "when will it go next"? Harsh for a bike I've only owned for a couple of weeks. *What to do?
    #1
  2. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    For those who may stumble onto this thread with similar problems, here's a little more info.

    I decided to try one of CJDesigns custom water pump shafts instead of the current replacement from KTM. He built this after his frustration with the LC8's water pump issues. CJ's hasn't been around for that long yet but it sounds promising. Here's the link: CJDesigns Water Pump Shaft

    Again, I've chosen a stainless steel oil filter over the paper filters. If a water pump seal fails, water leaks into the engine oil which will effect the paper filters and not allow the oil to flow causing low oil pressure. When this happens, some people just stop and remove the paper oil filter then continue riding until they can do the water pump seal.

    Many suspect "casting sand" that is still in the parts from the factory as the culprit of this issue. It becomes loose in the cooling system and gets between the seal and the shaft. Many recommend a thorough flushing. That's my plan as well.

    Here are a couple of links on the water pump overhaul procedure:
    Pyndon's rebuild on AdvRider
    Rebuild from KTMinfo.com

    Hope this helps someone else.

    (No weep hole KTM?! Really?)
    #2
  3. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    I drained the coolant and filtered it through a coffee filter as it was draining out of the water pump. There was definitely some small debris (dark specs in photo below) of some sort that could be casting sand.
    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. Subutai

    Subutai Been here awhile

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    All this can be found from the forum index. Are you rewriting history or something?
    #4
  5. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

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    Hey, let the guy vent out .. its ok.

    that casting sand is nothing, you should see what other inmates caught while doing a flush. I'm sure i could have built a dog house with mine :lol3:lol3
    #5
  6. charlie264

    charlie264 Long timer

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    I'm still getting greasy clumps with sand in it stuck to my rad cap, and I’ve flushed the system twice. :D Fix and ride. :freaky<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    #6
  7. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

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    The issue, as I see it< with going with a stainless filter is becomes tougher to know if your seal is leaking. The flashing red light and cam noise can be attributed to other issues as well and are not a sure tell sign that your seal has begun to leak. I prefer to use paper and carry a spare under the seat. YMMV
    #7
  8. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    I understand your reasoning 99, I'd just rather keep the oil pressure up. I guess I'll have to keep a close eye on the overflow reservoir for indications of the next seal going out. Did I mention that I think it's stupid not to have a weep hole?

    I decided that you can't do a totally thorough flush without removing the radiator. There's fluid in it that won't drain completely out the water pump drain hole and I suspect I'll find some sand in the bottom of the radiator. Also, with the radiator disconnected you can run water from a hose through the whole system.
    #8
  9. blackness

    blackness more riding

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    So going by http://www.ktm950.info/how/ktm_950_issues.html these types of water pump failures are less likely to occur on post July 2007 990s.

    However because Joe Motorcross's SE is a 950 it was still running the older shaft and seal plus the casting sand issue, thus causing its premature failure even though its a 2007 model.

    Is this correct or are there still plenty of post July 2007 990s with the same problem?
    #9
  10. Hair

    Hair Outside the boxer

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    The next big issue is when that casting sand breaks the seal on your radiator cap gasket. Then it will blow all the water out the overflow. I always carried a spare cap just in case. With all the pains in the ass that this bike was. When I can afford it I hope to buy another one. The 950 se isn't the bike for everyone. But for those of us who know how to use it. It is the most perfect bike ever built.
    #10
  11. Deadly99

    Deadly99 Fast and Far

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    It'll go sooner or later, it's a wear item on the lc8. I did mine for the first time and although it was intimidating for a noob mechanic like myself, it wasn't to difficult by following Pyndons step by step. Next time I'll save a bunch of time and money and not worry about the bearings.
    #11
  12. kelly duke 2000

    kelly duke 2000 Closed, Gone Riding

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    THat's what I did . 27,000 mi. got a leak into oil. Only replaced shaft and at 38,000 mi. and its all good.:evil
    #12
  13. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Took the radiator off and flushed out more debris. System should be clean now.

    The water pump bearings were loose as a goose. No choice but to replace them.

    I really like the idea of the Super Enduro and have no doubt we will become good friends once it understands that it's going to need to take a beating and keep going. I've already done a bunch to this bike: bar risors, fabricated a 2 into 1 pipe and rebuilt the stock muffler, fabricated oversized foot pegs, removed canister/sas, cut foam out of the seat to lower it, and now water pump and stainless steel oil filter. Few more things to do before it's ready though: beef up the skid plate, beef up the rear sub frame, install vacuum operated fuel pump. Pretty big list to get this bike where I want it.
    #13
  14. Trail bandit

    Trail bandit Random adventurer

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    2007 ktm 990 Seems to be about a quart of oil came out of sump. Thought it was meant to be a cupful.

    Oil tank shows full to upper marker on dipstick.

    I've just got this bike. Never pulled a dry sump bike apart.

    If bike was overfilled wouldn't the tank just get overfull. Any help I'll be grateful.

    [​IMG]
    #14
  15. brents347

    brents347 Trusting my Cape...

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    LC8 carries oil in both the sumpa and the oil tank.
    #15
  16. Trail bandit

    Trail bandit Random adventurer

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    So, there is nothing to be concerned about with the amount of oil that dropped out as pictured. A cupful would have been a fraction of what's there.
    #16
  17. Young-Gun

    Young-Gun KTM Tragic

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    Hey Joe, any feedback on the long term results of the above two changes you elected to make?
    #17
  18. hotrdd

    hotrdd Been here awhile

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    Interested in knowing your results
    #18
  19. andrew fenn

    andrew fenn n00b

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    Just another note on this woeful topic!:rofl
    I have a 2004 model with 75000km as we rode from the UK to Cape Town a few years back.
    It started to use coolant in Namibia, roughly around the 38000km mark. While I was aware of the water pump being an issue I buried my head in the sand:jump and topped up as needed, only needed it every couple of weeks. As there was no emulsified oil at changes I assumed to was a slight weep on a head gasket...
    We shipped to Auzzy and rode the lap around, no probs but used more coolant.
    Anyhow last week the oil light was on and cam chain noise. when I googled it I found Joe motocross article BIG thanks to him!! he described the situation exactly and the pic of the filter was identical. On stripping the motor the impeller shaft was well rooted (aka worn to buggery). Also scarily the pick up for the ignition pulse was hanging off it's bracket, so that was replaced. We called KTM in Perth Australia for replacement parts to be told all back order, two to twenty four weeks delivery!!! Cant agree enough with Joe, how can KTM ignore the problem and then not even keep the parts in stock! Thank f%#@ I carried all the parts with us from the UK. where incidentally they were off the shelve.
    Also the fuel pump failed 5km out of Tennant Creek, fitted my new one, rode off an hour later. BUT kept the old one and later took off the end cover, cleaned to points with carb cleaner and it worked fine.

    iI'm a mechanic and never have I had a filter fail to water contamination. But most vehicles I work on have a bypass.

    Great bike, love it but could do with mods at the factory with feed back from their customers and surly the dealers too?

    Check our blog for our ride so far:- www.rimorterra.wordpress.com
    :clap
    #19
  20. brents347

    brents347 Trusting my Cape...

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    Where the hell is Truckee, CA?
    All due respect, but you're been riding around for 37,000km using water and you assumed it was a head gasket? And you just continued to ride for years? And you're a mechanic?
    #20