2001 BMW 1150RT: The exploding cam chain guide saga

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by whystay, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. whystay

    whystay n00b

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2020
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    Hello all, sometime lurker here. I bought a 2001 R1150RT with 57k KMS a year ago. A few weeks into ownership, the cam chain guide disintegrated upon installing the upgraded tensioner. This is not a story of how i rebuilt the engine but how I learned to get as much of the old chain guide out of the engine. It may be of use to others who are having this problem.

    First off, knowing what I now know, I wouldn't be too quick to do an engine swap. The rebuild process wasn't too hard or expensive and i would certainly do it again if I had to. I'm a hack mechanic. Worked on dirt bikes as a youth and destroyed an outboard motor being stupid. So ya, your typical hack.

    When your chain guides explode, (typically its the left upper one) you can replace that one using the "Steptoe" method. I didn't do that because I wanted to get all of the broken bits out of the sump first. Chris Harris recommends swabbing the sump with a rag dipped in petroleum jelly. I didn't do that. I used the following methods which gave me some result.

    The following methods were carried out with both cylinders removed. You will likely be working mostly through the left cylinder hole.

    1. Use compressed air. You will hear the plastic bits rattling around inside. These are the low hanging fruit. Use a variety of flexible nozzles. Depending on how lucky you are, this can be quite fruitful. Collect all the bits as they come flying out of the engine. This is important for later.

    2. Use a vacuum cleaner (one that you don't mind getting oily). Again, fab a few different nozzles because there's not much space in there.

    3. After compressed air and vacuuming stops yielding any result, buy 3 or more litres of Glycerin. Bakery supply stores sell this. Fill the sump with glycerin. The chain guide material is slightly denser than water but less dense than glycerin. So more bits of chain guide will float up where you can remove them. Drain and refill with glycerin as many times as you can be bothered to. Rock the bike on its mainstand, lean it over as much as you can. Be violent! You want to agitate as much as possible. Possibly use more compressed air at this stage to bubble the glycerin. Again, collect all the bits.

    4. I didn't try this but you could try removing the oil pump and blowing air through the passage. This is because quite a few pieces get trapped under the oil uptake pipe. Maybe a leaf blower. But i think you have to disconnect the telelever to get to the oil pump. Not sure about this.

    Sump1.jpg

    So that's about the gist of it. These methods got me half of the old chain guide.

    Shrapnel1.jpg

    Shrapnel2.jpg

    New guide.jpg

    I split the cases to get the other half out and also to reinstall one of the chain guide pins which i found in the bottom of the sump! Apparently I'm not the only one who has had this happen (based on my copious internet research).

    Schematic.jpg

    Bolt.jpg

    All told, knowing what I know now, I would be happy to get 20 grams of old chain guide out. The remainder I doubt would have starved the engine of oil, which is the main concern. That would alleviate the need to do any more than remove the cylinders and pistons. But you make your decisions.

    Also, if I had to do this again, I would probably go with glycerin before compressed air. The compressed air might just further embed shrapnel in hard to reach places.

    A side note, the original 20 year old chain guides were brittle as heck. I snapped one just by being a little rough. The new ones are much more tough.

    So thats it folks. Thanks for reading.
    Arnold
    #1
  2. lewisjr1

    lewisjr1 Long timer

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    Impressive!
    #2
  3. FLY-DOG

    FLY-DOG Retired and enjoying it!

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    Brilliant work, thanks for sharing!
    #3
  4. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    Great job replacing those parts..
    Makes one wonder at what point in time these chain guides need to be preemptively replaced before they disintegrate and the whole engine craters.....
    #4
  5. LarryGS

    LarryGS Long timer Supporter

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    Feb 10, 2003
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    1,083
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    Boulder, Colorado
    Whystay, great work… come do this to my bike, 2004 GSA, 42k, please. Left side, bottom cam guide, at least, disintegrated recently.
    I’m at a loss as to what to do: I’m an “okay,” amateur wrencher: don’t want to go to the stealership, don’t really want to replace the engine w/ an unknown quantity, cannot seem to find an independent mechanic to do the work… losing riding time w/ each day that goes by, don’t really want to part w/ what’s been a great, well-farkled, bike… sucks.
    #5
  6. whystay

    whystay n00b

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    I would say to just go for it and tear into it. Try to get as much out using my methods and however else you come up with. Weigh the results then decide if you wanna split the cases. I faced the same dilemma and thought long and hard before committing.
    #6
  7. whystay

    whystay n00b

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    My bike is a 2001. The guide material was very brittle. Not sure if it's age related but the replacements were much tougher. I actually bought some nylon PA 6/6 to make new guides but got lazy and just used the stock ones. Reckon they'll be good for another decade or so

    #7
    rider1150gsadv likes this.
  8. spoon

    spoon Rubber's gone!

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    May 15, 2007
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    Snow in New Mexico
    Could you share a list of the gaskets and seals you used for this.
    #8
  9. whystay

    whystay n00b

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2020
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    Sure. There’s not that much by way of consumables.

    Rear main seals x 2
    Front main seal
    Head gasket x 2
    Flywheel bolts x 5
    Clutch bolts x 6
    Tube of yamabond 4 silicone
    4 new cam chain guides.
    #9