R1150GS - is my clutch f^&*ed?

Discussion in 'GS Boxers' started by Jamesa5454, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. Jamesa5454

    Jamesa5454 Adventurer

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    The irony of the timing is uncanny - I'm less than 1000kms away from finishing a 35000km trip across the world, and today when flogging the crap out of my bike in the Swiss Alps, all of a sudden there was no more power to the rear wheel. I'm 99% sure it's the clutch, but I'm no mechanical expert so I thought I'd check in to see what your thoughts are.

    The symptoms:
    - With the bike in gear, anything above 4.5k on the taco causes a loss of power to the rear wheel. In all gears
    - After letting the bike cool down (I actually rolled 5kms down hill with the engine off before I gave things a second try), I was able to power the rear wheel providing I kept the revs low. I rode another 15kms to a camp site this way and tested all gears with success
    - Just prior to making camp, I double checked things (really smart, I know) by revving it harder than 4.5k in several gears - every time I lost power to the rear wheel. After this very intelligent checking of the facts I was not able to continue moving at all. I had to let the bike sit and cool for 10 minutes before successfully trying again.
    - There was no noticeable smell at any point during all of this

    The facts:
    - '03 R1150GS, 175000kms on the clock. Clutch (including slave cylinder) was replaced before departure, approx. 33000kms ago. Mechanic said splines looked to be in very good condition at the time of replacement
    - The last 33000kms has seen heavy use of the clutch - moving through the traffic in Delhi (and similar cities) at snail pace meant unavoidable, and higher than normal use on a 'per kilometre' basis. Without wanting to sound like a knob however, I think my clutch habits are generally pretty good.
    - I was riding really hard when I lost power to the rear wheel. Up hill, through alpine hairpins, with the revs pinned to the right side of the dial.
    - At the time I lost power, I wasn't actually using the clutch - I was changing gears when engine revs were matched
    - The sight glass on the clutch reservoir looks to be completely full
    - Had the final drive inspected by a BMW mechanic around 2000kms ago (felt a vibration that got me paranoid) who gave it a clean bill of health given how many km's the bike has done
    - After having the FD inspected, I was conscious of a slight vibration or 'grinding' whenever the bike was not accelerating. Still there when pulling the clutch in. This could be a) me being paranoid - it might have been there all along and b) a totally unrelated issue or c) all of the above

    After riding nearly 500kms, I wasn't inspired to pull the starter motor off for inspection after making camp. This I will do first thing tomorrow (along with pulling the cap on the reservoir for more detail)

    The questions to you lot:
    - What do you suspect the problem is, given the symptoms
    - If I nurse the bike another 850kms to the end of the journey, what are my chances of making it without totally f*&%ing it? I'm in Switzerland at the moment, where a sandwich costs nearly $20, so I'm not particularly keen on seeing a mechanic here, or trying to put the bike on a truck
    - When I pull the starter motor, what specifically am I looking for, other than 'fluid'?

    You guys are awesome, and I really appreciate any advice you care to give - many thanks!
    #1
  2. Zoef zoef

    Zoef zoef Long timer

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    How high is the fluid in the clutch reservoir on the handlebar? If too full, this can give issues with the clutch.
    #2
  3. kurien

    kurien adventurer

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    Whatever you do DO NOT PUT THE BIKE ON A TRUCK HOME complete the journey and we all are waiting for an RR on that. You seem to have had the ride of your lifetime. :thumb

    Sorry, I did not answer your question :D but am sure the experts will be here soon to advise. :)

    Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
    #3
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  4. UncleMark

    UncleMark Been here awhile

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    What happens when you "lose power to the wheel?" Is it like the bike went into neutral? With the bike on centerstand in gear, what if you turn rear wheel? I am no expert, but this sounds like transmission to me. I don't guess it will be convenient to drain the transmission and check the fluid for evidence. Good luck!
    #4
  5. Jamesa5454

    Jamesa5454 Adventurer

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    Cheers UncleMark,

    You're right - it felt exactly like the bike went into neutral. Engine was revving but wasn't noticing any of that power being passed onto the rear wheel. Immediately after the problem occured, I pulled over and switched the engine off - with the bike in gear, I tried to see if it would roll down the hill, which it did (granted, I was letting it roll backwards, so I was in no position to let it go - I had my feet on the ground as it was rolling). This to me would be the same test as putting the bike on the centerstand and trying to move the rear wheel, right?

    I'll be heartbroken if it's something as significant as the transmission...any other tests you recommend?

    Thanks again
    #5
  6. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    Sounds like a driveshaft rubber coupler failure. It will only get worse. Easy enough to check by dropping the final drive.

    When slipping, if you jump off can you smell rubber burning around the DS area?

    Could be a badly slipping clutch, but the symptoms are atypical.
    #6
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  7. shovelstrokeed

    shovelstrokeed Long timer

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    There are 3 things between the flywheel and the rear drive.
    The clutch
    The transmission
    The drive shaft.

    The transmission, when it goes, usually just goes and that is that. No power anywhere at anytime.
    The clutch may be slipping but should act strange at most RPMs not just at max torque.
    My vote is a failure of the rubber coupling in the drive shaft. They do go bad and the symptoms probably most closely match what you describe.
    You won't get to nurse it home though. Once they go bad, the deterioration is progressive and it will never come back. The good news is that even in Switzerland, it shouldn't be that much money.
    #7
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  8. Jamesa5454

    Jamesa5454 Adventurer

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    Thanks Jim - I actually ordered a bunch of your DVDs the other day so I can try giving my bike the TLC it deserves once I finish the journey!

    How bad do you think it could get in 850kms? Will I make it to the end, or do you think I should stop riding now?
    #8
  9. UncleMark

    UncleMark Been here awhile

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    Cheers Jimmy,

    I would do as Jim suggests, along with trying to turn the transmission. Get it in neutral and turn, and see if it's smooth. Put in gear and try to turn. Pull the starter, check for fluid. Keep an eye out for anything suggested by Anton.
    #9
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  10. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    Put it in neutral on the centerstand. If it runs quietly, put it in gear and try again. If you can force it then it is likely the driveshaft. Either way, if it slips in all gear hot, then you will not get 850 kms out of it.
    #10
  11. GS Addict

    GS Addict Pepperfool Supporter

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    When the rubber cush drive lets go there is no appreciable slippage/partial coupling.
    My call is clutch contamination (oil or brake fluid) or extreme disc wear.
    The fact you had some coupling when it cooled down points to the clutch disc and possibly weak diaphragm spring pressure

    I just did an 1150RT that had a Brake fluid contaminated clutch disc that slipped anytime hard throttle was applied.
    I read you just replaced the clutch slave at the beginning of your trip.
    FYI new clutch slaves from BMW come chronically undergreased on the little release bearing. I always lube properly before putting into service.
    If this bearing fails (many do) the piston spins and the seal lets fluid by which migrates along the pushrod and eventually contaminates the clutch disc.
    Drilling a little hole below the slave on the transmission case will allow fluid to escape in the event of slave failure.

    See the dry balls?
    [​IMG]

    Transmission mod.
    [​IMG]

    Cut back the slave sheath while in there so the fitting won't rust thru. Sheath fills with water over time from the open end at the front.
    [​IMG]

    Add the zip tie to hold back
    [​IMG]
    #11
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  12. teomannaskali

    teomannaskali Long timer

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    My friend had a problem a bit similar that was probably related to the fluid in the clutch baking and having a "high spot" on the hydraulic clutch cable where boiling gas would accumulate. But his was a 1200gs.
    #12
  13. LABCAB

    LABCAB Adventurer

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    Can anyone give more detail to the drive shaft rubber coupler failure?

    I recently picked up an 1150GS and have noticed bits of rubber on the rear wheel.
    #13
  14. UncleMark

    UncleMark Been here awhile

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  15. GS Addict

    GS Addict Pepperfool Supporter

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    You won't see evidence on the wheel.
    You have to remove the rear boot & FD and look at the forward section of the driveshaft on the end.
    You will see the rubber joining the outer part to the inner.
    Typically if it has spun you will see the inner portion of the rubber where it is joined to the splined inner will have been torn away with rubber particles present.
    Sometimes the shaft has to be removed and the shaft put in a vise and the splined portion turned with a pipe wrench (and a rag) to determine if it has let go.
    #15
  16. Jamesa5454

    Jamesa5454 Adventurer

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    Hello again all - thanks for your replies. This morning's update:

    - Pulled the cap off the clutch reservoir. Was probably a little overfull, but not alarmingly. I drained it slightly by putting some paper towel in to soak up the fluid. See before and after shots below. The fluid was not murky (the shots don't indicate this well), although it did have some residue floating in there - it wasn't metallic, but looked more like algae?! Can only presume this is something to do with the type of fluid that was put in there. By rights, if I had a stuffed slave cylinder that was leaking fluid, the fluid levels should be low, not high, right? Fluid is green in colour (unlike the brake fluid), again, I assume this is just the fluid that was used.


    2016-08-04 at 10-05-43.jpg 2016-08-04 at 10-08-12.jpg

    - Pulled the starter motor off to inspect clutch plates - could not see any fluid at all inside - looked totally dry. I'd guess each of the clutch plates is around 7-8mm thick. I'm no expert by any stretch, but I didn't see anything in there that looked alarming. When pulling the clutch lever in, there was very little visible movement at the plates - less than 1mm I'd say. I've got no idea if this is normal or not though? Spoke on the phone with the mechanic in Australia who replaced the clutch (my best mate - car mechanic, not BMW specialist, but also owns and rides an R1150GS) - he didn't replace the pressure plate, only the clutch plates and slave cylinder.

    2016-08-04 at 11-38-16.jpg
    2016-08-04 at 11-38-30.jpg

    - With the bike on the centre stand, I tried spinning the rear wheel both in neutral, and in 1st gear. It spun in neutral as you'd expect - no unusual noises, and spun freely. When in gear I could not get it to spin, even when applying considerable force

    - There is some fluid underneath the gearbox (external) - however I'm 99.99% sure this is from an oil weep coming from the righthand engine pot. It has been weeping since I had a moderate speed accident on that side (well over 10000kms ago). Can't attach a shot of this though, as the forum will only let me attach 4 shots to the post

    - Put everything back together and rode it 100 meters (basically wanted to make sure I hadn't drained too much fluid from the reservoir and that the clutch still functioned). Everything felt 'normal'

    I'm going to ride in the direction of the nearest workshop (which is in Switzerland - 90kms away) and see how I go. I'm really reluctant to have the bike serviced here because things are just so expensive, so if I make it without issue I may consider to keep on going to Germany. Will keep you posted...
    #16
  17. Jamesa5454

    Jamesa5454 Adventurer

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    Here are the shots of the oil weep from the righthand engine pot:

    2016-08-04 at 11-43-02.jpg 2016-08-04 at 11-43-11.jpg
    #17
  18. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore "You ain't black!"

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    That bike requires good ol' DOT 4 brake fluid for the clutch (right, fellas?). Later models use mineral oil. I wonder if that's mineral oil? I mght consider draining it and putting some brake fluid in there.
    #18
  19. UncleMark

    UncleMark Been here awhile

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    You may still need to check the driveshaft. Here's Jim's pictorial on pivoting the final drive, which would let you inspect the shaft.
    http://www.jvbproductions.com/R1200_Final_Drive.html

    You could undo the rubber boot on the final drive and see if you smell burnt rubber.
    #19
  20. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    Unfortunately his is an 1150, so not quite so simple to drop the FD.
    #20