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2009 XR650L Ran Low on Oil and Died

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An unfortunate event led me here today to pick your brains for assistance tearing apart my XRL.  I was out on a ride and apparantly ran out of oil and my XR died on me.  When it died originally i wasnt sure what happened (thought maybe i just needed to switch to reserve fuel), but it lost all power and then just quit, so i popped the clutch and when i did, my rear tire locked up on me (seized engine?).  Not thinking through too thoroughly, I started my bike again after I stopped and ran it up the road for a few hundred feet before turning it off.  It had started knocking pretty bad after it restarted.  I tried to look through some other posts for help, but couldnt quite find the answers to all my questions.  

 

I got home and started tearing into it.  I drained the oil from the frame and plenty came out, but when I pulled the drain plug on the engine I only got enough to fill up to the bottom line of a red solo cup (the engine was cold by this point, but i would still expect a lot more than that).  The oil was pretty dark, but it still had a brownish color to it and fortunately i didnt see any signs of metal shavings.  It did smell pretty gnarly though - like it was burnt or something.  I regularly keep an eye on my oil, but it always read on the low side of the dipstick.  I remember when I did my first oil change on this bike, i put in the required volume of oil and it still read low, but people online were saying, "dont add more than required, they just tend to read low in general" - so i thought all was well. 

 

I then went to pull the valve cover and to my surprise, when i cracked it loose, oil started pouring out the side.  I pulled the valve cover all the way off and everything inside looks well-oiled in the valve train, and the rockers didnt seem to have any signs of extra wear and tear.  I have to manage to get the cam out still, which leads me to my first question. I read online some people were using a nail instead of buying a cam chain tensioner holder tool, but i can't even get my tensioner to budge! In the Honda service manual it says to push on it with a screwdriver as you put the tensioner holder in place, but when I push on the tensioner with a screwdriver i get nothing. 

 

1.  Are tensioners typically very hard to move? I assume the block-type thing on the chain side of the tensioner is what im supposed to be pushing on with a screwdriver to make it move, but even with quite a bit of pressure it wouldn't budge.  Is that 'thing' on the outside of the head used to turn the tensioner? If so, can i grab it with a pair of pliers and turn it to try and move the tensioner that way?   Any advice on the tensioner would be greatly appreciated.  

 

2.  What is typically a sign of abnormal wear on the rockers? Looking at them, they don't look any different than I would expect them to look. 

 

3.  If the cam journals/rockers are all fine, is the next step to check the valve seats to make sure one (or more) didn't come loose? 

 

4.  If the valve seats all look good, do you suspect that I will just need a new piston and get the cylinder bored out? (If so, I will be considering the big bore/stage 1 cam kit, but I will leave questions about that out of the thread at this time. Id really like to keep it stock because I dont trust myself rejetting a carb, and imagine it would cost a pretty penny to have someone else do it.) 

 

5.  If everything inside the engine miraculously ends up looking ok, is it possible that simply doing an oil change would have fixed this?  Based on the knocking, i figured it would require way more than an oil change, but i really dont know as i have never ran into this type of situation before.  

 

6.  When I put this whole thing back together, does the crank matter if it's on the compression or exhaust stroke?  Currently, its at TDC on compression, but I figured i will move it to check the cylinder for wear.  My real question is - does the engine have a wasted spark on the exhaust stroke, or does this thing only fire once - on compression - and i have to be very careful to make sure its on the compression stroke during reassembly? 

 

I will try and upload some pictures here later today, but if anyone can give me some help in the meantime to some of my questions, i would really appreciate it!  I still can't believe I have to tear this thing apart with only 8400 miles on it... I guess if any good came out of this, i can say it's been a good learning experience.  And i'm really appreciative of honda for making these bikes so easy to wrench on!  :D

 

-Jason

Edited by JayDude132

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Subscribed, because I have the same issue.  Haven't gotten very far in tearing down the engine yet, though.

 

The XR650L engine is a dry sump design, so it pumps as much oil as it can back into the frame for storage before the regular oil pump pumps it through the engine.  You should be concerned if there was very much oil in the crankcase.

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Subscribed, because I have the same issue.  Haven't gotten very far in tearing down the engine yet, though.

 

The XR650L engine is a dry sump design, so it pumps as much oil as it can back into the frame for storage before the regular oil pump pumps it through the engine.  You should be concerned if there was very much oil in the crankcase.

 

That actually makes me feel a lot better.  I was really dreading the thought of having to pull that crankcase apart in the event I had to dig deeper. 

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If the engine is making knocking sounds it probably has internal damage.  At this point you have already torn into it might as well rebuild the engine.  That way you know it's done right and will provide years of trouble free service.  I bought my 2001 XR650L with only 6,700 miles on it.  The engine was toast, the PO had run it low on oil and fried the engine so yes even at low miles it can happen.  However after rebuilding the engine the bike runs great and I am very happy with it.  You never know what the PO has done to the bike regarding maintenance or abuse.

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This happened to my 2008. One of the feed lines at the bottom of the front down tube got twisted (I believe it's the one for intake as there is a filter screen you need to inspect and clean just down stream from this hose). It's a metal tube on either end but a fabric reinforced rubber hose between the two and apparently when tightening the fitting down upon reinstall this can twist the rubber hose part causing a restriction. I went around with Honda and the dealer about this to no satisfaction, Honda saying they didn't cause it and the dealer saying they wouldn't have touched it at first service (and they should have as it's recommended to inspect). She went at 1600 miles.

 

Massive gaulling of the piston. Piston bits through out the bottom end. Much fun. She's running now - and I've added an oil cooler.

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I'm thinking maybe an oil cooler may be in order now, especially if i decide to do any mods to it anyway.  Previously, people always said about how hot these bikes would run, and people would add oil temp gauge dipsticks and i always scoffed at that, thinking, "honda wouldnt build it this way if it didnt work well."  Now i'm thinking otherwise, if at least for preventative measures.  Im glad to hear she's running again! I'm really hoping i can simply bore/sleeve the cylinder and replace the piston. 

 

I can scratch number 1 off my list of questions too... I misread the manual and figured out my issue with the tensioner.  I can still use help with some other questions though! 

 

-Jason

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Did you remove the bolt from the tensioner shaft?  That has to be removed before the shaft will move.

 

ME

I found that out over my lunch break... :facepalm:

Ill have some pictures up tonight! Time to do some more wrenching and hope i can get by without that cam chain tensioner holder tool.

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hmmmm... doesnt sound like an oiling problem. If the top end and valve cover was full, that means that it was pumping oil to the top end. One would assume that it was circulating oil through the bottom end as well. You also typically see valve train damage as a first indicator of of oil starvation.

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I'm hopefully getting that head off soon.  I'm wondering if maybe it dropped a valve seat.  Im guessing that could cause the knocking noise.  Also, after it cooled down i cranked it a little *just to see* if it would fire so i could recreate the noise for my brother.  But, no luck, it wouldn't start again (probably for the best).

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I'm not sure if i'm uploading these right, so hopefully they don't turn out massive.  So far, here's just a shot of the valve train.  The rockers look good to me, and you can see under the valve cover is still covered in oil, as well as on the rockers.  The only thing i noticed was there was some dirt in there next to the cam, but who knows, maybe i accidentally got something in there when i was trying to fiddle around getting the valve cover off. 

 

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Well, got the cam out, and it's not looking too pretty in there. I take it the side opposite the chain is not supposed to look like that.  It actually looks better at the chain side and worse as it moves across the engine.  

 

Does this mean a new head is absolutely necessary? I take it this is beyond repair.  

 

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And finally last pictures for tonight.  At first I was excited because i saw the crosshatch in the cylinder.  Then i looked around and the rest of it didn't look so nice  :(

 

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I can see the dollar bills fleeing my wallet already.

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Well, got the cam out, and it's not looking too pretty in there. I take it the side opposite the chain is not supposed to look like that.  It actually looks better at the chain side and worse as it moves across the engine.  

 

Does this mean a new head is absolutely necessary? I take it this is beyond repair.  

 

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Your cam rides on two big roller bearings...

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Well, got the cam out, and it's not looking too pretty in there. I take it the side opposite the chain is not supposed to look like that.  It actually looks better at the chain side and worse as it moves across the engine.  

 

Does this mean a new head is absolutely necessary? I take it this is beyond repair.  

 

attachicon.gifP8201529.JPG

attachicon.gifP8201530.JPG

attachicon.gifP8201531.JPG

 

There's nothing wrong with that cylinder head. The center journal is the only one that goes away and the one in your picture looks good. Better than good actually.

 

Your cylinder shows signs of piston scuffing and coupled with the hot seizure and not starting means that it is probably what's knocking.

 

Oil starvation wipes out the valvetrain first. Good lubrication with overheating usually allows the valvetrain to live long enough for the piston to melt. The piston and cylinder only get oil slung from the crank.

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There's nothing wrong with that cylinder head. The center journal is the only one that goes away and the one in your picture looks good. Better than good actually.

 

Your cylinder shows signs of piston scuffing and coupled with the hot seizure and not starting means that it is probably what's knocking.

 

Oil starvation wipes out the valvetrain first. Good lubrication with overheating usually allows the valvetrain to live long enough for the piston to melt. The piston and cylinder only get oil slung from the crank.

 

The center journal looked like it had a little scuffing, is that a normal amount? And my concern was that the far journal (clutch side of the bike) looked liked it was worn down and eaten away.  There appears to be what looks like metal peeling off on the lower edge of it - unless this is just not cleaned up from the factory machining? The reason i was concerned was because the fact that the cam has 2 large roller bearings, both of which still feel great.  I'm not sure if they could really fail that bad to the point they'd seize and cause damage or not. If that head is fine, then i will be thrilled. I really didn't feel like dropping hundreds of bucks on a new head too.  

 

Replacing the piston and machining the cylinder doesnt seem too bad.  Do you know if there is a way to check the rod bearing without having to remove the engine and split the case?  If I grab the rod and try to wiggle it and there is no play, should that mean it is alright? 

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The center journal looked like it had a little scuffing, is that a normal amount? And my concern was that the far journal (clutch side of the bike) looked liked it was worn down and eaten away.  There appears to be what looks like metal peeling off on the lower edge of it - unless this is just not cleaned up from the factory machining? The reason i was concerned was because the fact that the cam has 2 large roller bearings, both of which still feel great. I'm not sure if they could really fail that bad to the point they'd seize and cause damage or not.

I think that is just a burr from maching the bearing saddle. The surfaces would be galled and look much worse if the bearing(s) had seized and spun in the head and the roller bearing would show evidence of failure.

The center cam journal looks fine. The only thing I can't identify is that black dot on the lower clutch side, but there again, if it wasn't causing a problem, then it likely isn't one. Search on this forum for wrecked cam journals and you'll see that yours is practically new by comparison.

 

Replacing the piston and machining the cylinder doesnt seem too bad.  Do you know if there is a way to check the rod bearing without having to remove the engine and split the case?  If I grab the rod and try to wiggle it and there is no play, should that mean it is alright?

Generally speaking, a little side-to-side play on the rod is alright, but vertical play is not.The rod can be checked when the piston and cylinder have been removed. There is no benefit to splittting the cases, but be mentally prepared for the possibly. It may be necessary in order to clean out debris from the piston depending on how badly it failed.

Above all, it needs to be determined why the engine got hot enough to seize. A picture of the combustion chamber, spark plug, and knowing what mods and jetting you have will be helpful if it wasn't simply from lack of cooling airflow.

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