Honeymoon's over - FT500 Ascot Question

After 75 miles or so of new old bike ownership, I'm discovering the ol' motor has a few oil weeps around the head cover area. Intake & Exhaust valve adjuster covers. I guess the seller had cleaned the old oil off before showing it, naturally enough.

Yesterday, I thoroughly degreased the head, and, since the exhaust valve cover is right there, I pulled it off. O-ring was pretty hard. So, since others have suggested that those covers easily warp, I sanded it flat using sandpaper on a flat piece of glass - very nice. Made a homemade gasket and put it back together with GOBS AND GOBS of RTV silicone... :thumbsup: Just kidding - I used just a VERY light coat.

So, today I rode to work, and it looks like I had more leaks than I thought. The exhaust valve cover was completely dry and the intake cover is still weeping, clearly, but it looks like the rocker shafts are leaking, too.

According to my XL500 manual, and the BikeBandit parts diagrams, these shafts have O-rings on the ends. No problem, then. Ordered new from BikeBandit for a couple bucks each.

Here's the problem, and the question: the XL manual says the engine has to come OUT OF THE FRAME :thumbsup: to remove the head cover. XL250's of similar vintage did not. Manual doesn't cover the FT500 Ascot.

Does anyone know, or can you confirm one way or the other - does the motor need to come out of the frame to pull the head cover on an FT500?




There is a stud on one side and you need to clear the cam gear. Make sure there is enough room to pull the cover up above its highest level now with the top motor mount removed. Other than that, can't help. BTW sometimes those rocker shafts are hard to remove.

Yeah, that's what I'll have to look at when I pull the tank and the upper motor mount.

I'm just discouraged because the XL manual states that you MUST remove the engine to pull the head cover. Not identical to the FT, but close enough to make me fear the worst...

from what I remember you do have to pull the motor . It really isn't that difficult. the rocker arm shafts will be hard to remove. pay attension to the wave washers on the shafts they keep the rockerarms loaded to one side. also don't be surprised if you need to helicoil some of the 6mm bolt holes that hold the cover on. use permatex 1154 sealant or yamabond4 on the cover. it would be smart to do a leakdown test or at least a compression test before removing the motor just incase you want to fresh'n it up while its out.

The FT500 Ascot has a dubious reputation, from what I have read.

The engine in the Ascot FT500 is a variant of the older (pre-RFVC) XL/XR engines. The differences are: an oil sump is added for greater oil capacity; the kickstarter is deleted and an electric starter is added. Also, the FT engine has a heavier flywheel than the XR dirtbikes. There is no compression release mechanism on the FT. Note that all applicable parts from the XL/XR's bolt on, so kickstart/compression release, etc., can easily be added. The only difference in the 1982 and 1983 Ascots (the only years of production) is the placement of the oil drain plug -- in one year, it was in front; on the other year, it was on the side of the pan.

I was looking at them a few years ago when I had a TT500 500cc dirt bike. I ended up with a VT500FT Ascot, which was the 500cc V-Twin version, a 6-speed shaft drive.

Hey, guys, thanks for the feedback.

No, pulling the motor won't be difficult. In fact, it's ridiculously easy, as far as motors go: 1 exhaust, 1 carb, 2 or 3 wiring connectors, chain and a few bolts an' yer done. But what a silly thing to have to do, just to remove the top cover to replace two 50-cent O-rings.

The joys of vintage ownership! :thumbsup:

Hmmm.... maybe I could just remove the front motor mounts and perhaps the engine would "roll" forward enough to allow removing that cover...

I think all the 6mm bolts will be good (crossed fingers) because I've already put a wrench (lightly) on 'em just to see if that might've been a contributor to the oil weeping.

As for the top end, yeah, I've thought about it, esp w/30K on the clock. But, on the other hand, it has good compression, and runs like a champ (and I'm pretty undemanding here) and I hate fixing things that aren't broke... I'll have to mull it over.

The biggest hit to the Ascot was/is the electric start. The starter itself is fine enough, but the 347-moving-parts gear reduction mechanism Honda grafted on apparently isn't up to the task. :thumbsup: They maybe should've done a bit more "design review" activities back in the lab.

They can be fixed, and the whole system responds, apparently, to some tender loving preventive care, but there you are. And when you combine it with the kickstart delete 'feature', you've got a recipe for building a bad rep...

It sounds like when I got married, the honeymoon was over that night, at least you still have a nice bike to ride.

I had to sell all my bikes when I got married, never again will I ever let a women have control over my life like that.

You can remove the top cover without removing the engine. Remove all of the engine mounting bolts and lower the engine as far as it can go in the frame. Then, remove the cover from the left side. It'ss still be tight but it will come out and go in from the left side, but not the right.

While you've got it apart, replace the o-rings and shaft retainer pins. You may consider getting two extra o-rings and put one and a thin flat washer between the head cover and wave washer on each shaft. This minimizes the amount of oil getting to the o-ring mounted on the detent in the shaft inside the casting of the cover.

Use a thin layer of black silicone on the cover to head surface and replace the seals for both valve access covers.

That will stop the leaking from the cam cover, but you may discover some seeping from the head to cylinder gasket.

Hey, thanks for the suggestions. I've purchased the O-rings and the replacement retainer pins. Your suggestion re: extra O-rings is a good one. I never thought of that.

I also purchased a new O-ring and a new seal for the tachometer drive Honda grafted on on the right side of the head. It seems to be weeping from there, too.

I'll also be bead blasting the cover, and repainting it black while it's out, since it looks kinda mangy.

I'm hopeful that removing the cover won't let the head gasket start weeping. There are four head-bolts plus an "inverted" head bolt that do not get removed when removing just the cover. I'm hoping that this keeps the head gasket clamped, as it's the one gasket that seems to be NOT weeping at this point... :thumbsup:

Thanks, too, for the input on dropping the engine. That's what I'll try.


Well, according to the factory shop manual maintenance of the cylinder head, valves, camshaft and rocker arms can all be accomplished with the engine installed in the frame.

All the manual says to do is:

1. remove the valve adjuster covers

2. remove the tachometer drive gear from the cylinder head.

3. remove the cylinder head cover bolts, noting the location of the 7mm bolts

4. remover the cylinder head cover.

Maybe that big single is pretending its a big ol' BSA thumper????

Well, hey, that's what I was looking for - text from the factory service manual. My old Chilton's manual only covers the XL/XRs, not the FT. It mentions that the 250's DON'T need to come out of the frame, but the 500's DO. I was wondering about my FT.

I guess I'll just wait and see once the parts show up.

Then, just this morning, I went to start it to ride to work, and the battery didn't have enough oomph to turn it over. Just turned it slowly twice, then dit dit dit dit..... Sigh. It had been working great all week, so I'm wondering if I have a weak charging system now, too. I didn't have time to hook the charger up. I guess this weekend, I'll be troubleshooting that. :thumbsup:


You can start the bike an put a voltmeter on the battery to see if it's charging or not. It should read 14.50 with rpm at 3000. At idle it should read 12.26 volts

I would just pull the motor it's an easy job.

KDN, after further thinking on this, I bet you can pull without taking out the motor. The XL/XR had comp. release and had the stud I mentioned earlier. I'm betting you have a regular bolt instead (right front on the cover). I think that stud is the hang up on the dirt models.

Re your starter problem..Best you do a Google using the words" Honda FT-500 Ascot FAQ " Some information down the bottom of the page thats relevant to Starter motor issues on the FT's.

Yep, I've read about the starter issues on the FT.

This isn't that, though. It's pretty much just that the battery won't hold a charge. Charging circuit is putting out about 14.0 volts at 4000 rpm, or so. Battery just won't hold charge anymore. Time to get a new one.

Thanks for the help, all.


Hey I just noticed this thread here is my input:

My Ascot was "Weeping" oil so bad I got oil on my pants every time I rode it. I ended up removing the head and having a shop put in 5 helicoils on stripped out threads (many were stripped out before I disassembled). I made the mistake of NOT doing the o-rings on the rocker arms. It only looses a drop every 200-300 miles so I'm not too worried but it still bugs me. Other than that my Ascot has been leak free and a blast to ride.

FYI I did it all without removing the engine from the frame, the rocker arm cover was a little tricky to install/ remove but not bad.

Also Check out the Yahoo FT500 group. It's fairly active and a great resource for the bike.


Hey, Red,

Thanks for the reply. Mine doesn't seem to be weeping from anywhere except the valve adjuster cover, the rocker arm O-rings and the tach drive.

I completely degreased the head; had it perfectly clean and dry. Then, the first runs, you can watch and see exactly where oil first appears, and how it "tracks" down the outside. I don't seem to have any weeps at either the head cover nor the head gasket (cross fingers!).

I was planning to do the work this past weekend. Got all the new O-rings I'll need, then Friday morning, got called out of town on business for a week >:-(

Oh well. I'll get to it one of these days!

Thanks for the help, and I will check out the Yahoo group.


Hey, that Yahoo Groups site is pretty awesome. Tons of info on just about all the weaknesses: starter, forks, balancer chain, jetting, gearing, wiring diagrams.

Thanks for the recco.

Still having fun with the bike. Commuting every day I can. 58 mpg, so far! Woo Hoo.


It just snowed here so the honeymoon hasn't started yet with my newly restored XL600R.

Sounds like brakes freezing up, oil cover leaks and starter problems are the key areas.

While doing some research, I found this info.


(Go to the link for the whole post. Good read)


You asked for it.

Learn to rebuild the starter engagement doohickey, you access it by removing foot peg, and side cover, as it gums up often, and since you don't have a kickstarter

The bolts that hold your valve adjustment access caps will strip out, go easy tightening those. If you get oil weeping from the cam cover atop the motor, you should install a full whack of 6 mm Heli-coils, I did, end of leak forever. You'll be replacing aluminum threads with steel this way. Almost all Ft500's eventually leak at the cam cover/strip the valve covers, and get starter mechanism snaffu's. These are the only weak links, however.

That's all the bad news I know of. The little Thumper only makes about 34 hp, as long as it has oil, it should be good to go.

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