Thought I'd killed my 999r. Wouldn't have been the first time, it spun a rod bearing for no good reason (other than shoddy construction or faulty parts from the factory) a few years ago at 3000 miles. That turned out to be an $8000 repair bill, so I've been gun shy with my engine since then, and always somehow sure that it was just about to grenade again.
Post traumatic stress disorder, maybe. Once bitten, twice shy.
A friend of mine serviced his front caliper, then forgot to tighten the mounting bolts. It came off when he test rode it, jammed in the spokes and sent him over the handlebars and into the hospital. To this day, he can't ride without looking down at that caliper every few seconds to be sure it's still on. Same kind of thing, I guess.
Anyway, I was doing a simple belt change with the new California Cycleworks belts.
Installed and tensioned the belts, and with the plugs out, put it in gear and used the rear wheel to slowly spin the engine over several revolutions, listening for any interference in case the belt jumped a tooth here or there during the install. I was sure it hadn't, I'd marked and measured and took digital photos before I took it apart to be sure, but better safe than sorry. Ounce of prevention/ pound of cure kind of thing.
It seemed to turn fine- no noise, no clicking, no issues, so the plugs went back in, and out of an abundance of caution, I spun the engine with the starter motor, coils and gas tank not yet re-installed, so it wouldn't fire. Same thing, turned fine and sounded good, so I installed the coils and gas tank, and hit the starter button.
It started almost instantly, but what I heard coming from the horizontal cylinder, sounded like somebody was beating it with a hammer.
Two friends were there too, doing work on their own bikes. They just stopped and stared at me, jaws dropped.
That high-pitched ringing started in my ears when fear and adrenaline shoot into your bloodstream, sacred to death that the super expensive titanium valves had been slamming into the super expensive piston, transferring that shock into the even more expensive titanium con-rod, into the crank.
Another $8000? Or would it be more this time? I started doing the math in my head as the blood drained from my face. More for sure. I didn't have to replace valves or piston last time. Add $90 per hour for even more labor.
I sat in stunned silence as my friends started offering their condolences, reminding me that I have another track bike to ride at the trackday I'd scheduled 2 days later, so at least that wasn't a wash. "It's only money...".
I had to be sure it was cooked, or maybe not cooked, so I took it apart again, gas tank off, coils and plugs out, and turned it by hand again.
Surprisingly, no noise. No clicks, or bangs, or rattling bits of smashed piston churning around in there.
Confidence increasing, I hit the starter button, coils and plugs still out, and it sounded fine. Chuggada-chuggada-chuggada..., air sucking in and out of the empty spark plug holes. How can that be?
Just then, one of my friends noticed that there was oil spraying out of the horizontal cylinder's spark plug hole onto the front tire and shouted for me to stop. My heart sank. Sure enough, I'd killed it, and the adding machine in my brain started running again.
"Don't worry man, take your other bike to the track Monday, have a good time and forget about it. Deal with it later."
"You've always wanted to do a complete tear down of that engine, see how it works, now's your chance!".
I spent that night beating myself up for not being absolutely sure the cams were properly lined up, and saving a few bucks by doing the belts myself.
I ignored the voice in my head telling me to get plastered, to temporarily forget and numb the pain. Pain builds character, and I wanted to gain something positive from this experience any way I could.
The next morning at first light, I rolled the bike out of the trailer to have another look. I couldn't understand how it could be so destroyed that oil would spray out of that plug hole, yet not make any grinding or clanging sounds as it spun.
I knelt down to have a closer look at that horizontal cylinder. Maybe I could rig a mirror, flashlight and digital camera set-up somehow to peer into that cylinder to see what was happening in there. Maybe someone I know has a fiber optic inspection camera that I could borrow.
I reached my finger into the plug hole to pull out the bits of metal mixed with the oil that must be in there, but amazingly, there was no metal, or any oil. Wait a minute, I saw oil that had sprayed out of that hole onto the tire yesterday, what happened to it?
Just then, it hit me. I'd seen silicone gasket material smeared onto the threads on the small bolt that attaches the stick coil to the top of the valve cover, and had wondered in passing why it was there. Turns out it's there to keep oil, under a lot of pressure in the cam area, from leaking out past the threads. I'm a cautious mechanic, I always replace any bolts and nuts that I remove with a few turns, so I can keep track of where they go, and not get them dirty or lose them. When I did the final test, when the oil sprayed out, in my haste I neglected to screw that bolt back in, so that small hole was wide open, and oil was spraying out of it.
I looked closely, and sure enough there was an oil stain below that small hole, but not the spark plug hole!
We'd just assumed that it was coming from inside the cylinder.
As it turns out, I had jumped one tooth on the horizontal cylinder putting the belts on, making it pre-detonate and knock like a mother, but not do any damage.
Once I figured that out, got the belt on the right teeth and buttoned it back up, it started up, runs like a champ, and roars like always.
Disaster averted. Bank account intact.
There's a trackday at Buttonwillow this Monday, but I have a dentist's appointment.
Maybe I need to call the dentist and cancel, get on the track and celebrate with a few power wheelies.
(Yes, I know my engine is filthy. I detailed it after I got it back together and running)