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Valve Adjustment

Tools you'll need:

  • #3 Philips screwdriver
  • Ratchet & sockets
  • Combination wrenches
  • Short, slot screw driver
  • Inch pounds torque wrench
  • Feeler gauges
  • Shop rags
  • Oil drip pan

Supplies you'll need:

  • Gasket sealer (maybe)
  • Valve cover gasket (maybe)
  • Pickup coil cover gasket (maybe)
  • Lock-Tite (Blue)

What you will have to remove:

  • Lower plastic
  • Gas tank
  • Ignition coils
  • Air suction valve and air hoses
  • Head cover
  • Pickup coil cover

Here's the blow by blow of how I did mine, step by step, start to finish:

Update October 2003: See the two revisions below. One regarding turning the engine over and the other for valve cover and gasket replacement. This should save half an hour or so.

Part I - Getting To The Valves

  • Engine must be absolutely cold.
  • Remove seat
  • Before removing any plastic, decide what you're going to do with all of those different length screws. Some will screw them back into their holes when the plastic is removed. I made up a board from a photo I got from the Internet, drew a few lines, and drilled a few holes ( make your own - TODO Add Link ). Each screw that came out when into its' designated hole. The photo shows each screw that must come out. It includes two on the black plastic panel that faces you when you're sitting on the bike. Be sure to use a #3 Philips screwdriver. It will look a bit on the big side but it may very well avoid stripped screw heads.
  • Remove side covers
  • Remove gas tank
  • Remove plastic belly pan.
  • Remove lower fairing side panels
  • Once the lower fairing side panels are off, you will find a duct on each side held on by 3 screws each; remove these


This is not as daunting as it looks. After all, it's just plastic and it really doesn't take that long to take it off.

  • Either use a vacuum or a can of compressed air to clear the crud from the top of the engine.
  • Before unscrewing the spark plug leads from the coils, make note of which wire goes to each coil connection.
  • Unscrew the spark plug leads from the two coils and remove them. Use your vacuum or compressed air to clear the dirt and grit out the the spark plug holes while you're in there.
  • Loosen the two nuts attaching each coil to the frame; slide the coils away from the center of the bike and flip back towards the rear. There's no need to remove the wiring. (Note that on the left coil is a ground wire held in place by the forward nut. Remember to put this back on re-assembly).
  • Remove the air suction valve and air hoses as one complete unit. There are two rectangular reed valve covers; each held on by two bolts. There's no need to remove the three larger hoses or the vacuum switch valve but you will have to slide the little vacuum hose off. Once the four bolts are out, slide the whole assembly forward and then out to the left. The hose that runs back into the air box will slide out of its hole quite easily. See pages 4-7 to 4-8  of the shop manual for diagrams and photos of this assembly.
  • Before removing the cylinder head cover, stand on the right side of the bike and crouch down and sight along the cover. There is a hose clamp with its little screw mechanisms at the bottom of the hoses. I found that space is so tight along here that I needed to unscrew this hose clamp and rotate it about 90 degrees so that the screw mechanism was up and out of the way.
  • Remove the 6 bolts holding the cylinder head cover on.

  • Breaking the seal on the cover can be a bit tough. Guy Young suggests screwing one of the reed valve cover bolts back in place, wrapping a rag around it with a pair of pliers so as not to ruin the bolt or the cover, and then pry the cover loose. I took a piece of 3/4" plywood about 3" x 14" and drilled a 1/4" inch hole about 5" from one end and then cut a slot out to one side. I did as Guy suggested in putting one reed cover bolt back in. I then slid the scrap of plywood onto the bolt and simply lifted; off it came.
  • Lift the end of the black plastic from the fairing up slightly and out of the way and it stayed put on the frame.
  • There is one bolt which holds the upper fairing in place just to the left of the cylinder head cover. Remove the bolt, gently pull the fairing away from the frame, and  re-install the bolt. It will keep the fairing about 1" away from the frame and give you all the clearance there that you will need.
  • Knowing the that cylinder head cover can really be removed, and that it has been done by others before you, is encouraging and you will need a little encouragement. Carefully raise it up and slide out to the left about 4 inches. (I found I could actually do this without the assistant that Guy suggests. I think another pair of hands would just get in the way.) At that point continue to pull to the left and now, equally to the rear and the cover will slide out.
  • Just below the chain and sprockets that are now exposed on the left, is the pickup coil cover. It's round and is held in place by 7 bolts. Once removed, it will expose the rotation nut which you will use to turn the engine over. Before removing the cover, put a pan underneath it to catch a couple teaspoons of oil that will leak out. Rather than putting up with the drip pan down there throughout the valve adjusting process, I let the pan catch the first few dribbles of oil, and then wiped the bottom of the cavity with a paper towel.

A quick comment about your cams and pitting and scoring. This was posted on the COG listserv. I'm sorry, but no name was with the post. But thank-you to the anonymous individual who contributed this bit of info.

"Several years ago a fellow member had an interesting conversation with Frank at Crane Cams in Daytona Beach. He called them because he had noticed some pitting in some of his cam lobes. He had heard that they weld up and regrind damaged cams. Frank told the fella that the pitting which looks like "pin-holes" (which is what his looked like) is absolutely normal in cast iron cams, (and the same thing on cam followers) is just not a problem. He says the initial surface of the cam is only considered a "break-in" surface, and that the porous nature of cast iron makes the kind of pitting that was being seen inevitable. He said unless the cams and followers are actually gouged, and the cams scored around the circumference of the lobe, to forget about it. He said that real damage would be noticeable in terms of noise and performance degradation, and it is quite common for the "uneducated" to become unduly alarmed at the appearance of cast iron cams with some miles on

Part 2  - Adjusting The Valves

  • Get your feeling gauges out. Mine was a 15 piece set and came in increments of .05mm. I found that having two gauges poking out of the set or, alternatively, changing them  for each pair of valves was a pain. I drilled out the rivet that held the set together. (I put in a nut and bolt the hold the set back together after taking out the 2 gauges that I wanted.) Next, I took the two gauges and, about 3/4' from the end, I bent them way back, almost 180 degrees. They spring back with a permanent bend of about 60 degrees. Now I just pick up the one gauge that I need and it's bent to give me all the room I need to work. The intakes have a suggested clearance of .13 - .18mm so I used a .15mm gauge and set the valves so that the fit was a little loose. The exhaust has a suggested clearance of .18 - .23mm for which I used the .20mm gauge with the same loose fit. In the end, this was just fine.
  • Now is the time to decide which method of adjustment that you are going to use. If you want to use the factory method, have a look at manual pages 4-19 to 4-20. I used the Guy B. Young method and think he's quite right that it is easier. I actually short cut his process a bit without affecting the quality of the job.
  • Before you move on, see the Update for October 2003 at the bottom of this section.
  • Look down to where you removed the pickup coil cover. There is a round disk with a nut in the center. At one spot on the disk is an index mark with a "T" below it and the numbers "1.4". 180 degrees around the disc is another "T" with "2.3" below it. At around the 2 o'clock area, just behind the disk, is a timing mark (painted black just to make you work for it). You will line up each T in turn on this timing mark.
  • Guy's instruction say to use a 17mm wrench on this nut. Mine was 24mm. (Try to find a 24mm wrench at 10 o'clock on Friday night.) Fortunately I did have a 15/16's box end wrench which fit perfectly. Slowly turn the nut counter clock wise until the first T lines up with the index mark. (There's an arrow on the disk in case you forget). For purposes of these instructions, we'll say that you are at the 1.4 mark. Look up top at the lobes on the camshafts. Either the lobes for cylinder 1 or cylinder 4 will be pointing in opposite directions (exhaust to the front, intake to the rear). Again, for the purposes of these instructions, we'll assume that they are the lobes for cylinder 1.
  • At this point, all 4 valves for cylinder 1 can be adjusted. This part is by the book. I found that on this, the 3rd valve adjustment on the bike since new (the first for me as chief mechanic) almost half the valves needed adjusting. Some were tight and some were loose and there was no consistency as to whether it was intake or exhaust that were tight or loose.
  • With cylinder 1's valves adjusted, turn the crank over counter clockwise 180 degrees to the 2.3 index mark. Since the firing order is 1-2-4-3, the next cylinder with the cam lobes facing away from each other will be cylinder 2. So adjust those 4 valves now.
  • Repeat the previous step and adjust cylinder 4, and one more 180 degree turn and adjust cylinder 3. Since this was the first time on this bike's valves for me, I ran through the rotation sequence and checking clearances twice. It added another 20 minutes or so but I actually did find that after I got the routine down and had a better feel (i.e. less fear) for the job, I did adjust 2 or 3 of the valves a second time. Besides, given all the time the rest of the job takes, the extra time was pretty minor.
  • Update October 2003: After having a few valve adjustment sessions under my belt, I've taken a little different approach to turning the engine over and the order of doing the actual adjustments. Now, I leave the pickup coil cover in place. No dripping oil, no gasket replacements, no fuss, no muss. My approach is to adjust all of the intakes valves first and then all of the exhaust valves. This way, I keep just one feeler gauge at hand and there's no question about mixing them up. Make sure the bike is in neutral. Starting at cylinder number 1, I hit the starter until the intake cam lobe is anywhere above horizontal and thereby leaving the valves fully closed. Just a few quick taps or two on the starter button will usually do it. Check and adjust both #1 intake valves as necessary. Then, move on to the intakes on cylinder number 2. It's just that easy. Once the intakes are done, do the exhaust. Don't forget to change to the other feeler gauge.
Part 3 - Getting It All Back Together
  • My cylinder head cover gasket stuck to the cover... mostly. This seems to be normal (as opposed to sticking to the head). If the gasket comes loose at all, the suggested procedure is that it be stuck back in place with a RTV. This also seems to be pretty normal. There is a groove around the cover and a corresponding section of the gasket that fits into the groove. If the gasket has come loose from the valve cover, put a few dabs of RTV in the groove, put the gasket back on the cover, and leave it sit for 5 - 10 minutes. This should keep it in place while you get the cover installed. It does tend to hang up in places as you snuggle it into place so keep an eye on it both during and after. I lift the cover up, crouch down, and sight along the bottom of the cover to see if everything is where it's supposed to be.
  • My cover went on easier than it came off. The gasket did get hung up in places and came loose. I very carefully lifted the cover and made absolutely sure that the gasket was in place at every point around the cover.
  • Update October 2003: After having picked enough RTV off the valve cover and gasket a few times, I tried a different approach to reinstalling the gasket and valve cover. First, I was concerned about the dried RTV coming loose and clogging an oil passage. I'd been warned that this has happened and spoiled an engine or two. Now, I just lay the gasket on the head. Then slide in the valve cover. If you're reasonably careful, the gasket won't move. Gently drop the valve cover into place and all should be well in the world. Gently lift up each end, and smear a little sealant into the two semi-circular cutouts at each end. Not too much now; don't want it dripping inside the engine.
  • Before fastening the cover bolts, at each end of the cylinder head, where the cover fits, there are two semi-circular cutouts that the gasket fits into. Run a bead of silicone sealant around these little cutouts. I used a high temp RTV sealant suggested by another member. Didn't leak a drop.
  • Torque the cover bolts to 87 inch pounds. It was suggested to me that this is not the place to go cheap on tools. Get an inch pound torque wrench for the job. 87 inch pounds equates to 7.25 foot pounds and it's unlikely that you'll get a foot pounds wrench that accurate, that low on the scale... if it's even on the scale. There's two reasons for ensuring that this is properly torqued. Over tightening can damage the gasket, and since the bolts go into the cam journals, over tightening can apparently throw them out with some expensive damage resulting.
  • Screw the plug wires into the coils before remounting the coils.
  • Gasket for the pickup coil cover: ( See October 2003 update above.) My cover came off with the gasket stuck to it except for about a 1/2" section.    I used the same high temp RTV on this area. Wally Shults says : "Buy  a new gasket.  Remove the pulsing cover and take a razorblade and gasket remover to clean both mating surfaces really really well.  Buy a little gasket adhesive (Permatex makes a nice yellow looking snot that works well) and put it on the gasket and cover where they meet.  Attach the gasket to the cover and let it setup and get stuck on.  Now, put oil on your finger and wet the hell out of the gasket where it meets the engine.  Put the cover on and torque the bolts.  It will come right off when you need it. Reassembly just requires another application of oil to the gasket.  I have done this many times over about 2 years and not had to replace a gasket yet." - COG Digest #3007 Sept 29 / 01
  • Replace the pickup coil cover. Note that the bolts at 10 o'clock and 11 o'clock require a bit of Locktite. I couldn't find any torque spec's in the manual for the bolts.
  • Everything else goes back on in the reverse order that it came off. Don't forget that ground wire on the left coil.
  • Here's a tip from Bob Ward. While the tank is off, clean the screen in the petcock. "Sometimes it has some sort of splooge on it like jelled gasoline or something."
How it turned out.
  • I was a little nervous about having got everything back together correctly. I wasn't going to find an oil leak after spending an hour re-installing plastic. I started the engine up before putting the plastic back on.  Fired up on the first click. As it turned out, both gaskets sealed perfectly. I didn't notice any real difference in the noise the engine makes. I did feel  that the engine rev'd a little more freely and that there was a little more power. I don't know if it was because I was a lot fussier about the adjustment than the wrench ape at the dealer's, or it just needed the adjustment, or it was just my imagination. Who cares; I'd just saved about $200 or more.
  • I'm almost looking forward to the next time. I want to see if I can do the job a bit quicker. I know I won't be going to Home Depot at 10pm looking for feeler gauges and an inch pounds torque wrench. 
Tip, Tricks, and Traps
  • Kawasaki suggests that valves be on the loose end of the clearances noted above
  • Put a bit of silicone on the front of the valve cover gasket before reinstalling it. This should help it hold its position on the cover. I do this as soon as I get the cover off. That way, it has mostly set up before I reinstall it.
  • While you're in the neighbourhood, check the cam chain tensioner. The Best of Chalkdust is full of info on this subject; see pages 7 to 12 for details.

Pitted cam lobe

Article By: David J. Morrow

 Updated October 2003

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