Yamaha FJR1300 ticking - quick summary

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Yamaha FJR1300 ticking - quick summary

This is a quick overview of the "tick" problem identified in Yamaha FJR1300 motorcycles, in (at least) model years 2001-2005. You can find more information on this web site by following the "Up" link above to the ticking index.

Important note:
2006 and newer FJR's do not have this problem!
This is about "Gen 1" FJR's, not "Gen 2."

A small but unknown percentage (perhaps between 1% and 7%) of FJRs from model years 2003-2005 develop a degenerative problem which appears to relate to excessive exhaust valve guide wear. It's named "The Tick" after its primary external symptom: some guides develop enough play so the valves close only partially at first, then suddenly close all the way, causing a "ticking" or "knocking" sound from the engine that gets worse over time. Besides the overt noise, there is also a chance that you get reduced horsepower from the engine due to the late-closing exhaust valves, and eventually you will get un-burned oil in your catalytic converter and exhaust system. Ultimately you get a visible oil stain on your muffler exit ports.

If you are reading this article and you wonder if you have this problem, here are some quick notes. The Tick starts out almost imperceptibly and gets progressively louder. In about 4,000 miles, it will go from barely hearing anything to having people stopped next to you at lights look over to see what is making all that racket. If you hear something but it hasn't progressed like that in 4K miles, you don't have The Tick.

Also: there are no reports of tickers from the 2006 model year onwards. Starting with that model year, Yamaha made a lot of changes to the FJR, including heat management in the engine. Also, they started using a different exhaust valve guide seal which doesn't wipe all the oil off the valve stem. In combination, these factors appear to have resolved the problem.

Now, back to the history and background:

An Australian service bulletin described this for 2001 and 2002 models, but it has also appeared in some 2003, 2004, and 2005 models. The repair advised in that service bulletin does not appear to be 100% effective; see below regarding repairs.

The experience of the owner community is that the majority of units do not develop the tick, and some develop it much sooner than others. Ticking bikes are rarely seen before about 4000 miles, and it seems that if you don't hear the tick by 12,000 or 15,000 miles, you'll never get it. This is not definite - as owners we are still gathering data on how to identify the tick and whether and how to know that a bike is "safe" and will not develop it.

There is no clear relationship between developing the tick and any of the "usual suspects" of variation among units and owners: break-in procedure, riding style, oil type or brand, service history, or other usual factors. If Yamaha knows how to tell whether a bike is likely to develop this or not, they're not telling.

This problem is also associated with engine oil appearing in the exhaust system, possibly due to exhaust valve guide seals allowing oil to get by them. Left untreated, enough oil gets by that you eventually see it coming out one or both muffler outlet ports. By then it's also possible that the oil in the exhaust system has damaged the muffler or catalytic converter.

There is anecdotal evidence that a ticking bike is down on power, too, possibly related to the exhaust valves closing late. Some people (including me) who have had tickers repaired report feeling increased power after the repair compared to before. However, I'm not aware of objective results (before-and-after dyno tests) to back this up.

Yamaha does not acknowledge a problem openly, but they routinely pay to repair tickers, even out of warranty. See my main ticking web page index and especially the page about working with your dealer.

When a ticker is suspected and other causes (like the cam chain tensioner, throttle body synch, and valve clearance) are eliminated, Yamaha has sometimes recommended this diagnostic: remove the exhaust header and look for evidence of oil in the engine's exhaust ports and the upper part of the header. If there is oil, that confirms the seal failure which seems to lead to the valve guide wear -- or else the wear that leads to seal failure. Either way, when there is oil in the header or the exhaust ports, Yamaha advises (and often pays for) removing the cylinder head and measuring valve guides. If they are found to be worn out of spec prematurely, this confirms the diagnosis 100%. The repair is to replace the affected valves, valve guides, and valve guide seals. In early 2006, Yamaha started supplying a new valve guide seal part number.

The new exhaust valve guide seal is designed to seal less perfectly: it does not wipe all the oil off the valve stem as it sweeps by. The remaining oil lubricates the interface between the stem and the guide, preventing the excessive wear that is the hallmark of this problem.

Occasionally in the past (including my 04's first repair in March, 2005), Yamaha instructed dealers to replace the entire cylinder head, and to send the original cylinder head back to Yamaha for analysis.

Some repaired tickers have begun to tick again, including mine. That first repair was done by replacing the entire cylinder head with a new one from the factory, but the new one used the same valves, guides and seals. By the time my bike developed the problem again, Yamaha had developed a new valve guide seal and that part was used for the second repair. I am not aware of any "re-tickers" after undergoing the repair using the new valve guide seals.

The 2006 model year FJR1300 has some redesigned elements, especially regarding heat management around the engine. As of September, 2007 I do not know of any reported 2006 model year tickers.

As FJR owners, we owe a huge debt to Warchild and also his local dealer Desert Valley Powersports in Prosser, Washington for investigating this and publicizing this so owners are aware of it and can get it fixed, despite Yamaha's public silence on the matter.



This page was last edited September 17, 2008.