Yamaha's Advice for Ticker Owners

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Yamaha's Advice for FJR1300 Ticker Owners

By Allan Pratt, apratt@bestbits.org.

I originally wrote this article on March 21, 2005. It was called "Yamaha's Advice for Ticker Owners." I updated it in October, 2005 and also in February, 2006, adding notes about Yamaha's new diagnostic procedure for this problem and the new valve guide seal part number, plus adding date references for words like "currently" and "recently."

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

In March, 2005 I succeeded in getting a 2004 Yamaha FJR1300 ticker repaired under warranty, with a dealer who was not exactly in my corner the whole time. I talked with a customer service manager at Yamaha USA in Cypress, California, and now I have some advice for all FJR owners who believe they have tickers. Later, my motorcycle developed this same problem again. It was repaired again, using a different part number for the exhaust valve guide seals. So far (July, 2008) so good.

(This article does not seek to describe the ticking problem. See my index of pages on The Tick for that. Also try the FJR Forum at fjrforum.com/forum and look for "tick," "ticker," and "ticking" in the "Technical Discussions" and "Technical/Mechanical Problems" forums.)

The guy at Yamaha didn't want me to give his name online. He says the whole Customer Service department should be able to help you (the number appears below), and he doesn't want to be swamped with calls to him personally. If you follow the procedures outlined here and still get blown off, keep asking for a supervisor until you get high enough up the chain.

What follows is a combination of what Yamaha wanted me to publicize and my own opinions and experience. I hope it helps people.

First, take your bike to your dealer. Yamaha can't do anything until you do that. Yamaha asked me to say that... they seem to think ticker owners are bitching online without taking this step; I think we took our bikes to dealers but kept getting blown off.

Start by telling the dealer there is a lot of top-end noise and you think something might be wrong. After all, that's really all you know. The rest is speculation.

You can play dumb about The Tick at this point or you can try telling them this: Yamaha USA was "actively investigating reports" of top-end noise caused by (or at least correlated with) excessive exhaust valve guide wear, and based on the sound and what you've read and heard, you think you might possibly have this. The danger in this is that the dealer will write you off as an Internet hypochondriac who thinks he's got every malady he reads about. (The "actively investigating" part was current in 2005 and 2006.)

The dealer may never heard of this. That's OK: communication has been spotty. Tell the dealer if the people on the Tech Line don't know what he's talking about, he should ask for his Regional Tech Advisor. Everybody at that level should be aware that this is real, that it's under active investigation, that it's not a false rumor or an Internet phantasm. The magic words are "excessive exhaust valve guide wear," not "The Tick." [Update in October 2005: maybe Yamaha knows this as "engine knocking."]

The dealer should NOT get the blow-off from Cypress, and you should NOT get the blow-off from the dealer. Not any more.

The first blow-off sounds like this: "Oh, Yamahas are often noisy. I've heard R1's worse than that. It's nothing." This blow-off is based on the misconception that you're concerned about the noise for its own sake. You need to tell the dealer that other units that have this noise were also found to have excessive exhaust valve guide wear, poor exhaust valve closure, reduced power, oil consumption, and unburned oil in the exhaust system. Those are the things you are concerned about, not the noise itself.

Blow-off number two, if you show the Australian service bulletin, is: "That was a 2002 European problem, long since fixed, your VIN isn't in the affected range, it can't be that." Enough people at Cypress now know it can be that, and dealers shouldn't be given this answer from them, and they shouldn't give this answer to you. Not any more.

Replacing the cam chain tensioner under warranty is not a blow-off, nor is checking/adjusting valve clearance or doing a TBS. That's just part of the diagnostic procedure, looking for common/easy causes and fixes before going after rare/expensive ones. And who knows? You could be wrong about your bike being a ticker.

When it still ticks after fixes like this, it's time to tell the dealer about the "active investigation" and to talk to his Regional Tech Advisor as above. If the dealer says Yamaha don't know nothin' 'bout nothin' and he doesn't continue to investigate, you are being blown off. Take it up with Yamaha Customer Service directly.

(If the dealer says "Yes, they told me all about that, and your bike does not have that problem," you might have to consider believing him. Otherwise it's a whole different category of blow-off. I can't advise you much at this point, except to have your bike listened to by a ticker expert like Dale "Warchild" Wilson.)

If you don't get any love from your dealer - if you do get blown off - call Yamaha Customer Service yourself. They're at (800) 962-7926. Everybody who answers that phone should be hip to "top-end noise that correlates with excessive exhaust valve guide wear." [Update from October 2005: maybe known as "engine knocking."] If you get somebody who doesn't seem clued in, ask for a supervisor. Keep asking until you get somebody who knows what you're talking about. They do exist, and you will succeed. That person can work with you and your dealer: if the dealer isn't being told the right things from the tech people or isn't hearing it right, these are the guys who can fix that. (That's what happened to me, and this is how I got traction at my dealer.)

Update from February, 2006: Yamaha has a new diagnostic procedure for this. They advise removing the exhaust headers and looking for oil. If you have signs of unburned oil in the exhaust ports or headers, you know you have a problem. This is much easier than the old test, which involved removing the entire cylinder head and measuring the exhaust valve guides for excessive wear. See my more extensive article about this here.]

Another update from February, 2006: it appears that Yamaha has changed the design of the exhaust valve guide seals. They now give dealers a different part number to use when removing and replacing the exhaust valve guides, which is the only possible repair for a ticker. This is very encouraging: it suggests that Yamaha has identified a true fix for the problem, rather than taking the previous "rebuild and hope" approach.]

Remember, it's always possible you do not have The Tick. If it's been diagnosed by an expert tick-diagnoser, that's one thing. If you've just heard of The Tick and you're not sure what it sounds like, don't go charging in to your dealer demanding a full head replacement. Work with them.

Warchild's research and Dan's visit to Cypress have borne fruit: instead of getting blown off by your dealer and Yamaha, you will be believed when you mention worn exhaust valve guides after the "easy" fixes don't fix your top-end noise.

I hope this helps. Good luck, brothers.

This page was last edited September 17, 2008.