Troubleshooting Oil - - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old Feb 10th, 2017, 8:36 pm Thread Starter
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Troubleshooting Oil

Hi all,

First post on here, so hopefully this is a good place to post such a question. I inherited a broken 1998 K1200RS from my friend. I'll give you a quick rundown of what happened, but if you want to skip to the end and read the current and specific question I have, feel free to do so.

Last summer, I was riding it and it started to overheat. I pulled over and turned the bike off. After that, it wouldn't start. My friend brought a trickle charger and we got enough juice in the battery to ride it home (about a 30 minute ride). First thing I did was replace the battery, and then it would start up (however it continues to die if I don't have my batter tender hooked up when it's off). However when it did start, it would belch white smoke out of the tailpipe (I know, the most likely candidate seems to be blown head gasket, but I'm trying to cross off easier things first). So the first things I did was change the oil and the coolant. Before doing so however, I noticed when I checked the oil through the little glass port, it APPEARED there was none in there (yes, flat surface, center stand, warm bike, etc). That said, there was plenty of oil that came out of the bike when I went to change it (at least 3 quarts). Changed both the coolant, oil and oil filter without incident.

Now we get to where I am now and my current question. I turned the bike on to heat everything up and push both fresh coolant and oil through everything. Although it seems a little less, it's still spewing white smoke when running. But the stranger thing is right after I put the oil in (3.7 quarts, which is what the manual calls for when replacing the filter as well) the glass oil level port was full. However over the course of a few minutes, that level dropped, and dropped and dropped until it looked just like it did before the oil change; that is to say, it appeared there was NO oil in it.

Nothing is leaking out of the bike, so I'm not sure where all the oil went. I guess my main question is does anyone know what this behavior is indicative of? Do I just need to put more oil in until the window is full again (that would be about .5 to 1 quart MORE than it says you should ever put in it).

Also, for those who read my full sob story, any suggestions people can give me in general on what they think might be going on I would be eternally grateful.


- Gabe
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old Feb 12th, 2017, 12:17 pm
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White smoke is coolant, blue smoke is oil. Lots of white smoke is Not Good. White smoke will probably have a sweetish smell (antifreeze). Is the oil "oil color" or chocolate pudding? The latter is water in oil. Does the antifreeze have an oily sheen if it's in a container with a broad area (a cup or more, allowed to stand for... let's try 30 minutes)? It's possible you had an oil problem to begin with. The motor overheated badly and something, probably the head, warped a bit. I've seen this in a marine diesel - mine. :(

When you drained the oil, were there metal particles in it? Too bad you don't have the old oil handy. You could pour some through a coffee filter to see how much metal is in the oil. a tiny amount is OK, lots (relative term) isn't.

The battery thing is, I suspect, a side issue. Start with cleaning all of the battery connections, and the battery frame ground. Coat the lugs with di-electric grease (get it at your nearest car parts place) and cinch the connections tightly but don't over-do it. See Clymer for the correct torque and use a torque wrench (Harbor Freight's really aren't that bad for occasional use - wouldn't want to use them for a living, they're OK for shade tree work). It's always possible overheating cooked part of the alternator but save replacing it for the last thing you do. Checking wiring should be your first task. Load test your new battery. it's probably OK but it might be DOA. All of that said, if you can't fix the smoke, battery charging is a "don't care".

In troubleshooting, do the simple stuff first. Work a system from front to back, don't "squirrel" around, hoping something magic will happen. Assume nothing about anything you can't prove - after all, something's broken but you don't know what. Whatever you fix or replace - don't do a half-assed job. It will make more problems, not less. Now, go get 'em, tiger. ;)

Not all who wander are lost. Which still leaves room for more than a few lost wanderers...

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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old Feb 13th, 2017, 11:42 pm
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Go post that on I-BMW if you want an informative answer.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old Feb 14th, 2017, 6:36 am
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The BWW sight glass can be deceptive: On an older bike it discolors making the oil level hard to see. If the bike has been started and run, oil runs down the inside of the sight glass making it harder to see the meniscus level. Oil level in the glass depends how much oil has run back after the bike has been run. It is very easy to appear to not see the oil level when it is actually way over the top of the glass. If you are unsure, suck oil out with a turkey baster and carefully put it back. The only reliable oil level indication is after the bike has been standing a couple of hours or first thing in the morning (on level ground).

White smoke or 'pluming' is usully caused by a bike that has been standing a very long time and condenstaion build up in the engine oil and muffler system. If you had changed the oil and are still getting white smoke after riding and getting the engine hot, you most likely have a problem with coolant leaking into the engine oil. On K's this could be head gasket, but it can also be caused by the water and oil pump (or seals) which share the same drive connection.

If you keep riding with coolant contaminating the oil you could seriously damage the engine and your bike will be written off.

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Last edited by voxmagna; Feb 14th, 2017 at 2:39 pm.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old Feb 14th, 2017, 6:51 pm
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Using a bright flashlight should help with finding the oil level. BTW, you have to read the level on the center stand not the side stand.

Yes, a bit of white coming briefly out of the exhaust is OK. If it persists, as voxmagna says, you have a problem.

Agreed that drawing off some oil is one way to get a sense of what's happening. Sacrifice a shot glass by filling it with oil and letting it stand for a couple hours in some place warm. Free water will eventually settle to the bottom. Thoroughly mixed water will make the oil look closer to chocolate pudding.

Agreed that, effectively, the bike is grounded until you find out what's happening.

Not all who wander are lost. Which still leaves room for more than a few lost wanderers...

Red Flash - '03 K1200RS, lightly farkled
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k1200, oil, overheating, troubleshooting

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