Front End Woes - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 5:13 am Thread Starter
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Front End Woes

Here’s a story that should be heard by anyone who owns a next-generation K-bike:

A riding buddy and fellow owner of a K1200GT recently had front-end-wandering symptoms. He took it to 2 different BMW dealers and complained about the issue. Both shops tested his bike, checked it over, and said there was nothing wrong. He even suggested to them that the ball joints were loose, and they assured him his bike was fine.
Being an automotive mechanic, and knowing that there definitely was something wrong, he brought his bike into his own shop and proceeded to do his own diagnosis. Well, what do you know: bad ball joints! Having all the tools at his disposal, he was fortunately able to replace the joints himself after much difficulty. The result after replacement and reassembly was restored handling and no front-end wander at all. Just like a brand new bike.
A few weeks after, he and I are in his shop mounting two new tires on my 06 KGT, and he suggested checking my front end while we had the wheel off. Clunk, Clunk! Oh, crap! 19000 miles and my front-end is gone, too! When I put new tires on and drove it up the street, my symptoms really showed up a lot more. The nice rounded profile of the new rubber exacerbates the issue to the point where it actually is quite noticeable. I can see where many folks want to blame the tires for the issue.
We decided to try to change my ball joints ourselves, as my mechanic friend was successful with his, so we should be all set. I ordered them, they arrived, and that weekend we started the project. Well, it seems that the designers of our beloved bikes saw fit to seal these ball joints in with some kind of super-duty loctite, and they are torqued into the wheel carrier with incredible force – about 220 ft/lbs. The engineering geniuses were obviously convinced these front-ends would never have to come apart. Try as we did, we could not break mine loose. Long story short, I ended up taking my wheel carrier and driving it 120 miles one-way to my closest dealer to have them take them out. They had to cut them out, and in doing so actually ruined the threads in my wheel carrier where the ball joints screw in, and having the wheel carrier re-machined by a shop turns out to be almost as expensive as a new carrier. All of this expense I had to pay out of my own pocket because I am out of warranty and am a second owner. I ended up ordering a new carrier, and had to wait for it to be shipped from Germany, I was without my ride for 4 weeks before we got it back together At present time, I am dealing with BMW headquarters to try and obtain a little “goodwill” help in paying for my $300.00 ball joints and my $1100.00 wheel carrier. So far, the rep assigned to my case has avoided talking to me, but I will not go down without a fight!

Now, here’s how to test your bike and here’s what to look for:

Take your bike out on a road that is smooth and straight – preferably new pavement – where you can maintain a steady 25 to 30 miles an hour without having to turn at all. Now, try and hold a straight line as you cruise down this ribbon of asphalt. Is everything real steady? I mean straight as an arrow? No slight rhythmic oscillations that you simply cannot stop, try as you may? Does it almost feel that your bike is so quick and nimble that even your subconscious movements must be making this bike turn slightly one way and the other, back and forth without any conscious effort on your part?
If you detect the symptom described above, take your bike out to a section of smooth straight interstate highway and get her up to speed. Do you notice that the slight rhythmic oscillations are now much faster, and when you try and control it, the wandering seems to only get worse? Feels like you are sort of riding in a 2-foot wide shallow rain gully, with your bike climbing slightly up one side and then quickly sliding to the other. Looking at the top of your windscreen, you can clearly see the side-side movement. Sort of feels like wind buffeting, but the difference is it is indeed very rhythmic….
Finally, bring you bike home and put it on the center stand. Have a buddy go to the back and push down on the luggage rack to lift the front wheel off the ground. Grab both sides of the wheel carrier partway up from the axle and push-pull front to back. Do you detect any movement? Perhaps even hear a clunking noise?
If so, and you are not under warranty, refinance your house so you can pay for the repair bill you are about to incur. If you are under warranty, don’t walk –RUN – to your friendly dealer and tell him your ball joints are shot. He most likely will look at you like you have three heads, because he probably will have never seen a bike with this issue. While I was at the dealer, there was a blue 07 K12GT on the floor they had taken in trade, so I had the service manager come over and perform the wheel carrier test on it with me. Guess what? Bad ball joints!
I have been riding for 40 years – not a newbie - and when I bought my 06 K12GT with 13,000 miles on it a year ago, I thought, as mentioned above, that the bike was just so agile and quick to turn that it must be a normal thing. So, I kept riding. Never gave it a second thought. Also thought the higher speed stuff was wind buffeting and just lived with it. My point is I bet there are a ton of these bikes out there with bad ball joints, and owners are not aware of what to look for and how to check for the problem – much like the two certified BMW shops that missed the diagnosis on my friend’s bike.
I have seen other threads here and on other sites where folks were thinking it was tires, oversized windscreens, or tail bags that were causing these symptoms. Well, we need to stop blaming the accessories and get acquainted with the real issue. BMW needs to know that this is a very real problem with these bikes. Check it out yourself, then visit with your dealer and insist that he see the truth that lies within!
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post #2 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 8:08 am
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Interesting. Exactly how is this test done to get the "Clunk, Clunk?" BMW isn't noted for always having the best metallurgy in their products. Even some cam lobes in their S1000RR
wear off in less than 1,000 miles.

I recall trying to break some nut loose on an old R1100RT. I had to use MAP gas (Irv Seaver BMW had a bunch of bottles of it displayed prominently in their shop I've noticed) and even then it took a long 4' pipe (snipe) and jumping on it to break it loose which it did with a loud "Bang!" BMW may as well use JB Weld at times. Their manual shows an electric heat gun to melt the glue. Good luck with that!


Mack
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post #3 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:28 am
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Well...all that being said I don't think my bike has ever been perfectly straight as an arrow. And good luck with getting BMW to give a rats behind about it. Ain't gonna happen. This generation of bikes is dead to them.

Do you feel that what your bike was exhibiting was dangerous? Some of us have 60 to 100k or more on these machines now and ball joints are probably the least problematic thing that I have read about. Maybe we just don't notice. Or it's so minor we don't care.

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post #4 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 11:00 am
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Originally Posted by Twosbrs
BMW needs to know that this is a very real problem with these bikes.
BMW does know. What they need to do is care.
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post #5 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:22 pm Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Robert_W
Well...all that being said I don't think my bike has ever been perfectly straight as an arrow. And good luck with getting BMW to give a rats behind about it. Ain't gonna happen. This generation of bikes is dead to them.

Do you feel that what your bike was exhibiting was dangerous? Some of us have 60 to 100k or more on these machines now and ball joints are probably the least problematic thing that I have read about. Maybe we just don't notice. Or it's so minor we don't care.
Since I have replaced my ball joints, mine is straight as an arrow! Went for a ride yesterday....set the cruise at 70 and placed both my hands on the tank, Drove up a straight section of the interstate for over 1 mile and never wavered one bit.... Never had to touch the bars and never came close to wandering out of my lane, This would have been quite impossible before. Also, think of it this way: on your 4-wheeled vehicle, ia ball joint like mine would never pass a state safety inspection. Do you feel safe riding at highway speeds (or greater) on 2 wheels with a sub-par component?

Folks, all I suggest is you check your bikes and visit your dealer if you have faulty joints in order to get these cases documented. Maybe you do have ball joint issues, maybe you don't. I'm betting lots of you do. Remember, these symptoms develop slowly over time, so it is difficult to notice and diagnose properly until you realize how your bike should feel, I got to ride my friend's GT with recently replaced joints the day we diagnosed mine, and - no exaggeration - 100 feet down the road I could feel a world of difference. The improvement is staggering when you do the change. I actually love my ride again! Completely different bike.
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post #6 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:28 pm Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GMack
Interesting. Exactly how is this test done to get the "Clunk, Clunk?" ...
Mack
Push and pull on the front wheel carrier while someone holds the front wheel off the ground - like trying to push the front wheel back through the radiator and then pull it back out. You might just feel movement, and you may actually have enough movement to actually hear a clunking noise when moving it back and forth. A healthy front end like mine is now will have no play at all
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post #7 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:39 pm
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my bike is all stock in that area with 34-k on the clock 07k12gt and it's never been an issue ,and some of the people i know that know whats up with bmw's ,and trust me they would tell me because my life depend's on it ,i have had 3 bmw's in the last 10 yrs and ride day trips 400 milers in the twistie's and never had an issue , other than replacing brake pads lol!! either have the 12 other riders i ride with ,but good luck ripping your front end apart and glad it all worked out for you...hell these bike's have enough gremlin's we dont need to add to it

i've spent most my money on bike's boat's and broad's the rest i've wasted..
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post #8 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:41 pm Thread Starter
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Their manual shows an electric heat gun to melt the glue. Good luck with that! Mack
The temperature where aluminum is heated enough to release and the point it flashes (liquifies) is aparently quite close....my friend with the automotive shop used to build Indy Car engines and has a lot of experience with aluminum machining. He heated it up to something like 245 degrees C (?) using his laser temperature scope thingy, and two of us (at 200 pounds each) stood and jumped on a 6-foot long pipe on a 3-foot long 5/8 inch drive Snap-On breaker bar....we busted the bar trying to get it to pop! BMW had to cut the ball joint out of the carrier,,,,,,,ruining the threads in the process.
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post #9 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 27th, 2012, 9:51 pm Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mikes-ss
my bike is all stock in that area with 34-k on the clock 07k12gt and it's never been an issue ,and some of the people i know that know whats up with bmw's ,and trust me they would tell me because my life depend's on it ,i have had 3 bmw's in the last 10 yrs and ride day trips 400 milers in the twistie's and never had an issue , other than replacing brake pads lol!! either have the 12 other riders i ride with ,but good luck ripping your front end apart and glad it all worked out for you...hell these bike's have enough gremlin's we dont need to add to it
Yep....didn't know I had an issue 'til I saw the light,,,,I thought it was just the way it was - you know: the "they all do that" sort of thing.
As I said earlier, these symptoms appear very gradually and get worse over time, not easy to recognize until you ride a solid front end and see the difference firsthand.
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post #10 of 49 (permalink) Old Aug 28th, 2012, 9:32 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twosbrs
....Do you feel safe riding at highway speeds (or greater) on 2 wheels with a sub-par component (s) ?...
I must cause I've been doing it now for the better part of 60k miles!

Sorry...couldn't resist.

'07 GT Sold- 2012 GSA Triple Black - Farkles O'Plenty!

I think I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe....but I am NOT a Dental Floss Tycoon!
What's with this STUPID Cosmic Door?! ....Going Somewhere?!....Going Somewhere?!


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