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Hello everyone,
I thought I would make my 3rd post in nearly 3 years a worthy and hopefully informative one, albeit a bit long just to be thorough.

The machine is an ’08 1200GT with 28K miles, PR2 tires (my 2nd set of these but it is now wearing BT023’s) and I primarily use the bike for commuting year round from my house in Tacoma to Seattle, about 48 miles round trip in pretty heavy traffic. My dealer is South Sound Motorcycles and I believe them to be a good and trusted dealership. I have bought 7 bikes from their family of 2 stores in the past 10 years and the GT was to be my last for a long time.

I began having some handling issues back at the middle of June. This motorcycle has been absolutely the most stable of all street bikes I have ever ridden and it seemed that suddenly it was not. My first experiencing was on my way to work one morning when an unstable “wobble” started just when slowing down to exit the freeway behind a semi pulling a double trailer. The bike would just dance around side to side in a 10” line instead of the normal 2”. After rolling into work I checked all I knew to see what would have caused it and could find nothing. The same day I noticed the back end felt mushy in a corner on the exit off of I-5 on my way home, it felt as if the back tire was nearly flat. When I got home and re-checked the air pressure it was 1-1/2 pounds low in the rear and perfect in the front.
I called my dealer (South Sound BMW) and talked to the service manager and he wanted me to bring the bike in for a test ride which resulted in a diagnosis of failed final drive bearings. Wonderful, at least the problem was solved…wrong! The bike definitely felt better in a corner but was still “dancing” behind trucks.
I did a little research here on the site and could find nothing other than a post about a “weave” concerning high mileage PR2 tires. I had 12K on my first set of PR2’s and never noticed a handling issue at all. This set had 11K on them and I swear I could get another 2,000 miles on them as the tread looked great, but I figured it just had to be the tires that were causing this “weave”. I decided to try a set of the new BT 023’s on the bike and ordered a set from Two Brothers and had them put on at my dealer. There was no change in the bad manners the bike was exhibiting. Crap!
I rode the motorcycle for another week trying to figure out something to tell the dealer to look for and by now the motorcycle was getting to be a handful at speeds below 50 MPH with the worst speed being around 35 MPH. It was almost like the motorcycle had really tight steering head bearings. Going home in heavy traffic for 2 days in a row, my shoulders were worn out when I got home from trying to keep the machine on a line of some sorts. It really was hell on wheels!
All of the above was happening in about 4 week’s time because of a couple of vacations I took and was not riding the motorcycle while on vacation. It was now nearing the end of July and I was heading off to the Rally In The Gorge in Stevenson WA with my KTM. I asked the service manager Alex if he would keep the GT while I was gone and ride it in his commute so he may experience what I was going through and he agreed.
The first night he rode it home he called me on my cell (I am quoting here, imagine this in his German accent) “Scott, you’re bike rides like crap!” Finally someone else sees what I have been going through!

Alex was not really sure if the trouble was coming from the front end or the swing arm pivot area but he would find out for sure in the next few days. He recalled one motorcycle with a similar problem that was caused my a nasty collision with a curb and after replacing the wheel and some other parts it exhibited the same “weave” as mine and they traced it to the ball joints in the front end. I assured him my bike has never been dropped or run into anything and never been in a collision of any kind.

So, while I was up in the woods riding dirt bikes last week they the replaced both of the ball joints in the front suspension and the steering damper. I heard “notched ball joints” mentioned at one time during the diagnosis but do not know why the steering damper was replaced. I will try to find out more when I am back in their shop next Saturday.

The ball joints are a sealed unit that is pressed together permanently so all I can assume is there was some sort of defect that finally decided to fail. Perhaps the lubrication was too thin or maybe one of the two surfaces inside the joint was scratched in the pressing together part of the assembly. Who knows for sure?
I did ride the bike today for the first time in two weeks and everything appears to be rock steady and stable once more. A few more days of commuting and I am sure I will have totally forgotten how it felt for the motorcycle to handle the way it did.

Anyway, chalk this one up to experience and hopefully the rest of us can remember what the ball joints CAN do to the handling of this motorcycle!

Scott
PS...A big two thumbs up to SSBMW for excellent service!
 

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thanks for a very informative report.
 

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Scotty Gets His Bike Back

ScottsGT said:
Hello everyone,
I thought I would make my 3rd post in nearly 3 years a worthy and hopefully informative one, albeit a bit long just to be thorough.

The machine is an ’08 1200GT with 28K miles, PR2 tires (my 2nd set of these but it is now wearing BT023’s) and I primarily use the bike for commuting year round from my house in Tacoma to Seattle, about 48 miles round trip in pretty heavy traffic. My dealer is South Sound Motorcycles and I believe them to be a good and trusted dealership. I have bought 7 bikes from their family of 2 stores in the past 10 years and the GT was to be my last for a long time.

I began having some handling issues back at the middle of June. This motorcycle has been absolutely the most stable of all street bikes I have ever ridden and it seemed that suddenly it was not. My first experiencing was on my way to work one morning when an unstable “wobble” started just when slowing down to exit the freeway behind a semi pulling a double trailer. The bike would just dance around side to side in a 10” line instead of the normal 2”. After rolling into work I checked all I knew to see what would have caused it and could find nothing. The same day I noticed the back end felt mushy in a corner on the exit off of I-5 on my way home, it felt as if the back tire was nearly flat. When I got home and re-checked the air pressure it was 1-1/2 pounds low in the rear and perfect in the front.
I called my dealer (South Sound BMW) and talked to the service manager and he wanted me to bring the bike in for a test ride which resulted in a diagnosis of failed final drive bearings. Wonderful, at least the problem was solved…wrong! The bike definitely felt better in a corner but was still “dancing” behind trucks.
I did a little research here on the site and could find nothing other than a post about a “weave” concerning high mileage PR2 tires. I had 12K on my first set of PR2’s and never noticed a handling issue at all. This set had 11K on them and I swear I could get another 2,000 miles on them as the tread looked great, but I figured it just had to be the tires that were causing this “weave”. I decided to try a set of the new BT 023’s on the bike and ordered a set from Two Brothers and had them put on at my dealer. There was no change in the bad manners the bike was exhibiting. Crap!
I rode the motorcycle for another week trying to figure out something to tell the dealer to look for and by now the motorcycle was getting to be a handful at speeds below 50 MPH with the worst speed being around 35 MPH. It was almost like the motorcycle had really tight steering head bearings. Going home in heavy traffic for 2 days in a row, my shoulders were worn out when I got home from trying to keep the machine on a line of some sorts. It really was hell on wheels!
All of the above was happening in about 4 week’s time because of a couple of vacations I took and was not riding the motorcycle while on vacation. It was now nearing the end of July and I was heading off to the Rally In The Gorge in Stevenson WA with my KTM. I asked the service manager Alex if he would keep the GT while I was gone and ride it in his commute so he may experience what I was going through and he agreed.
The first night he rode it home he called me on my cell (I am quoting here, imagine this in his German accent) “Scott, you’re bike rides like crap!” Finally someone else sees what I have been going through!

Alex was not really sure if the trouble was coming from the front end or the swing arm pivot area but he would find out for sure in the next few days. He recalled one motorcycle with a similar problem that was caused my a nasty collision with a curb and after replacing the wheel and some other parts it exhibited the same “weave” as mine and they traced it to the ball joints in the front end. I assured him my bike has never been dropped or run into anything and never been in a collision of any kind.

So, while I was up in the woods riding dirt bikes last week they the replaced both of the ball joints in the front suspension and the steering damper. I heard “notched ball joints” mentioned at one time during the diagnosis but do not know why the steering damper was replaced. I will try to find out more when I am back in their shop next Saturday.

The ball joints are a sealed unit that is pressed together permanently so all I can assume is there was some sort of defect that finally decided to fail. Perhaps the lubrication was too thin or maybe one of the two surfaces inside the joint was scratched in the pressing together part of the assembly. Who knows for sure?
I did ride the bike today for the first time in two weeks and everything appears to be rock steady and stable once more. A few more days of commuting and I am sure I will have totally forgotten how it felt for the motorcycle to handle the way it did.

Anyway, chalk this one up to experience and hopefully the rest of us can remember what the ball joints CAN do to the handling of this motorcycle!

Scott
PS...A big two thumbs up to SSBMW for excellent service!

Very cool Scott, thanks for sharing! Also, I agree w/you...You've got one of the better Service Managers/Dealers and BMWNA should be grateful for such outstanding examples of INTEGRITY!! -Dr Ron
 

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I recently had the same problem with my '07 GT (with 23,000 miles on it). As I fumbled with words, trying to describe the problem to the service tech at Touring Sport BMW in Greenville, SC, he interrupted me and said, "You can't ride it in a straight line". YES! He then told me he didn't even have to test-ride it - he knew the problem was with the two ball joints in the front suspension. Both ball joints were replaced, and my GT now handles beautifully.

The speculation was that the problem was one of improper assembly, where the ball joints were not properly torqued when new. But why did it take 23,000 miles for the poor handling to appear? At any rate, as I was off warranty, I asked for some consideration from BMW. They kicked in 1/2 of the labor costs.

- Bob
 

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Great write up, thanks.
Something else to look forward to
 

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Scott,

Thanks for sharing. Your detailed description will help others, I'm sure.

Yours is not the first time I have read about handling problems that were traced to the ball joint. If you search the forums for "ball joint", you can find similar experiences.
 

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Dadicool59 said:
Great write up, thanks.
Something else to look forward to
I don't think it's a wear item or age related thing. The few I've heard of have happened at relatively low miles. The GT's I know of with 100K miles or more don't seem to be exhibiting this particular problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
"If you search the forums for "ball joint", you can find similar experiences."
Once I did hear of the diagnosis I did just that and found there are some cases very similar to mine, I amost did not post, but I thought it might save someone else the headache of trying to track it down.
By the way, with the steering stabilizer included the repair, it was really close to $1K with parts being about 60% of the total. Not bad considering the whole front of the bike was removed including the ABS pump. Quite a sight seeing 1/3 of the bike pretty much cut off and laying around in little pieces!

Meese,
I sure would like to know what does cause the parts to fail. The GM at SSBMW said they have seen maybe 6 failures and I assume that means since BMW started using ball joints in the front suspension on motorcycles.

Scott
 

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Here's a closeup of one of the pairs of that $148 ball joint. Looks like a super thin wrench to get it on unless it comes apart somehow.



I'm curious if some sort of front end ratttle/shake test can determine if the joints are bad? Maybe strap down the bars while front is kept off the ground? I haven't seen anything as to a test for this yet, but haven't looked much either.


Mack
 

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Meese said:
I don't think it's a wear item or age related thing. The few I've heard of have happened at relatively low miles. The GT's I know of with 100K miles or more don't seem to be exhibiting this particular problem.
Well, until NOW!

Leave it to my luck... After finally getting the bike back after the entire summer in the shop for a starter clutch/gear and water pump replace (second SUMMER in a row without the bike) the bike is just about getting unsafe. (thumping/slapping under braking)

Look for a new thread on my issues...
 

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Weaving like a drunk sailor...

Well I too did dread the possibility that mine would go. At first I started to blame it on a new rear tire. Two days later I noticed the from had worn extremely fast in only a week and five hundred or so miles. Running two up in the twisties the last two hundred accelerated the asphalt dance. I added a new front tire. A day later I made a two hour ride and was weaving like a drunken sailor. I haven't had it checked but did hear of a test. Have someone on the bike, heavy enough to tilt the bike off the front tire. Push and pull on the wheel and see if you can feel any slop. It sure sounds like the beast of the seal has risen.
 

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The GT ball joint problem is pretty well known, and as Meese mentioned can show up at very low miles. I don't think anyone knows the reason for the high failure rate (well, BMW probably does but as usual they'll never tell, or even admit anything.) It's nice to hear that at least some dealers are acknowledging the problem as most will still give you the dumb look and 'I've never heard of that' line.

I purchased my '07 GT used with about 16k miles and I'm pretty convinced that the problem was present even then although I didn't understand the cause at the time. The bike just never seemed to handle right and didn't want to hold a straight line. Very subtle at first, more noticeable after another 10k miles and after another 20k miles was almost dangerous to ride. Then I finally found all the similar reports and raised the front wheel and shook the wheel carrier ('forks') at the bottom and lo and behold, several mm of play. Well out of warranty at that point I replaced the ball joints myself and the transformation was amazing, was just a different bike. Rides like it's on rails now, but for how long? We still don't know if there was a bad parts run or whether new replacements will fail again in 20k miles. But again, I'm sure BMW knows...

The job takes about a day and you'll need to fabricate some special sockets to R/R the ball joints and a good air impact driver because of BMW's penchant for using torque values about equal to a weld. And a lot of caution because if you FU the wheel carrier you will be looking for a salvage bike. If you're careful though it's not really that bad a job, once you get over paying $150 each for two tiny ball joints. But in any event if your GT has handling issues or just a general lack of stability/inability to hold a straight line then get over the denial and stop blaming tires, wind, rear trunk, etc. because it's probably not any of those things. Get the bike up on the centerstand with the front wheel off the ground, grasp the wheel carrier at the bottom and try to move it back and forth. There should be zero play and I bet there won't be.

 

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Smiller, do you have the "recipe" for fabbing those sockets?
 

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The sockets above are 50 mm and 55 mm sockets with a 24 mm socket welded on top. The 24 mm socket provides room for the ball joint stud. You can find fairly inexpensive (under $15) 50/55mm sockets on Ebay or from Northern Tool, and the 24 mm sockets were just off the shelf from Autozone. You can also use 50/55mm deep sockets but those are much more expensive and difficult to come by. You will also need a 21mm crowsfoot or closed-end combination wrench for the nut on the ball joiint stud, or 13/16" also works (or is maybe even a little better because it is a slightly tighter fit.)

The ball joints are installed in the wheel carrier very tight from the factory, plus there is the mandatory (and from what I can tell totally necessary) super-strong thread locking agent to boot, but a good air impact wrench will do the job. Of course the threads are aluminum so standard cautions apply. I used some heat although BMW doesn't specify this in the manual. You will be throwing the old ball joints away anyway so it can't hurt. BMW's special tool is some kind of closed-end wrench and another item to allow the wheel carrier to be held in a vise, but how you'd ever get enough torque on the thing using their tool I don't know.

The RepROM procedure has you removing the upper A-arm but this is unnecessary (and difficult because the ABS module prevents access to the left-side bolt.) A much easier route is to remove the nuts on the ball joint studs, which allows for easy removal of the wheel carrier without disturbing the A-arms, and thus no need to re-torque them which eliminates the need for yet another special tool. I'm not sure why BMW doesn't use this method but it may be because they don't want you unnecessarily disconnecting the ball joint stud for routine service, but in this case you are replacing the ball joints entirely so that concern is moot.

Beyond that it's just a matter of removing the front fairing and headlight, after which you'll have plenty of room to work from the front.
 

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I'm wondering if I too have a ball joint issue with my 08 GT. I haven't noticed any issues holding a straight line, but the bike feels unstable cornering; any little bump and the bike tends to wobble nervously. Its like the front end and the back end are reacting differently to the bump and causing a wobble. I had a new RT out for a demo ride on the weekend and was so much more impressed with it over my GT cornering that I'm seriously thinking about trading. But if I can sort this issue with the GT, I would be happy to keep on with it. It's currently at the shop getting the fuel pump recall done, so once I have it back I'll have to investigate this ball joint problem. The bike only has 30,000 Kms on it, but it sounds like that may not matter.
 

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It's quite possible that you are feeling the beginning of ball joint wear. The best way to check is to get the bike on the centerstand with the front wheel off of the ground and give the bottom the wheel carrier a good tug forward and back. There should be zero play. If you detect any at all then... ball joints. The only good news is that once they're replaced you'll have a different bike when it comes to handling.
 

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smiller said:
The sockets above are 50 mm and 55 mm sockets with a 24 mm socket welded on top. The 24 mm socket provides room for the ball joint stud. You can find fairly inexpensive (under $15) 50/55mm sockets on Ebay or from Northern Tool, and the 24 mm sockets were just off the shelf from Autozone. You can also use 50/55mm deep sockets but those are much more expensive and difficult to come by. You will also need a 21mm crowsfoot or closed-end combination wrench for the nut on the ball joiint stud, or 13/16" also works (or is maybe even a little better because it is a slightly tighter fit.)

The ball joints are installed in the wheel carrier very tight from the factory, plus there is the mandatory (and from what I can tell totally necessary) super-strong thread locking agent to boot, but a good air impact wrench will do the job. Of course the threads are aluminum so standard cautions apply. I used some heat although BMW doesn't specify this in the manual. You will be throwing the old ball joints away anyway so it can't hurt. BMW's special tool is some kind of closed-end wrench and another item to allow the wheel carrier to be held in a vise, but how you'd ever get enough torque on the thing using their tool I don't know.

The RepROM procedure has you removing the upper A-arm but this is unnecessary (and difficult because the ABS module prevents access to the left-side bolt.) A much easier route is to remove the nuts on the ball joint studs, which allows for easy removal of the wheel carrier without disturbing the A-arms, and thus no need to re-torque them which eliminates the need for yet another special tool. I'm not sure why BMW doesn't use this method but it may be because they don't want you unnecessarily disconnecting the ball joint stud for routine service, but in this case you are replacing the ball joints entirely so that concern is moot.

Beyond that it's just a matter of removing the front fairing and headlight, after which you'll have plenty of room to work from the front.

Awesome! Thanks! :clap:
 

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Confirmed my ball joints are worn with a small amount of play. I've gone ahead and ordered a new set and a pair of sockets to change them out. Hopefully that will take care of the weird handling in the corners. I'm kind of thinking this has been an issue that's been present on the bike since I bought it and has gradually worsened. It hasn't felt really stable cornering for the past couple years I've owned it.
 

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Join the club. Personally I believe the problem is so widespread that it affects (or will affect) just about every 2007-2008 K-bike ever built (with never so much as a hint of an official acknowledgement from BMW even though they must surely be well aware.)
 
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