Carburetors on BMW Airhead Motorcycles
© Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer
This is a lengthy
article. It is a REALLY GOOD IDEA
for you to read it through
slowly & carefully several times before you attempt ANYthing.
Do not lubricate the throttle cables. 1978+ cables have an inner lining that self-lubricates, wearing very slowly over large mileage. ALL throttle and clutch cables that have been replaced are extremely likely to be the newer lined types. Throttle cables should normally be replaced at reasonable intervals. This used to be about 60-80,000 miles, but I think the mileage should be on-condition. It is not unusual for properly routed and cared-for cables to go to even twice that mileage.
I replace cables if fraying (typically at the left carb!); or, the throttle feels draggy or catchy...and it isn't due to the gears. I have seen cables go 150,000 miles with NO problems. I have also seen them go in less than a thousand, from brand-new, even though it was a well-built cable, and not one of the so-so types BMW has recently shipped (granted, mostly the clutch cables).
If someone makes a habit of bending the left throttle cable at the carburetor while unscrewing the dipstick, it may fail quickly. Once just ONE strand breaks, I have seen the rest go in under 200 miles.
Another reason for cable problems is failure to lubricate the barrels at the carbs after EVERY wash job.
Failure to ensure a smoothly rotating cable end barrel and good bushing in the Clutch lever, has caused many problems with R/R cables.
If you lubricate the 1978+ cables, the liner MIGHT swell,
and make things much worse. Frankly, you
should not lubricate earlier ones,
as they probably by now are replacement types with linings.
Lubrication of the cable innards
is generally a last-ditch effort, when
not have new cables at hand.
Do NOT install carburetor cables with lots of ties, nor sharp curves.
The cables must be free to move about, particularly as you steer the motorcycle.
WHY synchronize carburetors? What's the big deal here? Why are there so many opinions? Why are some books like Clymers and Haynes so misleading?...or just plain WRONG!?....OR, how come Snowbum is to be believed, and NOT them? (well, I can't give you any outstanding reasons on the last part, except maybe to listen to your elders who have lots of experience).
Your BMW boxer engine has two pistons going in and out in the
cylinders at the SAME time, same direction, same amount. While the engine would SEEM to be
perfectly balanced mechanically, that is not exactly so. The
parts may not be perfectly balanced with regards to weight and reciprocating
offset mass. That will cause some vibration, usually showing up in a
narrow rpm band. Imbalance in the clutch assembly is another
The cylinders are NOT opposite each other, one is BEHIND the other, which produces a 'rocking couple'. Actual internal friction and combustion pressures between cylinders may vary, and there are a GREAT MANY other variables, such as small ignition timing differences, differences in valve settings and valve seating areas, camshaft lobes....and more.
As the timing chain stretches (actually wear on the crankshaft sprocket is usually most of the problem), this affects cam timing and ignition.
External to the engine core are variations in the carburetors and the cables operating those carburetors.
Because of all these, and other factors, the BMW boxer airhead engine is rather sensitive to carburetor adjustments. This is particularly so for the 1980's and later models that were factory tuned to run leaner, and have lighter flywheel-clutch-assemblies (the flywheel from 1981 is called a Clutch Carrier, but it IS a flywheel).
An imbalance in synchronization of the cables and carburetors, together with effects and slight differences in what was described above....and maybe even diaphragm differences in the carburetors...I could make a long list of things having effects....will cause engine roughness or vibration, often in a narrow band, and sometimes at two different rpm. Imbalance in the cables and idle mixtures/idle rpm between cylinders will typically result in slight rocking or stumbling as one comes off the idle stops, particularly if doing so gently.
IF the pressure in a combustion chamber/cylinder is different: the left compared to the right cylinder; the engine will rock back and forth. If the unbalance continues as rpm is raised, the rocking becomes a faster pulsing. Further increase in rpm shows the effect as a vibration. It is entirely possible for the pressures to be roughly the same at higher rpm and throttle settings and NOT be the same at idle...or near idle....OR; for this to be reversed! It is also possible for the pressures to be different, or the same, at every rpm. All SORTS of combinations, including narrow band vibration, are possible.
Properly synchronizing the carburetors, assuming all else is OK, will give smoother throttle operation, particularly noticeable at the just-off-idle area, and will definitely reduce higher rpm vibration. Just-off-idle is important, because on gentle take-offs, THAT is the point that even slight engine stumbling would be exceptionally annoying. If the carburetors are NOT properly adjusted and synchronized, the engine may well have very poor throttle feel, the engine might stumble, it might backfire, it might use an excessive amount of fuel, and it might well cause a lot of 'funny vibration'....not to mention an unstable idle, perhaps a large increase in idle rpm after full warm-up; perhaps being hard to start, act very lean, etc. If the idle mixture is improperly set, it is not unusual to see red exhaust pipes near the heads....and other things.
you do not have the rest of your engine properly adjusted, such as ignition timing and
valve clearances; if you have problems with ignition wiring or coils or points
or condenser or spark plugs or spark plug caps; or, if the floats and diaphragms
and passageways and jets, and so on in the carburetors are not
condition, then you are totally wasting
your time playing with carburetor synchronization.
The carburetors are the LAST...LAST!!...item
to adjust! You must NOT adjust your carburetors until the ignition and valves are known to be set properly, the floats are
known good, diaphragms known good, float adjustment proper...and the fuel level
in the bowls is known to be correct. In addition, the butterfly on
the CV carbs and their enrichener parts should be properly assembled.
The CV carb butterflies can be installed backwards. That will cause you
endless problems with idle adjustments.
You should have a relatively clean air cleaner, and no vacuum leaks at the carburetor to head adapters. If your cables are worn enough, or kinked, or routed wrongly, your carburetors will NOT STAY IN SYNCHRONIZATION!! If your throttle at the bars are badly worn, especially at the teeth of the barrel and chain cam, those should be replaced if truly bad, as they cause stiff and irregular throttle action. Those parts also need to be lubricated and operating smoothly. BTW...those parts on earlier models have been updated, and you should consult my other articles for the details; or, a good parts person at a BMW dealership or Independent Servicer.
I see a fair amount of Airheads that do not have sufficient free-play in the throttle cables (sometimes choke cables too). If the free-play is not there, moving the bars may change the idle rpm; and, the engine is likely to drift higher in rpm, usually as it warms up....which is often a symptom of other problems, and folks tend to not think about the throttle cables. It is important that SOME free play be in BOTH throttle cable outer jackets as seen at the carburetors, with the throttle at the bars fully turned off, but your hand NOT on it (that is NOT rotating the throttle further off than its spring-loaded off point, the springs are located AT the carburetors). Excessive free play in the cables will often result, depending on rider technique, in jerky operation at low rpm.
It is beyond the scope of this article...which is lengthy
enough....to tell you how to check, fix, adjust, and generally be sure
everything is correct before you attempt carburetor synchronization. This
article is to tell you HOW to do the synchronization, how to use simple tools,
and do the job quickly, and accurately. ANYone can do these things!
You do NOT need to have some sort of vast experience!
What tools do you need?
YOU will need a screwdriver to adjust the idle mixture screws and idle stop screws, and perhaps remove a screw plug from a vacuum port (may not be a screw, could be a push-on hose and you mightr not even have vacuum ports on very early Airheads). You will need a wrench to fit the cable length adjustment locking nuts. Some folks have wrenches they like better than the BMW one (I am in that category) that fits the carburetor cable lock-nuts. You need a short wrench that fits, thereby avoiding rounding the edges of the carburetor cable adjustor lock nuts, which are not overly hardened.
YOU NEED TO DO at least ONE OF THE TWO methods (#1, or #2) JUST BELOW!...or, you certainly CAN use a combination of both methods!
Method #1: Some sort of vacuum sensing gauge or gauge set. This can be a water manometer, mercury manometer (Sticks or Stix, etc.); or a Walus differential gauge; or an electronic vacuum differential instrument (TwinMax, etc.). If your carburetors do NOT have vacuum ports, these ports can usually be added. SOME synch tools don't work too well on the BMW carburetors, or are too slow in use, etc. The Unisyn comes to mind here. It IS usable, if you are very careful. Late models CV carbs ALL came with vacuum ports, later ones usually having soft black rubber hoses that led to the pulse air system in the air filter box. The port has INternal screw threads, easily seen after the hose is pulled off, and the thread is a uncommon type. You do NOT have to install a screw, unless you are removing the hose permanently for some reason. A popular conversion is to remove the hose and block the aircleaner area, when removing the Pulse-Air system. I have mixed feelings on this, and there is NO harm done by leaving the vacuum hoses connected to each other, using the aircleaner small T-fitting already there, and PLUGGING the rear facing part of that T. That means NO vacuum port screws to lose. Disregard folks that tell you that this makes the carburetor action smoother, or that it messes up carburetion. It does neither.
Method #2: Spark plug shorting adapter tools (TWO unless dual plugged, then FOUR) or a switching/shorting 'box' (helpful for dual-plugged bikes, but NOT a necessity); and 1 or 2 plastic handled (for electrical insulation) screwdrivers, of any reasonable type. Don't use 3 inch long small screwdrivers here, and do not use wood handled types.....too much chance you will get a good electrical shock. While you can imagine-up quite a few types of spark plug shorting tools, here are TWO types, either works fine, and either is easily carried in your toolkit. There is a photo of some types just a bit farther down in this article you are reading. You may decide on other methods for dual-plugged bikes.
First, let me describe what these adapter tools are for, then you can decide on what to make, if anything.
What you are going to do, in part of the synchronization work, if you select my Method #2 (as opposed to a 'meter, manometer, or gauge'); is to run the engine at idle and just off-idle, and make adjustments to the carburetors, while you run the engine first with both spark plugs operating, and then you short out first one spark plug (assuming standard two plug engine), then the other, doing only one shorting at a time, and listening to the engine during these shorting's. You will be doing the adjustments fairly quickly, and using a big fan, or a short ride, to prevent engine overheating. Your EARS and BRAIN will tell you all you need to know. Your first time at this might take a half hour of playing until you get the idea. Then, you can do it all in 5 minutes OR LESS (NOT kidding). You need adapters that absolutely, positively, without question!!!, will allow the existing spark plug caps to connect to these adapter tools, and the adapter tools to then connect to the spark plug top threads. These adapters must NOT...NOT!!...be flimsy. That is, they MUST be such that there is ZERO chance of a spark plug dis-connection. Whatever adapters you make and use, these adapters must NOT come loose. If they come loose you could injure the coils (old points models) or coils or Hall device or module, in the 1981 and later models. Disregard ANYTHING you read in ANY book that says to pull the spark plug caps off your engine to 'listen' or otherwise synchronize the carburetors. That method is SAFE for ONLY the /2 BMW which uses a magneto and has safety spark gaps build into the magneto. You can ruin or damage coils and electronics by failing to heed my advice here. Certainly there is a shock hazard too...a serious one, especially on 1981 and later bikes.
IF you chose a meter or gauge, you don't short the plugs, nor need any adapters. Some folks do the final adjustment with the shorting adapters after preliminary meter/gauge usage. In SOME instances that is a NECESSITY...see the Hints section at the end of this article. YOUR choice.
QUITE frankly, the shorting method IS MORE ACCURATE, as it takes into account ACTUAL differences, not just vacuum differences, between the cylinders, but it is dependent on YOU being careful and methodical. Of course, this negates that nice feeling some folks seem to get by purchasing pricey test gear (that does not work as well, although SOME think it a BIT easier).
The shorting adaptor tools:
You need something that fits securely at the spark plug top THREADS. The first thing that comes to mind is likely one of the aluminum
(usually) small threaded barrels that many spark plugs come with, and that you discard for your
airhead. Those do have the correct thread, obviously. Some used to
be made of BRASS, and those are preferred, as you can solder to them. Most
are now some sort of UNsolderable, but crimpable, aluminum alloy. Into the
spark plug CAP, you can insert
any sort of threaded rod as described a bit farther on, and if using one of
these barrels of aluminum alloy, perhaps crimp a piece
of 14 gauge house wiring solid copper inner conductor to it, the
other end of the barrel screwing onto the spark plug.. I made one of these up using,
instead of rod or house wire, a few inch piece of old ignition wire, and attached the adapter wire at
the spark plug cap end by using the metal part from the top of an old spark
plug...simply using a small hammer or vise to crush the old spark plug and
remove the top innards. I don't bother carrying that, it looks
unprofessional...I admit to keeping a couple of especially crude looking ones in my Walus gauge box.
For the slightly nerdy: The threads are 4 mm x 0.7 mm pitch; and you can find screws at hardware stores, and nuts, if you wish to make your own version of these shorting adaptors.
Here is a way to make a rather neat adaptor, using an old spoke nipple. Spokes have the correct thread, 4 x 0.7 mm. Use that nipple, and the spoke that it fits, and cut the spoke to a couple inches in length or so;...and put a teeny notch on the upper end, and then the spoke will be pretty solid in the spark plug cap, which has a cross-wire to 'grip' the spark plug threads. Don't make the adapter too long, as you need to get the spark plug cap over it. If you have a dual-plugged bike (two plugs per cylinder), you can make TWO spoke adapters for the top plugs, and an ignition wire type adaptor for the bottom ones, and have the two places to do the shorting (each cylinder) very close to each other...maybe an inch or so....so you can use a single screwdriver in each hand, just like you will do the single plug bike shorting. Many ways to do this, including insulated parts in an insulated switching box.
Be creative...design your own. Be sure it is secure in its use.
An assortment of spark plug shorting and adapting tools, for your viewing pleasure. These include the spoke and spoke nipple type. I have used all of these at one time or the other, improvising on the spot at TechDays, etc. The bungee cord (I actually used two of them) is here as I used the bungee to hold the bottom spark plug wire adaptors close to the upper plug shorting point....see text.
Theory behind the vacuum methods:
A carburetor, as opposed to a fuel injector, works by having a
necked-down area through which incoming air passes, and that incoming air is
speeded up by the effect of that neck. Jakob Bernouli's theorem said that there is a DEcrease
in pressure as velocity increases. The decreased pressure, or 'vacuum', allows fuel to rise up (sucked up if you want to think of it
that way) and turns itself into spray, hopefully well atomized into a gaseous
mixture with the incoming air, but is more likely to have superfine
droplets. There are TWO places in the carburetors that fuel is sucked
up and utilized. One is the central jet/needle/etc., assembly, and the
other is one or more very teensy tiny idle port holes located in the bottom
throat area of the carburetor. (I am avoiding here that the
enrichener on the CV carbs works, crudely, in a similar manner).
The piston coming inwards (away from the cylinder head) in our airheads on the INTAKE stroke when the exhaust valve is closed, intake valve open; is what allows the 'sucking'....as a partial vacuum (compared to outside air) is made in the cylinder as the piston moves inwards. When the butterfly valve (or slide in pure slide carburetors) in a carburetor is closed, or nearly so (it can't be 100.000% closed as the engine needs some air to run), fuel is sucked out of the idle port(s) (holes) in the bottom of the carburetor body throat. As the butterfly or slide is opened more, by you turning the throttle, the idle ports stop working and fuel comes out of the central jet area. The vacuum port is simply a small hole, with an internal passageway into that venturi area, sampling, so to speak, the lowered pressure there. It is possible to sample vacuum after the carburetor, the readings will be of different effect with throttle opening, but it CAN be done, by a probe into the rubber hose, for instance. I suggest that this method not be done by the average person, as it is harder to interpret the results. The common method is to sample the vacuum at the carburetor throat, and this is officially called Venturi Vacuum. For the curious types, if the vacuum was sampled AFTER the carburetor, it is called, confusingly, Throttle Plate Vacuum.
IF the vacuum produced by the engine cylinder piston movement was perfect, the maximum vacuum that could be produced, in theory, is approximately 30 inches of mercury (a pressure reading that is used like a vacuum reading) at sea level, where 30 inches of mercury is the standard accepted pressure, but in practice it varies a bit. That is roughly 15 pounds per square inch, the pressure on every square inch of our bodies, and the same inside our bodies, at a constant sea level existence.
As altitude increases, the air pressure around us generally goes down (roughly 1 inch of mercury or half a pound, per thousand feet). Some atmospheric effects can make small changes, but the trend is ALWAYS down with increase in altitude. Thus, at higher altitudes, less air pressure means more fuel goes through the carburetor per weight of air, and the mixture thus gets richer.
On a practical basis, the vacuum is going
to be a few inches less than theoretical. Also, as the throttle is opened,
especially if suddenly opened and most especially with a slide (rather than CV
carburetor)....the engine side of the carburetor vacuum greatly decreases, until engine rpm rises to
match. If the throttle is very suddenly closed from a higher rpm, one gets a very high
vacuum at the carburetor output area, and the venturi has a fair amount as well,
as the passageway is very small due to the closed throttle.
As the throttle is opened slowly and rpm rises, and if the throttle is, for example, held for.. let us say 4000 rpm,... the vacuum effects are not as distinct as when the rpm is much lower. This is particularly true in the CV carbs, where the slide is vacuum controlled and the butterfly is directly mechanically coupled to the throttle at the handlebars.
Due to these types of effects, it is FAR better, FAR more sensitive, to adjust a carburetor's throttle cables just barely above idle, and conversely it is poorer, usually much so, to try to do any cable synchronization at high rpm. No need to get into all this any deeper. I suggest you DISREGARD any books or literature, that say to set the throttle synchronization at 4000 rpm, for instance. The best rpm to synchronize the CABLES (after you do the other adjustments FIRST!) is around 1300-1800 rpm, and 1500 is a nice figure.
The manometers, or any type of gauge or electronic method, either measure the vacuum in each carburetor venturi (separate manometers, or separate mercury sticks or separate gauges), or read the difference between the two carburetors. Either method can work fine, but differential methods are usually more sensitive and thereby more accurate.
Vacuum measuring devices may well incorporate a dampening means, often called a snubber, usually a very tiny restrictive hole, or a porous material or a method that otherwise produces a small hole effect. Otherwise, the device's indication may pulsate rapidly or be much too sensitive, and thereby be hard to read/average, as carburetor mixture flow is actually a 'pulse train'.
Before you can do final synchronization, be sure of the following:
Preliminary information and hints:
Preliminary eyeball synchronization has been done. If your carburetors have been synchronized before, and you have not messed with anything on the carburetors, you need not do this step, unless you want to be SURE. I ALWAYS do this eyeball check. See below for how to do the preliminary eyeball synchronization.
ALWAYS be sure that the barrel fitting at the end of the cables, where they fit into the lever arms at the Bing CV type carburetors, have a bit of lubricant, heavy oil is fine on them, or moly grease, etc. This is a prime cause of frayed and broken cables (at the clutch lever at the bars too!), and lousy synchronization. Cable condition internally, see below, is important. If your throttle unit at the bars is rough acting, or the cables are improperly routed (tying them down strongly with extra tie-wraps is not a good idea), etc....you are going to be fighting yourself. There MUST be SOME free play in the outer jacket of both throttle cables, throttle at the bars being off (and hands off the throttle).
BMW throttle cables
(original types, if any still exist, of pre-1978 CAN be lubricated) are NOT to be
lubricated, except as a last resort before you can get new ones.
LINED with a nylon or teflon-like substance. Cables DO wear out and should be replaced when they are acting up, getting stiff, etc.
Besides them wearing the lining inside, the steel strands might fray, and one or
more break. This is fairly common at the throttle levers at the CV carburetors, usually due to a lack of lubricant at the barrel fitting.
it is also a problem from folks bending the throttle cable on the left
carburetor, whilst checking the oil dipstick. ONE
broken strand at the carburetor lever usually leads to total failure within a very FEW
hundreds of miles.
BMW has TWO types of throttle cable designs, one design has a single cable at the throttle grip; the other design has TWO cables at the throttle grip. The single type is more stable, and less affected by turning the bars. The single cable type uses a round T junction barrel part located under the fuel tank. That T-junction has one adjustment for top cable length. When you are all done with synchronization, the throttle itself, assuming you have properly synchronized the gears and greased them at some time, will have a bit of free play. Be sure this is true. That free play can be seen by rotating the throttle, but it is better for a novice to pull, slightly, on the single throttle cable as it enters the throttle assembly. About 3/32" is about right. The under tank adjustment is to remove most, but not all, of this top cable free play with the throttle turned off but not being hand-rotated against the off stop. The free play must exist throughout the turning of the bars, from side to side. If the free play is way too much, throttle feel will not only be sloppy off-idle, but you MAY not be able to REACH full throttle, no matter how far you twist the grip. Free play adjustment is, therefore, in several places: Throttle cable(s) at the bars, and at the carburetor cable junctions. Note that if the throttle at the bars is improperly assembled (it has synchronizing mechanical marks to line up, INternally), you will be UNABLE to get full throttle operation, that is, rotation will be limited. For the very nerdy, the throttle CAM is not the same on 32 mm and 40 mm carburetors. The BMW throttle design gives a very smooth straight-pull on the cable(s) at the throttle, and also gives a SLOWER carburetor throttle effect at low settings, and as the throttle is opened, the effect increases non-linearly.....a very nice design, due to the CAM shape.
If you have early /5 CV carburetors, the type with the return springs AROUND the throttle cables at the carburetors, and you find the throttle action very stiff and probably has too much return spring force, you may want to modify the spring setup. Simply reducing the spring force will help only a bit, and if you go too far, the throttles won't return properly. You will have to fashion your own conversion, and looking at other carburetors will give you ideas. If you CHANGE to later carburetors/parts, the problem is solved easily, if sometimes expensively.
HOW TO DO A PRELIMINARY EYEBALL SYNCHRONIZATION:
(this could be called a STATIC synchronization; that is, the motor is OFF, and no instruments in use)
If the carburetor adjustments were all changed radically,
perhaps you overhauled the carburetors, changed cables; whatever, you SHOULD do
a preliminary synchronization by eyeball. QUITE frankly, if this is
done accurately enough, it is usually good enough to allow you to go riding until you can do
it properly with tools or instruments.
Eyeball method: Adjust the throttle cables lengths at the carburetors so the handlebar throttle lifts the carburetors levers (or slide) at the exact same time as you increase the throttle a very tiny amount. Leave the cables with maybe .050" of slack in their outer cable sheath at throttle off. You will need to play with the idea awhile, as it is not the same view to you, left and right.
Assuming that you are NOT doing JUST an eyeball throttle cable adjustment, proceed as follows:
Make sure the two carburetors have close to the same small amount of idle stop adjustment beyond the butterflies being totally closed (also adjust the stops equally for a wee bit of lever off the stop, perhaps 1-1/2 turns). The slide only carburetors are a bit different, but with the same idea. If you played with the idle mixture adjustment, set it per whatever book you have, as far as turns outward, from a GENTLE inward stop. This will be 1/2 to 1-1/2 turns. You will also want the choke (enrichener) cables (if you have a CV carburetor) adjusted for full off with their levers on the carburetor stops, and also able to reach approximately or nearly the full-on stops at the same time as you engage the enrichener. There is no official synchronizing of the choke cables beyond this. If you have T units under the tank, they have adjustments to take up excessive slack for the upper throttle and choke cables, but a wee bit of slack is needed, and turning the bars back and forth should NOT change the slack there enough to remove it all. For those NOT having the T units under the tank, you have TWO throttle cables, which go directly from carburetors to throttle at the bars. With the throttle OFF, there MUST BE approximately the same amount of slack in the outer jacket at the carbs (lift the outer jacket slightly to see this). Not over 1/8", nor under 1/16", is about correct.
Assuming that you DO have some throttle outer cable slack at the carburetors and at the bars cable too, now you are ready to get your tools, fan, whatever, all laid out, ready for your return. I said RETURN, because you MUST go for a ride..... that is, if you are doing a complete, rather than eyeball, above, adjustment of the cables.
HINT: A goodly sized fan is needed, AFTER your warmup ride, if you take more than a FEW minutes to do the adjustments. Here is a way to get an EXCELLENT fan for basically nothing! You do not absolutely need this, but it sure is nice!:::
Go to one or more local heating contractors, until you find a
cooperative one ("sure, you can have an old squirrel cage motor, for
free"). Heating/cooling contractors are always removing old
home heaters and replacing them. MOST of these heaters contain a perfectly
good motor, that has shafts running out both ends, and the shafts have mounted
to them squirrel-cage type rotary blades. You want the type with a
squirrel cage at both ends. There is a surrounding metal
shrouding that you want too...it is all one assembly. Most of these motors are heavy
duty capacitor-start types, with plug tap selection for speeds. Adapt a power
cord and maybe make up
some sort of simple wood piece to keep your new FAN from rolling about on your
garage floor and maybe aiming the fan slightly upward....and....you have a dual output high volume fan.
It is not a bad idea to put some chicken wire over the intake ends of the fan,
to prevent things in your shop, like rags, or your dog/cat, from flying into the fans.
The lowest speed setting is usually the correct one. You will find
this fan also very nice to use after a ride to cool the engine (and exhaust
pipes!) rapidly for other work. You may even want to use it before
covering your bike.
Go for a 10 mile or longer ride. 1 or 2 miles is NOT enough! A garage warmup is NOT adequate! If you are forced to warm the bike up in the garage, the entire engine must be warm, and you MUST use that dual squirrel-cage fan, otherwise the engine will definitely overheat. Warmup at about 1400 rpm is just fine. A ride is better....MUCH better!
Immediately upon your return, put the bike on its center stand, do not put it on the side-stand first. This will avoid any fuel imbalances in the carburetors. Leave the engine running or restart it when you begin, and turn on the fan, position it in front of the front wheel, blowing over the cylinders. Have the fan outlets tilted slightly upward for that, if need-be. Do not overcool the cylinders and carburetors.
are going to do a dynamic synchronization.
NOTE that once the carburetors are fully adjusted, future synchronizations are
likely far easier, far less effort, and take very little
NOTE that the idle rpm adjustments, and to some reasonable extent the idle
mixture adjustments, tend to be rather stable over a long period of time and
mileage, and in the future, while you may occasionally have to make an
adjustment, usually you will be adjusting only the cable
lengths.,,,and even then, only ONE, and much less often will you be adjusting
the idle mixtures and idle stops. With good cables, and the rest of
the items previously mentioned all in good condition, 5000 mile intervals are
just all that is needed for simple synchronization.... Or, when you feel some imbalance or wrong
idle rpm, etc.
NOTE that it is NORMAL for an Airhead to idle at a different rpm as you ride to a different elevation. Adjustment to help compensate for a too low or too high idle for altitude changes you think you will do, should be thought of as you do your dynamic synchronization, and compensation IS possible, easily.
DYNAMIC SYNCHRONIZATION: Because several methods could be used, and because you might have slide carburetors (that means NON-CV, even though CV carburetors DO have slides), I will describe the BASIC and SIMPLE method first, because it is common to all. I will assume a vacuum operated meter or gauge or manometer, and not the spark plug shorting method.
1. Adjust the idle stop screws for a balanced gauge/etc. readings. If the rpm is too high, set each idle stop screw a wee bit less; or a wee bit more if idle is too low, and then go back and adjust one of them for balance. You want to end up with a balanced indication on your test device, and a rpm of about 900-1000 for bikes before the 1981 changeover to the light clutch carrier, instead of the older heavy flywheel. For the 1981 and later, and any year with dual-plugging conversion, I recommend a target of 1025 rpm. If your tach is reasonably accurate, use it. NOTE that excessively slow idle rpm will result in poor oiling of the timing chain and timing sprockets, and higher sensitivity to mis-adjustments.
IDLE Altitude Compensation (somewhat for the nerdy): NOTE that you MAY (you do not have to) want to select an idle rpm and idle mixture setting SOMEWHAT dependent on WHERE you intend to ride, and where the adjustment is being done in the first place. This is because idle rpm tends to vary with altitude. Thus, if you ride exclusively at sea level to perhaps about 2500 feet or so, I would target 950 rpm for pre-1981. If you were doing the synchronization at a higher altitude...say 6000 feet or higher, then I would set the idle for maybe 900 rpm for pre-1981, so the idle rpm will not increase too much going down in altitude. I personally prefer about 1050 when doing idle settings at sea level, or up to a few thousand feet. Don't set the rpm under 850 for any airhead; too slow means poor chain and sprocket oiling AND too sensitive carb adjustments, and a more abrupt off-idle transition. ALSO, once you get a bit experienced at this, you will realize that the IDLE MIXTURE is also changing, and you can make a SMALL change to that. Those adjusting AT high altitudes might want to make the idle mixture screw a WEE bit RICHER, and sea level adjustment folks use a wee bit LEANER. The Bing CV carbs mixture screws turn INwards for leaner, and the slide carburetors turn OUTwards for leaner. We are talking about 3/16 turn maximum difference here! The reason is that if you set the idle mixture screw a wee bit richer at high altitude, then when traveling to low altitude, the mixture will not be too lean, and is a better compromise.
2. Now that you have the proper idle rpm, and it is
balanced on the meter/gauge/whatever, you need to adjust the idle mixture.
You WILL need to blip the throttle now and then to
clean the engine of any fuel loading-up, just prior to ANY adjustments, idle,
mixture, cables. After blipping, allow a few seconds for engine
stabilization. Start with ONE
carburetor. The idle mixture screw is adjusted BY EAR, and adjusted very
slowly, perhaps initially a 1/4th turn at a time over 5 or 10 seconds, and then
as you approach the sweet spot, adjusted 1/10th of a turn at a time, until the
engine sounds the smoothest, and the idle speed the highest. You may have
to start with the screw outwards a bit more than you started with, as you may
not know what the last person set the screw at.
THEN do the other carburetor. If there was any rpm change at the end of any of this, go back and readjust the idle rpm AND its balance. You may well have to repeat this process of mixture adjustment and idle stop screws SEVERAL times in the beginning. Take your time. What you want to end up with is the idle mixture screw in the best position for smoothness and highest idle rpm, and a balanced indication on your meter....and the proper rpm. The idle stop screw and mixture screws interact with each other! If things are WAY out of correctness, they interact mightily! Blip the throttle occasionally, be sure the engine settles down before doing another wee adjustment and reading. You will find, on the Bing CV carburetors especially, that the idle mixture screw is very sensitive in the INwards direction, and far less sensitive in the OUTward direction. I suggest, until you have experience, or need the altitude adjustment, that you leave the mixture screw in the middle of the smallish adjustment range that causes the engine to SLOW or even stumble a wee bit if inwards too much, and slow a bit if outward too much...if anything, leave the screw on the Bing CV a bit outwards from optimum (maybe 1/8th turn).
You want to end up with the idle mixtures correct, and the idle rpm correct, and the idle balance indication correct. Do NOT make the mistake of starting this procedure from the idle mixture screw too far inwards, and then rotating it farther inwards. It is almost always better to start with it too far outwards. Once done correctly, however, you need make only the tiniest changes in the future (usually under 1/4th a turn each way, to find the proper point). NOTE!....there MUST BE throttle cable slack when you are done!
YOU ARE NOW DONE WITH THE IDLE ADJUSTMENTS! Future adjustments will be very quick.
3. Adjusting the cable lengths:
This is BEST done at a modestly low rpm, an rpm above the idle rpm, but not too far above. The farther above the idle rpm, the less sensitive the adjustments and the harder it is to then get it right for the more critical area, the 'off-idle' position. Because of this, I recommend 1300-1500 rpm. You can lock the throttle if you have the factory friction screw at the bars, or, just hold the throttle.
What you will do is rotate the throttle for 1300-1500, whatever rpm you want in that range, hold the throttle, and then look at your balancing device. If not at balance, change the length of ONE of the throttle cables, and try again. You can get an easy feel for what direction, by lifting the outer sheath on one cable, slightly.
You want to end up with a balanced readout, AND, a small amount of cable slack at throttle off (carburetor levers must be on stops at the carburetors)...3/32" is fine.... not critical though. Do not have so much slack that the outer sheath ferrule could come out of the receptacle in the carburetor fitting, nor so little that turning the handlebars (on TWO handlebar cable models), or any change from temperature, ETC., would cause the idle stop settings to be affected by the cable length.
Finer point: raise the rpm a fair amount, and see if the balance still holds relatively well. If it does not, you might have a diaphragm problem.
NOTE: when blipping the throttle, or moving the throttle suddenly off from perhaps 4000 rpm...or whatever....if you see largish vacuum changes, SOME of that is due to unequal springs on top of the CV slides (if your model has springs), or differences in diaphragms.....etc. All will have SOME such vacuum changes....less is better....and unless horrible...you are advised to leave things alone.
YOU ARE NOW DONE!
SO...what about the shorting-of-spark-plugs method??
You simply will be modifying the above method, and you won't be using the gauges/etc.
Here is the procedure for doing it with the shorting device tools you probably just made:
1. First, AFTER you put the bike on centerstand following your 10 mile+ warmup ride, you will shut the engine off. Now you pull the spark plug caps off and install your spark plugs/caps shorting devices. Be sure it is all secure. Your two sizable screwdrivers with the plastic insulated handles are ready for you...right? and the wrench? Fan?
2. You can now start the engine. Use the fan as before if you need to. You need to if your adjustment period goes beyond a few minutes.
3. The procedure is basically the same, but instead of a meter or other device showing you the balance, you simply will short one spark plug adapter wire to a nearby fin, then remove that screwdriver induced short, and short the other spark plug adapter wire...back and forth. There are some distinctly different things to know. First, you will do this FIRST, as in the other procedure, at IDLE. You will leave a short in place about 3 actual seconds. You will make the same adjustment of the idle stops for rpm and balance...balance here being the SAME SOUND/RPM from one to the other cylinder. You make the same mixture adjustment as previously described, and that MIXTURE adjustment, as in the gauge method, is done with NO shorting of the plugs! Blip the throttle now and then to clear the engine, then wait a few seconds for the engine to settle down.
You will have the same back and forth, idle stops and mixtures, to do, until it is all OK.
You end up with proper rpm, proper balance at idle. Again, repeating myself...you blip the throttle once in awhile during the procedure to be sure the engine is cleared and then stabilized. Be sure you have some slack in the throttle cables, throttle off.
4. NOW you must synchronize the cables. This is a bit different in a couple of ways. There are TWO cable synchronizations to watch for. Both are done at the same 1300-1500 rpm (YOU pick the rpm you like).
a) Short the plug circuit, as before, left, then right, then left...listening to the engine. Each time one plug is shorted, listen. TWO plugs are NEVER shorted at the same time. Allow about 4 to 6 seconds of shorting time for EACH plug. Adjust the cable lengths for balance...the same sound. Remember to clear the engine if it needs it.
b) Short the plug circuit, as before, left, then right, then left, listening to the engine, this time allowing only about 1 second of shorting time. You might need a WEE cable adjustment.
In all the shorting methods, you are NOT looking at the tach, you are LISTENING to the engine. The only time to look at the tach is to be sure the ending idle rpm, and the rpm (1300 to 1500) during CABLE adjustment, are at the correct rpm.
you want to use the shorting method, it is sometimes better to short out BOTH plugs on one
side, and alternate to the other side, back and forth. This can be mechanically fun and games
unless you make a special switch or device to do this. I have made an
extra long shorting wire to allow it to be done with a single screwdriver in
each hand. This method, on DUAL PLUGGED bikes, may reduce the
idle rpm so far that the engine stops. While you can hold the throttle and
do the throttle cable adjustment at 1300 to 1500 rpm, you MUST do the idle
mixture and idle balance adjustments FIRST. So, there are other methods
used. Some use the vacuum gauges method, works fine. I do that
Some have tried shorting out both bottom plugs, leaving them shorted-out, during the procedure, which usually works pretty well. Some install two lower spark plugs with zero gaps. I do not. I install 4 spoke adapters, one at each plug. I make up jumper wires (two are needed), maybe 6 inches long or so; and an alligator clip on the wires ends. I can then clip a wire onto a lower spoke, and the other end of the wire to a nearby cylinder fin. Then I do my synchronization and balancing work by having only to alternately short the top plugs adaptors.
NOTE that the PROPER setup for a dual plugging installation is for one plug of each cylinder fired by ONE of the coils....and to a lesser importance you can also do it so the top plugs are fired by one coil, the bottom plugs by another coil. THAT is the typical setup, works FINE. The reasoning is complex, beyond this article. Most folks probably do synchronization of the dual-plugged engines with vacuum methods, but, see hints items, below.
1. Even with clean idle passages and everything else in good condition, irregular idle and strange symptoms at idle and off-idle, and ESPECIALLY irregular idle rpm, are often due to a bad idle adjustment or idle adjustment and/or idle jet rubber O-rings. This can also happen on CV carburetors withOUT the springs above the slides, the purpose of which is to ensure positive seating of the slide at the bottom at idle...and to smoothly return the slide downwards. The earliest /5 carburetors had real problems, and a completely separate article is on this website for those. Springs can be added, on dome carbs. Be SURE there is throttle cable slack at the carbs!!!!
2. It is CRITICAL that the enrichener parts be not mixed up left to right, and installed correctly. It is also very important that the butterfly valves on the CV carbs be installed correctly.
3. On the /5 models, the intake plastic tubes have slots at the carburetor end, and can drip breather condensate oil on your foot. A few had the slots too deep, and this does not work, but for most, put the band clamp ADJUSTOR at the carburetor INlet at the TOP...which will stop the oil dripping.
4. Once in awhile one will run into an airhead with the CV carbs that will seemingly adjust just fine with the vacuum gauge method....for idle mixture, idle rpm, and off-idle for the cables.... and yet will not idle smoothly. Sometimes the owner will go crazy trying to find the reason, and check points (if present) and timing and valve clearance and compression pressure and the spark plugs and their caps, cables, coils, ETC. Nothing is found wrong, except the poor idle. The problem is then felt to be inside the carburetors (which it is!)...but...what?......well, it can be butterfly's improperly installed.
5. If you have a R75/5 that is particularly a bear to start, and everything else checks out fine, be SURE to check the slides, to be SURE they are BOTTOMING fully, and not hung up slightly. This can happen with other airheads, but MUCH less likely. SEE the article on these on this website!
04/22/2003: add .htm title; clarifications
07/31/2003: add note at top area on lubing cables; minor editing for clarity in the entire body of article,
add dual plug info.
09/21/2003: start a new section..wee hints; go over entire article and clarify details here and there.
09/26/2003: add picture of spark plug adapter tools
03/08/2004: add hint 2
10/03/2004: syntax and grammar here and there; plus updated information on dual plugging &
synchronization, and revised the Hints section, adding more information.
03/27/2005: add 5.
11/03/2006: Update entire article for emphasis and clarity.
07/06/2011: clarify idle mixture and rpm compensation methods
11/14/2011: slight clarifications in dual-plugging comments
11/15/2011: wee bit more clarification
04/27/2012: Edit for clarity
08/08/2012: Expand and update cable maintenance and replacement section
10/14/2012: Add QR code, add language button, update Google Ad-Sense code
© Copyright, 2012, R. Fleischer
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