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Thread: 1997 R850R Start-up Cam Chain Noise w/Upgraded Tensioner

  1. #1
    Neglected Bike Adopter
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    1997 R850R Start-up Cam Chain Noise w/Upgraded Tensioner

    Hey again, folks. I'm happy to report that my sad Oilhead has been running and riding very well the past few weeks.

    However, I've got an issue that concerns me, and it's a few seconds of clacking noise on all start-ups. It is worse on hot restarts.

    About a thousand miles ago, around 34,500 miles, I installed a brand-new upgraded left side cam chain tensioner. I bought it secondhand from another MOA member and it was new in the package from Rubber Chicken Garage. The original tensioner was working fine and there were no cam chain noises at that time. I did it as a preventative measure. The bike currently has 15w-40 Shell Rotella T5 oil in it that was changed around the same time, if that makes any difference.

    Within the past 300 or so miles, I started to notice the noise and it seemed to get worse with every ride. At first I thought I might have installed the new tensioner incorrectly (piston upside-down), so about a week ago I pulled the tensioner back out to examine it. I had installed it correctly. The piston was very hard to push down, and full of oil as you'd expect. I bled it of oil and reinstalled it and on the subsequent restart there was zero noise. The noise was gone for just another couple starts, but now it's back to clacking.

    What should I do?
    Owner of the saddest 1997 R850R you ever did see.

  2. #2
    Kawa Afterthought weschmann's Avatar
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    On my 94 1100 it's still as loud ai idle as with any old tensioner, when in neutral. I know I didn't put it in upside down so no reason the check. It is what it is I guess on an old machine. Runs great so will follow the old tried and true advice of if it ain't broke don't fix it. 😀👍

  3. #3
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Unless it is winter that oil is too "thin". I would be using 20W50 oil in that bike if it were mine.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by PGlaves View Post
    Unless it is winter that oil is too "thin". I would be using 20W50 oil in that bike if it were mine.
    Once I hit my next service in about 500 miles I'll be swapping to 20w-50. You think that'll have an impact on cam chain noise? And should I drain the tensioner again when I swap to the heavier oil?
    Last edited by senseamidmadness; 10-08-2021 at 12:41 AM.
    Owner of the saddest 1997 R850R you ever did see.

  5. #5
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by senseamidmadness View Post
    Once I hit my next service in about 500 miles I'll be swapping to 20w-50. You think that'll have an impact on cam chain noise? And should I drain the tensioner again when I swap to the heavier oil?
    Yes, the proper oil will allow the tensioner to work better. There should be no need to drain the tensioner. The oil will fill it just fine.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  6. #6
    Left Coast Rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by senseamidmadness View Post
    However, I've got an issue that concerns me, and it's a few seconds of clacking noise on all start-ups. It is worse on hot restarts.
    Using the wrong grade, and diesel oil at that, isn't helping your cause.

    This would.... https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c...ycle+oil&pos=0

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC1100S View Post
    Using the wrong grade, and diesel oil at that, isn't helping your cause.

    This would.... https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c...ycle+oil&pos=0
    My next oil change will be Castrol GTX 20w-50 synthetic blend and I've already got the jug. From then on I'll be sticking to it.

    I had the Rotella on hand at the time I got this machine and it's been fine in all my previous bikes. I was only intending to have it in for 1500 miles. Some of the (dreaded) oil threads here and on the BMWSportTouring forums said that the 15w-40 diesel oil would be fine, but apparently that's not accurate for my particular bike.
    Owner of the saddest 1997 R850R you ever did see.

  8. #8
    Gerard jagarra's Avatar
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    You don't want to use oil designed for autos in bike, Castrol makes oil designed for bikes specifically.
    1994 R1100RS-(5/93)-,1974 R90/6 built 9/73,--1987 K75S,--1964 Triumph T100--1986 Honda XL600R

  9. #9
    Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Omega Man's Avatar
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    My next oil change will be Castrol GTX 20w-50 synthetic blend and I've already got the jug. From then on I'll be sticking to it.
    I don’t understand what the value of a blended oil is. Pretty much, for me, older engines, regular oil. Newer engines, regular or synthetic.
    OM
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  10. #10
    Left Coast Rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by jagarra View Post
    You don't want to use oil designed for autos in bike, Castrol makes oil designed for bikes specifically.
    Jagarra is right - use motorcycle oil. It's designed, and has specific additives, for the flat tappets in your motor. I believe Voni's Big Red has used/uses Castrol motorcycle oil in her 400k+ miles on that bike.

    I will make no further comments for fear of starting a dreaded oil thread.

  11. #11
    Registered User dieselyoda's Avatar
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    I will start the hi-jack about oil.

    Something to note, not oil manufacturer specific.

    Motorcycle oils, dedicated to motorcycles contain additives for a wet clutch and gear sets. That additive is usually calcium sulfate(or something like that).

    Our Oilheads use a dry clutch, therefore any oil that meets spec for the year the engine was built will be fine.

    If you take apart an Oilhead engine, you won't find anything or any material different than any other engine.

    The wrong application of using an oil with friction modifiers can cause catastrophic failure.

    You wouldn't use an oil designated for a gas engine in a diesel and you wouldn't put an automatic transmission/gear oil in your engine.

    If in doubt, ignore my comments and open your owner's manual.

    As to start up rattle, start anything at -40C and if the rattle goes away when oil pressure builds, there isn't an issue.

    Most engines will run up to 1 minute without oil pressure or even no oil with little damage, if any.
    1997 R1100RT, 1981 KZ 440 LTD, R80RT, R90/6 sidecar, K1100RS,1983 K100RS (Cafe now)

    “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex.”

  12. #12
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieselyoda View Post

    The wrong application of using an oil with friction modifiers can cause catastrophic failure.

    The issue is the flat tappet design of the OP engine and the need for sufficient anti-wear additives for this engine design.

    As to start up rattle, start anything at -40C and if the rattle goes away when oil pressure builds, there isn't an issue.

    What the OP describes is very specific issue with the cam chain tensioner not filling sufficiently after draining down, causing cam chain slap and potential breakage of one or more cam chain guides.
    See comments embedded above.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  13. #13
    Registered User dieselyoda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PGlaves View Post
    See comments embedded above.
    AND? What did you put in your 6 cyl Ford back in the day?

    Nothing new about flat tappets.

    The only engine I could think of that might, maybe, benefit from a EP or FM additive was the first gen Chevy V8's. But that was because the camshaft was case hardened.

    Look at an old 3300 series Cat, maybe the 5.9 Cummins, any Jimmy, 1,000's of hours later, it wasn't cam followers that failed.

    Disagree with me all you want, I'm not a engineer. Just a real pro-wrench with 40+ years and still at it and I know that the wrong oil with the wrong additives can be gravy for my shop.

    Read the owner's manual.
    1997 R1100RT, 1981 KZ 440 LTD, R80RT, R90/6 sidecar, K1100RS,1983 K100RS (Cafe now)

    “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex.”

  14. #14
    #13338 PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dieselyoda View Post
    AND? What did you put in your 6 cyl Ford back in the day?

    A 30wt oil with a very high zinc and phosphorus content now missing from many/most current automotive oils.

    Read the owner's manual.

    Which for the OP bike says 20W50 wt API SG or SH rated oils. Which, by specification must have at least 1,200 ppm ZDDP.
    See embedded comments.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  15. #15
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    Whoops, looks like I've started yet another contentious oil thread. That was absolutely not my intention so I'm going to end it with explaining my oil choice.

    I don't see the benefit personally in using a motorcycle oil when this bike doesn't have a wet clutch and the motorcycle oils all cost a lot more per quart, plus BMW doesn't specify any motorcycle oil standards at all in the official R259 service manual; all they recommend is "API SE, SF, or SG; combination with CC or CD specification". As you probably know the vast majority of car oils now produced meet API SN which supersedes SG. Per this website, https://www.oilspecifications.org/api_eolcs.php, API CC and CD are diesel oil standards, but those date back to the 60's and are quite obsolete now.

    The Castrol I've already purchased exceeds these standards by meeting API SN, and that's good enough for me.

    The ubiquitous recommendation I saw on various forums for Oilheads, which is Mobil1 15w-50 from the 5-quart jugs at Walmart, isn't a motorcycle oil, exceeds API SN, and I may switch to that at some point in the future.

    I never bought motorcycle-specific oil for any of my previous bikes because Rotella meets the exact same Japanese motorcycle oil standards (JASO-MA and JASO-MA2) as the expensive motorcycle oil, is perfectly safe for wet clutches, and doesn't cost a ridiculous $10 a quart. My policy is to match the standard listed in the service manual with the label on the bottle, change it often, and use only synthetic blends or full synthetics by well-known name-brand oil manufacturers. So far it's worked out perfectly fine.

    If anybody has any actually sourced research or evidence saying my choice to stick with the manufacturer's recommendations is stupid, I'd love to see it. But all these threads ever have is unsourced anecdotes and "I've been a mechanic for so-and-so years blah blah" and usually one guy shilling for Amsoil's paid annual "discount".

    I'll change my oil out with what I already purchased and if the cam chain noise continues I'll reply here. Otherwise, please stop arguing about oil.
    Last edited by senseamidmadness; 10-09-2021 at 07:41 AM.
    Owner of the saddest 1997 R850R you ever did see.

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