Bill Hoddinott VA (Enthusiast) View all posts in this topic  
Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:24 am
100,000 Mile Road Test of a 1988 Kawasaki 250 Ninja - Part Three        

MAINTENANCE. I have the bike's Owner's Manual, with Roland's maintenance records in it, to which I added my own. It shows that at 502 miles Roland checked the tappets and changed the oil and filter. He changed the oil and filter again at 2121 miles, and adjusted the tappets at 2200 miles. By now it was Oct. 88. He changed oil and filter four more times up to 7426 miles, May '91, when he also checked the tappets again, and changed the coolant.

It is a good plan to change the coolant every two years as Kaw says, because coolant neglected eventually goes bad and loses its anti-corrosive properties. With aluminum engines especially, bad coolant can lead to severe corrosion problems, even eating through aluminum castings and causing leaks.

Let me digress for a moment to encourage the novice reader to learn to do ALL of your own maintenance. The work is really very simple and anyone who WANTS too can learn to do it. Believe me, you can depend on yourself more than some of the 'dimwits' in the dealer's service department. But in justice, I recognize that there are plenty of honest, intelligent journeymen mechanics to be found there too. Trouble is, you never know which you will get! In all the 50 years I've been riding, I have never paid a dealer to do the first thing on any of my bikes. Neither, of course, did Roland!

Okay, I mustn't drag this out too long, so let me tell you that Roland used 20w-50 ordinary car oil in the bike, not synthetic, ever. I followed suit. Brand I used was Havoline from Wal-Mart, but any name brand would have done just as well.

My practice was to change the oil twice a year, June and December, and this meant at about 4-5000 mile intervals. I always warmed the engine up by moderate(60 mph) riding for the first five miles, before going up to traffic flow speed. I believe this gives the oil a chance to warm up and circulate freely, and the aluminum engine a chance to warm up and assume its normal running clearances and shapes.

Early on I changed the oil filter every two times I changed the oil, but later I cut this back to every four times, because hardly any particulate matter was ever found in the filter, on examination of its external folds. So it seemed to be a waste of time and money to frequently change it.

But let me hasten to add that the way I used the bike, almost always a 65-70 mile ride in good weather on suburban and rural highways and interstates, is ideal. If you use your bike for commuting and in cold weather, you need to change your oil and filter according to Kaw's schedule.

In fact, I recommend that people follow Kaw's Owner's Manual and Factory Service Manual religiously, at least until they have decades of experience and feel capable of doing things more their own way. BUT EVEN THEN YOU HAVE TO TAKE FULL PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR EVERYTHING YOU DO WITH YOUR BIKE!

Tappets: It is extremely important that your valve clearances are always within the range Kaw calls out in their manual. I did check mine every 10K miles early on, but I found that I rarely needed to adjust any, so I upped this to about 20K later on; and even then only found the odd one had tightened up a little. Obviously if you keep good oil in the engine, and use it the way I do, tappet clearances on a well-broken-in engine don't change much. And they tighten more than loosen.

I did find that the expensive thick neoprene valve cover gasket could be re-used several times before it began to seep oil enough to make me replace it.

With the first engine, there was NEVER any oil consumption. I would re-fill it after a change, with 1700 ml of oil(or a bit more with a filter change) which brings it to the top of the sight glass with the bike on its wheels, right where you want it.

I will mention that with the 20w-50 oil, the oil was quite thick with a cold start-up, so one had to hold the throttle open a bit at lights, etc. to keep it idling at the correct 1300 rpm, until the oil warmed up.

With the '01 engine, I decided(on my own responsibility, Kaw does not recommend this) to go with 5w-30 oil like billions of cars and light trucks are using today. Their engines are not much different than the 250 Ninja's.

The light 5w-30 oil(just car oil, no synthetic) does not show the thick-oil characteristic on cold-starting, but the engine settles immediately to its 1300 rpm after start-up, after you take the choke off. After 13,000+ miles now with the '01 engine, using it exactly like the original '88 one, once again there has been NO oil consumption. It is conceivable that the oil pressure under running conditions is slightly less than with the 20W-50, but the oil pressure light does not come on at a 1300 rpm idle after prolonged cruising at 75 mph in 90 F + summer temps has everything 'stinking hot'. So I am of the opinion that the 5W-30 is giving suitable lubrication. But as I said, I recommend that you follow Kaw's instructions until you have decades of experience! It could still be that I might find that the '01 engine will not last as long using the 5W-30.

End of Part Three.

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