Tuesday, May 24, 2016

KLR650 Thermo-Bob

In my earlier post entitled Major Mods Planned, I discussed my plans and reasoning behind installing the Eagle Mike Doohickey upgrade and the Wattman Thermobob. This post describes the install and results.

Since I got the Doohickey knocked out early, I decided to get the Thermo-Bob done as well. I got a little excited when a forum member indicated that there was a possibility of doing the Thermo-Bob upgrade without lifting the fuel tank, but that wasn't to be. I just couldn't get to the thermostat housing without taking the tank off. The Nomad Rider Bar right in the way there didn't help either. Removing the tank and all the panels probably took three times the amount of time it takes to actually fit the Thermo-Bob in the KLR650.

Again, similar to the Doo Upgrade, there are so many online videos and tutorials for doing the Thermo-Bob upgrade that I won't bore you with all my details. It was an easy modification.

Here's what came in the package from Watt-Man.

Included in the parts are two 195 degree (F) thermostats; one for the install and one for a backup. Right out of the gate that's a big improvement over the 160 degree (F) stock thermostat. The higher rated thermostat provides for higher temperatures before it opens allowing the cooler water from the radiator to flow through the engine. That helps stabilizing the temperature throughout the engine.

Also, the thermostat is mounted externally in the Thermo-Bob Housing with a channel that routes water back to the water pump for rerouting through the engine, as opposed to the stock stet up where hot water is just directed to the radiator.

So, here's a photo of the Thermo-Bob thermostat housing installed on my KLR650. Pretty neat! When all is said and done, it's mostly out of sight up under the left side of the fuel tank.

There is some fabrication involved where the stock hose from the radiator to the water pump has to be cut and the bypass installed. The instructions were fairly straight forward to do this but they did not provide a photo of the finished product. So, here's a look at the hose and bypass...

...and here's a look at the configuration that I wound up with that slipped perfectly into place. Left side to radiator...right side to water pump...small hose to Thermo-Bob thermostat housing.

What you don't see in the photos is my alignment line that was recommended in the Watt-Man installation instructions. That was a good recommendation and helped me figure out how to put this thing together.

A few cuts, three bolts and four hose clamps. Seriously, if I didn't have to pull the panels and tank it would have taken no time at all.


The first observation right out of the gate following installation of the ThermoBob was that the wild fluctuations on the temperature gauge were all but eliminated. As discussed the prior post those fluctuations were significant enough in my mind to report them to my dealer and discuss them with the KLRista groups. All parties advised that the fluctuations are normal for an unmodified KLR. Obviously, that really can't be good for any engine over a long haul. The Thermobob appears to be living up to the claims.

One additional item is Wattman offers a useful temp gauge overlay. As you know, the current temp gauge does not provide monetary readings, only a range from C to H...with a red zone. The following photo of the overlay reflects the actual numeric temp readings along that range. I think its a good add-on following the ThermoBob install and will purchase one in short.

Friday, May 20, 2016

KLR650 Doohickey

I had planned to upgrade my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 with the Eagle Mike Doohicky and Torsion Spring Kit at 5,000 miles. At 3,700 miles I put my order in for the parts and they were on my doorstep two days later!

Having all this cool stuff in hand, I decided that I couldn't wait to do the upgrade and set out on the job first thing this morning.

I ordered the complete kit that includes (in addition to the Doohickey, Torsion Spring and a new Rotor Bolt) the inner and outer crank cover gaskets and the special tools (Rotor Holder Wrench and Rotor Puller). The kit was $138, plus $13.45 shipping so the whole thing came out to $151.45. The only things that needed were my stock tools, two quarts of oil (I did not change filter), some gasket sealer, grease and thread locker...oh, and my Service Manual.

There are so many videos and writeups on the Doohickey that I'm not going to waste your time reading through the horny details of my Doohicky Upgrade. I'll give you some thoughts and ideas and then, suffice it to say that the mod was fairly straight forward following the instructions provided by Eagle Mike and tracking the associated steps in the Service Manual. I personally don't think that this project is suitable for someone who doesn't have a good deal of automotive/motorcycle repair/maintenance experience.

I'll tell you one thing, it's jobs like this that make me wish I had a motorcycle lift table. I'm nursing an injured knee and being able to work at waist level would have been a lot better than working a ankle and knee level. However, where I normally use my modified jack lift for working on my motorcycles, for this job I laid out my hitch carrier right on my garage floor and strapped the KLR in for the job. Worked out great; really sturdy...

...but the work area was still pretty low and uncomfortable.

One thing that I learned in this process was that the Doohickey is not a constantly active chain tensioner and this new knowledge resolves one of the areas in maintenance that had me a little confused.

Among the routine maintenance procedures is the "adjustment" of the tensioner (i.e. doohickey) every 7,500 miles. The procedure is to loosen the idle shaft lever bolt and then torque it in at a specified level. That's no adjustment; that's loosening a bolt and then tightening a bolt. Nothing got adjusted!

Ah, but something did get adjusted, the tensioner on the counterbalance chain. The loosening of the idle shaft bolt frees the tensioner spring to pull on the tensioner lever drawing down on the counter balance chain. Once the spring has done that, the lever is tightened back down. This is the only time the tensioner, in fact, tensions the counterbalance chain. It is not constantly doing it as I had thought. Viola!

Speaking of the tensioner spring (as shown in the photo above), the problem with Gen2 KLR650 tensioner springs is that they lose their spring, they get sprung and stretch out becoming ineffective. So they say, anyway. Mine had all kinds of spring left in it at 3,700 miles and the tensioner was working fine.

Here's a look at the hole that was drilled in the inner case to accommodate the torsion spring. I was thrown a little on this procedure because my inner case was different than any other that I'd seen on you tube videos and write ups. At the end of the day, I just followed the 5:00-5:30 location relative to the torsion lever hole. Seemed to work okay and nothing blew up when I ultimately got to starting up the bike.

One point on the cases is that there are two levels, and inner (as shown in photo above) and an outer (as shown in next photo). Each of the cases has a metallic gasket and I purchased new gaskets ($44 Retail Value) for this mod. That was done in an abundance of caution should I damage one of the stock gaskets (and the Service Manual calls for new gaskets), but otherwise the stock gaskets were about what you'd expect at 3,700 miles. They were nearly perfect. While I did replace them, I saved the old ones should I ever find myself in a situation needing the gaskets.

The other replacement part was the Rotor Bolt ($17.00 Retail Value), also called for in the Service Manual. Another questionable expenditure. It's a big bolt and while the ultimate torque on this bolt is 130 ft/lbs, when you hold it you're left with the impression that it can take the pressure of that torque more than once.

The gaskets and the bolt are $61 in retail value, but the total, combined kit is discounted from the individual retail values. By my calculations, if I'd excluded those three parts and paid the same postage, the total parts costs would have been $110.25 compared to the $151.35 that I paid. Something to think about.

Finally, the photo below provides a look at the new doohickey and torsion spring.

Like I said there are many tutorials out there on how to accomplish this upgrade. There are a lot of parts to deal with and risks associated with lost parts or not getting things back together properly. As I also said, the job isn't for someone who hasn't had a lot of experience working on engines, and motorcycles in particular. For me, it was a three hour process, but I took my time and made sure everything I was doing was in accordance with the instructions and Service Manual. I can see guys that have done a lot of these knocking them out in an hour.

What did I accomplish? At this time nothing. I removed a perfectly healthy appendix. However, if the masses of KLR owners are right about the tensioner becoming sprung and ineffective, then I got an early jump on it and can focus on more important stuff...like riding (when my knee heals up).

Added 5-29-16.

I see a lot of people who buy used KLR650s ask how to tell if the doo was done. It would be nice if you could just take off the outer cover for a peek. But looking over all my photos, I really think it's a matter of getting behind the fly wheel/rotor and starter gear and that's a good deal of work. 

I made a record in my log and I put the littler sticker that came with my Eagle Mike Doohickey Kit on the side of the fuel tank, under the side cover to protect it. That's about the best I can doo (no pun intended).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Major Upgrades Planned

Although currently sitting at 3,700 miles, I started to prepare for my 5,000 mile maintenance that will include a couple major upgrades to the engine on my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650. The next normal maintenance cycle provided in the Service Manual would be 7,500; however, we have a lot of conditions here in Florida that warrant acceleration of many of the routine maintenance steps such as oil changes and air filter cleaning.

The two major upgrades that I'm planning for during this maintenance cycle are the Doohickey Upgrade and the Thermo-Bob Upgrade. I'll take them one at a time.


I'm not sure who thought up that name (or why), but the Doohickey has been a defect of the KLR650 engine since the day it first rolled off the production line. In short, the Doohickey is a triangular lever that, together with a spring, serves as the tensioner to the counterbalance chain.

The counterbalance system and doohickey are located under the left case cover.

Under the lever is the tensioner spring to the lever.

The problems with this assembly are several. On Gen1 KLR650s the lever and the spring are actually prone to fracturing and causing a lot of problems inside the engine as broken metal parts work their way down into the sump.

While the fracturing problems were presumably cured when the Gen2 KLR650 was designed, the lever and spring continues to be seriously flawed.
The lever is too loose and wobbles causing noise and wear. It also doesn't provide the full range of tension on the chain. In fact, it only provides about 33% of the range of tension that you see in that half-moon slot.

The other issue is that the tensioner spring stretches out and becomes ineffective. That is, it's providing no tension on the counterbalance chain. The spring in the photo above was totally coil bound at 4,000 miles. There are reports by people who do the doohickey upgrade saying that their springs had sprung and were totally useless in as little as 2,500 miles.

The upgrade is to replace the tensioner lever with a good aftermarket lever (made by Eagle Manufacturing) and replace the spring with a more effective torsion-type spring. Here's a look at the two components that were designed and are manufactured by Eagle Manufacturing & Engineering (aka Eagle Mike).

When all is said and done, the tensioner will look like this...

So I've gone ahead and ordered my Doohickey Kit from Eagle Mike for my upcoming 5,000 mile service. The kit includes the two above parts, plus some special tools and replacement case gaskets. The complete kit cost $138. It's not an easy upgrade, but it's a one time fix and worth it.


Unlike Doohickey, Thermo-Bob is actually the name of a product. However, since it's the most popular fix for this particular issue, everyone seems to call it the Thermo-Bob Upgrade or Mod.

The issue that gives rise to the Thermo-Bob upgrade to the KLR650 is found in the motorcycle's cooling system. The problem is that the KLR cannot stabilize and control the engine temperature in consistent and steady manner throughout the engine. I noticed this right out of the gate when I got my KLR. The needle was all over the place. It would drop low to the bottom of the temp gauge when riding at virtually any speed and then rise to the near the top of the range when stopped and idling for any length of time.

This wild inconsistency is due to the fact that the temperatures in different parts of the engine are controlled differently and have the tendency to work against each other in maintaining engine temperature. The temps in the upper part of the engine are controlled by the radiator and runs on the hot side. The temps in the lower part of the engine are controlled by the thermostat and run too cold. All this is largely due to a thermostat that has an excessively low temp trigger of 160 degrees and poor routing of the coolant around the engine.

This temperature imbalance is dangerous to the engine. A proper balance of temperature is necessary for both the metallic components as well as the oil temperatures as it moves through the various parts of the engine.

What is needed to correct the temperature imbalance is a mechanism for the water in the engine to keep moving throughout the engine both quickly and evenly and also circulates around the thermostat so it doesn't open...but then quickly slam shut when the cooler water from the lower end of the engine reaches it. This is what the Thermo-Bob does. It is essentially an external thermostat coupled with a coolant bypass.

The Thermo-Bob Kit from Watt-Man re-routes the water flow and moves the thermostat to provide a constant flow of water and balance of temperatures throughout the KLR650 engine. It also provides a much larger thermostat that activates at a higher (195 degree) temperature (compared to the stock 160 degree thermostat).

Here's a look at the components of the kit that cost $125. There are other options for this (and similarly influenced) upgrade, but the Thermo-Bob by Watt-Man is considered the gold standard. Watt-Matt Testing Report.

Bottom line, the KLR650's temperature problem isn't going to destroy its engine overnight...or anytime soon. In fact, I've heard people recommend the Thermo-Bob mod only if you're planning to keep your KLR more than five years. Well, I don't operate like that. If the motorcycle has a problem I'm inclined to fix things that I can fix irrespective of how long I plan to own it.

BTW...I've had dozens of motorcycles over many years and, with a very few exceptions, I planned to keep each one forever. :)

Of course I'll report back when i get these upgrades completed.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

KLR650 Sub-Frame Bolts

Apparently there is something to the rumor that the sub-frame bolts on the KLR650 break.

While cleaning up the bikes (KLR650 and DR650) after Sunday's romp in the Richloam WMA Forest Area I noticed that the lower, left-side sub-frame bolt was missing. A closer look and it turned out that the bolt was actually broken off. The inner side of the sub-frame bracket is threaded and the bolt end was still in there, thus requiring the fractured bolt's removal.

Here's a look at the manufacture's sub-frame diagram and how it bolts up to the main frame.

The upper bolts are M10-30mm (125 pitch).
The lower bolts are M8-28mm (125 pitch).

Here's a look at the sub-frame bolt locations on the motorcycle. The uppers are actually located under the fuel tank requiring it to be lifted about 3 inches to get to them. I previously replaced the upper sub-frame bolts in connection with my Nomad Rider Crash Guards Installation. That installation required a longer set of bolts that was provided as part of the installation hardware.

A quick run up to my local hardware store and I picked up a couple better grade bolts (Class 10.9). Fortunately, the broken bolt was easy to drill straight through the threaded part of the bracket. When I installed the new bolts, I applied some thread locker. I'm sure we'll be good now.

Monday, May 9, 2016


The Richloam WMA was center stage for this year's Devil's Creek Dual Sport Rally. It can be a little treacherous so I tend to keep to the principal (improved) forest roads when I 'm on my own. Yesterday, however, my son wanted to visit the Swamp so he was on my 2016 Kawasaki KLR650 and I was on my 2016 Suzuki DR650.

Although we're still in the dry season, Richloam has a tendency to have a lot of water, which is why it's a favorite for dual sport riders. However, sometimes you can't navigate through the water and sometimes you can't navigate around either.

Here I am below losing the rear in the sand. I'm running Shinko Big Block E-804/805 on the DR650 and Continental TKC80s on the KLR650. Both are 40/60 dual sport tires. I'd say that the Conti front has an edge over the Shinko front in the sand, both rear tires are about the same in sand. Both tire sets (front+rear) do a really fair job in the water and mud for 40/60s. I wouldn't want to have anything less than these big block tires out in the sandbox.

Sam, my son, could have made it through there just fine on the Conti's but he lost momentum and ground in. This happens and is why one really doesn't want to take on the back forest roads alone. Two guys can get a bike out of most everything. Also, I carry a 50' rope for tow help.

One other thing to remember about the swamp is there's critters in there. We saw a five foot water moccasin in this stretch.

Better to test the waters before diving in. There are other vehicles (motorcycles and four wheelers) going through there tearing up the bottom so you need to find the line. Sometimes there is no line. Then you need to find a way around or turn back. Either way, high waterproof boots are in order.

Here's a link to a MAP of the Richloam WMA. Give it a shot sometime.