Author Topic: Gearbox woes  (Read 132 times)

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Royal Stargazer

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on: September 13, 2018, 08:28:25 pm
I have a 2003 Bullet 500 ES with the 4-speed box, and I've been having a number of issues that I've been trying to sort out over the past few weeks since getting my bike resurrected from the dead. I'm still fighting with the carb, doing it little by little due to time constraints, but what's dogging me now is the gearbox and its associated bits and pieces.

First, the clutch cable was always exceptionally tight. My bike has provisions for an adjuster at the handlebars, but the cable that is currently installed only has an adjuster midway through the cable. Shifting was always a nervous affair before. Everything felt like it had far too much tension. Neutral was impossible to engage, and shifting took a heavy foot.

I've followed the procedure for adjusting the clutch cable at the gearbox, and found that it was incredibly tight. I know some of the Shifting improved after adjusting the cable, but immediately following the service, the bike would fall out of second gear under heavy acceleration. This was troubling, but after adjusting the cable some more through the adjuster on the cable itself, I was able to get it to stop. I ran it shortly like that to great effect.

This morning, over the course of my 45 minute commute to work, I was training myself to use neutral more, rather than holding the clutch in. Since it was easier to engage, now's the perfect time to get in the habit. Three times on the way in, the bike refused to engage another gear from neutral, always taking great effort to get the gear to engage with the clutch fully in. After adjusting the cable again, I was able to get this to subside.

Now I have a new problem. The shift lever does not snap back to position after I've switched gears. When shifting up, the lever remains in a high position, requiring me to lower the control manually, then lift it again to upshift. Same thing with downshifting. Shifting doesn't take more effort than it did before, though having to reset the lever is quite frustrating. Occasionally, the lever will spring back just enough to allow me to shift without manually resetting the lever, but this is the exception to the rule.

I've also noticed that, when releasing the clutch and launching in first, there's a dragging effect as though the clutch is being released very slowly. If I let the clutch out too fast, the bike will simply die. If I ease the clutch out, the bike will simply accelerate slowly, and there is often a point where acceleration slows, there's some kind of "pop," and the bike begins behaving normally.

I have next to no experience with the gearbox, and have searched, but didn't find an awful lot to explain what I'm experiencing. I don't want to have to take the bike into the shop, but I don't exactly have a well-stocked garage at my disposal.

Thanks in advance.
2003 Royal Enfield Bullet, velvet green
2001 Mazda Miata LS, sunlight silver
1988 Jaguar XJS, nimbus white


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Reply #1 on: September 14, 2018, 12:36:29 pm
Do you have access to the Pete Snidal's manual? If not buy it, worth the money. It will help you a great bit in solving your problems. When I get some time, I will help you through some of your Q's.


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Reply #2 on: September 14, 2018, 05:35:39 pm
I heartily concur with Brother Blasphemous: Get yourself a proper copy of Snidal's superb manual right here.

Next, it sounds like you'll need some tools. Check out this great 4-drawer 105-piece set over at Harbor Freight for under $40. They may not be the shining epitome of the toolmaker's craft, but they ARE plenty "good enough" and handy as hell. Avoid the new 130-piece set. Made by some other Chinese factory, its quality is currently quite poor in comparison to the 105-piece. Pro Tip: You'll always find a bunch of 20% Off and freebie-with-purchase coupons right here to print out or call up on your phone, thanks to the good folks at the Harbor Freight Coupon Database. I highly recommend getting the freebie Digital Multimeter, if you don't have one already. There's a Harbor Freight near you in St. Paul at 9 SIGNAL HILLS CENTER, SAINT PAUL, MN 55118; Tel. 651-306-0555. Get directions here. While you're in the joint anyhow, do yourself a favor and also grab a little bottle or three of something called Threadlock No. 42. A drop of this blue goo on the threads of every  nut and bolt you henceforth tighten will really help keep those vibes from skittering them off and sending them "where the woodbine twineth". Keep one in the bike's tool pouch. They're very small. You might also want to grab a 3/8" drive torque wrench, an extra set of combination wrenches and some 3/8" sockets (you can never have enough sockets), as well as likely consumables such as RTV gasket sealant and electrical tape. You won't find these any cheaper elsewhere. Bungee cords are always good too.

Now order a proper Barnett clutch cable from our hosts in Ft. Worth. Accept no substitutes, and certainly DON'T get that piece-of-shit OEM Royal Enfield cable, which appears to be made from recycled cat food cans. My hunch from your description of "its adjuster midway through the cable" is that your current "gearbox problems" may well stem from one of those original craptastic cables breaking, being replaced by some "make-do" near equivalent, possibly some throttle cable (?) which could never quite  be adjusted properly, and hence your woes. With a bit of luck, fitting a proper Barnett cable properly may solve your problems without your having to dive into that scary gearbox. A quick overall diagnosis of the state of wear of your gearbox and any havoc possibly wrought by poor long term clutch adjustment might be gleaned from draining and examining its gear oil. Lots of metal particulate or (God help you) chunks and slivers of metal would indicate that the gearbox itself may need attention. But more likely is that all will be honey golden and sweet as pie once you mount and properly adjust that Barnett cable and refill your later model 4-speed box with SAE 90 straight GL-4 type gear lube (NOT Gl-5 or "Gl-2 through GL-5"--If you see "GL-5" anywhere on the jug, best to just leave it on the shelf. If it's not in the automotive lubes section, look in the boating section for a straight GL-4 as used in outboards and outdrives, like Quicksilver, Mercury's fine house brand).

By the way, if that drained gear oil is pretty clean, transparent and sort of golden brown, and not milky or black and "sooty looking," then run it through a coffee filter once or twice, allow that to settle a week or so, and pour all but, say, the bottom inch or so of the filtered result into a tall capped jar with a little 1" or 2" wide paintbrush, and there's your free chainlube. A quick brush stroke along just the easily accessible lower run of the drivechain now and then when you come back from a run, and both the chain and sprockets WILL thank you with far longer life and extended periods between necessary drive chain slack adjustments.

Anyhow, best of luck! I'm really hoping your woes are just the result of poor adjustment. You'll get it sorted!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2018, 07:05:38 pm by Bilgemaster »
So badass my Enfield's actually illegal in India.