Rattling chain sound - BMW Luxury Touring Community
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post #1 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 4:39 am Thread Starter
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Rattling chain sound

Hi all,

I would like to know if anyone in the group has experienced this.

Just the other day I was out on my 2009 K1200LT for a ride which I have had for 2 years. I stopped to have a coffee and visit a friend. Shortly after I fired her up and I heard a loud chain sound coming from the front of the engine, close to the front wheel. I turned off the engine thinking what is this sound. The first thing I did was to check the engin oil level and to my surprise the oil level was very low in fact if I put the bike on its centre stand you can see the oil level through the circular glass oil window. So I bought some oil and topped it up thinking that this will cure the rattling chain noise. So I started her up and the chain noise was still there. This chain noise does not affect the engine performance as I had to drive her home. Can anybody tell me what has happened or has anyone had this experience. Could it be the cam chain tensioner?

Many thanks
Doug

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post #2 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 6:10 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

The K1200LT is inherently a noisy engine. First time I rode my 2006 without a full face helmet on I thought there was something wrong with the engine also. But that was many thousands of miles ago and many very long trips to other states. Others will chime in on this subject I'm sure. That's not to say your noise is other than that but I suspect it's the normal sound you're hearing...

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post #3 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 9:30 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

I would have to ask were you wearing your helmet at the time you heard the noise? Like Rob said this is a very noisy bike. Yes the tensioner is fed by oil but in all the years I have been around LTs I have never seen a tensioner fail. Yours would be the first in 15 years if it has.

If the bike was hot when you started it you would need to wait 15 minutes before checking the oil as when the engine is running the sight glass is empty and it takes a few minutes for it to re-appear. But as long as there is oil showing in the glass you are OK on level.

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post #4 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 12:04 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by jzeiler View Post
I would have to ask were you wearing your helmet at the time you heard the noise? Like Rob said this is a very noisy bike. Yes the tensioner is fed by oil but in all the years I have been around LTs I have never seen a tensioner fail. Yours would be the first in 15 years if it has.



If the bike was hot when you started it you would need to wait 15 minutes before checking the oil as when the engine is running the sight glass is empty and it takes a few minutes for it to re-appear. But as long as there is oil showing in the glass you are OK on level.
Hi,

Thanks for your reply ...to be honest my LT was nice and smooth not noisy at all, then all of a sudden, it sounds like tractor. I only have 17000 miles on the clock. There is something not right here I'm sure of it. I will book my LT in for a service and ask them to see what this rattling chain noise is. I hope I have not damaged the engine due to too running the engine with little oil ...having said that no oil warning lights have come on during use....I'm a bit confused.....

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post #5 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 2:32 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Bulldoug View Post
Hi,

Thanks for your reply ...to be honest my LT was nice and smooth not noisy at all, then all of a sudden, it sounds like tractor. I only have 17000 miles on the clock. There is something not right here I'm sure of it. I will book my LT in for a service and ask them to see what this rattling chain noise is. I hope I have not damaged the engine due to too running the engine with little oil ...having said that no oil warning lights have come on during use....I'm a bit confused.....

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Your first post confused me. Proper checking of oil is done with the bike on the center stand. You wrote: "The first thing I did was to check the engine oil level and to my surprise the oil level was very low in fact if I put the bike on its centre stand you can see the oil level through the circular glass oil window." You SHOULD be able to see the oil level in the sight glass with the bike on the centerstand.

If I am reading your post correctly and you have been checking/adding oil with the bike on the side stand, you may have had too much oil, not too little. Too much oil can be bad; the crankshaft froths the oil, air bubbles get mixed into the oil and the oil stops lubricating properly.
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post #6 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 3:04 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by CharlieVT View Post
Your first post confused me. Proper checking of oil is done with the bike on the center stand. You wrote: "The first thing I did was to check the engine oil level and to my surprise the oil level was very low in fact if I put the bike on its centre stand you can see the oil level through the circular glass oil window." You SHOULD be able to see the oil level in the sight glass with the bike on the centerstand.

If I am reading your post correctly and you have been checking/adding oil with the bike on the side stand, you may have had too much oil, not too little. Too much oil can be bad; the crankshaft froths the oil, air bubbles get mixed into the oil and the oil stops lubricating properly.
I had the same thought and then figured maybe he made a typo and meant to say “can’t” rather than “can” in regard to the oil level.

I am not sure what triggers the idiot light on an LT, but on most cars it is when the pressure is extremely low as in 5 psi or less. This generally only occurs if the oil is so low that air is being sucked in as well as oil. Often, the engine is already being damaged when the light comes on, particularly if you don’t shut down quickly.

If you have overfilled the LT substantially as Charlie wrote, then frothed oil may well not actuate the tensioner piston adequately given the air in it being compressible.

So, I guess the question is: Do you really have the correct oil level now? The LT should be checked on a level surface on the centerstand and the oil should be within the sight glass, neither above it nor below it. Although, those who have had the LT engine apart say that the crank is well above the normal oil level so it sounds like it would take a gross overfill to cause an issue with frothing of the oil.

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post #7 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 3:38 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
...If you have overfilled, then frothed oil may well not actuate the tensioner piston adequately given the air in it being compressible...
Exactly what I had been thinking. Cam chain noise due to tensioner not working properly, secondary to air in the oil.
Highly speculative to be sure, but might actually explain the symptoms.
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post #8 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 3:38 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I had the same thought and then figured maybe he made a typo and meant to say “can’t” rather than “can” in regard to the oil level.



I am not sure what triggers the idiot light on an LT, but on most cars it is when the pressure is extremely low as in 5 psi or less. This generally only occurs if the oil is so low that air is being sucked in as well as oil. Often, the engine is already being damaged when the light comes on, particularly if you don’t shut down quickly.



If you have overfilled the LT substantially as Charlie wrote, then frothed oil may well not actuate the tensioner piston adequately given the air in it being compressible.



So, I guess the question is: Do you really have the correct oil level now? The LT should be checked on a level surface on the centerstand and the oil should be within the sight glass, neither above it nor below it. Although, those who have had the LT engine apart say that the crank is well above the normal oil level so it sounds like it would take a gross overfill to cause an issue with frothing of the oil.
Hi guys,

Ok I'm sorry if I have not explained my situation properly so here goes.

I have been riding my k1200lt for approximately 1.5 years now and the engine has been a smooth as silk with no sounds,bangs or tractor sounds until the other day. I went for a ride, stopped the bike and when I started her up I heard this horrible clunky chain sound. I switched of the engine and placed the bike on its centre stand to check the oil level through the roumd oil level viewer . The oil level was not showing on the glass so I tilted the bike over with the help of my friend to see if I could see the oil level appear. At this point with the bike tilted over a good 15 degrees the oil level did appear but just on the bottom on the oil glass viewer. So I added some more oil hopping that this would fix that horrible clunky, chain sound. But I am afraid the sound is still there.... So I am wondering if because I had very little oil in the engine I have some how damaged something ? However saying that when i drove my bike home approximatly 50 miles the handling and performance of the bike is not affected at all...

I hope this description paints a better picture.

Cheers
Doug

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post #9 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 4:05 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Bulldoug View Post
Hi guys,

Ok I'm sorry if I have not explained my situation properly so here goes....
Ok, Doug, that paints a better picture.
Let me gently put in a word for rereading one's posts and using the edit function to correct typos.
Were you "hoping" or "hopping"? Okay, context can fix that one for you by the reader.
"Can" vs "can't" is a little more problematic. I held off reply to your first post because I suspected a typo but as the thread progressed, I started to wonder.

If it were my bike, I'd listen around with a mechanic's stethoscope and try to localize the "rattle".
Your idea of having a professional BMW tech look at it is a good idea too.
Let us know what you find. As John Z. stated, cam chain problems are rare (unheard of?) on this site. (Did I miss one?)

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post #10 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 4:25 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Bulldoug View Post
Hi guys,

Ok I'm sorry if I have not explained my situation properly so here goes.

I have been riding my k1200lt for approximately 1.5 years now and the engine has been a smooth as silk with no sounds,bangs or tractor sounds until the other day. I went for a ride, stopped the bike and when I started her up I heard this horrible clunky chain sound. I switched of the engine and placed the bike on its centre stand to check the oil level through the roumd oil level viewer . The oil level was not showing on the glass so I tilted the bike over with the help of my friend to see if I could see the oil level appear. At this point with the bike tilted over a good 15 degrees the oil level did appear but just on the bottom on the oil glass viewer. So I added some more oil hopping that this would fix that horrible clunky, chain sound. But I am afraid the sound is still there.... So I am wondering if because I had very little oil in the engine I have some how damaged something ? However saying that when i drove my bike home approximatly 50 miles the handling and performance of the bike is not affected at all...

I hope this description paints a better picture.

Cheers
Doug

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I have no idea how low on oil a 15 degree tilt indicates. How much oil did you have to add to get the level back to the middle of the sight glass? That is the best measure of how low the oil actually was.

I am not sure how the cam chain is lubricated. It may be simply splash lubricated or it may have a small hole that directs pressurized oil onto the chain. Most engines I have had apart had splash lubricated timing chains, but I suspect there are engines with oil ports that direct an oil stream onto the chain.

If you got the oil low enough that the cam chain was not running in oil or getting adequate splash oiling, it is possible that the chain suffered from high wear and is now “stretched” to the point that the tensioner can no longer keep it properly tensioned. That does seem like a long shot. I am curious to see what the shop finds when they take a look.

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post #11 of 29 Old Mar 31st, 2019, 4:36 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
I have no idea how low on oil a 15 degree tilt indicates. How much oil did you have to add to get the level back to the middle of the sight glass? That is the best measure of how low the oil actually was.



I am not sure how the cam chain is lubricated. It may be simply splash lubricated or it may have a small hole that directs pressurized oil onto the chain. Most engines I have had apart had splash lubricated timing chains, but I suspect there are engines with oil ports that direct an oil stream onto the chain.



If you got the oil low enough that the cam chain was not running in oil or getting adequate splash oiling, it is possible that the chain suffered from high wear and is now “stretched” to the point that the tensioner can no longer keep it properly tensioned. That does seem like a long shot. I am curious to see what the shop finds when they take a look.
Hi all,

I'm curious myself so I will book it in next week not at a BMW garage but at a certified BMW mechanic who I use (an ex BMW mechanic). I will keep you all posted on the outcome ....thanks a lot to all of you for taking the time to read and reply.

Speak soon
Doug

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post #12 of 29 Old Apr 1st, 2019, 2:02 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

Again if the bike was hot and you started it up and ran it a few minutes then shut it off you need to wait 15 minutes for the oil to become visible in the sight glass again.

In the diagram below the yellow line is where normal oil level is with the engine running and the red line (going through the center of the sight glass) is where the oil will settle to after 15 minutes. There is no way even an oil overfill to above the sight glass will ever get hit by the crank.
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post #13 of 29 Old Apr 1st, 2019, 5:23 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Again if the bike was hot and you started it up and ran it a few minutes then shut it off you need to wait 15 minutes for the oil to become visible in the sight glass again.

In the diagram below the yellow line is where normal oil level is with the engine running and the red line (going through the center of the sight glass) is where the oil will settle to after 15 minutes. There is no way even an oil overfill to above the sight glass will ever get hit by the crank.
You must use really thick oil if it takes 15 minutes to drain back when hot.

Mine is typically pretty near the final level after a minute or two when hot. If started cold and then shut down before it warms up, it can take a little longer, but I can’t imagine needing 15 minutes.

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post #14 of 29 Old Apr 1st, 2019, 6:15 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

MY Bad. 5 minutes is what is specified in the manual. And I use 20W 50. Don't know where I got 15 from.

Yes I tell people that think their sight glass is black to look at it while the engine is running (warm) and see how the glass looks. Then shut off the engine and watch the oil re-appear over then next few minutes.

John
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post #15 of 29 Old Apr 1st, 2019, 6:36 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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MY Bad. 5 minutes is what is specified in the manual. And I use 20W 50. Don't know where I got 15 from.

Yes I tell people that think their sight glass is black to look at it while the engine is running (warm) and see how the glass looks. Then shut off the engine and watch the oil re-appear over then next few minutes.
For a minute there I thought you were using that 200W-500 oil.
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post #16 of 29 Old Apr 18th, 2019, 7:25 am Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Hi all,

I'm curious myself so I will book it in next week not at a BMW garage but at a certified BMW mechanic who I use (an ex BMW mechanic). I will keep you all posted on the outcome ....thanks a lot to all of you for taking the time to read and reply.

Speak soon
Doug

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Hi all,

I thought I would give you all the low down on the diagnostics and repair to the rattling sound on my 2009 BMW K1200lt with 17000 miles on the clock. If you read the thread I had a very noisy chain sound coming from the front end of the engine all of a sudden and I could not make heads or tails to why and where this sound was coming from. It turns out that the cam chain tensioner was seized and the spring was not releasing the tensioner rod thus the cam chain was not under tension and flapping about making a noise. The cam chain was stretched by a couple of mill as a result. Now, you are probably wondering how this happened....well I was told by the machanic it's due to very low engine oil and to honest I really never checked my engine oil that much so a expensive lesson has been learnt here.



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post #17 of 29 Old Apr 18th, 2019, 7:31 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Hi all,

I thought I would give you all the low down on the diagnostics and repair to the rattling sound on my 2009 BMW K1200lt with 17000 miles on the clock. If you read the thread I had a very noisy chain sound coming from the front end of the engine all of a sudden and I could not make heads or tails to why and where this sound was coming from. It turns out that the cam chain tensioner was seized and the spring was not releasing the tensioner rod thus the cam chain was not under tension and flapping about making a noise. The cam chain was stretched by a couple of mill as a result. Now, you are probably wondering how this happened....well I was told by the machanic it's due to very low engine oil and to honest I really never checked my engine oil that much so a expensive lesson has been learnt here.



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Ouch. Yes, a good idea to check your oil fairly often. Many LTs seem to use at least some oil. Mine isn’t too bad, but it almost always requires make-up oil in between oil changes. I would guess I use about 1 quart in 6,000 miles. I generally need to add half a quart at the 3-4,000 mile point and then am in the bottom third of the sight glass when I change oil at 5-6,000 miles. Mine has been this way since new.

I hope nothing else has suffered too much from lack of oil. Usually cams suffer first so you may want to look them over carefully at your next valve check.

Thanks for the update. It is always good to hear the resolution to file away for future reference.

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post #18 of 29 Old Apr 18th, 2019, 9:42 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldoug View Post
Hi all,

I thought I would give you all the low down on the diagnostics and repair to the rattling sound on my 2009 BMW K1200lt with 17000 miles on the clock. If you read the thread I had a very noisy chain sound coming from the front end of the engine all of a sudden and I could not make heads or tails to why and where this sound was coming from. It turns out that the cam chain tensioner was seized and the spring was not releasing the tensioner rod thus the cam chain was not under tension and flapping about making a noise. The cam chain was stretched by a couple of mill as a result. Now, you are probably wondering how this happened....well I was told by the machanic it's due to very low engine oil and to honest I really never checked my engine oil that much so a expensive lesson has been learnt here.



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That is interesting as the tensioner is hydraulic by engine oil pressure and if the oil was low enough for oil pressure to drop and cause the tensioner to fail, I would think you would get an alert light on the dash for no oil pressure. I don't doubt that is was not functioning but the mentioned cause is suspect. The spring is just to hold things in place when the engine is not running and not supposed to provide chain tension while running, that is the oil pressures job. Now, if your mechanic had said very low engine oil pressure, it would make more sense to have a chain rattle but I would expect an engine alert light if it ever got that low and possible engine damage as well.

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post #19 of 29 Old Apr 18th, 2019, 3:47 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

I hope that they checked the front of the crank for journal damage. During oil starvation the front of the engine suffers first. I have a friend that lost oil pressure and the front crank main bearing was destroyed as well as the #1 rod big end bearing. But then his son was trying to retrieve the bike from Texas and tried running it quite a while with low oil level. Sounds like you may have escaped the same fate.

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post #20 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 6:23 am Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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I hope that they checked the front of the crank for journal damage. During oil starvation the front of the engine suffers first. I have a friend that lost oil pressure and the front crank main bearing was destroyed as well as the #1 rod big end bearing. But then his son was trying to retrieve the bike from Texas and tried running it quite a while with low oil level. Sounds like you may have escaped the same fate.
I thought I would post pictures of the cam chain tensioner locked in closed position when removed from the bike....

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post #21 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 9:28 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

That would definitely cause a rattle, first one I have seen jammed up like that. How bad was the bore when you removed the piston?

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post #22 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 10:07 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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I thought I would post pictures of the cam chain tensioner locked in closed position when removed from the bike....

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Did you take the tensioner apart? I still don’t see how low oil could cause it to jam in place. It is basically a hydraulic cylinder and when hydraulic cylinders don’t get oil pressure, they don’t seize they just sit there. I still think something else had to have happened such as debris getting into the tensioner cylinder and causing the piston to stick in place. And if that happened, I would want to look at that debris and try to ascertain the source.

If this was my LT, I would not simply accept the dealer’s assertion that low oil caused this. Color me skeptical...

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post #23 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 11:53 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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I thought I would post pictures of the cam chain tensioner locked in closed position when removed from the bike....
...
Given how strong and long is the spring inside, I doubt it is possible to jam in this closed / retracted position. Even without oil pressure, the piston is very hard to keep in this low position.

Are you sure the internal spring was not missing... or maybe it was not the factory spec spring inside ??
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John (Montreal, CANADA)
K1200RS (2002 IceBlue/Red - 95,000 miles)
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post #24 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 12:01 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by sailor View Post
Given how strong and long is the spring inside, I doubt it is possible to jam in this closed / retracted position. Even without oil pressure, the piston is very hard to keep in this low position.



Are you sure the internal spring was not missing... or maybe it was not the factory spec spring inside ??
No after a few knocks and using a pair of pliers it eventually came loose see pic

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post #25 of 29 Old Apr 27th, 2019, 2:31 pm
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by Bulldoug View Post
No after a few knocks and using a pair of pliers it eventually came loose see pic

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Looks like a trace of varnish on the bottom. Doesn’t look like enough to overcome the spring pressure, but maybe. Anything you see that would cause it to stick in the bore? I doubt that much varnish would accumulate from being simply low on oil for a time. Do you know the oil change history of your LT? Looks to me like it may have had a few long runs in between oil changes.

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post #26 of 29 Old Apr 29th, 2019, 8:30 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

I too am experiencing some increase in noise from the cam chain after reassembly of the camshafts, cam gears on my 2008 model. I had problems reassembling the cam chain and posted a thread in March 2019 about disabling the cam chain tensioner. With the BMW community help I was able to complete the assembly and ride the bike again. My bike has a very tight cam chain with no slack for reassembly. At idle I believe the cam chain is much noisier than before. I suspect that the tensioner is maybe still in a collapsed mode. Is that possible? Did I damage the tensioner pushing the lever down to compress the piston? The bike runs great and I have ridden 1000 miles since reassembly. I have the bike back on the platform and have the tupperware removed. I am thinking about removing the valve cover again and examining the cam tensioner position. What steps should I take to diagnose and possibly correct this extra noise?

thanks,

Alex

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post #27 of 29 Old Apr 29th, 2019, 8:45 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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Originally Posted by acuningham View Post
I too am experiencing some increase in noise from the cam chain after reassembly of the camshafts, cam gears on my 2008 model. I had problems reassembling the cam chain and posted a thread in March 2019 about disabling the cam chain tensioner. With the BMW community help I was able to complete the assembly and ride the bike again. My bike has a very tight cam chain with no slack for reassembly. At idle I believe the cam chain is much noisier than before. I suspect that the tensioner is maybe still in a collapsed mode. Is that possible? Did I damage the tensioner pushing the lever down to compress the piston? The bike runs great and I have ridden 1000 miles since reassembly. I have the bike back on the platform and have the tupperware removed. I am thinking about removing the valve cover again and examining the cam tensioner position. What steps should I take to diagnose and possibly correct this extra noise?

thanks,

Alex
Probably the easiest way to check is to follow the procedure that JZ recommended to collapse the tensioner when installing the pin tool. Put a wrench on the exhaust cam hex section and rotate the cam CCW (as you view the sprocket from in front of the engine). If the tensioner is working (well, at least if it isn’t stuck and the spring inside has any force left), you will see the chain “bunch up” in the guide between the cams as you rotate the exhaust cam and then you will see the chain tension against as you gently release the torque on the cam. I think I put up a video or at least a picture showing this, but let me go check youtube and see if I did.

Back from youtube. I did not video that, but I did take a picture. Here it is with the exhaust cam turned slightly CCW to use the lower side of the chain to push the guide against the tensioner compressing it for insertion of the pin.
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1976 Kawasaki KH400
1973 Kawasaki 100 G5
1970 Rockford Chibi (the orange one)

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Last edited by Voyager; Apr 29th, 2019 at 8:52 am.
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post #28 of 29 Old Apr 29th, 2019, 9:03 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

So, I don't have to remove the intake cam gear to rotate the exhaust camshaft? I have the pin tool from JZ and used it when I re-assembled the cam gears. I used that method before to compress the tensioner and then insert the pin from JZ.

Remember I don't have any slack in the cam chain and had to stretch the chain by pulling the cam gear down to slide it over the cam gear and at the same time turning the camshaft to align the slot with the key in the cam gear. All of that to get the exhaust cam gear back in place. So I am not sure I will see any bunching. I am wondering if I can just examine the piston with a strong flashlight and see if it is compressed or released.

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post #29 of 29 Old Apr 29th, 2019, 9:21 am
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Re: Rattling chain sound

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So, I don't have to remove the intake cam gear to rotate the exhaust camshaft? I have the pin tool from JZ and used it when I re-assembled the cam gears. I used that method before to compress the tensioner and then insert the pin from JZ.

Remember I don't have any slack in the cam chain and had to stretch the chain by pulling the cam gear down to slide it over the cam gear and at the same time turning the camshaft to align the slot with the key in the cam gear. All of that to get the exhaust cam gear back in place. So I am not sure I will see any bunching. I am wondering if I can just examine the piston with a strong flashlight and see if it is compressed or released.
Maybe you can see the piston, but I think that will be difficult with the cam guide in the way. If you have no slack in the chain, then you should have no noise from a loose chain and you would not even need the tensioner. The other possibility is that the tension is stuck in the outer position which is why you had so much trouble installing your sprocket, but I would not expect excessive noise in that case, at least not for many miles until the chain wears enough to have some slack in it.

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1987 Kawasaki Voyager XII
1976 Kawasaki KH400
1973 Kawasaki 100 G5
1970 Rockford Chibi (the orange one)

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