Top Gun Motorcycles
2008 KLR-650
by Todd Vosper
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Balancer System

As we noted in the May issue of Technical
Insights, the balancer adjustment lever has
been upgraded and the spring is new as well.
As Elden noted, the spring was even longer
than before, and the spring inside our 2008
was similar, 45.5mm. The attachment point
has not changed inside the case, and the
stock spring appears does not appear to
have much adjustment room left. Our
estimate is 10,000-15,000 miles before we’ll
see coil bind. As we always recommend, we
installed an inspection hole (MMP sells a kit
to do this and has links to the procedure
here), put the new stock spring back inside,
and we’ll monitor it and report back how much
adjustment it gives. Another surprise from
Kawasaki is that there is NO MENTION in the
owner’s manual about the balancer chain or
how to adjust it. Of course, we know it will
need adjusting, and the same adjustment
system is in place to do it. Why would they
upgrade the lever, install what seems to be a
spring that is far too long, and not even
mention adjustment?

For this, I had to turn to someone with a
darker, more devious mind. Luckily, Rod
Morris was over so I was able to tap into just
such a mind. First a little background for
anyone unfamiliar with the system. Kawasaki
has denied any problem with the balancer
system components. The chain balancer
system itself is a poor design, but the two
most common breakages have been the
balancer lever and spring. The balancer lever
was a weak, two piece, welded affair that was
not reliable. The spring was also poorly
designed but didn’t normally cause problems
until the hapless rider tried to adjust his
balancer chain with a broken spring. On a
properly functioning system, loosening the
adjustment bolt causes the good spring to
rotate the eccentric idler shaft, which tightens
the balancer chain. With a broken spring,
loosening the idler shaft allows the balancer
chain to gain even more slack, which causes
at the very least, a lot of noise, if not damage.
This is the reason we won’t prep a KLR-650
without installing an inspection hole; it’s the
What's NEW!
The new lever and spring. Note
the spring attachment point hasn't
Elden and Ken Meredith prep the
inner case for inspection hole
The spring looks good, but
definitely seems too long.
only way (unless you want to pull the left side case off during an oil change) to check the
condition of the spring prior to adjustment. Besides checking for a broken or missing
spring, it allows you to assess the condition of the system for further servicing as the
spring approaches coil bind. Rod’s “Grassy Knoll” theory is this: Kawasaki has beefed up
the lever which should eliminate that problem. They purposely installed a spring that is
beefy, but without much tension remaining, to ensure that the spring won’t break. Then,
they removed any mention of balancer chain adjustment so that JUST IN CASE the spring
did break, the rider won’t be loosening the adjustment bolt during periodic maintenance.
Worst case for Kawasaki is that at some point, your KLR will start making noise - and you’
ll take it into the dealer who will then make any adjustments or repairs required to bring
your balancer system back up to factory specifications. The big advantage for Kawasaki
would be that you would bring your bike in before any major damage was caused. See, I
told you Rod was dark and devious.

Getting back to the lever for a minute, one of the frequently noted “problems” of the
stock lever is that it doesn’t allow for as much adjustment as the aftermarket lever. This is
true, but there’s a reason this is not as big a disadvantage as it may seem. There are two
causes for chain slack in the balancer system. One is chain stretch, but more often the
culprit is found to be wear of the rubber on the balancer system sprockets. When all
components are new, the balancer chain does not fully seat into the sprockets because
the side plates of the chain actually ride on the dampener rubber. Over time, this rubber
compresses and the chain rides lower into the sprockets, which creates more chain
slack. More chain slack means more adjustment of the balancer lever. The aftermarket
lever provides more range of adjustment, but at some point the adjustment becomes so
extreme that the eccentric idler shaft can begin to position the idler sprocket so close to
the engine case that the chain contacts the case. Obviously, metal to metal contact
between a moving chain and the static engine case is not good.

When you start to run out of adjustment on the stock lever, the proper response is to
check your balancer chain. It should be replaced when the 20 link/21 pin length reaches
193.4 mm. If the balancer chain is still good (which it probably will be), then it’s time to
replace your sprockets (which is cheaper than replacing the chain!). This will put your
balancer adjustment back into normal range, and at the same time, keep you from having
any chain-case clearance problems. This is also one reason why we decided to reinstall
the stock spring. It’s possible that Kawasaki could have upgraded the materials in the
balancer system or made some other, so far unnoticed, change that may allow more
adjustment life than our current estimate. Time will tell.

When we set-up a Top Gun KLR, we’ll be using the new Kawasaki part. If you are buying
a 2008, we don’t see the need for an aftermarket replacement for the adjustment lever
(we’ll keep you posted on how long the spring lasts). If you’d rather go with the
aftermarket lever, we’d recommend that you wait until your warranty runs out. If your
2007 is still under warranty, you’d be smart to install the new 2008 Kawasaki lever. Not
only because it appears to be greatly improved, but also because it won’t void your
warranty. If you balancer system fails, Kawasaki will be on the hook. If you have an older
bike not under warranty, you’ll need to decide for yourself if you want Kawasaki’s new
lever or an aftermarket lever. Either will be an improvement. Do yourself a favor and add
an inspection hole so you can easily monitor your spring.
Intro                             Weight and Suspension                     Miscellaneous Observations