Yesterday, I talked about my adventure replacing the drive chain on my bike, and how that ended with a mysteriously locked ignition cylinder. The adventure didn't end, oh no, it was just beginning!
Looking online, the most common cause of a stuck cylinder is corrosion. It seemed plausible- I keep my bike outdoors, exposed to the elements- but gratuitous amounts of various lubes did nothing to budge the stuck lock. WD-40, Dupont Teflon Dry Lube, even trusty and versatile olive oil had no effect.
Calling around to various motorcycle mechanics, it seemed I had two options:
1) Wait a week for a new lock to come in, and pay about $250 to replace the entire ignition cylinder, or
2) Get a locksmith to come out and try to repair the lock.
I have not enjoyed walking everywhere and bumming rides from friends, so yesterday I scheduled an appointment for a locksmith to come out and take a look at my motorcycle.
This morning, I get a call from the receptionist: she is very sorry, but as it turns out, the locksmith doesn't work on motorcycles. Hmm. Wish I had known that when I first set up the appointment!
I call pretty much every locksmith in the OKC area, and they all say the same thing: they won't break open a motorcycle's lock. One of the mechanics I talk to comments that this is because they're afraid of accidentally helping someone steal a bike. Doesn't exactly help my situation here.
Well, I said I wanted to learn how to work on my own bike. Be careful what you wish for, and all that.
Step 1: Figure out how to remove the console covering up the ignition cylinder. Youtube, and even the faithful Clymer KLR 650 manual, are uncharacteristically silent on this mysterious process, perhaps taking it for granted that a neophyte like myself knows how to do this. It takes quite a bit of finesse and finagling of wrenches and rachets, but I finally get the cylinder out.
Step 2: This is where it gets interesting: I need to figure out how to get the actual cylinder out of the housing. There aren't any guides out there specifically for a KlR 650 lock cylinder, so hopefully these pictures will help someone out who finds themselves in a similar situation as I was.
With the cylinder off, you'll notice that on the mount for the cylinder on the bike are a series of metal bumps. On the cylinder itself, a rotating piece with more metal bumps should come off easily along with a spring. When you turn the key, you're aligning the metal bumps on both pieces and completing the circuit, allowing the battery to turn on the bike. Set these loose pieces off to the side.
With the casing and cylinder detached from the bike, it should look like this on the inside:
Take out the screws, and pull out the plate they hold in place.
The center piece with the nub can now be removed, allowing you a tantalizing view into the actual locking mechanism. These are the actual guts of the lock, and what we'll need to remove in order to troubleshoot the problem.
This is where it got a little tricky for me. Take a look at the tiny brass nob sticking out, highlighted below in red (though still hard to see in the photo). That knob is preventing the lock cylinder from sliding out of the front of the casing, where you stick the key in at. We need to get a small object down in there to push the knob out of the way.
I used a small screwdriver. You'll notice that one side of the knob is beveled or rounded; start on that side and slide the screwdriver around the circumference of the cylinder to force the knob inside it. It helped to use the fingers of my left hand (or whatever hand is holding the casing) to push the cylinder "up" so that the knob is closer to the lip and easier to reach.
Note: Having the key pushed all the way into the cylinder keeps the knob from retracting fully and clearing the shear line, impeding the removal of the cylinder from the casing. Keep the key out, or at the least only push it in part of the way.
Also Note: Once the cylinder is out, the tiny springs and wafers that allow the lock to function properly will be exposed. Take care not to lose these pieces or let them go flying off into oblivion!
With the knob pushed in, angle the screwdriver to keep it trapped securely inside the cylinder. Then, with whatever spare appendages you have available, push the cylinder down and straight out the front of the casing. Ta-da! Easy as a-b-c.
Now to find out what's wrong with the lock. When the key is out of the cylinder, the "wafers" stick out of the cylinder, and into the housing, thus keeping the key from turning the cylinder and making the electrical connection that turns the bike on.
When the cylinder is functioning correctly, inserting the correct key causes the wafers to line up exactly so that the shear line, or space between the housing and the cylinder, is clear and can thus rotate freely.
The way to see if your lock is functioning properly is to stick the key in the cylinder and see if any wafers stick up, thus impeding the rotation of the cylinder.
What do you know- the wafer on the far right side of the picture is sticking up, as is one at the middle of the bottom row. No wonder my cylinder wouldn't turn when I stuck the key in.
There are two fixes to this. First, you can file down the wafers while the key is inside so that they are flush with the outside diameter of the cylinder.
The second option- and this is the one I chose to do- is to simply remove the offending wafers. The lock will still function perfectly well with 4 or 5 wafers. In fact it would work fine with just 1 wafer, though that would also make it very easy to pick or force. In other words, the more wafers, the more secure the lock is. A pair of pliers will do fine. Here we see what the problem is: the far-end wafer is bent, which prevented it from re-entering the cylinder properly.
I try the key to see if that fixed the problem. Lo, the remaining wafers now line up perfectly! Success.
That's really all there is to it. After that, you have to merely put everything back together.
The hard part for me here was figuring out how to force the brass knob- the same one as before- inside the cylinder so that it will slide into the housing. The mistake I made was to keep the key fully inside the cylinder, which makes it impossible for the knob to clear the shear line and stay flush with the cylinder's outer diameter.
Instead, I pushed the key in but not all the way in. Then, you can line key up with the "off" position on the housing, and use the handle of the key to rotate the cylinder in such a way that the beveled edge of the brass knob "catches" the inside of the housing and pushes it inside the cylinder.
With the cylinder inside the housing, you can reassemble all the bits and pieces and reinstall it on your bike. Before bolting everything back in, test to make sure that you've solved the problem and put the pieces back together right by holding the cylinder onto the mount on the bike and turning the key. You know it's working when your lights come on! Congratulations on successfully repairing your KLR 650's ignition lock and saving yourself a good $100-$300!
Let me know if you have any questions, or take a peek at some of the resources I used:
Bonus: How to hotwire a motorcycle. Tried it on my KLR and I at least got the lights to come on and the engine to turn over a couple times before the wires got too hot to hold.
Stay thirsty, my friend!
Dillon Dakota Carroll
I've never been a mechanically inclined person, but always wished I was. I am envious of those that have a way with machines, engines, and mechanical components. Perhaps one of the reasons why I studied engineering was because I (mistakenly) thought it would make me a more proficient tinkerer.
When I bought my motorcycle last year, one of my goals was to learn how to work on it. It has been wonderfully interesting so far. Sometimes I wonder, though, if my old 2001 KLR 650 has been inoperable more than not. An important question, given that it's been my only motorized transportation since April.
So far, I've changed the oil (laugh if you must, it was a big win at the time), replaced the rear brake line and bled it, changed the fuses, had the cooling fan rewired, replaced the solenoid and the battery, and probably done a few other miscellaneous things to it.
Like most things, this has been a blessing and a curse: I've learned through that most effective of teachers (experience), and I have experienced quite the emotional roller coaster ride. I have the perfect example of this from this past week.
The drive chain started slipping, and upon investigation the rear sprocket was missing about half its teeth. I decided to replace the drive chain myself. It seemed like a smart move. New front and rear sprockets, plus a new chain and lube, cost about $110. I figured it would be double that, with labor, to have it replaced at the shop.
What I wasn't expecting: A 14 hour job requiring 7 helpers and 1 tow truck. But by the end of it, I had replaced the rear sprocket and the chain. The front sprocket was in good enough shape that it didn't need replacing- and thank the heavens, because the nut holding it in place wouldn't budge. After a motorcycle mechanic hit it with his impact tool, and it didn't move a bit, the mechanic told me that the only way to get the nut out would be to "burn it out". Not sure what that meant exactly, but it sounded invasive to say the least. I decided to hold off on that operation.
What took so long, you ask? Everything.
First, I had to assemble my motorcycle lift. It took me a shameful amount of time to figure out how it worked and went together, which I'll shamelessly blame on the terrible instructions that came with the lift.
There was probably an hour or so after that of trying, and failing, to get the front sprocket off.
We could, however, replace the rear sprocket- success here!
Until we tried to move the bike.
The motorcycle won't budge. And the bike is literally stuck 3 feet in front of the front door of autozone, right on the sidewalk. The wheels are stuck like a tick. At this point, it is 11pm, so we call it a night. I show up the next morning at 7:30am when autozone opens to explain myself. Turns out, we left out a spacer on the axle when we put the rear wheel back on.
I reinstall the spacer, but the brake pads now scrub on the brake disc. I decide not to worry about it until I get the rest of the drive chain replaced. The bike shop about 3 miles away offered to zap the nut on the front sprocket off with an impact tool if I can get the bike up there. We know how that turns out.
There is of course a complication in getting to the bike shop: the old chain is worn out enough that it slips off when the motorcycle rolls. I mistakenly think that I can't replace the drive chain with the new one I bought without removing the front sprocket. It's actually really easy to change with the front sprocket still on- embarrassingly easy. Live and learn. But after another 30 minutes of trying to remove the sprocket myself, and hitching a ride with my roommate to the bike shop to talk to them in person (thanks, Matt!) I give up and call a tow truck. Thankfully, tows are covered by my insurance policy! Along the way, I get some colorful commentary from Larry, the tow-truck driver. Let me tell you, I've never had a dull ride in a tow truck. I lost count of how many red lights we ran en-route to the mechanic.
Anyway, we know how this story ends: I get to the bike shop, and they can't do anything to help. So I walk my bike 30 feet away under the shade of an oak tree to try and replace the chain through trial and error, with the front sprocket still on.
Sometimes, you just have to trust yourself to figure it out. I get the new chain on, and I disassemble the rear brake caliper. Both work great. I roll away, and am amazed at how smooth my ride feels.
Looking back, it seems like the part in The Alchemist when the Englishman travels all the way to the Sahara desert to meet (go figure) the Alchemist. He wants the Alchemist to teach him how to make the Philosopher's Stone. The Alchemist asks him if he's tried, even once, to make it himself. He hasn't. Guess what the Alchemist tells him to go do?
There's something fantastically empowering about knowing you can take at least part of your bike apart, troubleshoot it, repair it, put it back together, and have it work better than it did before. You feel like you know your bike, like you've developed a special rapport with it. Like she's your accomplice, in on a secret that only the two of you know. All the rest of that day, I was riding on cloud nine.
The next morning, I went out to ride my motorcycle to the gym. I strap my gym bag down to the back, toss my leg over, stick the key in and... nothing. The key physically won't turn the cylinder.
This one, I'm outsourcing. The locksmith is coming today at 2pm.
I haven't been totally scared away though- my next project? Changing the tires! My current pair are street tires, and are almost bald. I will be replacing them with new 50/50 tires so that I can enjoy my bike more off-road! We'll see how it goes. Until then,
Dillon Dakota Carroll
...sees much and knows much