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View Full Version : Ironhead 79 xlh spitting oil and won't start


kwaltz6
29th May 2012, 16:02
I recently put together a 79 xlh and took it out this past weekend for the first long ride test. I had the bike for about a month at the end of last season and rode it with minimal problems other than a small oil leak and a broken clutch cable. I rode about 400 miles on saturday with no issues, again..other than an oil leak. I did notice that the leak had become pretty significant since last year. I can't tell if it's leaking from the primary case, which I don't think it would be considering the case was pulled off and the gasket replaced before garaging it for the winter. I am afraid it's leaking from the actual engine case gasket, and it would require splitting the case to repair. So I was putting enough oil to top it off at each gas stop and I went through about a quart in 400 miles. Pretty significant leak, right? So I planned on just getting it home and taking it in to get inspected. I pulled my plugs sunday morning before taking off and noticed the front cylinder was a little more gunky than the rear, but not bad. I topped off the oil and got about 30 miles down the road before I noticed it start to feel weak. It seemed almost like it was missing, or not getting gas, probably from an oil fouled plug. I pulled off the highway and checked the oil. There was hardly any in the tank so I got some more 20w50 (which i had been using since I got it) and topped it off. I did rotate the pistons a few times to work it through the engine. I started it up and it wouldn't stay running, I got a bit of smoke coming out of the crankcase breather, that has a hose running up to my air cleaner. I tried to start it a few more times and eventually got about 1/2 a cup of oil spit out of the breather/air cleaner. Everything I have read would indicate that there was too much oil in it, but I don't understand how I could over fill it when the tank was almost empty before I topped it off. Does a lot of the oil settle in the engine when it's hot? This is probably the 1 area I'm the least knowledgeable on, so I feel like a fool. I will assume the rings are bad, which is why oil was getting up to the plugs in the first place, so I can probably assume I'm going to need to pull the heads and do a top end tune up. What seems to the be most likely damages and repairs I can expect?

Any similar stories, problems, and solutions? I've got about $1,000 to work with. Should i take it to the local indie and hope for the best, or just start looking around, and saving my pennies for another motor?

tracbike
29th May 2012, 16:13
please try and diagnose the issues before considering a drop off. Check oil lines for abrasion (hole) clean motor as best you can so you might see where oil is coming from. oil coming out that quick isn't a leak in case,,..... it might be a line.

kwaltz6
29th May 2012, 16:36
please try and diagnose the issues before considering a drop off. Check oil lines for abrasion (hole) clean motor as best you can so you might see where oil is coming from. oil coming out that quick isn't a leak in case,,..... it might be a line.

I replaced all the lines this winter, I will double check to make sure all the fittings are secure and there are no holes. It is leaking only on the primary side, opposite of pump and fittings so I don't think that's the case. I did notice that there was no rubber gasket between the solenoid and case and I was thinking it was leaking from there and running down the engine and dripping at the lowest point, but that would be clean(er) oil coming from the actual primary case housing for the transmission and clutch. The oil I am noticing is darker in color and seams to be dripping from right around the larger primary bolt on the bottom or right around the seal for the case. I'll do some diagnosis this week and see if I can identify the location of the leak. With that aside, I'm still facing an issue of the engine sputtering in the first place, so I need to figure that out first so I can get the bike running. It only seems to leak when it's running, and then all the oil that's been flung along the bottom of the engine and frame is dripping off when it's parked.

runingmouse
29th May 2012, 16:43
Well on my 79 kick only. I had a leak that I thought was coming out same area you say.

Ended up being the gasket that covers where the starter would go.

You have a starter there I think, as your profile lists xlh. But may still be a gasket there behind the starter.

tracbike
29th May 2012, 16:49
the fact that you say it leaks while running led me to believe the lines or pump issues. not leaking when parked except for residual from running is not case leaking. get it super clean and dry you will find the culprit. don't ride it when you do as it will spread it, and make it difficult. Good Luck. i'm sure it won't be that bad once you locate the issue.

kwaltz6
29th May 2012, 16:50
Well on my 79 kick only. I had a leak that I thought was coming out same area you say.

Ended up being the gasket that covers where the starter would go.

You have a starter there I think, as your profile lists xlh. But may still be a gasket there behind the starter.

I didin't think about that gasket, I did pull the starter off recently and did not replace that gasket. I will order one this week. It just seems like a lot of oil to be leaking from such a small area.

When the bike is hot, will the oil level in the tank look lower than it actually is? My tank is a custom tank and holds about 3 1/2 quarts. The manual I have says 3 quarts. I have been filling it enough to leave about 1/2 of air at the top for venting. I need to get the leak fixed, but right now that is the last of my worries. I need to figure out why it's not starting now. It puffs smoke from the breather and won't stay running more than a few seconds.

runingmouse
29th May 2012, 16:57
what I had found on mine was the PO had left a pice of the old gasket on. So even though he had a new gasket on, it went over like water on a dam. lol

Cleaned the old leftovers off, installed new - end of problem. And yes it can leak that much oil from there.

kwaltz6
29th May 2012, 17:00
what I had found on mine was the PO had left a pice of the old gasket on. So even though he had a new gasket on, it went over like water on a dam. lol

Cleaned the old leftovers off, installed new - end of problem. And yes it can leak that much oil from there.

Thanks for the info mouse! I will get a new gasket and probably drain the oil this weekend and refill it and see how that goes. I'm debating on switch from 20w50 to a straight 50 weight. If read a few claims that people have seen a benefit and less leaking with that oil, especially on the ironheads that are notorious for leaking.

John Harper
29th May 2012, 17:17
I would imagine that your tank would see a rise in oil level when hot, as the fluid would expand with rising temperature.

John

tracbike
29th May 2012, 17:32
use care in identifying that 50 weight has detergent ....as we move away from the dinosaur age...synthetic straight weights are designed for racing applications, and some do not have the detergent additives required for street operation.straight weigh is not forgiving to wide temp changes, like cold mornings and hot afternoons back to cold evenings. and complete operating temps are important when using

your 20/50 today has the standards of yesterdays straight weight.

kwaltz6
29th May 2012, 20:08
Thanks Trac for the info. I will have to do some good research in the next week or so. What do you think might have been the initial reason I was getting the weak engine? I thought it might be due to bad rings/seals in the top end and I was getting oil on the plugs, but they don't seem to be gunky when I pulled them yesterday. I probably need to pull the heads off and have a look, and get the timing perfect.

randy3934
29th May 2012, 21:57
pull the level check screw on the trans, if it filled with engine oil your engine crank sprocket seal has failed, I've seen this before.

tracbike
29th May 2012, 22:29
if you think you need a heavier viscosity Red Line has a new blend for you.20/60 I used it in the shovelhead and it did quiet the motor and no knocking when it is hot. (traffic) I also used the heavyduty shock proof oil in tranny,...shifting is now like soft butter lol
Dan Fitz (zippers) told me that it was like a fix it in a can for older shovels, he was right. I had never used it except for racing. (transmission oil) now I would not go back.

http://www.redlineoil.com/product.aspx?pid=111&pcid=13


and for the skeptics

You will notice a major difference in performace, and engine heat. do the test yourself.

http://www.redlineoil.com/news_article.aspx?id=50

Hopper
30th May 2012, 02:13
If you lost 3 quarts of oil in 30 miles, and have smoke and oil blowing out your engine breather hose, you quite possibly have some kind of catastrophic engine failure such as disintegrating piston etc that is allowing massive blow-by.

First thing I would do is a compression check. Plus look down the sparkplug holes with a flashlight and look for damage to the tops of the pistons.

What about your spark plugs and exhaust pipes now, do they have a lot of oil on the plugs and inside the ends of the pipes?

If you had leaked 3 quarts of oil in 30 miles, you would have been skating all over the road from the oil smeared all over the bike and rear tire. So it seems more likely it went out the pipes.

And +1 on check your tranny oil level to make sure the engine oil has not migrated into there - but I dont think 3 quarts is going to move there in 30 miles.

ezmerf
30th May 2012, 03:08
If it's spitting oil back into your breather it's probably fouling the plugs.They'd be wet with oil.Sounds like it maybe wet sumping.Maybe try and reset your check ball in oil pump.Google at bottom of pg resetting check ball in oil pump and read how to do this.This should fix your problem with oil going to carb.The leak U need to fine and let us know then we can tell U what to do.

ironheadjunkie
30th May 2012, 04:03
I replaced all the lines this winter, Are they routed to right fitting at your oil tank?

It is leaking only on the primary side, opposite of pump That would be about the area for you Primary Chain Adjuster Nut, and they have been known to leak in that area.

Any oil leaking around your Starter should be Primay Oil, since there is no One Way Vent Valve in the 79, and about the only way for motor oil to get into the primary area would be thru the crank sprocket seal.

Is the oil leaking around the Case Drain Plug?

kwaltz6
30th May 2012, 04:15
I replaced all the lines this winter, Are they routed to right fitting at your oil tank?

It is leaking only on the primary side, opposite of pump That would be about the area for you Primary Chain Adjuster Nut, and they have been known to leak in that area.

Any oil leaking around your Starter should be Primay Oil, since there is no One Way Vent Valve in the 79, and about the only way for motor oil to get into the primary area would be thru the crank sprocket seal.

Is the oil leaking around the Case Drain Plug?

Yea I made sure the lines are routed correctly. The primary case drain plug seems to be where I notice a drop of oil, just about ready to fall to the ground every time I look under the bike. I notice oil right around the case gasket also, but I'm not sure what is a leak and what is being flung up by moving parts. I have the bike at my fathers garage, so I'll get over there this weekend and see if I can figure out what's going on with it.

kwaltz6
30th May 2012, 04:22
If you lost 3 quarts of oil in 30 miles, and have smoke and oil blowing out your engine breather hose, you quite possibly have some kind of catastrophic engine failure such as disintegrating piston etc that is allowing massive blow-by.

First thing I would do is a compression check. Plus look down the sparkplug holes with a flashlight and look for damage to the tops of the pistons.

What about your spark plugs and exhaust pipes now, do they have a lot of oil on the plugs and inside the ends of the pipes?

If you had leaked 3 quarts of oil in 30 miles, you would have been skating all over the road from the oil smeared all over the bike and rear tire. So it seems more likely it went out the pipes.

And +1 on check your tranny oil level to make sure the engine oil has not migrated into there - but I dont think 3 quarts is going to move there in 30 miles.

It lost about a quart over 400 miles on saturday, then sunday I rode it 30-50 miles and it lost about another quart. Smoke and oil wasn't "billowing" It's just a few small puffs of smoke when I try to start the bike and maybe 1/2 cup of oil that puked out one time. I checked the plugs , the front cylinder seemed a little more gunky than the rear, but not bad or to the point where I thought it wouldn't get a spark. I did a compression test over the winter before we tore it down, got 113 in the front and 115 in the rear cylinders. I do notice quite a bit of oil deposit in the pipes and on my frame right near the pipes. Is it possible it's just burning a lot of oil? What is the biggest cause for that? If it's burning a lot, combined with a healthy leak, I could imagine I would loose quite a bit of oil riding all day?

Hopper
30th May 2012, 05:03
It lost about a quart over 400 miles on saturday, then sunday I rode it 30-50 miles and it lost about another quart. Smoke and oil wasn't "billowing" It's just a few small puffs of smoke when I try to start the bike and maybe 1/2 cup of oil that puked out one time. I checked the plugs , the front cylinder seemed a little more gunky than the rear, but not bad or to the point where I thought it wouldn't get a spark. I did a compression test over the winter before we tore it down, got 113 in the front and 115 in the rear cylinders. I do notice quite a bit of oil deposit in the pipes and on my frame right near the pipes. Is it possible it's just burning a lot of oil? What is the biggest cause for that? If it's burning a lot, combined with a healthy leak, I could imagine I would loose quite a bit of oil riding all day?

OK, anything below 120psi is in need of a top end rebuild, and would be burning a lot of oil. Did you do a top end rebuild when you tore it down?? Or what did you do?

Also, have you looked in your oil filler cap with the engine running to make sure oil is being pumped back into the tank?

78ironhead
30th May 2012, 07:37
Try a leak down test, sounds like the piston is breaking up, (loss of power, pumping oil) Or, there is gear shaft pins in the gerotor oil pumps, and the one in the oil return could have sheared and it may not be returning the oil to the oil tank, filling the crankcase with oil and leaking out where ever it can, the breather hose into the air cleaner/carburator for one. On the 79 you can pull the oil pump with engine in the frame, you don't have to time the assembled pump, so it wouldn't take much to check it, just be carefull not to break any gaskets, unless you want to change them anyway.

kwaltz6
4th June 2012, 22:33
I'm going over to my dads garage on wednesday to try and figure out what is going on with the engine. What all should I be looking for to troubleshoot? Just a quick recap: it was loosing oil bad, either from the primary case, one of the drain plugs, or (what I thought was) the actual engine case gasket. (I'll come back to that). I was topping off the oil at each fill up and used about a quart of oil in the 400 miles I put on it last weekend. Topped off the oil Sunday before I left, got a bout 30 miles down the road and felt it start dying, almost like it was not getting a spark so I thought maybe oil was getting by the rings and fouling a plug (even on the way down it was barely keeping up with my gf's cb750 around 80mph) So, plugs seemed okay, black and sooty, but not gunky and oily, but the tail pipe and frame had plenty of black soot from oil burning. I put about a quart of oil back in it, couldn't get it to start, again running hard, like it wasn't getting a spark, after about 3 attempts I got a purge of oil (about 1/8 of a quart) that came out of then crank case breather tube that is running up to my air cleaner. I tried it one more time and I could hear either the starter wheel or the cam gears, or something spinning. Couldn't get it started, and I haven't touched it since.

So, I'm going to make sure my lines are routed correctly. (if anyone can post pictures for reference please do) I have a custom oil tank so if you can just label the lines coming from the engine case and pump that would be very appreciated. I'm going to pull the plugs back out, check my timing, inspect the piston heads through the plug holes to see if there is any damage to the pistons on the cylinder walls. Probably drain all the oil and put fresh oil in. My tank is 3 1/2 quarts. Manual says my bike holds 3 quarts, so I want to make sure that means with dry engine to start off with, 3 quarts total, in engine and tank combined?? I'm just not really sure where to start. I don't know if I should just take it to a shop and have the whole thing looked over, or if this might just be something I can fix in my garage with minimal tools.

So coming back to the engine case.. I knew there was a gasket for the primary cover, and for the right side cover for the cam gears. I had always thought that there was also a engine case gasket. I thought the engine case itself split down the center, and there was a gasket in between? In the photo I'm talking about the are drawn over in red. But apparently that's not the case? I called a shop today and told them I thought I was leaking oil from the engine case gasket and wanted to know how much/ how long it would be to tear the engine down, split the case and replace the gasket. I couldn't quite understand if he said the engine case does not split, or if he just said there wasn't a gasket there. If there isn't one then I could definitely see oil leaking from that area considering how old the bike is, and hopefully means to fix that leak won't be as much of a pain as I originally though. if anyone can just chime in with some idea, where to look, maybe rule out some possibilities I would be great full.

http://s13.postimage.org/kft5cdmef/case.gif

FearlessFrisbee
4th June 2012, 22:45
There is sealant used between the engine cases. No gasket.

kwaltz6
5th June 2012, 14:13
There is sealant used between the engine cases. No gasket.

I did notice a bit of "gunk" around the seal. I talked to a buddy that had the same thing going on with his shovelhead a few years ago, sounds like they still split the case and put new sealant in?

I read through my manual last night and I think I have a few problems to look at. I replaced the air filter with a much smaller one and I think I was feeling the loss of power at higher speed because I need to put a larger main jet in. I need to check the pump and make sure I'm getting oil return to the tank and also going to check my plugs and make sure gaping is correct. Hopefully my problems are more of an inconvenience than a headache.

ironheadjunkie
5th June 2012, 17:44
So, I'm going to make sure my lines are routed correctly. (if anyone can post pictures for reference please do) I have a custom oil tank so if you can just label the lines coming from the engine case and pump that would be very appreciated. I'm going to pull the plugs back out, check my timing, inspect the piston heads through the plug holes to see if there is any damage to the pistons on the cylinder walls. Probably drain all the oil and put fresh oil in. My tank is 3 1/2 quarts. Manual says my bike holds 3 quarts, so I want to make sure that means with dry engine to start off with, 3 quarts total, in engine and tank combined?? I'm just not really sure where to start. I don't know if I should just take it to a shop and have the whole thing looked over, or if this might just be something I can fix in my garage with minimal tools.

]



Your oil pump should look like this one.

The fitting at the rear (RED) of the pump is the oil feed, should come from the bottom of your oil tank. The fitting at the front (GREEN) is the oil return, and should go to a fitting close to the top of your oil tank. At the rear of the Cam Cover should be a small fitting, this is the Vent and should go to a fitting somewhere close to the top of the oil tank.

http://i48.tinypic.com/23lxugy.jpg

72 Ironhead XLH
5th June 2012, 21:01
You would need a case failure to lose that much.
1 qt over 400 miles might be normal if you need a rebuild.I would check the primary
for way too much oil from a leaking engine seal.1/2 cup is a lot of oil from the cam chest,
as if the oil pump is not scavanging oil from the engine.Elininate the obvious causes first.
push rod corks,covers
drain plugs
oil lines chaffed
GP Gunk is your friend to find the leaks