A tale of all the work we had to do on the bikes during the trip so far.
We try to fix problems on our own, before turning to experts for help.
We are not experienced motorcycle tinkers. But we tried to prepare the bikes by ourselves before embarking on the trip and thus get to know them a little. We’re constantly learning and of course already managed to do one or another newbie mistake. But we’re determined to never make the same ones twice. 🙂
We rely on:
- the workshop manual for the DR-Z400 by Clymer (good explanations and good quality photos of all the important parts and steps)
- the thumpertalk DR-Z forum, where many common problems have already been covered by countless other DR-Z riders
- the facebook group ‘DRZ400 Owners’, where we got useful help within a few hours after posting about an urgent problem
- and lastly on exchanges with other motorcyclists on the road. Everyone we have met, had some tips and tricks to pass on, which came in handy months later
If we find the time we will also post a list of all the tools and spares we carry. The selection has been expanding ever since we started running into some of the more serious troubles you can expect once you’re on the road for a while.
Our experience with mechanics in South America is mixed. There are some guys who really know their job and take good care of the bike, but many just do sloppy work and you’d be well advised to check any job done on your bike. We still can’t believe how many loose or even missing screws we detected after someone else laid hands on our bikes. Try to be around when someone is working on your bike, and check everything again after the work is done. And insist on correction if you’re not happy. After all it’s your life that depends on a well-maintained motorbike, not the mechanic’s.
Some of the “problems” might not seem significant to you, like loosing a screw. But for us, this often meant spending a whole day, often more, walking or riding, being sent criss-crossing a city (sometimes several) from one shop to another in search for the item we needed. That’s why we also mention the smaller troubles. 😉 You just can’t carry spares to ALL the screws on your bike.
May it be of help to anyone planning a longer trip on a DR-Z 400, and maybe other bikes too.
maintenance (to keep the bike happy)
minor troubleshooting (annoying, but doesn’t leave you stranded)
major troubleshooting (showstoppers)
|Trip km||LBB km||FYH km||What happened?||What did we do?||Country|
|~400||~7’527||chain guard mounting screw lost||screw replaced||CHL|
|~500||~8’027||horn stopped working||bought replacement, but problem solved itself, probably bad contacts||CHL|
|2’321||9’448||rear break light didn’t turn off anymore||greased the connection point between brake pedal and brake light switch||CHL|
|3’426||9’605||10’551||regular maintenance||engine oil change (by mechanic)
|3’426||10’551||drive chain starts to wear||changed front sprocket (from 14 to 15 teeth)||CHL|
|5’123||11’302||a fall shortens the break lever||now I too have one of those fancy short levers, yay!||CHL|
|5’261||11’440||worn rear tire||new rear tire (Cheng Shin Cross)||CHL|
|5’261||11’440||chain guard broke||temporary fix with zip ties||CHL|
|7’437||13’616||worn drive chain||installed new drive chain (Yaban (Chinese))||CHL|
|7’778||13’957||chain roll disappeared||caused by a too loose drive chain?||CHL|
|7’778||13’957||1st puncture, rear tire (wire)||fixed with cold patch, re-did the whole job after realising that the wire punched both walls of the tube multiple times||ARG|
|8’927||16’073||worn drive chain||installed new drive chain (Yaban (Chinese))||ARG|
|9’126||15’305||16’270||regular maintenance||engine oil change (incl. oil filter)
|9’751||15’930||16’900||worn rear tires (Cheng Shin after 4’500km; Heidenau K60 after 12’000km)||mounted new ones (Mitas E-07)||ARG|
|9’751||15’930||worn front tire||mounted new one (Pirelli MT60)||ARG|
|9’751||15’930||drive chain was losing a pin||fixed failing link with new clip master link||ARG|
|11’006||17’185||rear rack broke (probably too much vibration under heavy load)||brought the rack to a welder who did a marvelous and quick job||ARG|
|11’371||17’550||2nd puncture, rear tire (screw)||fixed with cold patch||ARG|
|11’962||18’141||chain roll still missing||finally found and mounted a new chain roll||ARG|
|11’962||18’141||19’377||rear shocks need adjustment to higher load from luggage||adjusted spring pre-load||ARG|
|12’142||18’321||drive chain broke at full speed||installed new drive chain (D.I.D 520V)||ARG|
|12’160||18’339||3rd puncture, rear tire (nail)||fixed with cold patch||ARG|
|12’529||18’708||4th puncture, rear tire (patch didn’t hold in the heat), subsequently the valve was ripped off||replaced beyond-repair 18″ heavy duty tube, with a regular 21″ spare tube (works fine)||ARG|
|~13’470||~20’885||chain guard broke (a common DR-Z problem??)||temporary fix with zip ties and a piece of wood||CHL|
|15’123||21’128||22’364||regular maintenance||engine oil change
|15’223||21’228||22’464||air filter dusty||cleaned preventively for the high altitudes in Bolivia, with fuel and engine oil due to lack of proper K&N cleaning kit||CHL|
|~15’345||~21’350||5th puncture, rear tire (thorn)||replaced 21″ tube, which we fitted during the last puncture and were to lazy to replace until now, with new 18″ tube||BOL|
|16’031||22’210||chain guard broke||a welder reinforced the thin metal plate and bolted it to the plastic part||BOL|
|~16’314||~22’493||lost screw between hand guard and bar||found replacement in a shop selling exclusively screws||BOL|
|18’255||25’706||slowly leaking rear shock (had been a problem for a while)||brought in for service > oil seal was replaced||BOL|
|18’255||25’706||maintenance||air filter cleaned and cables lubed by mechanic (unsolicited)||BOL|
|19’198||26’492||extremely worn drive chain and sprockets||exchanged for a complete new set, chain baought in Chile (D.I.D 520XV), sprockets ordered from Germany||BOL|
|19’579||25’758||a fall broke the clutch lever||still rideable 😉||BOL|
|19’781||25’960||rubber part of the chain roll disappeared again, WTF?||maybe it’s not the drive chain that’s too loose, but the constant proximity of the chain to the chain roll due to the installed lowering links? not fixed for the moment||BOL|
|27’921||21’742||close to 40°C and no coolant in the expansion tank||checked coolant level and topped it up with 1dl of boiled water (closest we could comet o distilled water)||PAR|
|27’921||21’742||since coming down from the Bolivian Altiplano the engine started increased backfiring||cleaned air filter with K&N cleansing set||PAR|
|22’147||28’326||backfiring on deceleration increased to embarassing levels, usually when slowing down before a police checkpoint||exchanged exhausts in hopes of detecting and fixing an air leak. No leak found but the backfiring stoped (and did not appear in the other bike either)||PAR|
|22’210||28’389||29’543||regular maintenance||engine oil change (incl. filter)
|23’581||29’760||complete loss of power when just starting to accelerate to enter the highway; towed the bike 10 km to the next town||changed fuel to better grade, changed spark plug, inspected carburetor and finally found the signal coil on the stator at fault > new core and rewinding of stator coils solved the problem||BRA|
|23’591||30’953||the frame’s mounting bracket for the rear rack broke (again, combination of vibrations and heavy load)||welded by specialised Aluminium welder||BRA|
|24’357||31’705||worn front tire after 27’000km (Heidenau K60)||mounted new tire
|27’956||33’383||worn drive chain, detected missing clip to the master link (so lucky we saw it in time!)||shortened drive chain by one link while also replacing master link (I know it’s not the smartest thing to do, but I wanted to squeeze out the sprockets’ last drop of life)||BRA|
|28’445||33’872||35’770||regular maintenance||engine oil change (15W50 semisynthetic)||BRA|
|29’659||35’086||rear subframe broke in three places||found a skilled Aluminium welder in São Luis||BRA|
|29’987||35’414||after washing the bike to prepare for several maintenance jobs, it suddenly stopped running.
When checking the spark plug for moisture, we found the spark plug hole filled with water and sand!
|blew out the hole in hopes to remove the sand while the sun did his job to dry the water
we cut out a small rubber apron to shield the hole from future mishaps
|29’987||35’414||37’330||worn rear tires after 20’500km (!!)
|mounted new ones (Metzeler Enduro 3)
When we replaced FYH’s tire, we found a broken nail stuck in the tube – without doing any harm (yet). So that’s our half puncture 😉 and we learned why it’s still a good idea to use heavy duty tubes, even though they couldn’t prevent LBB’s many many flat tires…
|29’987||35’414||worn drive chain and sprockets||exchanged complete set (D.I.D 520V)||BRA|
|30’006||35’433||37’330||both rear racks broke||welded at the same time as LBBs subframe||BRA|
|30’584||36’011||6th puncture, rear tire (tube had several folds, one ripped open)||after being fitted to 130/80 tire, the tube must have expanded and been too large for the new 120/80 tire
mounted a new tube
|30’584||36’011||37’931||when getting off the boat after 5 days on the Amazon, both bikes run 20m before stalling and refusing to start again||fuel levels were quite low, so we refilled the tanks and then drained the carburetor. When turning the fuel back on, it did not flow into the carburetor and we figured the float valve must be stuck. Hammering gently on the carburetor body with the handle of a screwdriver for a while miraculously solved the problem. Thanks to Christoph for this valuable tip back in Bolivia!||BRA|
|30’840||36’267||pressure in the front tire fell repeatedly during one day of riding. rattling the valve released more air.
Eventually I got a flat tire (no.7): the valve stem popped (not ripped) out of the tube
|mounted a new tube||BRA|
|30’840||36’267||while fixing the flat, we decided to change the tire too, even though there was still some life in it. (Pirelli MT60, 20’500km)
We were preparing for some serious mud sections on the notorious BR 319 through the Amazon region.
|mounted new tire (Metzeler Enduro 3)||BRA|
|30’919||36’346||rear subframe broke again, along the welded lines||temporary fix with old tube and spannners||BRA|
|30’919||36’346||after several mud baths the starter, horn, light switch and the head light flasher stopped working and the kill switch refused to release||cleaned all contacts with water and a copper brush||BRA|
|31’504||38’836||rear break pads reached their end of life||fitted new break pads from the spares||BRA|
|32’032||39’364||arriving at the hotel we discover that the bike is covered in oil and still leaking oil from the crank case||Checking behind the sprocket guard we found the counter shaft nut completely loose. The spacer behind the sprocket slid out, causing the leakage.
This nut coming loose, is a known problem of DR-Zs and happened to both our bikes several times before (the reason we purchased our own 30mm spanner socket), but never combined with an oil leak. As the nut was stripped we purchased a similar nut and adjusted it with the help of a lathe operator. When installing the new nut, we applied some loctite to the counter shaft splines (as advocated on thumpertalk)
|33’171||38’598||8th puncture, front tire (bad quality tube had a manufacturing error which caused the hole)||because I wasn’t careful enough with the levers the tube got ripped close to the valve, which was not repairable. So we fitted a new tube.||PER|
|33’171||38’598||worn front break pads||fitted new break pads from the spares||PER|
|35’179||40’606||42’425||regular maintenance||engine oil change (15W50 semisynthetic)||PER|
|35’541||40’968||master link broke while riding!
The drive chain ate the chain guard, fortunately no further damage
|fitted a new master link||PER|
|37’344||44’577||worn front break pads||fitted new break pads from the spares||ECU|
|37’344||42’771||worn rear break pads||fitted new break pads from the spares||ECU|
|38’100||43’527||45’196||worn rear tires after 8’000km (Metzeler Enduro 3)||mounted new ones (Heidenau K60), which we had been carrying since Lima (Peru)||ECU|
|38’100||43’527||45’196||FYHs rear rack broke again in two places and LBBs rear subframe is broken since the Brazilian amazon||welded both the frame (aluminium) and the rack||ECU|
|38’100||43’527||constant vibrations caused the foldable mirrors to droop||a screw through the joint fixes the issue||ECU|
|39’470||46’504||1st puncture (9th in total), rear tire (nail)||fixed multiple holes with two cold patches||ECU|
|40’146||45’573||47’194||measured valve clearance – some were too small||exchanged 3 shims on each bike (both ex. and right int.)||COL|
|40’146||45’573||47’194||checked cam chain tensioner – LBB had no clicks left, FYH 3 clicks (=limit)||replaced cam chains||COL|
|40’146||45’573||47’194||we had to drain coolant and engine oil to access the cam chains||replaced coolant and engine oil (15W50 semisynthetic)||COL|
|43’426||48’853||worn drive chain (D.I.D. 520V)||exchanged drive chain (D.I.D 520XV)||COL|
|44’001||53’064||chain guard broken||welded||COL|
|44’001||49’428||9th puncture (10th in total), rear tire (total flat over night after loosing air for 3’500km)||fixed multiple holes with two cold patches||COL|
|44’386||49’813||since Ecuador LBBs battery has problems charging||in search of the problem we installed a new battery – but we quickly realised the battery was not causing the problem||COL|
|44’984||50’411||10th puncture (11th in total), rear tire (patched tear increased)||mounted a new tube||COL|
|45’341||50’768||52’383||regular maintenance||engine oil change (15W50 semisynthetic), incl. filter||COL|
|46’157||51’584||53’194||checked valve clearance – everything ok! 🙂||nothing to adjust||COS|
|46’157||53’194||while checking the valve clearance we found a small piece of metal on the engine cover; turns out FYHs front sprocket lost almost all its teeth
we also found the clip to the master link of the drive chain to be missing
|replaced front sprocket and clip||COS|
|46’609||52’036||LBBs battery supplies too little power for the headlight (caused by a faulty stator, see below) making riding in the dark a dangerous adventure||installed an auxiliary LED headlight until the stator can be fixed||COS|
|47’224||52’651||worn rear tire after 9’000km (Heidenau K60)||mounted new one (Pirelli MT60), which we had been carrying since Cartagena (Colombia)||COS|
|47’503||52’930||LBB had to work hard on the steep gravel hills of Cost Rica.
The coolant expanded so much it flooded the expansion tank, leading to considerable loss of coolant and rapid overheating of the engine.
|topped up with aprox. 4dl of coolant||COS|
|47’552||54’589||2nd puncture (12th in total), rear tire||fixed hole with cold patch||COS|
|47’921||53’348||since 2 months LBB has probems to charge the battery.
We traced the fault to a fried stator coil and once the problem became too severe (no e-starter, no light, no turn signals, no horn, …) it had to be addressed
|exchanged the stator with a new one from a Suzuki GN250
the original wires including the pick-up coil had to be attached/soldered to the new stator
|47’921||54’958||several times we detected a loose clip on the drive chain, it’s time to fix the issue||replaced clip-type with a rivet-type master link||COS|
|48’400||53’827||drive chain broke at the master link while riding, probably the clip fell off||replaced with a new DID X-ring clip link||NIC|
|48’845||54’272||54’272||worn front tires (LBB: Metzeler Enduro 3 after 18’000km, FYH: Mitas E07 after 24’000km) and one rear tire (FYH: Heidenau K60 after 11’000km)||mounted new ones (Pirelli MT60, Metzeler Enduro 3), which we had been carrying since Cartagena (Colombia)||NIC|
|48’853||54’280||speedometer stopped working, upon closer inspection we found that the speedometer cable must have broken||nothing so far…time to practice speed intuition skills||NIC|
|Trip km||LBB km||FYH km||What happened?||What did we do?||Country|