Technical Q and A for classic motorcycle maintenance and repair.
Editor’s note: If you’re having trouble with that old Suzuki, BSA or BMW, Keith Fellenstein is your guy. From motorcycle tuning tips to detailed motorcycle engine repair, he can draw from a wealth of experience to help guide you to success. Send questions to: Keith’s Garage, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or send an e-mail with “Keith’s Garage” as the subject.
Q: I blew the clutch on my 1975 Kawasaki H1 500. It had been bad for a while. When it finally went, I couldn’t downshift and the engine lost power and died. I finally got it back into neutral and tried to restart it. There is now very little resistance felt in the kick-starter, but it doesn’t feel like it’s broken. I drained the oil and it had plenty, but it was black and smelled like burnt clutch. I pulled the spark plugs and the pistons don’t move when I kick the engine over. Could this possibly just be a blown clutch or do I have more serious problems? — Clark Connelly/via email
A: If the clutch had been getting progressively worse I would assume it finally failed. It’s unusual for one to fail so spectacularly that you can’t turn the engine over with the spark plugs removed, but I guess it’s possible. I think your next step should be to remove the clutch side cover and disassemble the clutch. If it isn’t grabbing at all the wear on the friction plates should be quite obvious. The steel plates might still be good unless they have been overheated and blued from clutch slippage. If you’re going in to inspect the friction plates, it’s probably a good idea to just replace them. They’re not that expensive and since you’re in there anyway you may as well renew them. Let us know what you find. MC