Another ride, another … problem


Parked up on the Mogollon Rim:

Another ride, another (small) problem. Will it ever end with this bike? I thought as it was happening. What happened? you ask. Well …

Sunday, I rode the 2009 BMW F650GS. It was the first ride since the gas tank was replaced. Hal was on his red 1997 R1100RS, and we had planned to ride to Payson, then ride to the Rim and do a short photo shoot, and ride home. Hal was going out of town on Monday on a business trip and he didn’t want to be out all day.

After breakfast, while on the road climbing up to the Mogollon Rim, all of a sudden I was getting sprayed with fluid from behind the windscreen of the bike! I immediately pulled over. I checked the temperature gauge, and it was sitting right in the middle, as it always does. At the side of the road, which wasn’t very wide, the coolant stopped erupting the minute I shut the engine off.

At first, I thought that the coolant overflow tank had cracked, and that was where the liquid was coming from. But nothing was leaking from under the right side fairing, which is where the tank is.

“Let’s get the bike to the rest stop at the top,” said Hal with concern. “We’re almost up anyway.”

“Okay,” I said, knowing that I would have to pull over on an even steeper part of the grade if the bike continued to lose fluid, or worse yet, overheat. I started up the engine, everything seemed fine, and we got underway. It was literally only about two miles to the top, the temperature gauge didn’t go up, and we turned into the rest stop as soon as we got there. We found a parking spot, and then began the tedious chore of taking all the little screws out of the right side fairing to be able to move it out of the way so we could thoroughly inspect the radiator and overflow tank.

Hal taking things apart. You can easily see the white overflow tank:

After we were able to move the bodywork out of the way, we inspected the plastic coolant recovery tank first. No cracks. In fact, it looked reasonably new. However, the screw-on lid didn’t have a thin overflow hose on it, just a little hole. (I later found out that this is normal.) We had to take things apart further in order to check the fluid level lines, which, illogically, were on the back of the tank. It was overfilled, higher than the “high” line. I was fairly sure that was the problem, because if it was almost full after shooting a lot of liquid out already, there was no place else for the excess liquid to go except out of the hole in the top.

Inspecting under the fairing:

Hal and I checked all the hoses. They were all pliable and not leaking. The clamps were all on tightly. The only place there was anything wet was at the top of that recovery tank. I didn’t have anything to use to extract any more fluid from it, and since it was all attached, I couldn’t turn it upside down. I was pretty sure it was going to be okay. So, we put the bike back together.

While I was standing there in the parking lot, I noticed this little guy on the ground. Too bad he was squashed, he was pretty! (No, I didn’t squash him!):

By this time, we had used up the time we would have had to shoot photos at Willow Spring Lake. We settled for shooting a few at the rest stop, and the view from the top of the Rim was spectacular. Rain showers seemed to be building up to the west and south, and I hoped we would be rained on during the ride home. It was too hot for me to be comfortable already, and the cool rain would be nice.

Reluctant to return to the heat, we slowly rode down Hwy. 260 off the Rim; I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge again. It never moved off the halfway point, just as it had always done on the F800ST. It’s the same engine, and I expected the same behavior. We fueled up in Payson, then as we left town, we rode through wet areas on the road. It was 73° F., overcast, and rainy as we left Payson. I knew it wouldn’t last, so I tried to drink in the fantastic coolness of the air to remember later. By the time we got to Rye, it was back up to about 96°. We had gained over 20° of heat in about five miles. That part was awful.

It didn’t get any better. By the time we got south of the Sunflower, AZ turns, it was about 106° with blasting sun. It went up to 107° shortly thereafter and then stayed there for the 40+ miles home. During the ride, I kept my eye on the temperature gauge, but it didn’t move. The closer I got to home, the more confident I felt that we would make it without incident, and that I had been right in my diagnosis.

I wished for my mesh jacket as I rode. Last year, wearing a cool vest beneath a textile jacket worked, but I didn’t count on the bigger windscreen that we had just installed on the ’09 GS. It didn’t allow for as much airflow. As we entered the neighborhood, I said, “good girl!” to my GS because she had gotten me home without further problems. By the time I got home, I was overheated myself, and ready to peel off my riding clothes and jump into the pool!

All things considered, it was a good riding day. Not great, but at least I’d gotten to escape the heat for a little while. None of these problems I’ve had with this bike have been the fault of the bike, but a result of being neglected for so long. I hope we are done with the problems now, though, because I would like to feel confident that this bike is reliable, which is a big reason why I ride BMWs!

Monday morning tear-down in the garage. I can take more things apart at home. And Desmond is there to help me!:

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2 thoughts on “Another ride, another … problem

  1. When this happened to me, BMW attributed it to a vendor’s radiator cap but later it came to light that these cooling systems had a tendency to trap air that expands and pushes coolant past the overflow cap. They need to be “purged” carefully. Mine doused my right leg somewhere south of Peeple’s Valley.

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