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An Adventure in Firsts: '83 XS650 Heritage Special Build/Rebuild

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by MarieKaramazov, Oct 20, 2020.

  1. Greetings!
    New owner of a 1983 XS650 Heritage Special. First time owning a vintage bike, first time builder, first time with most things motorcycle maintenance, modifications, and mechanics. I've been reading and learning as much as I can. I still have quite the learning curve and am quite overwhelmed as time is a factor, but I'm also quite determined and excited and have been trying to make a build happen for a long time, so here we go.
    Big picture note: this bike will be my daily rider. I have a car about 50% of the time until January, and after that, it's just me and the bike. Point being, I need to front load the repairs and modifications that will have the bike down the longest and the things that will be major repairs and/or impact daily rideability so I have transportation by January. Or that's the hope. Having it rideable as much as possible right now is certainly desired as well so my life can happen. I know this is a vintage bike and I know I will be tinkering down the line, which is fine.
    I'm working in a small space on the side of my apartment building that a neighbor is letting me use, but I often have to put everything away by end of night and light isn't great, so looking into renting a DIY station at a garage--which will be great for tool access too.

    Quite the information download coming...


    Known repair needs:
    --Clutch pushrod seal leak (been discussing it in this thread) (purchasing new seal, rod, and bushing tonight) (update: just kidding, I'm just going to purchase the seal; it looks like Im only finding a solid rod in stock on Mikes XS and partzilla doesn't have the one spec'd in manual; I was just buying in case they showed wear I had them on hand. I also don't see the bushing anywhere in parts diagram)
    --inconsistent hanging idle (discussed in same thread above) (may just need more riding and adjustment; I'd like to get the leak and charging situation sorted first so I can ride reliably to assess this well)
    --Charging system or battery problem (see below)
    --Risers have some play
    --Fork seal starting to leak on left side
    --Clutch is starting to slip slightly in high RPM
    --Replace seals on oil drain plugs
    --Squeaking on front wheel
    --retorque acorn nuts on engine front

    To address:
    --Rust: fair amount on swingarm and rear brake rod (both will attract a magnet easily so seems like it's just surface rust)
    --Working my way through this list as I can (Still need to address timing, compression, swing arm bushing assessment, and carbs--the only one that gives me reason at the moment that it needs attention are the carbs. PO said he cleaned them right before I purchased)
    --clutch is stiff, but operating fine, may just be the nature of the beast but I'd like to get it a bit smoother down the line
    --very slight weep at base of left cylinder (I believe a head retorque was recommended)
    --may want to replace intake boots--looking worn
    --Cable running to stator/rotor looks slightly worn/tearing
    --getting squeak from front wheel; I thought it was brakes but I just moved the bike (no brakes) and heard it.

    --New spark plugs
    --New tires (Avon speedmaster/saftey mileage)
    --Maintenance/safety checks: chain is good, front brake pads @ 85%, brake fluid level good, throttle good, don't see any rust in tank--but didn't empty...
    --cleaned inside LH crank case and under engine

    Maintenance needed:
    --Check rear brake condition
    --oil change & filter clean
    --some other basic maintenance

    Some background: The short story of the bike condition is that the PO claimed to have maintained it well generally, but then it was sitting for about a year (stored covered in a garage). He cleaned the carbs a day or two, he says, before I purchased the bike. It's certainly not in barn find condition, and seemed to be relatively well cared for. Said battery was new. Front tire was 40 years old and back was somethign like 11. I don't think it was sitting that long, I actually think he was just joyriding it occasionally and figured tires were fine as they still had tread and weren't cracked.

    When I had the tires changed last weekend, the shop did a basic safety check before the mechanic test rode it. The items that "passed" the safety check were: drive chain, sprockets, front brake fluid, front brake pads (85% life), clutch cable, clutch operation, headlight/brake/turn lights, rear shock and throttle operation. He was the one who identified a leak starting on left fork seal, slipping clutch slightly at high RPM, and some play in risers. He also noted that the charging system was problematic (12.5V @idle, 12.4V @5k RPM), but my results differed...

    About the charging system/battery: It used to start okay, but then it seemed to only be on the second start it'd go, then maybe 3rd with throttle. Electric start--I hear it trying but no final turn over. Then eventually I could only get it started with the kick, same next day. Then as of Thursday, it was nothing either way, and no headlight action--charged battery between attempts. Then, I changed the spark plugs; condition was fine but they're old. Bike started up. I don't think this is just a spark plug issue though. (Side note, I noticed the spark plug caps don't snap on the way they did with the last plugs, even though I have the exact specified ones to get--this doesn't really matter as long as they're covering plug and stay put right?) Battery didn't seem to hold a charge as long as it should either, even when bike wasn't being used. PO said battery was new (but who knows if he actually kept it on a tender--I doubt it); I believe it's gel, but it's def not OG acid batt.
    I read this reference in tech forum (from @gggGary thank you) and watched some videos. Judging from the mechanic's readings, it sounded like a charging issue, so stator or rotor from my understanding, or just a bad battery. However, I charged the battery fully and I got a multimeter and tested it, and my results differed:
    --13.4V @ idle (DC setting on multimeter) (went down to 13.06 after idling longer)
    --14+ V @ 3k RPM
    That made it seem like it was charging, and volts aren't off the chart so didn't think it was regulator. So I rode it for 5min or so and retested.
    --13V with bike off. (12.9 about 30min-1 hour later)
    --12.6-9V @ idle
    --13.4V @4k RPM

    Also, did get some magnetic attraction against alternator with a wrench. Headlight does go on, and light does surge with throttle. I went to test the rotor rings, but I couldn't seem to get a clear reading, and I think it may have been me or my meter. I put it on OHM setting, went to test the resistance in the leads themselves (which I'd deduct from ring reading) but didn't even get a consistent # for the resistance in leads. Tried checking ring to earth hoping for a 1 reading (continuity setting on meter), and #s were all over the place... So I'm not sure what the error was there, but judging from the volt readings and headlight, it seems like I AM charging. So for now my guess is the battery. I noticed that if I have the battery off the charge for an evening and don't even use it, tender reads it as being below 80% already.
    Any recommendations for new battery types/brands? I definitely would like to stay away from acid. (Down the line, I'm considering switching to a batteryless/capacitor set up with just kickstart, but for now I think I should just make sure the basics are running so I can ride, I can do rest down the line). I was going to check alternator brushes, but, well, I didn't see what I thought I'd be looking for when I pulled the stator off, so need to look at those diagrams again I think.
    Oh! also, I saw that this cable is partially eroded. I actually wonder if that was my fault when I was cleaning in there with mineral spirits... I don't remember seeing it before... It's not at the point where I see inner wiring, but it looks quasi melted/torn, perhaps this is the culprit?

    (cable leads here, bottom of the two is one worn near sprocket )

    Also, perhaps it was just me but it looked like there was some kind of hardened liquid painted on rotor and even in stator (though that one seemed like it belonged there to keep wrapped wires together). Maybe it's supposed to be there but the other rotors I saw pictures of didn't have that same color on them--and I don't think it's just sediment. (they aren't the best pics of it but see thumbnails for now)

    I added pictures of some of the things noted as thumbnails below.

    I think that's all for now. I'll post about the build/modification plans tomorrow, burnt out. But short version is it's going to be a weird bobber meets brat meets somethign else. Rigid back fender with struts, small low profile solo seat, thinking 2-1 short exhaust (though I saw one or two people say the 650 isn't a fan of short exhaust), get rid of any excess weight wherever possible (possibly convert to kickstart only, need to figure out how I want to make space by air filter area), low straight across bars (higher than drag bars but lower than most tracker bars, looking for no angle back), cleaned up bars and cables (just speedo, tach, and hopefully single switches for any other electrics)... More tomorrow. I posted a pic of the sketch I did for the build I was planning for my last bike ('15 SR400) before an accident took its life. The build will be similar, but not identical.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
    Scripto VU, MaxPete, Boog and 5 others like this.
  2. Downeaster

    Downeaster Everything in XS Top Contributor

    Wow! That's what I call a First Post! :cheers::D

    Couple of points:

    1. By "risers" I assume you mean handlebar risers? If so, they're rubber mounted (there's a nasty rumor about that XS650's vibrate...) and they're supposed to have a little play.

    2. Given the charging issues, I'd certainly recommend having a closer look at that wiring harness from the alternator. It may have rubbed on the edge of the chain case and worn through the insulation. An intermittent short is a distinct possibility, and if it IS shorting, may have taken out the regulator.

    3. Probably a good idea to retorque everything, top and bottom. Look up the torque specs AND the pattern. Randomly tightening this and that WILL warp things and likely result in worse leakage, not better. Best way (possibly only way) is to remove the engine. I've never tried a full re-torque in-frame.

    As you may have discovered, this is THE place for XS650 information and advice.
  3. 5twins

    5twins XS650 Guru Top Contributor

    Well, it seems you are charging after all, but maybe not very consistently. Your slip rings on your rotor look pretty dirty. You should clean them. That might improve the charging output consistency. The carbon brushes rub on the slip rings and it's normal for them to rub off and stain the rings black. But as the rings get dirtier and dirtier, eventually you can start losing good contact between them and the brushes. That can mess with the charging output, causing it to drop or making it erratic like yours. Cleaning is pretty easy, you can just "polish" them clean with a bit of chrome cleaner on a rag. Here's mine with the outer ring cleaned, the inner not done yet .....


    ..... and with both rings done .....


    Wipe the rings down after polishing with some electrical contact cleaner to remove any polish residue.
  4. Thanks for the input, Downeaster. 1. The mechanic is the one who mentioned the risers after riding it; I assumed he meant the bars as well. I did notice that when I come to a stop that there's a bit more wobbling there--feels more than your standard vibration--coming front center of bars so I wonder if that's what he was referring to. 2. Agreed. Going to switch out the battery and then see if I'm having more issues but will poke around there as time allows. 3. Thank you for mentioning the pattern! I wasn't aware of that until I read someone say somethign about it in passing. So to be clear, you're thinking if I do a cylinder head retorque, for example, I need to retorque anything that has a specified torque, or just anything in top end? I don't really have the capability or space to do an engine removal at this point... I'll look into service manual and see what it says about patterns.
  5. Downeaster

    Downeaster Everything in XS Top Contributor

    You should be able to re-torque the head with the engine in place, and yes, use the correct pattern and torque to spec for the size of the fastener.

    On the bottom end, if those acorn nuts are REALLY loose you can snug them up but I wouldn't try to torque them without doing the rest of the bottom.

    Have a closer look at the handlebars and risers. The bars shouldn't move in the clamps, but the risers may move a little in relation to the top triple clamp.
  6. Jim

    Jim Beyond the edge is the unknown. Here be Dragons XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    That rotor has been rewound. Trust me, I'm an expert. :rolleyes: I've rewound a few rotors that were previously rewound. Some were well done, some were downright amateurish. Hopefully that one's OK... can't really tell from the pics. Judging from your readings, I'd tend to agree that it's prolly the battery. Like 5twins said, clean the rings and see if that makes it more stable. I'd suggest you start keeping an eye out on Ebay for some NOS brushes. You'll eventually need 'em... and the aftermarkets ain't that good from what I've read.
    This article is about top end buildups, but if you scroll down to the bottom of comment #3, you'll find the torque values and pattern for the head. Pay special attention to what I wrote about dry vs. lube torque. You can access all the fasteners for the head while still in the frame. Just do one fastener at a time.

    EDIT: After pondering this for a few minutes, I can't really think of a reason why you'd need to follow the pattern when you're just doing one at a time. The pattern you follow is just so it's evenly torqued without bending or breaking anything as it's being tightened down. Since it's already tightened down, that doesn't really apply.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
  7. 650Skull

    650Skull SSSSSSSSSlither Top Contributor

    If the torque is loose and a re-torque is more than the book recommends, (as is the consensus on here), then shouldn't the torque sequence be used..........even if for a good habit to get into and learn from...........
    MaxPete, gggGary and Jim like this.
  8. xjwmx

    xjwmx It's just the unknown. Top Contributor

    If all the bolts were backed off by some amount except for one bolt, would you tighten them following the pattern? That's the situation you have as soon as you re-torque the first bolt.
  9. Jim

    Jim Beyond the edge is the unknown. Here be Dragons XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    Not sure about the consensus, but my recommendation is for less than the book torque... for the reasons I explained in the link. The torque pattern (star) is used so the force is spread evenly across the head. Loosening 1 fastener won't change that load distribution except... at that fastener. Tighten it back up and you're back to an even distribution.

    Consider the last stud in a normal buildup... 7 are torqued, 1 is not. How is that any different than loosening one and leaving 7 tight? It's not.... it's the same thing.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
    MaxPete and Raymond like this.
  10. 650Skull

    650Skull SSSSSSSSSlither Top Contributor

    I understand the use of torque sequences......always do it on every flat to flat surface.

    This thread shows that when the nuts are re-torqued there is a difference to the finished position of the tightened nut..........Your the aircraft mechanic so who am i to argue, or say your wrong............just my :twocents:

    Jim and MarieKaramazov like this.
  11. Jim

    Jim Beyond the edge is the unknown. Here be Dragons XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    Over the years... miles... revs.. whatever, the studs stretch slightly. The gaskets compact slightly over time. It only stands to reason that the nut will have to turn slightly more to compensate. That's kinda the reason we're doin' the re-torque.
    I've made my share of oops'. You... or anyone else is more than entitled to question me. :)
  12. 650Skull

    650Skull SSSSSSSSSlither Top Contributor

    Theoretically if a head has been torqued, through the cycles properly, it should never have to be done again..............also seems, part of the reason the head needs to be re-torqued is the type of nut Yamaha used..............also, as mentioned in the link i posted, a possibility is they weren't torqued properly from the factory......who knows.......personally i think it could have something to do with bikes sitting for years without use..........no factual evidence for that, it just seems to be more of a problem with bikes that need to be woken up..........then again you never hear from the owners who have regularly ridden their bikes for years on end...........

    I do know my 83 had 43,000 klm's on the clock and the head never leaked
    GLJ likes this.
  13. Machine

    Machine Race the wind Top Contributor

    I can see your bike going this direction :rolleyes:
    Full rear fender on your want list? With those fish tail muffs that would be quite unique.
    On the head retorque, does your head gasket show a leak ? If so use a sequence around the leak which will best squish the head gasket right there. Worked for me once ;)
    MarieKaramazov likes this.
  14. Raymond

    Raymond XS650 rider & fettler XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    You can check/torque all the head bolts with the engine in situ but you need to remove the head steady brackets?
    MaxPete and Jim like this.
  15. (Quick starting update: Went for it this afternoon thinking there'd be no issue to start since it'd been on tender for almost two full days and I needed things to clean rotor etc. Electric start wouldn't turn over again. Again, I could hear it trying, but wouldn't turn, nothing. After some pausing and the 4th try or so failing, I went for the kickstart. No start or turn over but I got one hell of a pop sound! Very loud and higher pitched than backfires I've heard before (not on this bike). About 5-10minutes later, figured I'd give it another go, maybe I'd flooded it before or something. Then it starts. (He's just messing with me now.) Rode for about 15 minutes (city/stop start condition, max 45). Ran fine except at some stops the idle and sound go pretty low a few times (wants to drop below 1k), almost hinting at wanting to cut out--which could be the possible carb/tuning issue too, or electric. So brought the bike back; didn't want to get stranded and I was curious as to whether it would start again or if I just got "lucky." (I also started wondering about other causes...) Anyway, it started every single time on the electric start after that. 7 times, cooled for 20-30m minutes before the last two. Anyhow, still going to order a new battery--I had a rough shape battery on my last bike and, while it was an EFI bike, I saw it do some really weird things beyond cutting out and making an erratic idle; so I'm just going with replacing this one.
    Side note...I know I mentioned that the bike started up last time I couldn't get it to when I switched the plugs. That said, the spark plug wires/caps don't "snap" onto these spark plugs like they did the last ones; ends of spark plugs themselves look different though same brand... Snapping on aside, I'm wondering if putting in new plugs helped get it started that last time (when old plugs were wiped out+weak battery), but then we're still having problems because the wires are bad... Just a thought. (I can feel a slight magnetic pull still from wire cap to plug end; cap gets quite hot when running though.)

    I was going to share which battery I bought, but I haven't been able to pull the trigger. Between reading up on lithium v gel v agm...And then there's just maybe I just skip this step and go right to capacitor/teeny tiny batt and kick setup. I'm fried. I feel like it's wise to run a battery for now so I can have it running and work on other things rather than biting off the kick only conversion while I'm still sorting these other problems. Don't have money to throw around on nice batteries that aren't my end game though. Going to look up the specifics on how to be sure which battery will be compatible with my set up and then just make a choice I think for the smallest and gets the job done, low maintenance and decent cost.

    Going to clean rotor and retest--buying cleaning things tomorrow, possibly another meter seeing as I can't get one I got to give me a stable OHM reading even amongst the leads themselves. Among other things tomorrow.

    Thanks for torque info everyone. Will get into that task probably end of weekend/next week. Scanned at your charging for dummies breakdown @Jim , so far that page is awesome and fascinating, thank you! Excited to get deeper into this.

    After the battery and leak are solved, and hopefully idle is manageable so I can run near errands, going to slow down a bit and do more reading and researching for a week or so I have a good foundation for next steps and so I can do a complete assessment so I'm not putting bandaids on a head wound I'm not aware of. Sorry for the blow by blow thinking here a bit, thinking out loud a bit.

    @Machine yeah, thinking full semi-circle fender on rear, struts to swingarm, tight and low. May remove front fender entirely for this build, especially since if I want struts on front I'm going to have to refigure the caliper--if that's even an option. I do think the fish tail muffs are going to go...I feel like it should be long and simple muffler, or short enough so you can see as much space as possible between back wheel and frame/engine.
    No leak from head gasket as far as I know yet.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
    Jim likes this.
  16. 650Skull

    650Skull SSSSSSSSSlither Top Contributor

    Some one else will be able to confirm/deny what i am saying..............I don't think the factory TCI ignition will work with a cap small battery...........Usually a cap is reserved for a PMA set up and to do that on your bike it will also need a new Ignition system...........
    Team Junk, MarieKaramazov and Jim like this.
  17. Machine

    Machine Race the wind Top Contributor

    Dang , your description reminded me of this good looker! IDK if you've seen this one?
    Cool to hear that you are considering using that kicker! Kick starting these XS's is part of the enjoyment. And a good health habit for your bike too if your kicker is still in good working order. My kickerknee was bout destroyed years ago, rebuilt and eternal trouble but I'd never give up kicking up my own XS
    Boog, MarieKaramazov, thuban and 4 others like this.
  18. Jim

    Jim Beyond the edge is the unknown. Here be Dragons XS650.com Supporter Top Contributor

    Yeah, the TCI is first generation electronic iggy... so it likes a fairly stable power source. I've no first hand knowledge, but I'm pretty sure it won't work with a capacitor.
    MarieKaramazov likes this.
  19. 5twins

    5twins XS650 Guru Top Contributor

    Your spark plugs come with what's called a "terminal nut" screwed on the top. Spark plug caps come in two versions. Some fit on this terminal nut, others fit the threaded stud underneath it. Looking at the pics of your bike, it appears you still have the original spark plug caps. They would be the type made to fit on the threaded stud after the nut is removed .....



    The nut is usually screwed on tight so grab a pair of pliers, break it loose, and remove it. Then your cap will snap on the plug just like it used to with the old plugs.
  20. 5twins

    5twins XS650 Guru Top Contributor

    Your hard starting issue could be related to your ill-fitting and loose plug caps. You might be intermittently losing the connection, and hence, spark on that cylinder.

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