Thursday, December 11, 2008

105,930 miles

Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy in the distance - Patagonia, Argentina

Santa Rosa, CA (BMW parts purchased at Marin BMW/Marin Moto)

Replace rear axle outer seal (self-service)

1 ea. Shaft seal #33117679862 $18.45

Tax: $1.52
Total: $19.97

Seal last replaced at 74,800 miles.

(Seal is extracted by drilling small holes into the seal at points diametrically opposed to one another, inserting screws into these holes, then using pliers to pull on both screws simultaneously, drawing the seal out. Not having a proper seal-driving tool, I placed the new seal in position and laid the old seal over it and used that as a driver to gently move the new seal into position. It seemed to work fine!)

Replace rear brake pads (self-service)

1 st. EBC brake pads #FA363HH $38.95 (purchased at Northbay Motorsport)

Tax: $3.12
Total: $42.07

Last replaced at 91,904 miles. 14,000 miles from this last set of (BMW) pads.

Service (self-service)

1 ea. Air filter #13717672552 $24.45
4 ea. Spark plugs #12127671301 $69.80
1 ea. Oil filter #11427673541 $17.75
2 ea. Valve cover inner gasket #11127673087 $14.90
2 ea. Hex head valve cover gasket #11127673086 $56.90

Tax: $15.16
Total: $198.96

4 qt. Castrol GTX 20W50 oil $15.96 (from Kragen Auto Parts)

Tax: $1.28
Total: $17.14

Total parts and supplies: $278.14

Comment: The prices on BMW parts represent a greater than 50% increase from those paid just 15 months ago. This is insane!

The labor charge at Marin BMW is now $102 per hour. This leaves little option but to perform as much of the service on my own as possible. BMW needs a reality check - their price inflation cannot continue unchecked, especially considering the current economy.

Friday, December 05, 2008

105,765 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Rear axle outer seal is failing

This seal failed at around 37,000 and 74,000 miles. I guess it's time for it to fail again.

After noting the oil leakage at 105,200 miles (November 18th), I cleaned the bike and watched for further sign of leakage, but none was noted until today, and this is clearly around the rear axle seal. I checked the rear drive oil level, and found it high (opening the plug, the oil squirted out, as if under pressure.) It may have been over-filled at the last service. Could that result in the seal leakage/failure? I also noted the oil is very dark - almost like old engine oil. This cannot be good! (This oil was supposedly changed at 97,596 miles.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

105,200 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Gear oil leaking from driveshaft housing

Substantial leakage noted after 1,500-mile ride to Las Vegas and back. (Rear wheel rim and tire splattered with oil, small puddle on rim after sitting overnight.) Suspect transmission output shaft seal has failed. Topped up transmission with 4 oz. of gear oil. (Source could possibly be final drive seal, but lowered transmission oil level seems to indicate otherwise.)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

102,900 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Change front brake pads (self-service)

Replaced the "EBC" pads with the used BMW ("Brembo") pads replaced at 101,294 miles. After adding the anti-squeal rubberized washers, I began experiencing front brakes "grabbing" or "shuddering" (as if the rotors were warped.)

The "HH"-rated "EBC" pads (recommended by a fellow rider on have a higher friction rating than the "Brembo" pads (rated "FF".)

Replacing the EBCs with the BMW pads has eliminated the grabbing. And the squealing has also been eliminated.

So, it seems a $20 washer kit (which should be a $1 washer kit!) has eliminated the brake squealing, where in the past, new discs and new brake pads have been mistakenly advised as the solution.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

102,744 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Install front brake "anti-squeal" kit (self-service)

10 ea. #34 11 7 697 387 Rubberized thrust washers (D=8.5mm) $9.53
10 ea. #34 11 7 682 434 Rubberized thrust washers (D=13.7mm) $9.53

Tax: $1.48
Total: $20.54

This kit and installation should have been covered under BMW Service Information Bulletin #34 007 05 (037) dated June 2005

Despite my repeated complaints of brake squeal, no service technicians have ever mentioned this solution to me. And the local dealer would not cover parts and installation under warranty. A minor expense, but very disappointing.

A test ride after installation produced no brake squealing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Question from a reader

A blog reader wrote to me today:
I'm considering purchasing a 2008 R1200GS but after reviewing your blog I'm having second thoughts. Do you think BMW has made a serious attempt at addressing the issue of reliability with their product? Are you aware of fixes in the later models which addressed mechanical problems incurred during your trip?
I have often received similar inquiries, so I thought I'd post my response:
If I had the cash, I don't think I'd hesitate to buy a 2008 R1200GS.

But it depends upon what you will be doing with your motorcycle.

I've done roughly 5% of the mileage (>5,000 miles) off-pavement. That's hard on a big, heavy bike, and you pay for it (driveline, brakes, struts, wheels, tires, and repairs from falls.) If you're going to ride North American or European highways, it's a blast. If you're going to ride the Pan American to South America, it's great. But if you intend to do much of your riding where there are no roads, it's going to take a toll on your wallet, I think. Consider something smaller and lighter.

BMW has addressed a number of the problems encountered on early models. (But if you've seen "Long Way Down", 2 of 3 new GSs in the film blew out their rear struts in the first leg of their trans-Africa trip. And they weren't even heavily-loaded - they had support vehicles carrying gear. So they still have "issues" to work on!)

The bike can take abuse, but every machine has its limits.

All that said, I love riding it, and can't imagine riding anything else. (And it's my only vehicle, so I'm "stuck" with it!)
Note: in the comments below, reader "Sunny" corrects the record:
It should be said though that they changed the standard rear suspension to Öhlins. It were the ölins that broke, when they changed them back to the standard ones, everything went fine.
Thanks, Sunny.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

101,375 miles

Northbay Motorsport, Santa Rosa, CA

Replace rear tire

1 ea. Rear tire, Metzeler Tourance 150/70VR17 $152.00 ($140.89 at

Mounting and balancing: $18.00
Tax: $12.32

Total: $184.32

Old tire had 13,000 miles - probably about 1,000 miles longer than when I should have changed it out.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

101,294 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Replace front brake pads (self-service)

2 sets (4 pads) Front brake pads, EBC #FA335HH $99.90

Tax: $7.99
Total: $107.89

In attempt to eliminate brake squealing that has been growing steadily worse over the past 50k miles or so, I'm trying EBC pads instead of the stock Brembo pads. I have read of others who have found the EBC pads less prone to squealing. It's worth a try. (The Brembo pads I'm replacing still have plenty of life left on them.)

On several occasions, mechanics have identified the cause as "warped rotors". Now, I think they were mistaken. I think only the set of front rotors replaced at 18,192 miles was actually warped (characterized by a "pulsing" or "grabbing" sensation.)

If this doesn't reduce or eliminate the problem, I'll probably look at replacing rotors and/or calipers. (Wheel trueness does not seem to be the problem, since the squealing is about the same whether I'm running the cast wheel or the spoked wheel.) Applying lithium grease or "brake quiet" to the backing plates eliminates the squealing for only a very short time - maybe 15 minutes of around-town riding.


Tonight, I came across a discussion on Adventure Rider that mentions a June 2005 BMW Service Information Bulletin - #34 007 05 (037) which, "in the event of a customer complaining of front wheel squeal" calls for changing out the brake disc mounting hardware and installing an "anti-squeal kit", which includes rubberized thrust washers. (See:

Jeez! All this time complaining about brake squeal and no shop has ever suggested this fix!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

101,055 miles

Santa Rosa BMW

Replace clutch plate and transmission input shaft seal

Leaking seal caused gear oil contamination of new clutch plate. All work was done under warranty. (This is the fourth clutch plate for this bike. Two were contaminated by oil seal leaks.)

1 ea. Clutch Plate #21-21-7-697-737 $0.00
1 ea. Seal #23-12-7-705-086 $0.00

Total cost: $6.00 (for a loaner R1200R!)

Thanks to Dennis Gonzales, owner of Santa Rosa BMW for the extraordinary customer care!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

100,950 miles

Windsor, CA

Transmission input shaft seal leak

Problem identified by mechanics at Santa Rosa BMW today. Will pull transmission and repair next week.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Review of the First 100k Miles

Tail of the Dragon

Over and above normal maintenance and service items, and apart from any damage caused by accidents, I've had to replace the components listed below. (I include brake components, since this machine seems to eat them up. As I write this, my front brake discs and rear brake pads are again in need of replacement.)

The list is surprising, considering I'm a fairly conservative rider, have rarely taken the bike over 90 mph, avoid hard braking and, unlike Charley Boorman on all his GS adventures, I've never done wheelies with this bike. I intend to hold on to it a long time (if I can afford it!)

New, the bike cost $18,610, including panniers and top box. The "extraordinary" costs below, if paid out-of-pocket (a number of them were covered by warranty), would run another $15,000 - 80% of the cost of the new bike. (Parts, labor and tax rates vary widely, however based upon my first-hand experience, this is a fairly reasonable estimate.)

I think it's time for another "conversation" with BMW of North America. What I would like to ask them: "is this considered normal 'wear and tear'?" If so, you might want to budget a bit higher when considering the purchase of a new BMW R1200GS (and check if the new "extended warranties" cover the following items.)

Brake disc, front (6)
Brake disc, rear (3)(1 probably replaced unnecessarily)
Brake pads, front (3 sets, 12 pads)
Brake pads, rear (6 sets, 12 pads)
Charcoal canister
Clutch assembly (2)
Clutch cable
Drive shaft
Drive shaft boots
Fuel pump regulator (fuel pump electronics)(2)
Fuel gauge (replaced fuel pump assembly)
Seal, clutch input shaft
Seal, rear axle, inner
Seal, rear axle, outer (2)
Seal, speedometer pick-up
Seal, transmission, rear
Speedometer (replaced instrument cluster)
Splash guard rear (2)(Did not replace after 2nd one broke)
Spring strut, front
Spring strut, rear
Top box (inadequate fastening system)

I see on-line that many GS owners have complained of corrosion, especially of the front engine (or alternator) cover. Some had the cover replaced under warranty. I noted this very early on, but simply considered it cosmetic and have never bothered.

I'm (now) told that problems are common with any new design. The Germans refer to the new model gremlins as kinderkrankenheiten.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

100,000 miles

Las Vegas, Nevada

Transmission leaking oil

For several days, I had been smelling gear oil burning, but could not locate the source. I now find the transmission housing is leaking a significant amount of oil where it mates to the engine housing. The leakage is underneath the bike, dripping onto the skid plate, and onto the front of the catalytic converter - which is causing the burning smell.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

99,185 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Brake lamp failure - burned out

1 ea. Brake lamp #3216922114 (from stock) $0.00

Friday, June 06, 2008

98,053 miles

Santa Rosa BMW, Windsor CA

Replace transmission

Returned to Santa Rosa BMW to have the transmission oil leak repaired. In the process of inspecting it, the owner said that they would pull it out and replace it. He found another used transmission in his stock. He said it had no issues.

All work was performed at no charge, and a loaner (2008 F800S) provided. And again, there was no charge for the transmission.

The transmission has been installed and is operating perfectly. (What a remarkable difference! No "clunking" shifts, no mis-shifts, and no oil leaks!)

Now, the machine is operating beautifully. Time to travel!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

98,000 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Transmission faulty, leaking oil

Persistent, but inconsistent failure to up-shift from 1st to 2nd gear. Transmission often sticks in the neutral position. Sometimes succeeds in shifting after several attempts, sometimes requires downshifting to 1st before again trying to shift to 2nd.

This was the transmission installed a little over two weeks ago, a "used" transmission that had been changed out under warranty. The reported defect was an oil leak, which they said proved to be false.

Since I paid nothing for the transmission, only the cost of installation, I have decided to "work with it" and try and adjust my own "programming" to compensate for and adjust to this "challenge".

The options are to install a new transmission ($3,299.44), search for a used transmission and take a chance on that, dismantle this transmission and try to diagnose the issue (unlikely to be a cost-saving undertaking, according to the BMW shop owner) or to work with it "as is". I told the owner that I can't see throwing away a transmission that only had 1,000 miles on it. (Not consistent with my environmental side!) I want to see how many miles I can get out of this thing.

The primary oil leak, apparently from the potentiometer housing, should be repaired in the coming days.

Friday, May 16, 2008

97,596 miles

Santa Rosa BMW, Windsor, CA

Replace transmission, clutch assembly and clutch Bowden cable

1 ea. Transmission Assembly (used) N/C (new transmission: $3,259.44)
1 ea. Clutch Plate #21-21-7-697-737 $160.50
1 ea. Coupling #21-21-7-704-866 $151.85
1 ea. Clutch Bowden Cable #21-52-7-675-102 $120.50
1 ea. Potentiometer #23-00-7-698-580 $145.50*
1 ea. O-Ring #33-11-7-695-218 $3.50
1 ea. Gasket Ring #33-33-7-699-630 $31.99
1 ea. Rubber Boot #33-17-7-685-052 $48.50
1 ea. Rubber Boot #33-17-7-685-599 $42.50**
1 ea. Mineral Oil #07-51-0-398-494 $4.98

Labor: $522.00

Mechanic's notes: Replaced clutch assembly, found input shaft and clutch plate splines sheared. Installed a used transmission at no charge. Will sometimes show a false neutral due to not replacing potentiometer. Replaced the clutch cable.

My note: In first day of use, some difficulty with transmission: while in motion, shifting from 1st to 2nd, transmission wants to lock in on neutral. May take two or three attempts to reach 2nd. "Hopefully" it just needs some breaking in. (Transmission has about 1,000 miles on it.)

Replace driveshaft

1 ea. Driveshaft #26-11-7-665-803 $548.00

Mechanic's note: Drive shaft is worn, needs to be replaced.

Labor: $00.00

Replace starter (Bendix gear not retracting)

1 ea. Starter 12-41-2-306-140 $350.50

Mechanic's note: Replaced the worn out starter with a new starter.

Labor: $00.00

Replace speedometer pick-up seal

1 ea. Shaft (Speedo Pick Up) Seal #33-11-7-679-864 $22.50

Mechanic's note: Speedo pick up seal is worn, and needs to be replaced. Final drive seal does not have to be replaced.

Labor: $261.00

Inspect front brakes (brakes squealing at stops)

Labor: $43.50

Mechanic's note: Installed brake compound on the pads. Test rode the bike, there is no longer a brake squeal.

My note: after ten miles, brake squeal returned.

Oil service (6,000-mile)

1 ea. Oil filter #11-42-7-673-541 $15.95
4 qt. 20W/50 engine oil $34.00
1.4 qt. Gear oil 80W90 GL-5 $13.86
4 ea. Crush gaskets $3.96

Mechanic's note: Changed engine oil and filter, transmission and final drive fluid.

Labor: $43.50
Tax: $131.65

Total: $2,700.24

* Potentiometer was billed, but not replaced. I declined refund, as transmission was installed at no charge.

** Rear driveshaft boot was billed, but not replaced. Refunded later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

97,596 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Clutch or drive shaft failure?

Loud screeching sound and complete loss of power to the rear wheel while riding on the freeway. Pushed bike home - four miles.

(Also I now see that drive shaft replacement instructions are completely absent from my BMW R1200GS Service Manual disc. Gotta love it.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

97,000 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

(Inner) rear axle seal leaking?

Monday, March 03, 2008

96,021 miles

Santa Rosa, CA

Headlamp low-beam failure

1 ea. Head lamp, H7L 12V55W #63-21-7-160-781 (from stock) $0.00