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Spline lube.... What is it? Do I need to do it????


cali_beemer

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Okay, new to working on my own bike as I have always had work done by the dealers and to be honest, my beemers have never had problems. My question is what is all this stuff I am seeing about Spline lubes on the clutch? How do you tell if you need one and when you do it, what is it that you do in order to perform this task? Does it help preserve the clutch. I know that is one of the weak areas to this bike. I have a 97 RT with 13,000 miles that I just bought. Everything on the clutch is working fine for right now but I dont want to wait until something fails on me.

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Hey Cali, first off, welcome to the board, please fill out your bio as we are finicky about who we talk to. {Disclaimer} I'm no mechanic and someone with tons more knowledge will surely chime in. As old as the bike is I say yes, do the spline lube/inspection. With the bike sitting idle for that many years surely it could use a good going over before highway use.

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Yes ...do it. And don't use any old grease either. You need to use a 60% moly grease. Easiest stuff to get is Honda's "Moly 60". Nearly everyone who greases their splines uses the stuff. A small $15 cartridge of the stuff lasts years.

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First sign that you need a clutch spline inspection/lube is that gear shifting tends to hang up and not shift when you want a lower gear. If it shifts up and down with the normal klick-klick (or klonk-klonk grin.gif) you don't have a immediate problem. Still, servicing it is a good idea.

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A bit more discriptive...

 

There are three sets of splines in the drive line of the R bikes. A set between the engine and the transmission that the clutch plate slides on, a set between the transmission and the drive shaft that the shaft slides on, and a set between the drive shaft and final drive that the FD also slides on as the suspension of the bike moves up and down.

 

They all can (and should) be periodically lubed, but the set that has been occasionally known to fail is the first set, that transfers power from the engine to the tranny via the clutch pack. The spines themselves are machined into the input shaft of the transmission. The mating set is part of the clutch plate.

 

On some bikes this set of splines has sheared off resulting in an expensive repair to replace the input shaft of the transmission. And of course the clutch plate too.

 

There is some anecdotal evidence that lubing this set of splines periodically, say every 25K miles/km, or some where around there, can help prevent a failure. It is a significant job as to fully inspect and lube the splines you have to remove the transmission.

 

The other two sets of splines can also be lubricated, but failure of them is virtually unheard of.

 

The root cause of the issue is subject to much speculation, from alignment issues, to the nature of the power pulses of a boxer, to the metallurgy of the parts and the make/break contact that is occurring across the splines with every power pulse.

 

BMW has never officially acknowledge the issue, nor recommends lubrication as a necessary.

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BMW has never officially acknowledge the issue, nor recommends lubrication as a necessary.

But interestingly enough, they DO recommend greasing the clutch spined yearly, on the old K100/K75 bikes.

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thanks, can anyone tell me how to perform this. Winter might just be the right time of the year to do this. I will fill my bio in soon.

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They all can (and should) be periodically lubed, but the set that has been occasionally known to fail is the first set, that transfers power from the engine to the tranny via the clutch pack. . . .

There is some anecdotal evidence that lubing this set of splines periodically, say every 25K miles/km, or some where around there, can help prevent a failure.

 

Just a few points of disagreement:

 

- You would not believe it from reading this DB, but spline failures on Oilheads are rare.

 

- There is anecdotal evidence (that's an oxymoron) that clutch spline failures tend to be clustered in certain model years, suggesting that the risk in other model years (like 1997) is even lower than average.

 

- There is anecdotal evidence that specific bikes are prone to clutch spline failure - bikes that have one clutch spline failure, especially at low mileage, often have repeated failures, even after replacement of the failed parts, which suggests an engine-transmission alignment issue on some bikes.

 

- There are Oilheads that go hundreds of thousands of miles without spline lubes. There are Oilheads that go 15,000 miles and shear off the clutch splines. You have no way of telling which one you have unless (a) it fails or (b) you take it apart.

 

- Doing a spline lube is expensive if you have a dealer do it and requires a fair degree of mechanical skill and capability if you do it.

 

- It's not clear if pre-emptive spline lubing has a positive effect in preventing spline failures, or if it simply provides an opportunity to observe the condition of the splines and to replace them before failure. Spline failures are too rare and too random for anybody to be able to know that "my splines failed because I didn't lube them" or "my splines didn't fail because I lubed them". I can show you a clutch spline that was never lubed for 70,000 miles that looks perfectly fine, and you can find pictures here of splines that went out at 20,000 miles. What does that prove about your bike? Nothing.

 

- Nobody here will advise you to pre-emptively replace the u-joints in your bike's driveshaft, but I anecdotally know of nearly as many u-joint failures as spline failures. And a u-joint failure can be as expensive as a spline failure, and much more dangerous - I know of multiple people who've had the rear wheel lock up at highway speed.

 

My own opinion? I wouldn't worry. 1997 bikes aren't among those prone to the failure. Unless the bike was stored on the beach and would be subject to excessive corrosion of the splines (in which case the splines aren't your only worry), chances of a spline failure are small.

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thanks dave, I appreciate your nsight to this. The mechanical skill to perform the work is not too big of an issue. I am a mechanical engineer and I know my way around a wrench. What would people recomend that I do as preventative maintanance on my bike besides the obvios of changing fluids? I would like to make sure my bike is in tip top shape before the summer riding season. I would rather sacrafice some down time during the rain than in the sunshine. smile.gif

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You can remove the starter & look critically into the clutch area and see if there is any debris around the spline area. You might also be able to see how much tangential clearance there is in the spline. If only there was a way we could use a needle to inject lube into the spline at this point......

 

Minnesota MechEngr

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My 97 R1100RT received its first Spline lube at 72k miles. There was no evidence of wear, so I cleaned it, applied grease and put it back together. Don't get excited until at least 50k miles IMHO.

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If only there was a way we could use a needle to inject lube into the spline at this point......

 

Minnesota MechEngr

wave.gif

 

I did my Splinal Tap a few 10's of thousands of miles ago, but I'm still on the original clutch (119,000 miles) and I haven't had to have it apart yet to look and see how far the lube got. Richard was going to do his and then take it apart to check it, but then he bought his K-GT . . . . crazy.gif

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100k miles...2 clutches 2 spline lubes..

 

Splines still look perfect...definately worth doing!

 

Come on over I'll help ya...just ask anybody whos been around here for a while!!! lmao.gif

 

Really, just do it..it's a lot of work but it will make you bike last longer and you will learn A LOT....

 

Good luck!

 

Cameron

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Ted's Spline Lube DVD is a good resource for a couple bucks that shows how to do the lube, here. Coupled with the BMW manual, that's all you need.

 

In my case 3K miles after my downshifts started binding, I had a failure, (at 31K miles). The repair is in progress.

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But then EB and I never agree about much of anything! Good thing there aren't any "politics" discussions here any more! wink.gifgrin.gif

You two may not agree on much, (maybe), but taken together your posts offer great insight and balance....critical to n00b like me.... thumbsup.gif

...End highjack.....

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FWIW--I own a 96 1100RT with 126k miles. Never lubed splines, original clutch, final drive, universals, tranny, etc. Shifts are as good as most bikes by BMW. I use it 95% long distance touring 2 up, 5% town. Mostly gas staion to gas station (minimum clutch usage) Just religious fluid changes hopefully keep me going.

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This "spinal tap" thing...is it a partial spline lube, and how is it done?

Sorry, I missed this. I actually humorously dubbed it a SPLINAL Tap (after one of my favorite movies thumbsup.gif ), and it is a way to try to put some lube on the splines without taking 6 hours stink-bugging the bike. Do a search under my user name with Splinal (open the date to go back a few years to catch it) and you should see at least one thread with some good discussions. I've got to swing by the used medical supply place again for someone else here who asked me for a source for the needles and if you're interested I'll see if they have any more.

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Ryan,

I'm 100% with Eebie on this issue. If you have an alignment problem, your spline lubes will NOT make the clutch splines last any longer. If you do NOT have an alignment problem, lubing the splines is a pretty worthless exercise but you WILL find any related problems sooner. smile.gif

 

Mick

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And I'm living proof of what Eebie and Mick have to say. I did the first spline lube on both of my RT's after 70,000 miles. No wear, no spline problems found on either bike.

 

It wasn't totally repair free though. I decided that the clutch disc on the '96 R1100RT was about 2/3 worn and replaced all the clutch parts. Both bikes also got new final drive pivot bearings.

 

While I don't regret doing it, no problems were found, nor did either bike shift better afterward. I did feel better about the long term life expectancy of the bikes.

 

Stan

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And I'm living proof of what Eebie and Mick have to say. I did the first spline lube on both of my RT's after 70,000 miles. No wear, no spline problems found on either bike.
Same here. I'm also pretty much convinced now that the earlier belief in the need for spline lubes was actually a misdiagnosis of the (as-yet undiscovered) alignment problem. The fact that spline failures seem to be concentrated within a certain range of production dates and the large number of high-mileage bikes found with dry, rusty splines with no significant wear would bear this out. Spline lubes can't hurt, might improve shift quality a bit, and if nothing else contribute to peace of mind but in reality I don't think that they will insure against spline failure, nor will lack of the service necessary contribute to it.
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Hmmmmm, I noticed that my 2003 was shifting a bit hard as though something was dragging. This was back around 90,000 miles or so (all on the original clutch and whatever stock lube came on the splines). After the splinal tap I noticed an improvement in shifting and now I'm not aware of the problem I noticed earlier at all. It may be that I'm so used to it that I just don't notice it anymore, or the moly may have actually worked its way into the splines and stayed there--solving my problem. I have almost 120,000 miles still on all the original parts now (including clutch) so I think it's safe to say that I don't have an alignment problem. That said, I'm also no longer aware of any shifting issues since the splinal tap, but I can't be 100% sure of the reason. I remember someone posting awhile back (who had a major alignment issue) that lubing the splines would buy additional time before failure, but as he maintained his alignment was so bad, it never prevented it--just delayed it. This would follow to me, as dry metal rubbing out of alignment would fret and wear the splines faster than moly-lubed metal that allowed more sliding and less abrasion.

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