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fixing leaking head gasket?


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I recently purchased a '96 R1100RT with 22,400 miles. I just replaced the tires, which were wearing very abnormally. The dealer informed me that the head gasket was also leaking oil.


Why do tires on BMW's wear so abnormally? Mine had cupping, but every used bike on the dealer floor has odd wear.


How hard is it to change the head gasket? Is this a reasonable task for a do-it-yourselfer? Would you recommend changing both while I'm at it? How frequently do these go bad?


I must admit I am slightly frustrated by this bike. I expected an extrememly reliable bike, as I have found with their cars. However, these bikes seem very maintenance intensive with 6k mile valve adjustments, surging problems, and so on. I have 4 bikes, including a Harley and 2 Hondas, so this ongoing maintenance is unfamiliar territory!


Thank you for any input you can give me.

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Well, James,

You managed to cover just about every cliche in one post. A whole bunch of myths as well.


As to tires, to take your questions as they came, most of the time its cause the owners don't bother to check tire pressure and run them too low. Some brands/models are more prone to cupping than others. Rider technique has more than a bit to do with it as well.


Head gaskets, Yes. Mostly. No need. Rarely.


6 K mile inspection, mine haven't needed any adjustment in the last 18K. Does yours surge? Or did you just read about it? Would you recognize surge if it jumped up and bit you in the a$$?


Why not just ride the bike awhile. The head gasket leak thing, if its not blowing combustion gases out into the atmosphere or puddling oil under the bike, might just be a cosmetic thing, with a bit of weep. Handled with some brake cleaner prior to washing. Change/repair at your leisure.


To date, with 30+ years of ownership of various models and at least 200K on oil heads alone, I would say they are no more or less reliable than any other bike. One of the things relating to BMW's that few seem to take into account, is that these bikes are ridden quite a bit more, on average, than other brands. Also, boards like this one tend to bring more of a spotlight to problems than good running. Most folks don't make many posts about, "rode my bike another 5K miles this month, no problems." Although that could describe most of my months in the last couple of years. My '04 GS Adventure broke down twice in the last year. Rear drive (1) and transmission (2), other than that, 61K miles in two years and 4 months, oil and tires and filters. R1100S in the same time frame, 38K miles, no issues.


Your bike has some pretty low miles on it for its age. That might indicate it has been sitting awhile and needs to be ridden. Also, why didn't you have the dealer fix it before taking delivery? Seems foolish to me. It was near a major service inspection anyway. I would have had it done.

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Thank you for the comments Ed.


Mine definitely has a surge. I noticed it on the test drive, but it is not bad enough for me to consider it detrimental to my enjoyment of the bike.


I have done searches on here and see that air pressure is the greatest contributor to the cupping. I will definitely monitor my pressures closely and see how these Pilot Roads handle.


I realize these forums put problems in the spotlight, while few people talk about the positives. I bought a BMW primarily for the ABS technology, which is sorely lacking on Harley. It is great at eating up the miles, I just hope the problems cease soon.


FWIW, I didn't know about the head gasket leak...the dealer had thoroughly cleaned and detailed the bike, as well as a brake bleed before I saw the bike. The dealer would have fixed it had I noticed it prior to the 30 day warranty expiring.


So much for buying at stealers huh!

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I have heard of re-torquing the headbolts to help with a slight leak.Might try it. dopeslap.gif A cheap way out, I mean a less expensive way out. thumbsup.gif

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Great tip, I'll give it a try. Thanks!


Any thoughts on applying high-temp silicone sealant around the outside of the head where the gasket is leaking???

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Many of the 96 RTs had problems with leaking head gaskets,they had several revisions on the gaskets before they got it right.The only real cure is to replace it or if its not leaking much just ride it and wash it often. thumbsup.gif

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You might want to make sure it's not just the valve cover gasket weeping a little. These will leak some if not seated properly after service.



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