Yamaha's Advice re: Ticking


[Allan Pratt originally wrote this on March 21, 2005, after expending considerable effort figuring out how to resolve the "ticking" problem with Yamaha's assistance.]


Some small percentage of the first few model years of FJR1300s were prone to developing premature valve guide wear and making a distinctive 'ticking' sound. Distinctive, that is, if you know what to listen for. Dale (Warchild) Wilson was instrumental in first identifying this problem in the USA and getting Yamaha's attention in fixing it. There are two sound clips available (Ticking 1, Ticking 2), the second one being a bit better at reproducing the sound to listen for.

The cause is as yet still unknown. There seems to be no particular common history for the bikes which develop the problem (mileage, maintenance or lack thereof, pattern of useage, etc.). In the UK there was apparently a service bulletin issued on this subject.

Yamaha has been very good about covering the cost of fixing the problem, which in some cases was the installation of new valve guides and valves (made from different alloys than the original), and in a few cases was an entire new cyclinder head. The difficulty has been in getting the local Yamaha dealer to recognize (and identify) the problem. Allan discusses this...

Allan Pratt's Comments

I've recently succeeded in getting a 2004 Yamaha FJR1300 ticker repaired under warranty, with a dealer who was not exactly in my corner the whole time. I talked with a customer service manager at Yamaha USA in Cypress, California, and now I have some advice for all FJR owners who believe they have tickers.

The guy at Yamaha didn't want me to give his name online. He says the whole Customer Service department should be able to help you (the number appears below), and he doesn't want to be swamped with calls to him personally. If you follow the procedures outlined here and still get blown off, inbox me and I'll see if he wants to hear about it.

What follows is a combination of what Yamaha wanted me to publicize and my own opinions and experience. I hope it helps people.

First, take your bike to your dealer. Yamaha can't do anything until you do that. (They seem to think ticker owners are bitching online without taking this step; I think we took our bikes to dealers but kept getting blown off.)

Start by telling the dealer there is a lot of top-end noise and you think something might be wrong. After all, that's really all you know. The rest is speculation.

You can play dumb about The Tick at this point or you can try telling them this: Yamaha USA is actively investigating reports of top-end noise caused by (or at least correlated with) excessive exhaust valve guide wear, and based on the sound and what you've read and heard, you think you might possibly have this. The danger in this is that the dealer will write you off as an Internet hypochondriac who thinks he's got every malady he reads about.

The dealer may never have heard of this. That's OK: communication has been spotty. Tell the dealer if the people on the Tech Line don't know what he's talking about, he should ask for his Regional Tech Advisor. Everybody at that level should be aware that this is real, that it's under active investigation, that it's not a false rumor or an Internet phantasm. The magic words are "excessive exhaust valve guide wear," not "The Tick." [Update in October 2005: maybe Yamaha knows this as "engine knocking."]

The dealer should NOT get the blow-off from Cypress, and you should NOT get the blow-off from the dealer. Not any more.

The first blow-off sounds like this: "Oh, Yamahas are often noisy. I've heard R1's worse than that. It's nothing." Blow-off number two, if you show the Australian service bulletin, is: "That was a 2002 European problem, long since fixed, your VIN isn't in the affected range, it can't be that." Enough people at Cypress now know it *can* be that, and dealers shouldn't be given this answer from them, and shouldn't give it to you. Not any more.

Replacing the cam chain tensioner under warranty is not a blow-off, nor is checking/adjusting valve clearance or doing a TBS. That's just part of the diagnostic procedure, looking for common/easy causes and fixes before going after rare/expensive ones. And who knows? You could be wrong about your bike being a ticker.

When it still ticks after fixes like this, it's time to tell the dealer about the "active investigation" and to talk to his Regional Tech Advisor as above. If the dealer says Yamaha don't know nothin' 'bout nothin' and he doesn't continue to investigate, you are being blown off. Take it up with Yamaha Customer Service directly.

(If the dealer says "Yes, they told me all about that, and your bike does not have that problem," you might have to consider believing him. Otherwise it's a whole different category of blow-off. I can't advise you much at this point, except to have your bike listened to by a ticker expert like Dale 'Warchild' Wilson.)

If you don't get any love from your dealer — if you do get blown off — call:

Yamaha Customer Service
(800) 962-7926

Everybody who answers that phone should be hip to "top-end noise that correlates with excessive exhaust valve guide wear." [Update from October 2005: maybe known as "engine knocking."] If you get somebody who doesn't seem clued in, ask for a supervisor. Keep asking until you get somebody who knows what you're talking about. They do exist, and you will succeed. That person can work with you and your dealer: if the dealer isn't being told the right things from the tech people or isn't hearing it right, these are the guys who can fix that. (That's what happened to me, and this is how I got traction at my dealer.)

Remember, it's always possible you do not have The Tick. If it's been diagnosed by an expert tick-diagnoser, that's one thing. If you've just heard of The Tick and you're not sure what it sounds like, don't go charging in to your dealer demanding a full head replacement. Work with them.

Warchild's research and Dan's visit to Cypress have borne fruit: instead of getting blown off by your dealer and Yamaha, you will be believed when you mention worn exhaust valve guides after the "easy" fixes don't fix your top-end noise.

I hope this helps. Good luck, brothers.

Copyright © 2005, by Allan Pratt & H. Marc Lewis.
All rights reserved.