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Old 01-07-2013, 09:13 AM   #1
carlesonra OP
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Question 2009 GS lean mixture, harmful???

While checking valves on my 2009 1200GS at 40,000 miles, I noticed spark plugs showing a lean mixture. I have a K&N installed but no other change and realize manufacturers have clean running as a priority. Question is: are other riders showing light spark plug coloring which is kinda normal or Is this something that needs attention and if so what? I have not noticed any spark knock when pulling at lower rpm.
Thanks for your time in responding.
Bob Carleson
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R1200GS, R80RT, DR650
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:34 AM   #2
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It is generally understood that current piston engines are fueled lean to meet emission requirements. In the boxer engine, this can be troublesome causing detonation, higher combustion chamber temperatures, driveability issues and reduced engine output. Later boxers employ knock sensors to detect and offset the issue of detonation.

In our attempts to improve performance, many boxer owners install free flowing exhaust systems, high flow air filters and other gadgets in an attempt to make more noise and more power.

Upon doing so, we see questions and comments such as yours regarding the appearance of lean fueling conditions. And while few boxer owners report engine damage, there seems to be an increase of the installation of aftermarket pipes and air cleaners. These pipes and air cleaners promote more engine air flow but do nothing to increase fuel flow. If you insist on aftermarket pipes and air cleaners, be prepared to spend more on electronics to increase fuel delivery along with the increased air entering your engine.

Over Christmas, my son trailered his Honda V-twin here to Alabama. One morning it would not cold start. Removal of the air cleaner showed why. The oil from the K&N had settled in the carburetor and choked off the pilot jet as well as left deposits on the carburetor slide. A spray with carb cleaner got things running again. But, it was evident from a plug check that the A/F mixture was way off.

If you insist on aftermarket air cleaners, be sure they provide effective cleaning of the air entering the engine. Some studies show these aftermarket air filters pass considerable dirt compared to the OE paper air filter. You have been warned.
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:38 AM   #3
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It is generally understood that current piston engines are fueled lean to meet emission requirements. In the boxer engine, this can be troublesome causing detonation, higher combustion chamber temperatures, driveability issues and reduced engine output. Later boxers employ knock sensors to detect and offset the issue of detonation.

In our attempts to improve performance, many boxer owners install free flowing exhaust systems, high flow air filters and other gadgets in an attempt to make more noise and more power.

Upon doing so, we see questions and comments such as yours regarding the appearance of lean fueling conditions. And while few boxer owners report engine damage, there seems to be an increase of the installation of aftermarket pipes and air cleaners. These pipes and air cleaners promote more engine air flow but do nothing to increase fuel flow. If you insist on aftermarket pipes and air cleaners, be prepared to spend more on electronics to increase fuel delivery along with the increased air entering your engine.

Over Christmas, my son trailered his Honda V-twin here to Alabama. One morning it would not cold start. Removal of the air cleaner showed why. The oil from the K&N had settled in the carburetor and choked off the pilot jet as well as left deposits on the carburetor slide. A spray with carb cleaner got things running again. But, it was evident from a plug check that the A/F mixture was way off.

If you insist on aftermarket air cleaners, be sure they provide effective cleaning of the air entering the engine. Some studies show these aftermarket air filters pass considerable dirt compared to the OE paper air filter. You have been warned.
plus one on that
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Old 01-07-2013, 10:05 AM   #4
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Upon doing so, we see questions and comments such as yours regarding the appearance of lean fueling conditions. And while few boxer owners report engine damage, there seems to be an increase of the installation of aftermarket pipes and air cleaners. These pipes and air cleaners promote more engine air flow but do nothing to increase fuel flow. If you insist on aftermarket pipes and air cleaners, be prepared to spend more on electronics to increase fuel delivery along with the increased air entering your engine.
Def,

The fuel and mixture monitoring sensors on the bike - of which there are a few - are all situated after the air filter and before the exhaust - cat and free flowing aftermarket cans.

The computer in the bike continually monitors the system and adjusts the fuel mixture to suit - no change in air filter or exhaust will change the fuel mixture at the engine. The bike is continually compensating for this.

That is why these bikes continue to be perfectly tuned when starting cold, or in colder or warmer ambient temps (barometric pressure) as well as not being affected by altitude - the wonders of electronic fuel injection.

The BMW and other bikes even have a delay in this change depending on other factors like time you have run the bike while riding and consistency of your riding - ie. if you have done long hauls of highway riding the bike will delay the change in fuel/ignition due to riding style. That is why when you sometimes leave the highway and go through a few stops the bikes seems to be running extra lean or doesn't run right - until the computer figures out you are not on the highway again and changes - Harleys are notorious for taking a long time - all pre-programmed into the bikes.

As I noted many posts ago - when we attempted to change to fuel mixture characteristics of our BMW R - race bike by modifying both the exhaust and air chamber/filter we could not do this no matter how aggressive we were - the bike adjusted for it in all respects. The only way to do this is by either tricking the sensors - or by reprogramming the computer.

So aftermarket filters and exhausts (provided they have O2 sensors) and the filters actually filter the air - are completely safe and will not change the "leaness" mixture in the combustion chamber at all.

The bikes are too smart.

Now oil in the filter bunging up a carb is another issue and I do not use K&N because of those exact issues before and numerous testing that suggests either foam or standard oem paper is better but this isn't an air filter thread is it...
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Old 01-07-2013, 09:37 AM   #5
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This is normal.

Your bike will compensate for any modifications you do to the bike ie. exhaust or filter will not change the mixture.

As noted here in a number of posts - BMW and other manufacturers run their bikes quite lean - in my experience BMW has always done this. Mainly for emissions regulations and pollution control.

One of the reasons some use "booster" plugs and such to trick the bike into running a bit richer. Again posted on here quite a bit.

Do not worry - and if you are really concerned take it in for diagnositics and they will be able to tell if all is well pretty quickly.

Dean
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:11 AM   #6
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Def,

The fuel and mixture monitoring sensors on the bike - of which there are a few - are all situated after the air filter and before the exhaust - cat and free flowing aftermarket cans.

The computer in the bike continually monitors the system and adjusts the fuel mixture to suit - no change in air filter or exhaust will change the fuel mixture at the engine. The bike is continually compensating for this.

That is why these bikes continue to be perfectly tuned when starting cold, or in colder or warmer ambient temps (barometric pressure) as well as not being affected by altitude - the wonders of electronic fuel injection.

The BMW and other bikes even have a delay in this change depending on other factors like time you have run the bike while riding and consistency of your riding - ie. if you have done long hauls of highway riding the bike will delay the change in fuel/ignition due to riding style. That is why when you sometimes leave the highway and go through a few stops the bikes seems to be running extra lean or doesn't run right - until the computer figures out you are not on the highway again and changes - Harleys are notorious for taking a long time - all pre-programmed into the bikes.

As I noted many posts ago - when we attempted to change to fuel mixture characteristics of our BMW R - race bike by modifying both the exhaust and air chamber/filter we could not do this no matter how aggressive we were - the bike adjusted for it in all respects. The only way to do this is by either tricking the sensors - or by reprogramming the computer.

So aftermarket filters and exhausts (provided they have O2 sensors) and the filters actually filter the air - are completely safe and will not change the "leaness" mixture in the combustion chamber at all.

The bikes are too smart.

Now oil in the filter bunging up a carb is another issue and I do not use K&N because of those exact issues before and numerous testing that suggests either foam or standard oem paper is better but this isn't an air filter thread is it...
Sorry but your statements are completely at odds with my own and many others experience as far as the 1200 GS is concerned. Yes they can compensate but not indefinitely and a free flowing air filter at sea level will definitely take it out of bounds. There is only so much extra fuel in the map bins and once your outside the boundary your into mixture problems. O2 sensors by the way only trim mixtures in a closed loop situation I.E cruising. Outside this area they have no affect at all as they are only lambda sensors and not wide band sensors.
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:00 PM   #7
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Sorry but your statements are completely at odds with my own and many others experience as far as the 1200 GS is concerned. Yes they can compensate but not indefinitely and a free flowing air filter at sea level will definitely take it out of bounds. There is only so much extra fuel in the map bins and once your outside the boundary your into mixture problems. O2 sensors by the way only trim mixtures in a closed loop situation I.E cruising. Outside this area they have no affect at all as they are only lambda sensors and not wide band sensors.
As far as I know the BMW has a barometric pressure sensor (altitude) in the main comp unit, the O2 sensors, intake temp and pressure sensors as well as the knock suppression sensors and engine temp sensors to balance and accommodate the variables of operation. (As far as I know) Just my experience of course and I am not a BMW engineer or tech so do not have access to the actual figures and mapping comparisons - however my own experience on the track and the dyno with the BMW Cup bikes saw no change in the mixtures with various number of exhausts, cut and reformed air-boxes, and more than a few air filters including no filter at all. This was a few years ago. This involved many long hard hours in the shop and the only solution was getting access and clearance from BMW to use the BMW computer program to modify the mapping - they didn't want to do that of course.

My comments also come directly from a very good friend and racing buddy of mine who is the owner of a multi brand BMW dealership and his main BMW tech. As I posed the same questions in response to our experience with the 1200 on the track to them and my sometimes rough running bike after long hauls.

Maybe we didn't get outside of the parameters you talk about - perhaps - but with my own R1200GS "2006" I also saw no visible signs or change in spark plug colour with the addition of a K&N, OEM paper and now my oiled foam air filter - or my full cat-free Laser exhaust and headers. And that accounts for over 100k of mileage and many different filters and two exhausts - and approx 7 sets of plugs as I change them every year.

As the BMW paper air filter as tested and commented on this forum flows more air than an oiled K&N or even my oiled foam filter - I would think that would richen the bike and not lean it out - but again no change.

After all is said and done - I don't have specific data that I can show you to back any of my comments so they are just that. And, you know we could have screwed it all up too... you never know.

Take it for what you will.
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Old 01-07-2013, 12:56 PM   #8
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The GS range to my knowledge doesn't have a MAP/barometric sensor. If it does it is very well hidden and doesn't show on the GS911 software. When I get time/weather I will do a back to back run with a wide band sensors and post the logs. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying your in the realm of engine damage. You can quite easily find yourself with less than optimal running though. Usually quite the opposite from what you wanted from tuning options.
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Old 01-09-2013, 04:55 AM   #9
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The GS range to my knowledge doesn't have a MAP/barometric sensor. If it does it is very well hidden and doesn't show on the GS911 software. When I get time/weather I will do a back to back run with a wide band sensors and post the logs. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying your in the realm of engine damage. You can quite easily find yourself with less than optimal running though. Usually quite the opposite from what you wanted from tuning options.
As I mentioned a couple posts ago, all R series motorcycles have a barometric sensor buried in the ECU and the GS-911 does report it, see the data from an R1150 below. Ambient air pressure is column F.

It's my opinion that changing the exhaust or intake changes the tuning dynamically of the air flow based on what I've read in numerous books. When an exhaust pulse leaves the engine a pocket of high pressure air leaves the cylinder when it hits a change in exhaust geometry (e.g. wider or narrower pipe, the catalytic converter, etc.) some of that pocket of air reflects and travels back to the exhaust valve, we're talking thousandths of a second here. If the reflected pulses pressure is high while the exhaust valve is still open, less air fills the cylinder when the intake opens. If the pressure from the reflectednpulse is low at that moment, more air goes in when the intake valve opens. These dynamic conditions change with RPM. When you put on an aftermarket exhaust or intake you may change these dynamics which BMW has carefully measured and accounted for the the VE (volumetric efficiency) also know as the Fuel table.

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Old 01-09-2013, 08:55 AM   #10
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As I mentioned a couple posts ago, all R series motorcycles have a barometric sensor buried in the ECU and the GS-911 does report it, see the data from an R1150 below. Ambient air pressure is column F.

It's my opinion that changing the exhaust or intake changes the tuning dynamically of the air flow based on what I've read in numerous books. When an exhaust pulse leaves the engine a pocket of high pressure air leaves the cylinder when it hits a change in exhaust geometry (e.g. wider or narrower pipe, the catalytic converter, etc.) some of that pocket of air reflects and travels back to the exhaust valve, we're talking thousandths of a second here. If the reflected pulses pressure is high while the exhaust valve is still open, less air fills the cylinder when the intake opens. If the pressure from the reflectednpulse is low at that moment, more air goes in when the intake valve opens. These dynamic conditions change with RPM. When you put on an aftermarket exhaust or intake you may change these dynamics which BMW has carefully measured and accounted for the the VE (volumetric efficiency) also know as the Fuel table.

Very cool and yes I was sure that the ECU had those functions (especially in the newer models of R bikes) From my experience the comments you make about "pulse' etc. is correct and most times are accommodated but are most important in very highly tuned engines. Most specifically in engines that take advantage of megaphone exhausts - when building a cam or engine timing in conjunction with the properly calculated taper and exhaust length & carb intake length one can in effect use the shock wave/pulse to hold gasses in the cylinder a little longer allowing for more aggressive valve overlap etc. making it possible to change up and be more aggressive with your cam timing and profiles - many many different factors to think about. However that is some very fine tuning and normally only reserved for racing applications as well as older megaphone exhaust systems. ie. Norton Manx singles or Honda 5 cyl multies. The benefits of doing this on a modern bike are largely negated when you have cross over exhausts, 4 into 2 into 1, cats, and non-megaphone exhausts. Much why we see very short exhausts on modern bikes. The added control of the ECU and fuel injection, along with the sensor control make this kind of thing a non-issue on modern bikes - so it is my understanding that the exhaust pulse and management of that for tuning purposes in modern bikes is not an issue worth addressing as it really is insignificant due to the above.

If this was such a big issue the aftermarket exhaust industry and can industry would be non-existant. I know there is a lot of fashion and hype about that but in most cases a full exhaust will add hp without changing mixtures on a modern ECU bike. It of course changes the airflow and the tuning but the ECU accommodates for that appropriately in modern bikes. Maybe not bikes that are 15 or more years old but the R1200 for the most part (it is only my understanding) is not affected for mixture - It is affected and shows performance gains with better air flow (filters) =more oxygen and better exhaust flow = less back pressure more flow - easier to push that out the back end.

Like you said - none of us really know unless we get the data on the specific bike and do the tests right... so it is cautioned speculation I think based on our combined years of experience... wow kind of scary that actually. But in the long run I think we are all pretty safe with these things - maybe not perfect but I think... safe.
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Old 01-09-2013, 09:38 AM   #11
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If this was such a big issue the aftermarket exhaust industry and can industry would be non-existant. I know there is a lot of fashion and hype about that but in most cases a full exhaust will add hp without changing mixtures on a modern ECU bike. It of course changes the airflow and the tuning but the ECU accommodates for that appropriately in modern bikes. Maybe not bikes that are 15 or more years old but the R1200 for the most part (it is only my understanding) is not affected for mixture - It is affected and shows performance gains with better air flow (filters) =more oxygen and better exhaust flow = less back pressure more flow - easier to push that out the back end.
There must be some mid-range effects of intake and exhaust tuning on this bike. And it is certainly possible for tuning to effect the mid range (though admittedly I don't have any data on that effect on the R1150). I say that because the R1150RT and the R1150GS have much different intake tubes--for what reason other than tuning the intake?
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Old 01-09-2013, 10:39 AM   #12
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If anyone is interested.

Exhaust pulses are used to keep the fresh intake charge in the cylinder during the valve overlap (both intake and exhaust valves open at the same time). The reflected wave acts as a damn at the exhaust port and would be tuned to arrive in the mid to low rev, dependent on what your looking for and there are equations to work it out. In brief its longer header for lower RPM, shorter for higher RPM. Higher RPM offers less time for it to happen so is simply of less use if any there. It occurs when there is a change in pipe diameter or a sharp turn. It will never enter the cylinder itself and stop fuel air getting in simply because the port reflects it back. How much use it is depends on many other aspects of the engine tune. Decat headers for example often show an increase in the low-mid range power because of the different and smaller Y joint so a stronger pulse is sent back up. It also obviously offers less restriction in flow with no cat in line so pumping losses are reduced at high RPM.
Intake length is partly about keeping the fuel in the inlet track. If you look at an engine with bellmouths (the intake pipes are simple bellmouths that exit in the airbox) on and look in while giving the throttle a good twist you will see a mist of fuel making its way out. Too short a track and the fuel can escape. As ever it isn't so simple though because there are pulsed involved here as well so a long intake track that will keep the fuel in at all times wont be the best for a high revving engine. Similar to the exhaust tuning longer is best for low-mid and short for high RPM.
Aftermarket exhaust manufacturers exist because they are in part free from what a mass production design has to cope with. They can play to a point with the tuned length and general packaging to suit what a purchaser wants I.E race bike or slow plodder. Whether its better or worse for a particular person is dependent on them. They also dont have so many regulations to cope with such as they can sell an exhaust without a CAT where the main manufacturer cant.
Both intake and exhaust tuning really do only offer small gains, even when tuned properly but they are noticeable to the butt dyno and a real dyno. As I said earlier though if not tuned properly they can make losses which is the opposite from what your actually trying to achieve. To get the best use from an exhaust and air filter change either a ECU fuel remap is required or something like a power commander fitted. There is a thread over on UKGsers with a company offering ECU remaps. There are dyno graphs posted that show even on a stock bike there are benefits to a remap showing useful gains never mind after component changes.
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Old 01-09-2013, 02:28 PM   #13
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If anyone is interested.

Exhaust pulses are used to keep the fresh intake charge in the cylinder during the valve overlap (both intake and exhaust valves open at the same time). The reflected wave acts as a damn at the exhaust port and would be tuned to arrive in the mid to low rev, dependent on what your looking for and there are equations to work it out. In brief its longer header for lower RPM, shorter for higher RPM. Higher RPM offers less time for it to happen so is simply of less use if any there. It occurs when there is a change in pipe diameter or a sharp turn. It will never enter the cylinder itself and stop fuel air getting in simply because the port reflects it back. How much use it is depends on many other aspects of the engine tune. Decat headers for example often show an increase in the low-mid range power because of the different and smaller Y joint so a stronger pulse is sent back up. It also obviously offers less restriction in flow with no cat in line so pumping losses are reduced at high RPM.
Intake length is partly about keeping the fuel in the inlet track. If you look at an engine with bellmouths (the intake pipes are simple bellmouths that exit in the airbox) on and look in while giving the throttle a good twist you will see a mist of fuel making its way out. Too short a track and the fuel can escape. As ever it isn't so simple though because there are pulsed involved here as well so a long intake track that will keep the fuel in at all times wont be the best for a high revving engine. Similar to the exhaust tuning longer is best for low-mid and short for high RPM.
Aftermarket exhaust manufacturers exist because they are in part free from what a mass production design has to cope with. They can play to a point with the tuned length and general packaging to suit what a purchaser wants I.E race bike or slow plodder. Whether its better or worse for a particular person is dependent on them. They also dont have so many regulations to cope with such as they can sell an exhaust without a CAT where the main manufacturer cant.
Both intake and exhaust tuning really do only offer small gains, even when tuned properly but they are noticeable to the butt dyno and a real dyno. As I said earlier though if not tuned properly they can make losses which is the opposite from what your actually trying to achieve. To get the best use from an exhaust and air filter change either a ECU fuel remap is required or something like a power commander fitted. There is a thread over on UKGsers with a company offering ECU remaps. There are dyno graphs posted that show even on a stock bike there are benefits to a remap showing useful gains never mind after component changes.
Nothing sounds like a big Matchless, AJS or BSA single on the pipe. I get weak in the knees when I hear one (which these days is rare).

My Triumphs and BSAs used to spray fuel on my legs at idle from cam overlap but, my B'ville T120 would spin up to just short of 10,000RPM on pump fuel with a lightened rotating assembly, T&M 6 and 9 grind cams and aftermarket compound wound valve springs. Those were the days.
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Old 01-10-2013, 06:44 AM   #14
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Nothing sounds like a big Matchless, AJS or BSA single on the pipe. I get weak in the knees when I hear one (which these days is rare).

My Triumphs and BSAs used to spray fuel on my legs at idle from cam overlap but, my B'ville T120 would spin up to just short of 10,000RPM on pump fuel with a lightened rotating assembly, T&M 6 and 9 grind cams and aftermarket compound wound valve springs. Those were the days.
Sigh... yes I know. Nothing quite like it. No amount of sound tuning by computer will ever get that wonderful sound of a big british single.... Goldstar, Manx.... Commando(twin)...or my nice little Ducati 250 with an open megaphone. Yummy to say the least if that is an appropriate word for it.

I was recently at the Vintage festival in Hockenhiem and they warmed up a Honda 6. I don't care what anyone says that is one of the magical wonders of the world - someone figured it out and someone made it happen. Magic.

Now if I can just read the fault code or write some new programming for my GS.... There is no virtual reality in a Honda 6.

Yes "Def" Those were the days.
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Old 01-09-2013, 11:03 AM   #15
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I'm interested in your comments on exhaust and intake lengths, thank you. Makes sense, though it seems like the realm for an expert. The R1150RT has shorter larger diameter tubes compared to the R1150GS which has longer narrower intake tubes.

I saw the UKGSER stuff and there is a thread here too on someone who sent their ECU for remapping.

My opinion is that most who use a power commander and get improvement do so mainly because the vast majority of tunes add fuel. My Wideband O2 project showed that if you add 4-8% more fuel by changing the lambda set-point you get good torque gains throughout the RPM range but especially good between 2000-3000 RPM.
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