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Old 08-26-2010, 08:09 PM   #1
Xcuvator OP
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Airhead Lifters

When looking over the lifters for my 74 R90, I noticed that one of them has a small (6MM) spot in the center of the surface that contacts the cam lobe. It appears that the plating is starting to wear through there? The spot is off color and my when running my fingernail over it, it feels slightly rougher.

What I'm wondering is how common is this? Is this the beginning of the dreaded flaking that I've heard of?

I had an extra used set and three of the four seem to have the same ailment. Then to top it off, I bought a used set that were supposedly in "great condition" off IBMW and all four are that way. I don't recall seeing this on the lifters I've put back into the motors I've worked on and now this is all I see.
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Old 08-26-2010, 08:49 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xcuvator
When looking over the lifters for my 74 R90, I noticed that one of them has a small (6MM) spot in the center of the surface that contacts the cam lobe. It appears that the plating is starting to wear through there? The spot is off color and my when running my fingernail over it, it feels slightly rougher.

What I'm wondering is how common is this? Is this the beginning of the dreaded flaking that I've heard of?

I had an extra used set and three of the four seem to have the same ailment. Then to top it off, I bought a used set that were supposedly in "great condition" off IBMW and all four are that way. I don't recall seeing this on the lifters I've put back into the motors I've worked on and now this is all I see.

Lately, I see it quite often.
Look VERY closely at your cam lobes.
I mean CLOSELY.






































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Old 08-26-2010, 11:49 PM   #3
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How many miles on the engine? Are there any other signs of lifter damage on the faces? Do you oil that contains adequate zinc compounds?

lets be realistic... Cams and lifters wear out and it sounds as if yours are substantially worn. What most people riding Airheads don't know is that badly worn or damaged lifters are usually a tip-off that the cams shot too.

Also... It's never a good idea to take used lifters out of one engine and drop em into another engine. The parts are supposed to break-in and wear-in together, kinda like and old married couple.

Cam life can be extended somewhat by replacing the lifters from time to time (They aren't that expensive.) but if your lifters are shot, you're probably going to need to replace your cam as well and if you install new lifters on top of a damaged cam, you're throwing parts away. Worn out is worn out.
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Old 08-26-2010, 11:58 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mymindsok
How many miles on the engine? Are there any other signs of lifter damage on the faces? Do you oil that contains adequate zinc compounds?

lets be realistic... Cams and lifters wear out and it sounds as if yours are substantially worn. What most people riding Airheads don't know is that badly worn or damaged lifters are usually a tip-off that the cams shot too.

Also... It's never a good idea to take used lifters out of one engine and drop em into another engine. The parts are supposed to break-in and wear-in together, kinda like and old married couple.

Cam life can be extended somewhat by replacing the lifters from time to time (They aren't that expensive.) but if your lifters are shot, you're probably going to need to replace your cam as well and if you install new lifters on top of a damaged cam, you're throwing parts away. Worn out is worn out.
Actually Ken, they have become STOOPID expensive.
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Old 08-27-2010, 07:10 AM   #5
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This may be a good demo for the ZDDP issue (debate??). During the '70's and '80's I used Castrol oil, and took a break from biking in the '90's. When I resumed in the '00's I started using Golden Spectro 4, so my engine has never been zinc-deprived. At 160K I noticed some frosting (pre-pitting) on one lifter face so I replaced it ($50 a pop). Cam good.

I project pulling the cylinders again at 180K (major top end refurbishment) and I'll look closely at the lifters again.
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Old 08-27-2010, 09:41 AM   #6
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It appears they ARE stoopid expensive at $60.60! Rediculous!

In the past, machine shops used to re-surface lifters, but I've been told these are also plated? Is that true? If so, would anyone know what sort of plating it might be?
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:08 AM   #7
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Replating is stoopid expensive as well. Most lifters have what is called Hard Chrome plating, which a lot of shops will not do.

Just replace with new and be done with it. Make sure you are using the proper oil that has the proper additives and you will get many thousands of miles out of them.
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Old 08-27-2010, 10:47 AM   #8
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Cycleworks has resurfaced lifters for me in the past. I just looked and it's only listed under Vintage, but AFAIK he'll do it for '70-on also.

Still not cheap, though.

Horribly slow for me: http://www.cycleworks.net/index.php?...roducts_id=315
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Old 08-27-2010, 12:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wirewrkr
Actually Ken, they have become STOOPID expensive.
Damn...!!

I guess I'll keep those new lifters. The guy who fraakked my engine was supposed to have installed them but I guess he did me a favor.

I was contemplating selling em off as surplus. Well here comes the grease and the plastic bag!
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Old 08-27-2010, 06:20 PM   #10
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I have said it before, but judging by the recent price hikes BMW seems to want the old bikes off the road.

Thanks for the comments.

Oh and, my own feeling is that the one bad lifter I have was caused by it running with little or no clearance, because the rest of them look very good. No way of knowing though, because when I got the bike it had seen many miles.
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Old 08-28-2010, 09:19 AM   #11
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"judging by the recent price hikes BMW seems to want the old bikes off the road"

If that were the case the parts wouldn't be expensive they'd be unavailable.
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Old 08-28-2010, 09:45 AM   #12
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From my experience, here in Canada, airhead parts at the "dealers" are going thru the roof. BMW Canada has jacked the prices on all airhead parts over the past few years. You would almost think that all the parts are made of "Unobtainium". I talked with a few dealers and they have told me that they can buy some parts retail from the USA dealers for less than they can get it "wholesale" from BMW Canada.

That is why the smaller independent shops are doing so well. And with this here internet, we can get parts shipped from anywhere in the world for less than thru the BMW network of Canadian dealers.
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Old 08-28-2010, 09:55 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kadesean
"judging by the recent price hikes BMW seems to want the old bikes off the road"

If that were the case the parts wouldn't be expensive they'd be unavailable.
I believe they are unavailable for many people. There will always be some people who feel price is no object, that generate high profits. Sooner or later though, there must be a cost analysis for the average Joe.
The cost of reviving a "non collector" airhead has always been an exercise of love, but how much love can I afford? The high prices will encourage more Ebay slaughter of serviceable bikes decreasing the market and driving the prices even higher.
I may be wrong but, it seems to me price gouging seems to be confined to North American BMW, because prices (that I've checked) from Moto Bins, for instance, are 30% lower.
Just my .02
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:32 AM   #14
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It's simply a matter of supply and demand. BMW Airheads are a niche and a small part of the pie and the demand for these parts pales in comparison to parts for bikes less that a decade old. Demand and # of pieces sold means higher prices per piece. As said, be thankful that the parts are readily available.
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Old 08-28-2010, 02:02 PM   #15
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From where I see it both Xcuvator and Bill Harris are right.

BMW NA has raised wholesale prices through the roof while leaving dealers to set thier own retail price levels and they've made it clear that their main focus is creating profitable dealerships, whatever that takes.

Its a dual-edged sword because dealers will charge whatever the market will bear, they have been encouraged by BMW NA not to work on bikes over 10 years old and we need parts. OTOH, several suppliers of after-market Airhead accessories and parts are waiting in the wings and watching the overall rise in Airhead prices, to see if coming back into our market will be profitable. That may well be so but you can bet that prices will be much higher than they were in the 80s.

If you notice, despite the dollar having gained ground over the Euro, European dealers haven't adjusted prices, so these days buying through dealers like Motobins makes more sense than ever.

Add in the Ebaying of ridable bikes as spare parts, with the latest Cafe craze that sees good bikes being stripped down and modified beyond recognition and it's easy to see that /5, /6, /7 and later bikes are headed to the same place that the pre 70s bikes occupy.

Expensive to maintain antiques.
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