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Old 08-07-2014, 10:41 PM   #1
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Joined: Jul 2013
Location: Humboldt County
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Stranded in Fairbanks, blown F800GSA

I left Seattle on 01AUG, currently in Fairbanks, AK. Just outside of Chicken with 20,770 miles on my 2014 F800GSA I noticed an issue. Long story short, my bike is at trails end in Fairbanks. My spark plug overheated and exploded into my right cylinder. All maintenance has been completed and I don't ride hard, no fuel additives and my buddy filled up with me at each pump (08 950R). I'm currently in my tent waiting on the dealer to contact the service rep, apparently he is on vacation.

What's your experience with BMW service, maybe even Trails End specifically?

Feel free to leave comments, concerns, advice and/or flaming.

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Old 08-08-2014, 12:00 AM   #2
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Okay , what do mean by spark plug over heated have you removed the spark plugs ? Got pictures spark plugs don't explode cylinders them selves

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Old 08-08-2014, 01:40 AM   #3
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Odd...spark plugs can take a lot of heat.

Was there any pre-ignition/knocking before this problem occurred?

Temperature guage...was it reading hot?

Coolant levels good?

Are they the stock plugs?

Have you ever had the plugs out? If so, did you use a torque wrench upon re-installation? Sometimes plugs are cracked when installed, usually due to over tightening.

When it exploded, did the insulator separate from the threads?

Are the threads still in the head and the spark plug in you hand?

At some point you're going to have to get that bike back to time like the present to start looking for a tow...preferably a local as a tow truck to Fairbanks would probably be pricey.

Keep us updated.
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:16 AM   #4
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I have an engine I can ship to you. 798cc, 72hp, 34K miles. Ran perfect when I took it out. PK
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Old 08-08-2014, 09:37 AM   #5
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My recent dealings with BMW motorrad, even for a bike no longer under warranty, seem to be good (though still on going).

As per the questions above, if everything on your bike was nominal, you've not tampered with or incorrrectly modified the bike, BMW should fully warranty any work caused by failures due to poor build or parts quality, or they have in my experience at least.....(rear wheel bearing notwithstanding...still on going).
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Old 08-08-2014, 11:03 AM   #6
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Wow, that's a tough break. I've heard that University has some inexpensive housing in the dorms over the summer if you need some options. I haven't worked with that dealer so I cannot tell you anything about BMW warranty claims.

Unless there was a spark plug installation problem, the failure sounds like a detonation/pre-ignition problem to cause that much damage.

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Old 08-08-2014, 11:17 AM   #7
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Stranded in Fairbanks, blown F800GSA

Here is a thread that includes some discussion about that dealer in Alaska.

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Old 08-08-2014, 11:45 AM   #8
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F800GSA has no knock sensor .. unfortunately there's multiple instances of folks traveling with relatively new F800 that ended up with destroyed engines. all it takes in one tank of low octane fuel to cause extensive damage to engine. most folks don't know F800 has no knock sensor and it's critical to listen for engine knocks, especially after filling up in a remote location.

read up here on comments by Joel Wiseman who's one of the most knowledgeable BMW techs anywhere.


Originally Posted by JoelWisman View Post
Some of this is market conditions. I don't think there are more then a couple dozen F8's touring the world while thousands upon thousands spend there whole life in well developed countries.

Simply put, there aren't that many F8's suffering from the lack of a knock sensor and it is quite possible that the bad press for the few that do and the fewer still that get low enough octane fuel to knock and the smaller yet percentage of those that are piloted by a rider that doesn't recognize knock and take appropriate actions to prevent failing the engine.

Bad press is probably cheaper then installing a knock control system on all F8's made.

Personally from a position of relative ignorance I firmly believe that BMW should come out with an F800 GSA that has stronger wheels, better suspension, a tougher fuel pump, bigger alternator, bigger fuel tank, and knock sensors.

There are 3 types of knock detection on gasoline induction engines.

1: Spark creation sensing. The higher ambient pressure is, the more voltage it takes to create a spark through a given electrode gap. This type of knock detection can only detect massive detonation and usually is allowed very limited timing control as it is very prone to false alarm from aging wet or fouled spark plugs.

There is a rumor that the K7 platform DOES use this form of knock detection. I personally have been told by an FSE that the F8 DOES have this system and also told by a German engineer that it does NOT. If the F8 does have this system, keeping the spark plugs new and not fouled will improve this systems limited function. If the bike is runing rich, spark will flash over the carbon on the plug and never trigger knock detection. If the electrode gap is allowed to increase, the system can't sense the difference between knock and what it takes to fire the worn plugs and disables itself.

2: Narrow band pizeo resonance sensors. This is the common system and what the R1200 uses.

(A): A tuned pizeo is used as a knock sensor and is mounted fore and aft along the cylinders on 1 or more bosses on the motor. Since we only have 2 cylinders on 360 degree combustion cycles, one sensor would do just fine and there is an unused boss on the rear of the motor that is perfectly placed, almost as if BMW was considering adding this feature. Pizeos are tuned by how tightly they are torqued but the torque has to be precise for the knock sensor to work well, much more precise then the crap guns Germany uses to assemble the rest of the bike, so more time in production with a single item torqued with a strain gauge or at the least a well calibrated torque wrench which is what they use on the R1200GS.

(B): You need a cam position sensor to tell you which cylinder is on the compression stroke when knock occurs. No problem, we have one of those on the F800.

(C): You need a HIGH resolution crank position encoder to know EXACTLY where the piston is when knock occurs and it needs to be high resolution to see changes in acceleration of the crank to ferret out knock from a rock impacting the case. The R1200 uses the starter ring gear. We don't have a starter ring gear, we have a cheaper, lighter, more robust sprag clutch, so BMW would have to add more encoding notches in the flywheel and use a more expensive position sensor to see it.

(D): A lot of simulation time to find knock patterns AND develop a response algorithm that meets demands while, and this is the hard part, still passing many markets super strict emissions standards.

(E): A larger and more robust catalyst to cope with carbon loading during late stage knock control without plugging up or passing excessive emissions to the environment.

3: Wide band knock sensors. These are great, but you aren't going to see them on motorcycles anytime soon. Only 3 manufactures have the capability of designing these systems and they charge a pretty penny to license their technology.

There are 4 types of detonation inception. 1: spontaneous ignition induced by a non homogenous mixture. 2: Compression ignition induced by high combustion chamber temperatures. 3: Auto ignition induced by after glow. 4: pre-ignition produced by the presence of combustion as mixture is inducted.

Here is an effective knock control algorithm I had a very small hand in developing. (actually I was just involved in figuring out why the damn system was triggering early on some engines)

Knock occurring between 15 degrees before and after desired ignition. On next cycle retard ignition 5 degrees, if not present next cycle, go forward 5, repeated, if keeps occurring at forward position, write retard into long term map but check occasionally if it is still there forward.

If 5 back doesn't do it on 3 consecutive cycles, retard 8, repeat as above but if present 4 consecutive cycles, retard 15 degrees. back and fourth as above, if still there 3 more consecutive cycles, increase injector time 5% and listen for 500ms

still there 80% of cycles? increase injection time 10% and listen. Still there, shut down that cylinders injector every other cycle and flash the check engine light incase the operator is not savvy enough to notice his engine is running like shit, post excessive knock cylinder x code and snapshot engine parameters.

If the knock is detected more then 15 degrees before desired ignition, we have after glow. I don't remember how the response to this kind of knock was different but it was different.

Ok, theres the background on the subject of knock detection.

Why is knock bad and how is it different from desirable ignition???

Low fuel consumption and high efficiency is promoted by high combustion rates and optimal combustion patterns. Maximum combustion heat release should occur 5-10 degrees after top dead center. If most of the heat is released too early, wall heat losses are increased. Higher compression increases part load efficiency and maximum load power.

Durring knock, instead of a slow flame front propagation from the spark plug to the furthest reaches of the combustion chamber (end gasses) pressure and heat instantaneously ignites all of the end gasses at once. This creates a shock wave that propagates at the speed of sound and local temperatures that can be more then 10 times higher then during normal combustion.

In plain english, knock is an explosion rather then controlled combustion in the engine. It blows and melts holes in the piston and the shock waves destroy piston and crank bearings.

There, thats about the limits of my knowledge. More to follow on the practical of how to notice it in the field and what to do about it.

_cy_ screwed with this post 08-08-2014 at 12:02 PM
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Old 08-08-2014, 12:01 PM   #9
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A plugged/failed fuel injector on that cylinder could cause a lean condition, and burn out that spark plug.
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Old 08-08-2014, 12:25 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by IDK View Post

Ouch. Either one of the middle stores...
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Old 08-08-2014, 12:38 PM   #11
Girthy Knobkers
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Have spent time up there. I know of two rental companies in particular that run the GS twins up there every summer on AK fuel and I have never heard of this happening. So, I wouldn't bet fuel did it but it's always possible.

BMW should warranty this no problem, it may take a little longer than it would in the lower 48 though... Good luck, wish I could help!
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Old 08-08-2014, 12:48 PM   #12
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Location: Humboldt County
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Thank you for all of the tips!

My bike has never overheated, I'm quick to hear any differences in the idle/engine noise and didn't notice anything prior to the failure.

The plugs are OEM and have never been removed.

No indications on my cluster and no codes.

I stayed at the University for two days and moved over to a hostel until it's ready.

Still no word from BMW:(
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Old 08-08-2014, 01:33 PM   #13
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I hope you are staying at Sven's Basecamp Hostel in Fairbanks. I had so much fun there I will never stay anywhere else while in FB. At the moment I have some friends there. Dredd is on an 800GSA and his girl fiend Cole Slaw is on a Super Tenere. You can at least commiserate with them. PK
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Old 08-09-2014, 03:04 PM   #14
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I met a traveling nurse and we are staying in Denali for a few days. When I get back I'll be at Billies, I'll have to go checkout Svens. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 08-09-2014, 06:26 PM   #15
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I'm not a BMW mechanic so take this for what it's worth.

A spark plug failure is...rare.

Seriously, a Plug blowing up IN the cylinder? That's got to be a serious anomaly.

I've put over 200,000 miles down on bikes plus a million or more miles on vehicles. NEVER had a plug fail like that. Never HEARD of anything like that happen.

I can only imagine the shrapnel in the engine.

Trails End used to have a great reputation. Last I read on him was 5+ years ago. He had a stellar rep then...

A plug failure that grenades IN the engine?

I'd call it fate. Nothing more. Just that you managed to exacerbate the gods of odds and caught a fluke.

My opinion: enjoy the fact that you are in Alaska, on an Adventure and have been given the chance to experience what adventure in a foreign world is really all about. Avail yourself to the world of Alaska and simply...enjoy.

(*I miss Alaska. Chicken and the Top of the World is a GREAT memory of mine. I can't wait to return.)
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