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Old 04-26-2012, 09:49 AM   #1
LandLeftBehind OP
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Purchasing used - inaccurate odometer

What do you guys think about inaccurate odometers on bikes - particularly airheads?

The odometer reads 70k and owner claims 40K. He says it reads high only because he replaced the past odometer with a used one. Does that sound plausible?

I thought this topic would be thread worthy because I see sooo many bikes on the list with similar odometer issues.

I really want to avoid using names here, but the owner of the bike is actually a trusted mechanic around my area.
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Old 04-26-2012, 09:54 AM   #2
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Should be backed up by some sort of paperwork. The owner should know this when they get into replacing the speedo. If there is no proof, for intents and purposes, miles on the odo = miles on the bike.
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:23 PM   #3
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For me when it comes to Odometer I always assume the worst.

That said the most recent airhead I got had a paper trail to back up the mileage on it's odometer and I was shocked to see the amount of wear the bike had in only 24k miles.
When I first looked at the bike I thought it had 124K and I went over the paperwork again and again and it all panned out as having only 24K. All the normal areas of wear on the outside fo the bike showed high levels of wear, foot peg rubbers, grips, levers.

But when the tranny went it for service the guy working on it also said it looked like a 24K mile tranny, not a 124K mile tranny.

So what I'm takeing a long time to say is, at this point mileage doesn't much matter on these bikes, it's the condition the bike is in that matters.

The are built stout and well cared for can last for a very long time.
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:32 PM   #4
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there are times a high mileage bike is better than a low mile bike. I've had a K bike with 47,000 miles on it that looked and rode way better than ones w/ half the miles. All depends on maintenance, where and how the bike is stored when not riding. My G/S had 94,000 miles and while well worn, it was very well maintained. Motor internals were spotless, zero sludge on oil pan.
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:36 PM   #5
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The "inaccurate" issue stems from the fact that BMW used the same transmissions on everything from a 500cc to the 100cc, and to deal with the power/torque differences, used a) different ratios in the rear end and b) different ratios in the speedometer to account for the different rear end. Therefore, every rear end has its "proper" speedometer. That's what that little "w" is, at the bottom of the speedo. The rear end ratios varied from a 3.56 to a 2.54, which is indeed a big spread!

However, the inaccuracy is in the speed reading, not the odometer (IF the proper speedo/final drive are paired)

Take a look at Anton's great page for rear end (final drive) ratios: lots of information hidden in there....

so, though possible, the story does indeed sound fishy... would seem unusual to put on a new-but-used odometer that reads higher than the old one!
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bpeckm screwed with this post 04-26-2012 at 01:41 PM Reason: oops... read the "replace" part again...
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:48 PM   #6
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The odometers normally read dead-on - if they're working.

However, they are ticking time bombs - it's not a question of will it f**k up, but when?

It's quite possible in this case that the original went haywire and was replaced with a good used one, and thus the incorrect mileage.

Hopefully the replacement speedo is right for the final drive, or the mileage won't be adding up correctly.
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Old 04-27-2012, 01:22 AM   #7
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What every one else is saying plus.

I take into consideration age to mileage as well. I would rather buy a machine that has been running/used rather than one that has been sitting, or just been started in a garage a couple times a year. I've had more problems with things that just sit, but look good. Seals, rubber, and plastic all dry out.,Oil turns to tar and gas turns to varnish. Clutches and brakes turn to stone. A 30 year old bike with 40 or 70 K on it is probably OK either way if it's been ridden.

And the only big thing I can think that might need to be looked at with that milage range and depending on year, is valve recession. I just went through my 81 R80 with 75K and the valves were pretty well worked into the heads. Clutch, pistons, rings etc were good. Brakes were stone. Clutch was border line, but still good, as far as thickness, but have no idea if it was original.
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Old 04-27-2012, 04:51 AM   #8
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BMW airhead mileage readings are very easily hacked, a bit of time with an electric drill can easily take off many miles.

And because the odometer goes back to zero after 99999 miles than there is very little weight you should give to mileage readings unless they are backed up by hard evidence, which is not that easy on a 30 year old bike.
40 k miles in 30 years is only 1300 miles a year.

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Old 04-27-2012, 07:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by chasbmw View Post
BMW airhead mileage readings are very easily hacked, a bit of time with an electric drill can easily take off many miles.

And because the odometer goes back to zero after 99999 miles than there is very little weight you should give to mileage readings unless they are backed up by hard evidence, which is not that easy on a 30 year old bike.
40 k miles in 30 years is only 1300 miles a year.

Easier than that. My odometer got stuck between cogs on the 1000's digit, and stopped working.

I was able to free it, but had to wind the 10,000 digit back one number, and the 1000 digit back one number, so lost 11,000 miles, on top of the 6000 or so that I lost with it not working.
I recall just forcing the little nylon cogs to slip past one another, with no apparent damage.
The odometer continued to work until I replaced it because of other problems with the instrument cluster. Got a real 140 mph speedometer (the bike is a 1982 model), and the odometer read approximately the same milage as if the old one had never stopped working.
Drive ratio seems to be the same because the speed readings are only high by about 5-10%. That's the only downside, the old speedometer was only about 1% off.
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Old 04-27-2012, 07:33 AM   #10
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R80 G/S speedo

I have a 81 R80 G/S and the original speedo was not repairable, not through Palo Alto Speedo or any other repair shop. I searched for two years and looked for a replacement on Ebay and all other sources. Finally a source in France had a speedo that would work , he had 8 speedometers that he had purchased.although not the same gear ratio but it fit and was an original BMW part(I have the packaging). The speedo is off by about 10% and same is true for the odometer. Bottom line was that it fit,gear ratio can be changed and it is in perfect working order. If I sell the G/S someone will see the paperwork and have to access the bike based on what I can prove. The original speedo stopped at 16K and the cable needed to be replaced.
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Old 04-27-2012, 12:47 PM   #11
Boxer Metal
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It is Federal Law to note any change in a speedometer so this person by law has to have some sort of note on the bike. If not then it's a 70k bike.
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Old 04-28-2012, 07:02 AM   #12
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Tha'ts right,fed law & the title needs to say either 70k or broken or unknown(as I recall)and is on all title state title applications.He may "know" that's the miles, but the title cannot legally say that.
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