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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all! New member here - hoping to get some help/advice with my GL1100 project.

Apologies, essay follows! TLDR question is all the way at the bottom.

My background: Riding motorcycles 35 years. Comfortable and relatively proficient turning wrenches on most anything short of a full motor tear-down. Currently own a 2001 GL1800, a 2016 Husqvarna FC350, various kid dirtbikes, and of course the GL1100 - a 1980 vintage.

The bike: I picked this 1980 GL1100 up from the second owner, an older gentleman who had owned the bike since the early 80s, and parked it several years ago when 'it was running rough'. Claimed it would probably just need a battery and carbs rebuilt. Of course I knew it would need much more, but I wanted a Covid project (boy, did I get one). Approx 35,000 miles on the bike. I actually was able to get the bike started as soon as I got it home, but unsurprisingly there was lots of smoke and the bike wouldn't idle.

What transpired:
  • Rebuilt the carbs with the Randakk's kit. Also replaced the press-fit pilot jets.
  • Replaced all hoses (coolant, fuel, etc.)
  • Cleaned out the gas tank.
  • Rebuilt the petcock.
  • Replaced the valve stem seals (due to excessive blue smoke both exhausts).
  • Replaced both timing belts with new OEM.
  • Compression test (125psi all four cylinders - I think this is probably ok for test at 6,500' elevation)
  • Sync'ed the carbs
  • New plugs
At this point the bike started and idled great, but had persistent white smoke/steam out of the right exhaust. I also noticed the radiator fan wasn't kicking on. Leading me to suspect the bike was probably overheated and the right side head-gasket was likely blown.

  • Replaced the radiator fan switch.
  • Fitted a new OEM head gasket, dry. Note: I cleaned both surfaces, but did not sand or mill them, and also later realized I did not grease the stud heads.
  • Replaced both the o-rings on the little pipe thing that goes between cylinder and head
  • Did a heat cycle on the stand with straight distilled water, radiator cap off, then re-checked the head bolt torque after the motor cooled.
At this point, the bike was still blowing steam out the right side exhaust, getting steadily worse as the bike warmed up. After a few minutes of running like this, the oil abruptly began to foam up.

  • Checked the water pump for shaft play. Yikes!
  • Replaced the water pump with new OEM. Boy was it an arduous task removing that 40-year old gasket remnants. Ugh.
Bike no longer foaming the oil now, but still got steam out the right exhaust. Cue right-side head gasket replacement attempt #2:

  • Another new OEM head gasket, with K&W copper gasket sealant this time.
  • Cylinder head mating surface sanded with 220 grit on a glass plate.
  • Chased threads on head bolt holes
  • Lubed bolt threads, bolt heads & washers
  • Torqued to spec
  • Heat cycled with distilled water and open radiator cap
  • After cooling, cracked each bolt loose and re-torqued one at a time.
The bike is now fine at idle when cold, but as soon as it gets up to temperature it starts blowing steam out the right-side exhaust pipe and bubbles slowly appear in the radiator expansion tank.

I'm at the point where I need help and I feel like I'm beating my head against a wall on this thing. I think it's too nice of a bike (aesthetically) and with the repairs I've done, to cut my losses and part it out, although that's certainly an option. I can try to source another motor somewhere, but finding a good one could be a crapshoot and most of what I'm seeing online are specified as not running. Or I can try to find a local motorcycle mechanic who is willing and able to work on these things. Most of the local shops won't touch a 40-year old motorcycle.

So... short version is can anyone recommend a mechanic in the Denver or Colorado Springs area who can work on these things? Or does anyone have any other words of wisdom.

Thanks and kind regards!
-pace
 

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The exhaust is tied together,Under the motor,it could be the left head gasket bad also,blowing out the right might just be “path of least resistance “
Heres my 82 I had 20 years back.basket case there too,coils were bad on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. Yeah I have thought about that and wondered if it was possible and likely for exhaust gas to primarily switch to the opposite side via the crossover. I don't think I'm that lucky, however I will see if I can stuff some steel wool or something tightly into that crossover pipe to confirm one way or another. I don't think there's enough 'play' in the exhaust to run it with the crossover separated..?
 

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I don’t think itwould possible to isolate them but the left one could have a restriction,did the original head gasket show sign of failing.
The exhaust would be running cooler with liquid going through it,have a digital thermometer
 

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Look at the spark plugs. If it is getting coolant into a cylinder the plug will be steam cleaned. If by chance a head is cracked they are plentiful and fairly cheap. Do not put sealer on the head gaskets, they have a sealer already in them as you witnessed cleaning the old one off.
 
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I can’t help you with the technician able to work on your ride, but, a cylinder leakage tester would isolate any cylinder pressure loss, and with the right tech operating it would locate any short comings by finding the pressure loss. Listen to the crankcase, the cooling system, the exhaust, the intake. Of course this would only be if the readings were off. Were the readings correct (less than 3-4%) and you observed steam escaping the exhaust, it would be external of the engine. Has the engine been run long enough to burn off anything residing in the exhaust system? With the work you have done. You could run the engine without exhaust to help diagnose. Good luck.
 

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DenverWinger lives in Denver, CO
might ask him?
 

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I'm in NW Denver off I-70, What part of town are you in? I have a homemade leakdown tester. Maybe hook up some time this weekend...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
DenverWinger - I'm south of Parker, so a bit of a ways from you. Do you know anyone in Denver who will work on these things?

Dave - Have heard both ways on head sealant vs. not, and given the issues I had with with the first gasket dry is why I decided to go with the copper sealant which many swear by. I know the experts recommend dry on this motor though. The plugs... so the front two plugs look 'clean' but not abnormally so. The rear two are a little sooty/rich. I wouldn't say any of them look steam cleaned. As noted though - white smoke that gets worse as the bike warms up and bubbles coming up through the hose from the radiator to overflow tank seems pretty definitive.

Texas - Original head gasket came off in many pieces, so no way for me to inspect it. And truthfully I don't know exactly what I should be looking for. For the first replacement head gasket, I can see a variety of colorations on various areas of the gasket. Not sure which would indicate coolant getting into the combustion chamber.

This weekend I'm going to find a way to plug the exhaust crossover just to 100% isolate which side is smoking. (and keep looking for a local mechanic). :LOL:

Thanks all!
 

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Don't give up. You have done the hard work........twice, :)
Read Dave's post. The bike almost certainly has a cracked cylinder head. As Dave mentioned a like new looking spark plug is the give away. Also when/if you disassemble the bike you should notice the top of the piston and combustion chamber of the offender will be noticeably cleaner.
Many times a visual inspection will reveal the crack/s.
If the head cracked because it froze the crack could be anywhere. However if the crack was caused by overheating the cracks should radiate outward radially from the exhaust valve. Second most common is radiating out from the spark plug hole.
There is a chance the cylinder is cracked from freezing but that is unlikely if it has no external leaks.
Most times steam from the right pipe originates from the right head. If you were racing down the right exhaust pipe and had a choice between going straight or marking a hard right turn which would you do?
Were I in the same situation I would buy a used head off eBay. Put it on the bench upside down and fillall the combustion chambers right to the top with water or gas. Let it sit over night. Next morning if the intake and exhaust port were dry and chambers still full I would install that head.
 

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it will be easier for you to just do a "Leak Down" test on each cylinder.

that way, you can identify which cylinder(s) is bad . . or the head is cracked on that cylinder(s)

.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you guys much for the encouragement. I'll pick up a leakdown tester as there are lots of cost-effective options online, and I'll anticipate needing a replacement head.

I'm certain the bike was overheated by the PO given that the radiator fan switch was dead and the water pump was on its last legs, but of course freezing is a possibility too in Colorado.
 

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I wouldn't bother with a leak down test. Ir is not doing to give you useful info as the normal leakage to past the rings will confuse.
I would take the head off. Duct tape up all the water ports and blow a fraction of a PSI air in the water jacket. Spary the questionable areas with soapy water and watch the suds come out. Leakdown detectors and compression gauges are overrated.
 

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With leakdown tester you can easily identify which cylinder is leaking into the coolant.....and verse-visa
 
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With leakdown tester you can easily identify which cylinder is leaking into the coolant.....and verse-visa
I am not sure how you would get any real quality conclusions from a leakdown test. A normal good sealing engine can range from 5% to 20% leakage. With a cracked head it might add 1% or 2% maybe. You could te;; if you are testing cylinder #1 for example and see the sir bubbles but that could also be done with just an air hose.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Looks like Mike wins on this one.

Leakdown test on a warm motor showed < 5% leak for each cylinder, with the only escaping air being via the exhaust valves. I then hooked my compressor directly up to each cylinder to see if I could get bubbles in the radiator, but alas the 135psi max that I can get out of my pancake compressor seemingly isn't sufficient.

To recap, the bike only burns coolant once it's fully up to operating temperature. I don't know if that tends to point to a cracked head moreso than a head gasket, but I feel like that is the best path to pursue at this point. I'm going to start looking for a complete head assembly on Ebay or someplace.
 

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Don’t rule out the left head,bit of a job to replace it but being as old as it is it would be safe to replace it anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
So, one other data point to support the 'right head' conclusion. Today I noticed there is a small corroded hole in the right exhaust that is upstream of the crossover pipe. One the bike gets hot enough to start burning coolant, the steam also appears out of that right side exhaust leak.

That said, once I can get the right side problem fixed I'll consider replacing the left side head gasket as preventive maintenance.

Both exhausts are flowing freely fyi. No apparent restrictions in either one.
 

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Sound like you have under control,good luck👍
 

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Looks like Mike wins on this one.

Leakdown test on a warm motor showed < 5% leak for each cylinder, with the only escaping air being via the exhaust valves. I then hooked my compressor directly up to each cylinder to see if I could get bubbles in the radiator, but alas the 135psi max that I can get out of my pancake compressor seemingly isn't sufficient.

To recap, the bike only burns coolant once it's fully up to operating temperature. I don't know if that tends to point to a cracked head moreso than a head gasket, but I feel like that is the best path to pursue at this point. I'm going to start looking for a complete head assembly on Ebay or someplace.
Hi, did you ever see any discoloration on a spark plug from coolant consumption? With little to no loss from the leak down test. I am guessing it’s the head gasket, or a speck of crude stuck at the sealing surface. Not pulling the head for conformation before spending money on an iffy head off eBay?
 
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