How many of us honestly put much thought into our clutch? As long as we can shift gears with the pull of a lever, there isn’t much concern or worry about that wet stack that allows those smooth transitions. However, the moment those little plates start wearing out, every rider notices and finding out about what’s going on under that mysterious clutch cover becomes priority No. 1.
The unfortunate reality is that the clutch is no different from any other part on your bike; it wears out. Fortunately, however, motorcycle clutch replacement is straightforward, especially for those machines using a wet clutch system, like dirt bikes and several motorcycles. Although, before diving into how to swap out the clutch plates, it is necessary to understand when changing is needed.
Knowing When to Replace
The beauty of a wet clutch system is that it is the perfect job for the DIY enthusiast. While other types of bikes may require several hours or days in the shop, a wet clutch stack can be replaced in an afternoon with basic hand tools, which means no labor costs. However, before diving into the dismantling of your clutch, it is essential to know the signs that signify when it’s time to replace your clutch plates. There are at least five telltale signs that it is time to replace your plates.
Loss of Thickness
Gathering Necessary Materials
If your clutch is showing any warping, loss of thickness or your plates have been burned; then it is probably time to replace the stack. Therefore, you should gather the necessary tools and prepare the work area. Be sure to have a manual specific to your bike before taking apart anything because it should list specifics regarding torque and placement when installing the new plates. Additionally, while some bikes may require more specific tools, you should have an Allen set, socket set with an extension, wrench, torque wrench, screwdrivers, shop rags and gasket sealer. Lastly, you will need a clutch plate kit with all the necessary components.
Clutch cover gasket and O-ring
Soaking the New Clutch Plates
For proper motorcycle clutch replacement, it is necessary to soak the new plates in engine oil. You will want to pay special attention to the friction plates, making sure that these get nice and soaked for at least a few hours before installation. The reason a presoak is essential, especially with the friction plates, is because friction plates are made from fibers. Therefore, without a proper soak, the friction plates may be too dry when installed, which can lead to quicker burning and wearing of the steel plates.
Removing the Plates
Now that you have your new plates soaking, it is time to remove the old plates. While it may sound daunting, the process is straightforward, and it likely won’t take you more than a couple of hours or an afternoon to have your new plates installed. Therefore, to ready your bike for the new stack, follow the fundamental process for wet plate removal.
The first thing is to drain the oil. While you don’t have to remove all the oil, it may be wise, especially if you notice debris in the current oil. Also, fresh oil is always better for new clutch installs.
Remove the clutch cover
To remove the clutch cover, you may need to remove a few other elements, like a radiator hose or peg mount. Also, you should have rags on hand to handle any residual oil spillage. Loosen the cover evenly by loosening the bolts in an “X” pattern. Since the bolts may be different lengths, be sure to label which goes where for reinstallation.
Remove the pressure plate
Remove the pressure plate in the same way you removed the clutch cover. However, be careful because the bolts are spring loaded.
Take out the clutch stack
After removing the pressure plate, you should see the clutch stack. Try to remove the stack in one piece. However, if you can’t, then be sure to keep the plates in the same order for reference later.
Inspect the Clutch Basket
Now, with the clutch basket empty, inspect it. You want to make sure that there is no damage to the hubs. If you find that your basket has noticeable damage, then you should replace the basket as well as the plates.
Installing the New Plates
If you do not have a worn clutch basket, then you can move on to the installation of your new clutch plates. The process for installation is similar to the process for removal except you work in reverse.
Before installing the new stack, be sure to get them in the proper order by referencing the original stack. Once you are sure you have the proper order, slide the new plates into the clutch basket.
Once the plates are in place, you can reinstall the pressure plate. When putting the bolts back in be sure to follow the same “X” pattern you used to remove them and tighten evenly until you reach the torque specs suggested in your manual.
Clean off the mating surface of the clutch cover before reinstallation. You can use a contact cleaner to ensure the surface is free of any remnants. Then, reinstall the cover using the same “X” pattern, tightening to the specs of your bike.
After the clutch is reinstalled, you can reconnect any hoses or peddles you had to remove to access the basket. Then, you only need to wait for the gasket sealer to set up before filling the bike with oil, and you’re done.
The process for installing a new wet clutch is straightforward, and most DIYers are up to the task. There is no need to pay extra in labor costs or to be without your bike for a day or more. Therefore, when it’s time to replace your clutch plates look for any number of compatible motorcycle clutch plate kits, and get your hands dirty.