Notes, Conventional Wisdom and Suggestions for Owners of 1997/1998 Buell S3/S3T Models


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 Last Edited on 10/18/2008 16:33

The information detailed below has been accumulated from various sources including the Bad Weather Bikers Website (  The BWB information reflects the personal experiences of Buellists that contribute there.  The items mentioned here are only a fraction of those that have been discussed on the BWB and represent an abstract of the opinions offered there.  To aid in identification of these items, photo and drawing have been provided.  For additional information, alternate opinions and additional item discussions please spend some time getting to know your fellow Buellists on the BWB.  However, as is so often the case with information found online, always “consider the source” and know that “your mileage may vary.”


Buell Recalls

Buell Product Improvement Program

Buell Goodwill Replacement

Buell OEM Parts Upgraded and/or Improved

·         Primary Chain Tensioner

·         Rear Shock Absorber

·         Shifter Detente Plate

·         Shift Lever Assembly

·         Footpegs

·         Front Exhaust Hanger

·         Front Brake Rotor

·         Throttle Cable Clamp

·         Hard Bag Latches

·         Rocket Box Gaskets

·         XB Rocker Box Cover Upgrade

·         Spark Plugs

·         Rear Isolator

·         Sprocket Rotor Assembly

Aftermarket Parts Solutions

·         Wheel Bearings

·         Front Fork Springs/Valves

·         Banke Oil Filler Cap

Maintenance and Repair Items

·         Oil Level Issues

·         Synthetic Oil Use

·         Oil Filter Options

·         Oil Filter Unwinding Syndrome

·         Crankcase Breathers

·         Muffler/Header Issues

·         Battery Cables

·         Sidestand Switch Failure

·         General Electrical Contact Maintenance

·         Fasteners/Loctite

·         Lower Fairing Issues

·         Intake Manifold Leaks

·         Spray Cleaning

·         Carburetor Reworking

·         Seat Replacement

·         Final Drive Belt Transmission Pulley

·         Front Isolator Bracket to Head Bolt Failure

Buell Recalls  There have been several recalls on Buell motorcycles and in some cases it is very difficult to determine which recalls have been performed on any given motorcycle.  Your best resource for this information is Buell customer service, either through your dealer or by calling them direct at 414-343-8400.  Providing them with your VIN# will allow them to look up the records on your Buell and check the status on any recalls performed or pending on your Buell.  The Buell Service Bulletins detailing the recalls are available on this CD on the main index as well as in the service manual in the appropriate sections.  In most if not all cases, your dealer will perform these recalls without cost to you.


Buell Product Improvement Program In the last few years, Buell has redesigned several components that did not turn out well the first time out.  They have offered these items to Buell owners at no cost, although they are not technically recall, and without regard to the mileage/warranty status of the Buell.


Goodwill Replacements   For some out of warranty situations, Buell may offer remedies for failed parts in the form of “Goodwill” replacements.  These appear to be handled on a case-by-case basis in concert with your local dealership.  The particulars of each case may vary from waived fees to owner pays labor/Buell pays parts to a standard “Goodwill” fee of $100 – a sort of owner co-payment.

Buell OEM Parts Upgraded and/or Improved

Primary Chain Tensioner (URGENT!)  

At the risk of being considered alarmist, it is difficult to under emphasize the importance of upgrading the primary chain tensioners from the original part to the new beefier one.  There have been many expensive failures of the originals that have in some cases taken stators, rotors, clutches and transmission parts with them when they grenaded.  Here is a photo showing the difference:

Just in case you couldn’t already tell, the new part is on the right.

New (2001+) Beefier Chain Tensioner: Part number 39975-90A plus Primary Case Gasket #34955-89A, Oil Seal #37101-84, 1 Qt. Primary case lubricant (see notes on synthetic oils below)

The Shock Absorber

The convoluted story of Buell Rear Shock absorbers would in a perfect world be left to the realm of the several recalls, with every Bueller coming out of the process with the best possible rear suspension for his (or her) bike.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes not the case.  There have been many opportunities for individual choice, bad timing, dealer ignorance and the forces of chaos to leave the Buell with less rear suspension than it should have.

The 1995/1996 Buells were shipped from the factory with WP rear shocks that looking something like this:

This shock was delivered with a spring too weak for setting preload correctly for rider weights over 200 lbs., and valving that was insufficient for anything other than medium weight riders at moderate levels of riding.  Heavier riders, two up riding and/or touring with luggage pushed the shock past its design capacity.  To its credit, several suspension specialty companies can and will modify this shock to suit the heavier load rates and more aggressive riding.  This shock did, however, suffer some race related failures that caused Buell to recall it in 1999.  Buell replaced the WP shock with a Showa, which can be identified by the chrome can covering the preload spring and the configuration of the rear arm.

The first Showas offered little or no improvement on the preload and valving problems, and to make matters worse proved difficult or impossible for the suspension specialists to upgrade.  Within a few months of the recall many of them began to blow cartridge seals and lose their fluid.  If that were somehow not enough, several of these shocks suffered catastrophic structural failure while being ridden on the road by regular Buell owners.  This brought on the second recall in which certain Buell models were given a Band-Aid “fix” that came to be known as the “SRP (Shock Repair Package).”  This consisted of a clamshell device that was installed over the rear of the shock and a metal strap hose clamped to the front around the shock eye.  This did nothing to prevent the failure. It did insure that the rear suspension would not collapse after a shock failure and prevented the rear tire from eating its way up through the fender and seat.  Many owners,  already unhappy about having to give up the look of their exposed spring on the WP, then found they had an inadequately built shock that tended to leak and fall apart and then found themselves with this ugly band aid fix.

After a time the good folks at Buell came up with a Showa shock that finally addressed the Buell suspension design.  It is equipped with a strong enough spring to set the preload for heavy rider loads and two-up/touring use.  When combined with the rear isolator upgrade, the rear suspension feels much better and performs as designed.

Its stronger rear arm can identify the newer K1400 rear shock.

The K1400.8 may be available free of charge for any pre 2001 motorcycles that have not had a previous recall shock installed.  It has also been a free replacement (waived goodwill upgrade fee) for any recall shock that leaks, providing that the leak occurs within one year of the recall shock’s initial installation.  If the recall shock leaks outside of a year from install, it may be installed for a $100 goodwill upgrade fee.  The question remains as to whether or not Buell will replace the SRP shocks as a free replacement.  There was a letter sent out to owners of Buells that needed the SRP Band-Aid. It is reported to have stated the K1400 upgrade would be at the discretion of the Buell owner, if the owner objected to the SRP.

In summary, if you have a WP the K1400 will may be installed free.  But why would you want one?  If you have a leaker Showa within a year of its install, you might get a free K1400 – a very good upgrade.  After a year, it may cost you $100 – not a bad deal.  If you have an SRP in good condition, you will need to read “The Successful Buell Ownership Experience” (included in this collection) and follow the suggestions there pertaining to a “three-way partnership.”

Showa shock Part Number K1400.8

Shifter Detent Plate

Harley Davidson redesigned the shifter detent plates for the Sportsters (and therefore, Buells) in 1999 to reduce the effort in shifting and improve accuracy.  This is a great upgrade to do when you change out your soon to be exploding primary chain adjuster.

Old detente plate on left - New plate on right over Baker plate - Photo by Henrik Bo Pederson

Detent Plate Upgrade HD Part Number 33656-90A + new retaining spring (11019)

Shift Lever Assembly

Until 2001, Buell equipped its motorcycles with the stock Harley Davidson Sportster Shifter assemblies.  Although they may work perfectly well on the HD bikes, they are far too loose and sloppy for use on the Buells and are a major factor in clunky shifting, false neutrals and missed shifts.  Until 2001, there were several after market items that either improved the stock shifter (oil lite bushings - $35, from American Sportbike - or replace it (Banke Shifter - $240, also from American Sportbike).  The 2001 shifter upgrade represents the best solution when cost is a consideration, and when it is not?

2001 shifter
Photo courtesy of “The X-1 Files (

 Buell 2001 shifter lever/linkage upgrade # 49074-01Y @ $99.95


The original equipment footpegs on the 1998 Models are very soft and the rubber covers have a tendency to tear and then rotate on the metal inner shaft.  Starting in 1999 these pegs (a stock HD footpeg) were changed to a superior assembly and in 2000 were provided with springs.  Although the prices may have gone up, most riders agree that the later parts are far superior to the 1998 offerings.

Spring loaded footpeg conversion:
50178-96Y E-clip 2ea $0.70
50794-00Y Spring, Footpeg pivot 2ea $4.30
50795-00Y Pin, Footpeg pivot 2ea $3.50
50785-98YA Footpeg Assy, left 1ea /50786-98YA Footpeg Assy, Right 1ea

Aluminum Millennium X1 Peg Part #
Left Peg N0403.Q /Right Peg N0404.Q  (see above for spring load parts)

Front exhaust hanger

The header/muffler assemblies on the 1997, 1998 and 1999 Buells have been known to lose header stud nuts, break header studs, fracture headers and generally shake themselves to pieces under normal use.  For this reason, the good folks at Buell developed an improved front exhaust hanger that helps resolve these problems and have been offering it to Buell owners as a no cost “Product Improvement Program (PIP)” item.  The details of this are covered in Buell Service Bulletin B-032, which is available on this CD at Service Manual/Chassis/Exhaust System/Front Exhaust Hanger Upgrade.  You may need to bring Buell Customer Service (414-343-8400) into the discussion if your dealer is not aware of this “PIP” program. 

In many cases this upgrade is made part of the Shock/Front Shock Mount recall (B-035A –on this CD at Service Manual/Chassis/Rear Shock Absorber/B-035A . . .).  Be sure to pay particular attention to the grounding of the voltage regulator as this work is done.  There have been many cases of expensive electrical failures due to insufficient grounding.  Some have attached a separate ground lead from the regulator bracket to the regulator bracket mount bolt as extra insurance.

 New Hanger                                                                               Old Hanger

Exhaust Header Mount Retrofit Kit #S1001-01A1

Front Brake Rotor

The Front Brake Rotor and Carrier were improved on the 2000-year models to eliminate or reduce the rattling of the previous year’s assemblies.  This assembly will bolt right up to your 1998 model, although removal of the original carrier may be a bit of a challenge. It is suggested that you start by coating the flat head screws with liberal amounts of WD-40 and then allow some time for penetration.  From there, use a center punch to whack each of the screws in their Allen wrench recesses to break up any corrosion in between the screw and carrier.  Then use an air impact wrench on low power. If this does not work, you can use the center punch set at an angle to the outer surface of the screw in such as way as to drive the screw until it breaks free.  Your final resort might be to grind off/drill out the head of the uncooperative fastener after which the remaining threaded section can be wound out using vice grips.

The rotor assembly is priced at around $100.


New Rotor/Carrier                            Old rotor/Carrier

H0201.R Buell Rotor Carrier assembly
3655A Qty 5 needed, Pan head Torx Screw
New brake pads
- Ferrado 911

Throttle Cable Clamp

The Throttle Clamp, a new part on Buell Blasts, works well to resolve a problem with the Buells that may have been the cause of several serious crashes.  There have been reports of throttle cables jumping out of the cable brackets on Buell carburetors causing the throttle to jam at wide open.  One remedy for this is to always make sure that your cables have no slack in them.  Another more positive solution is to install the clamp.

throttle clamp 

Photo courtesy of "The X-1 Files (

  C0130.L and C0129.L Clamp halves plus screw AN0604.2CZ

Hard Bag Latches

The Hard Bags on the Buell “T” models have always presented our friends in East Troy with interesting challenges.  The S2Ts came equipped with the infamous “ejecto latches“ which had a tendency to spring open spewing the bag contents across the interstate.  With the advent of the S3T the problem changed to the “no way, no how” latches.  These refused to open, usually whenever you were on a road trip and needed the wallet/tools/registration/camera/house keys that you had placed in them.  Although several very inventive methods were derived for opening the bags once the latches had failed, most dealers resorted to grinding off the hinges and opening the bags from the bottom.

The upgrade/fix kits for this is based around a new latch plate assembly, but may also include hinge assemblies and a tool to remove the “pin in head” fasteners.  The good news is that the plate seems to have solved one of the latch problems.  The bad news is that other bag latch parts are so poorly made that you still stand a good chance of having a latch break leaving the bag un-openable.

Kit 91255-97Y (the works)/Kit 91349-99Y (just the latch plate)

Part # 91223-97Y (left), 91226-97Y (right) – for when the latch breaks.   Be sure to provide parts person with your key number.

Note:  See Hard Bag Repair and Reinforcement in the Maintenance and Repair section of this article for additional information.

Rocker Box Gaskets

The rocket box gaskets that Harley Davidson built many of its Sportster/Buell motors with have been know to become misaligned and leak on a fairly regular basis.  After several (many) years of failures of these paper gaskets, they were finally upgraded in 2001.  Although this may not require pre-emptive work, it is definitely important to make sure you get the new gaskets if you ever have to pull the covers off.

Note: Consider doing the Buell recommended rocker box modifications detailed HERE when replacing the gaskets.   Also, see "XB Rocker Box Cover Upgrade" below.

The new part number is 16800-84. Have your dealer look for Parts and Accessories Bulletin #709.

XB Rocker Box Cover Upgrade

The rocker box cover from the new XB engines can, with a little modification, be bolted right up to the older "Evolution" (XL) engines.  Not only does the upgrade reduce the incident of gasket problems it also addresses the tendency of the older engines to blow excessive amounts of oil out through the crankcase breathers.  This is accomplished by replacing the older two-piece cover and umbrella valve assembly with a single cover that uses a real world PCV valve.



Parts Needed – Approx. $115

17605-00YB - Rocker cover, front head

17642-02A - Rocker cover, rear head

17606-00YA - Grommet, Viton, Black (need 2)

17607-00Y  - PCV Valve (need 2)
868A -  Hex Socket Button Head Screw (need 2) 


For a complete how-to pictorial on the upgrade please refer to Jose Quinones's article reposted at

Spark Plugs

Buell changed its recommendations on spark plugs in 1999.  It is important to make sure that your bike is not running too hot a plug by using the 10R12 or its equivalent.

Buell 27661-00Y (10R12) (Supersedes old/hotter 6R12 OEM plugs)
NGK DPR7ea-9 hot (not recommended)
NGK DPR8EA-9 medium
NGK DPR9EA-9 cool (equivalent to Buell 10R12)
DCPR same except socket size

Rear Isolator Upgrade

The rear isolators on Buells experienced a high rate of failure during the 1997/1998 model years.  There were several marginally successful “improved” parts offered which may or may not have addressed what has been described as a “contractor quality control” problem.  In 2001 Buell finally provided a replacement that removed all doubt as to its effectiveness.  This item has been considered a “Product Improvement Program” part and has been provided at no cost to Buell owners that have a failure of isolators installed prior to when this upgrade kit was available.  It is a much more substantial part and is reported to provide an improvement in the handling of the Buells upon which it has been installed. 


The drawing on the left shows the metal tab (circled in blue) that will identify the upgraded isolators.

New (2001) rear isolator kit #Z0010.CB - Supercedes kit #91360-99YA

Note:  For a pictorial short cut to the factory isolator replacement method please see Hoser's article reposted at:

Sprocket Rotor Assembly


The 2000 model year Buell engine came equipped with an upgraded sprocket rotor in the primary case.  There had been occasional problems with the  bolts  separating from the pulley.  The newer assembly uses eight bolts rather than the original 4 bolt assembly.

Part Number 32413-92A

After Market Parts Solutions

Wheel Bearings 

The wheel bearing used on both the Castaloy (powder coated) and Performance Machine (aka PM – chrome) wheels have been known to fail prematurely.  This may be because the bearings are low quality third World manufactured parts.  The replacement bearings from the Harley Davidson/Buell dealers may also be of substandard quality as well as being overly expensive.  A set of high quality NSK bearings for both wheels have been known to cost half of what the dealer gets for the junk ones.  Always check your bearings whenever changing/replacing tires and them make sure you are getting high quality replacements at a fair price if they are bad.

Castalloy Wheels –Front - 2 ea 6204-2RS, Rear/Right side –(2) 6205-2RS/Left side –(1) 62205-2RS

PM (Chrome) Wheels - NSK bearings
Front – (2) 6204-2RS /Rear – (3) 6205-2RS

Front Fork Springs/Valves

The front and rear suspensions on the Buell from the factory, although remarkable from the first time anyone throws a leg over, are inadequate for heavier riders, riding two up and/or touring.  Although there are adjustments that may allow the suspension to be optimized for rider weights of as much as 200 lbs and less, the suspension components quickly run out of preload adjustment when the rider load increases beyond this point.  No amount of adjusting the dampening settings can compensate for out of specification preload.

For the front forks the only way to achieve optimal handling performance is to have the forks respringed and revalved.  One sure sign of this lack of preload on the S3 is the tendency of the front forks to bottom out when hitting bumps while braking.  This bottoming out damages the steering head bearings and can cause them to become notchy well before their designed replacement mileage.

There are several companies that will be happy to rebuilt the stock forks to accommodate the riding weight, riding style and touring needs of those that do not fit the factory design parameter.  They can also provide the necessary parts for those that wish to do the upgrade themselves.  For information:

Racetech  -

Lindemann Engineering  -

Traxxion  Dynamics -

The parts can be purchased for a little over $200 and the work can be done for something over twice that.

Banke Oil Filler Cap

The first time a new Buell owner takes off the seat to check the oil level several difficulties become apparent.  First, the cap is slippery and difficult to get a grip on.  Second, any dirt sitting on the top of the tank can easily fall into the opening.  Finally, although not immediately apparent, the cap can under certain circumstances pop out of the tank spewing oil everywhere.

The solution is the Banke Oil Filler Cap available through American Sportbike.  It is item #5625 and sells for $40.  It is a threaded cap twists onto an aluminum sleeve which is bonded into the existing cap hole in the tank.

Banke filler

Maintenance and Repair Items

. . .or, what you forgot to read in the manual or it just didn’t tell you.

Oil Level Issues

The Scenario:  You are a conscientious Buell owner that takes good care of his bike and already knows something about vehicle maintenance.  You know, for instance, that you are supposed to check the oil level in an engine before riding off for a day of fun on road.  So, you check the oil first thing in the morning (along with the tire pressure, mirror adjustment, brake fluids, etc.) and find you are over a quart low!  You fill the tank to the upper mark on the dipstick, finish your pre-flight and ride off to adventure.  About half an hour later you pull to the side of the road with oil all over the back of your bike.  You take off the seat and find the oil filler cap has popped up letting the contents of the oil tank run down and over the rear tire and everything else behind the engine.  What happened?

First, you did not read your owner’s manually carefully.  It explains to only check your oil after the engine is at normal operating temperature, which means ride it around some first before checking.  It also says to only check the oil level with the motorcycle STRAIGHT UP AND COMPLETELY LEVEL, which means balancing the bike off the kickstand while checking the oil.

Your oily mess is the result of the engines well known tendency to “wet sump” – a condition where as the bike cools after use oil from the tank drains back down into the crankcase giving the uninitiated rider the impression that the bike is low on oil.  Filling based on a cold “wet sump” reading will be adding oil to a tank that may already be full.  There are even cases when a warmed up bike with the oil filled only to the top mark on the dipstick will oil the tire through the overflow.  For this reason, many experienced riders only fill to the ¾ full mark.

Synthetic Oil Use

The Scenario:  You have checked your oil and the tank is in need of “topping off.”  You ride to your local Harley Davidson/Buell dealer and ask what oil you should use.  The service manager/tech/salesman/parts counter person says,  “Harley Davidson recommends you use only Harley Davidson 20W50 for warm weather and 10W50 for below 40 degree use.”  This is true, the manual says so and HD makes lots of money selling its oil to HD/Buell owners based on what the manual recommends.

You have been around long enough to know there is more than just one type of oil.  You ask the service manager/tech/salesman/parts counter person, “Is the HD oil a synthetic?  I have heard people get better mileage/less emissions/less leakage/longer change intervals/cleaner engines by using synthetic oil as opposed to regular oil.”  A shocked look comes over the dealer’s employee’s face, one that you would expect if you had some sort of uncontrollable flatulence problem.  “Don’t use synthetic oil in you Harley Davidson engine.  It is too slippery and will cause your roller bearings to flat spot because they won’t spin, it will ruin your seals and gaskets, it will leak out and it’s use will void your warranty!”  None of this is true.  If you have been told any of this, calmly put your wallet back into your pocket, find your motorcycle keys, slowly back out of the dealership get on your motorcycle and ride away like the very wind.  You will need to find another less delusional/brainwashed/larcenous dealership for your Buell.

Harley Davidson considers information on its oils and lubricant to be “proprietary” in many if not all cases.  They rely on your faith in their knowing of what is best for their product as well as their profits.  It will not hurt your motorcycle to use the recommended products, but their very well may be better alternatives at the same price or with additional benefits.  Synthetic oil is one of these products.

There are many opinions about how and when to use synthetic oil in your Buell.  Once you have gotten around the “too slippery/warranty void” nonsense you will find many synthetic options, many benefit claims and many different price strata.  A middle of the road approach, and one used by many Buell owners, is to run the HD oil during break in and then for another couple of thousand miles.  Change the synthetic oil and the oil filter (again, there are options other than the HD offering – based on the Ford FL-1A/Purolator PH-8) on the same intervals recommended in the manual. 

Your use of synthetics vs. HD products may depend, as it does for many of us, upon how far you are from a dealer and how close the nearest Auto Zone store is.

There are alternatives to the HD Sport Trans fluid in your primary/transmission cases as well.  Many have gone to product from Redline or Mobil 1.  There have been some reports of a mysterious “green goo” residue in the clutch/stator/rotor areas of the primary after use of Redline Shockproof Heavy (a thick, reddish/pink fluid) and Redline has recently changed its recommendation to it in Buells.  The subject is a vast one, so here are some links of interest:

From the Harley Davidson Website

Hd synthoil

Screamin' Eagle® Synthetic Motorcycle Lubricant - SAE 20W50

Screamin' Eagle® Synthetic Lubricant works in all three cavities of your motorcycle: the engine, transmission and the primary chaincase and is developed with a proprietary three synthetic basestock formula. This is the first multi-purpose synthetic motorcycle lubricant specifically tested and certified by Harley-Davidson. Formulated to meet the cleanliness requirements of engines providing long term protection with superior high-temperature stability for high output engines. Formulated to maintain the coefficient of friction for proper clutch operation and provide adequate lubrication to the primary chain drive. Formulated to provide lubricity for the anti-wear requirements of transmission gears. Formulated for improved seal protection. Approved by Harley-Davidson for use in all stages of engine life. Lubricant is not detrimental to break-in stage of engines.

1 Quart Bottle

Formulated for Harley-Davidson Evolution® XL, Evolution 1340, Twin Cam and Revolution equipped models and all Buell® models.



Contact dealer for availability

MSRP US $8.25

There are alternatives to the HD Sport Trans fluid in your primary/transmission cases as well.  Many have gone to product from Redline or Mobil 1.  There have been some reports of a mysterious “green goo” residue in the clutch/stator/rotor areas of the primary after use of Redline Shockproof Heavy (a thick, reddish/pink fluid) and Redline has recently modified its recommendation from Shockproof to a 75W90 for use in Buells.  The subject is a vast one, and this link will provide additional information:

Your use of synthetics vs. HD products may depend, as it does for many of us, upon how far you are from a dealer and how close the nearest Auto Zone store is.

Oil Filter Options

It has generally been accepted that more oil capacity is good for Buells, as is cleaner and cooler oil.  Larger oil filters can provide added benefit over the stock "Sportster" oil filter in all these areas.  There are options both in the Harley Davidson dealerships and more mainstream sources.  If you somehow feel driven to contribute to your local HD dealer's "Early Retirement Fund", the Dyna oil filter (Harley Davidson part number 63812-90 - available in chrome but, alas, not with fringe) will provide improvement.  There are dozens of after market options based on the Ford FL-1A/Purolator PH-8 will also do very well.  For a more complete discussion please refer to the following:

There is one drawback that my be related to the use of larger oil filter, that being the . . . .

Oil Filter Unwinding Syndrome

The Scenario:  You are motoring happily through the twisties, secure in the knowledge that your synthetic oil and larger filter are providing you Buell with superior lubrication and enhanced oil performance when you suddenly feel a hot, slippery liquid beginning to fill you motorcycle boot.  A quick look in the mirrors brings your heart into your throat as you see a vast cloud of blue oil smoke billowing out onto the road behind you - a sight only a WWII destroyer captain could love.  You may have just become the unwitting victim of the mysterious oil filter unwinding, oil-spewing syndrome.

The solution for this is drawn from the pages of our racetrack brethren's book of knowledge - safety wiring.  To keep your filter from loosing you will need to first drill a 1/16-inch hole in the muffler mount directly below the filter near the upper case through bolt. Then secure and install a worm drive hose clamp (readily available at most NAPA stores) on the oil filter.  To complete the fix run safety wire between clamp's drive unit and the hole you just drilled. 

safety wire

Crankcase Breathers

The Scenario:  You are cleaning up your bike and notice there is always oil dripping from your air cleaner.  You open up the breadbox (aka airbox) and find the inside is fouled with oil and the filter is getting too dirty too fast.  Is something wrong?  The Buell Corporate line is:

"For those who have oil puking problems through the head breathers, Buell is suggests  two modifications to the middle rocker box cover to cure this problem, possibly as part of a rocker box gaskets repair/replacement: (1) drill out the oil drain hole to 1/8" so that oil can drain more easily, and (2) chamfer 60 degrees the hole in which the umbrella valve sits. According to BMC, the new umbrella valves will not sit down fully (and seal off) because of their new design/material--chamfering the hole allows more of the stem of the umbrella valve to pull down into the hole and seal off better."


Photo courtesy of "The X-1 Files (

The Buell engines come stock with the crankcase breathers dumping the oil vapor/water vapor from the crankcase into the intake stream via the breadbox.  Although most of this gets pulled into the cylinders and is burned off, some still remains behind in the breadbox, air filter, carburetor, etc.  The solution is to remove your breathers from the airbox to a filtered line that opens to free air.  Many use a catch can on the end of their breather line to make sure no oil gets on the bike or the road.  There is another advantage besides keeping the bike cleaner – the stuff from the breather doesn’t burn as well as gasoline and air.  Removing it from the intake stream is worth a couple of extra horsepower.

Note:  Be sure to check the "XB Rocker Box Cover Upgrade" in the "New and Improved Parts" section above.

Muffler/Header Issues

The Scenario:  You have your new Buell.  It handles great, is fun to ride but just sounds, well, . . . “not like a Harley Davidson.”  Plus, the muffler looks like it belongs on a John Deere.  Solution: an after market slip on muffler or exhaust system.  You have done your homework and know that you will improve your mid-range power/torque by switching, not to mention making the bike sound better.  But after you make the change your exhaust system begins shedding exhaust bolts, exhaust studs, mufflers and headers with an alarming regularity. 

The chances are you have a system that is out of alignment and /or over torqued and stressed.  Over tightening the header bolts at the exhaust ports will inevitably lead to a broken header studs – they are only spec’d for about 7 ft/lbs of torque.  After checking to make sure you have the new, updated exhaust hanger your next move should be to carefully assemble the entire system from the headers to the rear muffler hanger while only tightening the fasteners finger tight.  Then go back through the system checking to make sure each connection is not bound up or stressed.  Then, and only then, start tightening the fasteners – starting with the exhaust port studs – to their correct torques while making sure all the connections down stream are still free to move.  This is called the no-stress alignment method.

Aaron Wilson has come up with another method for use in his 1999 M2.  Although the 1999 models are more prone to exhaust system failures than the earlier models, his technique – which is called the stationary header system – may have merit for all models.  He describes it here: - POST106985

The full dialog can be found at:

Battery Cables/Electrical Failures

The Scenario #1:  You climb onto your Buell, put the key in the ignition, turn on the fuel (always remembering to turn it off when you park the bike), hit the starter and . . .nothing happens.  You may see the indicator lights come on but then flick off when you hit the starter again.

Before heading down the expensive “dead battery, bad fuse, burnt out charging system” route your first move should be to make sure your battery cables have not vibrated loose.  You have probably noticed that the engines on these bikes shake a bit.  The battery cables are particularly prone to loosening under this vibration.  If they can be moved by hand they need tightening using a 10 MM wrench. 

The Scenario #2  Your are motoring off into the sunset.  All of a sudden your indicator lights flicker, your tach jumps from peg to peg and the engine sputters and dies as you pull to the shoulder.

After checking for loose battery cables as noted above, it becomes apparent that something more serious is going on.  You may even get an intermittent failure and the bike may start back up only to shut down again.  It is time to check the connectors (spade terminals) at the ends of the battery cables and the lead from the main breaker, particularly where they attach to the engine/starter.  The "roadside fix" is to find a length of stout wire (barbed wire works, if your tetanus shot is current), loop it around the terminal where the connector failed (the battery terminal nut is 12 MM), cinch it up and then attach it to the end of the wire where the break is.  As you can surmise, it may be to your advantage to carry a few wrenches, a set of wire cutters, electrical tape and either wire nuts or crimp connectors.

The battery cables on the S2 models are stiffer, and therefore more prone to vibration damage, than those on later models.  A longer lasting fix (unless you prefer the look of barbed wire) would be to replace the old cables with later, more flexible parts.

Battery cables - 70097-75A, 70402-96YA (from a 2001 Buell M2)

If your bike is still broke, you may now go down the more expensive route. 

Sidestand Switch Failure

The Scenario:  You have done all your preflight checks, the engine is properly warmed up (you can feel heat in the rocker covers), you put up the kick stand, put the bike in gear, slowly let out the clutch and . . .the engine dies.  You do this several times with the same result.  What is wrong?

You have very probably become victim of a sidestand switch failure, a very common malady prior to the recall and an occasional problem since.  Buells are equipped with a starter interlock system that links the sidestand switch, neutral switch and a switch on the clutch lever.  If the when the neutral light switch is “off” (bike is in gear) the clutch switch will kill the ignition if the sidestand switch is not “on” (the kickstand is still down).  The system is designed to keep you from riding off with the kickstand down.

If the kickstand switch fails, the interlock believes the kickstand is still down even though you have it in the up position.  The “quick fix” that will get you rolling again is to strip back the wires leading to the switch and attach the bare wires together, followed by a layer of electrical tape.  Many Buell owners make this quick fix permanent using a crimp connector, always making sure from then on that they have their kickstand up before rolling off.

General Electrical Contact Maintenance

In general is there has been considerable wisdom attributed to the idea that all the electrical contacts on the Buells will function much better if they are periodically coated with dielectric grease.  One less than electrically proficient Buell owner found that the indicator light sockets are a notable exception to this rule of thumb . . .


The previously mentioned vibration causes many if not all of the fasteners on the Buells to want to unfasten themselves if not provided with extra incentive to stay put.  You will notice over time that there are many “jam nuts,” Nylock nuts and locking washers on the bike.  As you read the manual you will notice that there is continual reference to the use of various “Loctite” products on the threads of other fasteners.  Do not discount this advice.  Many have learned the hard way to use thread locking products on every fastener not already protected by jam/Nylock nuts or lock tab washers.

Lower Fairing Issues

The lower fairings on the S3T, a distinctive body component unique to the “T” versions, are also prone to fracture.  Many owners have had multiple right lowers fairings crack near the lower well nut/sprocket cover bracket as well as at the fasteners to the airbox.  Buell Customer Service has been willing to replace the broken lowers, and for some this has meant a new part every season for 4 years in a row – sometimes two per season.  Although the build quality of these parts has been improved in the later years, the newer lowers do not fit well on the 1997/1998 model years – and the old style continue to fail.  While still waiting for a stronger part, some have solved the breakage problem by using one of the wonders of the 20th Century – Velcro.

The breakage problem is the result of the fairing being fastened on one end to a constantly vibrating engine and one the other to a minimally vibrating frame.  The fix involves using Velcro between the bottom bracket and the fairing.  Some then loosely install the well nut to help the Velcro stay together.  The Velcro allows the lower to vibrate without being stressed by being only loosely attached to the bracket.

Hard Bag Cracking - Repair and Reinforcement

The "T" version hard bags have proven to be an ongoing challenge for the people that build Buells.  As detailed in the Upgraded and Improved Parts/Hard Bag Latches section of this article, they have in some cases attempted to provide improvements to these troublesome appendages.  In addition to latch problems, the inner hard bags have been prone to cracking in normal use.

The photos above show some of the cracking on bags with around 40K miles on them.  The cracks are completely through the inner bag to the point where on at least one you can see light coming through.  Some of the others were difficult to find until water was sprayed on the inner bag at which point the leaks made the cracking obvious.  In order to make the cracks show up better in the photos they have been filled with white chalk.

Since it is now very unlikely that Buell will be offering you stronger inner bag replacements,  you will very probably be looking for a way to repair the inevitable cracking of the inner hard bags. For a detailed pictorial presentation of one repair process please see Al Lighton's Hard Bag Repair and Reinforcement article at:

Intake Manifold Leaks

The intake manifold seals may dry out and begin leaking within a couple of years of install, but at least they are held to the engine by Allen screws no normal wrench can turn.  Leaking seals mean even a properly tuned engine will run overly lean – a condition that can destroy and engine.  Intake seals and the carburetor/manifold seal will need to be added to your periodic maintenance/replacement list.  The manifold seal has a tendency to bunch up when the carburetor is pushed into it.  TIP: lightly grease the seal before pushing the carb into it.  The intake seals arrive misaligned from the factory in many cases and need to be carefully installed so that the gap between the manifold and the metal flange is equal on each side.  Take care to make sure the manifold is not jammed into place – it should be free to move until you tighten down the Allen screws.  Ah, the Allen screws.

You probably already figured out the problem while trying to find an Allen wrench, Allen socket or ball end Allen wrench that will find the Allen screw and still have enough room to turn.  Some have discovered that by removing the fuel tank (and easier job than it sounds like and always a help in carburetor/manifold work) the pesky screws can be turned using a T-handled, ball end Allen wrench.  Another less expensive solution is to find a standard Allen screw that works, and then cut off a short section that can be placed

into the screw head leaving enough sticking out to use an open end wrench on.  TIP: This “cut off the Allen wrench” solution works in several other places on the bike where a “special Buell factory tool” is recommended.

Use of Pressurized Spray cleaning

Although spray cleaning, either using a pressure washer or at a pay-to-spray station, is an effective way to remove layers of dirt and grime care must be taken to protect the Buell’s unsealed bearings.  Both sets of wheel bearings, the steering head bearings and the swingarm bearings should not be subjected to direct pressure washing to keep the bearing grease in and the water out.

CV-40 Carburetor Reworking

The stock set-up of a factory delivered/dealer prepped CV-40 carburetor may make the EPA happy, but it will cause your Buell to cough and stumble on a regular basis.  The best way to tune up your Buell, particularly your carburetor, is to invest in a dynometer tuning by an expert dyno tuner.  If that is not practical, here are some general suggestions that should get you started in the right direction.

1) Change slow jet to 45 or 48 (start with 45, stock is 42) .
2) Change fast jet to 190 or 195 (Stock is 195 or 200, note that a 185 works better for some bikes at high altitudes like in Colorado - true optimum jetting is best done via dyno)
3) Carefully remove plug over idle mixture screw (drill it out carefully) and reset idle mixture screw to 2 1/2 turns from full in or for best idle speed. If best idle is more than 3 turns out, switch to a 48 pilot jet and re-adjust idle screw for optimum idle.
5) Shim the needle a little higher (~0.01".)

The Stock Buell Seat/a fixture only the Marques de Sade could appreciate?

If you are not one of the Buell owners blessed with eternal “Buns of Steel,” you may have already discovered the stock seat is not engineered or constructed for hours of motorcycling enjoyment.  The stock seats are built with a shorter seat pocket that slopes toward the tank, in some cases forcing some sensitive anatomical parts into an uncomfortable position.  Even the "Buns of Steel" won't help you here.

One remedy is to have the original seat rebuilt to lengthen the seat pocket and remove the slope to the tank.  There are several after market seats that incorporate these changes into their design, the most common being the Carbon products.  There are, however, some reports of handling/control problems with the Carbons resulting from the more rearward seating position.  The original vs. replacement question seems to be a classic rider preference issue.  The prospect of  sensitive body bits being crushed against the fuel tank might cause some to lean toward the after market solution or pocket rebuild.

If your concern is only for distance related butt problems, gel inserts and or exterior pad accessory attachments may offer relief.

Final Drive Belt Transmission Pulley

There has been a larger than would normally be expected failure of the belt drive pulley on the transmission output shaft.  In some cases the pulley self destructed even after the owner had paid careful attention to the installation procedure described in the service manual.  From " The X-1 Files (":
 , , ,the nut and retention plate that locks down the belt sprocket. It may come loose and back off the mainshaft and still be in the retention plate. The sprocket will wear on the splines because the 5th-mainshaft is harder than the sprocket metal. So now the 5th-mainshaft is banging against the inside of the sprocket and wearing it down and causing the bearing to make noise. If this has been going on for along time you may lose the 5th-mainshaft and bearing and belt sprocket.
To check this, take off the belt sprocket cover and take off the two Allen bolts from retention plate. Look at the nut and see if it is damaged, the back part of the nut will look like a wrench slip off, all six sides of the nut will have a mark the same thickness has the retention plate. This tells you the 5th-mainshaft is wearing the sprocket.

BUY the Jims Mega Nut (Part#1708... cost $50.) DON'T use the H-D/Buell one (cost about $6.) because it will happen again. If you do, loc-tight and torque correctly!

There has also been an upgraded pulley made available under the same part number as the original.  The most telling visual difference between the old and new is that the new version has 3/4" of contact with the splines while the original has only 1/2".  There have been occasional reports of the older version still being handed across the parts counter.  Be sure you get the newer version.  

Part number 40202-91B
- approximately $120

Front Isolator Bracket to Head Bolt Failure

The high strength bolts (7/16 X 14 - 2 3/4") that attach through the front isolator bracket and into the front head have in some cases been known to shear off.  Although there has not been enough independent data collected to date to determine if the failures are mileage related, corrosion related, use (or perhaps, abuse) related, improper or inept wrenching related, or the result of a manufacturer quality control problem or a Buell design specification deficiency.  What is apparent is that these bolts are failing at some incident level and that replacing them before they break will eliminate either the usual failure shown in the below left or . . .

Sheared left bolt   Broken Head

. . . .the less frequent but much more disastrous secondary failure shown in the above right.

In bikes that have had the Buell B-018 Front Isolator Mount System Safety Recall completed on their Buell, the original bolts were replaced in this procedure with high strength bolts manufactured by f911.  This is also what you will be provided when buying replacement bolts (Buell Part # 6131-Y) from your Buell dealer's parts counter. These bolts can be identified by the manufacturers marking on the bolt head as shown in left hand photo below.

f911 Bolt from Dealer CNC2000 Bolt from Chromate

There are alternatives to the Buell supplied bolts.  Chromate Industrial Corporation supplies a high strength bolt of equal or greater strength than the dealer bolt that also has an anodized anti-corrosion coating.  Since there are still questions remaining unanswered about the Buell bolt, alternate sources such as Chromate my be advisable.

For a more comprehensive report on various aspects of these failures please see

Chromate bolt information can be found at

Until more information is available, these bolts could be considered a periodic preventative replacement - perhaps on a yearly basis.

To be continued on the Bad Weather Bikers website . . .