Frequently Asked Questions
The Same Questions Just Keep Coming Around

Subjects

Oil

Oil Filters

Checking
Oil

Tires

Changing Pipes & FI Computer

Exhaust
Popping

Rough
Running

Badge
Removal

Tire
Pressure

Shock
Pressure

Loose
Signals

 Fogged Oil Glass

Cold
Lurch

Rear
Clicks

Winter
Storage

No
Start

5 Gallon Tank Transplant

Engine
Squeaks

Electrical
Gremlins

Recall & Warranty Info

Idle Knock 

Mods & Warranty

What is Seafoam?

Engine Knocks Under Load

TFI, Power Commander or Cobra FI2000?  Modified Intake & Exhaust Power? Spark Plug Socket How Much Oil? Windshield Slider Inconsistent
Idle

Torque vs. Horsepower

 

 

 

 

  Misc


Oil Certainly not limited to Vulcan lists, owners of all bikes want to know "what oil should I be using?"

The short answer is, any oil you want to use as long as it isn't the types promoting higher gas mileage (generally called energy conservation). These oils have a friction modifier in them and are not compatible with wet clutches and transmission gears. You'll find "friction modifiers" mentioned in a circle on the packaging. Do not use these oils in your Vulcan.

Many motorcyclists use nothing but automotive oil of the weight recommended by the bikes maker. Others won't use anything but "motorcycle specific" oils and still others prefer synthetics for their much higher heat and pressure tolerances and longer change intervals (check the syn makers websites for specifics). There are huge pricing differences from less than a dollar a quart to seven or eight dollars a quart. That can be a $20 difference with each oil change.

The good news is, they're all (dino and synthetic) compatible so you can experiment. Try different brands if you want every oil change and see which "feels" best to you. There is a difference in shifting between oil brands/types.

If you still have questions maybe they'll be answered by one of the many oil related articles on this fixit page.
Modified Intake & Exhaust "I'm thinking about adding an aftermarket air cleaner to replace the restricted stock intake and maybe an aftermarket exhaust.   Will I really get much more power?"

Oh yeh.  There are a couple of downsides to these mods.   1. They're illegal   2. They'll usually make more noise both intake and exhaust.  You have to be able to deal with both.   I usually suggest starting off with the inexpensive Caddmann Mod to see if the additional intake noise is worth the power trade off to you.  If so you can stick with that or move on to one of the aftermarket setups.   Exhaust systems are always one of those 'ear of the beholder' things.  Too loud to me may be music to your ears.  Keep in mind every system will produce a different power curve.  Some have even been known to 'reduce' power compared to stock exhaust.   

Here is a chart showing the power improvement on my Nomad running essentially stock then with the Caddmann intake then an aftermarket intake and V&H Bagger exhaust.   As you'll see the difference is quite substantial.

 

Does a modified intake work?
This is a Dyno Chart For '01 Nomad FI with over 50,000 miles on it
/files/includes/images/nomad_dyno_graph.jpg (159870 bytes)
Click for full size image

Run 05 is stock intake and mostly stock exhaust (bypass pipe in place of goat belly)
Run 017 is Caddmann intake and mostly stock exhaust

Run 025 is Thunder Odyssey Intake and V&H Bagger exhaust

Oil Filters "Do I have to use Kawasaki's (or other bike makers) filter?"

No. There are many manufacturers that produce oil filters both for cars and bikes. You'll find a list of compatible filters and their part numbers on this fixit page.

Another question might be "will I save any money buying another brand of filter." That depends on your relationship with your dealer. Many offer 15 or 20% discounts on parts when you buy your bike from them. Some have been known to charge 10% over their cost to good customers. With that kind of deal you might feel more comfortable sticking with a genuine (bike maker here) filter.
Checking Oil Level "Where's the dipstick?"

With the clutch basket directly below the oil fill opening on the Vulcan Classic/Nomad there's no way to fit a dip stick. Instead Kawasaki has provided an oil sight window on the right side of the bike. Checking oil level is made easier with a 'mechanics mirror' which is a small mirror attached to an extendable arm (a couple of bucks at any automotive supply store). Sit on your bike and hold it level while you look in the mirror at your oil level. If you have a helper have that person level your bike while you check the oil level.
Tires "I need new tires, what brand does everyone recommend?"

There's some personal taste involved with tires. Some are purchased just because the rider likes the tread design! The major consideration should be "riding conditions". Many Vulcan owners are perfectly happy with the OEM Bridgestone tires and run them until they're bald. Others have thrown them out after the first thousand miles. So, what's the right tire for you?

If you live someplace with nothing but straight roads where the "twisties" are highway on-ramps and almost all of your cornering is 90 degrees to the right or left as you go from street to street you don't need a great handling tire but you could use something with a bit harder tread in the middle. Do you live where it rains a lot? You need a tire with great water shedding characteristics. Do you ride in an area with lots of mountain roads and enjoy scraping the floorboards on occasion? You might opt for a softer compound tire. Are you a low mileage (annual) rider but enjoy full throttle sprints between stoplights? You could probably care less about handling but want a soft tire anyway just for the traction...Maybe you even want to go up a size on the rear. All things to consider when shopping.

Choices:

The Metzler 880 is a terrific all around tire favored by a seeming majority of Vulcan owners as a replacement tire. Good water shedding terrific traction and they seem to last (rear tire) about 12 thousand miles. About double that for the front.

Dunlop. Again very good water shedding and good traction. Many riders say they seem to last just a little longer than the Metzler but tend to be noisier.

Venom X: Softer compound. Don't expect terrific wear but you'll go around corners like the road was made of gummy bears.

Bridgestone: Stock on the Vulcan Classic/Nomad these are very noisy tires after the first few thousand miles. Almost nobody replaces their OEM tires with the same tire.
Engine Management Computer "Do I have to purchase an after market computer to assist or replace the stock fuel injection computer if I only change my pipes?"


No. Changing only the exhaust on your fuel injected Vulcan does 'not' require an after market computer. This isn't because the bikes FI computer adjusts for the difference...it doesn't. Just that the intake is so restrictive that you have the equivalent of drawing air in through a straw and exhausting it through a sewer pipe. Until you enlarge that straw you're not going to see any appreciable difference in the amount of air being drawn into cylinders so no need to add fuel.

It is highly recommended, however, that you check your spark plugs after changing pipes and riding to be sure you're not running lean. There are some pipes available (drag pipes would be an example) with little or no back pressure. In this case an after market computer might be advisable.

Changing your intake is a slightly different story and (on FI bikes) an aftermarket fuel module is suggested to make the engine run its best.  This can be a good thing. Several models are available and most allow adjusting mixture for idle, medium and high speed modes.
Exhaust Popping "I changed from stock to after market pipes and now my bike backfires or pops on deceleration."

This is an easy fix. The popping is caused by unused fuel being dumped into the exhaust header after you close the throttle. That fuel is ignited by air injected into the headers (just past the exhaust valve) when the throttle is closed. This reduces the amount of hydrocarbon emission spewed by your bike on deceleration. The stock mufflers effectively mute the popping.

The fix is to "marble" your system or remove the air injection system completely. Details on This Fixit Page.
Winter Storage "Should I drain my tank?", "What kind of battery charger do you use?", Do I do anything different with my FI bike?"

This is something we don't worry about much in California but are common questions in the fall where your lawns die in winter. You'll find your answers on This Fixit Page
Bike Won't Start "I just added risers (or played with the windshield or moved my handlebars) and now the starter only clicks."

This is the infamous clutch/starter interlock switch disconnect trick. It's almost a given that any fiddling around the handlebars will disconnect the safety switch that plugs into your clutch lever and the starter will simply refuse to turn over no matter what.

Look at the base (inside) of the clutch lever assembly and you'll see a wire with black plug on the end (probably only separated from the lever assembly by a fraction of an inch). Plug it back in and you're good to go.
I Call The Bike "Lurch" "When my bike is cold, and especially when It hasn't been ridden for awhile it lurches forward when I first put it in gear"

This is a very common problem/complaint not only with Vulcan's but with any bike that has a wet clutch (almost all metrics). Riding by yourself it generally isn't a problem but two up it tends to bang helmets which makes the pillion unhappy.

It's the result of your clutch plates sticking together. The fix is to start your bike and, while in neutral, exercise the clutch lever a few times. This will (most of the time) unstick the friction plates and give you a nice smooth shift into first.
My Rear End Clicks "I don't have a lot of miles on my Drifter/Classic/Nomad and there's a clicking sound coming from the rear end"

This seems to be a common comment especially with under 2000 miles. The cause is almost always easily fixed starting with removal of the back wheel.

The causes are varied (and since you're probably under warranty may as well let the service department sort it out). Helpful hints though. Kawasaki issued this service bulletin in the Spring of 2003. The retaining ring had been identified earlier is a possible culprit with at least one rider reporting his shop just removed the ring, threw it away and told him it wasn't really important anyway. Hopefully that guy found another shop.

Other causes have been reported. Check for lubricant on the splines. If that's ok have the dealer check the wheel bearings to be certain they were pressed in completely at the factory. Another factory recommended fix is to flip the spline assembly in the wheel hub 180 degrees.
Engine Runs Badly "I was riding and suddenly the engine just started running kind of ragged, sounding like one cylinder wasn't firing. "

This isn't the 'for certain' fix but it sure works a lot of the time.

The first place to start is with your battery connections. Make sure both the positive and negative cables are clean and tight on the battery. If that isn't it your next step is checking the electrical connections at the fuse box. There are two large plugs (connectors) that you can (cursing may help) unplug from the box. These connections can corrode and cause some very strange things to happen. Clean the connectors (a pencil eraser works great) and apply some dielectric grease (any automotive store) to them before re-assembling the connector. The special grease (which does conduct electricity) will prevent future corrosion.
What is Seafoam? "I keep reading about a product called Seafoam on the Vulcan forums and lists. What is it and where do I find it?"

Seafoam is a chemical additive some refer to as "tune up in a can" that can be found at most NAPA stores.

Used in the gas tank it will remove water from the fuel, clean gum and varnish from the tank and other parts of the fuel system created when gasoline just sits and will clean injectors and jets. Once Seafoam reaches the combustion chamber it really goes to work, breaking down carbon buildup on the piston, valves and head. The result is almost always a smoother running engine and the end of pre-ignition (unless there are other problems). Use an ounce of Seafoam per gallon of gas with each oil change.

Some riders use Seafoam in their crankcase to clean up the lower end too. If you change oil on a regular basis (per vehicle manufacturers recommendations) this shouldn't be necessary but also won't hurt.

You'll find more information on the Seafoam website.
Tank Badge Removal "I'd like to remove the Kawasaki badges from my gas tank/windshield"

Piece o' cake! Here's the fixit page you need
Tire Air Pressure "I'm noticing some cupping on my front tire, is there something I can do about it?" or "The bike just doesn't seem to handle quite right, would adjusting air pressure help?"

Yes and yes. It is generally agreed that Kawasaki's recommended tire pressures are a little on the soft side, especially in front which seems to cause cupping (especially on the left side which wears more quickly than the right). A good rule of thumb would be 'when in doubt go with the tire manufacturers recommendation for your bike. For instance, Metzeler recommends a minimum pressure of 36 front and 40 rear on the Nomad with the 880 tire. Many have found 39/41 offers great handling and wear Vary that front pressure by a pound up or down until you have a neutral handling machine. The amount of 'stuff' you're carrying in your bags will have some effect on the best pressure as will your weight and the weight of your passenger. You can always return to the manufacturers recommendations if you aren't happy with the change.

Here's a list of common tire manufacturers websites and help numbers to help you find recommendations for your combination:

Dunlop, www.dunlopmotorcycle.com, (800) 548-4714
Metzeler, www.us.metzelermoto.com, (706) 368-5826
Michelin, motous.webmichelin.com, (800) 346-4098
Bridgestone, www.bridgestone.com
Pirelli, www.us.pirellimoto.com, (706) 368-5826
Avon, www.avonmotorcycle.com, (800) 624-7470
Maxxis, www.maxxis.com, (800) 4-MAXXIS.

By the way, getting a tire gauge on the front tire (especially Nomad with the dual disks in the way) can be a challenge. Next time you replace the front tire replace the valve stem too. Use a "shorty".

There are choices from this
to this .


Shock Air Pressure "My owners manual has a chart showing a general guideline for air pressure in my rear shocks but I can't make heads or tales of what it means, what pressure (if any) should I use?"

This is another of those very subjective settings that is mostly dependent on the kind of riding you do, where you do it and the load the bike is carrying.  The stock Nomad (1500) and 1500 Classic FI shock not only has an air pressure adjustment but also numbers that can be set by turning the upper shock cover.   Those numbers set the 'rebound'  of the shock, the speed the suspension is allowed to extend.   The 'pressure' setting (being discussed here) controls the 'compression' of the shock or speed of upward movement.   The idea is to balance the two so the back tire is always on the ground no matter what conditions you're riding in.   If the tire is in the air you have no traction and that is a bad thing.


So, about the pressure.

The most important thing is what you fill the shock with. Never NEVER NEVER use a gas station air hose. There is potentially far too much pressure for the shocks to handle. The air cylinders in these shocks are very small and only require a few pumps from a bicycle pump designed for air shocks (not tires) or something like the specially made pump sold by Progressive Suspension.  The bike shock pumps are available at most bicycle stores, the Progressive pumps online or at almost all Harley Davidson stores if you can't get one from your dealer.   Try to find a pump with a 0-60 psi readout on the gauge.  Higher scales (some go to 300 pounds) mean much finer markings making it a lot harder to set both shocks at exactly the same pressure.

These pumps come with a 'zero loss' fitting so no pressure is released from the shocks once you've gotten them to the desired pressure. In addition if you use anything but a zero loss type fitting on the shock you will probably release some or all of the air you just added. The slightest 'pfft' and the 25 pounds you 'thought' you had added are gone. Zero loss pumps also feature a gauge for getting the exact pressure you want. Both shocks should have exactly the same pressure. Adding the Progressive air shock balance kit to your Nomad or Classic will help. Details are on this Fixit page. Your dealer will probably have one of these pumps. If you're on good terms maybe they'll let you borrow it for a couple of hours.

And what pressure? The good news is you need to go for a ride (take the pump with you). Ride the roads you normally enjoy traveling on. Are they billiard board smooth? You'll need little or maybe zero pressure. Got dips? You'll need a bit more. Got potholes? A lot more. Speed bumps are the worst. If any of these things cause your bike to bottom out at speeds you'd normally hit them at, put in some air. If you generally ride two up be sure and do this test with your passenger. When the bike doesn't bottom out any more under the most severe test you expect to give it you've found your pressure. Remember if you're on a trip carrying more than the normal amount of gear you might need to add a couple of pounds. Never exceed the manufacturers suggested 43 pound maximum.

Loose Rear Turn Signals "Other riders keep telling me my rear turn signals look like they're loose and about to fall off the bike"

If you've tried wiggling them you've probably noticed there is quite a bit of play which sort of lets the lens mounts 'float'. There is a theory that this play (which seems to vary from bike to bike) was designed into the signals to give the bulb filaments a break from vibration, extending bulb life. There is a fix if the looseness bothers you which doesn't seem to have much if any effect on bulbs.

The fix: Remove the turn signal assembly from your rear fender (2 bolts from the tire side) and you'll find there is a metal sleeve inserted in a rubber grommet. Each of the bolts run through the sleeve. Remove the sleeves and grind or cut between 1/32 and 1/16 of an inch off of each (measure twice, cut once). A little goes a very long way here. Put the sleeves back in the grommets and bolt your turn signal back on. If there's still too much play for your taste you can grind a little more off the sleeves.
Fogged Oil Sight Glass "Help, my oil sight glass is looking milky and I can't check my oil."

The Fix: Go for a ride (oh darn) This fogging of the oil sight glass window is especially common when weather turns cold among riders who travel short distances. The engine (oil) doesn't get fully up to temperature so the sight glass fogs (just like when you and the S.O. produce all that heat in the back seat on a chilly night). Once fogged it may take a couple of nice long rides to drive the moisture out from between the double paned glass.
5 Gallon Tank Transplant "Can I put a 5 gallon tank from an FI Vulcan on my carbed Classic or Nomad?"

We'll never say never (because someone is sure to find a way) but this would be a tough job for a seven tenths of a gallon advantage.

The challenges:
1. The 4.2 gallon tank has a hole in it to accommodate the analog gauge package, the five gallon tank does not (this is where the bulk of the extra capacity comes from) You would have to switch to the digital gauge package offered on the FI bikes. That would include finding a way to mount the speedometers electronic sensor on the transmission output shaft and fit the appropriate wiring.

2. The FI tank fits a high pressure fuel pump inside with a hose dropping straight down from the center to provide gas to the injectors. You would have to remove the pump and put a plate over the (large) opening in the bottom of the tank.

3. Plumbing is different in that the FI bikes don't have a petcock to give you some 'reserve' range to find a gas station. You will have to find a way to mount a fuel sensor inside the tank (normally part of the fuel pump package) to indicate fuel is low or fit a petcock to your fuel line (this requires a double height pickup in the tank)

If you can overcome the above you can certainly figure out any other minor fitment problems that might exist. Good luck
Engine Squeaks "My Vulcan seems to squeak (or chirp) occasionally, mainly while idling. It's driving me nuts because I can't find the source!"

The good news is, there's nothing wrong with your motorcycle. Someone may have either applied a little too much torque or maybe too little when cinching down your motor mounts. That or there is just a very slight alignment problem with the rubber mounts. The fix is simple.

Loosen both of the large motor mount nuts and start the engine. Let it idle a minute then shut off and re-torque the bolts to the recommended 32 ft lbs. The squeak will be gone.
Electrical Gremlins "My Vulcan pops fuses and I can't find the cause"

There are some electrical gremlins that seem to get occasional mention on the Vulcan forums and lists. Some cause fuses to blow others the engine just won't start. See if you can find your circumstance here:

1. I just did some work on the bike (washed, added risers, removed the windshield, adjusted the bars or grips) and now the engine won't start.

The answer to this one is as near as your left hand (and has already been mentioned under the heading 'no start'). Look under the clutch reservoir and you'll see a switch and either a wire seemingly connected to it or the wire and connector are dangling free. Just plug the connector back in and try again. This particular connection is frequently the cause of a non starting bike.

2. One of the fuses (sometimes even the main) keeps blowing. I know there's a short someplace but can't find it.

If you have done wiring under your tank then there is a chance you've dislodged the main harness which runs from under the seat to the front of the bike. Some of those wires go into the headlight bucket, others to the ignition switch, horn, fan and so forth. If that harness is not properly zip tied to the frame it can drop down and rest atop the rear cylinder. Eventually engine vibration and heat can rub away insulation causing a short.

Another common location is under the rear fender. This happens a lot when owners have worked on turn signals and haven't gotten all the wiring secured under the clips. Part of the harness will rub against the tire, remove insulation and when a bump is hit the bare wire strikes the underside of the fender. Bam, another blown fuse.

3. I was riding and suddenly the bike just stopped running. I have plenty of gas and oil.

There are some documented cases of ignition switches failing. This is especially true with after market switches but has happened with the stock switch as well. When disassembled owners find one of the internal connections has a broken solder joint. The cause? Unknown for certain but it's thought the solder joint melts when too many high powered accessories are connected directly to an ignition driven circuit. This is why it's a very good idea to wire spotlights, air horns etc to their own circuit.

4. I just installed a new headlight bulb or did some work inside the headlight bucket and now my headlight doesn't come on when I turn the key on.

You really wouldn't believe how often this happens but the fix is simple.  Hit the starter button.  The Vulcan headlight circuit doesn't come alive until the starter button has been pressed and released (theoretically the engine has started and the battery is now being charged).   

Warranty & Recall Information "I'm thinking about buying a Vulcan (or just have) and don't know if there is warranty left or whether the bike was ever affected by any recalls"

Not a problem. Kawasaki's website has all that information and all you need is the serial number which may be printed on the registration (depending on state) and is definitely stamped into the steering head of the motorcycle.

Due to the way the website has been created I can't give you a direct link to the data entry page so you'll have to do this. Go to www.buykawasaki.com and click on "Vehicle Information". In the drop down box click "Warranty Information". When the page opens enter the motorcycle serial number in the box provided. Click "Continue" and a page will come up telling you whether there is any original warranty left, whether there is an extended warranty and whether there is any outstanding recall work.  If you are looking at a Vulcan at a dealership, the salesman or dealers shop should be able to access this information for you.

If you're just looking for general recall information maybe for a particular model or year there are two places to go.   First take a look at this page on "Motorcycles About".  Finally the best (but most difficult to navigate) of all, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Website.   There is a recalls page that covers virtually every make, model and year of every motor vehicle ever produced.

Pre-Ignition (ping or knock) "My engine sounds like it has a lot of marbles rattling around in the cylinders when I roll on the throttle.  This happens when I'm climbing a hill and sometimes when I accelerate going around a corner"

This complaint just might be the most common of them all with big Vulcan engines and perhaps other large V-Twins as well especially when air temperatures go up.

What you're hearing is pre-ignition or detonation.  Both are abnormal combustion and to keep this description a little shorter we'll just combine the two and call both pre-ignition.

Pre-ignition, as the term suggests, is the ignition of the fuel-air mixture before the regular ignition spark from the spark plug. If the regular spark occurs shortly after the pre-ignition, the colliding of the two flame fronts will cause a pinging noise. Pre-ignition causes loss of engine power and can cause severe damage to pistons, rings and valves.  

With the Vulcan 1500/1600 engine the problem is especially severe in summer when intake air is typically 40 or 50 degrees higher than winter air.  If you have a stock Vulcan intake you can add another 20 degrees with intake air being drawn from between the (hot) cylinders.   

Many, maybe most pre-ignition is
not the bikes fault, it's mostly the riders.    Lugging the engine (riding at too slow a speed for the riders choice of transmission gear) causes the engine to be very sluggish so the rider rolls on more throttle, dumping a lot of fuel into the cylinders that can't be burned so a lot of that turns to carbon.   Eventually the carbon sticking to pistons and valves develops little feathery edges which become hot spots.  When the throttle is opened, combustion chamber pressures go up,  heat goes up (especially in summer) and those hot spots try to ignite the fuel/air mixture before the spark plug does.    The "knock" or "ping" or 'collection of marbles' rattle that the rider hears is a series of colliding flame fronts that are radically changing the ignition timing at best actually trying to force the piston backward  if the mixture is ignited soon enough at worst.

Pre-ignition not only causes power loss that the rider can feel but it's also hammering the piston rings.  Eventually it can hammer them so hard they break and then you have some very serious problems.  In extreme situations a hole can even be punched in the top of a piston.

Now that the cause has been explained here's the fix.   DO NOT LUG THE ENGINE. 

Different engines like different rpm ranges but for the Vulcan 1500/1600 torque is being made beginning around 2500 rpm, peak horsepower around 5000 rpm.   The riders job is to keep the rpm inside that range at all times and higher is generally better.   Vulcan engines just love to be revved and redline doesn't appear until 6000 rpm.  The limiter will keep the engine from exceeding a safe limit so wind it up,  you can't hurt the engine in fact you'll be putting far less strain on bearings and other parts by keeping the rpm high.

But there's no tach on the bike out of the box so how do you know where 2500 rpm is?   I have just the thing for you on
this Gadget page.   Just click the box for your bike model, make changes for the speedometer error ( +10) if you haven't added a correction device and then enter 2500 in the green RPM box.  You may be amazed how slowly you've been turning your engine riding in the wrong gear, maybe since the bike came out of the crate.

There is
another fix . This is really considered a 'temporary' solution just to see if richening the mixture solves your knocking problem. You'll find it on this Gadget page. If the resistor trick works then I'd suggest saving your dimes until you can afford an after market FI module like a TFI or Power Commander. Those devices will allow you to adjust the mixture to suit your full range of riding conditions rather than just adding fuel at all engine speeds/temperatures.

If your engine has been knocking for quite awhile it might be beneficial to run a dose or two of
SeaFoam through it to bust up the existing carbon deposits and start fresh.
Idle Knock "When my engine is idling, especially when cold, there is a knocking or banging sound coming from inside. Is this normal?"

Believe it or not it is perfectly normal. The actual cause of that noise seems to be in some dispute with 'expert' opinions ranging from the clutch basket (because you'll notice the sound goes away when you pull in the clutch lever) to the balance shafts bouncing around due to slack in the drive chain. Still others blame the clutch overrun mechanism that protects against the rear tire sliding if you downshift and pop the clutch.


I lean toward the clutch basket theory.  There are tabs on each of the friction plates that fit into slots in the basket.  It isn't a particularly tight fit.  When a V-Twin idles the power pulses aren't even so the engine is actually speeding up and slowing down which makes the clutch plates 'slop' back and forth in the slots causing the knocking sound.   The good news is, it isn't hurting anything, it's just annoying.

There is a fix. All you have to do is be sure your engine is idling at the factory recommended 950 rpm (+ - 50). At that speed the idle is smooth enough that whatever lash is causing the banging isn't an issue any longer. BTW another good reason to keep the engine at recommended idle speed is oil pressure. Dropping RPM so you have that really cool sounding potato-potato sound means little or no oil getting up to your overhead cams which means excessive wear which means big bucks out of your pocket.
Mods & Warranty "If I modify my bike will it void my manufacturers warranty?"

Probably not. In America we have something called the Magnusson-Moss warranty act which says, in essence, your factory warranty can not be voided just because you have added options or modified the machine including intake and exhaust systems. Now here's the catch (and the reason for the probably). Your warranty 'can' be voided or a dealer can refuse to honor the warranty 'if' your modification can be shown to have caused a problem. I.E. You modify the intake but don't take steps to make sure the air/fuel mixture is reset. If you burn a hole in a piston or your rings disintegrate because you're running lean then the dealer can say 'sorry, no warranty'. However, if you modify your intake and a wheel bearing goes bad. Well, obviously there is no connection between the two so the warranty stands.

You can do your own research on Magnusson-Moss (which many dealers don't even seem to know about) at the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnuson-Moss_Warranty_Act
 
TFI, PC or Cobra? "I have modified my fuel injected Vulcan's intake to increase airflow. Do I need an after market computer to help the stock Electronic Control Module (ECU) modify my air/fuel ratio?"

In a word, yes if you want your engine to run efficiently (ok, that's several words) but many Vulcan owners have put their 1500/1600's on dynos and discovered the engine will 'not' run destructively lean even without one.   

Assuming you want your engine to idle smoothly and run most efficiently at higher speeds you need to decide which of several devices you want to use. That's going to depend a lot on the depth of your pocketbook and exactly what you're expecting from your engine.

So which of the three most popular after market units do you want/need?  Read the following and choose the one that best fits your personal needs and pocketbook.

Power Commander (PC) was on the market first and is by far the most flexible of the three. With a good dyno operator the PC can be tuned every 250 rpm for the optimum fuel/air ratio and each cylinder separately! That's terrific if you'll be racing your bike or need every ounce of torque you can get all through the power band. In some situations the mixture might actually have to be leaned out to be optimal, others it'll need to be richer. The PC can do all that. There's a price and it's in dollars. The PC is usually the most expensive of the bunch and to take full advantage of it you'll need a lot of time on a dynamometer. That could add up to big bucks and you'll probably need another rear tire when the session is over.

TFI was the next kid on the block. The claim to fame here is its ease of adjustment and low initial cost compared to the PC. The TFI manufacturer also claims this unit actually responds to engine load while the PC is completely RPM based. Whatever, it is simple to adjust, anyone with a small screwdriver and an ear can do it. Of course you can fine tune the mixture using a dyno but this unit can only make the mixture richer, never leaner than the stock ECU so you might not have optimum settings at all rpm in all situations. All the TFI really requires is that you ride the bike a couple of hours and occasionally stop to tweak the settings until you have it dialed in.

Cobra FI2000 This unit seems to be very similar to the TFI. Where the TFI uses four pots to adjust idle, acceleration, high speed and cut in point for the 'main' jet, the Cobra uses three pots so may be even simpler to adjust. Pricing is generally about the same as the TFI.

If you want to know more, check out this website which actually tested the three units and came to some conclusions.

Spark Plug Socket "I can't get my normal spark plug socket down into the tube to unscrew my plugs.  How do I get them out?"

It seems every Vulcan 1500/1600 owner discovers this eventually and then they have one of those Homer Simpson "DOH !" moments when reminded there's a spark plug socket in the bikes tool kit.   That's the easiest solution but if your bike didn't come with tools it's time to head to Sears.  Look for the 18 mm spark plug socket part number 43330 (online at sears.com ) or 50728 (in the store).  It's a six point thin wall socket that will fit perfectly down into the deep spark plug tubes on the left side of #1 cylinder and right side of #2

How Much Oil "I'm ready to change my own oil but I'm confused about how much to put in, Kawasaki's website says one thing my owners manual says another"

You're not alone here.  The problem is there are actually different amounts depending whether you're changing the filter (something you should always do) or whether you've drained old oil from the drain plug at the bottom of the crankcase or from the oil screen on the left side of the crankcase.   So, what to do.

This is going to be a little time consuming but it's a one time only chore.   It requires borrowing a measuring cup, probably from the kitchen so a peace offering might be in order when you're finished too.

The process:

1. Drain your oil the way you'll always be draining it.  The oil screen is really best as it is the lowest point in the sump and you actually get more old dirty oil out than if you use the drain plug.

2. Replace your filter

3. Pour in 3 quarts of fresh oil.  All 1500/1600 engines take a bit over 3 quarts so just go ahead and dump.

4. Gentlemen (and ladies) start your engines.  Let them idle about 30 seconds just to be sure the oil filter has been filled, check to be sure you don't have an oil pressure light showing (you won't but it's always good to watch)

5. Let the bike sit at least 5 minutes after shutting the engine off.  During this time level the bike whatever way you choose to do it.  With most you can place a 2x4 under the kickstand and get pretty close.   Obviously you don't want the bike falling over to the right but you really need the bike level with both tires on the ground at this point so do what's necessary including enlisting help from a friend or family member.

6. Pour fresh oil into your measuring cup, at least half a quart.  Now, slowly pour this oil into the crankcase, stopping every few ounces to let the oil drain to the crankcase.   Keep watching the sight glass and checking to be sure the bike is still level.   Fill slowly until the oil level is just a hair below the 'full' mark on your sight glass.

7. Do the math.  You put in 3 quarts plus a very specific amount from the measuring cup.  Write the total down someplace where you can find it the next time you change oil.  I keep my figures posted on the inside of the garage cabinet where oil and filters are kept.

Next oil change you'll be able to add your three quarts plus whatever you measured this time and it'll be spot on the full mark and you won't even have to bother leveling or measuring.    Now, that was easy!

Windshield Slider "There's a piece of plastic in the center of my Nomad windshield above the headlight that slides vertically.  Dirt builds up between that piece and the windshield and is unsightly.  Can I just remove the sliding part?  Does it have any real function?"
 
You can remove the 'window' without worrying about the windshield but you'll have to replace it with spacers the same thickness on each side to take its place in the windshield bracket.  
 
On the other hand, you might want to play with it a little because the part 'does' serve a purpose.
 
First is cosmetic.  If you have your shield up most of the way you have a large gap between the top of your headlight and bottom of the shield.  Sliding the window down fills that gap.   You can dress it up further by adding a strip of cockpit trim (from a hobby shop) to the edge of the window above the headlight.
 
Second and more important it's an aero aid. 
 
A lot of head buffeting is caused by air flowing around the edges of the windshield then coming back together in the low pressure area behind the shield.   By raising or lowering that window (adding more or less air behind the shield) you can actually 'move' the center of the low pressure area and reduce helmet buffeting substantially.   It takes some riding and adjusting to find the sweet spot and it'll be different depending where your windshield is adjusted and your height/distance from the shield so there's no magic formula.
 
Keeping the area between the window and the shield clean can be a challenge but if you take the shield apart once or twice a year while doing your normal cleaning/maintenance it'll stay fairly clean (looking) until water gets between the panes again.  You can try making a gasket using a double thickness of plastic wrap (only because it's clear).  Sandwich a strip of the wrap between the window and your windshield along the top edge to help keep water out.
Inconsistent Idle "My Fuel Injected Vulcan used to idle smoothly but recently it's rougher and the engine even stalls occasionally.  When I roll off the throttle and come to a stop I never know whether I'll have a normal idle or it'll be fast or slow".

Do you have your annual maintenance checklist or owners manual handy?   If so add this item: "Clean throttle body throats".

The problem is a very thin ring of carbon that develops around the edge of the throttle butterfly.   The hard black stuff is deposited little by little anytime you stop the engine and an intake valve is open.  A bit of hydrocarbon and other noxious things flows up out of the cylinder, through the intake and (most of it) stops at the inside of the butterfly where suspended particles settle to form a ring.   

Eventually that ring of carbon becomes large enough to block some of the air that passes the butterflies to provide part of the idle mixture.  Less air means less power so your idle becomes a little lumpy.  If that carbon ring is allowed to become larger it'll interfere with the closing of the butterfly so that it stops at some fairly random spot sometimes letting some air in at idle sometimes not.

The solution is simple.  Clean the carbon ring out of the throttle body throats using your choice of scrubber (old toothbrush, Q-Tip etc) and some carb/throttle body cleaner.   Hold your throttle all the way open or use your throttle lock to do it while you scrub the ring away.   Now, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!  And enjoy a nice smooth idle again.     BTW if you turned the idle up so the engine would run you'll probably find it's now idling way too fast.  Crank it back down to the recommended 950 (or whatever your owners manual recommends).

Torque vs. Hp "I've seen the horsepower rating for my V-Twin and it's really disappointing but the torque numbers are awesome.   What do the numbers really mean?"

In the proverbial nutshell torque is twisting force and is what's trying to separate your hands from the grips, your butt from the seat when you roll on the throttle.  Horsepower is what keeps the machine moving and more usually = higher top speed.

Cruiser (and V-Twin) riders generally want lots of torque and they want it down low in the rpm range so they have lots of take off 'grunt' from stoplight to stoplight.  Sportbike riders with four and even six cylinders on the other hand couldn't care less about stoplight to stoplight, they want ultimate speed and don't mind revving the engine to 10,000 rpm to get it.  Ya picks yer ride (and engine) based on the type of riding you want to do.  

For more on the subject there's an excellent page posted here.

Miscellaneous Vulcan's chirp and whistle and have other funny habits. They're all normal and you can read about them on the "Did You Know" Page. Just click here