Lube Your Driveshaft
Instructions by Rudi Kiefer (The Doctor)

This can be an expensive item if you have your dealer do it every 7500 miles. Read through these instructions very carefully to be sure you have the tools and skills necessary to do it yourself. You can save some big $$$$$

Procedure is the same for all 1500 models.

Tools needed:
Set of 3/8 drive metric socket wrenches;
27mm open endwrench for the axle nut (crescent wrench is okay);
Allen wrenches;
circlip pliers (essential);
assorted metric open end/box end wrenches;
assorted scredrivers, pliers, wood blocks and pieces;
a way to jack the bike up, off its rear wheel (I use one car jack on each side);
lots of disposable cotton rags;
premium quality grease (I use Moly-Graph Extreme Pressure grease).

The procedure I used, with some help from the shop manual, was simpler than what the manual recommends. I did NOT remove the wheel, mufflers, fender, and such.

SHOP TIP: I park each of my bikes on a 1/4" sheet of plywood (4'x8'). The wood gratefully soaks up oil spills, grease, dirt, and it cushions any parts that fall down. When it gets too grimy, it's cheap to replace and the garage floor stays clean.

Exhaust pipes must be cold before you start.
Jack the bike up so it's vertical, the rear wheel should be about 1" off the ground, no more. Place a wood block under the wheel to take up this clearance.

If you haven't changed your final drive oil in a while (I recommend doing it with each engine oil change), drain it now and leave the drain screw and filler plug out. The gear oil is cheap (I use Castrol Hypoid 80/90) and great insurance.

Remove right side passenger footrest. Insert a skinny wood board between the muffler bracket and the right shock. Use it to lever the mufflers about 1" to the right, to give you clearance for removing the axle nut and brake caliper mounting bolt.
Alternatively, you can remove your entire exhaust system. :-)
Remove LEFT side shock absorber, the one that's bolted to the gearcase.

Going back to the right side, remove the mounting bolt which holds the brake caliper (17mm box end wrench). Pull the brake caliper upward and out. Do not let it dangle by the hydraulic line. Let it rest on a cotton rag on top of the muffler or run a bit of wire through the mounting bolt hole and suspend the caliper from the frame..
Remove the cotter pin from the axle nut. Hold the axle with a 17mm ratchet wrench on the left side, loosen the axle nut with a 27 mm. Remove the nut.

Use the wratchet wrench on the left to turn the axle outward, pry it or pull it out with any suitable tool which won't scratch anything. Put it in a clean place. I use large dish tubs to hold my parts.

You can now push the wheel to the right (toward the mufflers), which will make it come loose from the gearcase. It is not necessary to take the wheel out from under the fender completely, which is difficult. Just remove the wood block from underneath and rest the wheel against the right side of the swing arm.

Remove the gearcase by taking off the four cap nuts with a 14mm ratchet. Don't lose those nuts, I bet they are hard to replace. Pull the gearcase straight out toward the rear. It weighs maybe 10 lbs, so be careful not to drop it. Put it in a safe place. It is not necessary to drain the oil first.

Move to the left front side of the bike. Remove the passenger floorboard (2 bolts, two pins held by e-clips), heel shifter (1 little machine bolt), remove the left side engine cover. It wiggles free after you take all the chromed bolts out. Yes, the ones with the rust on the inside.

Peel the rubber boot forward which sits between the driveshaft and the engine. Get yourself as much working space as you can. You do not need to remove any Cobra driveshaft chrome cover which you may have in place.

Turn the driveshaft by grabbing it at the rear (that's the splined "sliding joint"). Watch for a little hole to appear on its front end, where the rubber boot was.
Use a very small Allen wrench or other suitable tool to poke into the hole.
Press down, which compresses a spring, which releases the drive shaft lock.
Pull the drive shaft back toward the rear about 1-2 inches by grabbing the sliding joint. It will slide off the front joint. Use a small disposable brush to coat the front splines with grease. [
important Gadget note: you were actually pressing down on a very small, spring loaded metal pin in that hole. The pin can pop out of the hole once the driveshaft has been moved back and you 'will' lose it if you're not careful. I now (having spent an hour looking for that sucker once) take the precaution of removing the pin (magnet) and placing it in a cup for safe keeping]

Push the driveshaft back into place and make sure it locks (you put the pin back in the hole right?). Using a flashlight, reach into the cavity with your grease brush and coat the U-joint with grease. That's the knuckle-shaped thing, thickest part of the driveshaft. Put the rubber boot back in place.

When the shaft is locked again at the front, now comes the tricky part.
Reach into the rear end of the sliding joint (rear of the driveshaft) and use circlip pliers to remove the little spring clip. It helped to clean the inside with a rag and shine a flashlight in there so I could see what I was doing. Don't even think about using needle nosed pliers, screwdrivers, etc.- it won't work. I had to go out today and buy a $10 set of circlip
pliers. With those, the clip came right out.

Wrap the jaws of some pliers with cotton, grab the sliding joint, and give it a good yank toward the rear. The sliding joint comes out. Don't lose the washer that's in there.

Grease the splines of the driveshaft (deep inside its swingarm cave) with your grease brush. Grease the end of the sliding joint which connects to the driveshaft.
NOTE: It's the straight-cut end which goes in first. The bevel-cut end points toward the rear.

Fiddle the sliding joint back into the hole, sliding onto the splines of the drive shaft. It took me a little while, but once I got the gears to mesh properly, it went right in. Tap it gently with a rubber mallet (NOT a hammer) to make sure it is seated completely.
Insert the washer onto the driveshaft, inside the sliding joint.

Put the circlip on your circlip pliers, spread it, and carefully insert it into the sliding joint, pushing it into place on the shaft. This took me several attempts, but after a little while it went in.

TIP: Push it in with the circlip pliers, fully spread, then use a very skinny screwdriver to push its bottom part forward (opposite where the pliers are gripping). That should make it snap into place.

Using a flashlight, push around the periphery with a skinny screwdriver to ensure the circlip is fully seated. I use an awl (skinny, pointy thing) to rotate the circlip and be doubly sure it's in the groove.

Check to make sure the large spacer (a pipe about 3" long) is still set on the inside of the final gearcase. Put the spring back on the shaft which protrudes from the gearcase. One end of the spring will fit more tightly than the other. Use that. Grease the splines on the gearcase shaft generously. Do the same inside the sliding joint. Grease the gear on the wheel side of the gearcase.
Grease the "female" gear on the wheel.

Put the gearcase back in place. You should feel a little resistance from the spring. Hand tighten the four acorn nuts, do not fully tighten them yet.

Lift the rear wheel (OOOOMMPPHHH! Grrreat muscle building exercise!) and pull it into place onto the gearcase. Again, do not tighten the gearcase yet. Put the wood block under your wheel so the wheel isn't hanging by the gearcase.

Re-install the brake caliper from the top, gently spreading the brake pads and pushing everything back into place. Make sure you haven't lost the short spacer between the wheel and the caliper bracket. Line up the caliper bracket with the mounting bolt, insert the mounting bolt. Hand tighten.

Put a thin coat of grease on the axle and reinstall the axle from the left. Don't forget the chrome cap at left. Gently(!) tap the axle in with a rubber mallet. It will probably bind up against the caliper bracket. If so, move to the right side of the bike, lift the wheel with one hand, and tap against the axle with the rubber mallet in your other hand, reaching across the seat. Once you have the wheel lined up correctly, the axle will slide all the way through.
Be gentle with this! You don't want to ruin the thread on the axle.

Reinstall the axle nut. Rotate the wheel a few times. Tighten it fully.
Install a new cotter pin.
Tighten the brake caliper mounting bolt. Reinstall left shock absorber.

Rotate the wheel again and check for noises from the driveshaft. There shouldn't be any, except for a slight click when you move the wheel back and forth. If everything is kosher, the gears are fully meshed so now you can fully tighten the 4 acorn nuts which hold the gearcase. Doing this last will ensure that the gears have had a chance to find the best place,
and don't wear off at an angle.

Kawasaki recommends using Loctite on the 4 threads, but by now I had such a greasy mess that it wouldn't do any good. I simply tightened them thoroughly in a cross-pattern.

Reinstall right side passenger footrest. Reinstall left engine cover, heel shifter, floorboard.

If you removed the gearcase oil, put the drain screw back in and sloooooowly fill the gearcase with gear oil. Stop when it starts to flow over into the bottom of the filler hole. Reinstall the filler plug.

Finally: clean up all grease, oil, and so forth. Take a bath, you'll need it.

Test ride: Take it easy at first. Try the rear brakes, you'll have to pump the pedal a few times to settle the brakde pads back into place.

That should be it! Hope I haven't forgotten anything. The Kawa manual is a little scattered about this procedure so I'm being as comprehensive as possible.

This has been a bit time consuming, but I know that now I'm good for the next 7500 miles. Incidentally, the front joints looked quite good so I don't think I'll repeat this procedure until I get another rear tire (about 10,000 miles).

The Doctor
Rudi Kiefer, Wilmington, NC VROC #121
'97 g/w 1500D "Verena the Vulcan"