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Discussion Starter #1
So I pulled the cap off the rear cam chain tensioner to see if I could tell if it's fully outstretched. I've attached a couple pics. My question is, to what part of the body am I supposed to be "measuring" to determine their position?

I found this site talking about the checking and replacing:

https://www.vulcandrifterriders.com/camtensionext.html

And in it: "When the cap/springs/etc. are removed, the extender rod will be somewhere in the following range:
At full retraction, the rod end will stick above the end of the threaded body by +0.342"
At full extension, the rod end will sink into the body by -0.356" Note the rod shown in the picture at left is down 'inside' the threaded body by a quarter inch. With only about 1/16" left it's time for replacement."

And the picture it refers to looks very similar to mine, and that is probably my answer.... BUT....

I'm somewhat confused by the phrase "the rod end will stick above the end of the threaded body by +0.342""

It seems to me there isn't enough room under the cap for that to be the case! Or, maybe as my name implies, I'm just being stupid!



I'd appreciate some input from someone who's done this before and knows from first-hand experience. I'm hopeful that my suspicions are correct because this would fix the gawdawful noise! But I don't want to do it if I don't have to, know what I mean?
 

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If it goes down inside the housing that's threaded it needs extenders.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
So I got the extenders today. Didn't realize you have to pull the tank and everything between the cylinders to access the front tensioner! Not impressed. But anyway, I put the rear one in and now I can hear a very distinct steady chain noise. I about give up. I guess it is what it is and I'll ride it 'till it blows up. Yay. I shoulda walked away when I heard the thing running.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Another question... when I reinstalled the tensioner body, I had a hell of a time getting the bolts started because I had to push really hard against the body, in turn, against the chain guide. The rod was fully retracted. If the tensioner had reached the end of its travel, I would think that reinstalling it with the rod fully retracted with the extender installed, there would only be a minimal amount of force required to install the body to take up the slack in the chain. I did read somewhere that hearing chain noise after installing the extenders is "normal" for the first couple hundred miles... but my trust in peoples' assessment of "normal" concerning these engines is quickly fading.
 

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Another question... when I reinstalled the tensioner body, I had a hell of a time getting the bolts started because I had to push really hard against the body, in turn, against the chain guide. The rod was fully retracted. If the tensioner had reached the end of its travel, I would think that reinstalling it with the rod fully retracted with the extender installed, there would only be a minimal amount of force required to install the body to take up the slack in the chain. I did read somewhere that hearing chain noise after installing the extenders is "normal" for the first couple hundred miles... but my trust in peoples' assessment of "normal" concerning these engines is quickly fading.
These things make a rattly chain nose, because the timing chains are being pushed against by guides. The tensioners press against the guides and keep tension on the chain. This is the rattling. It probably does sound loud to you, but you're sitting on top of the motor and the cam chains are closest to you. I suspect if you were to lift the hood on your car or truck and go sit on top of the engine when it's running you would hear a lot of noises you don't hear inside the cab. My bike made a lot of noise even brand new, so much that I took it back to the dealer with 100 miles on it thinking there was something wrong with it. Nope, it's just the nature of Kaw's overhead cam system in their bigger bore engines.

Changing the cam chain tensioners is a pain, but I had already chopped out the crossover tube between the cylinders and went with an air kit directly bolted to the carb, so all that stuff was out of the way. But I can tell you this: if you're expecting tensioner extenders to give you a quite ride, it isn't going to happen. It will, however, keep your cam chain from skipping a tooth if it gets stretched too far or from rubbing on the spark plug tube and wearing a hole in it.

I've never had a motorcycle that didn't have some innate flaw in the design. Every single one of them had some irritation I had to put up with or try to mitigate. Seems to be the nature of it. All I can say is you just have to decide if the wind in your face is worth all the hassles the bike gives you. Mine has always provided me with far more happiness than misery, so it's all good. If there's a perfect bike, I probably wouldn't like it because it would probably be some perfectly engineered crotch rocket. LOL
 

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I've never had a motorcycle that didn't have some innate flaw in the design. Every single one of them had some irritation I had to put up with or try to mitigate..
My experience with a narrow selection of Honda, and Kawasaki bikes that I've owned over the years (except for two-strokes), is that I've never owned one that didn't have some inherent flaw with the cam chain tensioning mechanism. Not sure why it seems to be so difficult to design one that works properly.
 

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My experience with a narrow selection of Honda, and Kawasaki bikes that I've owned over the years (except for two-strokes), is that I've never owned one that didn't have some inherent flaw with the cam chain tensioning mechanism. Not sure why it seems to be so difficult to design one that works properly.

Yes. I recall when I was a kid, right after the moon landing my parents always saying "well, gee, if they can put a man on the moon, how come they can't....." and fill in your own blank. One would think they could come up with a minimally stretching cam chain but I guess not. Then again, they probably make several hundred million revolutions in their lifetime under intense heat at rapid speed, so there is that. Maybe we should be amazed at how long they last!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the input guys. This is my third twin. The first one I had was an '97 Suzuki Intruder 800. I was young and dumb and don't remember any glaringly out of place engine noise... except for when it exploded inside and blew a hole out the side of the crankcase and locked the back tire at 80 mph after riding it across the country! Fast forward 20(ish) years and here we are. I currently own both of my other two twins.

My Virago 1100 made an ungodly clickety clackety when I first got it until I did a well-beyond-schedule valve adjustment which quieted it down to a very normal sounding ticking to go along with all the normal clunking and whirring of a twin (especially air-cooled)... until it began to develop a low end knock.

I'm very aware of the fact that I sit directly above the engine and can hear every internal noise. I was also an ASE Certified auto mechanic for several years... so I understand the internals of engines.

The Vulcan's knock (which I know is not sticky lifters or cam chain noise) is just simply not something that I see as remotely normal. Sorta. I'm trying to convince myself that it is. The biggest reason why is this: after another attempt at locating the source of the knock with a screw driver, I believe it is coming from the left lower case... in FRONT of where the crankshaft is located. I believe that's the location of the left "balancer". I've also read many instances of people tearing into their engines and finding evidence of these balancers being worn, replacing them, to no affect.

So yes, maybe this knock is normal. I can only HOPE that it is, and monitor it closely as I begin to put some miles on this beautiful beast, because quite frankly, the only alternative (in my mind) is a main crank bearing. It fits the symptoms exactly... other than the "location", which of course my method of locating is inherently inaccurate.




But back to the cam chain tensioners! I think I'm gonna bite the bullet and pull the tank to add the front extender. I plan to run the tank as low as possible on the road then run it dry in my driveway before pulling it to reduce spillage as much as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Changing the cam chain tensioners is a pain, but I had already chopped out the crossover tube between the cylinders and went with an air kit directly bolted to the carb, so all that stuff was out of the way. But I can tell you this: if you're expecting tensioner extenders to give you a quite ride, it isn't going to happen. It will, however, keep your cam chain from skipping a tooth if it gets stretched too far or from rubbing on the spark plug tube and wearing a hole in it.

Do you recall having to use a lot of force pushing the tensioner bodies against the engine just to get the bolts started?




After having thought about this concept of hearing chain noise AFTER adding an extension, it kind of makes sense. If the original tensioner was fully outstretched to the point that the chain was sort of free floating but not so loose that it was slapping == no noise. Add the extender, chain is now under constant tension against the long guides, now there's a constant chain whir... makes sense.
 

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Do you recall having to use a lot of force pushing the tensioner bodies against the engine just to get the bolts started?




After having thought about this concept of hearing chain noise AFTER adding an extension, it kind of makes sense. If the original tensioner was fully outstretched to the point that the chain was sort of free floating but not so loose that it was slapping == no noise. Add the extender, chain is now under constant tension against the long guides, now there's a constant chain whir... makes sense.
I think the directions say that you are to push the tensioner arm all the way into the tensioner body as if it was brand new and not extended at all, then you set an 8mm bolt on the side of the tensioner body to hold it. Then you install the tensioners, which should be easy at that point. Once bolted in, loosen the 8mm nut and the tensioner pops loose and extends to the correct length. Here's a handy video.

 

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My experience with a narrow selection of Honda, and Kawasaki bikes that I've owned over the years (except for two-strokes), is that I've never owned one that didn't have some inherent flaw with the cam chain tensioning mechanism. Not sure why it seems to be so difficult to design one that works properly.

Yes. I recall when I was a kid, right after the moon landing my parents always saying "well, gee, if they can put a man on the moon, how come they can't....." and fill in your own blank. One would think they could come up with a minimally stretching cam chain but I guess not. Then again, they probably make several hundred million revolutions in their lifetime under intense heat at rapid speed, so there is that. Maybe we should be amazed at how long they last!
TIL: Cam Chain tensioners are made out of chains that revolve a lot.
 

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Discussion Starter #15

That's the site I used when I did the job. It was fully retracted when I installed the body onto the engine and I had a hell of a time getting the bolts started. The guy in the video acted as though there should be free play after torquing the body bolts.

Something doesn't add up. When I removed it from the bike, the rod was fully extended. I cut off the original foot and installed the extender. I fully retracted the rod and had to fight with the tensioner body just to get the bolts started putting it back on the engine.

I've yet to see any video, forum post, or instructional site talk specifically about (or show the process of) the act of reinstalling the body onto the bike and whether or not there should be any kind of resistance. (Other than what the guy in the video you posted, merely implied.)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Please read this link , it has pictures and very good explanations of why you are feeling tension and the whole shebang!

Cam Chain Tensioner Extenders
Thank you for that! I do actually remember reading this a few days before I did the job.

It says: "On some engines, spring resistance will be felt while bolting the body back onto the engine. One, both, or none of the cylinders may exhibit this slight spring resistance, depending on where the engine stopped when last shut off. Be sure the tensioner is as short as possible, and use the mounting bolts to overcome the slight resistance."


He used the word "slight" to describe the resistance. I wouldn't describe what I experienced "slight"... but maybe I'm just weak! :grin2:

That does ease my paranoid mind a bit though.
 

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Thank you for that! I do actually remember reading this a few days before I did the job.

It says: "On some engines, spring resistance will be felt while bolting the body back onto the engine. One, both, or none of the cylinders may exhibit this slight spring resistance, depending on where the engine stopped when last shut off. Be sure the tensioner is as short as possible, and use the mounting bolts to overcome the slight resistance."


He used the word "slight" to describe the resistance. I wouldn't describe what I experienced "slight"... but maybe I'm just weak! :grin2:

That does ease my paranoid mind a bit though.
You also have an extended tensioner now, with more pushing against the chain guide.
 

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I just replaced mine last week. I did not remove anything except the air cleaner plate and bracket on the left side. It takes some patience and a little struggling, however they do come in and out of that tiny space.

The right side tension is from the cam stopping in a place where there is valve spring tension pushing on the cam. I had this as well and just over came it with the screws. All will be good as long as you do not turn the motor with the cam tensioners removed.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I just replaced mine last week. I did not remove anything except the air cleaner plate and bracket on the left side. It takes some patience and a little struggling, however they do come in and out of that tiny space.

The right side tension is from the cam stopping in a place where there is valve spring tension pushing on the cam. I had this as well and just over came it with the screws. All will be good as long as you do not turn the motor with the cam tensioners removed.
REALLY! I'll have to take another look at that front cylinder! At least I now know it's possible :smile2:

Thank you for the explanation on rear cylinder tension when trying to reinstall. That actually makes a lot of sense. Actual valve spring tension is definitely more along the lines of how it felt. Maybe that's what other people were trying to say, too... I just didn't pick up on it.

Maybe I can get that done tomorrow morning and be on the road in the afternoon!!!! 46 degrees (F) :good:
 
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