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Discussion Starter #1
Stopped at favorite Dunkin Donuts this morning, when I came back out to the bike it would try to lurch forward when attempting to start with clutch lever fully pulled in.

I'm guessing the Clutch assembly or actuating arm is damaged versus the shift mechanism which will go in and out of first to neutral and back. She limped home in first gear but would not upshift to second. Attempts to shift just produced an unpleasant sound from the gearbox but not like metal on metal - more of a "nope, not shifting" whine.

What say you? Start with the clutch assembly and actuator?
 

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I remember reading on here somewhere that someone had the clutch linkage go, they suspected from hitting the heal shifter too hard over time. Do a search, sounds like a similar issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
If it was heel shifting that they suspected, wouldn't it be the shift mechanism that took the abuse? I'll do the search as you suggested though. thanks!
 

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Hitting the heel shifter or the toe shift lever too hard (like stomping on it) can actually bend the transmission shifter forks. Hopefully that isn't the issue here - requires splitting the engine casings to repair.
 

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EDITED:
When does the noise happen? Does it happen when you pull the clutch in?

Here is a test to do.
Given that pulling the clutch lever is not required for shifting while moving, you should be able to get through the gears just using the throttle and the shifter.

If you can change gears the problem might be clutch linkages.

If you can not change gears, then the problem might be shift forks or stem rod or linkages
https://www.bikebandit.com/oem-parts/2008-kawasaki-vulcan-900-custom-vn900c/o/m148882#sch549396
 

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EDITED:
When does the noise happen? Does it happen when you pull the clutch in?

Here is a test to do.
Given that pulling the clutch lever is not required for shifting while moving, you should be able to get through the gears just using the throttle and the shifter.

If you can change gears the problem might be clutch linkages.

If you can not change gears, then the problem might be shift forks or stem rod or linkages
https://www.bikebandit.com/oem-parts/2008-kawasaki-vulcan-900-custom-vn900c/o/m148882#sch549396
Shifting gears without using the clutch can place heavy and repeated heavy loads upon the gearbox which in turn can lead to premature transmission and gearbox failure. Having noted that, with my previous bike I sometimes changed gears without using the clutch in heavy commute traffic and still had no related problem.
 

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Shifting gears without using the clutch can place heavy and repeated heavy loads upon the gearbox which in turn can lead to premature transmission and gearbox failure.
It is like anything else, you have to practice to become proficient with it. I grew up on equipment with crash gearboxes. When you are proficient at rev matching and changing when off the throttle momentarily, you can slip in and out of the gears easily. Of course it is easier in the 3-4-5 range and requires more practice and better throttle control when down in 2-1 but it is still a skill that can be learned.

Anyway, I do not have any interest in who does it or not. I only meant to say that the technique could be useful right now for the OP to see if he/she can get through the gears.

Good luck to the OP with the problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
No. I actually tried the powershifting on the way home limping along in 1st gear - no soap. It seems to me that the overriding factor is that the bike would not move forward or backward with the clutch lever fully pulled in. It was only by repeated rocking back and forth that I finally was able to get her into neutral, start the bike, shift back to first and then 35 mph all the way home....

That, to me, smells like an internal clutch problem.

Once I made it back to the house, as soon as I came to a stop, with the clutch lever full in, she stalled and went back to the not wanting to roll either direction. Oil level looks good but is due for a change. Could have sworn I heard a rattle from the gearbox when I first started out that morning - maybe a broken clutch spring?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
OK - So i have opened the clutch and have removed all of it excpet the basket and I just received the tool to hold it so I can pull the hub nut. Now I'll be able to see if the thrust washer is damaged. Steels and frictions looked worn but not burned.

I have also started tearing down on the drive pulley side so I can have a good look at the shift mechanism. if i can get any further with it this weekend I will post some pics of the progress so some of my fellow gear heads on here can offer up any observations.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
OK. Further info - Got the clutch basket off and had a good look at it. There are 4 slots where the tabs of the friction plates ride that some sort of build-up on / in the slot. It's about a thumbnail thickness and about 3-4 mm in height and will not come off without filing. Looks like a transfer of the material from the edge of the friction plates tabs?

I'll post a couple of pics of this in just a minute. Since there is not supposed to be an interference fit on those tabs I'm thinking I'll just file down the buildup, install a new clutch pack with frictions, steels, and springs and see if this doesn't fix the clutch release issue. I can easily imagine the edge of the plates sticking / galling on that build up.

First picture is of the buildup slots, second picture is of the remaining slots with just normal wear. Anybody else recognize this kind of buildup?
 

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You can sand off that buildup, although it does not look to be interfering with anything.
You can see the beginnings of grooves starting to form. If you can catch your nail on them, you can consider sanding/filing them. Honestly, the basket looks good.
 
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