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- Broken Blade 05/10/03
- Blade rebuild 30/01/04

Fireblade Problems & Cures
The following information is courtesy of Performance Bikes (October 2003)

They took a shagged, 20k mileage, Urban Tiger to John Hensman at the The Honda Institute. This is Honda's vehicle preparation and training centre near Heathrow for diagnosis and repair. The details have been left as printed, for you to read into the symptoms and cures as you wish, in order to try and fix any problems with your Blade.

1. Head Race Bearings 5. Engine Oil/Fluids
2. Forks 6. Brakes
3. Carburation/Airfilter 7. Tyres
4. Spark Plugs  

Symptoms: Notchy feel under braking

Fireblades like wheelies, but head race bearings don’t. Positioned top and bottom of the headstock to provide slick steering movement, the head race bearings receive a sharp jolt of pressure every time the front wheels slams back to earth.
First sign that they’re unhappy will be a notch, or slight forward motion of the bars under braking. The Blade uses caged ball bearings, which, funnily enough, are half encased in a plastic cage and sit in a ‘race’, which in turn nestles in the headstock. Should you ignore the notch, the bearings will move against the top and bottom edges of the race and eat away at the surface until a pit appears. By then the notch will be so annoying that you’ll have to replace the bearings and race just to preserve your sanity.
Both the bearings and race are pre-greased, but this dries in time increasing the chance of pitting. Re-greasing and re-tightening – to the correct torque setting, of course, is often enough to cure the problem.

Removal of old bearings
Well lubed head
The Blade requires a special tool to tighten the bearings to the correct torque.

John's difficulty rating:
DIY price (grease, new lock tab): £10
Dealer price (inspect and repack plus labour): 2.5 hours, £70-80

Repacking or fitting new head race bearings isn't massively difficult in itself, but the FireBlade requires a specialist tool to re-torque the bearings. You could try your luck with a screwdriver and hammer, but over or under tightening the locking nut will leave the bearings and race open to damage.
Either way, it's best to remove the fairing, forks and front wheel first, to gain better access to the head stock. Undoing the Blade's head stock bolt revealed rust on the top of the steering head column. You'll need the special four-pinned socket to remove the head stock nut Although the Blade's bearings were dry, the notching sensation under braking hadn't damaged the race, so a liberal covering will see them right for a few miles yet.
Dropping the bottom yoke revealed the lower bearings, which were also recoated and reseated in their race. Don't use copper grease, though, it'll eat into both the bearings and race. If bearings are beyond a quick regrease, replace them in pairs. The Blade's require 25 Newton metres of preload to perform to their optimum. Locking nuts only need to be finger tight - any more and they increase the bearing's preload. Move the bars side to side several times to seat the components. With the forks and wheel back in situs, John uses a spring balance to double check the bearing preload. The bars require 1.5kg of force to move full lock - in other words, it's spot on.

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Symptom: Spongy front end

Often overlooked in favour of fancy shocks and swingarms, forks have a knock-on effect on other areas of a bike’s performance. Like braking. There’s no point in splashing out on a trick brake set-up if your forks hit their bump stops every time you brush the lever. An internal inspection and oil change is an effective and inexpensive way to suss and improve your front end’s condition and it’s performance.
Like engine oil, fork oil deteriorates and picks up contaminates with age and use. Also like engine lube, fork oil condition is critical to the performance of the surrounding components. The oil acts as a damper within the forks and is worked very hard. Particles from bronze and phosphor bushes within the forks will contaminate the oil over time, although a degeneration is less of a problem than with engine oil because condensation can’t form inside a sealed chamber.
Old oil will lessen the damping capabilities, leading to spongy feel and/or wallowing. To check if it’s past its best, wind the damping up to maximum. If there’s little increase in resistance the oil’s had it.

Removal of oil seals
Fresh oil
The use of Ribena is not recommended.

John's difficulty rating:
DIY price (fork oil x2 bottles): £23.50
Dealer price (parts plus labour): 2.5 hours, £90-100

Because it's out of sight, fork oil is all too often out of mind. But why spend all that money on decent rubber and sharp brakes if your suspension's not up to the job? There's no inspection schedule on the Blade's fork oil, but John advises an oil change at 16,000 miles. With 20,500 on the clock, our CBR looks long overdue.
John's tip for supporting the front end: place the back end on a paddock stand, then jack up the front end from under the exhaust's 4-1 section, using a piece of wood to cushion the pipes. Once the front wheel's out undo the yoke bolts to release the forks. Measure how much the forks protrude above the top yoke first however, so you know where to put them back, then wind off the preload, to take pressure off the springs.
The Blade's forks are good, except for oil seals that have been seated with a screwdriver. Once the fork top's off, the spring's removed and the old oil is drained and pumped from its inner chamber. John's suspicion that the Blade was on original oil proves correct as it emerges looking like gravy. Add the required amount of fresh oil, from a clean container of course, before pumping the damper rod for several strokes to bleed the damping chamber of any air. Resistance will build up as you remove the air. Then reassemble.

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Woolly and spluttery throttle response, poor economy

This Fireblade’s got more peaks and troughs in its carburetion than a Derbyshire pig farm. At low rpm it splutters away to itself before finally clearing it’s throat and producing something remotely resembling forward motion. At high rpm it can’t decide how much fuel to feed the cylinders, hesitation every 1000 revs to make up it’s mind. In short, it’s a chore to ride.
And it’s little wonder, considering the state of the airfilter. Stained almost black in places, the once red filament seems to have been doing its level best to prevent any air getting into the motor. With the fuel/air mix unable to find a happy medium it makes the Blade very hard to settle before a turn – not that you’re want to with those tyres – or hold at a constant throttle.
The fuel filter is equally clogged with bilge and well past its use-by date. If a motor is to give its best it requires a constant regulated flow of clean air and fuel – something this bike hasn’t enjoyed for some time.

The battered protective mesh
Vacuum gauge
Use of a vacuum gauge for balancing, is easier with the carbs removed.

John's difficulty rating:
DIY price (air filter): £26.75
Dealer price (parts plus labour): 2 hours, £75-85

Early Blades' plastic fuel taps are often forgotten about in the frenzy to get to the bike's guts, and snap off as the tank is lifted free. Whipping It off first with a Phillips screwdriver saves a lot of swearing.
With the tank and airbox cover off, we soon uncover a major player in the 900's piss-poor fuelling. The airfilter looks as though it's spent most of its life on a garage floor, such is its filthy condition. Its mesh backing plate, designed to stop things like stones, insects and rodents from entering the motor has broken away from the filter. And the filter itself is an unwashable viscous jobbie, so its only future vocation will be filling a bin - as will the fuel filter which also proves to be long past its best.
Attaching a vacuum gauge to the carbs - in order to inspect and correct the fuelling - sounds easy enough, but the connecting points are located on the inlet tracts underneath the carb bodies. John reckons it's easier to remove the carbs to attach the vacuum pipes.
Some of the lumpy throttle response is down to slightly worn needles, which, if left in place long enough, wear the emulsifying tubes oval, thereby allowing fuel past the needles and richening the mixture. Inlet manifold rubbers can perish, leading to air leaks, but the Blade's are still serviceable. The ovel1!ll set-up of the CBR's carbs wasn't bad, but a slight adjustment to pot one's butterfly screw crispened things up considerably.

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poor fuel consumption and starting

The scary thing is, this Blade’s plugs look as if they’ve never been changed. All credit to NGK for manufacturing a consumable that lasts that long, but after seven years in the block they’re hardly an aid to the performance or sweet running of this bike.
The efficiency of the plugs has been compromised over time and their ability to produce a fat, healthy spark is reduced by a major build-up of soot at their business ends – especially on those from cylinders three and four. To surmise: the better the spark, the better the ignition, the better the performance.

Spot the difference!?
The plugs are fiddley buggers to get at.
Don't over tighten the sparkplaugs - they can snap off in the heads on removal.

John's difficulty rating:
DIY price (plugs): £33.37
Dealer price (parts plus labour): £60-70

Sounds like child's play, but can actual_ be an hour's work. For starters you've got to remove the fairing, but even then It's not that easy to gain access to the plugs from underneath the frame rails. John recommends going in through the top, removing the tank, airbox and inner frame heat shield to gain access.
Like most bikes, you'll need a deep plug spanner to gain a purchase on the Blade's plugs. If you're whipping them out to check for a spark, don't rest them on the magnesium head or you'll run the risk of blowing a hole straight though it. Although there's a tool in the CBR's toolkit that looks like a plug-gap vernier gauge - if It's still there at all- ft is in fact for setting up the caliper/disc distance. Plug gap on Blades is recommended at O.7mm, whereas the caliper/disc clearance is 0.9mm.
Plugs are an excellent way of sussing a rnotor's state of health. The Blade's were sooted, particularly on two and three, which suggests ft's running slightly rich. They'd also been in there for an age and were well past their best, so swapping them for new 'uns will increase ignition efficiency and economy. Plugs should also be retightened to the recommended torque setting, because an over tightened plug could snap on subsequent extraction.

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Motor feels rough and noisy.

Engine needs oil. Its importance cannot be underestimated. As well as lubricating moving parts, oil also helps cool the internals. Dirty oil loses its ability to lubricate and cool the motor, causing premature wear and stress on components – including the clutch and gearbox. Clutch slip can be an early sign of poor oil condition. Milky residue on the dipstick or sight window indicates a build up of condensation. The oil in this Blade is black, old and has a metallic sheen. A freshly oiled motor will run smoother, quieter and more efficiently.
Old coolant is unlikely to directly affect performance, but it can certainly lead to a hefty bill if left unchecked. An incorrect level or mix of distilled water and antifreeze (50/50 mix is best), or no antifreeze at all, could encourage electrolysis in the cooling system – which eats away at metal components. Insufficient coolant can cause a motor to run too hot, knocking the edge off performance and also leading to possible pinking and detonation. And that’s expensive.

Old oil has a metallic sheen to it.
Scrub off any road gunk off the radiator
Correct engine colling requires a functioning radiator, so take a wire brush to the front.

John's difficulty rating: 1/5
DIY price (fuel filter, oil filter, oil, coolant x3 bottles): £57.13
Dealer price (parts plus labour): 1 hour, £85-90

You can tell a lot about a bike from little things, like washers. The sump plug washer on this Blade, which should be replaced every time it's removed (at 10p each there's no excuse not to), is twisted and chewed. A warped washer could, if you're unlucky, click the sump and they're a fair bit more than a few pence.
Treating the CBR to fresh Castrol semi-synthetic (John reckons quality semis are so good there's little need for fully-synth) will quieten the motor and make it smoother, as well as afford its internals a greater degree of protection under load.
There really is no excuse for not regularly replacing an engine's oil because It's so easy to do. John recommends emptying the sump when the motor's warm, as the lube flows more freely, and filling the new filter with oil before screwing ft in place, taking care to clean its mounting point first to avoid tearing the filter's seal. Filling the filter ensures instant oil pressure when the motor is fired. Engine oil level is best checked with the bike upright and off its stand.

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Symptom: Spongy action with a lack of bite, feel and power.

It’s fair to say that brakes are rather important on a 160mph motorcycle, not that you’d know it by riding this Blade. It may have braided hoses all round, but its stoppers are wooden, lifeless and downright dangerous. A tug on the front lever achieves little. Then, as the lever gets intimate with the bar, there’s a jolting sensation and a weak attempt at deceleration – a classic sign that the pads are mullered.
Both front pads are nearly down to their backing plates and the inside front left pads down to the metal, gouging out a groove in the disc. Left to do it’s worst, this metal to metal contact will over-heat and warp the disc. Luckily the damage is minimal and both discs are still serviceable – there’s 4mm of meat left; Honda’s minimum recommended limit is 3.5mm.

Pads past their sell by date.
Compare the correctly filled reservoirs clean fluid, with the previous fluid!

John's difficulty rating: 4/5
DIY price (pads, x4 front, x2 rear plus fluid): £89.81
Dealer price (parts plus labour @ £25-35 per hour): 1 hour, £115-125

Overhauling brakes is a two-stage job; pads and fluid. Start by loosening off the pad retaining screw - top middle of caliper. Then remove the caliper from the fork leg. Unclip the dust seal to expose the top of the pads, take out the retaining screw and remove the pads.
The CBR's calipers were caked in brake dust and road gunk. Left uncleaned, this grime could overcome the outer dust seals and invite corrosion. An old toothbrush and brake cleaner spray had the pistons gleaming in no time - the spray moistens gunk, so you don't breathe it in. An abrasive brush may scratch the piston's surface, making them easy targets for corrosion. Once the caliper is clean, release the bleed nipple slightly and push the pistons back with your finger and thumb. Rub copper grease on the back and side edges of the pads, before replacing them in the caliper. The pad retaining screw only needs to be nipped up. Honda recommends changing the caliper bolts every time they're disturbed, because they're a stressed part. Use a non-permanent Loctite when tightening them back at the correct torque setting.
Time for new fluid. Honda mechanics use a brilliant device for bleeding brakes, called a mitivac - without it you have to pump the lever. Top up the master cylinder with fluid as required and you'll have air-free brake lines in no time. Finally, clean off the discs with a soft rag and brake cleaning spray to remove any greasy hoof prints.
Heat build up from shot pads can damage dust and pressure seals inside the calliper, as well as overwork the fluid. The fluid in this bike’s system is little better than muddy water. A low level in the master cylinder has allowed condensation to form in the air gap, contaminating the fluid. Old fluid picks up debris from inside the lines, leading to discolouration and further drop in performance.

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Reluctance to turn in heavy steering.

Tyres are the most critical components on any bike and they do much more than just provide grip. They transfer power and braking force to the tarmac and all surface changes back to the suspension, as well as using their inherent flexibility as extra shock absorption, so it’s easy to see why tyre wear/type and condition have such an impact on handling and ride quality.
Both boots on this Blade have seen better days, but the rear is by far the worst. IT bears the brunt of the workload, transferring power to the road, so the middle third of it’s circumference is bald. This change in profile leaves lips either side of the centre section, so the tyre has to roll up onto the lip and then down the natural curvature of the tyre in order to tip into a bend, creating reluctance to turn, syrupy steering and s sudden flop into the corner.
The front end is worn in two strips either side of the central quarter, from heavy braking. As the tyre becomes more worn and triangulated this adds to the unsettling ‘flop in’ feeling. Worn tyres have a major detrimental effect on handling and these old boots are definitely scrap.

Squared off tyre
Fresh sticky Diablo boots
Changing tyres is an ideal opportunity to check wheel bearings and seals.

John's difficulty rating:
Pirelli Diablo 130/70 ZR16 front: £125.72 RRP
Pirelli Diablo 180/55 ZR17 rear: £166.85 RRP
DIY price (loose wheels, fitted and balanced): £10-15 per wheel
Dealer price (ride in, ride out): £15-20 per wheel

Not many folk possess the equipment to remove, fit and balance lyres so you're basically left with two options: whip out the wheels yourself and take them to your local motorcycle establishment in the back of your Morris ltal, or ride the bike there and get said shop's highly trained experts to do all the dirty work For the sake often or 15 quid you might as well stick your feet up, light a tab and watch an oily fingered gentleman do it for you.
But before you remove the wheels, check the wheel bearings. Put the bike on a paddock stand, or get a mate to hold it upright grab a wheel on both sides of its circumference and apply pressure in both sideward directions. The wheel should remain static. If not your bearings need an inspection at the very least. This Blade's bearings are fine, but the rear bearing dust seals, which prevent dust and water from entering and damaging the bearings, were shot Always regrease bearings and copper grease wheel spindles before reassembly - makes life easier next time. We chose Pirelli Diablos for the Blade because of they are stable and grip like limpets. Plus they'll instantly improve the handling ten-fold.

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