1979 Yamaha XS1100SF Special (2018)


February 2018…Another road trip!

Next to the Midnight Specials, the 1979 XS11 Specials are my favorite.

Frank and I drove to Buffalo, New York to get this one.  It has been stored outside under a tarp for 2 winters, so it’s going to need a lot of work. We jacked the bike up and put a 4 wheel dolly under the rear tire because the rear wheel was locked up. Then we pulled off the front calipers because they were locked up. Then after putting air in the front tire, we were able to roll the bike out of the soft dirt and mud. It took 4 of us guys to make that happen!

After returning home, I was able to get the bike off of the trailer by myself by removing the 4 universal joint/middle drive bolts that are under the rubber boot. That freed up the back wheel and now I can move the bike around easily. That also told me that the final drive was not the cause of the rear wheel lock up.

March 2018

The owner stated that the engine locked up on a brief ride right after a fresh oil change. I was hoping that the middle drive was the culprit, but after draining the oil and removing the middle drive, the engine still would not turn over. So now it’s either a frozen engine or a frozen transmission.   Next I removed the clutch assembly. I was happy to find that the engine now turns over so the transmission must be locked up, which is probably the lesser of the 2 evils.

I took the opportunity to do a compression test. 3 of the 4 cylinders measured 90 PSI which I am satisfied with. The number 2 cylinder reads low at only 60 PSI, but I’m not overly concerned about that. Once I get the bike running, I think all of those readings will go up. In the meantime, I squirted some rislone in each cylinder and will let that soak for a couple of weeks or longer, until I find the ambition and motivation to tackle the transmission overhaul. Besides, there is no power getting anywhere on the bike except for the radio…no starter, no solenoid clicking, no horn, no lights, no turn signals…So maybe I should tackle the electrical problems first before tearing the engine apart?

Houston, I think we may have a problem here:


The electrical problem was a challenge. All of the power is going up through the fairing for some reason, including the voltage that needs to get to the ignition switch. I never did figure out what why it is wired that way, but since I plan on removing the fairing it doesn’t really matter. I am not a fairing fan at all. I figured out a way to bypass all of that fairing wiring with a few jumper wires and am happy to report that I can now turn over the engine with the starter button and I have spark to all 4 spark plugs. I’m also happy to report that the compression on #2 cylinder came up after just 2 days of rislone soaking.

I want to try to start the bike, but it is already half way apart and the oil has been drained. I don’t want to put it all back together just to take it all apart again to do the transmission repair. But it would sure be nice to hear the engine running and to know if  it is ok before ripping into the tranny. The next 2 decisions are whether try to get the bike started before attempting a transmission repair or not, and also whether to flip the whole bike upside down or to pull the motor out to do the transmission repair? I need to give that some thought.

I’ve flipped a couple of bikes over before and it’s not easy to do by yourself.  I’ve also pulled engines out before and that also is not easy to do by yourself.  I decided on the engine pull this time, but I think I may have made a mistake though, because it was a bear of a project! I just hope that it goes back in easier than it came out, which I’m sure is unlikely. But on the positive side; if I find that the engine is trashed,and I decide to part out this bike, the hardest part is done.



First mistake…I flipped the engine upside down and removed the oil pan to inspect the gears. I should have removed the oil pan before flipping the engine. Now whatever was laying in the bottom of the oil pan is now likely inside of the engine. Lesson learned.

As you can see in the picture below, 2nd gear is missing some teeth!


Two of the teeth are laying on the oil pump screen and several more were found in the thick sludge which is sticking to the bottom of the oil pan.



I did find one tooth down inside the engine which was easily retrieved with a magnet, but who knows where all of the metal chunks and metal filings flew off to while the gears were still spinning at very high revolutions when the failure occurred.  I am reluctant to continue with this project for fear of future engine failures due to unfound bits of steel.

After removing the gears for closer inspection, I found that at least 2 more gears have broken teeth and the 5th gear dogs are unbelievably rounded off. I can also see some more metal bits down inside the engine.


I’ve decided to abandon this project due to the severe internal damage, along with the electrical issues. This project has now migrated to a new home in Michigan.  It will be attended to by another XS11 enthusiast whose intention is to save it.