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Thread: Urgent service message, tons of white smoke

  1. #1
    apriliaforum expert vtwin_pilot's Avatar
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    Urgent service message, tons of white smoke

    Coming back from a weekend of riding, I'm cruising along at 60mph when all of a sudden, I lose power, as if they bike had stalled. In fact, that's what I thought happened at first. As I'm rolling to a stop though, I notice the bike is still idling, yet the throttle is apparently disabled (come to find out I guess the bike put itself in limp mode). I come to a stop, and, with the engine still running, all of a sudden the bike starts belching out an enormous cloud of really white smoke, so much in fact that I can't see my feet or the ground. It was that thick. I quickly shut off the bike and the smoke subsides. I get off to have a look, expecting...something, such as coolant leaking everywhere, flames, whatever, but something to explain the smoke. Nothing. External at least. A cursory look around the bike shows no evidence of anything - no fluids, no coolant, no flames, nothing. Also, before turning the ignition off, I saw the dreaded "URGENT SERVICE" message on the display.

    Just so happened there was a guy in a pickup behind me who saw the whole thing and pulled over. He happened to be a biker as well and just happened to have tie-downs in the bed. Long story short, we got the bike up and into the bed and he towed me home. Talk about guardian angel.

    Anyway, as I've been involved with a home reno, I've not had time to do anything to the bike yet. I did call the Aprilia dealer (Rider's Hill in Dahlonega) and of course they said "not good" and to bring it in. Before I do, I didn't know if I should attempt to have a look myself. I had a quick look at the coolant reservoir and it seems oddly...empty. I didn't pull the fairing off to have a good look, I just had a look from the front side of the bike. I suspect it was coolant that created all the white smoke. I'm assuming an oil problem would generate black or dark smoke. I tried to smell the white smoke as I came to my senses when it was all happening and it didn't necessarily smell sweet like coolant.

    My first thought is that it blew the head gasket, but is that common with only 13k miles (it's an '08 model). I've tried to search on this forum for blown head gaskets and I've seen a few threads over on the SXV area but nothing really for the Shiver. Can't recall but don't think they share the same engine? (okay, a quick googling shows the SXV is a 550)

    At a loss to explain what happened.

  2. #2
    apriliaforum expert Frodo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vtwin_pilot View Post
    My first thought is that it blew the head gasket, but is that common with only 13k miles (it's an '08 model). I've tried to search on this forum for blown head gaskets and I've seen a few threads over on the SXV area but nothing really for the Shiver. Can't recall but don't think they share the same engine? (okay, a quick googling shows the SXV is a 550)

    At a loss to explain what happened.
    I'm afraid you might be right. White smoke is coolant and the absence of coolant in the reservoir reinforces this.
    I'm not aware of anyone blowing a head gasket in this forum, but some have had oil weeping from the head gasket, suggesting less than optimum torque from the factory.
    Might not be a catastrophic failure if you caught it in time.
    I blew a head gasket in a Toyota van. I think it needed a new head gasket and the head needed planing, but it ran trouble free for another 100,000km when I sold it at 250,000km.
    Frodo
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  3. #3
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    White smoke from exhaust - coolant in combustion chamber.

    Most probably a blown head gasket, but would not dismiss a cracked cylinder head. My old scarabeo with rotax engine had a crack in the cylinder head.

    How much coolant did it loose? If it is small amount, eg small leak you should be fine with skimming the cylinder heads and putting new gaskets. But if a good chunk of coolant is missing, it might be quite a bit of damage caused due to hydrolock - bent valves, conrod, etc. (hopefully thats not the case).

  4. #4
    apriliaforum expert High Country's Avatar
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    It sure sounds like you lost the head gasket at the very least. Hopefully not a cracked head.

    The fact that the engine was still running is a good sign as far as the bottom end.

    At this point, I would be concerned with rust in the combustion chamber. If you aren't going to tear it down, you may want to spray a bunch of light oil in the spark plug holes while hand cranking the engine over.
    2009 Aprilia Dosoduro 750 (Adventurized: http://www.apriliaforum.com/forums/a...893274&thumb=1)

  5. #5
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    I also think of a head gasket, but as a friend of mine with a dorso had something similar, I suggest that you tell the service guys to check some valves that are for cold starts in the cylinder head. My friend's dorso had these dried of due to excess heat, and coolant was coming to the cylinder...
    I think that they are #875361, #855799 or somewhere there in the Cylinder head - valves parts diagram for 2009/2014 dorsos
    http://www.af1racing.com/store/Scrip...dCategory=1649

  6. #6
    apriliaforum expert vtwin_pilot's Avatar
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    The news, I'm afraid, is dismal. I took it into the dealer (Rider's Hill, Dahlonega GA) a couple of weeks ago and just heard back. Very...un-good. He says he took out one of the spark plugs and that told him all he needed to know. The entire end of it was...I forget what he said exactly...but something to the effect of sheared off, or mangled or otherwise massively damaged. He stopped there and didn't disassemble anything else because in his estimation, the engine's shot b/c he said only one thing big enough would be able to do that sort of damage, and that's a broken valve.

    I'm still processing this. I can't believe it, actually. The bike has 13K miles. How can an engine just completely shit the bed like this? The only thing I can think of is that, much to my chagrin, I never had the valves checked. I bought the bike in '09 with about 2K on it, and it'd been serviced by this same dealer, and at the 600 mi check, presumably valves were checked and all was good. I can't verify that, I just know the previous owner told me he had it serviced. I actually got a copy of that service receipt. I need to dig it out and see if anything with the valves was done. If memory serves, no.

    So my assumption is that a really, really tight valve just snapped. I don't know if a valve could get that tight so as to cause this sort of catastrophic failure. Given the maintenance interval for a valve check/adjust is 12,500 miles, I'd have a hard time believing that at just 500 or so miles over that limit, the valve was so tight that it broke. Please chime in. I'm looking for input. I owned a Futura and remember checking the valves once at around the 15K mark and all was spot on. Granted, that was a Rotax engine, but still, this is no finicky older Ducati that needs valves adjusted constantly. At least, I didn't think so. What's everyone's experience with valve adjustments if you've done them? Do they tend to be tight or loose?

    That all assumes that my premise is right. Maybe this failure has nothing to do with a tight valve that broke. I asked the service manager what might have caused it but he said it could be lots of things, but didn't specifically say it was probably a tight valve. In fact, he didn't really confirm one way or another.

    This is devastating. This is my fourth Aprilia over the past dozen years: two scoots, a Futura, and now the Shiver. While the Fut gave me (and lots of other owners) a few headaches electrically (bum r/r) and a recall for the gas tank disconnect, I've ridden four bikes over thousands of miles more or less trouble-free. And now this.

    My first call will be to Piaggio to report the issue. I'll not hold my breath, but I'll ask them to investigate this for a possible warranty replacement. Of course the bike is far out of warranty, but a catastrophic failure of this magnitude simply shouldn't happen. Would they hold me to the very letter of the maintenance schedule and tell me I'm out of luck b/c I didn't have the valves checked a scant 500 miles ago? Most likely, yes. On the other hand, I'd find it hard to believe that this 750 engine isn't durable enough that going over the maintenance interval by 500 miles should make this much of a difference.

    I'm fairly certain I'm stuck with a dud engine, with no help forthcoming from Aprilia. The service manager was kind enough to have searched and found a used one for $899, and said it'd be about $500 in labor to install. $1400 on a bike that's worth $4000! I'm still in disbelief.

  7. #7
    apriliaforum expert Frodo's Avatar
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    What a sh!t. But based on your description, I don't think this is a dropped valve. A tight valve would not cause it to snap. It would simply not close properly and may end being burnt. but would not cause a catastrophic failure. I also doubt that your bike would idle as you noted if it had dropped a valve into the combustion chamber. The valve would not cause the white smoke on its own. This is clearly coolant in the combustion chamber.
    I think your bike overheated for some reason and then blew the head gasket. This may have caused further damage subsequently.
    I'm not saying that the motor is fixable, but I think the dealer needs to do more than pull the plug out.
    But I'm sitting in my armchair giving these unfounded opinions and he was looking at the bike.
    Frodo
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  8. #8
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    agree with frodo.

    if a valve snapped (and dropped) then the engine would not have idled and probably wouldn't even turn over much or at all. I guess it's possible that the valve snapped and didn't fall I guess... but that still doesn't explain why coolant would get into your engine.

    Easy way to rule out a valve dropping

    1. will the engine turn over
    2b. if it does turn over do you hear a bunch of unusual clanking noises
    2b. do you have compression if it does turn over

    If you don't hear any clanking and the engine turns freely then it really probably is something else..
    unless of course this engine has a VERY different design than what I've opened up before.

    Though $900 for a used engine doesn't sound terrible.. if you part out the old one you may only be out $500 or so (if you trust yourself to swap your own engine).

    All that being said... i've been wrong before but i think a lot of people would agree with me.
    Last edited by RadicalTireSkid; 10-08-2015 at 06:41 PM.

  9. #9
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    What a bugger! I'd be getting the other plug out, and then putting a compression tester on both cylinders to see if there really is catastropic damage - No compression in a cyclinder probably = big $$ , reduced pressure at least means no hole in piston or broken valve, and maybe just a gasket issue?...

  10. #10
    apriliaforum expert High Country's Avatar
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    I'm in agreement with the last three posts. No matter what is wrong (within reason), the engine can be fixed. Worst case the loose pieces scored the cylinder wall and that jug/head/piston needs replacing. Best case it overheated and warped the head, causing the gasket to blow, and the loose pieces went out the exhaust pipe (hey, it could happen). The used engine will probably be cheaper than either scenario, even if you have to pay to have it done.

    The used engine will also need a valve check and service, which would probably not be very expensive with the bike already disassembled. Look at it this way; You could not buy another DD for $1400.

    I think you should do the used engine, and keep the blown motor. Take it apart at your leisure, and learn all you can by doing that. I think most of us would love to be able to do that without stressing about getting it back together. Photo document the process. Part it out if you don't think you can reassemble it, or rebuild it as a spare (or used motor for sale) if it turns out to be something as simple as resurfacing the head and honing the cylinder walls. Heck, you might want to keep it as a center piece for the kitchen table.

    Bummer that it happened, though.
    2009 Aprilia Dosoduro 750 (Adventurized: http://www.apriliaforum.com/forums/a...893274&thumb=1)

  11. #11
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    shit happens, been in familiar situation, eg repair old engine vs swapping for another used one. engines are never cheap either way

    anyways just by looking a the spark plug the guy seems to be making big assumptions

    imho if the valve definitely have dropped and damaged the engine, the engine would have come to the abrupt stop with quite a bit of noise. but from your first post I understand you stopped the engine yourself. as the bike is already stripped to get the plugs out I do not see the problem to do some more diagnostics. if the engine is turning over and you can see the compression inside, taking off the heads should reveal the extension of the damage. you might need only a set of new cylinder gaskets and head surface flattening.

    don't forget that swapping the engines to the other used one, does not guarantee you anything.

  12. #12
    apriliaforum Junkie
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    I'd like to see the plug, somethings not right. Did he have a look down the plug hole with a bore scope? That would be my first step.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by High Country View Post
    I think you should do the used engine, and keep the blown motor. Take it apart at your leisure, and learn all you can by doing that. I think most of us would love to be able to do that without stressing about getting it back together. Photo document the process. Part it out if you don't think you can reassemble it, or rebuild it as a spare (or used motor for sale) if it turns out to be something as simple as resurfacing the head and honing the cylinder walls. Heck, you might want to keep it as a center piece for the kitchen table.

    Bummer that it happened, though.
    +1 on that... never hurts to make it a learning experience. Tools you buy would last a lifetime.

  14. #14
    apriliaforum Member Thrillmoto's Avatar
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    Bummer news on your Ape VTP. I'm with most in here in saying you probably blew your head gasket. That is a very rare (and very unfortunate for you) occurance in todays motorcycle world. Since you were staring at it off the bike and idling(in safe mode) when it started belching......you probably saw it go. I would guess if you went back to before she rolled to a stop, that the temp was probably spiked also. I'm a little surprised you felt no stuttering as she got too hot, or the idle wasn't rough when you first got off her.

    As for the dealers "plug" diagnosis, he probably realises a bigger $# is ahead for you to authorize in order for him to be able to give you a better diagnosis. My gut is (along with others prior) he is a little off regarding the valve breaking the plug, since it was idling before the gasket went. Hope it in the end is a small problem, although painful, but easily fixed.
    In the garage now......
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    Used to be in the garage......
    '13 Ducati 1199R Panigale, '13 Suzuki DRZ400SM, '09 ZX10R, '09 Suzuki DRZ400SM, '07 GSX750R, '06 Speed Triple, '04 ZX10R, '02 BMW R1100S Boxer Cup prep, '98 Ducati 748 Mono, '92 Suzuki 400 Bandit, '90 ZX7R Ninja, '89 ZX9R Ninja, '89 GT650 Hawk, '87 ZX750 Ninja, '86 Yamaha FZ600, '85 GPz750, '83 CB650 Nighthawk

  15. #15
    apriliaforum expert tubad56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricks View Post
    I'd like to see the plug, somethings not right. Did he have a look down the plug hole with a bore scope? That would be my first step.
    I agree with what everyone else is sayin vtwin, and I would be taking a look in both pots before goin all doom and despondency m8, its going to be a ball ache (but that's the love of an Italian bike) but might not be quite as bad as your being lead to believe.

    If nothing else it could give you a chance to build one very trick motor, which ever way you go on the motor
    2010 Factory DD that I want to make FACTORY Factory
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