|SO YOU JUST GOT A
|FOR THE DO-IT-YOURSELF DUCATI OWNER
|Now, what do you really need to know? This area will detail some of the
'need to know' info of owning and buying a Ducati. I hope it comes in
handy. I am working on a list of frequently asked questions and answers.
What you also should do is check out the Quack FAQ. It has more than
enough enough for you new Duc owners.
"What about the valves?" is the first question everybody asks when I say I have a
Ducati. Everybody wonders about Ducati valves. How often do they need adjustment?
How much does it cost? Can I do it myself? In fact, valves are probably one of the
biggest deterrents to buying a Ducati. People seem intimidated by them. I was too until
I took the time to learn about how the desmodromic valve system works, what exactly
needs adjustment, etc. My advice is this: don't let the dreaded valve adjustments
discourage you from owning the bike of your dreams. It's not that bad to have to pay
somebody to do it, and it's relatively easy to do yourself. A typical 2v adjustment can
run around $250, with a 4v running around twice that amount (twice the valves plus
more bodywork). But, it only needs to be done every 4,000 to 6,000 miles. Also, there
are plenty of resources out there to help you do it yourself if you want to go the home
route. Pro Italia even offers a video on how to do it! Even though I highly recommend
doing it yourself, as it gives you the chance to learn more about your machine and to
make sure it's done right, it is definitely not for everybody. See my article here, and
also my links page for other great resources if you're ready to tackle the job.
The very first thing I noticed about riding my Duc was the limited steering travel lock to lock. The radius is is very
wide, and it is due to the tubular trestle frame design. Parking lots are a Duc's worst nightmare, so beware of that
before trying to hang a u-turn on a crowded street. It's very likely you will meet pavement. However, once you
know the limits, it is very easy to work around them and really don't even notice it after a while.
Another great design feature of modern Ducatis is the automatically retracting side stand. Newer models don't have
this, but older models are now infamous for them. It's a good idea in theory and once you're used to it you don't
mind, but getting used to having to put the side stand down every time you tilt the bike up can be frustrating. The
design's worst drawback is how unstable it makes the bike. My advice is to NEVER park on even the slightest
downhill slope. It doesn't take much for the bike to roll half an inch forward and then come crashing down without
warning. ALWAYS check the stability of the bike before leaving it. Kind of nudge it and see if it will give way
easily. If so, I'd re-park it, trying to have it face uphill if possible. Another problem is that the side stand is
mounted to the engine, not the frame. This can cause a problem if not dealt with correctly. NEVER sit on the bike
or apply pressure to the stand (like turning the front wheel while on the side stand). Either stand beside the bike and
turn the wheel or turn it before you dismount the bike. If pressure is applied to the side stand, it can very easily
break the mounting bolt, the stand, or the engine block. Not good at all. But, I guess it's better than having it dig
into the ground and cause a crash.
Yes, Owning a Ducati requires more effort on your part to keep it maintained. More money, more time, more TLC.
Period. If you can't handle that, then a Ducati shouldn't be your first choice for a motorcycle. But then again, if you
cared about money, time, or maintenance you wouldn't want a Ducati, right? What kind of maintenance am I
looking at? Well, check out my maintenance chart that I threw together and see for yourself. There is VERY little
that a competent mechanic cannot do on their own. By competent, I mean being able to perform basic mechanical
tasks, owning the necessary tools, knowing how to use the tools, the ability to follow instructions, a low level of
intimidation by engine internals, and basically understanding the theory of operation behind all of the parts. If you
don't know the intake valve's job, you shouldn't very well be adjusting it. Ducati service techs are always an option,
albeit an expensive and sometimes untrustworthy one. But then again, if you wanted to go to a service tech, you
wouldn't be surfing this site, would you? Just understand that owning a Duc isn't all about image. You have to
understand, work on, spend a lot of time on, and generally feel for the machine or it will come back to bite you.
Yes, Ducs are known for having electrical problems. A classic example is the classic Diana model- the electricals
were so buggy that Ducati actually fitted a tail light kill switch to prevent the electrical system failure if the bulb
shorted, rather than fix the real problem. They have always been known for buggy electricals. Unfortunately, I am
the latest in a long string of victims. Actually, as of late I have had minimal problems, but my vertical cyclinder
does occasionally quit firing, due no doubt to a shorting ignition control module, probably due to a crappy
aftermarket tach. Voltage regulators are the biggest problem, usually they will short out and stop charging the
battery. Well, they more than just short out- they actually melt. Another common problem is the wiring between
the regulator and the alternator. There is a plastic connector midway between them, and it causes a lot of
resistance. After time, it heats up, melts, and shorts out the regulator and or other ignition components, such as the
ignition modules (black boxes) or coils. My wiring melted, but my regulator is still OK (after I fixed the wiring).
The best thing to do is solder in a straight connection to replace this hotbed of electrical failure. Fortunately,
compared to the Honda I owned, aftermarket electricals that are better than stock are available. They are also
somewhat resonably priced. I'm not saying that other bikes are any more reliable in the electrical department, just
know that your beloved Duc is not immune to electrical gremlins.
CARBURETOR NEEDLE JETS
If your bike has over 5,000 miles and is popping and surging in the midrange, has poor fuel economy, and is fouling
plugs, the first fix I recommend is the needle jets. The needle jets wear out after 5,000 or more miles, and this
results in extra fuel flowing by the needles. All this extra gas causes the above symptoms, and will eventually foul
the plugs completely up if left unattended. When I got my bike it would pop and surge while cruising, but I figured
it was the pipes. It also only got 33 MPG, but I figured it was normal. And, I could only run 92 octane without
trouble, again, I figured it was normal. My carbs finally gave out after 10,000 miles and the bike wouldn't run for
more than two minutes on new plugs, and when I replaced them in conjunction with the jet kit, the problem was
solved. I immediately shot up to 48 MPG (even with a jet kit!), and the plugs look perfect. Plus I can run 87 again.
So, first suspect the needle jets, it is a very common problem on carbed bikes.
There are several nagging issues on Ducati bikes that you should keep a close eye on. The first would be the clutch
slave cylinder, these are known to leak on many models. Dirt enters the poorly sealed bore of the slave cylinder
piston, and combined with the rough finsih inside, it eats the seals. Then it starts leaking. The fix is to replace the
stock one with an aftermarket cylinder. Another problem is the flywheel nuts on some models. It's randomly
spread but mostly affects 4 valve bikes. The flywheel nut is a poor design and loosens by itself. The signal that
something is wrong is a very loud knocking noise from the side of the engine. The fix is to use Nichols flywheel
nuts as a preventative measure. Also, many bikes have been affected by the oil plug in the crankshaft coming loose
and eating bearings. The plug is not staked, and thus it vibrates out. Hope and pray you're not affected. Finally,
the rocker arm issues- many 4v bikes from 1999 to present (time will tell with the testastretta models) have been
affected by rocker arms that have the chrome plating flake off. The problem is almost invariably uncovered at the
6,000 mile service, some at 12,000. Be sure to have the cams pulled to inspect for wear. It is a slow problem so can
be caught early before the cams are damaged. The fix is to have the rockers replated by Megacycle, Sigma
Performance, MBP, etc. These are the common problems but of course don't affect all bikes.
Yes, Ducati parts are very expensive. And yes, they are hard to get. It's a well known fact that Italians have a
much different attitude towards business; very laid back. If it igets done it gets done, if not, tough- they take off the
entire month of August for cripes sake! The average wait if you are lucky is two weeks. "Always late, but worth the
wait" I've had parts take less and more time than that, but one thing is for sure: very few parts I've needed were
stocked by the dealer. The frustration is enough to make you sell the bike sometimes. The parts, of course, have to
come from Italy, contributing to the price and wait, but they are still a rip off. Some stuff I've priced or bought: Oil
filter: $10, Spark Plugs: $5, Oil: $20, Brake Switch: $46, Air filter: $15, Fuel Pump: $115, Fuel Shutoff: $45, Banjo
Bolt: $16, Valve Cover Gaskets: $6, (1) Opener Shim: $5, Typical Screw/Bolt Cost: $5, Signal Lense: $6. Only 3 of
the items were in stock. It's very frustrating when the bike is down for two and a half weeks waiting on a piddly
little banjo bolt. But hey, it's a Ducati!
What octane fuel should I use? Ducati says to use 95-98 RON, or about 92 ocatne. My answer is to use the
minimum amount of octane without pinging. In other words, use 87 if you can get away with it. Octane and quality
or not synonomous. 87 octane and 92 octane are the same quality, but one burns slower (the 92) and is required in
high compression engines. Most Ducs can get away with 87 (no pinging), some can't. I tried to use 87 before, but
every time I did it ran crummy and backfired around 4000-5000 RPM. But, with my jet kit and needle jets replaced I
can run 87 again. Note that using 92 octane when it is not needed can lead to carbon deposits on the valves and
pistons, leading to poor running. So, if 87 octane doesn't knock or ping in your Duc, by all means use it.
Another source of very hot debate. I am not going to tell you what kind of oil to use, only that Ducati recommends
between 10 and 20W-50 (depending on climate) oils that meet SE, SF, or SG specs (marked on the container). That's
it. Does it have to be synthetic? Well, the manual doesn't mention it, so no. But, I suggest you do use synthetic oil
specifically designed for a motorcycle. Synthetic clings to engine parts longer for more protection on startup, and it
doesn't break down as much in extreme heat. Forget about brands, because they are mostly all the same. I use
Motul semi-synthetic 15W-50, and that's all I am going to say about that.
Not being an owner of a 4v Ducati, I don't know all the specifics. One reader was kind enough to submit a FAQ on
the 4v models, collected mostly from Ducati.net. I don't claim to have any involvement in the collection of this info, I
am simply posting it here to help out you 4v owners. I didn't write or edit any of it either. Click the link to proceed.
At the moment I am unable to answer e-mail inquiries- thank you for the understanding.
|This page is in no way associated with Ducati.com, nor is it an entity of Ducati Motor Holding, S.p.A. All content, information, and views expressed
herein are those of myself and do not reflect those of Ducati or its affiliates. The "DUCATI" logo and "Circle D" are registered trademarks of Ducati Motor
Holding, S.p.A., all other content on this website is copyright 2006, DESMO.