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BMW AIRHEADS: 4 & 5 speed transmissions

Oil types for your transmission; noises; rattles.
Output shaft snap ring (circlip) & groove problems.
Serial numbers versus model year;  pawl spring breakage;
neutral switches; shift kits; input shaft seal; kickstarter;
shift linkage; throw-out bearings & pushrod; bearings.
Shifting smoothly--preloading the  shift lever and why.
 Gear ratios; Doing It Yourself.....etc.

MORE throwout bearing information is here:

Copyright, 2014, R. Fleischer


Preliminary-Introduction stuff:

If your Airhead transmission is stuck in gear, or neutral; will not shift into another gear;
the lever seems disconnected inside the transmission, & you have a shift lever (at the
transmission itself), that has a Allen screw in its SURE that screw is moderately
tight because if the screw backs out, the lever will move & do nothing!  

Many folks have problems understanding, let alone visualizing how a BMW transmission
operates.  I am putting links at the beginning of this article to help with understanding.

Link #1:  This shows how a typical transmission, in this case a drum type cam similar to a
Classic K bike, might shift:   An Airhead shifts
similarly except that the shift levers are moved by a flat plate cam.

Link #2:  This shows BMW GS transmission.  Well worthwhile to review this for information
on shifting & various noises, etc.

Link #3:   Some information how a transmission
works; /2 transmissions,testing, details.  Some information not covered in my own transmission
article, below, that you are reading.  Worthwhile read.  I have some nitpicking with some of the
information, mostly not worth relating here.    The article does describe the broken clutch lever
pin problems, & you will find the the exact part numbers & information in my own clutch article for
your Airhead.  See also my item #14 (below) on the roller.   Duane's article does not cover a
LOT of what I do & certainly does not cover all my testing, nor how to go about any ideas of
overhauling a transmission, shimming it, nor ANYthing about the 17.5 gear angle change, etc.
My article is VASTLY more complete, particularly about 5 speed transmission problems.   


I have recommended in the past that you use ONLY a quality petroleum GL5 oil in your Airhead
transmission; preferably in grade 80W90 for most conditions.   I also said that you could use
75W90, 80W90, or 85W90.  There are oils available that replace the "90" with 120 or even 145.
I recommended that you do NOT use them unless: you live in an area where the temperature that
you start the bike at will be ~90F or maybe 100F or more (that also means the un-started engine
temperature generally),
and that you will be riding fast &/or with heavy loading, or pulling a sidecar
or trailer.... all in VERY hot weather... that means consistently 90F or 100F or more.   There is
one exception; some transmissions will stiffen-up gear changing when the oil is hot.  While there
can be other causes that a change to a thicker oil will not help, in this instance you CAN try the
thicker oil, such as 85W140 or similar.

My present recommendation is that you CAN use a synthetic gear oil of very high quality.  It is my
belief that it will extend transmission time before overhaul by a considerable amount. At least one
other Airhead guru who overhauls a lot of transmissions does not agree, saying to not use any
synthetic gear oil.
   So, we have a difference of opinion; ON THAT.   It may well be that the
QUALITY, including formulation of additives & type of synthetic base, is the difference.   Safest:
Use recommended petroleum based oil, & if the transmission needs servicing earlier, that is how
it is, if the transmission lasts a lot longer, then I was correct for YOUR transmission, & what oil
YOU used.

NOTE that I recommend that you NOT use any additive if your transmission is filled with synthetic
.  One such additive is made by Dow Corning and sold, $$$$, by bearing sales companies.  I
am presently recommending only Spectro brand gear oil, in 75W90 as appropriate for the
synthetic category, in the version called "Platinum".  
You can use it in the transmission & the rear
drive of Airheads & Classic K bikes.  I have no objection to it being used in the driveshaft (of
those models using oil there). 
I also have NO objection to Castrol 80W90 GL5 oil in NON-synthetic;
NOR do I have any objection to any of Spectro's GL5 rated gear oils, in appropriate SAE viscosities.

Any oil will thin & thicken with temperature changes on 'its own chart curve'.  How this
happens is a property of the base oils & additives.    Using a thicker (higher viscosity)
PETROLEUM oil ending in 120 or 140 or even 145 (& to a lesser extent with synthetic),
will take the transmission operation out of the design operating area, as far as gears &
parts speeding up & slowing down during shifting, thus gear changing up & down can
be different, and may give problems.
Restating this:  the difference is in spin up & spin down time for shifting.
  Gear clashing
can be different.   
I am also concerned that, when colder than approximately 90F air
temperature, lubrication is possibly reduced, protection could be decreased & there are
other not-so-nice things.   If you use, for example, an 80W145, then the oil at any normal
operating temperature will nearly ALWAYS be thicker than if the oil was a 80W90.  If you
wish to think about this in a different way, imagine the oil is, instead, rated at 80W1500,
& THINK about what that means.  Thus, at most any  temperature you will be riding at,
after a few minutes perhaps, the oil is thicker, a lot thicker. 

There is a rating called Viscosity Index, that has to do with the rate of viscosity (thickness)
change of the oil with temperature change.  A straight weight oil, such as SAE 80, will
thin much more, than a 80W90, as temperature rises.  For such as a 80W145, as just one
example of oils with a much higher top number; as your parts & oil rise in temperature,
the oil thins less, & the specific lubrication qualities of friction inherent in thicker oils,
is modified...AND note what I mentioned about speed of parts slowing down being
changed from AS DESIGNED.   The base stock & the additives control this. 
BMW wants
you to use what it specifies.  That's generally a very good idea....but I have set down
earlier, above, what my thoughts are.   

NOTE:  Better oils ARE now available, compared to when your bike was ma
de, but 80W90
quality oils rated GL5 are still the best, over-all, although I might add 75W90.

There is NO question in my mind, as opposed to at least one other guru-person,  that
HIGH QUALITY SYNTHETIC GL5-rated oils will, or can, PROLONG the life of your
transmission (& rear drive).   That does not mean that they should always be used.
think they are now good enough for me to recommend them in general instead of dino
  In some instances seals & the synthetic oils may not be perfectly compatible.   If
you change from a dino to a synthetic, & get some weeping or leaks, change to another
type/brand of synthetic, or go back to a dino.  With the change back to dino oil, the
seal(s) are then likely to reshape with some miles & time and stop weeping. Seals
have varied in materials over the years, with the same part number.

Any oil needs to be of a type that has a very thin layer that sticks-to-the-gears & bearings
rather than drip completely away.  This is particularly so for the 5 speed transmission. 
You won't be able to easily find out about YOUR PROPOSED OIL, in this regards.

I believe the transmission & rear drive oil should be changed every 10,000 miles; with
the synthetics going towards 15,000; possibly as much as 30K in some mild usages.  
I believe it will pay you over the long run to use MY recommended oil change intervals.

Transmission rattling noises:

It is NORMAL for Airheads to have a gearbox rattle with hot oil, especially at idle rpm. 
Usually there is no rattle with cold thick oil.  Old Airheads were pretty noisy. Worse
as various bits & pieces wear. It is not any problem, USUALLY.

The rattle
typically sounds worse if the carburetors are out of sync, or anything that
allows the cylinders to be a bit unbalanced in operation.  This includes irregular
ignition timing....rather common on the pre-1979 models. That irregular ignition
timing can be seen with an ignition-fired strobe light shining on the timing hole. 
There will be double images.  That can come from timing chain sprocket wear, or
other associated items, like the chain, guide, etc.

The cam that operates the valves is a jerky load on the timing chain...that in itself
can cause irregular power pulses, primarily but not exclusively from irregular ignition
pulses. A bent cam tip, as on pre-1979 models, even as little as 0.001", can cause
irregular ignition timing & is not unusual. The irregular power pulses cause the
engine to not rotate smoothly; that causes jerkiness on parts in the transmission,
causing the "Airhead Rattle".  The tell-tale sign is that the noise goes totally away
when you pull-in the clutch lever at the handlebars & typically tends to go away if
you raise the idle rpm with the throttle just a bit.

Do NOT have the engine idling too slow.
Some books may show as low as 800 rpm.
Back in the old days of heavy flywheels, especially on the R50 or R60 models, it
was common for folks to brag about how smooth & silent their Airhead engine was
at idle.  UNfortunately, trying to idle the engine so low (many would try for 500 or
600 rpm, let alone 800), is BAD for the engine; particularly a worn engine.     I
suggest 900-1025 rpm for all models. If the idle is too slow, oiling to the chain &
sprockets will likely be low enough to accelerate wear on those items. This is
worse with an older worn engine. The only oil these parts get is from the hole in
the oil pressure regulator.  If the oil is hot & thin & idle rpm is low, then oil pressure
is low, & there is no or much less oiling.  The pressure regulator needs 75 psi or
more to have a good flow of oil coming out of it. Thin hot oil, worn bearings, etc....
contribute to low oil pressure, as does low rpm that means lower rpm and
lower output from the oil pump rotor.

The timing chain area items are NOT the only items in the engine that will have
adverse wear with too low an idling rpm.  The Airhead Rattle is more likely on
an older high mileage engine...which has more loss of oil pressure from worn
bearings, etc.  Airhead rattle is LESS likely, or less noisy, on models from 1979
due to the improved ignition stability (cam drive to the ignition is much improved),
and somewhat better chain tautness control.

IF you are still worried about rattles, wait until the engine AND transmission is
cold, for the thickest, slower flowing oil situation. Have a friend help you if you
are not dexterous; or, just do this at transmission oil change time when you are
draining the oil anyway.  Assuming not changing oil:  unscrew the transmission
drain bolt. Be prepared to stick a cork or another finger in the transmission
instantly, to avoid loosing more than a tablespoon or two of transmission oil.
This will allow you to not have to purchase another quart or liter of oil...of course,
if the oil is relatively new, you could also just drain it into a clean container, &
reuse it.  Put #1 eyeball on the magnetic drain plug. If there is anything more than
soft fuzz felt between your fingers, then there is a problem. NO SHARP PARTICLES
NOR PIECES should be felt. If there is anything small & sharp, you may (or may not!)
be safe for a reasonable amount of riding to where the transmission can be opened.
Anything large?....take an in-focus close-up photo, post it in at a free hosting site
on the Internet, then inquire on the AIRHEADS LIST, with a link to the photo.

Transmission problems, checks, testing: 

Inspect the transmission drain plug, which has a magnetic center.   If the transmission
is quite COLD when this is done, & you are quick about it or have three hands & extra
fingers to plug the hole, you can loose hardly a tablespoon of oil (otherwise, drain &
collect it, or use a cork, or do this at transmission oil change time).  Inspect the drain
plug.  A modest amount of FUZZ, soft-feeling, is fine.  ANY feelable sharp particles are
cause for further inspection.
Fairly large amounts of FUZZ, soft-feeling, after maybe
only a few thousand miles since an oil change & fuzz removal, CAN indicate that the
transmission is failing, & for the circlip-less versions, indicate that the 5th gear bearing
is deteriorating, & the transmission really should be removed & overhauled & the circlip
installed if not found to be present.

What are some common things that are not usually a transmission-failing problem?
(1)  Small amounts of 'fuzz' on the magnetic drain plug, seen at every scheduled
             (10K-30K?) gear oil change.  The fuzz will NOT have sharp particles.   The fuzz
             is paste-like, & smooth feeling.
      (2)  Rattling noise from gearbox in neutral, at idle rpm, after thorough warm-up,
             clutch lever NOT pulled in at the handlebars.
      (3)  Shifting problems, especially from 2nd gear downward.  This usually means that
             your input splines need lubrication (unplated early shafts tend to need cleaning
             & lubrication at 15,000 mile intervals, nickel plated shafts at maybe 25K)....
             depending on riding conditions & lubricant used.
      (4)  Shifts not always made.   Check the screw in the shift arm...they are known to
             loosen.  Use Loctite BLUE.   Perhaps your boot tips are overly thick....reset the
             linkage, or adjust the footpeg.

For the major problem, the circlip-less transmissions, the most important on-road
indication of a SERIOUS problem that you may have is sudden VIBRATION....& possibly
noises. If you feel an unusual vibration, & it need NOT be suddenly extreme at all, not
even very strong at all,....>> and you determine that it is transmission related (pull in
the clutch at a stop, engine running....try in gear & also in neutral):

      That is the time to stop, right then, & have the bike towed. Failure to comply will likely,
       within a few miles, lead to a massive failure. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH,
       you risk the entire rear of the motorcycle drive locking-up.
If you do regular checks on the magnetic drain plug (what? don't have a magnetic
one???) are much less likely to have such sudden problems.

If your transmission is in the range of the circlip-less ones, you might SERIOUSLY
consider an overhaul well before you have a failure, as the number of $$ parts to be
replaced always greatly increases as you let the transmission accumulate mileage.
However, if you watch the transmission as FULLY outlined, you can also seriously
consider NOT doing a preventative overhaul.

Even if you hear & feel nothing peculiar; every few thousand miles, put the bike on
the center-stand, when the engine & transmission are thoroughly warmed up from
a ride. With engine off, spin the rear wheel & listen for growly sounds. Turn the wheel
slowly & feel for notchiness. When the engine & transmission have cooled overnight,
check the drain plug. GENERALLY the degradation is slow, but sometimes it DOES
come on suddenly....noises and/or vibration.

BMW, like most manufacturing companies, is tight-lipped regarding engineering
details, especially so for changes.  BMW tends to be more tight-lipped than many
companies, probably from both a corporate policy & the Germanic 'WE don't have
problems'.  BMW may issue Service Bulletins of various sorts now & then, but these
often do NOT spell out details that one might like to have, & sometimes what is said
is confusing, especially considering what is not said. We have to live with that.
Sometimes some of us 'Wrenches' manage to "get information". In some instances
I have been given information that might be considered Company Top Secret. I can
NOT divulge in such circumstances my source(s) ...BUT!! way or the other,
in almost every instance, I DO manage to get the information to you all.

What are some simple checks & tests you can do to determine
if your 5 speed transmission has a problem developing?

(1)  AFTER a 15+ mile ride to THOROUGHLY warm up the engine & transmission: 
           On an appropriate stretch of road, in 5th gear, at maybe 5500 rpm (if possible),
           suddenly whack the throttle wide open.  5th & 5500 is a goodly speed, so you
           may have to test at lower rpm. If you feel some vibration that is unusual, for
           SURE you will want to do all the tests below, and in a section much further
           below.... as the forward bearing on the output shaft may be disintegrating.  
    (2)  Whether or not test (1) shows anything, jack or otherwise raise the rear wheel
           so it is slightly off the ground.  With engine off, in neutral, spin the rear wheel
           by hand as fast as you can & listen to the gearbox. This spins the output shaft
           bearings only.   NO bearing noises should be heard.   NOW, rotate the rear
           wheel forward SLOWLY.  ZERO roughness & NO notchiness must be felt. All
           these tests are best done with transmission hot from riding.
  These tests tend
           to also show up a bad bearing caused by allowing water to get into the
           transmission, usually from over-vigorous spraying during washing (at the
           hollow speedometer cable bolt), or from a bad speedometer cable rubber boot
           (very common problem, both water problems can lead to $$$ repairs). There is
           a fair amount to know about this speedometer cable boot area. Please see the
           complete write-up in article 7B, the control cables article.
           NOTE!....I highly recommend making sure that your speedometer cable boot fits
           snugly, & is either internally stuffed with a NON-MELTING grease; or, BETTER:
           sealed at the top with silicone RTV.   If the top is poor, water can run down into
           the transmission, causing $$$ damage. Milky (coffee with cream) look to
           transmission oil is VERY BAD to have destroys bearings.
    (3)  Re-start the engine (this is with hot engine & hot transmission) & let it idle in
           neutral. Pull in the clutch lever for a few seconds & then let it out.   When the
           clutch then engages, this spins the input shaft & cluster shaft bearings only.
           There should not be a bunch of bearing noise(s) when you let the clutch lever
           out (you may hear some normal clutch spline chatter).
    (4)   I recommend you unbolt the driveshaft from the output flange of the
            transmission & rotate that transmission flange with your fingers.  ANY rough
            or notchy feeling is cause for the transmission to be overhauled. 
            This test also tends to show up bad driveshaft u-joints on the Paralever models,
             & disconnecting the U-joint at the transmission output flange, & rotating that
             flange, will/may allow a yes or no on U-joint & transmission.
    (5)   Now do another test, best done by screwing at least two opposing bolts into
            the flange, just to provide something to grab onto.  Try to move the flange in
            and out. ANY free play is likely caused by internal PROBLEMS.

(6)  The transmission output flange has 4 special bolts; they are NOT to be used
            with any type of lockwasher, contrary to books or what you may be told.  The
            thread length of the latest & PROPER bolts are slightly shorter. Old split
            lockwashers & longer bolts should be removed, if present.  There is
            information on this website about this: 
The threads should be cleaned, & then ONE drop of Loctite BLUE applied,
            tighten in a cross-pattern to 26 or bit more foot pounds.  There are various
            methods of enabling use of a torque wrench at this place. You can also just
            give the bolts a good grunt with a short 12 point wrench; best to torque them
            properly. See ALSO:

The above tests, (1) through (5), are important tests; usually any problem shows
up with these tests, even if there is nothing much on the magnetic drain plug.

   (7)   Please scan WAY down this article, and read the following section!!!:

The "circlip":
The Circlip problem applies ONLY TO SOME 5 speed transmissions; probably ONLY
for late 1984 to the last of Airhead production 1995+, including the R100R.

THE PREVENTION of damage caused by movement of the gear on the output shaft
is not 100.00% guaranteed by adding the circlip; but 'fixes that' in nearly all instances.
Contact your favorite transmission overhauler about their personal method of probably
ensuring that the gear does not move; such as Tom Cutter or Ted Porter.

I am putting a link to a 5-1/2 minute video by Ted Porter ( here in this box area.  Many folks comprehend better with visual presentations;
after which they are ready for the in-depth explanation.

Ted has MANY years of experience on overhauling & repairing BMW transmissions. Highly recommended for such work.



Here is a link to Anton's website, with photos, & some text, on the circlipless transmission may find it enlightening!
That is only one of two articles on his website you will find of interest, dealing with transmissions.   is Anton's HomePage.
Anton has two articles to look at, not overly clearly shown as being two different links, so look on the left side list of articles.  Put your mouse pointer over "transmission" in "Airhead transmissions and circlip problem".  The word 'transmission' will then be seen to be a link to one article. Click on the word.  When finished looking at that article, go back to Anton's HomePage again and this time put the mouse pointer over "circlip problem" and click, for the other article. 

OVERVIEW of the circlip problems (vastly more information later):
From sometime near the end (I THINK as  I am still gathering data) of the 1984
production year, but certainly from 1985, BMW's transmission maker made a
modification to the transmission.  On the output shaft, they left out a snap ring
(circlip) & shortly thereafter (?) they no longer machined the associated output
shaft groove for that snap ring.  
 The no-circlip change has caused a lot of grief. 
CONSIDERABLY later the design SUPPOSEDLY reverted back to the original
reliable version that HAD a circlip. BMW's explanation of WHY that change-back
is hardly a good explanation, rather, it is corporate/lawyer-ezz nonsense, IMO.   
NOTE that, trying to be 'somewhat' more fair to BMW here, some FEW transmissions
WITH a circlip have had problems with the 5th gear moving a bit.   NOTE ALSO
BMW's information regarding the transmission serial number at which the change
was made back to a circlip is NOT true.  You can NOT trust the serial numbers.

A fairly substantial number of 'circlipless' transmissions have failed, some with
catastrophic failures, ripping the transmission to pieces. Transmissions seldom
fail without wa
rning, however.  It is also LIKELY that MOST transmissions do NOT
fail.   Interestingly (??) quite a few have been taken apart, at fairly high mileages,
found to HAVE the circlip, & no problems, but in others, with no problems seen by
the rider, there have been some movement
of the circlip & bearing, but bad damage

not yet occurred.  It is all a very mixed mess.  It is MY belief that if your
transmission does NOT have the circlip, you're MUCH more likely to have problems.

Many years ago there was not 100% agreement on the exact mode (or reason) for
the failures of circlip less transmissions.   I have not seen anyone espouse the
minority opinion in some years...although they may still exist.
  But, there WERE two
widely differing basic opinions, & possibly both still are widespread.  Information
on this specific, as earlier described situation or description, comes from a variety
of sources.  Information in real detail first appeared in a 2001 Airheads LIST posting
by Bob Clement of BMW-Montana, who gave me permission at that time to post his
correspondence with me, which I did the majority of, on that LIST.  

In this article I have added further comments from private communications from
several transmission experts, & you also get my own verbose input.

Many private owners have overhauled their own transmissions, some seemingly quite
successfully, some using information, tools & parts from Ed Korn or his successor. 
Most owners will not want to overhaul a transmission themselves & will entrust it to
an expert,
as there are a LOT of real tricks or specialty knowledge to making a
transmission work properly, last a long time, & with smooth operation.  I have put TWO
sections, way down this article, for do it yourself-ers (DIY).


A list of specialists for transmission work:

Anton Largiader in Charlottesville, Virginia 
Virginia Motorrad

Ted Porter ( on the West Coast; excellent work.
34 Janis Way  Ste E, Scotts Valley, California  (831) 438-1100
Ted has MANY years of experience on overhauling/repairing BMW transmissions.
Recommended for such work.

Tom Cutter on the East Coast,  
Tom does a substantial number of Airhead & other BMW transmissions.  

Orlando Okleshen, better known as OAK, in the Chicago area who may
or may not still be doing work, but if he does, it is superb.

Bob Clement, Bob's Motorwerks,, in Roberts, Montana. 
Long history of BMW Airhead work.

Matt Parkhouse in Colorado Springs, Colorado or

The following are known to me only by hearsay:

Brunos, in Canada, has a very good reputation.  No personal knowledge, but
trustworthy & competent from what I have heard.

Charlie Johnson   BMW Motorcycle Service  (all models)   18145 Hummingbird Road   
Wayzata, Minnesota  (952) 449-0357

Wuma, Inc (Guenther Wuest)    6891 W. US Hy 150 
Fredericksburg, IN  47120, 812-472-3739   He ALSO does reverse gear conversions to
the 5 speed transmissions;  information on this particular conversion will be found in the
SidecarURL.htm  page on this website.   Also has a good reputation.

Motorren Israel also does different type of reverse gear conversions

AFAIK, all other referenced transmission specialists in this, Snowbum's article you are
reading, can do other types of conversions, such as changing first and/or fifth gear
atios, in 5 speed transmissions)

Motor Works, Inc.   1490 Island Ave.   San Diego, CA  92101   619-233-8875
Not enough personal or reported information.

How to determine if you have one of the possibly troublesome no-circlip transmissions? 
This is not so easy, not so cut & dried; and, frankly, there ISN'T any absolutely perfect
method of determination for the earliest transmissions without taking it apart!     A
factory bulletin in 1986 gave no specifics on year & transmission serial number.  There
was no change in part number for the output shaft.   THAT is not usual nor unusual for
BMW.  BMW is known to sometimes make a production part change and to use the same
part number.    It APPEARS that the transmissions that were affected were shipped with
motorcycles of build date beginning near the end of 1984, so that means that some late
1984 models may not have the circlip.  Since I often have requested transmission overhaul
information on the Airheads LIST, ETC., I refer you to the chart I have later in this article;
you will see the 1984 year status.  Take a look at the 1994-1995 information too!

There was another, later, factory bulletin, #280, dated 12/08/97, explaining that the circlip
(& therefore the groove) was reinstated, & the SHAFT number was CHANGED. HOWEVER,
it appears that the shaft is actually the same as the 5 speed output shafts built from 1974
into 1984.   The specified 'new' shaft is 23-21-1-338-793.   BMW raised the price of this
shaft tremendously.  One can, & competent transmission overhaulers DO, modify the
non-circlip shaft, but this needs to be done very carefully.   It can NOT be done if the
gear mounting area has tapered from the gear wobbling.  The bulletin also mentioned a
'special bearing' for the front of  the output shaft.  There is some controversy about this,
and this bearing was made by a Japanese bearing manufacturer.  More later herein.

Transmissions beginning with serial 240765 SUPPOSEDLY had the circlip re-installed.  
It is my belief that you CANNOT DEPEND on even a 1995 bike as having the circlip.  See
my list of reported transmissions, much later in this article.  You CANNOT DEPEND on a
late 1984 to have, or not have, the circlip. Still, the best information, IF transmission isn't
taken apart, will be had by looking at the transmission serial number.   Even THAT is
sometimes questionable, if you look at the charting later on this page.   However, it seems
likely that MOST 1984 transmissions are going to be OK.  It presently appears that 1995
is going to be mixed, with most (??) being OK.

NOTE as said at this article's beginning, some 5th gear movement has been seen now
& then... even with a circlip installed.

If you wish to get into the theories about the circlip removal, and reinstatement, or not,
and the clip next to the circlip, and the commentary other words, learn the
DETAILED technical things, scan WAY DOWN NOW for the following section:
Viewpoints on the circlip 'problem'.
Otherwise, just keep reading, you will get to that place eventually!


Summing up to this point: is possible for a transmission built from PERHAPS LATE
1984 (& possibly earlier), & certainly from 1985,
until EVEN AFTER transmission serial
number 240765
, to NOT have the circlip and possibly the shaft has or has not a groove for
that circlip.   I have had reports of transmissions AFTER that 240765 NOT having the
groove nor the circlip!!...and any I have definitive information on are listed well below.  
THUS, BMW's own use, in bulletins, of 240765, is NOT to be relied upon.

Finding your transmission serial number:
What range of serials can you expect?? 

Transmission serial numbers are found in one of three places.  Early transmissions,
from 1974 to 1981 (or, I believe, as late as late 1983, depending on country the motorcycle
was shipped to), will have the serial number centered on the top rear center or top front
center, where you can not see it without removing the air cleaner, etc.   Note that in 1978
(& until the serials were put on the left outside, in approximately 1984), the serial was on
the FRONT INSIDE FACE of the casting.   Thereafter, the serial number is located at the top
area of the left side, JUST BARELY BELOW where the left rectangular airbox outlet hose
connects; so you have to squat down to see it.   Serials are stamped into the aluminum
transmission case.  There are some variances so noted below.

When reading in this article about 'year', be advised that BMW's 'model year' includes
motorcycles that were built at the end of the prior year, & it is quite possible to see, for
instance, even a build date as early as September, to be included in the following year's
model...and, there is occasionally an anomaly & an EARLIER than September made model
will be dated in the following calendar year.    Except for anomalies, this is due to BMW
policy of closing the plants for the annual month-long holiday (vacation). 
A September,
October, November, & December production almost always will be the NEXT YEAR'S BIKE.  

1974:   Serial numbers ranged from Y-4300 -> Y20050; after which the numbers continued
             withOUT the Y letter.  Serial numbers are located at top rear, at center of case.
1975:   Information sketchy, some end of 1974 transmissions probably used, may have Y prefixes;
             otherwise no Y.    Numbers from 4225 -> 13500 have been identified, without the Y prefix. 
             Serial number same place as 1974.
1976:   No letter.  5 digit serial numbers.  Probably uses serial numbers 25000 through 51000,
             Some of these may be in 1977 models.
1977:   Some from 1976 used, so one can expect serial numbers from 46000 to 63000.  Serial
             numbers either at top rear center or top front center, in front portion of casting.
1978:   72400 -> 83000, and after those had a prefix letter Z which may have been early 1979
             transmissions made in late 1978, as Z-0870 -> Z-0940.  Serials are now on the FRONT inside
             face of the casting.

1979:   All have Z number prefix, from Z-19100 -> Z-36750  (at least).

NOTE 1:  The 1978 had gusset reinforcement running only from front to rear. Left to right gusset
                  reinforcement of 1979 & later did not exist.  Beginning in 1979 the gusset reinforcements
                  at the bottom of the case were cross hatched like a crossword puzzle.

NOTE 2:  BMW has had fun & games with transmission serial numbers.  It is possible that early
                 transmissions WITH kickstarters had ZSA serials, for one example.

1980:   The Z number now begins with a zero:  Z-052800 -> Z-064950

From 1981, for awhile at least to 1982, things get confused, with serial numbers LOWER .
1981:   There are some numbers that seem to fall in the 1980 group, but the casting is different. 
             Most will find that the serial number is now on the left exterior side, top rear.  Expect serial
             numbers of Z-006111 -> Z-029900.  ALSO note that Z & ZSA models in Europe, & maybe
             some to the USA, from s/n 56476 have the shift kit, & from same with s/n 58225 have the
             17.5 change to the helical gears.

Note that the leading zero may not be present.

Oak has said that some 1981 castings for engines or transmissions had incorrect dimensions,
which could cause perpetual failures of the input shaft of the transmission. There is NO fix
for that, I think.
  I personally have NEVER seen this.  I have no information about whether or not
this could also be the cause for the QUITE RARE instances of continuing spline failures of the

In mid or later 1981 (this is unclear to me, although the serial number of the transmission is
known, see just above and just below), & some think it happened fully by mid-1982, BMW
installed the so-called 'shift kit'  inside the transmission.   This is a fairly extensive kit with
a revised cam shape, modified shifter arm, etc.  It is retrofitable, & can be considered for
earlier transmissions when overhauled.   BMW has a habit of phasing in changes, sometimes
on some models long before others....and on occasion one might find a far later serial number
withOUT the shift kit change; & transmissions with partial changes.   As has been noted well
above, the 1984+ transmissions had the transmission serial number on the left outside, just
under the air-box fitting surface, just below the air tube to the left carburetor.   The earlier
transmissions had the serial number at either the rear top, or front top, but you must pull
the air-box to see the number.  You will do that at the spline service anyway.    The serial
number for the beginning of the shift kit installation is:   56477 (if one can believe that, some
sources, including BMW SI, say FROM 56476). The prefix was Z or ZSA.   Yes, this information
seems to conflict with the charting of transmission numbers here!

1982:   Z-036600 -> Z-060400
1983:   Z-074700 -> Z-084299
             Beginning in very late 1983, or possibly in early 1984, the serial number is located
             on the left side, just below the air-cleaner outlet to the left carburetor.
1984:   Z-084339 -> Z-104600   Transmissions well above that number have been seen,
                 and positively identified as true 1984 model and calendar year motorcycles
1985:   Z-113701 -> Z-130150     Transmissions lower than Z113701 have been reported, such as
             Z112553 & Z111168.
1986:   ZSA-125500 -> Z-125600 

Note:   BMW seems to be using, at least a fair amount of time, the letters ZSA for kickstart

1987:   Unknown, but it appears that anything after Z-125600 was produced (??) AFTER the return
              from the company 1986 vacation, and thus is a 1987 model.
1988:   Z letter is dropped (tentative information for exact date this happened).    From whatever
             time in 1988, serial numbers all now have a 3 letter suffix.  Expect numbers from 0147440
             AAB -> 0164300AAI.   Suffix's may, however, be AAB, AAI, AAJ, ETC.
1989:   0154140 -> 0176330 and suffix   (note from snowbum:  I am SURE that the serials go higher
             in the 0176xxx)
1990:   0180939 and suffix
1991:   0190460 -> 0198650, and suffix.    For sure some were built in mid-year (not after the
             Vacation) that had even higher serial numbers.
1992:   0207050 -> 0215650, and suffix
1993:   0204190 -> 0230075, and suffix.   I am certain some later serial numbers were 1993 models.
1994:   0237930 -> 0238660, and suffix
1995:   0236539 -> 0254340, and suffix.
  NOTE that bikes have been built with end of 1995 dates,
            and I think into 1996 a bit, for Authorities.  This is not all that clear, to me anyway.

A close look at the serial numbers range of the transmissions for any given year will confuse you,
the answer is that BMW did not always sequence in direct numbering for transmissions, depending
on the model, and what country it was going to.  Thus, the listing for transmission numbers is only
Some transmissions, by their serial number, may have been put into motorcycles identified by
VIN numbers as from a year out of the irregular sequence, above.   Example:  your bike is a late
mfr'd 1991; has a transmission serial of 0204xxx plus some 3 character suffix noted in the
1988+ year, above.    Transmission use by serial number is quite confusing at times, and is
often model specific.   Look at 1992 and 1993 above, and then 1995.
Suffixes can also look like this:     AA1; or AAB; etc

5-speed transmissions;
Circlip/Groove tabulation;
reports from owners & overhaulers:

For many years, I have been collecting information on Airhead motorcycles that have/had 
KNOWN, by disassembly, circlip-less FIVE SPEED transmissions....and some found with circlips.
 I try to especially select for this article those
transmissions that were likely never opened previously for repairs; obviously, that is not going
to be 100% perfect, but there ARE telltale signs that are often quite usable.   In a few instances
I have added information to the charting of transmissions WITH the groove & circlip, where
such information may be helpful.   Information received, AFTER I INDEPENDENTLY CONFIRM the
VIN, serial number, year, month of production, etc., is posted to this article in this section,
withOUT identifying the owners name or the overhauler's name.



Effective January 10th, 2016, I prefer to receive ONLY information on 1983-1985; & 1995 transmissions.
I am interested in those years of motorcycles/transmissions both with and without circlips, as found.
If no circlip, if the shaft was grooved, or not. 

The idea is to identify, if possible, earliest and latest date of bikes with such transmissions.


Please provide FULL VIN number and FULL transmission number, and any information pertinent...such as if the transmission was ever opened before. If no 17 character VIN number, please provide what information you can, from right side frame stamping, dipstick area serial number (If present), and information stamped into the milled boss area below-forward of left cylinder.
As much information as possible is requested.

Information is published in this transmission article, withOUT identifying you.




There have been NO motorcycles reported, built in calendar year 1983, with NO circlip.

(1) R100RT, USA model, transmission Z094331, VIN WB1044904E6243388. This bike was
      reported to me as HAVING the circlip (& the wire clip at it).  The VIN identification
      shows it to be a 1984 USA model, but it was built June 15th, 1983.  This dating anomaly
      is not uncommon for 1983-1984 bikes.

(2) R80RT....I have never have received the VIN number & thus to confirm the bike's true
      manufacturing date; and, never received any date from the rebuilder. Transmission is
      Z016199, a strange number.  Transmission appeared to be original.   It HAD the grooved
      shaft. NO CIRCLIP.  Well-known transmission overhauler (not sure who that was now)
      said had seen three total like this, but perhaps not (??) with the strange number. 
      Strange, this transmission serial number would appear to be for an earlier bike. It
      is possible that this was a transmission that was from 1981, had been serviced (or
      swapped) earlier by someone, perhaps a dealership; who left it that way.  NO information,
      maybe never....on any of this. 

(4) 1984 motorcycles:
     a.  HAVING the groove, NOT having the circlip.
          This one definitely had never had the transmission opened:
          1984 R80RT USA model, transmission  Z105671, VIN  WB1044802E6173763, production 03/1984.  
          This is quite EARLY in 1984.   The left side engine boss shows:  14  847395.  Thus, this engine
           was made in the 14th week of 1984.   This goes right along with the BMW internal information
           of the motorcycle being built in March 1984, & the serial of the production is 7395.  All this
           seems to be reasonable.  Note that other characteristics of this motorcycle back up its
           production dates, such as not having dipstick area serial stamping, a driveshaft tag with
           the E year same as the stamped VIN.


  b.  This is one probably had its transmission opened previously, perhaps for a broken pawl spring.
           This transmission was found to have the groove, but NO circlip.  The production was, as in the
           transmission in a., above, in March of 1984...confirmed in several ways.  Model is R100/T, version
           is USA R100CS last edition.  VIN WB1043502E6177343.  Transmission Z105851.

     c.  This is the other 1984 bike, I know about. I have been unable to confirm that the transmission
           had never been opened up, but believe it unlikely.  This is an Australian bike.   The milled-boss
           area shows  33  845294, meaning the 33rd week of 1984.  This agrees with the vehicle identification
           number stamped into the right lower frame tube: 6354483R65LS (yes, not a 17 character VIN).  It
           also agrees with the Australian Compliance Plate (which was
not riveted over that frame tube
           stamping just was riveted ahead of both could be seen.  The plate said R65LS
           and 6354483.  The transmission number is Z 108683.  HAD groove, NO circlip. BMW sources
           confirmed a build of 08/1984, ECE (Euro) model.  Note, another number that was on the bike:
            33845294652VB...trying to get info on that.

1985 R80, transmission Z111168, serial 6440490, production 12/1984, no circlip, but shaft had

1985 R80RT, transmission Z112553, VIN  WB1046408F6490109, production 01/1985; series code
          2472, no circlip, but shaft had the groove.
1985 R80GS, transmission ZSA 11260, serial 6363139, production 02/1985; series code 2471, no
          circlip, but shaft had the groove.
1985 R80RT, transmission Z113701, VIN  WB1046401F6490338, production 2/1985
1985 R80, transmission Z115902, VIN  WB104630XF6480439, production 3/1985
1985 R80RT, transmission Z114405, VIN  WB1046400F6490413, production 2/1985, no circlip, no

1985 R80, transmission Z114317, VIN ending in 6480354, production 2/1985, no circlip, no groove,
          transmission known to have never been opened previously.

1986 R65, transmission Z127619, ECE (Australian model bike). NO circlip, NO groove, production
1986 R80GS, transmission ZSA124393, VIN  WB1034805G6363255, production 10/85
1986 R65, transmission Z123469, VIN........................6128105, production 9/1985
1986 R80, USA model, transmission Z124295, VIN  WB1046306G6480598, production 10/04/1985,
          NO circlip; virgin unopened transmission.
1986 R80, transmission Z125576, VIN  WB1046303G6480655, production 10/1985
1986 R80GS, transmission  # unknown, VIN  WB1034801G6363284, production 10/1985
1986 R80GS, USA model, transmission ZA126409 (with kickstarter as shipped from factory), VIN
         WB1034802G6363343, produced 11-25-1985
1986 R80, transmission Z128362, VIN  WB104630XG6480782, production 12/1985

1986 R80, USA, transmission  Z135754,  VIN  WB1046301H6480851, production 07/1986, yet has H
          identification which makes it a 1987 model. This bike was a California model, ordered by
          distributor (?) with two front discs.

1987 R80RT, transmission Z138188, VIN  WB1046407H6491304, production 10/1986
1987 R80 USA, transmission 0144961AAB,  VIN  WB1046304H6481119, production 05/1987
1987 R80, transmission 0138910AAB, VIN  WB1046301H6481093, production 11/1986

1988 R100GS, transmission 0151096AAI, VIN  WB104780XJ6152090, production 11/1987
1988 R100GS, transmission 0155023AAI, VIN  WB104780XJ6152610, production 02/1988
1988 R100GS, transmission 0154855AAI, VIN  WB1047801J6152611, production 02/1988
1988 R100GS, transmission 0156870AAI, VIN  WB1047803J6152688, production 03/1988
1988 R100GS, transmission 0155282AAi, VIN  WB1047304J6277710, production 02/1988,
          NO circlip, NO groove

1988 R80 monolever, transmission 0161951AAB, bike serial number 6448037, production
1988 R100RS, USA model, transmission 0154894AAB, VIN  WB1046600J6247481, production
1988 R100RT, USA model, transmission 0162792AAB, VIN  WB1046907K6293354, production

1989 R100GS, transmission 0163629AAI, VIN  WB1047809K6153197, production 10/1988
1989 R100GS, transmission 0164105AAI, VIN  WB1047302K6332169, production 11/1988
1989 R100PD, transmission 0171806AA1, VIN  WB1047905L6134016, production 06/1989
1989 R80GS, transmission 0176603AAI,  frame serial 6249769, production 11/89.  No circlip,
          NO groove.

1990 R100RT, transmission 0180939AAB, VIN  WB1046902L6293473, production 04/1990
1990 R100GSPD, transmission 0174962AA1, VIN  WB1047902L6134300, production 09/1989, no
          circlip, no groove

1991 R100RT, transmission 0185431AAB, VIN  WB1046908M6293561, production 08/1990
1991 R100RT, transmission 0191171AAB, VIN  WB1046909M6293598, production 01/1991, model
          code 0469, USA, no circlip, no groove.
1991 R100GS, transmission 01292165AA1, VIN  WB1048803M0230223, production 02/1991
1991 R100R, transmission 0204599 AAI, VIN  WB1048707N0280111, production 10/1991,
          actually a 1992 model

1992 R100GS, transmission 0198991AA1, VIN  WB1048808N0230445, production of 07/1991
          (officially ID'd as a 1992 model by the VIN, etc.).  NO groove, and hence no circlip.
1992 R100R, transmission 0204810AA1, VIN WB1048701N0280119, production of 10/15/1991,
           no groove, and hence no circlip
1992 R100R, transmission 0204181AAI,  VIN   WB1048706N0280049, production 10/1991
1992 R100GS, transmission                    ,  VIN   WB1048803N0230711, production 10/1991
1992 R100GS, transmission 0205604AA1,  VIN   WB1048800N0230763, production 10/91, USA
          model, vehicle code 0488, no clip, no groove
1992 (R100GS??), transmission 01213536,   VIN ??              1992??   error on trans. number?
1992 (??) R100GSPD, transmission 0207039AAI, VIN not available, can't confirm production year
          w/o it.
1992 R100GS/PD, transmission 0209970AA1, VIN  WB1048909N0047487, production 01/1992
1992 R100 (R91)(R100R), transmission 0209230AA1, VIN WB1048709N0280269, production
          01/1992, USA model, vehicle code 0487, no clip, no groove.

1993 R100GS, transmission 022756AA1, VIN   WB1048801P0231259, production 09/1992
1993 R100GS, transmission 0224420AA1, VIN   WB1048804P0231319, production 10/1992
1993 R100GS, transmission 0226691AA1, VIN   WB1048304P6467330, production 12/1992
1993 R100GS, transmission 0228652AAJ, VIN .....646450, production 01/1993
1993 R100GS-PD, EURO, transmission 0232033AAJ, VIN 0069483, no circlip, no groove,
          production 04/01/1993

1994 R100R, transmission 0234197AA1, VIN  WB1048705R0280808, production
          October 27, 1993
1994 R100RT, USA model, transmission 0236278AAB, VIN WB1046904R6294018,
          production 09/03/1994.  No groove, and no circlip of course.
1994 R100R, transmission 023696AA1,  VIN  WB1048709R0280858, production 01/1994
1994 R100R, transmission 238655AA1  no details furnished
1994 R100GSPD, transmission 0238596AAJ, VIN  WB1048408R0340374, Production 01/1994
          ECE model, no groove.
1994 R100GS, transmission 0237931AA1, lug stamped NI
1994 R100GS, transmission 0238984AA1, VIN  WB1048805R0231610, production 01/1994
1994 R100GS, transmission 0238225AA1, VIN  WB1048801R0231538, production 01/1994,
          USA model, no groove.
1994 R100R Mystic, USA model, VIN WB1049705S0400201, had clip & groove.  Production
         09/28/1994.  Transmission number: unknown, never reported to me.

Below, are some interesting bikes/transmissions reported to me.   Some transmission
numbers are considerably higher than BMW's reinstatement number of 240765

1995 R100GS, transmission 0243394AA1 & stamped N1, VIN WB1048802S0231635,
          NO groove, NO circlip, production 07/21/1994.  Transmission is higher number
          than 240765.

1995 R100RT, USA model, transmission 0243572, VIN  WB1046902S6294248, production
          08/31/1994, transmission DID have the circlip. Virgin unopened transmission.
1995 R100GS; transmission 0243880AA1, owner had it since brand-new.  California
          model.  VIN WB1048801S0231688. Produced 09-13-1994  Transmission was
          overhauled, & noted as HAVING the circlip (&, of course, the groove for it).
1995 R100R Classic, Euro version (also known as R100-R91), serial 6469362, production
          04/1995, with transmission 0249173AAI.   Had groove, had circlip, was original,
          never before opened.

The following is the highest transmission number reported to me, so far with NO circlip.
1995 R100M (Mystic), transmission 0251758AA1, VIN WB1049706S0400255, production
09/12/1995, had no groove, no circlip.
As you can see from these numbers, it is not easy to determine if YOUR bike's
transmission has a circlip, or not.  Note the strangeness of the 1995 models, above. 
Compare to earlier years too. Note that some 1995 production bikes, AFTER the BMW
official date for reinstatement, had no groove/circlip. 

If no details are shown, you may safely assume that the transmission had no circlip
when opened-up.

If a full date of mfr is shown, it is in USA standard format:  MONTH, DAY, YEAR.

Bottom line:  It is ""possible"" for any Airhead built from end of 1983,
as a 1984 model, to the end of Airhead production, to NOT have the circlip.
There is not yet proof of any built BEFORE March 1984, without the circlip.

Viewpoints on the circlip 'problem':

#1:  This is the much more commonly accepted viewpoint & this viewpoint I personally
        agree with:
There are three shafts in the transmission, INPUT, INTERMEDIATE, & OUTPUT.   The front
gear teeth on the output shaft is manufactured on an angle, that is, the gear is HELICAL cut.   
Its mate must also be that same angle.  Picture in your mind such a pair of mating/meshing
gears.   If power is fed to ONE, then the other has forces such as would try to move that gear
along the axis of the shaft, not just rotated.  This direction of axial force reverses, depending
on powering from the engine, or engine braking.  In the 5 speed transmission, even in neutral,
the forward gear (5th) gear on the output shaft is being pushed forward any time the clutch
is engaged, even in neutral, except in the coasting condition.  A BOSS on the front of that
gear pushes against the rear face of the inside race of the front output shaft bearing.  That
rear face of the inside race of the front output shaft bearing is the thrust surface for 5th gear.   
Thus, 5th gear tries to push against the front bearing.   
Another way to look at this, is that
forces try to move the helical 5th gear forward and move the shaft backwards, the gear then
moving on the shaft.  Because of this, the front bearing is always damaged, and sometimes
the rear bearing, and even the rear cover plate!
....all happening when there is no circlip.

There is a tiny amount of end to end float in the shafts fitment in the transmission case
(a few thousandths of an inch), established during the shimming process, which ensures
that the bearings are not subjected to end-preloading.    Ball bearings, used in this
transmission at that point, do NOT like preloading, that makes them heat up, and fail.  

There ARE some very special types of ball bearings designed for end loading, used in such
as the worm drive shaft on electric winches, but this is not pertinent here (and those bearings
are VERY pricey).    

Prior to the change in what I think was probably, MOSTLY, late 1984, there was a hardened
snap ring, a CIRCLIP, that fit in a machined groove on that output shaft, it was just forward
of the gear, & prevented the bearing from moving forward from that mentioned angled (helical)
cut gear pressure.  That kept the pressure from eliminating any decrease in the shimmed float. 
There is also a tiny spacer clip alongside one end of the bearing, more on that later.

When the circlip is left out, axial thrust from 5th gear still tries...& may well actually cause
the gear to move/push the inner race of the output bearing along the shaft towards the front
of the transmission, as the shaft, in essence, moves rearward & the gear moves forward on it. 
If the bearing race moves far enough, it will eliminate any end float.  This places an axial load
on the bearing, that will cause it to eventually overheat & fail.  The large front bearing overheats,
begins to self-destruct (the cage which keeps the balls in place starts coming apart & metal
goes all over the place).  More clearance develops, the output shaft can actually wobble in the
bearing.   This will, of course, start tapering the metal on the shaft; that RUINS THE $$$ SHAFT.
If bad enough, it all results in the output flange on the transmission (driveshaft U-joint flange)
contacting the transmission lip area where the boot is, & the output rear bearing distorts; &,
with metal bits already getting into things, all sorts of mechanical mayhem happens, & rather
fast.   From the first sign of unusual vibration, things deteriorate rather quickly.    If allowed to
proceed, gears, bearings, shift fork, & even the rear case of the transmission, are ruined.

#2:  This is a far less accepted viewpoint.  I am not sure anyone still thinks this way:

This point of view is quite different.  I do NOT agree with it.   This view is that while the
helical cut gear does move forward under load, it presses the inner race of the bearing, & it
takes that load OK because the outer ring is against the gearbox case....and thus the circlip
is of no matter. 
  Thus if the clip IS there, the entire shaft moves forward & the bearing always
takes the axial load, & no force moves the inner race relative to the shaft.   This point of view
is thus that the smaller bearing should fail first if preload was a problem....and....there are NO
circlips on any of the other shafts....and, further, the purpose of the circlip was to assist with
disassembly!   During the heating of the transmission, the case should release all bearings,
but a circlip-less large bearing COULD remain in the case when the shafts are removed, & it
is a bit of work to remove the bearing...that one, as it is larger, sticks in the case recess... so
the clip was used.    The folks who believed in this theory agreed that the clip removal
coincided with the increased bearing failures....but say that the increased failures are NOT
caused by the clip removal; rather, it was coincidental with the Paralever introduction.   They
say that the GS Paralever introduction, with its extra travel, puts forward thrust into the
gearbox, & even an angular thrust due to the changed design (dual travel angles of the
Paralever), & that said angular thrust is taken up by that large 6403 bearing.....& 'proof' is that
no extra large REAR bearing was installed by the manufacturer.   Thus, these folks believe
EXTERNAL forces are the cause for the gearbox failures; they tend to blame too high
spring preloads & poor lubrication on the splines.   They feel that BMW put the circlip
method back into production as it was cheap to do, & 'showed' that BMW 'did something'.

Snowbum's rebuttal:  The above #2 viewpoint is faulty.  MANY circlip-less gearboxes on
NON-Paralever have certainly failed in this area....negating the above arguments.  I know
of NO failures of any gearboxes in the fashion mentioned in this article that were not fixed
permanently by modifying the shaft (if no groove) & installing the circlip (with new bearings, required).  I just can't buy their argument; especially when considering the thrust
given by helical gears.   

Note:  It has been reported to me that the stock Paralever driveshaft has exactly the same
pivoting length as the swing-arm, assuming the rubber damper is OK, and as long as that
is intact, there are no axial forces on the output shaft.  Another reason for negating some
of argument #2.

Regarding that previously mentioned 'special 6403-C3 bearing' for the front of the output
It initially, without a very good look, appears similar to any other 6403-C3 bearing, but the
front face of the inner race (forward edge of the inner race, the side of the bearing which
has writing on it) is cut with a 90 angle (much smaller taper to it than the rear face of the
inner race) between the face & the inner hole where the bearing slides over the output
shaft instead of the 6403-C3 bearing which has a tapered angle.  The forward taper is
almost absent.   Perhaps this was done to minimize the possibility of bearing creep as the
bearing is pushed against the retaining circlip by 5th gear.  This modification may well
have never been needed.  The regular bearing worked fine, never a problem with bearing
creep leading to bearing axial overloading....UNTIL BMW started leaving out the bearing
retaining clip.  This new bearing MAY be the accepted choice....but:  The more commonly
accepted view is that the elimination of this cheap clip & associated groove caused the
problems...AND...I have received word that if one now orders the 'special bearing', you
MIGHT get a STANDARD 6404-C3, withOUT the modified inner race face.  The 'special
bearing' was used only for awhile; then BMW went back to the regular old bearing???

This is all very confusing, so the part needs inspection.  However, the 6403.C3 bearing,
under part number 23-12-1-338-795 may be received by you with this ID on the bearing: 
NTN-TM.  It will have a sharp edge on the circlip side, so the tiny ring used with it is
not needed.

Generally speaking, modifying the shaft, installing the clip, new bearings, seals,
re-shimming, etc., will be very favorably priced, compared to just a new shaft from BMW!    
Those doing their own overhauls can have a good machinist cut the groove to accept
the snap ring.  Re-shimming is, of course, necessary with new bearings, etc

This is the 5 speed transmission gearset                 
Note the red line pointing to a circlip.                       
See links later in this article for a view
of the actual circlip problem area.


This is the 'improved' bearing, SAME part
number, note the TM on the bearing.







Here is an EDITED (by me) query & reply, as was on the Airheads LIST in November 2004,
that will explain about one little thing you might otherwise overlook if you are overhauling
a transmission, ETC:

The transmission was from a 1983 or 1984 R100RS.  The owner decided to do an overhaul.
It had been done previously, probably by him; the mileage was now around 200,000 km.   He
noticed a small "rumble" or notchiness when revolving the output flange, the driveshaft shaft
disconnected. No sound, no notchiness when tested from the wheel with the driveshaft
connected.  A transmission oil change (done every 6 months!) showed normal metal powder
on the drain plug magnet.

Transmission was removed & he slightly released the gearbox cover screws (1-2 turns) &
the notchy feeling disappeared totally.  Sounds like a preload problem??    The owner then
measured the clearance between the output shaft snap ring & the big bearing (6403) inner
race; the inner race pushed as far as it goes down the shaft.  A 0.25  mm feeler gauge was a
bit tight but a 0.20 mm loose. So, he concluded that there must be more than 0.20 mm
"undefined" clearance in the shaft & it seemed to him that there is no reasonable way to
shim the shaft within 0.1 mm as required especially if the bearing may drift along the shaft.
The owner then felt that he would have to shim the snap ring & the bearing inner race to
zero clearance. 

The owner continued....(Snowbum editing here): ""My actual question is about the "bearing
drifting along the shaft due to missing snap ring" theory"": 

If the front bearing inner race moves along the shaft (despite press fit) ...what... is holding
the shaft in place ...that the drift can take place?   If it is the smaller bearing then the snap
ring push will really prevent big bearing drift but this may cause a situation where the
shaft drifts in the smaller bearing, not the big one.  Again, a preload will result.  He also
wanted to know what happens to the bearing outer races in operating temperatures? Do
they float ie. are they free  to move away from their assembled positions?  The operating
temperature is not very far from the assembly temperature where the bearings practically
can be dropped in their places.

Tom Cutter replied (slightly edited, mostly just emphasis here by Snowbum): 
There are several forces at work that can dislodge the bearing inner race from the shaft.
One is the weight & forces of the driveshaft as it undergoes normal rotation, the forces
placed upon the output shaft are cyclical, both rotationally & axially.   The bearing is
designed to be captivated by the clip to preclude ANY axial movement of the bearing race
upon the shaft.  Unfortunately, the bearing now sold for the output shaft is dimensionally 
lightly different from the one designed for in the original plan.
That bearing had a square
corner on the rear face of the inner race, so that it would press evenly upon the circlip.
BMW only offered that bearing for a relatively short period, then they substituted a standard
6403 C3 bearing in its place in the  parts system. The standard 6403 bearing has a VERY
generous radius on the inner  bore, which makes the race bear on the very outer edge of
the circlip. In some cases the clip becomes dislodged into the adjacent void. The problem
is exactly as you have mentioned, & is the cause of the premature failure of so many
gearboxes. The cure is to shim the inner race so that there is no possibility that the bearing
can be displaced. This can be done with flat shims, although BMW do not offer such, or by
simply fitting the round wire expansion ring that BMW used for the purpose.   

This round wire expansion ring sits down in the radius of the bearing bore, & effectively
fills the void so that there is metal-to-metal contact from bearing to circlip (snap ring). 
The circlip is:  07-11-9-934-100 (size 17 x 1).  This is the same circlip used on the shift
shackle in the transmission, in case you get curious about it.

The round wire expansion ring  is 23-21-1-235-006. BMW uses the term Expansion Ring
for the wire spacer at the bearing under discussion, & the word circlip or snap ring means
the part that goes into the shaft groove.

The output shaft 0.040" (1.01 mm) groove is 0.5 mm deep, located at 17.00 mm from the
step on the forward end of the shaft where the 6403 ball bearing sits.  Machining should
be by 1.00 mm carbide tool.  Be sure to check your shaft, & these numbers, don't trust me
  The groove must be VERY precisely located & done so that the round wire expansion
ring, mentioned above, CAN be installed.    The inner race of the bearing we have been
discussing must be installed so it presses (well, touches) on the circlip.  It should not be
installed towards the rear (maximum space between inner race & circlip).   MY feeling is
that if things are done precisely, then the expansion ring must be installed.  However....
I have mixed feelings on that.


I, UNfortunately, never took photos when doing the circlip machining job.    However, here
is a link to an article with photos.  I agree with the article, for the most part, with some
hesitancy about BMW not using the round wire expansion ring at times.   The article will
show you what the shaft looks like, the groove being cut, etc.

Here is another article with photos.    Be sure to look at this one.  
is Anton's HomePage.  Anton has two articles to look at, not
overly clearly shown as two different links, at least not in MY browser.  Look on the left
side, and find 'transmission, clutch, final drive'.   Put your mouse pointer over
"transmission" in  "Airhead transmissions and circlip problem".  The word 'transmission'
will be seen to be a link to his article. Click on the word.  When finished looking at that
article, go back to Anton's HomePage and this time put the mouse pointer over "circlip
problem" and click,  for the other article.

***Special note on the throwout bearing area. 

This is being put into this transmission article (it is expanded upon in the CLUTCH article)
due to the potential for someone to think that the transmission has a problem...which, in
essence, it does, since the throwout bearing is LOCATED in the rear of the transmission.
Typically, the clutch will start to slip, when the transmission gets fully warmed from riding. 
The transmission may also seem to have a frozen clutch or similar problem.

Some tolerances on some transmissions throwout area bore sizes, & throwout pistons, were
not held tightly enough, including over the normal operating temperature range.  Generally
this is thought of as from 1981, when BMW changed the clutch design radically.    If the
piston fits into the bore a bit too may still operate smooth enough, but under some
circumstances (temperature, as in HOT!, rarely cold) may stick.   Measure the piston, and if it
is over about 1.13" (28.7 mm), you MAY want to reduce the outside diameter a bit.  I have seen
these as large as about 1.142" that still worked OK.  I can't give a hard and fast rule here, but
if yours is up to 1.141 or so, I would certainly see how it fits, & if a bit too much friction, I would
recommend sanding the OD a bit.  The pressure on them in operation is rather square, so if
any doubt, ....if careful... you can chuck the rather short shaft tip end in a drill press and use
some rather fine sandpaper for this.  Inspect the bearing, & if it looks bad, replace it.  Grease
it with a good LIGHT non-synthetic grease (NO moly). The reason to use light grease is that it
takes time & miles for the transmission OIL to reach this throw-out bearing.   Oil the outside
of the piston as you assemble this area.  Clean & lubricate the arm & associated parts.  BMW
has a replacement piston  23-13-1-464-167 which is pricey as it includes the bearing & is a
new design, that eliminates the clearance problem of the old style piston...but you do NOT
need to purchase it, unless you cannot find a new old-style bearing (if YOUR bearing is NG),
or, you don't wish to sand YOUR old piston (if required).  

NOTE: The original piston is not a one-piece metal part, rather, it is a part-metal-colored-
plastic-piston item (many were made with the piston being aluminum), & it expands much
faster than the surrounding aluminum alloy casting hole (whose tolerance seems to vary), so
common 'feel' for clearances may end up leaving it too tight.   The updated part fits directly,
no problems (probably; but I have had TWO reports of them grabbing....) measure &
decide.  I sometimes test the fit with the transmission at operating temperature.

NOTE:  There is much more extensive information on the clutch throwout bearing and the
lever, SURE to see it on this website!
That article has a photo of the later style clutch throwout parts, the actuating rod, & notes
on the FELT on the pre-1981 rods, ETC.   

NOTE:  The 4 speed transmission & the early 5 speed transmission (pre-1981) clutch push
rods had felts located in a groove; are installed best from the front, as installing them from
the rear will require a special tapered tool you must make.  The 1981+ transmissions did not
use a felt; had a rear SEAL instead; the rod should be installed from the rear ONLY.  The rod
is stronger, & aluminum ones better match the transmission changes with temperature. 1981
& later models have a lipped seal at the rear cover, for the pushrod, that is not easily
the transmission must come apart.   Install THAT pushrod, oiled, FROM THE
REAR, rotating it a bit, to avoid damaging the seal (which you will, if you install from the
front, like you do on earlier transmissions & clutches)

NOTE:   The 4 speed transmission had a balls-type throwout bearing.  The early 5 speed
transmission had a radial needle bearing.  From 1981, BMW BMW went back to the ball
bearing.  The radial bearing is a poor design, & if it fails, the needles can flat-spot, the
bearing can seize, etc. HOWEVER, that is RARE. 
MOST throwout bearing failures are due
to moisture getting into the gearbox!


See the NEUTRAL SWITCH article on how to replace a neutral switch on a
5 speed transmission: Neutral Switch replacement.

Removing a transmission from the bike:

For twin rear shock absorber models, remove the U-joint 4 bolts, remove the entire driveshaft
and rear drive and swing arm completely; or, loosen the swing arm pivot pin locknuts (27mm)
and remove the pins (allen wrench) and do this carefully to avoid thread damage, then use
bungees or rope to pull the rear drive to the rear somewhat.  You can then loosen the top
battery mounts, tilt the battery mount rearwards a bit, remove the battery, and then remove
the transmission, how is obvious.  Protect the frame paint, protect the clutch lever mounting
bosses (I remove that lever too),
remove the air cleaner items.   This is not a step by step
procedure, and you will find things I did not mention....that are minor.  

For the Monoshock bikes, it is similar...but NOT the same, particularly on very late models.

For the Paralever bikes, it is more work:
   I suggest you go to the archives of the Airheads List, and read the long message,
   quite detailed, on how to do a really nice job.
   The information is also somewhat useful for those with twin shock or Monoshock

    Here are the details on the Airheads List message you want to find.
           From: Tom Cutter
           Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:40 PM
          To:   &
           Subject: Re: Gearbox removal R100 GSPD - - {PRINT AND SAVE THIS}
           Hedz- (6/11/2014 Copyright tom cutter)

Replacing the input shaft seal:

This can be relatively easy, or can be difficult.  Often when the seal leaks, the transmission
is about ready for an overhaul. Let's assume that is not the case.  If the seal leaks, oil from the
transmission can flow along the splined input shaft into the clutch, oiling the clutch, & then
it will slip.   When you have the transmission either out (or backwards some), to do the normal
scheduled input spline cleaning & re-greasing, put your #1 eyeball on the transmission input
seal.  If leaking, remove the transmission to the workbench.  It is important to not score or
damage the input shaft when removing the seal.  You can make a tool to try to remove the
seal.  HEATING the area with a moderately broad flame of a gas torch will help.  If the seal is
not going to come out, the next step is to drill quite a few holes into the seal, the holes
should  be perhaps with a 1/32" drill bit.   Drill the holes as close as you can around at the
outer diameter of the seal, but DO NOT drill into the aluminum of the transmission case that
is surrounding the seal's outside diameter. I suggest you use a shop vacuum to get all the
drilled metal pieces into the vacuum cleaner, not the transmission.   Remove the center of the
seal then try to remove the outer part.   If this does not work, you will have to remove the front
cover of the transmission to press out the seal.   Once the seal is out, use a strong solvent and
if needed clean up the mounting area very carefully, using fine grit sandpaper if you have to, &
use the vacuum cleaner.   When replacing the seal, oil or grease it, otherwise you may dislodge
the coiled spring in the seal.   Use some sort of tool such as a socket or big washer, so the
seal goes in squarely.

MORE Transmission "stuff":

Excessive end play of the transmission input shaft can cause a quite-grabby clutch operation;
that can happen cold and/or hot, but more often when hot.  To fix THAT, one must remove &
open the transmission & work on the shaft shimming.  One can get an idea if that is a problem
by removing the transmission, heating it to about the temperature of boiling water & measuring,
with a dial indicator, the input shaft end play.  Anything over a few thousandths of an inch is
suspect.  I'd not want over maybe 0.005".  This problem with transmissions causing a grabby
clutch is not very common, but it seems to be more so for the 1979 models.  Another cause is 
excessive end-play on the crankshaft
...rare.....about .007" is the maximum I personally would
allow, & that is for a DRY assembly, which means you cannot take a measurement that means
much, when oil is in the end parts!  Note also that other things can cause a grabby clutch,
including the throwout bearing & the throwout bearing piston being too large.

Excessively worn crankshaft bearings can cause transmission rattle noises, but this is MUCH
MORE RARE than the rattle noises at idle with hot transmission oil, described much earlier in
this article.

1978:  The transmissions had gusset reinforcement running ONLY from front to rear
(NONE left-right). Beginning in 79 the gusset reinforcements at the bottom of the case were
cross hatch like a crossword puzzle. Changed was the shift linkage.  It now pivoted from the
footrest, & was more positive. 1979+ transmission cases were RIBBED.  This ribbing makes
the cases stiffer, preventing, mostly, any change in shimming dimensions with high mileage. 
Information, more detailed, about the ribbing changes, are much earlier in this article.

The 5 speed transmissions weighed about 24 pounds, without lever and without oil.

Sometimes I am asked about the various years of transmissions as to good points, bad points, etc.   
A lot of information is in the article you are reading.   However, the 1974 transmission is a special
instance.   This was a transition year for BMW, from the /5 to the /6; there were some things not so
nice about the 1974 transmission.   1974 was the first year for the 5 speed box.  The Pawl springs
tended to break.  The kickstart parts were SOFT & use of the kickstarter is NOT recommended. 
There were problems in positively locating the Neutral position, & that wasn't fixed until later.  The
1974 transmissions, in other words, did not hold up well.  Some parts are no longer available.  This
parts problem extends into the 17.5 & 15 degree parts area (you might find some parts not available
that are needed to match your 15 degree parts; so you'd have to convert to 17.5 degree parts).  When
you see the parts prices, you will scream.    If a 1974 transmission is really bad, YOU REALLY MIGHT
WANT TO CONSIDER A NEW TRANSMISSION; or, preferably, a really expert rebuilt one (especially
one after 1974) the price is less, the quality will be...or can be.... BETTER than a brand-new one!  
Quite often, the best thing to do with a really bad 1974 transmission is to obtain a later model; those
up to 1980 will install with no problems.  

974 and 1981 were not good years for the transmissions.  Besides general, the seventies
5 speed transmissions had a habit of breaking the gear dogs off.  The gear dogs & associated gears
are not the same as later models, parts availability is complicated or just NLA for earlier gearboxes;
this subject can get very involved.  You would typically find one or two dogs broken off & in the drained
oil.  Cause was the shape of the dog AND the lousy machining, wasn't perfectly at 90 degrees.  One
dog carried nearly all the load; broke off, then another might break.   Ask about this if confused & you
want to know if you can continue riding (a big maybe).

A subject that comes up often is if you can substitute an early & a late transmission (either direction). 
Here are some basics:
1.  You can substitute directly 4 speed & 5 speed transmissions up to the different clutch models that
     came out in 1980-1981.  Problems will be minor for the 4 & early 5 speed substitution.
2.  To install an early 5 speed transmission into a 1981 & later bike means a different input shaft
     on the transmission, re-shimming the transmission, etc.  It will work OK.   Note that one way to
     save money is to shorten the input shaft spline length on earlier transmissions, to fit the 1981
     & later clutch. See #8, well below.
3.  To install a later 5 speed into an earlier bike you need to change the input shaft, on...
4.  It is possible to put later components into the earlier 5 speed & then use it in an earlier bike. That
     gets complicated, you need the input shaft, the rear cover, shift parts, input shaft gear, ETC.
5.  The best method, & cheapest, of putting a later (1980/81+) 5 speed transmission into an earlier
     bike, is probably to install the later clutch & clutch carrier.  That means that from flywheel
     back, you install all the later items.  Direct fit.   I highly recommend you do NOT use the 1981
     clutch items, unless they were updated (the 1981 was weak; could disintegrate)...see my
     clutch article:   
It is possible a very few 1980 models had the 1981 poor clutch.

Here's more information on a variety of transmission things:

    That article has a number of photos and descriptions that you may find very useful in
     understanding the 4 and 5 speed transmissions in a few areas, such as the input gear
     that has the shock absorber cam ears that sometimes breaks on the early 17.5 transmissions;
     information on the shifting mechanism and 'shift kit', and some other things.  I highly
     recommend you review that article....and the links at the bottom. Note that 17.5 gears were
     supposedly installed from 1982, and I am not at all sure that is totally correct.

    CONTRARY to what Anton says about MY article that you are reading, I cover a huge amount
    more than just 'historical' data as he put it.  I suspect Anton looked at my article, & did not scan
    down very far.  I get into more depth on things, including the input cam-gear ears, etc. 
    Regarding that input gear:  see #3, just a bit below here...for a more vigorous treatment of the
    input cam gear and the 17.5 transmission, ETC.

2.  The output shaft oil seal on all models except
     the Paralever, have the open side facing rearward.  The Paralever output shaft oil seal open side
     faces INward.   If having oil transfer from the driveshaft into the transmission, you CAN
     reverse the output seal of the transmission, so the spring is REARWARDS.  A new style seal is
     now being used on the Paralevers, install dry, shaped for a couple hours on some sort of
     mandrel, & then be very careful about the installation to avoid the seal being damaged by the
     speedometer drive.  You can use some tape over the drive gear to avoid damaging the seal.  If
     you have an early model of the Paralever, there may be a goodly sized V-vent at 12 O'Clock in
     the housing.  Block this vent & drill it 1mm.  Later models have this already modified.   Wet
     driveshaft models used a green seal.     SEE #4, below.

     If you have a non-Paralever model, and oil is transferring from driveshaft to transmission, you
     have one or more of:  too high driveshaft oil level; sacked suspension; extreme downhill riding;
     ....and may want to fill the 12:00 sure to leave it with a teeny hole in the filling.  You
     MUST have a hole.  See #4 just below!!

3.  The input gear on the 5 speed transmissions has been changed FOUR times, used with THREE
     different gearsets. 
The original input gear was 23-21-1-231-519, often just called the -519 gear.
     This was used from 1974 to sometime in 1982.  The 1979 to 1982 ones have been known to
     CRACK.  Actually, some from a bit later also have cracked.   For the helical, cluster, and 5th
     gear, BMW changed, for all by mid-1982 or so (supposedly at transmission serial 58225), from a
     helical gear angle, from 15 to 17-1/2.  The fiche may show earlier in 1982.   The actual
     changed angle is not exactly the part of the gear appearance you might think; rather, it was the
     tooth profile.  The purpose was reduction in noise & increased strength.   Because of this
     change, the -519 gear had to be changed. BMW did so, and still had problems with they
     did another change, beefing it up.   They had to change the input SHAFT too.  This occurred in
     04/1982, & continued until other changes, in 02/1985.  The new shaft for the 17.5 gears was
     23-21-2-302-331 for NO kickstarter; & -332 for WITH kickstarter.  The shaft was shipped
     complete, except for rear bearing.  

      Further explanation: 
      Some 1981 bikes had a change of the 17.5 gear on the input shaft....this was the small shaft,
      with a COARSE spline.   The 1981-2 change was to a FINER spline...and then even later to a
      larger diameter gear set!    The 17.5 input gears, from 04/1982 to 02/1985, might break ears.
    This is when BMW added splines to the drive dog that mates with the input gear.  This change
      occurred with transmission serial number 115167 on 03/1985 (I think).  This paragraph is hard
      to understand, so: 

      Here some of the information is presented a bit differently, for clarity:
         In April of 1982 (from serial 58225 on the transmission??) the helical-cut gears in the
         transmission were changed from 15 to 17.5.  The new 17.5 gears are identified by a cross
         or star or X marking on one end.
   They are NOT interchangeable with the older 15 ones,
         & only 17.5 matching gearsets can be used. Supposedly BMW also identified these updated
         transmissions with blue paint dot on the airfilter housing surface of the transmission. 
         However, the later transmissions (1984+) do have serial numbers on the outside, check for
         yours just barely below the air cleaner box on left OUTside.   From 115167 (from April 1985?)
         the input shaft assembly was redesigned.  The earlier gear had a smaller ID, and fit the
         smaller input shaft OD...with short splines.  The reason for the second generation update
         was because the first generation of the 17.5 input shaft gears (4/82>4/85) were weak and
         the drive ears might break.   These updated parts can be fitted to an earlier gearbox with the
         17.5 gears.  The original fragile input gear is probably still available from BMW.  However,
         the best thing is to install the complete second generation input shaft assembly.   The part is
         23-21-2-302-331 if you have no kickstart gear; and 23-21-2-302-332 if you do have the
         kickstart gear.  Supposedly these transmissions are identified by a black painted panel in the
         ribs in the aircleaner mounting area.  Note that in one other respect the input shaft used on
         the 1981+ models is not the same as the older gearboxes, due to the redesign of the clutch,
         etc., the earlier ones have a longer nose, see #8 below.  Thus there were at least two
         changes to the input shaft.

It has become apparent to me that some of you do not understand certain things about the 15 degree
changed to 17.5 degree by BMW, maybe you have never had a transmission apart, or maybe, for
whatever reason, it is still confusing.   I will try to explain it a bit differently here...and add a bit more too.
You must be very careful when changing parts to not mix the wrong gears; this can easily happen with
the bevel-cut 5th gear on the output shaft...yes, the one that can have the circlip area problem. BMW
officially changed to the 17.5 helical gears.   You already know that the 17.5 gear has an X mark on it.  

What may not be clear to you, is that if you need a new intermediate shaft (& have access to the large
20 ton+ type of press needed to disassemble that shaft-set), updating the gear on the intermediate shaft
means you MUST change the output shaft bevel gear to the later 17.5 type.  .....AND, must change the
-519 gear on the input shaft.    BTW...BMW does not sell the intermediate shaft except as an assembly
and it is very pricey; which is why some use old gearboxes for parts!  Early versions of the intermediate
haft are NLA from BMW!    Because of the possibility of you using wrong parts, it is best to inquire on the
Airheads LIST if you are at all confused!.........or, let an expert do your transmission job!

4.  Only the 1970 & 1971 4 speed transmissions did NOT have the tiny notch for breathing, at the
    transmission output seal 12:00 position (Paralever boxes generally have the notch sealed or a
    tiny hole).  Because of this, the driveshafts on the 1970-1971 bikes tend to have their 'rubber'
    bellows swell up in hot weather riding.  This slight pressurization can also cause oil transfer
    problems.   An article about this is in the September 1981 BMW News.  The only GOOD cure is
    to add the transmission output vent...which is a drilled hole or a hand-filed hole.   Other forms
    of venting, even modifying the driveshaft oil plug, etc., do NOT work well (even with a
    several inch long line run upwards).  The shaft housing could be vented in the more
    forward area, but the BEST fix, if you have to fix this problem, is to put a vent in the
    transmission output area, as in later Airheads.

5.  There are quite a few 'tricks' & adjustments that don't readily appear to someone taking apart a
     gearbox.  For a truly good operating gearbox, you WILL want to consider a specialist. 

6A.  The 1974 transmissions had a soft kickstart gear on the input shaft, which can cause
        problems.  It is best to not use the kickstarter, except in an emergency.  BMW replacement
        part will be hardened.

6B.  MANY changes were made to the transmissions over the years.  Sometimes the serial
       numbers of the transmissions, or bike serial number, were not well identified as to when
       changes were made.  It can get very complicated, one of the reasons I recommend
       AIRHEAD transmission specialists.   Some examples here would include the shifter fork
       groove on the sliding gears that changed from 6.5 mm to 5.7 mm; square undercut dogs (and
       associated 'windows') for 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears; the detent spring change on the selector
       bracket; the casting was changed for a stronger selector fork shaft, old was 100 mm, new was
       105 mm.   BMW changed the shifting parts numerous times.  They did NOT incorporate all the
       changes at the same time.  The OFFSET segment for pawl spring clearance was one such
       change.  Several changes occurred at that same time, with transmission Z5A79720.

       There are DOZENS of these 'nice to know', or 'NEEDED to know' items.

6C.  The /6 kickstarters are not really meant to be used a lot.  The 1974 was weak (see 6A.). 
        NEVER just jump on the kickstart lever.  Be SURE it is properly engaged.  MY method for ALL
        years and models of kickstart transmissions
is to use light foot pressure, until the lever
        seems to meet a mechanical stop, then use the clutch lever at the bars to allow the kickstart
        lever to move downward an additional small amount. This ensures proper engagement. 
        Release the clutch lever. KICK.

       The kickstarter lever on /5 and later will 'bottom' on the footrest rubber.  It is important that it
       not be a pure metal contact.....and on the /2 bikes, there is a rubber bumper.  The rubber must
       be intact.  The 4 speed kickstarter shaft should be modified with a drilled and tapped hole,
       and use a Loctite-applied (blue) screw and a large washer.  Information and a photo are well
       below in this article.

7.  Improved shifting parts, with the external linkage mounted off the footrest, is probably still
     available as a kit, for the earlier 5 speed transmissions.  The design change occurred in 1978.

8.  In 1981 BMW made changes in the transmission clutch throwout bearing area, internally as well
     as the external shift lever arrangement.  Also in 1981, BMW made a large change to the clutch
     and flywheel, which became a totally different design, & the flywheel was now called a Clutch
     Carrier, & the transmission input shaft was changed (shorter) to accommodate those changes. 
     Transmissions before & after that date can be interchanged if the input shaft is the correct
     one.     The input shaft is about 24 mm long on the early transmissions, and from 1981, it is
     about 19 mm long.
It is also possible to shorten the input shaft on an early transmission, in
     order to fit it to a later clutch simply using a cutoff disc, etc., even with the
     transmission still together!    Be sure to radius the forward edge properly.  Within certain
     guidelines, such as the input shaft length, and internal gears angle cuts, shift kit or not,
     proper neutral all mentioned in this page, most transmissions generally
     interchange.  Pay attention to the Monolever and Paralever versions, however.

9A.   Shift kit and pawl spring, etc:
         Pawl Spring: Inside your transmission is a detent spring, that enables the shifting mechanism
             to shift gears.  If that spring breaks, are stuck in whatever gear you happen to be
             in.   You MIGHT be able to remove the fuel tank, turn the bike upside down, and then shift
             into a gear...maybe.  I've heard of this, never done it myself.  There are homemade tools
             that you can make that you stick into the oil level hole after removing the threaded plug.
             It is tricky, and if you contemplate making or purchasing such a tool, I HIGHLY suggest you
             look at a transmission with the cover off, while you manipulate that transmission with your
             'tool' to see what twisting and turning is needed.  There is an article on this website
             about these tools: 
Any such tool will be very difficult to use, without
             practice.  NOTE that the tool will enable you to shift into any gear you want, but NOT
             during riding!

            All the 5 speed transmissions up to the early 1980's could have this pawl spring breakage
            defect.  This particular spring is used in all years all transmissions.

            WHY the breakage?   TWO reasons primarily. The early spring rubs on itself during
            operation, wearing itself thinner.  The spring may wind too tight on the large boss, causing
            excessive force on the spring.  Possibly some faulty springs, possibly a few other things;
            we just do not know.  MUCH MORE on this as this article proceeds.

         Pawl spring breakage fixes:  One can turn down the boss it rides on by about .060".  The
            boss needs to be around 0.613" or below.  If yours is about .630, then machine it
            down. The boss size was probably fixed in production, but exactly when is questionable
            but as I note later, perhaps in 1975 or all before 1976 model year... or so.  Tom Cutter
            posted to the Airheads list that the original was 15.95-16.0 mm; and the change should be
            to 15.55-15.6.   I don't hold to such tolerances.  
           Here is more of my take on the matter:
             The post the spring is on has had its diameter changed in the 'shift kits'.  You can
              certainly reduce the diameter of the stock type.  The spring must not bind-up in its
              operation.   Certain of the so-called 'shift-kit' parts, Pawl 23-31-1-242-892; and Segment
              (offset link) 23-31-1-231-578, supposedly will 'cure' broken pawl spring problems, but
              modifications work well. As noted in 6B, above: The OFFSET segment for pawl spring
              clearance was one of BMW's changes.   What has not been said hardly anyplace, except
              perhaps Anton Largiader's page, is that the Shift Kit version, incorporated by the factory
              since sometime late in 1981 (?), will keep the pawl engaged, if the spring breaks.

             The shift kit uses spring 23-31-1-242-910, and you must use that spring with the shift kit.  

In mid or later 1981 (this is unclear to me, although the serial number of the transmission is known,
see just below), BMW installed the so-called 'shift kit'  inside the transmission.  This is a fairly extensive
kit with a revised cam shape, modified shifter arm, etc.  It is retrofitable, and can be considered for
earlier transmissions when overhauled.   BMW has a habit of phasing in changes, sometimes on
some models long before others....and on occasion one might find a far later serial number withOUT
the shift kit change; and transmissions with partial changes.   The 1984+ transmissions had the
transmission serial number on the left outside, just under the air-box fitting surface, under the air
tube to the left carburetor area.   The earlier transmissions had the serial number at either the rear
top, or front top, but you must pull the air-box to see the number.  You will do that at the spline service
anyway.    The
serial number for the beginning of the shift kit installation is:    56477. The prefix was
Z or ZSA.  Frankly, I do not trust that serial number.

The purpose of the shift kit was to eliminate false neutrals or hung-up shifting; improve shifting in
several ways; AND, to improve reliability.
  The kit is part number 23-31-9-056-150.   The kit as such
is no longer available, but the parts ARE.   The shift kit 'fixes' for the false neutrals does not have
the same level of improvement in the heavy flywheel models as the later clutch carrier models.

s mentioned earlier; numerous parts changes in the shift mechanism occurred over a number of
years....such as the offset segments and pawl spring changes.

In the September 2003 issue of BMW Owners News, from page 34, is an ILLUSTRATED article
on replacing a broken Pawl Spring in the transmission.  Comments by me:  In illustration 15, the
torque obviously should not be 24 foot pounds.....5 to 6 foot pounds is correct.  In the article, the
author does not mention that the BOSS needs to be relieved to be sure the spring does not bind up
and break, again!
  See above in this long transmission article of mine that you are reading, about that
boss and spring.  In the November 2003 issue of BMW Owners News, from page 34, is an article
on installing the updated shift kit.  There are some errors in this article:
    a.  In the first column of page 34, second paragraph, the kit does NOT NECESSARILY allow
         shifting with a broken spring.
    b.  On page 34, photo #1 text, it is NOT true that there are no differences.   There IS a design
         change.  The 1974 and 1975 had a reverse neutral....that is....the plate PROTRUDED at
         neutral, rather than being DETENTED.  The new design makes finding neutral more distinct
         and positive.   The Neutral switch was changed, and although they look similar, they are
         not.   The newer plate shaft is changed to insure against clashing with the pawl arm.  Photo
         #3 text should not really have the second sentence worded like that.
    c.  On page 35, photo #4 text, it is NOT true that there are no differences.  The new arm has an
         offset to avoid binding

9B.  The "shift kit" is most effective on the 1981 and 1982 models (to maybe 1983, depends on
        exactly when BMW phased in the shift kit themselves, on the various models), because these
        have the lightened Flywheel, called a Clutch Carrier.   The shift kit might improve earlier
        transmissions slightly, certainly the pawl spring breakage problem is lessened.  The shift kit
        will help IF the early heavy flywheel has been lightened.   The shift kit did NOT come with any

          I would not put the shift kit into a stock early heavy clutch/flywheel motorcycle.
         There is no problem learning how to do the nice slightly slower shifting with the old setup. 
Pre-pressuring works delightfully.

          Note what I said much earlier in this article. The thickness of the OIL has a substantial
          effect, depending on temperature, as to shifting characteristics. The oil…and quite a few
          other factors in the gearbox design, have an effect on how the gearbox parts slow down, as
          you attempt to shift downwards.  The speed at which the slowdown happens affects how
          the box seems, to you, to shift.  It is same, going upwards, in the opposite direction, now, of
          speed-up of the parts.

Shifting speed is not just something involved with the 'shift kit', it is also involved with
          gearbox setup, and some of the many changes made in the gearbox for various reasons.
          If you were installing a lightened flywheel, you could consider the kit.

        BE SURE that in your assembly of shift kit parts that the arm is doglegged, that is, off-set.

        The shift kit is made up of the following, still available parts:
        23-31-1-231-578 segment shaft (offset link)
        23-31-1-231-611 shifting cam (for 1-2, 5)
        23-31-1-242-892 pawl
        23-31-1-242-910 spring
        23-31-1-451-563 shifting cam (for 3-4)

        ***The so-called shift-kit parts, Pawl 23-31-1-242-892; and Segment 23-31-1-231-578,
             supposedly will 'cure' broken pawl spring problems....but modifications to the stock
             boss and/or use of the upgraded spring work well for that particular problem.

        NOTE, a few paragraphs below, Tom Cutter's comments...and MINE...on how that boss
                was...or was not...modified by BMW after 1974 or 1975 (We disagree on that point).

For other views, showing these parts lined up and how the neutral switch works with them, see:
That article also has some photos in it that you may find very useful in understanding the 4 and
5 speed transmissions in a few areas.

Use of the shift kit REQUIRES use of the later LONGER neutral switch, or the neutral switch
electrical functions will be in reverse of what they should be!  The later switch is 61-31-1-243-097,
and a spacer 61-31-1-355-262 is used.  The 1974-5 neutral switches have a shorter stem. 
If you install the wrong switch, it does not work correctly, and may be shifting problems!  

There are TWO sections in the article on this
website on the neutral switches, neutral lamp, starter circuit, and problems.  It is complex!

Here is an article on the transmission-mounted neutral switch that has all the details:  

Please read the entire article, but:
ALL 5 speed neutral switches are CLOSED in neutral, turning on the green neutral lamp (enabling
the starter function if the starter button is pressed on 5 speed transmissions).   The reason for the
shorter & longer neutral switches is that in the early shifting parts, the switch rode on a section of the
shifting cam that was a projection; the switch itself helped make the feel for the 'detent'.  On the
revised parts, neutral is much more positively felt, by the switch being in a 'valley' of the shifting cam,
hence the switch needs to be longer.  Operation of the internals of the switch are also reversed!

NOTE:   There is a diode in the neutral circuit.  If that diode shorts, then the lamp is ON if the lever
at the bars is pulled.   There is also a peculiarity with the 1978-80 models, which have a master
cylinder under the fuel tank.  These incorporate a float switch, whose purpose is to illuminate the
brake failure light if the fluid runs low.  The lamp gets tested each time you start the bike, via a diode. 
 If the diode shorts, and you are also low on fluid, the starter could theoretically energize. VERY VERY

Tom Cutter posted the following to the Airheads E-mailing LIST in September 2003; it clearly states
what the kit also does, & I quote (typos corrected by me) (comments by me, snowbum, are clearly
marked in RED):

"The kit includes a selector arm that has a second rail which will then will allow shifting, albeit a little
sloppy, in the event that the spring fails. (note inserted here by snowbum:  I do not believe that to be
so, the second arm being designed to prevent overshifts & false neutrals).  
In my opinion, when the
spring is properly installed & the stress relieved, the failures become non-existent. Nonetheless, the
new arm is a nice fail-safe piece." (see above note by snowbum, who believes the new arm is not a
fail-safe piece as such). 
Tom later added the following:  "The repairs ...referred to are only necessary
if one is retaining the older shift pawl. If using the new shift kit, which I highly recommend be fitted at
the same time, the parts are upgraded and don't need modification (Or they are supposed to, I found
one old shift pawl in a shift kit recently). (Snowbum says:  Interesting, if true.   The old pawls were
gone decades ago, no one else seems to have found wrong parts in the shift kits).   
I am trying to
describe this so it will make some sense, but basically, the spring gets over-stressed when it wraps
around the boss on the pawl. The boss can be ground to a smaller OD, and the spring attachment
point can be modified by grooving the plate, to prevent the spring coil-binding on the boss. 
(Snowbum says:  The boss was a problem in the 1974, & maybe some 1975 production, & the
oversize boss was fixed no later than sometime in 1975.  I believe that, from then, the springs break
from improper heat treatment, or fatigue, or too soft or too hard, maybe brittle....seems to be a difficult
part to manufacture correctly?).   
Either or both methods work fine.  The important thing is to
assemble the shift plate mechanism, then pull the shifter hook arm back as far as it will go, while
looking at the pawl spring. If the spring is binding, it will be apparent. This must be corrected."
(snowbum says:  doesn't happen on 1976 and later, but easy to check).

An Airheads LIST inquiry on October 5th, 2011, resulted in Tom Cutter's remarks about the
23-31-1-231-619, the original type of early shift pawl spring, the bent-legged type; replaced by
23-31-1-242-910, with straight legs.  Tom noted that you have to use the dog legged shift segment
with it, or the spring will bind.    Perhaps confusion over this is why Tom & I disagree a bit on the subject?

10.   The 4 speed transmission & early 5 speed transmissions can be a devil to find parts for, & to
overhaul correctly.  I strongly suggest going to one of the experts shown below, in particular Oak,
Bob Clement, Ted Porter, Tom Cutter and Matt Parkhouse. In fact, those are my recommendations
for any BMW transmission. See near the end of this long article a bit on those folks, and how to
contact them.

11.  5 speed transmission gear ratios:


           Stock Competition/Race.   The gear set is 23-21-1-233-427.  I have never seen this gearset, and wonder if any were ever sold??
1st                4.44 3.38
2nd 2.86 2.43
3rd 2.07 1.93
4th 1.67 1.67
5th 1.5 1.5

12.  There is an additive that works modestly well SOMETIMES to smooth the shifting, particularly
       with transmissions with the original older style shifting parts.  Do not use this stuff with
       synthetic oil; it may not mix and stay mixed.
  It is Dow Corning M Gear Oil Additive. Comes in
       quart bottles. Shake well and use up to 2% concentration max, DO NOT USE "UP TO" THE
       10%  Dow suggests.  The amount to use is about 18 cc for the Airhead transmission.   This
       stuff is VERY expensive. 
       DO NOT use with synthetic oil & do NOT add more than 20 cc!!!!

13.  The 5 speed transmissions have, on the input shaft, a cam and spring shock absorbing
       system, and one of the gears, that has the cam on one end, is 23-21-1-231-519. 
       This gear MUST be replaced if it appears to have worn such that it looks even vaguely
       questionable; the replacement gear from BMW is hardened.  READ the earlier portions of this
       article on the complexities of changes to the -519 gear....and the input shaft, etc.

14.  There is a plastic roller on a shift lever in the transmission, it is 23-31-1-231-572, and tends,
       over a long period of time, to start to fail; the steel one from the K models is 23-31-1-451-087,
       and I have recommended it in the past.  I am not so sure about this, now, as I have heard,
       ONCE, of the steel K bike roller causing wear on its pin...and against the lever it touches
       (perhaps there is some heat treatment variation on that lever...or?).     NOTE:  if the roller
       fails, the transmission may well exhibit jumping out of gear.  This can also happen if the
       associated spring breaks.   If a question comes up on this point, I defer to the transmission
       experts mentioned. At least one transmission guru, Ted Porter, is now using a bearing,
       #688-RS, for that roller.

15.  In 1977 BMW made changes to the transmission.   The slider gears shifting fork grooves were
       made narrower, now 5.7 mm, previously had been 6.5 mm.  The 3rd, 4th, & 5th gears now had
       square doglegs (undercut).   The detent spring was changed....and it has 5 turns.  The
       cam-plate was changed.  The casting was changed for better selector fork shaft support for
       3rd and 4th, and the shaft which had been 100 mm is now 105 mm long. Yes, in 1979 the case
       was stiffened with ribs for help with shimming changes being needed at high mileages, from
       case stretching.

16.  Earlier transmission shift linkage had a foot shift lever connection with a rubber boot over it;
      the linkage is NOT adjustable other than the foot peg, which is often found at the lowest
      position for owners with big boots.  Some install adjustable linkage, or, horrors!, grind away
      the foot peg casting.  If you install the adjustable linkage from the ST & G/S models, it bolts in
      place of the bent rod.  23-41-2-301-391.  Drill the hole in the shift lever, as it is just a bit too
      small in diameter.  Use 1/4" drill.   Add the foam donuts 23-41-7-650-149 over each of the ball
      joints, or replace your old bad ones.  Keep it all oiled.

17. 1981 & later models have a lipped seal at the rear cover, not easily replaced....the transmission
       must come apart.
 Install the pushrod on these models oiled, FROM THE REAR, rotating it a bit,
       to avoid damaging the seal (which you will, if you install from the front, like on earlier transmissions
       and clutches)

Transmissions are best overhauled by an expert with a lot of experience.  For the person who
definitely wants to try doing a transmission, you can do it under tutelage
or perhaps get Ed Korn's video, ETC.   

Here are some old specifications (there are lots more specifications):

Axial float on all shafts:  0-0.1 mm (0-.004 inch).
Gear change lever shaft axial float on 4 speed: as above.
Fork bolts 17 footpounds.
Output flange nut 160 ftlbs (clean and dry on the tapers!...absolutely NO residual oil!).
End cover nuts 6 ftlbs.
Read the early part of (way up this article):

4-speed transmission modification that I recommend:

The FOUR speed transmission kickstarter idler gear shaft is press-fitted into the rear transmission
cover.  There is a tendency, particularly when the gearbox is quite hot from a ride (which expands
the aluminum rear cover much more than the steel shaft!), for the shaft to move inwards into the
transmission.   Do NOT allow it to move into the transmission!   To do an easy fix is often best,
as the formal fix is removing the rear output flange, heating the rear cover, and ...with some
experience knowing what to do next, you remove that rear cover, and modify the shaft.   So,
he easy fix is to do the modification without gearbox rear cover removed; that is, it is done
BEFORE the shaft moves inwards...or worse, the parts inside fall to the bottom.   The simple
fix involves drilling and tapping the shaft, adding a small bolt and large washer.

In one instance I remember from years ago, the shaft had started to move, and the owner drilled
the shaft, added a large flat washer and bolt, and heated the rear cover, and pulled the shaft back
into position.  I don't recommend it, but it did work OK.
The fix is to drill the center of that shaft at the back of the transmission.  Keep your bike metric. 
Thread the hole, add a large flat washer, larger than the shaft diameter, & use Loctite BLUE on the
STEEL screw you will add to hold the washer to that shaft.   That washer prevents the shaft from
moving inwards.  Use some sort of goop sealant between the washer & shaft/case, to stop any
possible oil leakage. This mod has often been done BEFORE there is any or only slight movement,
withOUT removing the rear cover.    If you have the gearbox rear cover off when doing this modification,
then re-assemble the rear cover by first cleaning the shaft & cover mating areas; then applying a drop
or two of Loctite to the shaft and cover as you assemble the rear cover (heated, of course).   Some
other photos of this job; and, a bit more information, will be found in an article by Matt Parkhouse, in
the August 2008 BMW Owners News, on page 38+.    If the shaft has started to move, you MIGHT
be able to drill the shaft, install screw and washer, and heat the transmission, and pull the shaft into
position with the screw.  Don't use too small a screw size, and use a decent amount of heat.


4 speed transmission:
   Output shaft, drive (rear) end, type 6204C3, 20 x 47 x 14 mm.  This WAS part number
   07-11-9-981-219, and that changed to  07-10-1-468-880   Other (front) end, type 6403C3,
   17 x 62 x 17 mm.  This WAS part number 07-11-9-981-505, and that changed to 23-12-1-338-795. 
   Used on both 4 and 5 speed gearboxes.  SEE remarks below for 5 speed transmissions!

   Layshaft (also called the cluster shaft or intermediate shaft), cover (rear) end, type 6203-C3,
   17 x 40 x 12 mm, the part number is 07-11-9-981-214.

   Clutch end double row type 3202 in some books, but is 3203C3 (aka 5203), 17 x 14 x 17.5 mm. 
    This WAS part number  07-11-9-982-409, and that changed to 07-10-1-468-914.

   Input shaft, both (front AND rear) are type 6304C3  20 x 52 x 15 mm.   Part number
     23-12-1-232-695.     Used on both 4 and 5 speed gearboxes.

5 speed transmission:

RE:  the 6403-C3 bearing 'where the circlip is' :  BE SURE to read the note well up this article on
        this bearing, and the associated photo of it.

   Output shaft, input (front) end, type 6403 (see 4 speed) (see above too!); and the output (rear) is
     6304  (see 4 speed).

   Layshaft (Cluster shaft or intermediate shaft), both are 6304.

   Input shaft:  Uses special bearing #NU204E at the front, and a 6304 at the rear; and note that the
        6304THNC3 bearing is used, part number 23-12-1-233-807


In 2005, Matt Parkhouse did a series of articles in BMWMOA-ON, on overhauling the 5 speed
transmission. GOOD articles.

Anton's transmission article.  Highly recommended:
Listing of parts, some photos, including of the shift kit items, ETC.   Site will further your education
on the 4 and 5 speed transmissions.  Anton also lists some of the many changes BMW made to
these transmissions over the years, what can & cannot substitute & what won't fit, etc.   

Below is  link to a website page that tells you how to overhaul your 5 speed transmission yourself. 
see also:  MORE DISCUSSION...and area very far up this article.

Whilst there are plenty of tricks, etc., that are not in the article, it SEEMS to be complete enough that
YOU may be able to do an overhaul.    This link was given to me; I have NOT gone over the instructions
step by step.  I have also been informed that the nylon roller that someplace in the article is mentioned
as being replaceable by a metal one (maybe he means the K bike metal roller??)....has a wrong part,
and the part should be 688, not 628, both being 8 x 18 x 5 mm.
        However, see my much earlier information on item #14, above.

is a file on this website that describes the 'new style' Teflon seal
used at the engine output and at the transmission output.  READ IT!

Preloading the Shift Lever,
what it does to make the transmission shift smoothly!

I will try to simplify this....well, somewhat.  Taking a bit of license here too on the explanations.

Lightly preloading the shift lever can and does work on many motorcycles, and it works on the Airheads
and the Classic K bikes.   They are not the only vehicles where this works nicely. PART of the good-effect
is due to helping to slow the moving parts just a tiny wee amount during the actual shifting attempt, to help
line-up the various parts.

For the Airheads, the transmissions, like most motorcycle transmissions, use dogs on the end (sides,
internal and/or external) of some gears.  When shifting, you are moving gears out of mesh or trying to
put them into mesh at the gear's teeth, but you are also sliding some gears along shafts (typically the
gear is sliding on a splined section) and the side of a gear is try to mesh with the side of another
gear, by means of those side dogs; sometimes both are male types, sometimes there are male and
female dogs (that is, the female ones are depressed inside the end of a gear).   Thus there are two
types of meshing going on, one is the normal gear teeth type of meshing, and the other is the sliding
dogs.    End dogs are simply square sections on the sides of gears.  When two such dog sections
mesh with each other, the gears are, more or less, locked to each other.  A good cutaway of a
transmission or a good sketch will show this nicely.

Here is a really good website that shows how these types of transmissions shift, animated, and also
a very good single photo of a gear dog end, ETC.
Highly recommended:

As you try to shift your 4 or 5 speed Airhead transmission, numerous things must happen at the
same or approximately the same time. Some parts must speed up, some parts must reduce speed,
in order to enable a meshing (of dogs and gear teeth).   Gearbox manufacturer's have engineers
that get headaches from trying to get gearboxes to shift smoothly, compounded by the fact that
motorcycle transmissions do not have synchronizers.  For motorcycles, all sorts of friction effects
from gears and shafts moving, together with oil viscosity, etc., are involved.  This is a DEEP subject;
one that BMW & its transmission designer-maker (Getrag) have faced, with some strange results now
and then adding friction producing O-rings on shafts.   BMW transmissions, properly put together,
shift nicely, but other things can work against smooth shifting....AT TIMES.  One of those things is the
heavy early model flywheels, as the engine does not like to slow down as quickly between shifts, as
does the later lighter clutch/flywheel models (1981+ with the new-style clutch carrier).  Even the
1981+ lighter clutch carrier assembly is heavy and has a lot of INTERTIA, compared to most multi-plate
type clutches used on, for example, Japanese and British (and American) motorcycles.  Thus, slowing
the engine for shifting takes a small amount of extra time, but that is very noticeable to YOU, the rider.
A lot of things must happen in a tiny fraction of a second, and in the correct order and timing.

n SOME types of racing, particularly drag racing, decades ago, fast shifts were considered a must. 
Methods included removing some of the dogs, increasing clearances where the dogs meshed.....and
a "momentary ignition cutout switch" was installed & was enough to allow the heavily loaded gears to
DEmesh & remesh (constant foot pressure on gearshift lever). In fact, many a drag bike rider did not
use a clutch!....the shift lever was heavily preloaded, the switch literally "hit" and the bike shifted.

You CAN up-shift your Airhead between gears by preloading the shift lever & using the throttle....and
no clutch.......but I recommend NOT doing this.  If you practice, it is not hard on the transmission once
you learn to do it correctly.

If the gears/dogs do not line up rather closely at the exact instant you want to shift, then it can take
some additional rider effort to get the parts to mesh quickly.  Normally, coming to a stop sign, Airhead
riders raise the rpm & shift downwards to first gear BEFORE quite coming to a complete stop. 
Otherwise, you may have to slightly engage the clutch or double clutch, play with rpm, etc. when you
want to shift from Neutral to first gear when starting off.    In shifting downwards it is normal to blip the
throttle slightly.   Experienced riders can often shift downwards without the loud clunk often heard from
Airhead transmissions.  Upward shifting is usually easier, although the 1st-2nd transition is a bit longer
and longer-taking.   BMW transmissions tend to take a lot of miles to fully break-in.  
The transmissions
can also shift differently, give a different 'feel' if the oil is changed to a different viscosity grade, and,
occasionally, just the brand/model of oil has made a difference. 
  A Dow additive, in a weak amount,
is sometimes tried for balky shifting....sometimes it helps.  SEE PRIOR NOTES ON THAT ADDITIVE!!

t is entirely possible for two gears to try to mesh but the teeth (or dogs) are directly opposite each other,
that is, it is square end of one tooth or dog against same on the other.  Unless you can get one of the
two gears to move SLIGHTLY, you will not get meshing.   It is not unusual for this to happen; and it can
happen at the side dogs teeth, or the outer teeth of the gears.

On kickstarter Airhead models, particularly early ones, if you push the kickstarter down SOME & it seems
then locked (unless & MAYBE you use a LOT of foot pressure), I suggest you release the kickstarter
lever, then pull-in the clutch lever at the bars, and then move the kickstarter lever downwards a bit (easy)
& then release the clutch.  That allows proper meshing; due to how the gear setup is.  It also greatly
reduces the strain on the parts from otherwise very excessive foot pressure on the kickstarter lever, all
of which is torque-multiplied by the mechanical leverage & applied to, perhaps, not overly strong innards.

Bottom line:  Pre-loading helps improve the friction, etc., to allow closer rpm matching of the internal parts,
and thereby easier shifting and often with no clunking.

DYI (Doing It Yourself) (part 1)

If you insist on overhauling your own 5 speed transmission, please understand that there are a lot of
big and little things to know.  However, many HAVE done an overhaul successfully (usually not a full
overhaul); and whilst the overhaul might not be up to 'Guru' standards, it can be adequate.    I have
greatly resisted pressure to do step by step transmission overhaul articles, because of all the little
details, which vary by year of transmission and what you find inside.  On the other hand, I do wish to
have something for you to look at.  So, I offer the following URLs:

here is another way of looking at the basics:

NOTE!!....the above articles are not complete, & have errors.  They are list here strictly for the purpose
of you getting some ideas about the scope of the work. 
Read the next section,
DYI (Doing It Yourself) (part 2) for more such information.

Bottom line:  If you are the methodical and careful type of person, YOU PROBABLY CAN overhaul
your own gearbox (and, if you need some press or machining work, that can be farmed-out).

Tools and video for transmission work, and other work used to be available from Ed Korn, who
previously did business as Cycleworks, Inc. in town of Oregon, WI.  Ed did some machine work,
had LOTS of tools (and some parts) for everything from the Isetta cars, through the /2 era, up
until the Airheads stopped production in the 90's. He had a rather extensive line of tools, some
VERY cleverly designed, and he had instructions, videos, all sorts of stuff.    Doing a run-through
of his website was informative to many folks.  Ed sold the business to Cycle Works LLC, located
at 5805 Haskins Street, Shawnee, KS, 66216   (913) 871-6740.  Contact the new owner at: ((NOT .com!!)).
The URL address is still   Dan will likely be very helpful

DYI (Doing It Yourself) (part 2):

The original shafts end float was 0.004".  From 1981, BMW used 0.002", and I think 0.002" is best
for all of the transmissions.  Note that this is ~ the same as the 0.05mm in the books.

This next-following section was posted by Tom Cutter to the Airheads LIST on June 10th, 2012; in
response to questions.  I have NOT edited this, except for paragraph separations added & a couple
of mis-spellings & words added in red. My purpose in putting this posting here is to give you more
of a feel for what is done by a professional who has done a lot of these transmissions.

""When I do a gearbox job, I heat the box in the oven to 225F, then turn the shafts by hand, shift the
gears up and down, and push-pull the input and output shafts to check for grossly excessive
free-play. Then I strip the whole gearbox down to the last component, throw everything into the
parts washer, turn on the air agitator and go pull the new parts, write the part numbers on the
customer bill and on the reorder list, then come back to the clean parts. I rinse the parts, polish
the shifter shaft, wire wheel the gasket surfaces, and lay it all on the long table for individual
component inspection. That is the most time-consuming part, because each part gets inspected,
compared and evaluated for either the "SAVE" or "REPLACE" pile.

I replace all the seals and bearings, so I don't waste any time inspecting those. I clean and sort
the shims, and put them into my shim assortment based on size. A this point, all inspection
decisions are made, all replacement parts are accumulated and laid out in assembly order,
and I'm ready for clean final assembly.

Reassembly takes a very short time, usually less than10 minutes. I first install all the new seals,
then stick the gearbox housing in the oven at 275F for 25 minutes. That gives me enough time
to replace all the bearings on the shafts, assemble the output shaft and install the little end input
seal in the 81-on models. By that time the housing is fully heated, I pull it from the oven, immediately
install in this order: Input roller bearing outer race with cage, oil baffles in the cluster and output
shaft recesses, the 3-4 shift fork on the stub shaft. Then I engage the cluster gear onto the shift
fork, swing it out of the way and lower the output shaft into place. Swing the cluster shaft into
engagement with the output shaft and drop both into the bearing bores. Then I engage the two
shift forks onto the output shaft, lubricate & slip the shift shaft into the forks & the housing bore.

The shift camplate assembly goes in next. I use my gloved hand to reach down and lift each shift
fork into engagement to the selector plates. While the case is still piping hot, the selector assembly
retaining bolts are installed from the outside of the case and torqued.

Now it sits to cool down to room temperature. While the parts are cooling off, I complete the repair
order paperwork, call or email the client, get a coffee then pull out the measuring tool set for
shimming. I sit down to the now-cool gearbox and take all of the shaft and bearing bore measurements,
which I record on a small pad of graph paper. (I could use a custom-made form for shimming
calculations, but I've been using these little pads for 40 years, and the collection of many hundreds
of calculation sheets is kind of satisfying.) This is another "look and think" time. I expect the clearances
to measure within a very narrow range. If they do not, I know that there is an anomaly of some kind,
possibly a stuck shaft, and assembly error or a flawed replacement part.

Once I am satisfied that all of my measurements are correct, I select the correct shims to get my favorite
clearance, and I stick the shims into the cover bores with a dollop of grease. I clean the output shaft
taper with some tri-chlor solvent, visually inspect the inside of the gearbox and say good-bye to all
those gears, confident that I will never see them again. I set the cover in place on the top of the shafts,
and heat using two MAPP-gas torches onto the cover (and until the cover) falls into place, assisted with
a couple light taps to align everything. Before the cover cools, I install and tighten the nine cover bolts,
turn the gearbox over and give a couple light taps on the exposed input shaft. (That seats the bearing in
the hot cover better.)

When the cover has fully cooled off, I install the neutral switch and test it for continuity, I run the shifter
through all the gears, install the drain plug with a new gasket and the fill plug is lightly screwed on with a
large bold tag that says "ADD OIL!" along with recommendations for oil type and quantity for the
particular gearbox. I install and grease the clutch throwout bearing and piston assembly, the clutch
pushrod and actuating lever assembly. Everything gets wrapped in a clean plastic bag, swaddled in
protective bubble wrap and returned to the customer's shipping container to await completion of
payment arrangements prior to shipment, or for customer pickup."

<<I'm wondering if maybe you, Oak, and 'Snowbum think we shouldn't have gone to 'Cuda's
transmission school, but it was really fantastic.>>

"I have no idea what Oak or Snowbum think. I know that I think it is great that Joe and other guys like
him are dedicated to accumulating this knowledge, sharing it and carrying it into the future. That is
the only way the knowledge base will continue to grow and survive. It is inevitable that some mistakes
in information transmittal will occur, but that does not invalidate the process. Learning is a living,
breathing process."

<<I learned so much. I also learned that like you said, this kind of work is WAY over my pay grade. >>

"And it is those guys who learn that who will seek out the assistance of paid professionals. There are
plenty of those to go around."

Snowbum snipped some things here, as not pertinent.

Tom closed with this:
"(One thing I ask of all of you: This post is not intended as an instruction set on transmission
rebuilding. Please don't post questions (on list or privately) asking for explanations of each
specific detail. I simply do not have time for it. )"

The transmission input splines must be lubricated regularly.  Nickel-plated ones supposedly
became standard on 1984 Monolever bikes, that let you go considerably further between
cleaning & lubrication intervals.  I am not much of a believer in that.   Transmission spline
lubrication is covered elsewhere's on this website, in article #43.   Establish the proper interval
for YOUR bike, YOUR riding habits.


Revisions: (updates for bike serial numbers, transmission ID & VIN updates are not usually
                   listed here as a Revision)

07/07/2008:  all prior updates incorporated & minor editing for clarity;  including groove
                      depth; add hyperlink to Anton's site
08/29/2008:  Re-arrange order of some items, change some emphasis, explain a few things more
10/01/2008:  Relatively major revisions. Few if any specific technical parts descriptions & details
                       were changed, but wording & emphasis was changed in numerous areas, &
                       information on the more accepted type of circlip caused problems was expanded-
                       upon, primarily as the result of someone contacting me who gave input on things that
                       were not clear enough, or really required better explanations.
12/17/2008:  Add photo and description of 4-speed kickstarter idler gear shaft modification
01/17/2009:  Add reference (2) in the addendum section
08/06/2009:  Some modest updates for clarity, and some URL references  recommendations,
                       particularly for the 1974 year.
08/09/2009:  Updated information in several places, including item #14.
10/10/2009:  Go through entire article, and try to clarify as many details as I could
11/01/2009:  update URL's and recommended repair specialist list
12/27/2010:  minor update for 1995 models.
01/28/2011:  Clean up repetitive stuff...somewhat
02/03/2011:  Add 16
06/13/2011:  Add more links
08/01/2011:  Add section on preloading & smooth shifting and theory behind it; fix Cycleworks
08/04/2011:  Re-arrange article a bit, edit out some superfluous repetition stuff
10/05/2011:  a bit of additional commentary about the shift pawl springs
12/24/2011:  add two hyperlinks
04/28/2012:  Begin revising article for clarity, particularly the pawl spring & shift kit information,
                       which had been scattered in the article.
06/10/2012:  Add DIY part 2
06/17/2012:  Update information on serial numbers and years, and add comments
07/15/2012:  Change this article from 59 to 59A. Split #9 into 3 sections, add link to a new article of
                       mine which is 59B.
10/15/2012:  Add QR code, add language button (deleted in 2013 due to problems), update Google
                      Ad-Sense code
11/15.2012:  Re-arrange article. Clarifications.  Better section divisions.  Make width shorter, so
                      might display better on smaller screens.  Fix many html closing tags.
12/13/2012:  Fix poor choice of wording for the description of the two types of throwout bearings,
                      when installed, etc.  Original wording could be misinterpreted.
01/03/2013:  Add photos of 6404C3 special bearing, late type, and the 5 speed gears/shafts
03/30/2013:  Add a bit more information to Transmission Problems, Checks, and Testing.
05/04/2013:  Add transmission rattling noises section, near top of this article.
sometime in 2013:  remove language button.
06/21/2013:  Add hyperlink #3, minor other changes.
07/26/2013:  Add more on substitutions.
11/18/2013:  Minor changes for clarity & transmission reporting, including wording & an internal
                       hyperlink for ease in readers jumping to another area in this article.
04/07/2014:  Major changes, but strictly for clarity and eliminating some redundancies. 
09/27/2014:  clean up, including changes for better utilization on smaller screens.

11/06/2014:  Minor changes, plus add considerably to 9B
08/05/2015:  Clear up typos and missing words in section 9A
08/25/2015:  Fix unclear statement early in the article about circlip not being 100% fix all the time.
10/03/2015:  A few minor changes for clarity; plus, updated serial/groove/circlip information.
10/11/2015:  Clean up article some.  Fix things for more clarity.  fix a few bugs
12/01/2015:  Fix meta-coding, re-arrange article considerably; cleaning things up as I did so.
                      Article is still messy, needs more cleanup & combining, re-arranging.

12/23/2015:  Finish meta-code updating & narrowing.  Finally got to consolidating sections,
                      greatly reducing scattered information, etc. MASSSIVE UPDATE
01/10/2016:  Conclusions about circlips versus years, etc.

Copyright, 2014, R. Fleischer

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