PO Box 98393
Atlanta, GA 30359-8393

Home - Catalog - How-To's - XJBikes.com Forum



The rebuild process for most clutches is pretty straightforward; although this thread is specific for the XJ550 models, the same basic steps and parts also apply to all the XJ550 - XJ1100 models:


Please note that while the above guide is specific for the XJ550 clutches, all XJ-series bikes use the same basic procedures as above, with a few minor differences in drive plate style and design.

And here’s a good introductory video on doing a basic clutch rebuild:

Here are a couple of additional do’s-and-don’ts that we would recommend:
- always check the metal drive plates for flatness using a feeler gauge and flat piece of glass, etc.
- align the throw-out gear teeth towards the SW corner.
- always use new pressure plate spring bolts!
- perform the final torque on the spring bolts in criss-cross ("star") pattern.
- use a proper cover gasket rather than sealant!

And here’s any even better one, which overcomes all of the issues noted above:


XJ550 clutches use a unique style of drive plate that are "tabbed" and not symmetrical, and thus must be installed in a particular order and method that is not illustrated or explained well (or at all, or even incorrectly) in many manuals and diagrams. The following revised diagram is what you should follow; incorrect assembly of the clutch drive plates could cause serious safety and reliability issues:


XJ550 can also suffer from a strange noise, which is not uncommon and is typically (but not always) harmless:


although some of it can be reduced with a simple fix:


And a couple of bonus tips:


- here is the proper way to adjust the pivot shaft lever arm (what the clutch cable attaches to at the clutch cover):










see text just below the last picture on page 1.


Inside your shifter case side cover are a variety of levers and linkages that translate the motion of the your shifter foot pedal into movements that operate the SHIFTER DRUM, which interns operates the SHIFTER FORKS which then engage or disengage the various TRANSMISSION DRIVE GEARS. Worn or damaged RETURN SPRINGS can prevent the shifter from operating properly, and are the first thing to check if your bike will not go into gear, is "stuck" in a particular gear, or if you cannot "find neutral".

Of course, there may other issues which could cause the same problems, particularly the dreaded "disintegrating primary chain guide" issue, but it's always best to determine whether a simple problem exists first..........

Here is a new primary chain guide (XJ650 - XJ900 engines) installed:


Pictures of the inside of the shifter assembly can be seen at:



Here’s a great view of the neutral switch on XJ650 - XJ900 models that is typically hidden from view (and difficult to access while the exhaust system is in place):


A good write-up on the typical problems and issues involved with these parts can be accessed at:





However, please note that the exploded diagram attachment on the 19227 page is "typical" for most XJ-series bikes, the actual mechanisms will differ slightly between different models (the diagram shown in the 3rd post is correct for the XJ650 - XJ900 models; most other models use a variation on the same theme).

NOTE: if this describes your situation:

Couldn't get her out of (whichever gear you were in when the problem occurred).

This situation can be caused either by a broken TENSION SPRING (the small linear-acting spring) or by the TORSION SPRING (the one with one straight arm and one "hooked" arm). Both of these springs are designed to keep the pawl arm properly engaged with the shifter drum "star wheel" segment. Note there is also a long SCREW which retains this star wheel to the shifter drum; if that screw is loose, it will allow the star wheel to rock back and forth or not even engage with the drum, also resulting in the same type of issue.

On early XJ650 engines and XJ750 Seca engines, the original torsion spring used was somewhat weak, and was replaced by an upgraded spring on later model engines, which also required a slightly different spring collar (sleeve) to be fitted.

NOTE: if this describes your situation:

"Today, after a downshift, the shift pedal would not pop back up automatically."

This problem tends to be caused by a broken TORSION SPRING (the one with straight arms on both ends of the spring) which is supposed to center the selector shaft segment. The earlier 1980-81 XJ650 and XJ750 Seca models were especially susceptible to this problem, and an upgraded, thicker spring (which required a thinner spacer collar underneath) was introduced to the 1982-later models.

Of course, some of these issues may be due to something as simple as broken shifter mechanism but it also could be dues to worn gears (see the TRANSMISSION: section further below for details) or the dreaded "disintegrating primary chain guide" issue, but it's always best to determine whether a simple problem exists first..........

NOTE: if this describes your situation:

"Over the past couple months while shifting to any gear it has gone into ghost neutrals. Steadily getting worse. Now it will not stay in gear any gear unless rolling on the throttle. As soon as you roll off the throttle it falls out of gear.”

This problem tends to be caused by a broken TORSION SPRING (the torsion spring with one straight arm and one hook on the other end of the spring) which is supposed to put tension on the “stopper arm” on the forward shaft assembly.



Hopefully, you're reading this section of the catalog just out of intellectual (or morbid) curiosity, and not because you have a transmission problem.....which in fact, is pretty rare with these XJ series engines (except, perhaps, on the XJ1100 models). The trannies are pretty bulletproof, and many "shifting" problems or issues are really caused by worn or improperly adjusted clutch system components, shifter mechanism issues, or shifter drum (the infamous disintegrating primary chain guide problem).

However.........that's not to say that they are infallible, especially on very high-mileage or improperly operated or maintained bikes. Indeed, bikes that jump out of gear, or that won't stay in gear or even go into gear, may be suffering from worn gear "dogs" or "slots" which, taken together, are what act to synchronize and "lock" two gears together while in operation, and thus can cause all sorts of problems when worn.......due to rapid shifting, forceful shifting, or extreme high-torque shifting events.

If you've determined that your transmission problems are caused by gear or fork issues, and feel up to the task, then we can still provide you with some of these GEARS, SHIFT FORKS, and HARDWARE that you'll need. Be aware that while you can replace some of these items with the engine still in the bike, it's a tricky proposition, at best. You really should resign yourself to the fact that the engine needs to come out, the crankcase halves need to be split, and as long as you're doing that level of surgery, you might as well do a partial or full engine rebuild at the same time.............

To add a little more confusion to the whole mix, when you have these types of problems, although they typically manifest themselves on 1st gear (won't go into it) or 2nd gear (won't go in, stay in, or jumps out of), it's not always a problem with the actual "1st Gear" or "2nd Gear" set. Because of the way that these transmissions operate, it may be that the problem is actually caused by the 4th GEAR itself, since the "slots" are on the 1st Wheel Gear and the "dogs" are on the 4th Pinion Gear.......and the interaction of those two gears is what actually puts the transmission in "1st gear".

Confused yet? We certainly hope so, it means you're paying attention! For further information, we suggest you read this extremely well-written article.....although written by and for XS1100 owners, the exact same principles and circumstance apply to all of the XJ-series transmissions:


Further comprehension can be achieved by reviewing this pictorial guide about how XJ transmissions operate:



XJ550, FJ600, and XJ600 models used the tried-and-true reliable chain drive system for such power transmission, while all XJ650-up models used a newly developed, smoother and more maintenance-free shaft drive system.....well, except for this one:


While certainly reliable and keeping with the traditional of Yamaha quality, drive chains by their nature will both wear, stretch, and need periodic cleaning, lubrication, maintenance, and eventual replacement of the drive chain and both drive sprockets:


Our line of original and top-quality aftermarket items will keep your chain-gang of components in-line, doin' time, and humming right along for years to come.

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect original drive chains and sprockets to last about 10-15,000 miles, a little more or less depending on your driving style (heavy on the throttle, or trying to pull wheelies dramatically lessens the chain life) and riding conditions (wet weather or dirty/dusty conditions will also reduce chain life) and the maintenance schedule observed (no cleaning and re-oiling of the chain or periodic tension and alignment adjustments means also you'll be replacing parts fairly quickly!).

Chain technology has changed and evolved greatly since the 1980's, and chains can now be had in three basic types----and each in a mind-numbing different grades or versions----any of which can add to the durability and service life of the chain, while also being available at different price points. We've tried to take the mystery and "salesmanship" out of drive chains for you, and have pared down our selection to what we believe is the best price-to-performance ratio on the market today.

Your original chain is what is now known as a STANDARD CHAIN, and it has no additional rings or seals to help extend the life of the pins and rollers. A good basic chain such these will last about as long as an original chain, somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 miles.

The first step upwards in "performance" chain is an O-RING CHAIN, which uses rubber o-rings to seal off the pins from the chain side plates. Since it's the PINS that stretch and wear (and not the rollers, as is commonly assumed), anything that can be done to prevent wear to the pins is a Good Thing.......and an o-ring which seals off the pin from where it enters the roller, thus keeping dirt and grit out while helping to retain lubrication in.......greatly improves the life of the chain. O-Ring style chains can generally be expected to last about 30% longer than a standard type chain, but..........with the introduction a few years ago of the X-ring style chains, there is no longer any meaningful price-to-performance difference between O-ring and X-ring style chains. Bottom line: the very small difference in price between an o-ring chain and an x-ring chain isn't worth the cost savings, in terms of the much greater strength and longevity of the x-ring style chains. Thus we do not offer any o-ring style chains!

The top-of-the-line style chain is an X-RING CHAIN, which is really an enhanced version of the o-ring type chain. X-rings are merely o-rings that feature two or more additional sealing "faces" molded into the rubber surface of the ring, thus giving more contact and thus more lubrication sealing points for the rubber ring----which means, in the case of drive chains, more dirt and grit being sealed OUT, and more lubrication "pooling" points to hold the lube IN. X-Ring style chains cost a bit more, but you can normally expect an additional 25-40% chain life over an o-ring style chain.

And once again----the life expectancy of any type of chain will be dramatically reduced by failing to lubricate often enough (once every two weeks is recommended for regularly driven bikes) or in a proper manner (clean first, then lubricate the from both sides at the bottom of the rear sprocket) or with a proper high-quality lubricant (such as the PJ1 chain lubes that we offer).

And of course, it should go without saying, but here goes anyway!: the quickest way to wear out a chain is to use it with worn or mis-aligned sprockets. You should ALWAYS replace your sprockets (both of them, front and rear) when you replace the chain. And you should follow the proper alignment, tightening, and adjustment procedures and schedules in your service manual in order to realize the maximum chain life.

Now, all of the above has to do with the LIFE EXPECTANCY OF THE CHAIN.....and nothing to do with the STRENGTH of the chain. Regardless of which style chain construction is used, chain strength is always expressed as the "tensile rating" of a chain. which is really a measure of how much shear strength the pins have. It's a measure of how much weight a chain can hold before it shears, and it's expressed as pounds of dead weight. For an XJ550 or FJ600 engine, anything above 7,000 pounds of tensile strength is more than adequate for even a high-performance, enthusiastically driven street bike.

All of the chains that we offer are pre-stressed for maximum performance, and pre-stretched for the longest life and ease of maintenance.

Finally, to replace your drive chain you will need to obtain a chain breaker and riveter tool; not cheap but a necessary evil. And although many chains are offered with either a rivet or clip type of master link, we've always found that the rivet style performs better and more reliably than a clip style, so that is what we offer whenever there is a choice of style available.

So, there you have it. We're going to start at the beginning (at the front output shaft drive sprocket) and work our way back. Enjoy the ride!

Chain wear specifications are as follows: check the amount of FREE PLAY in your chain by placing the transmission in neutral, and the bike on the centerstand. Push up on the bottom run of chain, midway in-between the front and rear sprockets. The allowable amount of free-play is 35-40mm, and if more or less is observed, the chain need adjustment (via the puller mechanism) or replacement if no further adjustment is possible. NOTE: user experience shows that setting the free-play to 40mm~45mm (instead of the factory-recommended 35-40mm slack) will allow the chain to hold its adjustment longer, with no negative effects on chain or sprocket wear.

With the bike still up on the centerstand, check for excessive chain wear by pulling the chain AWAY from the rear sprocket, at the 3-o'clock position of the sprocket. If more than 1/2 of a sprocket tooth can be uncovered, then the chain needs to be adjusted (via the puller mechanism), or replaced if adjustment limits have been reached.

A good visual representation of this procedure can be seen at:


Failure to properly adjust the chain results in "fish-hooked" sprockets, adding additional expense and efforts to your maintenance:


Please refer to a factory service or aftermarket workshop manual for further inspection, lubrication, and chain drive system maintenance procedures and techniques.

- The World's Fastest XJ, a/k/a Gear Ratio Analysis:

The original rear wheel sprocket is either a 45-tooth, alloy-steel gear (all XJ550 and all FJ600 models except the 1981 XJ550 Seca), a 46-tooth gear (1981 XJ550 Seca only), or a 48-tooth gear (all XJ600 Seca II models). Aftermarket gears are available in a variety of different tooth-count versions, and are made from a higher quality grade of steel, case hardened, hard-chromed and hand-finished for a more durable and uniform fit and function.

A rear gear with a higher tooth count than stock will give will give quicker acceleration (but may limit top speed), while a rear gear with a lower tooth count than stock results in lower engine rpm's for any given speed, and may allow a higher top speed (if the engine is powerful enough to actually achieve it at max rpm's), but will reduce acceleration.

For a quick performance comparison, here is a chart of the various combinations of drive ratios available using any combination of either a 15-, 16-, or 17-tooth front sprocket along with either a 44-, 45-, or 46-tooth rear sprocket on XJ550 and FJ600 models:

15 front and 46 rear = 3.0667-to-1 ratio (fastest acceleration)
15 front and 45 rear = 3.0000-to-1 ratio
15 front and 44 rear = 2.9333-to-1 ratio
16 front and 46 rear = 2.8750-to-1 ratio (stock 1981 XJ550 Seca)
16 front and 45 rear = 2.8125-to-1 ratio (stock 1982-3 XJ550 Seca and all XJ550 Maxims)
16 front and 44 rear = 2.7500-to-1 ratio
17 front and 46 rear = 2.7059-to-1 ratio
17 front and 45 rear = 2.6471-to-1 ratio
17 front and 44 rear = 2.5822-to-1 ratio (highest top speed)

Note that the 16/46 (2.8750 ratio) combination was stock for the 1981 XJ550 Seca only, while all other XJ550 models used the slightly "slower" 16/45 (2.8125 ratio) combination for a more overall "balanced" performance (but please note that direct comparisons of gear ratios are not the entire "story", as transmission gear ratios and wheel/tire sizes also affect the final performance, but the above figures are provided just for basic comparison purposes).

Also, XJ550 Seca owners can reduce their RPM's by about 300 rpm's (at highway speed) if you use a 4.00 x 18 rear tire (Dunlop and Avon still offer this size) instead of the stock 110/90 - 18 tire.


A good write-up on the driveshaft removal process and what’s involved in servicing a leaking final drive unit can be reviewed at:


Also a good video on servicing the u-joint/driveshaft/final drive system. Although this video features an XS1100 final drive, it is very similar to the type used on all of the XJ650 thru XJ1100 models:

Return to Top of Page