Gadget & Contributions From Others Who've been here, done this
This page is specifically for those who've recently purchased or are about to purchase their first Vulcan whether it's a Classic, Nomad, MeanStreak or Drifter. There may even be some useful info for those lusting over the big bad VN2000.
You're going to find a lot of links on this page. Some will be to other spots on the Gadget Website, some will be to other sites. Some you might want to check out right away, others you can just file away for future reference.
This page is not supposed to be a complete guide to the care and feeding of your new Vulcan, that and more can be found on other pages on this site. This page is just designed to try and get you started on a positive relationship with your machine, your dealer and Kawasaki Motors Corp.
And now a request. If you are new to the Kawasaki Vulcan and you have a question not covered on this page and you can't find a reference using the "Search" box at the top of the page, would you please drop me an e-mail? If you have a question chances are others do too, or will in the future so together we'll keep this page growing.
What To Expect
When All Else Fails
1. Pre Delivery Check:
Yes, you're excited. You're about to take delivery of your brand new Vulcan and there's the sales person trying to shove you off the lot. What's the hurry? Spending five more minutes doing a walk around could save you a lot of grief in the future.
Start from the front of the bike and work your way over every square inch. Look very carefully for any problems with paint or scratches in chrome. It doesn't happen often but sometimes when the bike is being pulled out of the crate and assembled...well, things happen. Scratches will 'not' come out of chrome and you will 'always' see that itty bitty flaw in the paint in the future so this is the time to have it noted by the salesperson. You don't have to have it fixed there and then but it needs to be in the paperwork (you'll get something called a "due bill" so you can bring the bike back for replacement parts or a good detailing later and at no cost to you. Once you've taken delivery there is no way you can prove the scratch or paint flaw existed before you drove off the lot.
Ask the salesperson for the assembly/pre-delivery checklist. They have it someplace. It's paperwork supplied by the factory with the bike. The person who assembles the bike checks off each item as its done which includes checking all fluid levels. Some dealerships even put the bike through a test cycle (a couple of miles around the block) just to be sure all is well and there are no unusual noises. Keep that sheet with your other paperwork just in case something was overlooked...like maybe torquing the bolts for your brake calipers properly or tightening the risers (wiggle the steering, push back and forth on the bars. If there is any give in the bars have the riser bolts re-checked.
While you're still in the store, have the salesperson show you where the tool kit is. If they don't know (and often they don't) we'll cover it a little later. You're going to need one part of that kit eventually though so it's best to know where it is. Ask where the oil sight glass is too. You should check that before starting the engine just in case someone missed a step on the checklist (it's happened).
You've heard Mom Knows all? Well MOM stands for "My Owners Manual" and it will answer a great many of your questions right off the bat. In some cases we'll just try to hone off the rough edges of those explanations on this page. Example. Can you make heads or tails of the manuals explanation for adding air to your shock absorbers? Nobody else can either. Read the manual anyway.
If your bike was pre-owned and no manual came with it you may be able to get one from your Kawasaki dealer or Ebay.
Now you've taken delivery and (if the bike is new) you see a sticker on the speedometer. It's telling you not to exceed certain speeds in each gear for the first few hundred miles. There are a couple of schools of thought about this. It'll be up to you to choose.
School #1: Kawasaki designed and built this motorcycle, they should certainly know what's best for it and what break in procedure will keep the bike running for tens of thousands of miles without a problem. Believe them and stick to the speeds on the sticker (and in MOM) which are maximum 10 mph in 1st, 20 mph in 2nd, 30 mph in 3rd, 40 mph in 4th and not over 60 mph in 5th. After the break in period (assuming you choose this method) don't ever go this slow in those gears again. Your absolute minimum shift points should be 30 mph for the 1-2 shift, 40 mph 2nd to 3rd, 50 mph 3rd to 4th and 60mph 4th to 5th. Those shift points are each at 2500 rpm which is where your engine begins producing best torque and your charging system is pumping out every amp it can muster for the battery and accessories. Fifth gear should really be reserved for high speed highway cruising. At 70 mph in 5th gear your engine is only turning a hair over 2800 rpm. Redline (when your rev limiter will kick in) is about 5900 on Nomad & Classic, 6200 for the MeanStreak.
School #2: Kawasaki's lawyers just don't want you rolling on the throttle and being surprised by all that torque on your first day out. It's just CYA time and the company wants you to get used to the bike at slower speeds for awhile. Ride it like ya stole it! You can read more about this break in procedure on this page
Which school you choose might be based on previous experience. Very few big bore Vulcan owners started with this bike.
At this point I'm going to refer you to a couple of Fixit Pages you may have already visited from the main menu. They are the Vulcan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and the Vulcan Dictionary. The FAQ's will bring you up to speed on some questions you may have now and others that may arise in the future. Remember the earlier reference to shock absorber pressure? You'll find the answers there. Pay particular attention to what you'll need to fill the air shocks and never, never ever fill them with a gas station air hose.
The dictionary will educate you to the Vulcan shorthand used by other owners and on the VROC List and Delphi Vulcan forum. BTW, both are great places to learn about your new bike. The VROC list tends to have a little more 'attitude' than the forum but can also be a lot of laughs. The forum has its own 'character' and cast of characters. This is the link to the start page. You needn't join the forum to read posts, but joining is free. There is a third page for you to check out called "did you know?" It's a listing of your Vulcan's little quirks, some more lovable than others but you need to know things like the whistling gas cap the chirping fan and that knocking noise at idle (especially when the engine is cold) are absolutely normal.
Even if you never plan to do any work on the bike yourself you'll still need a couple of things. A tire air pressure gauge and a mirror. The gauge is self explanatory but the mirror? You'll need that to check your oil level unless you're quite brave or always have a helper on hand. Visit any auto supply store and get a "mechanics mirror". They're usually about three inches square and mounted on the end of a telescoping rod of some sort. First locate the oil sight glass. It's on the right side of the engine, down fairly low toward the rear. Now sit on the bike, bring it up level and using the mirror find the sight glass and check your oil level. You should always be able to see oil in the glass (with the bike level) but oil shouldn't completely fill the glass. An optional way of checking oil level is to get down on hands and knees on the right side of the bike and (gently) pull the bike toward you. With a bit of practice you can balance the bike straight up and look at the sight glass at the same time (or so I'm told).
Did the salesperson or previous owner show you where the tool kit is? If yes then bear with me just a moment.
If you haven't found it yet, open the bikes left side cover with the key. If you have a "California" bike you'll see a black canister with several hoses running to it. That's the charcoal canister designed to prevent gasoline fumes from being released to the atmosphere. It's taking up space but not robbing you of any power. Don't worry about it. 49 state bikes don't have a canister but will have the holding strap which tends to make new owners think they're missing a part.
For '01 and later Vulcans the bottom of the space (under the 'shelf') looks like it's part of the bodywork but look on the left side. You'll find a couple of protrusions that you can squeeze together. They make a latch. Squeeze them and pull the plastic around them toward you. The hidden compartment will swivel away from the bike on the left side and inside that compartment is....'voila!' the tool kit. On '00 and earlier Classics and Nomads the tool kit is physically in the inside battery compartment space under the seat. To access it you take the left side cover off and behind that you will see a plastic knob. Pull on the knob, that you might think is a fuse box area but is actually a tool pouch cavity. A 3” X 3” door hinges down. It is situated from side to side across the bike beyond the side cover area and the battery is side to side unlike the newer FIs which have it front to back.
You'll notice the quality isn't exactly Snap-on but you'll probably never need any of the items except the spark plug wrench anyway. Be sure to keep that spark plug wrench. It is (this side of a Craftsman thin wall 18 mm spark plug socket) the only tool that will fit down inside the cylinders to remove and replace spark plugs. Trying to use a standard issue spark plug socket is fruitless. They're too thick to fit between the plug and the wall of the 'tunnel'.
If you'll be doing a lot of your own work you will need some specific tools for removing and replacing Allen head bolts and regular bolts but you will 'not' need any "specialty" tools. Specifically you will need:
- 4, 5 and 8 mm Allen wrenches (just get a good metric set from Sears)
- 8, 10, 12, 17 and 27 mm x 1/2" sockets (the last only for clutch spring replacement which you won't be worrying about for a long long time hopefully). If possible get both standard and deep sockets, especially the 17 mm for checking your riser bolts
- 1/2" drive ratchet wrench (a 1/4" ratchet and assorted sockets can also be handy)
- Various length extensions for the ratchet
- 17 mm open end or box wrench (for oil changes)
- Oil filter wrench (the plastic cap type that fits over the end of the filter works great)
- 1/2" drive torque wrench (or two or three... check Torque Specifications For the Vulcan 1500 Series for the values you'll need)
- Rubber mallet (just in case you need to pound the garage floor with something...there, feel better?)
- Assorted wire colors in 18, 20, 22 gauge
- Soldering iron & solder
- Shrink tubing (assorted sizes)
- Disposable type fireplace lighter or heat gun (for heating the shrink tubing)
- Small & medium size wire cutters
- Strongly suggested, a wire stripping tool that fits over the wire and pulls the insulation back without actually cutting the wire.
- A multimeter, or at least a 12VDC test light.
- Magnet on a stick (because you will drop things into inaccessible places)
- Hair Dryer (for removing stickers)
- Popsicle sticks (because they're perfect for poking wires through holes and into squeezy places without scratching anything)
- Baby powder (to let wire slide through really tight places you just blow some powder into tubing or whatever. It's a great lubricant)
- Bag of clean rags (not paper towels which will scratch plastic, chrome & paint)
- Zero loss air pump. This was covered in the FAQ's but is absolutely critical for properly filling your air shocks and checking pressure.
- Soapless hand cleaner (preferably with pumice)
- Silicone Spray (not WD-40 which is really not a good lubricant)
- Spray polish (like Plexus or HondaClean)
- Wax (whatever your favorite but Maguiars makes some awesome cleaners and polishes)
Many dealers offer discounts to those who've purchased bikes from them. Sometimes the amount is negotiable so at least ask. If you haven't negotiated your deal yet you might want to choose some accessories and see if you can have them tossed in as part of the package or request that any accessories you purchase from the dealership be installed by the shop gratis. As part of your effort to stay friends with your dealer you might also want to consider giving them first shot at your business when you need accessories. At least until you've determine their price will always be higher (or lower) than the competition.
Accessorizing your bike is a large part of the fun of owning a motorcycle and is often referred to as having a case of the CLAP. Chrome, Leather, Accessories, Power.
Popular chrome adds to the Vulcan line are:
- Risers (which help pull the bars back toward you if needed)
- Highway Pegs (give you a place to stretch out on those long hauls)
- Grips (ok 'sometimes' they're chrome but it's a simple and popular mod)
- Backrests (for driver and passenger)
- Engine Protection Bar (for Classic)
Popular Leather adds:
- Saddlebags (for Classic)
Other Popular Accessories:
- Lighting, lighting and more lighting. Spotlights, engine lights, different turn signal lenses, you name it
- Windshield.. for Classic there are all kinds of sizes and styles, pick one based on your past experience)
- Lowers.. plastic 'wings' that mount on the forks and reduce or eliminate buffeting) caused by air coming around and under a windshield
- Air Kits..getting rid of the stock air cleaner and intake boosts power significantly
- Aftermarket Computer.. necessary for fuel injected bikes when an intake mod is made
- Pipes..some like em loud and proud, some just a little more rumble than stock. there are many options here)
You can spend many thousands of dollars on accessories for your bike making it...well, yours!
Probably the number one post on the Vulcan Forum and List involves noise. This is especially true of riders who've come to the Vulcan from a multi cylinder sport bike or those who've never ridden a V-Twin. These things are just plain noisy. They clunk they clatter and they belch and it's all in the name of 'character.' Among the sounds that really are considered "normal":
With FI bikes a clattering sound that seems to be coming from somewhere on the right side of the engine but you just can't pin it down. That would be the air injection valves. Two solenoids that are under the right side 'air box' (often erroneously called an air cleaner cover) . When the engine is cold, these valves turn on and off in an effort to keep the idle high enough to prevent stalling. If you decide to modify the intake on your FI bike you'll probably remove these noisy little critters.
Knock, knock, knock especially when the bike is cold or the idle is below the recommended 950 ( + or - 50) idle speed. You'll notice the knocking noise goes away if you pull in the clutch.
Valve Clatter even though your Vulcan 1500/1600 engine has hydraulic valve lifters (never need a valve adjustment) there is some valve noise, mostly because you're sitting right on top of the cams and lifters. Go out and sit on your cars engine and you'll hear the same kind of noise. It's normal
The Herkey Jerk This one catches people who've never had a wet clutch by surprise all the time. New owners will swear their bikes are defective. They aren't, you may just have to modify your engine starting habits a little. The 'jerk' happens because the clutch plates tend to stick together after the bike has been sitting awhile. Pulling in the clutch and thumbing the starter button (with the bike in gear) could cause you to travel quite a distance before you either let off the starter or put on the brake or the clutch plates come unstuck. Just get in the habit of always putting the bike in neutral when starting. You should also pull in the clutch just to make things a little easier on the starter motor even though it 'will' start in neutral. An aside, if you thumb the starter and nothing happens there are several things to check in this order: 1. The bike is in gear and you didn't pull in the clutch (the safety switch will prevent the starter from working) 2. The emergency shutoff is in the 'off' position 3. The wire to the clutch safety switch has fallen off the switch. This happens almost every time you fiddle with the handlebars or anything on them. Someday before this happens (and it 'will' happen) take a look at the wire going to the switch under the clutch reservoir. See how it plugs in? Pull on it. See how easily it comes off? Now you know.
The Fan Noise If you've never ridden a water cooled bike the fan is going to scare the crap out of you the first time it comes on in traffic. It'll take some seconds before you realize what the sound is. As you put on the miles the fan will come on less and less but should 'always' come on if you are doing lots of stop and go or if you're sitting at a traffic light on a warm day and the engine is completely warmed up.
The Tires If you've just taken delivery of a new bike you won't notice this for awhile but if the bike has some miles on the original equipment Bridgestones you're going to notice a roaring sound in turns. It sounds exactly like your wheel bearings are shot. It's just the tires. It's normal.
Now things will get interesting because you're actually going to start 'doing' things to your bike. Big stuff like changing pipes, tires, intake systems you'll find elsewhere. All we're trying to do here is get you started right?
We'll start with removal of all those stupid stickers.
You'll need some heat. A hair dryer is perfect. Not so hot it'll damage the paint but warm enough to melt the adhesive. Apply your heat evenly across the sticker and within minutes you'll be able to peel the sticker right off. If there is any residual glue you can spray on a little WD-40 or use a product like "Goo-Gone" available at any hardware store. Just wipe with those chemicals, do not rub or you could damage your paint. If you have a Nomad you'll find the warning stickers on the top of the bags are two layers. Peel the clear layer off first then the second layer. Oh yeh, Nomad owners, take a close look at the stripes on your bags. See the writing? Translated that means "I am a clear protective coating put here so the factory installer can tell the left bag from the right". Peel the clear covering off all three strips on each bag and then be watching for other new Nomad owners who've been riding around for six months grumbling about the Japanese writing on their bags.
If you would like to remove the tank badging you'll have to do just a little more work. Don't let the hair dryer get out of the garage yet. Check this Fixit page for the procedure.
If you bought a Nomad you should put that 5 mm Allen wrench to work adjusting the windshield. Ideally you want to be able to look 'over' the windshield by at least an inch just in case you get rained on some day. Curiously, with the Nomad, riders often find there is far less buffeting with the windshield set even lower. You'll have to experiment with this a little so carry the wrench with you. Try setting the windshield at its lowest level then raise it a half inch at a time until either you can't see over it or the buffeting has increased. There's going to be a sweet spot someplace. You just have to find it for your combination of height, helmet (yes, different helmets can make a huge difference in the amount of buffeting) and other variables.
Airing Up Shocks
You probably skimmed over this when you checked the FAQ section. The air shocks on your bike come at atmospheric pressure (0 on a gauge). If you weigh 150 pounds or less that will probably work fine. If not go back to Vulcan Frequently Asked Questions and see how to do it.
This bears repeating: Do NOT use a gas station air pump to put air into your air shocks!
The 600 Mile Checkup
Does the dealer need to do this to maintain your warranty? The answer is absolutely not. Check MOM and note the list of items to be checked and changed for the first maintenace. Basically it's a torque check of every nut bolt and screw on the motorcycle and an oil change for the engine and rear gearcase. If you feel comfortable doing these things yourself and if there are no pending warranty issues feel free to save $100 or more.
For the first oil change at least (and at least every other oil change thereafter) use the oil screen drain. Here's a link to the picture and 'how to'. You'll actually get a bit more oil out of the crankcase using this drain than if you use the standard bottom drain bolt. Note how the oil screen, spring and other parts come out of the cavity so you can put them back in exactly the same way. It's likely you'll find a bit of debris trapped in the screen (this is a pre-filter of the oil before it gets to the actual oil filter). Don't worry about it. Bits of gasket material are common, you should 'not' (and will not) find large chunks of metal.
At some point you might have warranty issues. Maybe a little coolant leak (almost always caused by a loose hose clamp so check those before racing off to the shop) or some other issue. You'd do well to establish a relationship with the shop manager. Introduce yourself when you take delivery of the bike and stop by to say "hi" when you're in the store for other things. You might even want to chat briefly with the shops head Kawasaki mechanic. Just a handshake and "good-ta-meet-ya" could result in just a tiny bit of extra effort on your part if work is ever required.
If you do end up having 'issues' with the shop, try to deal with the shop manager first then go to the store manager and if necessary the store owner. If you're still not satisfied gather up some documentation that will support your case, practice your "mister nice guy" act or your penmanship and use these resources.
Kawasaki Customer Relations
Customer Relations Phone Numbers