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Maintenance 101 – BMW F650

By Ron Schmidt

Maintenance 101 – BMW F650

This seminar covers the following:
1- A brief history of the F650.
2- Engine oil and filter change.
3- Inspecting, lubing and adjusting the chain and sprockets.

Note that this seminar only covers two of the basic maintenance requirements of the F650. We have included the BMW suggested maintenance checklists for each of the F650 models. Please adhere to BMW’s suggested maintenance schedule to keep your F650 safe and running at it’s best for the life of the vehicle!

1- History

In the mid 1990’s BMW decided to bring an entry level motorcycle into their line up to replace the aging R65 series twins. Although introduced to the European markets a couple years earlier, the F650 (commonly referred to as a “Funduro” even though BMWNA never recognized that name) and F650ST were brought into the USA market as 1997 year models. They were simple, rugged, albeit somewhat unsophisticated motorcycles that probably gained such a great and loyal following because they were simple, rugged, and somewhat unsophisticated motorcycles. In a line up of expensive and complex BMW’s, they stood out as an un-intimidating alternative that still carried the customer perceived quality associated with the blue and white BMW roundel. They were a great sales success that surprised even BMW.

BMW decided to outsource the building of the bike, rather than to develop a completely new model. They were carbureted rather than fuel injected. They were chain driven (articulated drive shafts?) rather than the long standing BMW traditional drive shafts. The engine/transmission units were produced by Rotax in Austria, were shipped to Italy and the motorcycles were assembled there by Aprilia primarily using parts not directly produced by BMW. With these technology and assembly “compromises” BMW was able to release the bikes with a more attractive selling price than would have been possible with a new model designed and produced in-house. An interesting side note is that the warranty claims per bike ratio for the “non-BMW” BMW was the lowest of any model in the line at that time. This could lead one to surmise that during the warranty period of 3 years and 36,000 miles they were the most trouble free BMW money could buy!

Starting in model year 2000, BMW upgraded the F650 with many changes including fuel injection and available ABS brakes. This increased their sophistication to be more like the bigger bikes. The new engines were BMW designed but still built by Rotax. BMW took over the assembly of the motorcycles in house. The F650 was updated to the F650GS, there were other models released on that platform over the next few years including the more dirt oriented F650GS Dakar and a completely new street fighter called the F650CS, which had a belt final drive and other than the engine/transmission unit shared few parts with the GS models.

With exception of the valve adjustment, the maintenance on all the F650 models is easy and straight forward. Anyone with fundamental mechanical skills and basic tools can do a good job of maintaining them.

A note on Valve adjustments: The valve adjustment, which is not covered in this “101” course, is another matter, requiring the cams to be removed to change the valve shims, should an adjustment be required. The suggested valve adjustment interval is 6000 miles. We do find that the valves do seem to need adjustment on occasion, perhaps one in four of the F650’s that comes in for maintenance actually need the adjustment. The valve adjustment check is not difficult and probably can be done by most owners. If the valves do need to be adjusted, we strongly suggest that you have them done by a professional, preferably us.

2- Engine oil and filter change

The F650s all have a wet clutch, and as the engine oil is also used to lubricate the transmission and clutch, BMW does not authorize the use of synthetic oil. They are concerned that the clutch may slip if synthetic oils are used. Our experience does not show this to be a concern, having run many F650s on synthetic for thousands of miles with no clutch problems. I would never suggest that anyone use synthetic oil in their F650, but I would use it in my own bike without hesitation.

Non-synthetic oil should be changed every 3000 miles or once a year. If you are not riding the bike over 3000 miles a year, you should have to give it to someone who will appreciate it and buy a Harley for your own use. The recommended oil for our year round use here in Utah is BMW 10w50. If you are going to use the synthetic (not officially recommended by Bavarian Motorcycle Workshop) use the BMW 15W50.

Oil should be drained when hot. The warm oil flows faster than cold oil, so it does a better job of flushing the particulates that will be in the bottom of the drain areas, and the warm oil will have more of the particulates suspended in it. Be careful not to burn yourself, though. The oil will be very hot to the touch if the bike is fully warmed up, hot enough to cause skin damage. The old oil is said to be carcinogenic, so wear rubber gloves to avoid some of the health risks.

The F650 engine is a “dry sump” design, meaning the oil is carried in a tank and supplied by pressure to important parts of the engine and then returned to the tank. As a result, the oil change requires draining from the tank and the sump. The filter should be changed every 6000 miles, so if you are doing a 3000 mile oil change it only needs to be done every other oil change.


Warm the bike by riding it at least 10 miles.
Put the bike on a stable and level surface on the centerstand or shop stand.
Remove skid plate if applicable to your bike.

Drain the sump, all models
Put a drain pan that holds at least one gallon under the bike.
Remove the oil filler cap.
Put a rag over the oil filler hole so you don’t drop anything in there.
Remove the sump drain plug. It is the large hex plug on the underside of the engine that does not have an oil line attached to it. HOT oil will drain out.
Allow oil to drain for at least five minutes or until it does not drip anymore.
Replace the crush gasket on the drain plug.
Reinstall the drain plug, torque to: 40 NM (29.5 foot pounds)
NOTE!!! Be VERY careful to not cross thread or over torque this plug, particularly on the F650 and F650ST models. We see several bikes each year that come in because the owner has ruined the threads in the engine case. The repair is VERY expensive. The plug should easily screw in by fingers, and then use a proper torque wrench to tighten it up to spec.

Change the oil filter, all models
The oil filter can be accessed by removing the oil filter cover. The cover is on the right side of the engine, it is about 75 mm (3 inches) in diameter and is held on with two (F650, F650ST) or three (F650GS, Dakar, CS) 6 mm bolts. These bolts changed heads from 5 mm Allen sockets to #30 Torx sockets somewhere along the line. Your bike could have either.
Make a drain tray to put under the oil filter cover that will allow the HOT oil to drain into a pan and not all over the engine.
Remove the oil filter cover. HOT oil will drain out.
Renew the filter element and renew the o ring around the cover.
Put the cover back on, torque the bolts on it to 10 MN (7.4 foot pounds)

Drain the oil tank, F650 and F650ST models:
The oil tank for these models is the front frame tube. The drain plug for it is a 6mm bolt in the front of the frame, just behind the front fender. It has a 10mm hex head. It is screwed into a very short pipe.
Make a drain tray to put under the short pipe that will allow the HOT oil to drain into a pan that holds at least one gallon.
Remove the plug. HOT oil will drain out.
Allow oil to drain for at least five minutes or until it does not drip anymore.
Replace the crush gasket and reinsert the plug. Torque it to 10NM (7.4 foot pounds)
Wipe off the oil mess you just made.

Drain the oil tank, F650GS, F650GS Dakar
The oil tank for these models is under the left side panel of the thing that looks like it should be a gas tank. The oil tank is what the oil filler cap screwed into.
Remove the body panels for the left side panel. There are 4 bolts holding the left turn signal mount plate; remove those and unclip the wire for the turn signal, put the removed turn signal aside. Remove another bolt that is right by the oil filler cap. One more bolt is hidden by the front of the seat. Remove the seat and the hidden bolt. On 2000-2003 models, there is one more bolt that is in the radiator guard, remove it. Bolts are like socks coming out of the dryer-somehow they seem to want to go missing in action. Put them in a container with a lid, screw the lid back on so they do not run away. Remember where you put the container.
There is a drain bolt on the bottom of the tank. It is an 8mm bolt with a 6mm Allen socket head.
Make a drain tray to put under the drain bolt hole that will allow the HOT oil to drain into a pan that holds at least one gallon.
Remove the plug. HOT oil will drain out.
Allow oil to drain for at least five minutes or until it does not drip anymore.
Replace the crush gasket and reinsert the plug. Torque it to 21NM (15.5 foot pounds)
Wipe off the oil mess you just made.

Drain the oil tank, F650CS

The oil tank for the CS is the main frame assembly on both sides. The drain plug is an 8mm bolt with either an Allen or Torx socket head. It is on the left side of the bike about eight inches above the left rider’s footpeg, the only bolt on the left side frame member in that general area.
Make a drain tray to put under the drain bolt hole that will allow the HOT oil to drain into a pan that holds at least one gallon.
Remove the plug. HOT oil will drain out.
Allow oil to drain for at least five minutes or until it does not drip anymore.
Replace the crush gasket and reinsert the plug. Torque it to 21NM (15.5 foot pounds)
Wipe off the oil mess you just made.

Fill the oil tank

All F650s take more than two quarts but less than three quarts of oil. However, because you can only put oil in the tank and not in the sump, you cannot fill the oil to the correct level without running the bike.
Put about two quarts of oil in the oil tank. Be careful not to overfill the tank and make a big mess! This is particularly easy to do on the F650 and F650ST models, where the spilled oil will run down the upper frame and all over the top of the engine.
Replace the oil filler cap.
Start the bike and allow it to idle for 2 minutes.
Turn the engine off.
Fill the oil tank to about 5mm below the minimum mark on the dipstick or in the oil sight glass depending on which type of oil level check your bike has.
Go ride the bike at least 15 miles.
Turn the bike off and immediately check the oil level. Add oil to bring the level up to about ½ way between the full and add mark.

3-Inspecting, lubing and adjusting the chain and sprockets

Chain and sprocket sets are a normal wear item. Proper maintenance will extend the life of these parts dramatically. We often see the sets wear out in less than 6000 miles if they are not maintained. We also occasionally see them last more that 30,000 miles with meticulous care. We would like for you to not maintain them at all so we can sell you lots of parts. But, if you want to save some money, make the bike safer and faster, maintain the chain and sprocket sets.

We will discuss the chain and sprockets as a set, because we never replace just one item of the set. The wear on all the parts in the set will be accelerated if just one item (i.e. just the chain or just one sprocket) is replaced. Both sprockets and the chain should be replaced even if you can only see wear on one of the parts.

Inspecting the chain and sprockets

The teeth on sprockets are the first thing to show when the chain and sprocket set is wearing out. The rear sprocket is easiest to see, so generally on a quick check it is the item inspected.
The teeth of the sprocket should be completely symmetrical on both sides looking like a perfect U. As the sprocket wears, the teeth will begin to hook and the U will become longer on one side that it is on the other.

The chain can be checked for wear by doing the following: At the very rear of the rear sprocket, grab the chain and try to pull it away from the sprocket. A good chain will hardly move at all. A badly worn chain will be able to be pulled out 3 or 4 mm.

Lubing the chain and sprockets

The most important maintenance that will extend the life of your chain and sprocket set is to keep it lubed. BMW advises every 200 miles. Use a major brand chain lube that is made for o ring motorcycle chains and use it often. There are industrial chain lubes available that are not appropriate for motorcycle chains due to the chain speeds and the o ring seals that are used on the F650s. We sell the Silkolene lube here and have found it to be excellent. We do not find the chain waxes to be a good answer to the chain question. They do not fling, which is great, but we also find that the customers using the waxy chain lubes are spending more money here on replacement chains that those using the Silkolene and similar greasy lubes.

The chain should be lubed when it is hot. The hot chain allows the lube to penetrate and then the carriers in the lube evaporate, leaving an almost greasy film of lube on the parts. If you lube the chain when it is cold and then ride away, the carriers have not had time to evaporate and the chain lube will fling off more and lube less.

A chain is made up of side plates and rollers. The inside and outside of the plates should be lubed as well as the rollers. It takes at least 5 minutes to do a proper chain lube. If you just spray the lube on the part of the chain that is easy to see, you are just wasting your time because the unlubed parts will wear out just as fast as they would if there were no lube on any part of the chain. Make sure you use the little red tube that comes with the can of lube and squirt the lube directly on all parts of the side plates, between the plates, and on the rollers. Excess lube can be wiped off but be very careful not to get your fingers between the chain and sprocket if you are turning the wheel because it is quite possible to cut your fingers right off. At the least it hurts like @#$#!

Chain Adjustment

The F650s have an axel that goes through the wheel and both sides of the swing arm. The end of the axel has a 19 mm hex on it. The nut on the axel has a 24 mm hex. There are two chain adjuster mechanisms, one on each side of the swing arm, that have numbered markers on them that can be viewed through oval slots in the swing arm. The adjuster bolts are visible from the rear of the swing arm. The older F650s used a 6 mm Allen wrench to turn them, the newer models use a number 40 Torx wrench. Turning the adjuster bolts clockwise tightens the chain; counterclockwise will allow the axel to be pushed forward and loosen the chain.

The chain should have between 20mm (3/4”) and 30mm (1¼”) sag at the bottom of the chain about ½ way between the sprockets for all models except the Dakar. The Dakar needs 40mm (1 ½”) and 50mm (2”) sag at the bottom of the chain about ½ way between the sprockets; the extra sag is needed to allow for the extra long suspension travel on that model. The sag is measured with the suspension fully extended like it would be with the bike on the centerstand and the rear wheel off the ground. The sag is the amount of chain movement from pushing the chain up as far as it will easily go, then pushing it down as far as it will easily go and measuring the distance between those extremes. You should check the sag in several places on the chain because as the chain and sprocket sets wear the sag will be different in various places. Set the sag at the tightest part of the chain.

To adjust the chain, loosen the 24 mm axel nut about one full turn. To tighten the chain (which is usually the case) turn the bolts on the chain adjusters clockwise. Turn each adjuster the same amount and check the chain sag after you adjust both sides. A little turn on the adjusters will tighten the chain quite a bit, so start by only turning the adjusters ¼ turn at a time. When you have the sag correctly set, look in the oval slots on the swing arm. There are lines on the swing arm that will show you what number the adjuster is on. Both sides have to be the same!

If you need to loosen the chain, loosen the 24 mm axel nut and back each of the adjuster bolts off counterclockwise about two full turns. Then, take a plastic or rubber mallet and tap the axel forward. Then proceed as above to tighten it back up to the correct spec. Just loosening the adjusters will not loosen the chain; the axel has to be manually pushed forward and then adjusted. You can only accurately adjust the chain by bringing it from too loose to proper, never from too tight to proper.

Once you have the chain sag corrected and the adjusters the same on both sides, retorque the 24 mm hex head nut to 100 NM (74 foot pounds). Then tighten the adjuster bolts to 25 NM (19 foot pounds). Then recheck the sag and correct if needed.