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Thread: Front End Wander, and what it means

  1. #1
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    Front End Wander, and what it means

    HereÔÇÖs a story that should be heard by anyone who owns a next-generation K-bike with the Hossack designed duo-lever front-end:
    A riding buddy and fellow owner of a K1200GT recently had front-end-wandering symptoms. He took it to 2 different BMW dealers and complained about the issue. Both shops tested his bike, checked it over, and said there was nothing wrong. He even suggested to them that the ball joints were loose, and they assured him his bike was fine.
    Being an automotive mechanic, and knowing that there definitely was something wrong, he brought his bike into his own shop and proceeded to do his own diagnosis. Well, what do you know: bad ball joints! Having all the tools at his disposal, he was fortunately able to replace the joints himself after much difficulty. The result after replacement and reassembly was restored handling and no front-end wander at all. Just like a brand new bike.
    A few weeks after, he and I are in his shop mounting two new tires on my 06 KGT, and he suggested checking my front end while we had the wheel off. Clunk, Clunk! Oh, crap! 19000 miles and my front-end is gone, too! When I put new tires on and drove it up the street, my symptoms really showed up a lot more. The nice rounded profile of the new rubber exacerbates the issue to the point where it actually is quite noticeable. I can see where many folks want to blame the tires for the issue.
    We decided to try to change my ball joints ourselves, as my mechanic friend was successful with his, so we should be all set. I ordered them, they arrived, and that weekend we started the project. Well, it seems that the engineers of our beloved bikes saw fit to seal these ball joints in with some kind of super-duty loctite, and they are torqued into the wheel carrier with incredible force ÔÇô about 220 ft/lbs. The engineering geniuses were obviously convinced these front-ends would never have to come apart. Try as we did, we could not break mine loose. Long story short, I ended up taking my wheel carrier and driving it 120 miles one-way to my closest dealer to have them take them out. They had to cut them out, and in doing so actually ruined the threads in my wheel carrier where the ball joints screw in, and having the wheel carrier re-machined by a shop turns out to be almost as expensive as a new carrier. All of this expense I had to pay out of my own pocket because I am out of warranty and am a second owner. I ended up ordering a new carrier, and had to wait for it to be shipped from Germany, I was without my ride for 4 weeks before we got it back together At present time, I am dealing with BMW headquarters to try and obtain a little ÔÇ£goodwillÔÇØ help in paying for my $300.00 ball joints and my $1100.00 wheel carrier. So far, the rep assigned to my case has avoided talking to me, but I will not go down without a fight!
    Now, hereÔÇÖs how to test your bike and hereÔÇÖs what to look for:
    Take your bike out on a road that is smooth and straight ÔÇô preferably new pavement ÔÇô where you can maintain a steady 25 to 30 miles an hour without having to turn at all. Now, try and hold a straight line as you cruise down this ribbon of asphalt. Is everything real steady? I mean straight as an arrow? No slight rhythmic oscillations that you simply cannot stop, try as you may? Does it almost feel that your bike is so quick and nimble that even your subconscious movements must be making this bike turn slightly one way and the other, back and forth without any conscious effort on your part?
    If you detect the symptom described above, take your bike out to a section of smooth straight interstate highway and get her up to speed. Do you notice that the slight rhythmic oscillations are now much faster, and when you try and control it, the wandering seems to only get worse? Feels like you are sort of riding in a 2-foot wide shallow rain gully, with your bike climbing slightly up one side and then quickly sliding to the other. Looking at the top of your windscreen, you can clearly see the side-side movement. Sort of feels like wind buffeting, but the difference is it is indeed very rhythmic.
    Finally, bring you bike home and put it on the center stand. Have a buddy go to the back and push down on the luggage rack to lift the front wheel off the ground. Grab both sides of the wheel carrier partway up from the axle and push-pull front to back. Do you detect any movement? Perhaps even hear a clunking noise?
    If so, and you are not under warranty, refinance your house so you can pay for the repair bill you are about to incur. If you are under warranty, donÔÇÖt walk ÔÇôRUN ÔÇô to your friendly dealer and tell him your ball joints are shot. He most likely will look at you like you have three heads, because he probably will have never seen a bike with this issue. While I was at the dealer, there was a blue 07 K12GT on the floor they had taken in trade, so I had the service manager come over and perform the wheel carrier test on it with me. Guess what? Bad ball joints!
    I have been riding for 40 years ÔÇô not a newbie - and when I bought my 06 K12GT with 13,000 miles on it a year ago, I thought, as mentioned above, that the bike was just so agile and quick to turn that it must be a normal thing. So, I kept riding. Never gave it a second thought. Also thought the higher speed stuff was wind buffeting and just lived with it. My point is I bet there are a ton of these bikes out there with bad ball joints, and owners are not aware of what to look for and how to check for the problem ÔÇô much like the two certified BMW shops that missed the diagnosis on my friendÔÇÖs bike.
    I have seen other threads here and on other sites where folks were thinking it was tires, oversized windscreens, or tail bags that were causing these symptoms. Well, we need to stop blaming the accessories and get acquainted with the real issue. BMW needs to know that this is a very real problem with these bikes. Check it out yourself, then visit with your dealer and insist that he see the truth that lies within!

  2. #2
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    I am glad you found an issue and sorted it out to your satisfaction.

    Is this a wide spread problem? Hard to tell. I have an '08 now at 46K miles and without a single issue beyond the life long crappy clutch that I've learned to work around.

    My bike will travel miles, no hands with the cruise on and maintain a straight line.

    I have a set of aftermarket struts that I've had rebuilt one time. At each change of the struts I carefully inspected the ball joints for loose or notchy movement and found none.

    When I return from MA I'll perform the same check you've prescribed and report back here.

    Cheers!

  3. #3
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    Ok - I got home and performed the ball joint check.

    Yes, I feel and can hear some play in the wheel carrier and it seems (although hard to tell) that it is coming from the lower ball joint.

    For me this will not trigger a replacement. Like I said before, the bike is rock steady, with no hands on the bars with the cruise control activated.

    Perhaps the play I detected today signals the start of a ball joint failure - time and miles will tell.

    Cheers!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by limecreek View Post
    Perhaps the play I detected today signals the start of a ball joint failure - time and miles will tell.
    Yes, time and miles will certainly produce the symptoms.....most likely sooner than you think. Do you notice coming to a stop sign it is near impossible to come to a stop in a straight line? Little bit of wobble that you can't control - almost like you have a 300 pound weight hooked to your luggage rack? That is not normal....

    If you can hear the movement in your lower joint, I can guarantee you have symptoms now. Probably - like me - you need to ride a bike with no symptoms to see what a K-bike should feel like. Rode my friend's bike with new ball joints on the same day we diagnosed mine were bad, and 100 feet down the road I could notice a world of difference. Now that mine are fixed my bike is the same as his - perfect handling: much greater stability in turns - especially in rough pavement turns - and absolutely no weaving or wandering!

  5. #5
    not so retired henzilla's Avatar
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    We have two '05 K12S's with no issues...have a bud with the bumblebee model that did have a balljoint go out at maybe 23K. I rode it an enjoyed the wandering front end track at 20-35MPH going thru town.

    Rode it a few weeks after the replacement and what a different secure feeling.
    Have read about it more on the K bike forum.
    Steve Henson
    SABMWRA MOA Club#62's Flat Fixer/ current forum moderator
    It's not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away-D.Dillon/G. Strait

  6. #6
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    Yes, time and miles will certainly produce the symptoms.....most likely sooner than you think. Do you notice coming to a stop sign it is near impossible to come to a stop in a straight line? Little bit of wobble that you can't control - almost like you have a 300 pound weight hooked to your luggage rack? That is not normal....
    No, not at all, but I'll be looking for it.

  7. #7
    Registered User robday's Avatar
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    I have these symptoms.
    I thought it was tires. I have a reasonable fresh set of PR2's on the bike, and thought maybe I had already worn them too much. But they look great.

    I noticed it the last time I rode up to the Sierras on California Hwy395. There are several towns where you have to slow to 25mph all the way through. Going straight and slow, it would not track straight at all. Up to speed everything seems fine.

    I only have 9000 miles on this bike! ('08 bought a year ago with 1100 miles on the clock). WTH???
    How can a ball joint get sloppy that soon? Is there undue stress on it?

    I'm covered under an extended warranty...so when I take it in I'll have them fix the cruise control too.

    Anyone know if you can buy another extended warranty after the first one runs out?
    '92 K75S, all black...
    '08 K1200GT, silver...
    '06 R1200GS, silver...
    '63 R50/2, black...

  8. #8
    Western NY Rider drubery's Avatar
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    twobrs.. nice catch, great to know. After my center stand broke Friday after my 18K service and some of this sounding familiar I gotta tell ya my stomach is just turning.
    2013 BMW K1600GT - Montego Blue Metallic
    2007 BMW K1200GT - Graphite (traded)
    2004 R1150RS - Pacific Blue (sold )
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  9. #9
    not so retired henzilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drubery View Post
    twobrs.. nice catch, great to know. After my center stand broke Friday after my 18K service and some of this sounding familiar I gotta tell ya my stomach is just turning.
    Was it the bolts or the stand?
    The bolts are suspect...especially if you ride off the stand or spin the bike on the stand to turn it around...have seen both things shear the bolts. I used to do both on my RT

    and Rob...same issue on my buds bike...I even put my wheel and axle on his with a new PR2 and it still wandered about at 20-30MPH...not a good feeling. His had been in a lowside where it may have hit the front end on a retaining wall.

    They re-engineered the rake angle on the '08's didn't they? At least the S's were . seems like it is different than the pre-08's

    look at your warranty or ask the dealer...some used to be renewable before they ran out. Have a friend with >120K on his R12 GSA and still is covered
    Steve Henson
    SABMWRA MOA Club#62's Flat Fixer/ current forum moderator
    It's not the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away-D.Dillon/G. Strait

  10. #10
    Western NY Rider drubery's Avatar
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    henzilla.. no, just the standard tang snapping close to the weld where the metal once tempered is damaged during the weld process (poor engineering).
    2013 BMW K1600GT - Montego Blue Metallic
    2007 BMW K1200GT - Graphite (traded)
    2004 R1150RS - Pacific Blue (sold )
    Dennis BMWMOA 150423 FingerLakes BMW Club 396 IBA 50178

  11. #11
    SANDFORD
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    front end wander at low speed k1300 GT

    My 2009 K 1300 Gt with 45000 miles would be impossible to ride straight at lower speeds such as you would ride in town even with new tires . More than once someone following would comment on the bike being allover the lane. My 2010 K1300 Gt does not do it even with worn tires it tracks straight on. Had to be ball joints in the 2009. Followers all comment on the torque twist or sway at the rear of the bike if I accellerate hard from a stop. I quess a result of having a single side swing arm. Those K1300,s do hole shot for big bikes. It would take a good muscle car to leave you from a light.

  12. #12
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    K1300S, 38,000 miles, could not hold a straight line. Ball joints shot. Buy the extended warranty for sure. Be sure to heat up that loctite when taking out the joints or take the carrier to the shop for them to do. I know of several bikes personally that have had the joints replaced. A wear item I guess.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by beecher View Post
    K1300S, 38,000 miles, could not hold a straight line. Ball joints shot. Buy the extended warranty for sure. Be sure to heat up that loctite when taking out the joints or take the carrier to the shop for them to do. I know of several bikes personally that have had the joints replaced. A wear item I guess.
    I looked on a site having parts fiche and saw that the latest part for K1200S ball joints is the same as those used in the heavier K1600GT. I wonder if BMW beefed up the parts. Maybe newer parts will have longer lives.

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