Quick Tips – How to Safely Remove a Motorcycle Cylinder

It brings me great pride when HappyWrench provides that “oh, I didn’t think of that” style advice.  Today’s post is about how to safely remove a motorcycle cylinder.

You are probably asking yourself what the big deal is – grab a wrench and loosen!

I hate to say it, but there is a little more to it than that – especially if you want to do it safely and correctly.  Sometimes, rushing a project can cost you more money if not done properly.  I recently did a post covering long motorcycle projects on a more general scale.

Anyways, so how to safely remove a motorcycle cylinder.  Typically for this job, there are three (or four) items I want.

First, is a high quality flex socket or flex adapter, six-point if possible as it is better for these high torque applications or 3/8ths inch drive crows feet.  The reason for this is that often times the cylinder fins don’t provide enough room such that you can attack the cylinder base nuts straight on, even with an extension bar.

The reason I say high-quality is that years ago, I actually had one of these guys crack while loosening a cylinder base nut on an old Harley.  It was surprisingly a Craftsman – I took it back to Sears and they were equally surprised.  Good news is Sears (now defunct) and Craftsman (still out there at Ace Hardware and online) were true to their word and gave me a new one.  The only issue using an adaptor like this creates is the potential for slippage.

Make sure you wear safety gloves in case things do slip, but more importantly make sure the socket is firmly in place around the cylinder base nut before beginning to turn.  Turn slowly and watch for any movement – reseat the socket before continuing to turn if you notice any movement.

safely remove a motorcycle cylinder

If you use a crows foot, make sure you are not rubbing against the cylinder while turning.  This will making loosening and getting the proper torque while tightening more difficult.

Next, you want a rubber mallet.  People are often surprised when the cylinder does fly right off with the first tug.  Once the base nuts are loosened, make your way around the bike with the rubber mallet and give the cylinder a whack around its circumference with a slight upward angle.  This will loosen up something that has been stuck in place for god only knows how long.  This is a key step.  Don’t pry the cylinders up with a screwdriver or other tool.  You will end up messing up the gasket surfaces.

Going back a step, if you can’t get one of the cylinder base nuts loose, penetrating oil first and a heat gun second are your friends for loosening a base nut that just doesn’t want to give.  Be patient with the penetrating oil first.  I sometimes even let the stuff soak in overnight for a really stuck fastener.  Nothing is worse than a stripped nut, so seriously if you run into some issues take your time.  Patience is a virtue.  The combination of penetrating oil and heat gun is my next go to if things are really stuck.

Finally, get yourself a nice size clean shop towel.  This is the cheapest, but most important piece of advice I can give.  As the cylinder separates from the top of the crankcase, slide the shop towel in between and around the connecting rod.  The goal here is to create a layer such that if anything breaks (i.e. piston rings) or is dropped it can’t fall down into the bottom of the crankcase.

So, 526 words into the post, this is the most valuable piece of advice – because if anything falls down in there, you are totally screwed.  The cases will have to be removed from the frame, pulled apart, etc.  Your top-end rebuild just became a top- and bottom-end rebuild with the corresponding extra time and dollars included.

Anyways, those are my quick tips for how to safely remove a motorcycle cylinder. If you enjoyed this blog post about how to safely remove a motorcycle cylinder, please like or share on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, or like on Instagram.

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