What to do when your clocks get clocked
When sportbikes tumble, their gauges stand a good chance of taking a hit. This can present an expensive rebuild problem. Some motorcycles won't start minus these electronics. Even if your machine will run without them, you'd be hard pressed to feel comfortable flying around a racetrack without some kind of instrumentation. The info that you can derive from a functioning tach, temperature gauge and warning lights is very important to have. If you're riding one of the newer models with switchable power modes, factory traction control or ABS, you'll need your dash just to know which settings your bike is using. In short, if your clocks are busted, you'll need to fix them before you can ride again.
The price of a replacement gauge pack from the dealer would almost warrant taking a second mortgage on your house. For our Literbike Lust 08 GSXR 1000, the electronics themselves cost $564.95 new, with the various bits of the housing adding another $151.32, for a grand total of $711.32. Yikes! Seems a little steep if the bike only cost 10K new, doesn't it? As an alternative, used gauges can usually be found on EBay for $150 to $250, complete, with the highest priced units showing the lowest mileage on the odometer. Don't need the whole gauge pack? If your instruments are still functional, it is possible to buy replacement housing for a lot less than factory parts would cost at a dealership. We found the new plastic shell used in this article as a “Made in China” replacement part, sold on EBay for $59.95, including free shipping. That's a savings of more than $90 dollars over an OEM casing.
To begin this repair, you must remove the damaged gauge pack from the bike. Sometimes, the forces of your crash may have taken care of this step already. Next, take off the upper fairing in order to make some room to work and also to allow access to any screws or wiring that will need to be disconnected. For our Gixxer, removal of the gauge cluster was as simple as pulling back the weather shroud on the wiring, fiddling with the plug until we figured out how to release it and then removing the one bolt that locks the gauge pack into the fairing bracket. For the final step, we had to wiggle free a pair of pins on the backside of the unit which engage rubber mounting grommets.
Probably the most difficult portion of this repair will be getting the screws out of the old housing. Chances are good that the screws themselves will be packed with mud or otherwise jammed from the force of impact. Patience is required here. We've found that a careful removal of crash debris from the pack's fasteners is the key to success. Next, be very sure that you've selected the correct size of screwdriver or Allen wrench required before you start disassembly, since stripping a fastener at this stage would necessitate applying forceful removal techniques to the partially disintegrated shell of a package containing fragile electronics.
Once you have the old housing halves apart, it's time to consider the expensive gizmo that they protect. Your gauge face is probably a mess. Dirt and dried mud can be removed with a toothbrush and a damp paper shop towel. For really stubborn stains on the dial itself, a bit of Windex sprayed on a paper towel is about as aggressive a cleaner as you should use here. If the lens of your gauge set was shattered on impact and brake fluid got splattered across the face, as was the case with our GSXR, you'll just have to live with the discolorations caused by the chemical splash. Any caustic cleaner that you try to use on the spots will just make the cosmetic damage even worse.
Often, the needle for your tachometer will have been knocke d off in the crash. By studying it, you'll see that the factory provided some sort of alignment tab or slot to locate the needle in correct orientation to the gauge. We've tried many adhesives for this repair (Yes, we've smashed our share of gauges here at TrackdayMag.com!) and prefer to use a dab of Five Minute Epoxy. Some carefully applied masking tape and perhaps a bit of blocking under the needle tip will hold things in place while the epoxy sets. If you need to glue your needle back on, we'd suggest waiting overnight for the adhesive to cure before continuing this project. When you're ready to finish, reassembly is as simple as fitting your electronics into the new housing, lining everything up and screwing the assembly back together.
Before installing your freshly repaired instrument cluster, take a close look at your fairing bracket. Ours was clearly broken but in some cases, the damage can be as subtle as a twist or crack. At the least, this would cause alignment issues, meaning that you'd have to fight your bodywork into place. The worst case scenario would be having the bracket fail under high-speed aerodynamic load, which could result in an epic crash. We replaced our damaged fairing stay with a new one from Moto Brackets. This company's offerings match OEM for roughly half the price and can be had through any bike shop that deals with Tucker Rocky or Parts Unlimited.
We're endlessly surprised by the number of machines we see at any given event sporting smashed, hanging-by-a-thread gauge packs. As you can see, this is probably one of the easiest and least expensive repairs that you'll be faced with in your career as a track mechanic. Aside from the protection and secure mounting that a repaired housing provides there's also the matter of how it makes you perceive your machine. The gauges are literally the only part of the motorcycle that you look directly at during a ride. If they look like shattered junk, don't you think that might have a subtle effect on your confidence in the rest of the machine? When the difference between tight and trashed is less than a hundred bucks and an afternoon spent pleasantly working on your bike, this project is a no brainer. Have your clocks been clocked? Get out to the garage and fix those puppies!