When I worked as a mechanic, I was in charge of jetting the bike over the course of the day. During morning practice sessions, the track was usually muddy and the air temperature was at its lowest point. I had to jet the bike rich for practice because the air density was greater and the mud put more of a load on the engine. Then I had to watch the rider and the bike perform on different sections of the track. I would go to the obstacle on the track that presented the greatest load on the bike, typically an uphill straight section. I'd listen to my engine and watch the rider. I'd listen for pinging or knocking noises or excessive smoke from the pipe. I would watch to see if the rider had to fan the clutch a lot and how my bike pulled in comparison to others. Getting feedback from the rider is difficult because they are concentrating on riding not the bike's performance. At a pro national there is one practice session, followed by a series of qualifiers and eventually two race motos. The time spacing of the riding sessions over the course of the day was such that I had to compensate the jetting two or three times. Otherwise, the bike would either seize from being too lean in the morning or run too rich for the second moto.
Race mechanics have different techniques for carb jetting. These techniques range from asking other mechanics what jets they are running to using precise measuring gauges to monitor the engine performance. In motocross races, where most of the riders are of equal skill levels, a holeshot in the start can mean the difference between a place on the podium and 30 minutes of roost in your face! The difference in horsepower between the bike that gets the holeshot and the bike that brings up the back of the pack may only be a few ponies! The race mechanic can give his rider an awesome advantage if he carefully monitors the carb jetting.
This section will give you insight into the carb tuning process, from diagnosing mechanical problems that mimic poor jetting to tuning tools such as gauges. It will also give you tips on a jetting method that I've developed called the "ride-and-feel" method," which I consider to be the best method It's a technique that I teach to all the riders I've worked with. You don't need any fancy tools, just the ability to make observations while you ride.
Differences in Two-Stroke and Four-Stroke Carbs
The latest trend in two-stroke carbs features a pump that sprays fuel into the venturi from 1/4th to 3/4th throttles. In the past, carb manufacturers made jet needles that attempted to compensate for the natural lean condition of the mid-range but that compromised the jetting at full throttle. The auxiliary pumps are powered by electricity supplied by the alternator (about 5 watts) and controlled by either a throttle position or an rpm sensor.
Guide to Popular Carb Types
Kehin has several different models. The most popular ones are the PJ, PWK, and PWM. The PJ is used on Honda CR125, 250, and 500 models from 1985-1997 The slide is oval shaped and there are no additional pumps, its just a simple carb. In fact it's so simple that the choke and idle screw share the same jet. The PWK was the next step up from the PJ. The PWK has a crescent shaped slide and a separate idle circuit from the choke. The PWK is used on Kawasaki KX125, 250, and 500 models from 1990-97. The latest version of the PWK features a pump to supply extra fuel in the mid-range. The PWM is similar to the older PWK (no pump) and the overall length is shorter.
Mikuni has several different model carbs too. The original model VM had a round slide. There are many different parts available including needle jets of different diameters and jet needles with different taper angles and diameters. The next model was the TMX, which became available in 1987. It was a flat-slide carb, which offered a greater peak flow rate. The TMX was revised several times, becoming smaller with fewer parts. The TMS carb introduced in 1992 had no main or pilot jet. The slide and jet needle handled all the jetting. That carb worked great on 250cc bikes but never became popular. The PM is the latest Mikuni model. It features an oval crescent shaped slide and a very short body. That carb comes standard on Yamaha YZ125 and 250 1998 and newer models.
Parts and Function
Jets, Air Jets, and Throttle Positions
(Note: On many modern carbs the spray-bar/needle jet and air jets are fixed-diameter passages in the carburetor body and cannot be altered.)
Remove the top of the carb and disconnect the cable from the slide. Is the cable frayed or kinked? Is the rubber dust cover missing? If so then replace the cable. Now remove the float bowl, jet baffle (white plastic shroud around main jet), float and fuel inlet needle, and the air-screw. Shake the floats and listen for fluid that may have seeped inside. If so replace the floats otherwise the engine might suffer from constant fuel flooding. Check the fuel inlet needle. It has a Viton rubber tip and occasionally fuel additives and dirt damage the tip. Also check the spring-loaded plunger on the opposite end of the tip. If the spring doesn't push the plunger all the way out then replace it. Check the air-screw, there should be a spring and o-ring on the end of the needle. The spring provides tension to keep the air-screw from vibrating outward and the o-ring seals out dirt and water from entering the pilot circuit. Next check the bell mouth of the carb. Look for the two holes at the bottom of the bell mouth. The one in the center is the air passage for the needle jet and the other hole offset from center is the air passage for the pilot circuit. It's typical for those passages to get clogged with dirt and air filter oil. That would cause the engine to run rough because without a steady stream of air to mix with and atomize the fuel, raw fuel droplets make the jetting seem rich.
Once the carb is basically stripped down (pilot/slow and main jet still in place) you can flush the passages. Get an aerosol can of brake or carb cleaner from an auto parts store. Make sure you get the type with the small diameter plastic tube that attaches to the spray tip. Direct the tip into the airscrew passage. When you spray the cleaner you should see it flow out the pilot/slow jet and the air passage in the bell mouth. Next spray through the pilot/slow jet, look for flow through a tiny passage located between the venturi and the intake spigot. Spraying cleaner through these passages insures that the low speed air and fuel circuits are open and free flowing. The last area to flush with the carb cleaner is the slide bore and slide. Dirt tends to trap there, causing the mating surfaces to develop scratches that could cause the throttle to stick!
Just a small amount of water and dirt can get trapped in the tiny passages of the carb and cause havoc with jetting or even engine damage. How often should you service the carb? When it gets dirty! For example if you ride in muddy wet conditions you should at least check the vent hose. If the riding conditions are dusty and your air filter is covered with dirt, then it's a good idea to do a basic carb servicing.
Before you ever attempt to jet a carb, make sure the engine doesn't have any of the problems in the following list. If you are in the process of jetting a carb and you are stumped with a chronic problem, use this section as a guide to enlightenment!
Crankcase air leaksÑAir leaks can occur at the cylinder base, reed valve, or the magneto seal. Air leaks make the throttle response sluggish and may produce a pinging sound. That sound occurs when the air-fuel mixture is too lean.
Crankcase oil leaksÑThe right-side crankcase seal is submerged in the transmission oil. When this seal becomes worn out, oil can leak into the crankcase. The oil is transferred up to the combustion chamber and burned with the air-fuel mixture. The oil causes the spark plug to carbon-foul. This mechanical problem makes the jetting seem to be too rich.
Coolant-system leaksÑCoolant systems leaks commonly occur at the cylinder-head gasket. When the coolant leaks into the combustion chamber, it pollutes the air-fuel mixture and causes a misfire or popping sound at the exhaust pipe. Check the engine's coolant level frequently. Hondas and Kawasakis have characteristic coolant leaks because they use steel head gaskets. Yamahas and Suzukis use O-rings to seal the head and cylinder. Coolant-system leaks lower the engine's peak horsepower. It makes the engine run as if the air-fuel mixture is too rich.
Carbon-seized exhaust valvesÑThe exhaust valves sometimes become carbon-seized in the full-open position. This mechanical problem can make the engine run flat at low rpm and make the slow-speed jetting seem lean. The carbon can be removed from the exhaust valves with oven cleaner. Clean the exhaust valves whenever you replace the piston and rings.
Blown silencerÑWhen the fiberglass packing material blows out of the silencer, excess turbulence forms in the silencer and the turbulence causes a restriction in the exhaust system. This restriction makes the engine run flat at high rpm.
Broken reed-valve petalsÑThe petals of the reed-valve can crack or shatter when the engine is revved too high. This mechanical problem makes the engine difficult to start and can also have a loss of torque. Expert rider should switch to carbon fiber reed petals because they resist breaking at high rpm. Novice riders should use dual-stage fiberglass reeds (Aktive or Boyesen). These types of reed petals provide an increase in torque.
Weak sparkÑWhen the ignition coils deteriorate, the engine performance will become erratic. Normally, the engine will develop a high-rpm misfire problem. Check the condition of the coils with a multimeter.
Clogged carburetor vent hosesÑWhen the carburetor vent hoses get clogged with dirt or pinched closed, the jetting will seem to be too lean, so the engine will run sluggish. Always check the condition of your carburetor vent hoses. Make sure there is no mud in the hoses and that the hoses are not pinched between the suspension linkage.
Carburetor float levelÑWhen the float level is too low, the jetting will seem to be too lean, so the engine performance will be sluggish. When the float level is too high, the jetting will seem to be too rich.
Worn carburetor fuel-inlet needleÑWhen the fuel-inlet needle wears out, excess fuel enters the float bowl and travels up the slow jet and into the engine. This makes the carb jetting seem to be too rich. Replace the fuel-inlet needle and seat every two years.
Shouldn't Be Scary!
Ride and Feel Method
To check the jetting for throttle positions from 1/2 to full open, ride the motorcycle in third and fourth gear. (You may need to increase the diameter of the circular riding course for riding in the higher gears.) Check the jetting in the same manner as listed above. The carb jets that affect the jetting from 1/2 to full throttle are the jet-needle, main jet, power jet (electronic carbs) and the air jet (on four-strokes).
If you want to take this technique out to the racetrack, you can test the pilot/slow jet when accelerating out of tight hairpin turns, the needle clip position on sweeper turns and short straits, and test the main jet on the big uphill or long straits. Of course be careful if you try to use the choke technique because you could lose control when riding one handed.
for Riding Techniques
Weather Makes The Biggest Difference!
Air temperatureÑWhen the air temperature increases, the air density becomes lower. This will make the air-fuel mixture richer. You must select jet sizes with a lower number to compensate for the lower air density. When the barometric pressure decreases, the opposite effect occurs.
HumidityÑWhen the percentage of humidity in the air increases, the engine draws in a lower percentage of oxygen during each revolution because the water molecules (humidity) take the place of oxygen molecules in a given volume of air. High humidity will make the air-fuel mixture richer, so you should change to smaller jets.
AltitudeÑIn general, the higher the altitude the lower the air density. When riding at racetracks that are at high altitude, you should change to smaller jets and increase the engine's compression ratio to compensate for the lower air density.
Conditions and Load
and Oil Mixture Ratios
Pre-mix oils are formulated for a fairly narrow range of pre-mix ratios. You should examine the oil bottle for the oil manufacturer's suggestion on the pre-mix ratio. All production two-stroke dirt bikes have a sticker on the rear fender suggesting that you set the pre-mix ratio to 20:1 That sticker is put there for legal purposes. Always refer to the oil manufacturer's suggestion on pre-mix ratios. In general, small-displacement engines require a richer pre-mix ratio than do large-displacement engines because smaller engines have a higher peak rpm than larger engines. The higher the engine revs, the more lubrication it requires.
following is a description of how each gauge functions and their
AF ratio meterÑThe AF meter measures the percentage of oxygen in the exhaust gasses, and displays the approximate air-fuel ratio of the carb. The gauge displays AF ratios from 10-16:1 The optimum AF ratio for a two-stroke engine is 12:1. The AF gauge utilizes a lambda sensor that is inserted into the center of the exhaust stream, approximately six inches from the piston in the header pipe of a four-stroke and in the baffle cone of a two-stroke engine. A permanent female pipe fitting (1/4in.) must be welded to the side of the exhaust pipe in order to fasten the sensor. The weld-on fitting set-up is also used on the temperature gauges, and the fitting can be plugged with a 1/4in. male pipe fitting when the gauge is not in use. This gauge is ideal for four-stroke engines.
EGT gaugeÑThe EGT gauge measures the temperature of the gasses in the exhaust pipe by means of a temperature probe fastened into the exhaust pipe, six inches from the piston. This type of gauge enables you to tune the carb jetting and the pipe together, taking advantage of the fact that exhaust pipes are designed with a precise temperature in mind.
An exhaust pipe is designed to return a compression wave to the combustion chamber just before the exhaust port closes. Most pipes are designed for a peak temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Most dirt bikes are jetted too rich, which prevents the exhaust gasses from reaching their design temperature, so power output suffers. Sometimes just leaning the main jet and the needle-clip position makes a dramatic difference.
Digitron is the most popular brand of EGT gauge. It measures both EGT and rpm. This gauge is designed for go-kart racing so its not suited for wet weather conditions. It is designed to mount on the handlebars. That way the rider can focus in on it. Once you have performed the baseline jetting, send the rider out on the bike with the EGT. The rider observes the EGT to give you feedback on the necessary jetting changes. Once the jetting is dialed, we use the tachometer to check the peak rpm of the engine on the longest straight of the racetrack. For example, if the peak rpm exceeds the point of the engine's power-peak rpm, then change the rear sprocket to a higher final-drive ratio (rear sprocket with fewer teeth) until the rpm drops into the target range. An EGT gauge is ideal for dirt track bikes and go-karts, where peak rpm temperature is critical.
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