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Doohickey demystifed – KLR owners pay attention

This entry is part 10 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #20

KLR owners have nightmares and anxiety attacks about sizable chunks of metal exploding and rattling around the bottom-ends of their engines, destroying their otherwise seemingly bulletproof and unbreakable adventure mounts.

Is the doohickey truly a night-mare? Or should someone tell KLR owners they’re dreaming? What the fudge is a doohickey anyway?

Nick Dole at Teknik Motorsport had a good, long look at the balancer idle lever and spring on the Shop Bike

Tech check

The doohickey is actually a pair of parts – the balancer idle lever and spring – in the motor of a KLR650. The two components combine to, as the correct name implies, keep the correct tension on the balancer chain. The balancer itself rotates to help cancel out vibration caused by the engine components’ operation, and the chain keeps it turning at the frequency required as the engine’s RPM varies. The tension on the chain is important to its operation.

In the KLR the doohickey is a short, coil spring and an odd-shaped plate with an arc-shaped slot.

The doohickey is a flat, slotted piece of metal with an arc on one edge and a spring behind it. This is an aftermarket doohickey supplied with two different extension springs. The hot poop among KLR owners now is to ditch the extension spring completely and go with a torsion spring – available, of course, with a ‘correct-size’ drill bit, from the same American after-market suppliers.

What’s the problem?

Ah. That’s the burning question.

Is there a problem at all?

Here’s some history.

From 1987 to 2007 the KLR650 ran a lever – the odd-shaped plate – which was actually made from two pieces welded together.

According to legend, these levers had a history of breaking and the bits rattled around inside the engine and caused damage ranging from a funny noise to World War Three.

One of the updates to the bike in 2008 was to replace the welded lever with a lever machined from a single piece of steel, but still the doohickey remains the boogeyman to KLR owners, fuelled in no small way by American companies offering aftermarket doohickies.

The web forums are full of horror stories of ‘near’ doohickey failures and close calls. There are stories of actual failures in older generation KLRs, but the overwhelming majority of replacements seem to be done as a preventative measure, not a repair.

Access to the doohickey requires some specialised tools. It’s not really a
job for enthusiastic amateurs, although plenty of KLR owners take pride in having replaced the parts themselves.


It’s difficult to know if there really is a problem. KLR owners love doing these kinds of inexpensive mods to their bikes, and replacing the doohickey seems to be a badge of honour. Owners look wise as they nod knowledgeably and mutter, “Hell, yes. Did mine before I had a problem.”

We spoke to Murray Sale, Marketing Assistant – Special Projects at Kawasaki Motors Australia, and he did some research for us. At the time we asked, over 3400 new KLRs had been sold in Australia since the 2008 upgrade, and in that time, seven doohickey parts had been supplied through Kawasaki dealers.

We were unable to find anyone with a 2008 model or later who’d had a doohickey failure. We found gazillions of owners who’d changed the parts ‘just in case’, but no-one who’d had a failure.


When it comes to hard-working bikes, Adventure Rider Magazine’sshop bike – now owned by ad manager Mitch – gets the Gold Harness award. It snorted halfway across Australia during ADVX in 2015, and since then Mitch has given it a fair old workout.

Now with 40,000km on the odo, we figured if there was likely to be a KLR in line for a doohickey failure, it’d be this one. We rolled the bike out to Nick Dole at Teknik Motorsport and asked him to give us an expert opinion on the state of the bal ancer idle lever and spring (you don’t use terms like ‘doohickey’ around Nick).

Typically, Nick pulled the cover and flywheel off, removed the doohickey,fiddled with everything and poked, prodded and measured. In his opinion the design of the system wasn’t particularly good, but it worked. He was concerned about owners not realising there was an adjustment that needed to be checked at regular intervals. On the Shop Bike, that adjustment not being done had caused some wear on the casing behind the lever.

It was nothing terminal, so Nick reassembled everything, adjusted the lever to its correct position, and sent us on our way…sort of. He found and repaired a whole batch of other things that were nothing to do with the doohickey that he simply couldn’t ignore.

He’s a top bloke!

The doohickey in place. There’s no need to remove any exterior casings or parts to do the correct adjustment at servicing. Just remove a rubber plug, half-turn a bolt, tighten it back up, and off you go. Owners don’t seem to do it, though.

Case closed

So there it is.

We doubt anything we say will make any difference, but the ‘problem’ with Gen 2 KLR doohickies is a myth in our opinion.

Having seen the parts in a hard-working engine, we’d probably replace the spring if we had occasion to remove the flywheel.

It doesn’t seem to keep much tension on the lever, but we wouldn’t rate it as important as regular oil changes and air-filter maintenance. By all means send your money overseas and buy the aftermarket parts if it makes you feel better, but we don’t believe it’s a necessity if the tension is checked and adjusted as part of regular servicing.

That opinion is for KLRs that have been serviced and maintained correctly from new. If a bike hasn’t been properly looked after, all bets are off, and we bet the doohickey isn’t the most likely cause of a problem anyway.

Ad manager Mitch makes the most of the KLR. He rides it hard and often, and doesn’t make any concessions to the dualsport design of the bike. He’ll jump or wheelie over just about anything he can find.

Don’t get it

We’re guessing we’re fighting a losing battle getting KLR owners to concentrate more on maintenance and less on web-forum marketing, but we were keen to try and apply some clarity to a situation largely illuminated by mirrors and clouded in smoke. KLR owners just love to prattle on about the doohickie, it’s as simple as that.

Nigel Harvey from Triumph said it best.

As ad manager Mitch and editor TF were in deep discussion about their KLRs at the northern Congregation, Nigel rolled his eyes and groaned, “You KLR owners and your doowackies!”


While Nick at Teknik had the Shop Bike on the hoist we slipped on a pair of new IMS Adventure 1 ’pegs.

These things a freaking huge.

According to importers, Ficeda Accessories, ‘The large overall length and width enhances comfort and the benefits are felt navigating dirt roads and on long stretches of open roads.

The platform spreads the boot contact patch and lessens stress on the feet, legs and hips.’

They’re made from cast stainless steel, have a powder-coated and polished finish and carry a lifetime warranty.

They certainly look the goods. Mitch is going to give them a hammering, so they’d better be tough.

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