Gen 4: 2011-2015 OVERHEATING! Help to diagnose 2011 ABS - Kawasaki ZX-10R.net
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post #1 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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OVERHEATING! Help to diagnose 2011 ABS

Hey community,
I am a bit perplexed about what is happening with my 2011. I was hoping one of you nows a lot more about this than I do and could possibly help me figure this out. Here are the details:

The bike ran a bit hot during late August/September (thats when i got the bike). It would normally run in 220+ range (even after the fan kicked in). I've had 4 other zx10rs and i thought that all of the previous ones ran a bit cooler. So anyway. I was riding a week ago in a 65-70 degree weather and as i came to a stop at an intersection i saw the temperature start to rise past 230. It got to 235 and then i looked down to the right side of the bike and noticed vigorous bubbles coming out into the overflow coolant tank to the point that it started bubbling over and i started dumping coolant on the pavement. I immediately turned of the bike and let it cool down and parked it. I lost about 1/2 quart of coolant in that incident. So i went and got more coolant and topped off the radiator (it was 50/50 premixed). Started the bike --> no bubbling anymore and the temp does not get over 203-205 while standing. A few days latex i start seeing the temp go higher to 215 or so. The temperature now is very unpredictable - the temp goes up for seemingly no reason ( i.e. i would not predict the temp to get to that point based on the riding, airflow and RPM). I think there is something going on still.

Things I've done:
-sprayed down the radiator on the outside with a brake cleaned to make sure the fins let air thru (helped a little i suppose).
- When i put my hand on the thick rubber coolant hose on each side of the bike and rev the engine --> i feel the pressure build --> so i think the pump is pumping ( at least a little).
-i don't see any leaks under the bike when i park it, but immediately after seat of the bike (after its been sitting for a day or more) i think i smell coolant burn by the radiator/header area. ( I THINK).

What do you guys think may be a problem? How can you explain the symptoms? I was doing a bit of research and there was mention of blown head gasket (when you see bubbling). But i would imagine that you would be bubbling all the time. But ever since i topped off the radiator, there hasn't been any bubbling happening in the reservoir (there would be bubbles, i think, if its constantly blowing exhaust into the coolant system).
Could it be that the slight leak in the system sucked in enough air to cause it to expand enough to bubble over? Or maybe there has been water in the system? (but it looked greenish). Or maybe its the bad thermostat is what causing the variable temps...

Help me out guys!
Thank you
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post #2 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 03:13 PM
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I would start by replacing the radiator cap and making sure the radiator is completely full
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post #3 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 03:48 PM
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I just fixed the same issue with my ZX-7R. First things first, start with the easy stuff and go from there.

What's happening is you're boiling the coolant. Water boils at 212 degrees under ideal conditions. Anti-freeze doesn't change this, it keeps the water from freezing and makes it a lubricant for the pump and anti-corrosive. What keeps the water from boiling is the pressure. Remember from science class in high school that you can make water boil at room temp if you drop the pressure low enough? Well, the opposite is true is you increase the pressure. This is how pressure cookers work. Increase the pressure and water won't boil until it's much higher than 212 deg. So, you're not maintaining the pressure in your bike.

First thing to replace is the radiator cap. The whole purpose of this piece is to keep the pressure at 14-18psi to keep the coolant from boiling. But as the water gets hot and expands, it goes out into the reservoir tank and as it cools and contracts the water gets pulled back from the reservoir into the engine. There should be no air in the system of the pressure balance goes out to whack and you boil it out into the reservoir. The radiator caps job it to keep the pressure up, yet allow the coolant to move in and out of the engine as it expands and contracts. Cheap and easy as they can fail.

Problems get more complex from there. If the radiator cap doesn't fix the issue, it's likely you have a leak somewhere else which is causing air to get into the system. The second most likely place with will happen is a faulty head gasket. This is what it turned out to be on my ZX-7R.

I replaced the radiator cap, thermostat, thermostat housing, fan switch, cleaned the radiator, checked the water pump, pressure tested the block, and in the end it was a bad head gasket. Combustion pressure was overwhelming the gasket at high RPM and blowing air into the cooling system. Air in the system = no pressure = boiling coolant = over heating.

Do not ride the bike any longer until you get this sorted out. Since you're boiling the coolant and getting air in the system, the reading your seeing on the gauges is not accurate. The sensor only works well when submersed in water. Since you have air in the system, the temps are likely higher than what you're seeing. And severe engine damage can occur at 230-240 degrees. In 80 degree outside air, cruising down the street, the bike should be running consistent temps in the 180 degree range. Fan comes on at 212 degrees and the shutdown "HOT" warning at 239 degrees. I hope it's just the cap in your case.
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post #4 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 05:11 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SkyDork View Post
I just fixed the same issue with my ZX-7R. First things first, start with the easy stuff and go from there.

What's happening is you're boiling the coolant. Water boils at 212 degrees under ideal conditions. Anti-freeze doesn't change this, it keeps the water from freezing and makes it a lubricant for the pump and anti-corrosive. What keeps the water from boiling is the pressure. Remember from science class in high school that you can make water boil at room temp if you drop the pressure low enough? Well, the opposite is true is you increase the pressure. This is how pressure cookers work. Increase the pressure and water won't boil until it's much higher than 212 deg. So, you're not maintaining the pressure in your bike.

First thing to replace is the radiator cap. The whole purpose of this piece is to keep the pressure at 14-18psi to keep the coolant from boiling. But as the water gets hot and expands, it goes out into the reservoir tank and as it cools and contracts the water gets pulled back from the reservoir into the engine. There should be no air in the system of the pressure balance goes out to whack and you boil it out into the reservoir. The radiator caps job it to keep the pressure up, yet allow the coolant to move in and out of the engine as it expands and contracts. Cheap and easy as they can fail.

Problems get more complex from there. If the radiator cap doesn't fix the issue, it's likely you have a leak somewhere else which is causing air to get into the system. The second most likely place with will happen is a faulty head gasket. This is what it turned out to be on my ZX-7R.

I replaced the radiator cap, thermostat, thermostat housing, fan switch, cleaned the radiator, checked the water pump, pressure tested the block, and in the end it was a bad head gasket. Combustion pressure was overwhelming the gasket at high RPM and blowing air into the cooling system. Air in the system = no pressure = boiling coolant = over heating.

Do not ride the bike any longer until you get this sorted out. Since you're boiling the coolant and getting air in the system, the reading your seeing on the gauges is not accurate. The sensor only works well when submersed in water. Since you have air in the system, the temps are likely higher than what you're seeing. And severe engine damage can occur at 230-240 degrees. In 80 degree outside air, cruising down the street, the bike should be running consistent temps in the 180 degree range. Fan comes on at 212 degrees and the shutdown "HOT" warning at 239 degrees. I hope it's just the cap in your case.
thank you for reply. wouldn't you think that if its the head gasket then i would be boiling coolant consistently? because since i topped it off with 50/50 mix, i haven't seen any bubbles. the temps are better but not stable now. i will definitely replace the cap. I'm trying to reason what would happen if the head gasket was letting exhaust into coolant system.
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post #5 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 05:12 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by brl0301 View Post
I would start by replacing the radiator cap and making sure the radiator is completely full
thank you. Seems that this is the first thing to do.

But question: why did the system heat up to the point of the cap failure?? because of air in the system?
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post #6 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 05:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mityaz View Post
thank you for reply. wouldn't you think that if its the head gasket then i would be boiling coolant consistently? because since i topped it off with 50/50 mix, i haven't seen any bubbles. the temps are better but not stable now. i will definitely replace the cap. I'm trying to reason what would happen if the head gasket was letting exhaust into coolant system.
Nope. That's not the way it works. In my case, the head gasket was only an issue at high RPMs when the combustion pressure was high enough to sneak a little air out. Then it was a cascading effect with the air pocket allowing the coolant to boil. I used a cooling system pressure tester and it held tight over a 24 hour period of time. I also used the gas detection liquid and saw no signs of exhaust gases in the coolant. The bike would heat up, fan kick on, and cool down like normal. All up until I'd ride it. Then it would overheat. All of the static checks passed. Even after removing the head gasket there was no obvious signs of damage. But after having replaced it, there's been no issues.
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post #7 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 06:17 PM Thread Starter
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Nope. That's not the way it works. In my case, the head gasket was only an issue at high RPMs when the combustion pressure was high enough to sneak a little air out. Then it was a cascading effect with the air pocket allowing the coolant to boil. I used a cooling system pressure tester and it held tight over a 24 hour period of time. I also used the gas detection liquid and saw no signs of exhaust gases in the coolant. The bike would heat up, fan kick on, and cool down like normal. All up until I'd ride it. Then it would overheat. All of the static checks passed. Even after removing the head gasket there was no obvious signs of damage. But after having replaced it, there's been no issues.
i see. so do you think that if i rev the bike close to redline for some time while standing and looking at the reservoir i would be able to see the bubbles come up if the gasket it letting gas through?
ALSO: the fact that i sometimes smell the faint odor of burned (sweet) coolant come up from under the cluster/ triple tree area when i start it every few days... could mean that the system could potentially be taking up air by vacuum through the leak?
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post #8 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 06:35 PM
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i see. so do you think that if i rev the bike close to redline for some time while standing and looking at the reservoir i would be able to see the bubbles come up if the gasket it letting gas through?
ALSO: the fact that i sometimes smell the faint odor of burned (sweet) coolant come up from under the cluster/ triple tree area when i start it every few days... could mean that the system could potentially be taking up air by vacuum through the leak?
No, DO NOT do that. That would be retarded. You'll do more engine damage revving it up like that without a load on it. I don't think you're understanding really how this all works. The bubbles are a result of the boiling. The boiling is a result of the head gasket. Two separate events have to happen here. You have to get the cylinder pressure up first, which lets air into the system. You then have to heat the coolant to near boiling. You're not going to be able to get that to happen by revving the shit out of the bike in the garage and standing next to it. It's not a constant stream of bubbles or an immediate effect. It's a build up of events that feed each other. And with the motor unloaded, the cylinder pressure will be lower than you want to test this fully.

Replace the cap and see how that goes. Stop worrying about the bigger problems until you eliminate the smaller, easier issues. Don't get ahead of yourself.

Likely the coolant smell is from the reservoir bottle overflowing and leaking onto the headers which gets burned off. Yes, you could have a pin hole leak in the radiator and it would cause this same issue. But there would be more evidence of a leak like that as you'd smell it more often than not. Again, the cap first as it's easy and prone to failure. From there, you could do a UV die leak detection of the fluid to see if it's leaking. After that, the troubleshooting gets more costly and more difficult.
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post #9 of 22 Old 11-01-2015, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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No, DO NOT do that. That would be retarded. You'll do more engine damage revving it up like that without a load on it. I don't think you're understanding really how this all works. The bubbles are a result of the boiling. The boiling is a result of the head gasket. Two separate events have to happen here. You have to get the cylinder pressure up first, which lets air into the system. You then have to heat the coolant to near boiling. You're not going to be able to get that to happen by revving the shit out of the bike in the garage and standing next to it. It's not a constant stream of bubbles or an immediate effect. It's a build up of events that feed each other. And with the motor unloaded, the cylinder pressure will be lower than you want to test this fully.

Replace the cap and see how that goes. Stop worrying about the bigger problems until you eliminate the smaller, easier issues. Don't get ahead of yourself.

Likely the coolant smell is from the reservoir bottle overflowing and leaking onto the headers which gets burned off. Yes, you could have a pin hole leak in the radiator and it would cause this same issue. But there would be more evidence of a leak like that as you'd smell it more often than not. Again, the cap first as it's easy and prone to failure. From there, you could do a UV die leak detection of the fluid to see if it's leaking. After that, the troubleshooting gets more costly and more difficult.
Sounds good. Thank you. I will start with the radiator cap. Im assuming it has to be a brand new cap to make sure that this issue is eliminated for sure.
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post #10 of 22 Old 11-02-2015, 10:37 AM
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I will just add that if you have not replaced the coolent before now would be a good time to freshen it up.
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