- courtesy of JRillustration.com

All contents ©JR Illustration 2005


NOTE: This does not show the complete rebuild. More will be added later.

Hi, and welcome.

I've taken on the task of rebuilding and restoring a basket case 2001 Kawasaki Vulcan Drifter, and you are welcome to look over my shoulder as I put it together and polish it up.

I'd like to thank Sean for the donation of the bike, and Bill for his help finding and initiating this project. Many thanks to both of you. Bill and Sean are both Vulcan Drifter riders, and I'm proud to be joining their ranks.

This site is a no frills look at a motorcycle rebuild project. It is intended to help, assist, inform, and perhaps dissuade others from attempting the same. No warranty is express or implied. Be safe, keep away from fire or flame, look both ways as you buckle up, and don't blame me if you blow something up or drop it on your foot as a result of readinng the following material.

This is not a pretty sight, because, like comedy, mechanic work is not pretty.

The History: The bike was well ridden, and had developed a bad case of slipping out of gear in second. It was taken in to a mechanic who (supposedly) replaced the bent shifter forks. Then he set the timing for one of the cylinders 180 degrees out, (BOTTOM dead center instead of TOP dead center), during reassembly. Of course it ran like hell, and the slipping problem continued, so it was taken to a more reputable shop where it was again torn down, and a more complete list of replacement parts was made.

A small note here, not to get ahead of myself, but one of those shifter forks had about a sixteenth of an inch of material ground off of it. That seemed like alot for a supposedly new fork. I don't know how many miles it was ridden after the work was done, but with the timing messed up, I thought it shouldn't have been enough to grind the fork down as far as it was. Though the case HAD been separated, and put back together with non-oem liquid gasket, I began to doubt that the first mechanic had really replaced the shift forks.

Another guess was that perhaps the forks HAD been replaced, but since the tranny gears and drum had been damaged by the previously bent forks, they no longer functioned within tolerance, and began to eat away at the new ones.

I'm not an extremely experienced mechanic. I've done some motor stuff in the past, but basically I'm just a guy who saw the unforgiveably bad work done on this bike's engine, and in a spirit of mechanic distrust and a sick desire for adventure, decided to attempt rebuilding it myself. I suffer a fair amount of stress at my job, (meeting deadlines etc.), and a project like this helps me to deal with it.

Though I generally leave deep motor mechanic work to the professionals, this time I was intrigued. Here was a disassembled engine, with a clearly diagnosed problem, and a comprehensive list of the parts that would be needed to repair and reassemble it. It was a unique opportunity to get into the middle of the mystery behind the noise and the power. Usually the inside of the crank case is where all of us stop, and take it in to the mechanic.




The more reputable Kawasaki mechanic who tore down the engine the second time and did the diagnostic, listed all the replacement parts that would be needed to re-assemble it. Three tranny gears, all three shift forks, and the shift drum were to be replaced.

Also on the replacement list was every gasket, o ring, damper, bushing and stud that was encountered during the disassembly. I purchased all OEM parts, and paid just over one thousand dollars for all of them. Ouch! (If I had it to do over again, I think I'd look around for most of the stuff as non-oem. Some of those little o rings were four to six bucks a pop.)

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I bought the shop manual for the bike, as well as the Haynes manual. I figured having both would be like getting a second opinion whenever I got stuck. I was right on the money with that idea. Both of those books, as well as some exploded views on the internet were needed from the very beginning of the project.

Kawasaki provides, (as of now, 6/26/05), an online listing of ALL the parts for their bikes, with part numbers listed, and matching exploded views that show where each part belongs. It is a great resource.


On this page you can select the proper model by entering your vin, etc. and It will take you to a list of exploded views, with matching parts lists.

This is the parts exploded view list for the 2001 Drifter 800. I used it to find the correct part numbers, confirm vague information from the books, and generally as a backup third opinion.

WARNING - The following pages have several photos, so they may take a little while to load. I tried to get photos of all the steps I took.<