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How to Adjust the Clutch on a 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic

by Chris Gilliland

Kawasaki' 2002 VN1500 Vulcan Classic used a hydraulic clutch system to eliminate the possibility of clutch slippage or missed shifts associated with the potential for a traditional steel cable to stretch over time. However, the effectiveness of the clutch master cylinder and its slave cylinder can be reduced dramatically by trapped air or the natural buildup of condensation in the hydraulic fluid. This is often indicated as a soft-feeling lever pull or an increasingly grabby sensation from the clutch. In most cases, flushing the old fluid out of the circuit and refilling it with fresh fluid will resolve both problems.

Place the Vulcan on a motorcycle jack to support it in a vertical position. Unscrew the left front foot-board mounting bolts, using a 14 mm socket and a socket wrench.

Loosen the rear shift-lever pinch bolt, located under the left front foot board, using a 10 mm socket and a socket wrench. Pull rear shift lever off of the transmission shifter shaft. Loosen the front shift-lever pinch bolt, using a 10 mm socket, then pull the shift lever off of the shifter shaft.

Unscrew the outer engine cover bolts, using a 5 mm Allen wrench. Pull the cover away from the engine to reveal the clutch slave cylinder. Push a 3-foot length of clear plastic tubing with a 1/4-inch inner diameter over the bleed valve on top of the clutch slave cylinder. Place the opposite end of the tubing into a plastic catch pan.

Turn the motorcycle's handlebars to the right until the clutch master cylinder reservoir, positioned on the left handlebar, is level with the ground. Unscrew the fluid reservoir cover bolts, using a Phillips screwdriver, and pull the cover and the diaphragm out of the reservoir.

Suck the old clutch fluid out of the reservoir, using a hand pump. Refill the reservoir 3/4 full with DOT 4 brake fluid.

Turn the clutch slave cylinder bleed valve counterclockwise a quarter-turn, using an 8 mm combination wrench, to open the valve. Pull the clutch lever in to feed the new clutch fluid through the clutch circuit. A small amount of old clutch fluid will be forced into the clear plastic tubing. Turn the bleed valve clockwise a quarter-turn with your wrench to close the valve. Slowly release the clutch lever, then refill the reservoir with DOT 4 brake fluid. Repeat until the fluid trapped in the tubing is free of bubbles or debris and has a light amber color.

Pull the clutch lever in several times with the bleed valve fully-closed. You should feel firm resistance when pulling the lever in. If the clutch lever moves easily or you do not feel resistance, continue to bleed the clutch as described earlier.

Wrap a shop rag around the closed bleed valve and the plastic tubing, then pull off the tubing. Wipe away any spilled clutch fluid with your shop rag. Tighten the bleed valve to 69 inch-pounds, using a torque wrench and an 8 mm socket.

Remount the outer engine cover onto the engine. Screw the outer engine cover bolts into place, using a 5 mm Allen wrench. Tighten the bolts to 61 inch-pounds, using a torque wrench and a 5 mm Allen socket.

Slide the front shift lever onto the transmission shifter shaft, followed by the rear shift lever. Tighten both shift-lever pinch bolts to 18 foot-pounds, using a torque wrench and a 10 mm socket.

Mount the left front foot board onto the motorcycle's frame. Screw the foot-board mounting bolts into place, using a 14 mm socket and a socket wrench. Tighten the bolts to 25 foot-pounds, using a torque wrench.

Refill the clutch master cylinder fluid reservoir with DOT 4 brake fluid. Stop when the fluid level is between the upper and lower marks imprinted into the fluid sight gauge on the face of the reservoir. Reinstall the diaphragm into the reservoir, then screw the cover bolts into place with a Phillips screwdriver.

Remove the motorcycle from the jack, then park it on its kickstand.

Tip

  • Check for damaged hoses or leaks at the clutch master and slave cylinders, if the clutch lever does not feel firm after bleeding the clutch circuit.

Warnings

  • Always keep the reservoir full to prevent air from entering into the clutch circuit. If the reservoir goes dry, you will need to restart the bleeding process.
  • Brake fluid will damage painted surfaces. Wash away spilled brake fluid immediately with water to minimize damage.
  • Always use brake fluid from a sealed bottle. Unused brake fluid from an opened bottle can collect condensation during storage.

Items you will need

References

About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

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