How to Troubleshoot a Kawasaki 500 Engine

by Brianna Collins

Kawasaki Motor Corporation has released a number of motorcycles over the years featuring its 500cc engine, including both the Ninja 500R sport cycle and the Vulcan 500 Limited Edition cruiser. Despite the great differences in total engineering and style between these two bikes, engine troubleshooting and minor repair tips remain similar for these makes and for all motorcycles equipped with Kawasaki's 500cc engine. Kawasaki includes information to help owners troubleshoot engine problems in each bike's manual.

Engine Stalls, Loses Power or Won't Start

Operate the bike's starter. Proceed with engine troubleshooting if the engine turns over but doesn't start or if the engine loses power, as this indicates problems directly related to the 500cc engine itself.

Check fuel levels by reading the fuel gauge. You can find this gauge at the center of your Kawasaki bike's handlebars. If the gauge reads "E" or empty, refuel the bike with unleaded gasoline.

Check the engine's oil levels. Begin this check by parking the bike on level ground.

Read the oil level gauge, which should be located on the middle-right side of any Kawasaki motorcycle. Engine oil should read between the upper and lower level lines next to the gauge.

Unscrew the oil filler cap, located directly above the oil gauge, and refill the oil tank if engine oil levels are inadequate. Kawasaki 500cc engines take SAE 10W40, 10W50, 20W40 or 20W50 viscosity engine oil only. Screw the engine oil cap back in place.

Check the engine's spark plugs. The Kawasaki 500 engine has two spark plugs, located in each of the engine's cylinders.

Remove each spark plug cap and unscrew each plug from its respective cylinder using a spark plug wrench.

Inspect the condition of each spark plug. Replace a plug if the electrode end is burnt, brittle or cracked. The Kawasaki 500 engine takes NGK DR8EA or ND X24ESR-U spark plugs only.

Measure the spark plug gap, which is the distance between the hook at the end of the spark plug, using a wire-type thickness gauge. The spark plug gap should measure between 0.024 and 0.028 inches.

Use a spark plug gap tool to gently pull the hook-end wider if the gap is too narrow.

Press the hook-end against a firm surface to gently shorten the gap if it is too wide.

Reinstall each spark plug into its respective cylinder with the spark plug wrench.

Restart the engine. If it still runs erratically, take the engine to the shop for further inspection.


Ensure that the engine oil levels are adequate first if the Kawasaki 500's engine is overheating. Instructions for checking and refilling oil are outlined in the section above.

Check the engine cooling system and radiator fins, located at the right-front side of the Kawasaki cycle, for debris, dirt or buildup. If debris is present, rinse the radiator fins clean using a low-pressure water source such as a garden hose.

Check for adequate coolant levels by first parking the bike on level ground.

Unscrew the meter unit mounting bolt with a wrench and remove the meter unit to access the coolant level gauge. The meter unit is located between the handlebars of the motorcycle. Disconnect the speedometer cable and wire leads to fully remove the meter unit before proceeding.

Check the coolant level gauge located on the side of the reserve tank. Coolant levels should measure between the "L" (low) and "F" (full) marks.

Unscrew the reserve tank's cap and add coolant to the filler opening until coolant reaches the "F" line. Kawasaki recommends a mixture of half distilled water, half permanent-type antifreeze for its 500cc engine.

Screw the reserve tank cap back on and reinstall the speedometer cable, wire leads, and meter unit.

Restart the engine. Take it to the shop if it still overheats.


  • check In the event that troubleshooting fails, major repairs may be needed on the Kawasaki 500 engine. The company recommends that owners consult a certified dealer for these repairs.


  • close Smoking or working near an open flame while handling gasoline can cause explosive fumes to ignite, so exercise caution.
  • close Use only the specific engine oil types and spark plugs listed above on the Kawasaki 500 engine to avoid serious engine damage.

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About the Author

Brianna has been writing professionally since 2009. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is excited to be part of a community that contributes to the free sharing of information and ideas.

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  • photo_camera spark-plug wrench image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from