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Old 23rd February 2012, 23:50   #1
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Default Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

To cut a long story short. I am a Royal Enfield fan for its simple and clean looks and classic british history. I had been drooling over any nicely kept Bullet (Read Stock) since school days and had always thought of owning one someday. In the days of college I could get my feet around a couple of Bullets one being a 94 model 500cc and since that day, am hooked onto the torque and thump. Though the thump will never come back unless RE decide to do a limited edition CI block for their motorcycles (RE can thank me for the idea, later) the current edition of engines from their stable are definitely a step ahead and still keep the old world charm of these motorcycles alive.

So, on the 8th of October 2011 I walked into the Royal Enfield Showroom in Mangalore to book a Classic 350 and walked out booking a Thunderbird Twinspark. The reason being that I did not want to compete for the "Saddle Sore" every time I rode it. I know, I could have got a more comfortable seat installed but I just did not want to play with the looks of such a beautiful motorcycle.

Then in January, at a place called Pragati Maidan, New Delhi they unveiled the Thunderbird 500 making my gut feeling come true. I had made up my mind of owning the TB500 by then and put up a thread starting a debate. All this while I had a lot of time to think about it as RE were taking their own sweet time postponing the delivery which was to be in January. And by the end of this thread :

* (Royal Enfield Thunderbird : Sitting on the fence)

I had spent Rs. 83,000 on a 2009 UCE Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twinspark making me the third owner of that motorcycle. Hence - Take 3.

Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img372.jpg
--After getting her first wash from her third daddy.


Riding the motorcycle has been a great learning experience. I must say that these UCE engines come with a speed limiting device. The faster you go the worse sound you get. The lower you can keep the revs the better it is. Took me 2 hours to understand this and have been doing so since then. I love the way it handles at 65-75 kmph in 5th gear. You are not too fast, enjoying the vibes and also not getting tired. Don't get me wrong when I mention these speeds as my daily commute consists of a 16 km ride on the NH-17. In the city I don't feel like going above 40 kmph in 4th, but even then I feel like shifting to 5th and love soaking in the beat.

I did a longish trip recently and came to know that being a motorcycle rider, one has to be in good shape and must have a strong lower back. Since these trips are what I bought this motorcycle for, I plan to put in a little effort on that front to enjoy it to the max. Plan to buy a Full-Face helmet too. It is a difficult job trying to keep your visor clean, I must say.

I won't be writing about the ride and handling too much at the moment as when you scroll down, you'll see how my opinion will e biased against it because the bird needs a thorough checkup. While cleaning it for the first time i found a big patched up hole in the rear tire. Got it changed that day itself and bought some polish for the tank.

Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img378.jpg

The green flakes in the paint are now visible in sunlight and they look awesome.

After that longish trip I mentioned earlier I was so mesmerized by the riding that I forgot all the little niggles that are troubling me. Then came a day when I parked it on the side stand and it coughed up a teaspoon of oil. And then i realised that its 30,000 km service is coming up. So, lets talk about the issues it has. Though it is a Royal Enfield with a new athletic heart, it still has some. I have listed down the following things which I want to get checked and rectified. Planning to send her for her first service in the coming week after which I am planning a long trip. 500 odd kilometers to Gokarna and back.


1. Brakes
1.1 Front disc chatters on light application of brakes.
1.2 Front brake lever has no play at all feels very sticky even though the oil in the sight glass seems to be translucent.
1.3 Rear brake pedal free - play adjustment

2. Electricals
2.1 Indicator swith functions but is very hard and non-tactile in operation
2.2 Neutral indication turns off in straight ahead position of the handlebars
2.3 Straight ahead position of the handle bars turns off the ignition circuit of the motorcycle of the engine is not revved
2.4 Starter is kaput but I don't want to spend money on it.

3. Fuel Tank
3.1 Fuel gauge shows full on filling just 5 ltrs of fuel. The gauge setting needs to be done as the previous owner said he played with it a little.
3.2 Fuel tank cleaning is required as per the manual.
3.3 Thinking of changing the rubber seat in the fuel tank lid.

4. Suspension
4.1 Front Suspension seems to be slightly sticky when traversing.
4.2 Front fork Oil Seals need to be changed after oil top-up.
4.3 Gap between the tire and mud guard is increased significantly when compared with other thunderbirds when the motorcycle is on stand. Even the springy feel is lost. Travel is super sticky (non-progressive) and has reduced significantly. (Eg. On pressing the rear of the motorcycle one has to pull it back up to bring the rear to its original position.)
Rear shock absorbers need to be changed.

5. Handling
5.1 Bike is pulling to the right. Cams at the rear for chain tensioning need checking. While getting the new tire the mechanic did not set them to equal number of notches on both sides.
5.2 Wheel spoke tightness needs to be checked
5.3 Rear frame seems to move sideways during suspension travel
5.4 The bike feels like a hardtail because of the rear shocks going dead.

6. Engine
6.1 Oil change
6.2 Oil filter change
6.3 Air filter change
6.4 Head and exhaust system de-carbonizing, as per the manual.
6.5 Oil seals need to be changed as oil is leaking from everywhere. Have identified three places, the gear shifter, main drive sprocket area and the drain plug where the seals need to be changed.

7. Clutch
7.1 Juddering. I know its a big block single but this seems like the clutch plated bouncing off rather than the power being transmitted. Clutch plates might need a change but how can I tell?

8. Transmission
8.1 Chain tensioning. The manual says to change the chain.

9. Miscellaneous
9.1 One of the rear number plate bolts fell off.
9.2 Paint is scratched and has swirls
9.3 Head Lamp reflector and lens need cleaning as a slightly grey tinge has appeared. I'm also thinking of a bulb upgrade.

I went to the mechanics at the RE service center and after explaining all the above observations I got a "No need to touch that, till it gives you too much trouble." and "you do your Gokarna trip and we'll see to these after it, we have a lot of bookings, sir". Thought of letting them be in their own lazy uneducated world and went to a unauthorized Bullet Garage near my house. The guy said all this can be done within two days and he uses original parts from the RE store and quoted some 5000 rupees roughly for the following.

Oil and Seal change.
Air Filter change.
Front Brake pads.
Rear suspension change and front fork oil seals.
Checking the wiring.
Adjusting the steering bolt.

Planning to get it done from him only. What do you all think?

With time, i'll be putting up more pictures and my experience after the comeback of my bird from the hospital. Till then you can share your views on the priority in which I should be taking care of the issues mentioned above. Also share some gyan, everything is of help. This is my first motorcycle ever.

Last edited by Tgo : 26th February 2012 at 00:23.
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Old 27th February 2012, 10:24   #2
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Motorbikes section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 27th February 2012, 13:23   #3
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tgo View Post
This is my first motorcycle ever.
Congrats on your first bike ever and that too an RE which you have always dreamed of!

Coming to the issues, pay attention to the electrical, brakes, engine oil change etc. first. Electrical issue and engine not in top shape can leave you stranded when on the long trip. Rest the bullet/RE experts can comment. And yes, if you have a trusted RE mechanic, it is easier to get the work done from him than break your head with the service center folks.

So from your other thread, i gather that this is a stop gap until the TB500 deliveries begin?
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Old 28th February 2012, 00:06   #4
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Man, be prepared to spend a lot of money & time at the garage

Thats a lot expenses you are looking at, and take your 2nd mechanic's 5K estimate with a bucket of salt. How else will he snare you?

Please don't be in a hurry to select a mechanic and entrust all the work to him, you might end up becoming his 'dream come true'. I know , because with my 1st Enfield, this is exactly what happened to me. Solve 1 problem at a time, this will let you assess his skill and also give you a chance to find someone better ( more honest )

Best of luck! I think the biggest issue to solve will be the handling (drag to the right side). Others may be actually solvable!
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Old 28th February 2012, 04:40   #5
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Tgo
Some thoughts on your brake issues

1. Brakes
1.1 Front disc chatters on light application of brakes.

Look at both sides of the front brake disk to see if there are areas that look scuffed with smooth areas between them. If this is in evidence it indicates the disk is defective.
If the disk has a uniform scuffed appearance the chatter is most likely due to the brake pads not wearing in. This will tend to correct itself after the bike accumulates more km's.

1.2 Front brake lever has no play at all feels very sticky even though the oil in the sight glass seems to be translucent.

Due to their design, disk brakes never need much movement on the braking lever however I know of one instance where the fluid reserve had been overfilled by the Factory.
In this condition the excess fluid was applying the brake at all times.
With the bike resting on the center stand, have a friend sit on the rear of the bike so that the front tire is raised above the ground.
Rotate the front tire with your hand. It should turn freely with no drag from the brake.
If the wheel does not turn freely you may assume the disk brake is being applied, most likely from excess fluid in the master cylinder reservoir.

To fix this condition, remove the small black rubber cap that covers the bleed valve on the wheel brake cylinder.

Tell a helper that the game plan will be to wait until you tell him/her to lightly squeeze the brake lever until it contacts the grip and then to hold it in that position without releasing it until they are told that they may release it.

Using a wrench, loosen the bleed valve by turning it anti-clockwise about 1/2 to 3/4 of a revolution. Cover the end of the valve with a old rag and then tell your friend to squeeze and hold the brake lever. It should move all the way to the grip and while it does brake fluid will be blown out of the valve.
(It is absolutely necessary to cover the valve with the rag because the brake fluid that is blown out will destroy any painted surface it contacts.)

Now that the excess fluid has escaped, tighten the valve using a light torque. ( DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN THIS VALVE.)
Once the valve is tight, tell your helper they can release the brake lever and allow it to return to its normal position.

If you retest the free rotation of the front wheel you should find it turns easily.

1.3 Rear brake pedal free - play adjustment

This is one of the easiest things to do of any adjustment on the bike.

With the bike on the center stand and the transmission in netural the rear wheel should turn freely.
The hexagon nut on the rod at the rear brake lever requires screwing it forward (clockwise looking forward).
To do this you must grasp the lever and twist it forward. This will disengage the depression on the forward side of the nut and allow it to be easily turned by hand.
Turn it clockwise until it starts to bump into the lower part of the brake lever.
Release the torque on the brake arm and then turn the nut 1/2 turn clockwise. While you do this you will notice that the brake arm engages the depression on the forward side of the nut. When this happens, you are almost finished.
Now, turn on the ignition switch and push down on the foot lever. You should see the rear brake light illuminate. If it does, you done.
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Old 28th February 2012, 19:05   #6
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Quote:
Originally Posted by abhinav.s View Post
Congrats on your first bike ever and that too an RE which you have always dreamed of!

So from your other thread, i gather that this is a stop gap until the TB500 deliveries begin?
Thanks Abhinav. For now I am learning about the motorcycle. Stop gap or not, I'll think about it again and thoroughly before going in for it. It will be close to 6-7 months before they start deliveries of the TB500.

Quote:
Originally Posted by john doe View Post
Man, be prepared to spend a lot of money & time at the garage

Please don't be in a hurry to select a mechanic and entrust all the work to him, you might end up becoming his 'dream come true'. I know , because with my 1st Enfield, this is exactly what happened to me. Solve 1 problem at a time, this will let you assess his skill and also give you a chance to find someone better ( more honest )

Best of luck! I think the biggest issue to solve will be the handling (drag to the right side). Others may be actually solvable!
I know what you mean about the mechanic. But I have made up my mind that I'll not complain even if things are not perfect after this service. A little amount of trust is needed. I zeroed in on this mechanic as his shop is just a 400m walk from my house.

I gave him the motorcycle and RS. 4000 advance for purchasing parts and Oil yesterday evening and went and checked on him today. He has sent it for a thorough wash to identify the points where the oil is leaking from. The RE store was closed today because of the strike was what he told me which I later confirmed by going there to see. As for the work I've asked him to take care of, here's the list.
  • Change of Disc Pads and new Brake Fluid (300)
  • Change of Fork Oil and Oil Seals (500)
  • Checking the loose connection in the ignition switch (..)
  • Oil and Oil filter change with oil seals in crankcase (700+seals)
  • Replacement of Rear Shocks (2000)
  • Rectification of pulling to the right issue (..)
  • Adjustment of Steering Nut which makes a sound when the weight transfers forward when braking (..)
  • adjustment of clutch lever (..)
  • Replacement of Drum Brake Shoes (200)
  • checking Chain Tension and its adjustment (..)
  • change of Air Filter (300)

He has said that he'll return the motorcycle on Thursday evening which will be Friday evening now. Again, I've committed a possible mistake by giving him all this work in one go, but I think since he'd doing it for the first time for me he'll try to do a good and honest job. Also, people in this part of Karnataka are generally very honest.



Quote:
Originally Posted by ArizonaJim View Post
Tgo
Some thoughts on your brake issues....
Woah. You seem like a DIY sort of person. Even I would love to do all this myself. Thanks for the tips. Will implement them from now on as a fellow BHP-ian has been kind enough to mail me the Service manual for the UCE.

Will keep you posted on how the service went.
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Old 28th February 2012, 21:09   #7
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tgo View Post
Also, people in this part of Karnataka are generally very honest.
Bro, my mom's family is from Manipal, my dad's family is from Hiriyadka and my wife's house is near Urwa stores, so I will be the first to say that South Kanara is relatively more honest and decent than any place else that I have seen.

But don't forget, we are still talking about Enfield mechanics..........
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Old 29th February 2012, 21:37   #8
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Quote:
Originally Posted by john doe View Post
Bro, my mom's family is from Manipal, my dad's family is from Hiriyadka and my wife's house is near Urwa stores, so I will be the first to say that South Kanara is relatively more honest and decent than any place else that I have seen.

But don't forget, we are still talking about Enfield mechanics..........
I did my engineering from Manipal but never got to deal with Enfield mechanics. They are a rare lot and their demand has skyrocketed since production of these UCE motorcycles.

I went to check on my motorcycle today. He had opened up the front fork, steering brace, rear wheel and drive sprocket, RHS engine cover, drained the oil etc. He had bought new brake pads for bothe the brakes, a new air filter, new oil, all crank case oil seals except for the drive sprocket seal which he couldn't get, oil filter, liquid gasket adhesive, brace set with new balls and new oil and oil seals for the front fork. He was eager to show that all parts were bought from the RE store and they were all in sealed packets. He couldn't get the rear shocks as they were not in stock. He said he'll find out at Pramod.

Who/What the hell is Pramod? A local parts manufacturer/supplier for RE? Please share what you know about this.

Will be getting it tomorrow evening instead of Friday if he gets the shocks and the sprocket seal.

Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img377-copy.jpg

This is the chromed part that covers the front shocks which has the headlight bracket built into it. I guess this part doesn't take any load of the structure but it shows signs of rusting from the inside. Any idea how this can be stopped?

Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img393.jpg
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Old 29th February 2012, 22:43   #9
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Congrats again Tgo. You might want to leave it with a decent RE A.S.S atleast for the first repair schedule you've listed out. They have a genuine problem of being stretched thin due to the sheer number of bikes they get - the wait for a booking might be worth it.
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Old 3rd March 2012, 16:23   #10
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

I went and saw my motorcycle today.

Jobs done to my satisfaction
  1. Rear shocks have been changed with Gabriel brand shocks. The ride is much more comfortable now. It glides over rough patches instead of sending judders to your backside.
  2. Front steering brace does not make a sound now when weight transfers forward.
  3. No oil leak till now from the engine crank case.
  4. No oil leak from the front shocks.
  5. Loose connection in the wiring which was causing the ignition circuit to switch off in straight ahead position has been looked after.
  6. Oil, Oil filter and Air filter were changed.

Still a lot left...
  1. Brake pads at the front were changed but the wheel is not rotating freely. Brakes have no feedback also. Could be because he hasn't bled the brake lines or because the disc heats up due to continuous application.
  2. The switch panels on both sides were loose.
  3. A few bolts are missing. Could count only two unimportant ones.
  4. Gear shifter level is a bit forward biased than before. Have to flex my foot much forward to shift down.
  5. Clutch lever has a lot of play and does not spring back to its farthest point after the clutch engages.
  6. Headlamp seems to have some moisture inside the glass.
  7. Starter relay was disconnected as I mentioned I don't use the starter at all. I didn't want it disconnected though. It now, just gives a click sound and no whirling sound.
  8. Some rubber boots covering the cable terminals are cracked.
  9. Chain tension seems to be on the higher side.
  10. The Motorcycle pulls to the right very quickly when I let go of the handlebars, compared to how it was before. I am suspecting this is because of greater tension in the chain (chain is located on the RHS of the motorcycle). I had observed that the chain tensioner cams had been adjusted to the 13th notch before this service. Right now they are set to the 10th notch.
  11. And now the bad part. I took it for a spin, about 15 kms. It felt very hard to ride like it was tugging something. The throttle response was also poor and towards the last couple of kms the engine just died. This is no idling problem. I was cruising at 60kmph and at around 1800rpm and the dials suddenly started to drop as if the ignition switch was turned off. Letting go of the throttle and accelerating made it come alive again. This was happening every minute. Could this be some water seeping into the carb or fuel tank during the wash or is it some electrical problem again?

I had to shell out 6500 rupees for this service which includes the cost of all consumables and labour. Need help regarding the issues highlighted in bold. I'll try what ArizonaJim told me about the disc brakes but I have no clue about the other issues.
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Old 4th March 2012, 11:33   #11
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Another problem cropped up today. We had set off for Bekal (Kerala) at 7:00 AM. Just 10 minutes into the ride we stopped at a construction site for a bridge to click a few pictures.

Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-425607_10150701035765926_729215925_11774083_2057235255_n.jpg

I put my motorcycle on the Side stand and was tilting the steering when I heard a loud snapping noise. Looked at the stand cum foot peg bracket and saw one nut loose. Looking closer at the nut I found that the stud had given way. Worst was to find out that the stud supports the engine onto the frame. Looking from the other side one can clearly see that the stud was short bolted on the side it gave way.

LHS - The blackened nut (Culprit)
Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img405.jpg

RHS
Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)-x6img406.jpg
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Old 6th March 2012, 14:12   #12
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Man! The list of woes is just piling up. Better to book an appointment for service in the RE showroom and get everything sorted.

PS: Did you ever consider why a 2009 model vehicle had 2 owners by 2011 making you a third owner when you bought it. Maybe the previous owners were not happy with the bike due to multiple issues? Just thinking out loud.
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Old 7th March 2012, 01:42   #13
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Tgo:
I took a look at that bolt/nut on my 2011 RE G5 and noticed that my bike does not have a threaded stud with nuts on both ends.
Rather, it has one hex headed bolt with one nut on the right side of the bike.

This gives me reason to believe someone other than Royal Enfield has been replacing parts during its life and for reasons I don't understand they changed this fastener to the cobbled up version you have.

Royal Enfield is constantly making revisions to their production bikes so it is possible that the 2009 version has the stud/2nut design you show and perhaps they revised the construction to my one bolt/one nut method sometime between 2009 and 2011.

Could anyone else who owns a 2009 or newer UCE 500 powered RE take a look at their bike and tell us what they find?
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Old 9th March 2012, 22:37   #14
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Regarding the two owners in less than three years I can't comment. Might be that I've bought a lemon but it isn't so when its functioning properly. Most of all I enjoy riding it. And if I've made a mistake the maybe I'll learn from it. Too late now.

Yes, Jim, you were right about the mounting bolt. I checked it on another Thunderbird and it was similar to what you described. Hex head on the left and one nut (with a round extending seat) on the right hand side. I bumped into the previous owner when I went to my mechanic to get this fixed. He said that he too had cracked the original bolt once and had got it welded and threaded to fit in again. My mechanic did the same thing, he turned a new stud out of steel probably Mild Steel as I heard him say MS on a couple of occasions, and put a nut and a lock nut to keep it in place. Cost me 80 bucks and the the final fabrication looks shabby but is doing the job of holding the engine in place. I got a feedback from him that RE doesn't supply this part anymore or the dealer doesn't bother ordering it. Will go and check if it is like that. A replacement with the original bolt is very much needed.

New issue. The brace which keeps the main stand in place has fallen off or maybe I did not notice it in the first place. Cracked weld spots are the only remnants that hint to its existence. Because of this, the main stand swings up and hits the exhaust pipe from below and rattles a bit on bumpy roads. More than the noise its spoiling the chrome on the exhaust. Thinking of getting that rod welded again. No other option, I guess.
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Old 10th March 2012, 03:58   #15
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Default Re: Take 3 - 2009 Royal Enfield Thunderbird (Ownership Experience)

Tgo
Hopefully your mechanic applied some thread locking compound to the threads of both of the hex nuts when he assembled that engine mount stud and nuts.

Most Royal Enfield riders here in the US wouldn't be without a thread locking compound like Loc-Tite. I'm not sure if it is available in India but there must be some product that is similar.
It is a fluid that remains in a fluid state until it is subjected to pressure by tightening the threaded nut(s). Once tightened the fluid will solidify locking the nut to the shaft/bolt.

Loc-Tite comes in several different strengths, a blue for fasteners that will someday be removed and a red that is for permanent installations.

We use the blue Loc-Tite for all of the fasteners we remove.
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