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Old 24th July 2018, 13:25   #1
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Default Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Now this is something which is part commonsense so I apologize if you find this post as one of those "generic motorcycling posts" but the reason for me going ahead with this is because of the realization that in panic situations most motorcyclists tend to ignore the obvious and go with counter intuitive measures as seen in the below video;



In the video the REH rider stalls his motorcycle in the water due to water getting in through the intake, and he is smart enough to not crank the motorcycle with the exhaust/intake still being submerged which would make matters worse and result in the cylinder locking up i.e a proper hydrolock, why a lock? It is because water cannot be compressed like the AFR mixture, as a result the motor would refuse to turn, your kicker would not budge and your starter motor would not be able to turn the motor, and you should not do either of that as you could damage internals in the process.

In the video the rider cranks the motor without following the protocol and since he has only small amounts of water in the intake his motorcycle fires up but still remains chocked, what happens when starting a water chocked motorcycle is that the water in the Air Filter compartment gets sucked into the carburetor and settles in the float bowl, some of it even gets into the cylinder, and since water cant be compressed it either evaporates and breaks down the carbon in your cylinder or most likely it is forced past the piston rings into your oil sump and results in emulsification of your engine oil.

Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!-img_20141021_070606.jpg

This is a snap from the oil drained from my Bajaj Discover 100 4G after an unsuspecting return to hostel ride from Kollam to Bangalore, water collected in a fly-over construction site near Attibelle and I along with a lot of other motorists including cars as well misjudged the depth of the water body and tried crossing it and nearing the middle water level rose beyond the fuel tank/speedo meter and our respective vehicles got hydrolocked, you cant really blame us as the time was around midnight and it was raining heavily, and for the record I did not try to start the motorcycle soon after, but anyhow the cylinder got locked and water went down into my oil sump due to me going at the stream with the throttle cracked open at WOT.

The problem with emulsified oil is that its ability to lubricate the internals is compromised and if you're a long way from home then its just a matter of time before you face a seizure of sorts.

So that is why we have the Hydrolock Protocol;

Step 1:

Drain the Air Filter and Air Filter Box, in case you have a paper filter it can be hard to dry hence those of you who're into adventure riding would be better of carrying a spare, do not attempt drying the air filter as shown in the above video as that will compromise the filter element and worst case scenario you'll end up with a busted valve seat. In most modern motorcycles or at least in all the ones that I've owned there is a drain tube/nipple on the side/bottom of the air filter box that can be opened to release water trapped in the box. Normally you wouldn't have to even dry the filter or even take the air filter out for that matter, just draining the air filter box would do, but that would depend on the water retention capabilities of your filter component.

Here's a snap of the air filter box drain nipple on the Bajaj Dominar 400, I'd cropped it from a picture taken during a previous ride as my current parking is cramped and it would be difficult for me to get a clear snap and because I have no clue where my P220's drain nipple is located at due to the need to drain never arising and due to everything being so cramped down there;

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Hope this gives you an idea on what to look for.

Step 2:

Drain the carburetor, you can do this by turning the fuel tap off and unscrewing the drain screw at the base of the carburetor float bowl, you can observe the contents of the float being drained and once the flow comes to an absolute stop, close the drain screw and turn on the fuel tap.

Step 3:

Drain the cylinder, remove the spark plug and turn the motor either using the self or the kicker and you can observe water being sprayed out of the cylinder through the spark plug hole, do it a couple of times to be sure and put the plug was in place after ensuring that it is dry.

Step 4:

Start the motorcycle! If the motorcycle refuses to start and you've managed to flood the motor(with fuel) then crank the motor with the throttle wide open and she'll roar back to life.

In my case you will see that due to trying to cross the water body at WOT I managed to lock the cylinder and let water seep past my rings and emulsify my engine oil, but all things considered if it were a more powerful motorcycle I would've had to face a bent connecting rod or busted piston rings given my method of entry. So as a word of caution is to cross such situations with moderation, a little too less can get you stuck midway and a little too much can result in what happened to me.

So since we have covered the essentials with me rambling a bit here and there, feel free to post any queries or concerns and also do educate me if you know of a better way to prevent/overcome such situations.

Ride Far and Safe.
A.P.
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Old 25th July 2018, 17:26   #2
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

One thing i couldn't understand from the video is, how water got inside the air filter? Filter housing is clearly above the water level, even the exhaust is out of water, and water level also doesn't seem to be that high. Experts please educate, so that we dont make this mistake
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Old 25th July 2018, 18:59   #3
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Quote:
Originally Posted by amit_snk View Post
One thing i couldn't understand from the video is, how water got inside the air filter? Filter housing is clearly above the water level, even the exhaust is out of water, and water level also doesn't seem to be that high. Experts please educate, so that we dont make this mistake
When you rush into water with too much momentum, the water will splash against your air filter housing and eventually get sucked in because you are opening your throttle far too much. More closer to WOT, more air/water getting sucked in.

When Offroading in deep water, the cardinal rule is to wade and not splash. When you wade, the waves you create don't ripple back into your engine and air filter, plus all you are doing is driving just a bit over idle.

Very counter intuitive, but that is how it is.
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Old 25th July 2018, 19:30   #4
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Great thread, very informative. With the kind of unpredictable weather and our drainage systems, this information will very useful in even city conditions at the time of artificial floods.
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Old 25th July 2018, 21:48   #5
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

I'm not sure why he immediately tried to start the motorcycle once it shut down due to obvious water in the air filter. The BMW has some protection against water. It ploughs through the water like a beast but the poor Himalayan isn't so lucky.

It doesn't look very responsible to me to try and restart the bike after a splash in the water. I drove through pretty deep water in an Indica Vista once and the car stalled after a minute or so after getting out. I was unaware of the issue water can cause and restarted it and throttled it more and more to keep the engine running. Had to change engine oil. We were lucky the conrods didn't bend. Engines can handle only a limited amount of water in the combustion chamber before it becomes incompressible and kicks back at the piston hard enough to deform something.

There are some more things to consider:
1. The thermal shock to unprotected engine head and block.
2. Water getting in the exhaust (probably you don't need to worry about it if the vehicle starts up just fine)
3. Revving the engine in the hope to revive the engine isn't the way to go unless you want something to go bad.

Very interesting thread!

Last edited by typlo : 25th July 2018 at 21:52.
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Old 26th July 2018, 19:09   #6
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Well, that Himalayan was certainly not "drowned" though it got a good splashing. In my experience with various vehicles, the cause of stalling/misfiring has much oftener been a wet spark-plug wire / boot / coil. Only after a thorough drying with a dry towel would it restart.

My Impulse intake is probably at least eight inches higher than the plug, and the coil's pretty exposed/forward, so pretty clear what'll stop it first.

Electricity, like water, takes the path of least resistance, and (apart from waterproofed electricals) even light condensation around a high-voltage wire can create a ground (earth) path, and prevent firing.

-eric
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Old 26th July 2018, 19:26   #7
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
In my experience with various vehicles, the cause of stalling/misfiring has much oftener been a wet spark-plug wire / boot / coil. Only after a thorough drying with a dry towel would it restart.
WD40 works wonders. Long time back Esso used to sell a similar product.

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Old 27th July 2018, 08:12   #8
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Quote:
Originally Posted by miles_hungry View Post
Great thread, very informative. With the kind of unpredictable weather and our drainage systems, this information will very useful in even city conditions at the time of artificial floods.
Spot on about our artificial conditions, believe it or not my Bajaj Discover 100 4G got hydro-locked on NH44/AH43, at the time of this happening I had already gone through an accident a short while before by running straight into a partly demolished divider of sorts that was not visible from afar, the remaining 200 km's or so was done in absolute agony and the pain lasted for over 3 months and this is me being lucky!. More the reason to worry for those partaking in endurance runs on Indian roads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
Well, that Himalayan was certainly not "drowned" though it got a good splashing. In my experience with various vehicles, the cause of stalling/misfiring has much oftener been a wet spark-plug wire / boot / coil. Only after a thorough drying with a dry towel would it restart.

My Impulse intake is probably at least eight inches higher than the plug, and the coil's pretty exposed/forward, so pretty clear what'll stop it first.

Electricity, like water, takes the path of least resistance, and (apart from waterproofed electricals) even light condensation around a high-voltage wire can create a ground (earth) path, and prevent firing.

-eric
True, due to the resulting symptom of misfire being the same for a choked filter or a shorted ignition things can get confusing not to mention it is not wise to let a motorcycle run in such conditions fearing bore wash.

But if I'm not wrong the distributor cap and cable if changed at fixed intervals wont face a short. The only time I faced a short was when pressure washing my motorcycle and it was due to the stator connector shorting out, as I couldn't source electrical grease at the time I had to settle with bearing grease, all is well to this moment.

Bajaj CT100B - Utilitarianism Redefined!

Plus the current generated from the stator isn't that strong that it can jump and it is sufficiently strong that it needs a medium strong enough to sustain it, so getting wet wont do the trick if not for a worn out distributor cable/cap as per my experience, though correct me if I' missing anything.

With the hard hitting monsoons we recently faced an issue with a friends motorcycle(Kawasaki Champion 4S) that was shorting, reason being the obvious, he never bothered changing his dist. cap and cable and the issue was resolved once the pair was changed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
WD40 works wonders. Long time back Esso used to sell a similar product.

Regards
Sutripta
It does, though the effects don't last pretty long. The correct fix is to use electrical grease which is near impossible to find locally, hence last time I had to manage with lithium grease, better than the alternative i.e vaseline as per me.
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Old 27th July 2018, 10:38   #9
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Default Re: Hydrolock Protocol: Saving a drowned motorcycle!

Quote:
Originally Posted by amit_snk View Post
One thing i couldn't understand from the video is, how water got inside the air filter? Filter housing is clearly above the water level, even the exhaust is out of water, and water level also doesn't seem to be that high. Experts please educate, so that we dont make this mistake
As rightly explained by Red Liner mate it can happen due to sudden splash of water getting into the internals with force. In the video the rider just darted the Himalayan into the water which created force and made the water rush into the air intake internals. This phenomenon depends on pure luck as I have seen some riders in the city who do the same while chug along without any issues during monsoon floods. The key while water fording is to keep the speed low and wade like a boat while keeping up the momentum and not stopping. On a side note this issue is also possible while pressure washing(most pressure washers have a powerful 100+ bar pressure) the motorcycle. If the washing fellow is not careful the water can get into the areas where it is not supposed to and wreak havoc with the internals. Exactly the reason why I wash my motorcycles myself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by typlo View Post
I'm not sure why he immediately tried to start the motorcycle once it shut down due to obvious water in the air filter. The BMW has some protection against water. It ploughs through the water like a beast but the poor Himalayan isn't so lucky.
Mate it could've happened to the BMW R1200GS as well but as you rightly mentioned the Himalayan wasn't so lucky. In the Long Way Round series the same happened to Ewan McGregor's BMW where water got drawn into his engine somewhere in Mongolia or Siberia. Mind you the Beemers were heavily modified for their cross country journey, yet this happened. So with proper riding skills a lot also depends on one's luck.
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