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1983 Suzuki XN85D Turbo


This article was written by Steve Klose . (Revised 8/27/17)

First and foremost is the propensity for the XN's exhaust system to retain water better than a Bear Grylls canteen. True, water is a by-product of combustion, but it would appear that exhaust system condensation is more of a problem on the XN85 than on any of the other factory Turbos -- or on any other motorcycle for that matter. When I removed the exhaust system of my XN for service after the garage-kept bike had been sitting for about 4 months what must have been more than a cup of water poured out onto the floor! I'm not kidding. And when I removed the cylinder head a small puddle of water was sitting on top of each piston!

Why it collects water at such a prodigious rate is a mystery, but our sources at the now defunct A.T.C.O. (Antwerp Turbo Cycle Owners) in Belgium reported that all the XNs in their organization (less than 10) had rotted pipes.

The first "breakthrough" of rust almost always occurs where the pipe leading from the muffler is joined to the pipe exiting the left side of the turbocharger which happens to be directly under the engine. This also, not surprisingly, is the lowest point of the exhaust system. At startup the exhaust will force the moisture through the rotted-out juncture and a tell-tale puddle of water will collect under the engine. If the hole is small enough it can be welded, but of course that doesn't cure the moisture collection problem. I've been advised to drill a small drain hole through the pipe, but then the water only drains when the engine is running which doesn't help things much if the bike is left idle for extended periods of time. (This abundance of moisture may also explain why my turbocharger wastegate was found rusted shut).

If you'd like to end your XN85 pipe rust problems once and for all -- good luck. Years ago an XN85 owner, Louis Thompson of England, recommended a stainless-steel exhaust system from a company called Gazelle. At the time -- according to Louis -- their chief technician who went by the mononym Brausch said that a common problem on the XNs he had seen was a collapsed inner "skin" on the turbocharger manifold pipe (part #14110-09308, and, of course, no longer available). This forces the turbocharger to suck air through a hole the diameter of a writing pen. Consequently, the bike feels as if the turbocharger is not working at all. Gazelle would replace the entire exhaust system with their stainless-steel parts for about £600, or about $1,100. Usually the bike would be brought to Gazelle for custom fitting of the pipes, but since Gazelle had done at least two XN85s they had retained a template making custom-fitting unnecessary. Unfortunately, the last we heard of Gazelle was in 2013, when we learned that they had moved the business to France. There the trail ends.

In tearing my XN engine down to the cases I've discovered two interesting things. For no explicable reason the intake valve on the #1 cylinder had a pitted contact surface. All the other valves were fine. The pitting was bad enough that I decided to replace the valve as opposed to having it resurfaced. Note that Suzuki strongly suggests that the valves not be lapped. Just pop in the new valve and move on.

Another discovery is that cylinder base gaskets are no longer available. Fortunately the gasket is steel and the old one can be reused if it is not bent or otherwise damaged. So be particularly careful not to harm the gasket when removing the cylinders. When replacing it sand it lightly with a #400 grit paper and spray it on both sides with a high-heat paint. Silver looks best.

Suzuki air-cooled fours suffer from weak stators and regulator/rectifiers. So when my charging system failed at 18,000 miles I immediately suspected the one or both. The failure actually occurred in the R/R, a less expensive part. You'll need a multimeter to check it along with the service manual but it's only a 10-minute task. At 23,000 miles the stator, as advertised, finally did give up the ghost. Instead of a factory replacement (about $350) I opted for a rebuild from Willie's Cycle Stators, 25921 Highway 280, P.O. Box 10, Camp Hill, AL, 36850 (205-896-4141 or 1-800-334-4045). At first I was told they had a rebuild "on the shelf" for about $160. In light of the extremely low production numbers on the XN85 I doubted this, but bowed to their wisdom. Sure enough the stator they sent to me was a perfect fit - for a GS1000. Unfortunately it was too narrow for an XN and the lead wires were about 14 inches too short. After a brief discussion on the phone with Willie's I suggested they rewind my existing XN85 stator core. They agreed and now Willie's has a model for any future XN85 stator rebuilds (if any are ever needed). If you belong to the TMIOA mention it to Willie's for a discount (that was agreed upon years ago; not sure if that still sticks). Since installing that Willie's stator it failed after approx. 18K miles. I replaced that unit with one from now defunct Electrix USA. I'm suspecting problems with that, too, so I now have another stator from still another source - Rick's Motorsports Electrics (ricksmotorsportelectrics.com) - ready to install if necessary. The first R/R replacement was from Electrix, the second unit from Rick's (it's a vicious cycle). As to replacement stators Rick's has got them in stock, with the proper length lead, for $140. Why do R/Rs and stators fail so often on these bikes? My theory is the placement of the R/R, basically squeezed under the front of the seat and therefore under your crotch, where it gets very little cooling air. I intend to relocate the part to the wide-open spaces some time in the future and will report here when that magic day is upon us.

XN85s are notoriously hard to shift when the engine is cold. It's far less of an annoyance in the heat of summer than in winter, obviously, but it can still be bothersome nonetheless. Heavier oils don't help it any so stick with the recommended 10W-40. I've never used synthetic oil so don't know if it would improve shifting or not, though I doubt it. Since oil in a turbocharged engine should be changed twice as often as oil inside a normally-aspirated engine to ensure long turbocharger bearing life, the use of expensive synthetic oil is not cost effective. Still I wonder...

The engine Thermo-Sensor, which detects the change in oil temperature as a change in its resistance, is rather fragile and the sensor "cap" which holds the wire leads can work itself loose from the sensor (located on the left side of the engine under the injectors). Be careful when wrenching around the area.

If you do have the injectors removed for any reason it's a good time to check the o-rings on BOTH sides of the injectors. They're easily damaged if not inserted properly. When reassembling keep Chubby Checker in mind and twist -- do not push -- the injectors back into the delivery pipe and then insert the assembly into the cylinder head. A little WD-40 works wonders here.

Check body panels for tightness at every opportunity. Side panels are especially prone to popping off at speed. Air "scoops," on the contrary, are difficult to remove and can be easily damaged if the job is not done properly. Worse yet, you can crack the fairing. Have patience. Side panels, fairing, and scoops are -- you guessed it -- no longer available. You can't get the tailpiece either. If you need to repair your existing bodywork fortunately we have the color code for the paint: 99000-10209-15K. It goes by the name Iron Silver Metallic.

Ramon Becerra of California, who once raced an XN85, reports that handling can be improved with the use of Kawasaki 900 fork springs. Ramon also installed a Works Performance "Ultra-Sport" shock in the rear and is happy with the change, saying it's much better than stock especially after a "few heated miles."

I like to use two fingers on the front lever when braking, but pinning the remaining fingers to the throttle grip when braking hard is no fun. I've replaced the recommended D.O.T. 4 (glycol-based) front brake fluid with D.O.T. 5 (silicone-based) for less mushiness in the lever. Since then I've been advised against using #5 (causes the caliper seals to swell I'm told). Better to use #5.1 fluid which is also glycol-based. Disconnecting the anti-dive and installing braided steel brake lines will improve lever feel even more.

Other parts no longer available include rear sprockets and windscreens. There are places that can custom make the sprocket, so keep your old one as a template. Aftermarket windscreens are available from Gufstafsson Windscreens (904-824-3443) in Florida. The stock muffler (Part# 14120-09303) was reported unobtainable for about half a year in '98. Then a large boat shipment suddenly arrived in the States, and the cost was a somewhat reasonable $250. Another mystery of the sea. But recently a member tried to buy one of those mufflers from Rocky Mountain ATV out of Payson, Utah. It was listed as "Usually Ships in 5 - 8 Business Days," which is a good sign, meaning it is at another warehouse. So he ordered it. Alas, it was not to be. Rocky Mountain couldn't supply the part, and it is now listed as "Not Shipping."'

The only performance mod I know of for the XN85 is an adjustable wastegate regulator that was once available for $90 from Andy Morris of New York. It installed in about 15 minutes and, after road-test adjustments, lets the turbocharger build boost closer to the 12.5 psi "kill" point determined by the onboard computer. It really works. For the first time I was able to see my boost gauge light up all seven segments after installing the device Andy advertised as the "secret weapon" (so-called because it hides in the right-side storage compartment). Well worth the asking price. (If you're somewhat adept at this type of thing you can probably build one yourself. Check out Turbo News #33). Short of that you can try Ron Graf's Weak Turbo Wastegate Spring fix described in his Honda CX Turbo tech help section. It's a little more trial-and-error, but the results are the same and you get to keep your fairing storage pocket.

I recently posted some erroneous information here about a faulty Manifold Pressure Sensor causing the fuel injectors to shut down. Thinking the part had failed, I sourced a new (pricey) replacement, plugged it in, and went on my merry way -- for about 2 miles, when the bike completely shut down again. Cutting to the chase the problem turned out to be a partially collapsed fuel line hose, leading from the fuel pump to the injectors. On my XN the parts (pump and hose) are not stock. My bike has a small "loop" of fuel hose exiting the pump, not a nice, clean 90-degree fitting like the stock setup. It was in the "loop" that the restriction was found. Not totally closed off, but just enough to tell the ECU, "hey, we have a fuel pressure problem here, SHUT THIS THING DOWN NOW!" Once I replaced the hose the engine fired right up. I also reported on a non-working boost gauge on the dash which I assumed was also MPS related. Not so. My igniter box wiring harness had slipped below the rear inner fender, and the tire was periodically making contact with it, fraying several wires and completely breaking the White/Red wire, which I now know sends a signal to the turbo gauge. Wire spliced together and problem solved. I now have a brand new, perfectly good MPS sitting on a shelf. It's there to remind me to check, double-check, and then triple-check all connections and 50¢ parts before reaching for the Master Card.

Good news if you need fuel injectors. OEM’s are long gone but we found an aftermarket replacement. Look for 1983 Toyota Celica injectors and you’re good. They’re available through many suppliers, but PartsGeek.com offers GB Remanufacturing, Inc. injectors (remanufactured, of course) for less than $32 US (each). Part number is 842-12155.

There you have it. Not much to be wary of considering this was a one-year only bike (in the States anyway) produced in ridiculously low numbers and that Suzuki does everything short of denying the bike's existence.

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