Replacing the clutch plates on a RE Thunderbird

A week back, when I was about to leave for office, I noticed the perfect weather. No rain, a cool breeze blowing, I decided to take my bike out.

I started my bike and as soon as I pulled in the clutch and engaged into first gear, the bike jumped forward and stalled. It’s as if the clutch wasn’t even there. I tried a few more times but the same.

Since the bike was immobile, I called the service centers for help and kept calling for a week, but they won’t send someone here or let me pick someone to repair my poor bike. A week went by but nothing happened. Meanwhile, day after beautiful day was being wasted with me travelling in the car.

After a few more days, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got a set of spanners, a set of allen keys, a new set of clutch plates and pressure plates and decided to open it up.

First comes out the left foot rest which is held together with a nut, then the gear lever using an allen key.

If you’ve a big enough bowl (as big as the clutch compartment) to catch the oil, just loosen the big nut at the center, tap the clutch compartment cover with a spanner and the oil will splash right down. If not, just unscrew the small nut on the bottom left and the oil will flow down slowly in a trickle (as pictured).

Notice the yellow colour? That’s an indication of water in the clutch compartment. The water rusts the components when the bike is still, when it’s in motion, the rusts scrapes off, gets mixed in the oil resulting in the strange color.

Next the clutch plates and the pressure plates come off. Start with loosening the three nuts on the center. Loosen them one at a time so that the thing comes off uniformly.

Below it you’ll find 3 springs. 3 attached to the lid that just came off and 3 the the upper plate.

Use a screwdriver to bring out the plates. Note that in my case, the plates are stuck to each other.

This is because the plates welded together due to the enormous heat caused by friction without proper lubrication. They do come off if u stick a screwdriver between them and pull, but they are useless now.

On the left is the alternator, on the right last pressure plate left in the clutch compartment. In my case it was stuck to the back wall so had to get a sharp instrument to wedge behind it and take it out.

Use plenty of petrol to splash the innards clean of the remaining rust. In my case, it took quite some time and I had to use a brush to scrape the grime off some tough spots. Spin the wheel, pouring petrol simultaneously to get the remaining crap off.

Put the new clutch plates in, one by one. First come the pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then the top pressure plate (in my case, I salvaged my old one).

(The clutch plates are the ones with the grooves, the pressure plates are the smooth ones)
Put on the lid with the springs and tighten the nuts, just past the tightening point. (pictured)

Start the bike, pour some more petrol while its spinning and operate the clutch lever, slowly tightening it till the desired tension. I did realize later that sparks from the alternator may have lit up the petrol but that didn’t happen.
Close up the clutch compartment and pour the oil in from the top hole (400ml).

The most common points of entry for water in the clutch compartment are

1. The place on top where the alternator wiring goes in
2. The clutch compartment seals themselves
3. The gear lever joint

Now I make sure I seal all these parts properly and work my bike every once in a while to prevent rust.
Hope this was helpful.

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