Yamaha FZ600 – Back from the Dead!

Back at the tail end of 2006 after selling my Honda CB250RS-D to a friend I bought myself a little Yamaha FZ600. I rode it home the 216 freezing miles from Durham in December. I should really stop buying bikes on ebay when under the influence!

MOT Failure!

Anyway after a few months riding around locally the MOT and tax ran out. A failed attempt at an MOT at my rather picky local test centre followed. Leaking fork seals, a blowing exhaust and stiff rear shock were the key things noted.

I parked the bike up for a while. Time passed and the little FZ got pushed into the shadows. Sixteen months later it was time to dig it out of hibernation and return to her rightful place; On the road. As I am notoriously hard to motivate, I roped my old mate Karl in to help me and over the next few weeks we got on with it.

After moving my Yamaha Thundercat, four mountain bikes and a collection of empty boxes big enough for The Sweeney to chase some slags in an old Jag through the FZ began to emerge!

Even the spider had died of boredom awaiting the return to the road!

Karl kept trying to get me to cut my fairing off & ‘fighter’ the old girl.

I was dreading taking off the exhaust; I had visions of seized studs and hours battling with the headers. In the end the odd mix of bolts, cap heads come straight off. Result! I planned to fit stainless fixings in their place, but never did.

As you can see the exhaust isn’t stainless!! A couple of pin holes explained the blowing exhaust note. The plan? Get this lot cleaned up and welded by another mate of mine. Should look a bit better then!

Off with the Scorpion end can, probably worth more than the bike!

Masters of Improvisation

With the fairing, down-pipes and exhaust off we could stick the bike on Karl’s rather wonderful lift. Great piece of kit must get one for myself one day. Then off with the front wheel, brake calipers and front mudguard, before moving on to the front fork removal:

Having already removed the clip-ons and released the fork pinch bolts we could drop the forks out. Karl starred again. I did do a few bits and bobs – honest!

We were coming up to a complicated bit, so it was out with the Haynes ‘Book of lies’

The manual wittered on about special tools to take out the guts of the forks, but we improvised!

The fork oil had seen better days…

Getting there now!

More improvisation! Yes, that is a paint roller!

The circlip in the top of the fork leg put up a bit of fight. However, it came out in the end. In the absence of the correct type of circlip pliers we used a couple of thin punches in each of the eye holes and a small flat bladed screwdriver.

Tip here: Remember to keep things sided as you strip the forks down.

We fitted the first seal without problem, re-fitted the original dust cap ok, but then hit a problem. Our improvised tool (!) wasn’t suitable for the re-assembly task. Karl took the forks away as he had something lurking in his garage that could do the job. Progress halted for a little while.

In the meantime I started sorting out the rusty downpipes, while Karl focussed on the fork assemblies.

The FZ is pushed back to the side of the garage, to await the next stage.

This is what a few seconds with a wire brush revealed!

There’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza!

The plan was to sleeve over the holes and get it to seal it to MOT standard. Ultimately, I thought that down-pipes would need to be replaced.

Intensive Care

The pipes were in ‘intensive care’ and I hoped they can be sorted over the next week. I had no luck with ebay, but I followed up on leads all over the place, even a post on the Yamaha owners club site that Karl put me onto.

The forks were rebuilt by Karl, and I even managed to give them a very brief polish (by no means show standard).

Well, the exhaust has been blasted by now revealing more holes than a colander

Anybody know a REALLY good welder!??

Karl returned with my forks today and they looked mighty shiny!

Some brisk spanner and socket set work saw the first fork fitted promptly.

Followed by some nice fresh fork oil…

Thanks to my lovely wife for the loan of the jug!

If you ever have gravy at our house, this will be why it tastes slightly odd…

Use of a syringe allowed the last few cc to be done accurately.

‘Reassembly is the opposite of the above’

That was pretty much the case. The other fork swiftly went on, as did the ‘fork brace’, mudguard, front wheel and brake calipers etc.

We checked over all the bolts, ensuring everything was nice and tight and even treated the old girl to a quick oil and filter change.

The FZ was then tucked away in the corner of the garage again while I figured out what to do about the exhaust. My brilliant plan to use XJ600 items came to naught when I realised that the XJ has a 4 into 2 system and the FZ is 4 into 1: All the routing will be wrong for the downpipes. Shame there was a lovely set on ebay at the time too.

All Avenues Explored

A number of breakers and exhaust suppliers were contacted all without success. I got outbid on a complete FZ on ebay, but I only wanted downpipes not another complete bike, so I wasn’t too bothered.

I tracked a XJ600 4 into 1 system on ebay at a good price, but that looked a bit tired. In the end tried a couple of local sheet metal companies and saw what could be done with my existing downpipes. I even considered having new ones made using the knackered ones as a pattern. In the end the exhaust headers went into surgery at Sheet Metal Services of Kidderminster. I didn’t get the downpipes back quickly, they took a while so extensive was the rot.

While I waited the end can got a bit of polish…

Looking a bit more bling now!

Not the most thrilling photos, but progress is progress I suppose!

The down-pipes back from the sheet metal shop and looking very welded…

Pretty impressed!!

Just had to paint them up with some VHT paint and then fit them to the FZ and see if they sealed ok.

The battery didn’t take a charge, but after buying a new battery the FZ fired up once again after a bit of churning. I hoped to  attempt to stick it through an MOT in the next week or so. There were still a few ticking noises coming from the blowing exhaust. I think most of to do with me being cautious when I clamped up the exhaust studs. That delayed the MOT at little.

I pinched up the exhaust headers a bit more and applied a little exhaust gum on one the welds and it seemed fine now! Next step: MOT! Right fairing back on, had a quick little shakedown run and it seemed basically fine. MOT booked. Fingers crossed….

I thought about painting the whole motor, I was, but might have the engine out the following winter and strip the bike right back. Then again I thought I might sell it to help fund another LC! Who knows!??

All back together. MOT tomorrow!

The Big Day Finally Came

Well, there was bad news…and good news!!! I hacked over to the MOT station and while the examiner poured over the bike I paced up and down outside like a nervous expectant father. When I was eventually called in the news wasn’t good…the FZ had failed. But if I could fix the fault in the next couple of hours, he could retest the bike! I headed home and set to…

Here goes…

The rear brake lever and footrest had become seized together and whenever the brake operated the whole lot was rotating: Hence failure

So it was off with the whole assembly and I stripped it all down. Once apart it was obvious why it was seized!

I cleaned and re-greased everything, put it back on the FZ. After a bit of a fight with the spring that actuates the rear brake light switch all was well once more.


Back on the bike and back to the garage with 10 minutes to spare. He checked over my work and gave it the thumbs up! The FZ now boasted 12 months MOT!!

I looked forward to sticking a few miles on my 80’s classic once again! OK, it took a couple of months, but we got to the end of this little re-build. I have to say the FZ looked fantastic! A shame about it failing first time but at least I got it through on the 2nd attempt.

The first proper ride out on the old girl was undertaken in company with old friends Matt (CBR600F) and Andy (R1200GS). It rode OK, but the carbs needed balancing and was running a little too. Great fun though and well worth the effort, I love 1980’s bikes!

Big shout out to Karl and the lads who blasted and welded the exhaust.

I sold the bike a few weeks later to another friend. Fourteen years later he still has it.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

Based on a post originally on our now archived forums, but edited and complied into a blog format