Motorcycle Shaft Final Drive Maintenance

A few maintenance tips to keep your shaft final drive running smoothly.

Shaft-driven motorcycles are often touted as having a maintenance-free method of delivering power to the rear wheel. In reality, they are low maintenance. Sure, you don't have to lubricate, clean, or adjust a chain, but there is some work required. Today on MC Garage, we talk about shaft final drive maintenance.

There are plenty of motorcycles out there with shaft drive, especially in any segment that has the word "touring" attached to the end of it. Some cruisers also use a shaft, and of course, Moto Guzzi forgoes a chain or belt drive. But usually most riders who think about shaft-driven motorcycles, a BMW with its paralever design comes to mind. And today we are going to be doing a final drive oil change on a 2019 R 1250 RT.

The list of required tools is short. You need an Allen bit, a container to catch the used oil, a funnel or squeeze bottle with a hose to get the fresh oil in, a torque wrench, and oil-resistant gloves. Used gear oil stinks and you don’t want the smell to hang around on your hands, even after you wash them. You’ll also need hypoid gear oil, a new crush washer for the drain bolt, and a new O-ring if you can remember to pick one up. I didn’t so I give you a warning on that a little later.

Maintaining the shaft final drive mechanism on your motorcycle.
In this episode of MC Garage we show you how to maintain the shaft final drive mechanism on your motorcycle.Bert Beltran

You need to use hypoid gear oil rather than just gear oil. Hypoid gear oil has extreme pressure additives to handle the extra heat and pressure between the ring and pinion gears in the rear end. BMW calls for a 75w-80 weight for its bikes, but as always, check your service manual for your bike’s oil and capacity.

Draining the oil is pretty straightforward. I like to drain the oil with the machine warm, as things flow a little quicker, but it’s not necessary. Start by loosening the drain bolt and removing it. I do this first because with the filler bolt still in place, the oil won’t come out quickly and flood all over your hands. After the drain bolt, pull the filler bolt and let things drain.

Once the oil is drained, check out the drain plug. It’s magnetic and will have some fine shavings on it most likely. Any big chips are a sign that you’ve got problems. Clean off the plug, but remove the O-ring first if you don’t have a replacement. Contact cleaner can cause the ring to swell and not seal properly. Install the plug with the O-ring and torque it to the proper spec.

Then you need to add the gear oil. This takes patience, the filling process will be slow going as the oil is thick. There are few special filler bottles, but a funnel will work if you’ve got the time. Just don’t rush it or the oil will go everywhere. Once the proper capacity is added, replace the filler bolt and torque to the proper spec.

That’s it. Follow the maintenance schedule and use the right lubricant for the job, and you should have a trouble-free, low-maintenance life with your shaft drive motorcycle.