CMG Project: DR650 Update #2

Last month, I told you I was restarting the DR650 project that had been sidelined by parenthood, work responsibilities, and all the other things that hit you in your 30s.

Since then, I haven’t had the chance to do much work on the bike; I have the engine mostly reassembled, but it needs a day’s puttering to sort out, and the frame needs to be repainted, and I haven’t found time to fit those chores in. Until then, here’s a second update on the project so far, detailing work done to the engine’s bottom end.


After taking off the engine’s side casings, I looked around for any warning signs—any shreds of metal would have been an indication I was better off looking for a new engine. Thankfully, everything seemed problem-free, so I looked at the side cases themselves.

The soda-blasted top end of the DR650, before painting. A good soak allows you to remove the soda before re-assembling the engine.

The paint Suzuki uses on DR650 engine cases has roughly the same durability as classroom chalk, and the side covers were starting show signs of corrosion as the paint flaked off. I decided to strip the rest of the paint off, and re-finish the engine cases.

First, I tried a couple of the canned auto and aircraft paint strippers available at Canadian Tire, with little success. On a whim, I tried some Permatex Gasket Remover, and found it much more effective—it nukes the paint with ease. But, it’s pricey and has nasty side effects (according to the can, exposure can result in birth defects in your cousin’s grand-children, a loss in engine power, and a return to Reagonomics).

I ended up taking the engine cases to a local abrasives shop, who soda blasted the cases down. The advantage of soda blasting is that once the work is done, you can submerge the parts in water, which dissolves the soda. The danger of sandblasting is that you could end up with sand particles in your engine after stripping off the paint. The soda blasting option removes that risk.

It cost me $100 to soda blast the engine’s head and side cases. Most of the cost was materials, as soda is not re-used after the process.

With the cruddy old paint cleaned off the cases, I then looked at the internals.

Stator coil

One of the goals of this overhaul was to make the DR650 a more comfortable bike for long-distance riding, and that’s a scenario where more electric output is useful. Whether you want to power GPS, a heated vest and gloves, or extra lighting, it’s nice to know you have the output capacity to handle the load. That’s where the Electrosport stator coil comes in, putting out 250 watts of power. The stock stator puts out 180 watts.

It’s easy to swap this piece out, once you’ve got the magneto cover off. Simply undo a handful of machine screws, pull the old unit out, and bolt the new one in place. There’s no calibration, no measurement. It does help to take a photo of how the wiring of the stock unit is routed, so you aren’t wondering which way to coil the stator’s leads when you install the new unit.

The Electrosport stator coil is on the left, the stock unit on the right. Installation is simple plug-and-play.

Visibly, there’s little difference between the stock stator and the Electrosport unit, although there do appear to be more windings visible in the aftermarket replacement, and they aren’t quite as tidy as the stock unit. Who cares? It’s not as if anyone will be looking inside the engine case to examine the part.

At the end of the leads, there’s a rubber plug that keeps your engine oil inside the case but allows the wires to connect to your bike’s wiring harness. At first glance, this plug doesn’t look like it will fit, but once you tighten down the magneto cover, everything fits snugly into place as it should.

Suzuki should include a stator with more output from the factory, but until that happens, this is a cheap and easy upgrade. Currently, Electrosport lists the stator at $159 on its website.

Clutch/Neutral Sending Unit

Although the DR650’s clutch was working OK when I tore into the engine, I figured it was probably time to freshen it up, especially because I wanted to examine the neutral sending unit (NSU), which sits behind the clutch. Barnett shipped me new plates and springs, and I tore into the job.

After removing the stock clutch, I looked at the neutral sending unit. This sensor in the bottom end indicates when the transmission is in neutral, causing the neutral light to come on. This is a known problem area on the DR650, with many owners reporting loose screws when they examine the part, and there are plenty of stories of the NSU coming loose and causing damage to the bottom end.

The neutral sending unit is hidden away next to the oil pump gear, behind the clutch. It’s a must-fix

The machine screws in my NSU weren’t loose, but they needed a good tightening. I added threadlocker, but passed on the more intensive safety wire fix.

When it was time to install the new clutch bits, I had a friend weld a handle onto an old clutch plate. This allowed me to hold the clutch basket steady during assembly. You can get by with using an impact gun to install the tricky bits, but this raises the risk of damaging the soft aluminum clutch hub—so don’t use the impact gun.

The new clutch plates went in easily, but installing the Barnett springs was tricky, as they’re longer than the stock units, and require you to compress them by hand to thread in the retaining screws. But, I got the job done and buttoned the case back together. Now, time to tackle the top end!



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