The Honda CBR 600RR is a mid-weight, 599cc sportbike in production since 2003 as part of the CBR series.
Honda considers the 600RR to be their premium mid-weight motorcycle.
Packed with advanced technology, this brutal race replica carried SuperSport World Champion’s title from 2003 to 2010 and 2014.
This much power is bound to blow a fuse from time to time, so you’re probably asking yourself, what are the most common problems with the CBR 600RR?
We answer those questions below.
Table of Contents
Cam Chain Tensioner Prone to Early Wear
One common complaint we’ve encountered when talking to owners of early generation Honda CBR 600RRs is the wear-and-tear of the cam chain tensioner.
Your cam chain harmonizes the timing between the pistons and valves. The CBR 600RRs used an automatic cam chain tensioner to adjust the cam chain in real-time, preventing it from slacking past the point of functionality.
Honda CBR 600RRs were manufactured in the early 2000s. Cam chain tensioners are prone to wear out early, allowing the cam chain to slack, sometimes to a hazardous point.
An over-slacked cam chain can “chain slap”, sometimes causing damage to other engine parts and creating an offensive rattle.
The only real way to know if your cam chain tensioner is going out is if your chain slacks lose.
Here are a few symptoms of a loose cam chain on a Honda CBR 600RR:
1. Misfiring Motor
A bad cam chain tensioner allows your Honda 600RR’s tensioner to slack, which can stretch the cam chain over time.
A stretched chain has the potential to skip the gear on either the crankshaft or the cam. If the cam chain on a Honda CBR 600RR skips a gear, the engine’s timing hail will fall you of calibration if this happens. Your engine will start to run subpar, resulting in frequent misfires.
If you tighten your chain tensioner and it happens again, it may mean that the tensioner is bad. It may be a good idea to replace the chain as well; if the cam chain stretches out past a certain slack level, it won’t tighten even if the tensioner is good, and your Honda CBR 600RR may experience poor engine performance and frequent misfiring.
2. Engine Rattles While Idling
Abnormal engine noise is usually a sign of an issue, and a stretched-out cam chain will cause what we call a “chain slap,” the sound of a metal chain vibrating or slapping against other metal components.
A slacked cam chain tensioner makes a rattle noise, particularly noticeable when the bike is idling. While an obnoxious engine rattle isn’t exclusively a symptom of a bad cam chain or cam chain tensioner, an abnormal rattle coming from the engine is never a good sign.
The motor needs to be inspected before whatever is in there, rattling, causes more damage or breaks completely.
3. Metal Shavings Found in Honda CBR 600RR’s Oil
While changing the oil of an early-generation CBR 600RR with a worn cam chain tensioner, you might find oil shavings in the oil.
In the service manual, there’s a reason why Honda recommends changing the oil and filter at regular intervals. As the bike runs over time, the oil goes from hot to cold multiple times, and this, in combination with gasoline solvents, separates your Honda’s oil.
If the cam chain tensioner wears out and the chain starts to slap against other metal components, small metal shavings will flake from the chain and drop into the oil pan.
If you or your Honda mechanic find oil shavings in your CBR 600RR’s oil during the oil change, you may have a damaged cam chain. On a Honda CBR 600RR from the early 2000s, a damaged cam chain is probably indicative of a failing cam chain tensioner.
Now for the worse news.
If your tensioner has been worn for a while and you’ve been riding your 600RR with a slapping cam chain, those metal shavings might be a symptom of a bigger problem. A slapping cam chain can cause damage to the engine parts in its proximity, some of which are critical to the motor process.
4. Honda CBR600RR Won’t Start or Engine Fails While Riding
It’s important to pick up on these symptoms early.
Once your cam chain tensioner goes and your chain slacks to the point that it stretches out, eventually, it will malfunction.
If your CBR’s cam chain breaks, your bike won’t start; if it breaks while riding, your 600RR engine will die.
The cam chain’s compression is a critical part of the bike’s ignition firing, and if the cam chain is broken, the 600RR won’t have enough compression to start.
A severely slacked cam chain can jump or slap while you’re in the middle of ripping up roads, and if it does, it can cause damage to pistons, valves, etc.
If piston contact at the hands of a failing cam chain bends your CBR 600RR’s valves, a stretched cam chain could ruin the engine; if it breaks or jumps while driving, it could damage the pistons, allowing them to contact the valves.
If your engine is running rough, fails while riding, or if your 600RR won’t start and you’ve experienced other symptoms outlined in this article, you may have a stretched cam chain at the hands of the notoriously earl-wearing cam chain tensioner of Honda CBR 600RR’s produced in the early 2000s.
Gauge Cluster Buttons Get Stuck
One of the most commonly reported issues by owners of Honda CBR 600RRs is that the buttons on the gauge cluster tend to stick.
The sticking was due to faulty actuators. Replacing them is the easiest solution. The process starts with detaching the upper cowl and popping out the sticking gauge cluster.
How to Remove the Gauge Cluster on a Honda CBR 600RR
Follow these steps to remove the gauge cluster on a CBR 600RR:
- Remove the three hex bolts on both sides of the CBR’s fairing.
- Beneath the fairing, there’s a screw that attaches your fairing to the radiator behind the front wheel. Remove that next.
- Unscrew the two bolts that connect the main fairing stay. Remove the entire front clip, and the mirrors and gauge cluster will stay on the front clip, so remove the PIN connectors and the ram air covers.
- Pull the fairing up to get the clip, stay and windscreen off all as one big piece. If it gets stuck, guide the ram air tubes out.
Now that you have the cluster off, you’ll need a utility knife, two ballpoint pens (preferably with no ink), and a small Philips head screwdriver to continue.
Fixing the Gauge Cluster Buttons on a Honda CBR 600RR
This is a DIY solution suggested for seasoned home mechanics. Read through all the steps and make sure it’s something you’re comfortable doing before you get started.
- Remove the six screws on the outside edge of the bottom of the cluster. Note: Only remove the six bottom screws, no other screws.
- Detach the back of the gauge from the front. If the white actuators come off, don’t fret. You won’t need them after this. Take them off.
- Yank out the rubber buttons from the front part of the gauge. They’re rubber, so you can yank on them as hard as you need to pull them right out.
- Now put the front and back of the gauge back together, but don’t put the screws in. Shove one of the pens through one of the buttonholes and into the button piece thats inlay on the circuit board. Mark the pen and cut it flush with the cluster’s top part. Pull the pen out and cut it with the utility knife. Use the pen as a template to mark and cut the other pen.
- Remove the rubber button and yank the edges back to cut the stick-like part of the button off. You’re making a pocket for trimmed ink tube of the pen to stick into.
- Reassemble the front and back of the cluster, but don’t yet screw it together. Before shoving the rubber button back on, use the screwdriver to set the ink tubes into place, trimming the tube subtly until the rubber sits flush.
- Secure the six screws back into the bottom of your gauge cluster and reassemble your fairing. Now, your gauge buttons should work.
Charging System Components Burn Out Early
This is a problem for many of the motorcycles Honda manufactured in the early 2000s, and it’s important to note that this only pertains to the CBR 600RRs manufactured then, as Honda has upgraded both of the faulty components we discuss in this section.
Still, many used CBR 600RRs from that era are on the used market, so we feel like it’s important to include it for any of our readers in the market for a used CBR.
Honda CBR 600RRs manufactured in the early 2000s had stators and Regulator/Rectifiers that were prone to early failure.
Like a car uses an alternator to charge its battery, motorcycles, like the Honda CBR 600RR, use a system of smaller components that work together to achieve the same function.
One of those components is the stator. Simply put, the stator converts engine RPMs into electricity while the bike is running. The Regulator/Rectifier pulls that energy from the stator, converts the voltage from AC to DC, and directs it to the battery, regulating it, so the battery doesn’t overcharge or explode.
The Honda CBR 600RR has a world-class engine. Honda’s signature engine reliability comes at a cost—they get hot. They are sealed and liquid-cooled to prevent the engine from overheating, but the electronic system doesn’t get the splash or the airflow it needs to keep cool.
In the early 2000s, Honda’s stators and Regulator/Rectifiers couldn’t take the heat and burn out early, resulting in charging issues or fried batteries.
Honda has since upgraded these components, so this is no longer an issue, so if you’re on a used Honda CBR 600RR and are experiencing charging system failure, take your 600RR to the local Honda dealer and get it fitted with the upgraded stator and Regulator/Rectifier.
General Pros and Cons for Honda CBR 600RR
The Honda CBR 600RR is hands down one of the most powerful and most reliable mid-weight sportbikes in the market, and at a reasonable price considering the modern tech with which they come equipped.
- Cam Chain Tensioner Prone to Early Wear
- Gauge Cluster Buttons Get Stuck
- Charging System Components Burn Out Early
What Do The Reviews Say?
Honda is a forgiving ride for those who are still developing their skills, and I suspect it has heaps of potential for more experienced riders who want to step up the performance with aftermarket goodies.
Aesthetics are a matter of personal preference, but the look of the CBR has always been one of my favorites among the 600s.https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/2015-honda-cbr600rr-review
What’s the Resale Value of a Honda CBR 600RR?
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.