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4 Most-Common Problems With Kawasaki W800

The Kawasaki W800 is one of the top models in the retro bike segment.

Once derided for their poor designs, retro bikes have grown in popularity. With their vintage aesthetics and comfortable riding manners, they are attractive options for urban dwellers.

If retro bikes are your thing, the Kawasaki W800 is an excellent choice. However, this bike has some flaws, which we’ll outline in this article.

Based on our research, here are the most widespread problems associated with Kawasaki W800 bikes:

1. Cracked Intake Manifold Assembly

From numerous customer complaints, it’s obvious that this is a common problem for Kawasaki W800s.

Reportedly, a part of the intake manifold system, the throttle body holder, is prone to cracking.

Repeated exposure to heat (from the engine) hardens the throttle body holder. Once the hardened component vibrates, cracks appear, and the air starts leaking into the engine.

Naturally, leaks increase the air in the engine and can cause several problems. The more air you have in the engine, the ‘leaner’ the air-fuel ratio.

Lean air-fuel mixtures often raise engine temperature and cause it to run rough. This problem often affects air-cooled bikes such as the W800 and makes for a less-than-pleasant ride.

We curated a list of common symptoms of a cracked throttle body holder on the W800:

  1. High idle: The bike’s engine revs too fast or shakes excessively when the bike is idling.
  2. Unstable engine speed: Customers report that the W800’s speed fluctuates while riding.
  3. The engine takes longer to settle down: Normally, if you pull your bike’s clutch in and close the throttle, the engine’s RPM should fall.

However, if the RPMs don’t reduce immediately, then the throttle body holder or some other part of the intake manifold is likely cracked.

Possible Solution

Kawasaki issued a recall for the affected bikes, replacing the faulty throttle body holders with new ones.

However, if your W800 isn’t covered under the recall, you may have to replace the throttle body holder yourself.

2. Multiple Electrical Problems

Problems with electrical components are widespread on many Kawasaki W800s, particularly those released between 2011 and 2016.

On these models, the recurring issue is a faulty electrical wiring harness.

From the details of the recall for the issue, the problem is because of the improper installation of the wiring harness. This could leave parts of the harness exposed directly to the frame.

The result is a friction that causes the wiring’s coating to wear off. What happens afterward is a ‘short circuit’ that could lead to poor engine performance. In severe cases, the engine may stall permanently. If such happens, you could be in serious danger, especially if you’re driving on a busy highway.

Kawasaki issued a recall for affected bikes, mandating dealerships to replace the wiring harness for free. Also, dealerships’ techs were to install a new protective cover for the harness and re-route the wiring.

If your bike wasn’t covered under the recall, replacing the wiring harness is your best chance at fixing this problem.

You should also ask your technician to fit a new cover for your W800’s wiring.

3. Bike Hesitates While Accelerating

When you accelerate on your bike, you expect its speed to pick up.

However, if it hesitates or displays erratic acceleration, then something is wrong. Some Kawasaki W800 owners have reported their bikes hesitating on acceleration.

According to them, the engine acts as if it will die, then it catches and speeds up as normal. This problem often occurs at low speeds.

Likely causes for this problem include:

  1. Dirty spark plug: Buildup of carbon and oil residues on spark plugs, and pitting will lead to a weak spark. This will eventually result in poor acceleration and ignition
  2. Clogged air filter: A clogged air filter will prevent the combustion chamber from getting enough air. If this happens, the fuel mixture will be richer than it should, causing poor acceleration
  3. Faulty throttle position sensor: The throttle position sensor helps the bike’s computer regulate the air-fuel ratio. If it’s faulty, the air-fuel mixture may become excessively lean or excessively rich. Both situations will have a negative effect on acceleration
  4. Cracked manifolds: A cracked manifold will cause air to leak into the combustion chamber, creating a lean fuel mixture. A lean fuel mixture often causes a motorcycle to hesitate while accelerating

Possible Solutions:

  • Replace dirty spark plugs
  • Replace the air filter if it’s clogged/dirty
  • If it’s the throttle position sensor (TPS), take it to a technician for repair. You may need to replace it if it’s severely damaged
  • Seal the cracks in the intake manifold or get a new intake manifold

4. Repeated Exhaust Backfire

Some W800 owners have reported experiencing exhaust backfires on their bikes.

A backfire is a loud popping or banging noise that comes out of a motorcycle’s exhaust while it’s in operation.

While it won’t affect rideability, backfiring could affect your hearing, especially if you’re in a confined area. In a worst-case scenario, the exhaust pipes could emit flames.

Owners of W800 bikes report experiencing this problem while decelerating.

However, it could occur while starting up or accelerating.

Possible causes of this problem include:

Rich/Lean Engine:

If your engine is running either rich (too much fuel) or lean (too much air), chances are you will experience exhaust backfire.


Both cases often cause incomplete combustion of fuel, allowing heat from the exhaust to ignite the fuel mixture.

This ignition eventually leads to the popping sound you hear when the bike backfires.

Exhaust Upgrades:

Replacing the bike’s stock exhaust with an aftermarket variant could negatively affect the air-to-fuel ratio and cause backfires.

Aftermarket exhaust pipes are often bigger and may allow more air into the engine. If this happens, the fuel mixture will become unbalanced, leading to the backfires.

Other causes include clogged air filters, faulty fuel pumps, poor fuel grade, etc.

Notice that all the causes have significant effects on the air-fuel ratio.

Pros of Kawasaki W800

Here are some pros of the Kawasaki W800:

1. Comfortable to Ride

The W800 has a flat seat and upright hand-bars, two things that give it relaxed riding manners. Moreover, it has a well-designed suspension and is comfortable to ride over long distances.

If comfort is a major consideration for you, buy the Street variant. Its sibling, the W800 Cafe, is sportier and features a more aggressive, albeit uncomfortable, rider stance.

2. Classic Styling and Design

Almost everyone agrees on one fact about the W800: its retro design is simply amazing.

Based on the 60s-era Kawasaki W1, the W800 has a vintage styling that is sure to turn heads.

If you like that classic-bike look and feel, the W800 is perfect for you.

3. Good Fuel Economy

The W800 is a low-revving sub-800cc bike, with a maximum output of 46 pound-feet of torque.

Given these specs, it is no surprise that the W800 gets great gas mileage.

From reports, this bike gets between 55 to 60 MPG. For those who want a fuel-efficient city-friendly bike, the W800 is a great option.

4. Innovative Seat Design

Did we say the W800 is comfortable to ride?

Well, here’s another reason to believe us. The W800 features an elongated, comfortable seat with thick padding, and has plenty of room for both rider and passenger.

On similar bikes, the piping around the edge of the seat often cuts into the rider’s thighs.

To prevent this, the piping on the W800’s seat follows the line between the rider and the passenger’s legs.

This ensures that it doesn’t cut into the rider’s thighs when the bike is stopped.

5. Modern Technology

The W800 may look like a vintage bike, but it packs features found on modern high-end motorcycles.

For example, it has a multi-function Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen that features an odometer, trip meter, and a clock.

Other indicators on the instrument panel include:

  1. Fuel-Injection warning lamp
  2. Low fuel level indicator
  3. High beam indicator
  4. Neutral gear indicator and
  5. Oil pressure warning lamp

Cons of Kawasaki W800

Here are some disadvantages of the W800:

  1. Parts of intake manifold may crack.
  2. Intermittent engine backfires
  3. Engine hesitates while accelerating.
  4. Widespread electrical problems

What Do the Reviews Say?

“The Kawasaki W800’s handling compliments that perfectly. Its old school, upright riding position, cute, slim proportions, and wide-ish bars blend seamlessly with the responsive but soft delivery to make the W800 ridiculously easy to just get on and ride.”

[Source: Motorcyclenews.com]

“Thanks to the upright bars and flat seat, the Kawasaki W800 earns its chops as the consummate city motorcycle. The ergonomics and comfort establish the W800 as an ideal motorcycle for tooling around town, enjoying the attention of vintage-styling without the hassles of a 55-year-old machine.”

[Source: Ultimatemotorcycling.com]

What’s The Resale Value On Kawasaki W800?

Year Mileage Price
2019 3,548 $5,999
2019 1,224 $8,999
2019 4,492 $6,995

Final Thoughts

While the W800 has a classic design, it has all the comfort and rides quality of modern bikes.

If you want a bike that makes riding less stressful, go for the W800.

However, make sure you look for the problems we have listed in this article, particularly if you are buying used.

You can also use some of the solutions listed here to fix the issues on your W800 bike.

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