Kawasaki Z900RS Problems: 6 Known Issues (Explained)

The Kawasaki Z900RS is a street-ripping modern-classic.

With rock-solid reliability and a 948cc inline-four engine, it puts power literally at your fingertips.

The Z900RS features everything you need for those twisty roads and racetrack days, but it is not entirely bulletproof.

This is a great bike, but it did hit a few speed-bumps on its road to glory; we’re here to discuss a few of the problems that have surfaced with the Kawasaki Z900RS over the years and the steps Kawasaki and owners alike took to solve them.

Let’s get started!

1. Transmission Problems

Problems with the transmission on bikes aren’t rare on a bike ridden hard over the years, which is also true for the Kawasaki Z900RS. The bike has seen a fair share of these issues.

Due to the nature of Z900RS owners’ complaints, we’re inclined to believe that these are isolated wear-and-tear-based incidents and aren’t indicative of a widespread defect.

Many bikes will clunk going into first gear more so if the idle is high or the bike is not fully warmed up and the idle speed is still high.

That said, even on the most stellar bike, transmission issues can render a motorcycle unusable.

Here are a Few Examples of Transmission Problems on the Z900RS:

Clunky gear change:

Kawasaki Z900RS riders feel that changing gears isn’t always as smooth as shifting should be, especially when downshifting.

For example, shifting gears from neutral to first is difficult, and sometimes the gear does not engage. It also appears that going up the gears is not a hassle, but going down the gears feels clunky.

Possible Solutions
  • Changing the oil to a higher grade has worked for a few riders who initially complained about clunky downshifts.
  •  Sometimes riders parked the bike in a position that puts pressure on the gearbox, making downshifting to first gear tough. If you’re parked, roll the bike go forward or backward a bit, and then try shifting it into first again. This usually does the trick.
  • If you are not rev-matching when you downshift, you will get clunky gear-changes. Use the clutch to engine brake and match the engine’s RPMs to the next lower gear you aim to shift down into; if your RPMs are too high for the gear, you’re going to experience resistance in the gearbox.
Loud banging noise and jerking:

A few owners experienced a loud bang when going from neutral to first.

According to the rider-reports, the sound was generated from the transmission and was accompanied by a rough jerk forward.

The main culprit to this problem was a poor maintenance schedule; running a bike with a less-than-proper oil level or less-than-ideal oil quality will increase motor and transmission friction.

Another culprit to look into for a rough shift is an incorrectly adjusted clutch-cable.

Excess free play in the clutch lever can mess with the gears’ disengagement.

Keep in mind that when a motorcycle is brand new, the transmission might feel a bit clunky.

Cold metal contracts. As A bike clocks its first few thousand miles, the metal components expand to the functional dimension, and the bike becomes what we call “broken in.”

2. Z900RS Running High Temperatures

A handful of owners of Kawasaki Z900RS have complained about their bike running hot. What bike doesn’t heat up while sitting in traffic?

Heat issues are expected when the bike is ridden in warm climates, but these riders complained that their Z900RS seemed to heat up in normal conditions also.

Luckily, the bike has a temperature gauge showing high temperatures, indicating something wrong with the bike.

Z900RS owners regularly reported that the heat did not render the bike unusable, indicating a routine maintenance-related issue and not a faulty part.

A few Things to Check if the Z900RS is Running Hot:

  • Engine oil
  • Coolant levels
  • Fuses

A handful of owners reported these issues on brand new bikes.

The most common culprit was tracked down to be deficient coolant levels.

What this means is that the dealership had not fully completed the pre-sale inspection. The full check that the dealer does should also include checking all lubricant levels, including the coolant reservoir.

If the level is below the L line in the reservoir, fill it up ASAP.

The affected Kawasaki Z900RS were found out by running hot, mostly when idling during slow-moving traffic or at a stop. The temp-gauges reached as high as 1 bar away from the maximum. This is really concerning, but most owners who filled up the coolant soon got the problem under control.

A small handful of riders diagnosed a different problem as, once Kawk mechanics had filled the coolant, the gauge didn’t correct.

What these owners encountered was a separate issue related to electrical faults with the indicators on the dash.

Electrical problems can affect the dash instruments and have them giving out incorrect information.

When the Z900RS is new, it is recommended to check the coolant levels at about 100 miles on the bike. Checking all fluid levels should be part of routine maintenance on any bike, regardless of whether the bike is new or not.

3. Uncomfortable Seat

This isn’t a “problem,” per se, more of a matter of taste, and only an issue if trying to use the bike outside of its intended parameters.

The Kawasaki Z900RS is built for going around twisty roads such as racetracks without breaking a sweat; the seat is set-up for track-shredding and city-ripping, not for long rides.

We’ve encountered a small handful of riders who have complained about the seat on the Z900RS being less comfortable than they would like it to be.

This is not a problem with the bike, but it’s more about rider preferences. After long periods of riding the bike, some riders experienced numbness and fatigue.

There are aftermarket seats available for the Kawasaki Z900RS if the stock isn’t comfortable for a rider, but keep in mind that this bike is a cafe racer, not a touring bike, a large or even medium cruiser.

Power, speed, and agility are what this bike is built for, and while it lives up to those qualities, notice that cross-country riding isn’t on that list.

4. Low Idling RPM

This issue is very closely related to the transmission problems above. The difference with this problem is that the bike cannot idle, and the engine turns off.

What happens is that when the Z900RS is turned on, it idles for a while, then the engine cuts out. When it happens, it might seem like the engine is not getting enough power.

This issue frustrates owners even more because the symptoms point to both mechanical and electrical issues.

Owners who experienced this problem reported that the bike has a lower revving range when hot and high rev ranges when cold. This means that after a long ride, the bike’s RPM when idling does not go above the normal 1000 RPMs.

Some riders solved the problem by simply changing the quality of the fuel for the Z900RS. Kawasaki announced that using lower quality fuel could result in the Z900RS having low idling RPM.

The problem went away after many of the Z900RS owners who experienced this problem changed to premium quality fuel on their bikes.

If the issue persists after a fuel change, this might indicate faulty fuel injectors or a faulty fuel system. This will be much harder to fix and might be more expensive.

It’s important to run the fuel suggested in the owner’s manual of any vehicle, and failing to do so can result in more significant fuel system problems down the road.

After changing the fuel, if the issue continues, it is recommended to visit a mechanic or dealership to ensure a larger issue isn’t looming around the corner due to the improper fuel.

5. Recall: Brake Defects

About 1,173 U.S Z900 and Z900RS models released in 2018 were recalled due to defective rear brakes.

The issue pertains to rear brake wires positioned in such proximity to the rear wheel that they could potentially contact it.

If this happened, the wheel-contact could damage the hose and the wire.

A damaged hose could result in brake fluid leakage, while a damaged wire may affect ABS performance or speedometer readings.

Upon discovering this issue, Kawasaki issued a recall and promoted riders to report their Z900 and Z900RS motorcycles to the dealerships for updates.

If you’re the owner of a 2018 Z900 series bike and you’re unsure of whether or not your bike’s rear brake has been updated, a trip to the dealership can steer you in the right direction.

The dealership will examine the rear brakes and ensure that the brake line and wheel sensor wires are positioned far enough from the wheel to prevent this issue from occurring.

If your hoses or wires are already damaged, Kawasaki will replace them.

Kawasaki also retrained Kawasaki assembly workers on how to install the rear brake assembly correctly.

Kawasaki also initiated an extra inspection procedure to inspect the rear brake’s wire routing.

6. Recall: Rear Shock Absorber Issues

The 2017-2018 Kawasaki Z900 series faced a recall with issues that had to do with the rear shock absorbers on the bike.

Kawasaki stated that the rear shock absorber tie-rod frame mount holes could stretch-out if the rear shock absorber bottoms out, rendering the shock absorber less effective. 

The recall prompted bike owners in the Z900 series released between the aforementioned dates to take their bikes into their local Kawk dealership for an inspection and, if applicable, repair or upgrade.

If you’re the owner of a bike in the Z900 series released between 2017 and 2018, the Kawasaki mechanics will inspect the tie-rod mounting hole and upgrade the bracket or frame if the scope of the tie-rod mounting hole’s elongation call for it, free of charge.

General Pros and Cons for the Kawasaki Z900RS


The 948cc inline-four engine on the Z900RS means that you have the power you need for both the racetrack and long winding roads. Kawasaki has upgraded the handling of the bike, and this is evident on the Z900RS.

This touring bike is also comfortable enough for first-time riders who are just getting into biking. For seasoned riders who have a few thousand miles of riding different bikes, the Z900RS will also live up to their expectations.

The engine was based on the Z1000 series from Kawasaki, and with 123.6hp of peak power at 9,500rpm on the Z900RS, the bike is a joy to ride. The sound coming from this engine is impressive and gets even more so at the 6,000 RPM range when it starts to howl like a true sports bike.

Not only is it speedy around corners, but the bike’s stopping power is excellent, to say the least. This is what most owners really enjoy, bringing all that power to a stop with the four-piston calipers and a disc size of 300mm.

Most owners brag about how responsive the bike is, from power delivery all the way to stopping. These make for an all-around great riding experience on the Kawasaki Z900RS.


  • Transmission Problems
  • Z900RS Running High Temperatures
  • Uncomfortable seat
  • Low Idling RPM
  • Recall: Brake Defects
  • Recall: Rear Shock Absorber Issues

What Do the Reviews Say?

The 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS might be the most well-rounded vintage-inspired machine around.

The retro trend isn’t going away any time soon. While the competition is fierce within this category, Kawasaki has put together an extremely competent machine that couples brilliant looks with great performance.

Source: UltimateMotorcycling.com

Kawasaki was well aware of the power-to-weight performance odds it faced within a category identified as one of the fastest-growing street segments.

Source: CycleWorld.com

What’s The Resale Value On The Kawasaki Z900RS

Year Mileage (miles) Price ($)
2017 2,163 5,999
2017 1,637 7,499
2018 195 6,995
2019 694 12,500

NB: – The above prices are estimates and may vary according to your location and model of the bike.




Was this article helpful? Like Dislike

Click to share...

Did you find wrong information or was something missing?
We would love to hear your thoughts! (PS: We read ALL feedback)

ⓘ  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.