For the last couple of months, I’ve had a Tutoro chain oiler fitted to the XJ6.
I’ve always thought the concept of a chain oiler was sound.
The lubricant is delivered when you need it (ie, when you’re actually riding, particularly when it’s raining!) rather than being applied when the bike’s parked up in the garage, and washing away when you’re actually on the road.
The fact that chain oilers deliver oil rather than a sticky gloop means that you’re using what the chain manufacturers recommend with the fitting instructions for the chain. I use gear oil, which is inexpensive and very, very effective.
It penetrates round the X-rings and keeps them moist, and the excess oil is flung off the chain. OK, so the excess oil can makes a mess on the rear wheel if you the flow rate too high but it also means the chain is self-cleaning, just needing a wipe over with a rag (not with the engine running, please!) from time to time.
The very big plus is that the X-rings stay intact for longer, thus sealing in the factory grease deep inside the bearing surfaces for longer, all of which equals more chain life.
I’ve had 50,000 miles from a chain on the old despatch GS500E using a home-made oiler and gear oil. With sprays I’ve never got close to that, even with expensive chain lube and a thorough cleaning regime.
When I got the Hornet back in ’02, I fitted a Motrax electrically-triggered oiler. Whilst it was expensive for what was basically a plastic covered solenoid and some pipe, and was a complete pain to fill, it worked.
This spring, rather than spend money on another Motrax, I was thinking of putting another home-made ‘fit and forget’ chain oiler together for the XJ6 but couldn’t find the various bits of pipe and tap I’d squirreled away in the garage, so when I saw the Tutoro Chain Oiler recommended in one of the monthlies, and at a very bargain price too, I bought one.
Let’s get the price out the way first. I bought the single nozzle kit for just £14.99. I ordered online from www.tutorochainoiler.com/ and it turned up promptly.
I unpacked the kit. The oil reservoir is a small plastic cylinder that contains about 10cc of oil with a tap at the bottom. Now, with that little oil, it clearly wasn’t going world touring, but they also sell a metal top-up bottle. Or you could just find one yourself.
The first problem was finding somewhere to mount it that was accessible. Eventually I settled on the rear subframe, but the problem here is that it’s a shallow sloping tube.
That means the reservoir isn’t far from the horizonal – about 35 degrees. That in turn produced one obvious problem – you can’t fill it completely – and one not-so-obvious one.
The plug in the top doesn’t completely seal the unit, presumably to let air in otherwise it wouldn’t flow. Unfortunately, it also lets oil out as the bike accelerates! So, as I was to discover after just a day or two, the seepage leaves an oily mess all over the chain oiler and down the subframe.
Fitting is with ubiquitous cable ties, but to space the oiler out from the frame all that’s supplied is a couple of tiny rubber blocks. They’re far too small and as soon as the cable ties stretch they work loose, as I also discovered a couple of days later.
Reservoir with tap at the bottom (and yet another bubble in the tube!). Note tiny rubber blocks between the reservoir and the subframe. Plug at the top doesn’t completely seal the unit – I’ve just cleaned it!
Fortunately, I’d not snipped the end off the ties so was able to pull them a couple of clicks tighter to re-secure the reservoir, but it’s only a matter of time before they go missing. What’s really needed here is a big block that firmly secures the oiler with a strap that’s independent of the ties that secure it to the frame. I’ll be looking through the drawers in the garage to see what I’ve got that would work better.
Maybe I missed it in the instructions, but something else that needs to be done is to fill the reservoir before routing the delivery pipe as if there are any upward loops it’s difficult to fill without getting a bubble that’s next to impossible to shift.
As I discovered when I turned it on and nothing happened. So I had a mug of tea whilst I thought about it.
From the bottom of the reservoir the tubing loops over the subframe and takes a slight upward kink out of sight behind the side panel. From the lack of flow when I turned the tap on, I deduced an airlock. So I pulled it all off again, eventually got rid of the bubble mid-pipe and refitted it.
Next problem. The tubing then runs along the swing arm to the rear sprocket. Once again, a couple of cable ties are supplied to secure the tubing. The nozzle itself is a push-on bit of rubber and is angled correctly by the simple expedient of having a bit of wire stuck inside the tubing near the end. You bend the last inch or so of pipe to the right angle to get the nozzle oil to drip onto the chain just as it goes round the sprocket.
Except that after a few minutes gravity simply pulls the end of the tubing downwards and with even the slightest sag the nozzle (and oil!) now misses the chain.
Home-made U blocks under the swing arm stop the tube squashing, but can’t prevent droop, even with the stiffening wire inserted in the tube! A miss is as good as a mile. The nozzle was plucked off the thinner plastic bit on the end of the tube.
So I tried pulling the cable ties tighter to stop it turning. As the tube is simply soft plastic of the sort that’s used for wine making kits, with any pressure it simply got squashed flat. At this point, I cleaned my hands again and retired to drink more tea.
You can see why I’m a bit of a Guy Martin fan.
The obvious answer again is some kind of hard rubber block that can be properly secured whilst not flattening the pipe. The best I could manage was half a pencil rubber with a U-shaped groove cut in it, but it did the trick. The block stopped the pipe getting squashed flat by the cable tie.
Having got it to flow in a static test, I still couldn’t find a way of stopping the nozzle drooping downwards, so I turned it off for the night. So far it had taken well over an hour to fit something I’d expected to take five minutes.
Next morning, I was not best pleased to find a puddle of oil over the patio under the bike. Neither was my partner!
The delivery tubing is big bore – about 5mm at a guess – and actually contains most of the oil the oiler stores (unless you cut it short!). The problem is that the tap is at the top of the tube, not the bottom, and the oil simply dripped out of the tube overnight. Not a lot, it’s true, but a little oil goes a very long way on a wet patio. After a bit of thought (and tea) I decided the simple solution was to put a tin can under the nozzle at night to catch the drips.
Only a couple of drips overnight… but oil goes a long way!
(As it happens, I used the same stuff for my home-made oiler, but put the tap near the bottom. The final feed was via a short length of very thin gauge pipe (about 2mm bore) to the needle of a syringe which aimed the oil over the chain, and once turned off it never dripped a drop.)
Two months on, it kind of works – I turn it on to max flow, start the engine with the bike on the centre stand and just let it run for a couple of minutes – that’s enough to lube the chain. But as few bikes have centre stands, that won’t be an option for most people. And I could do that with chain lube.
But despite several bodges, I can’t keep the delivery end reliably pointing where it should when riding.
First up, the rubber nozzle got plucked off the end, presumably because the tube flapped about at speed and got caught by the chain.
I came back with a dry and squeaky chain after a very wet training day last weekend – exactly what I was trying to prevent when I fitted the oiler in the first place.
It needs something like a cable guide that firmly attaches to the swing arm that the delivery tube passes through to keep the nozzle in the right place whilst actually riding – an adhesive pad would do the trick, you wouldn’t need to drill a hole.
So for my final bodge, I’m going to make up an external guide from some stiff wire.
EDIT: I’ve just looked at their website and they now sell a wire guide, but only as an add-on at £3.49. It’s actually just a coil of wire wrapped round a thin bit of pipe! It’s inexpensive but it really should be part of the kit.
I’m aware this has been a long and fairly critical review.
I want the Tutoro to work. All credit to the manufacturers for keeping the price sensible – it’s inexpensive when most things motorcycling come with silly price tags. And by the looks of things, they listen to user feedback and try to make improvements.
But as things stand at the moment, out of the box it’s certainly going to disappoint anyone who’s ever used something like a Scottoiler or the Motrax oiler I have on the Hornet. Tutoro need to work on the design a bit more yet, and I hope they will.
If you’re prepared to fiddle, you can make it work. I just need to do a bit more fiddling. And the bottom line is that even with the wire guide added to the basic kit, the price can’t be beaten!
FINAL UPDATE I managed to get the delivery pipe dripping over the chain in the end without resorting to any external stiffening by using the principle of a counterbalance. What I did was bend the delivery pipe initially in the WRONG direction, then bend it back so that the weight of the inward bend to the chain is balanced by the weight of the outward bend!
Since doing this, it’s stayed put and delivered oil where needed. It’s a bit of a fudge and not perfect, but hey ho, it works! I’ll stick with my earlier assessment; flawed because it needs more development, but value for money at the price!