Yamaha Thundercat YZF600R Guide to buying + Servicing

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The Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat
The Yamaha Thundercat was released in the UK in 1996 and was made to take on the mighty CBR 600 in the battle of the 600's.

Nower days the Cat has been overtaken by the new 600's from other manufactures (CBR600RR/GSXR600/R6/600Ninja etc) and was replaced by the YZF600 R6, but although this happened the Thundercat was still produced until around 2003 in the UK.

For a newcomer to the 600 market I found the new bikes where to razor edge for what i wanted and also because i take a passenger on the back i found the newer models lack the comfort and large seat the thundercat has to offer. The thundercat also had good fuel econ and the ability to go touring on with many after-market parts.

The thundercat is a good bike to own and engine wise is very very reliable due to the forged pistons and uprated con-rods within the engine. Most Thundercats can be capable of doing over 50,000 miles+ without major problems engine wise.

Other Technical Specs of the YZF600R Thundercat

Engine I/c DOHC, in-line four 599cc
Power 94bhp @ 11,500rpm
Torque 48.4ft-lb @ 9500rpm
Chassis Steel Deltabox, with steel swing-arm
Dry weight 187kg
Seat height 805mm
Fuel capacity 19 litres (4.2gal) (200mile tank range) Aprox £16-£19 a full tank (at today's fuel prices)
Tyre Front 120/60 ZR17
Tyre Rear 160/60 ZR17
NU Insurance 14

Before you buy a thundercat you must look at the following issues before you release the hard earned money from your pocket.

1. Check the downpipes, All thundercats had a problem with rusting downpipes. These can be replaced with stainless steel downpipes, but at a cost of around £200. The pipes may be slightly rusty at a glance but, if you look closer, where the downpipes attach to the end can, there is an area of welding where water can hold, causing them to rust through. Thus an MOT failure! Also while your at it start the engine and listen for rattling from the top of the engine. Cam chains noise will make it sound like a noisey sewing machine and could be due to the cam chain tensioner failing (which are cheap to buy) or the chain itself failing. Which would be a major overhall issue. (not cheap if done with a garage)

2. Rear swing-arm. These also have a problem with rust and can rust all the way through if they are a high mileage bike or kept outside.

3. Paint work. What is the Colour of the bike? General colours are...
A. Blue with white decals (most recent)
B. Silver top fairing and yellow belly with yellow front mud guard.
C. Red top fairing black intermediate and white lower with red rear
D. Black, mat black lower fairing
E. Black with silver decals
F. Red top, red intermediate, White rear end and black lower
G. Black top , silver rear and middle and orange lower with orange mudguard
H. Cherry red all over
I. Darkish blue upper, Silver lower and silver rear
J. Silver front upper, middle silver+black and rear silver bottom with black rear

Generally if the bike is different from the colours above it could be either crash damaged or could have been painted differently by the owner so be careful and ask questions if it is different, or do some colour research. Also look out for bikes with no decals, as these could be resprayed bikes. (Original decals cost lots of money and cheap ones fade in the sunlight)

4. Brakes. These can be liable to rust. check how good they are by testing them. they should be sharp and not drag or make a noise, or be spongy.

5. Second gear? Ride the bike hard in second, does it jump out of gear? If it does it means it is worn and cost a lot if you cant do it yourself.

6. Fork seals. Check to see if the forks are leaking at the front, do they return to normal after a push or do they feel bouncy or make noise? if they feel bouncy it could be due to a leak. £100 a fork leg if done by a garage.

7. Most important of all, check to see when it was serviced. (if you are buying one, make sure it isn't about  to have a service or even a 28,000mile service or 16,000mile service if a 96 to 01 model or a 24,000 mile service if a 2002 model or later. Up to 2001 plate basic servicing is every 4000 miles or 6 months. 2002 model or later every 6000miles. If the service has been taken earlier than these guides then check for service history matching to the information below.

A. 4000miles = £225 Check on plugs, air filter, oil change, brake fluid, carb balance, wheel balance, clutch adjustment bearings in the wheels, suspension check, coolant levels and bodywork

B. 8000miles = £225 same as above as well as swing-arm pivots, rear suspension linkage and head bearing check + fuel filter and oil filter change

C. 16000 miles = £305 same as 8000miles + Bearings repacked with grease (head, swing arm, suspension pivot linkages.

D. 28,000 miles = £340. same as 8000 miles + valve clearances.

From the 2002 model the service intervals went up to 6000 miles. 6000 miles = 4000miles cost, but 12,000miles includes suspension greasing £350, and 24k (24,000miles) includes valve clearances costing about £400.

The mileage servicing guide is only a guide (dependant on mileage or time between) but to owners of thundercats; make sure you get these things done and quoted these prices. Make the garage inform you if anything else needs doing and don't get ripped off by them quoting a 28k price for a 4k mileage bike, or repairing anything that doesn't need repairing or replacing! I have myself been told by a Garage on the phone that I've needed something done for the bike even though it isn't stated above!

8.Other issues
Scratches and bumps

Front mud-guard, cracked or damaged? Yes there are a lot of owners who are dumb enough to have done this with a disc lock so don't worry if its a small crack. If the colour is different from the rest of the bike be careful and ask questions. Could be a replacement mudguard due to disc-lock damage or maybe a crash damage bike so ask.

Dents in the tank do happen and are difficult to repair.

Dents in the frame are a risk. Could the bike be bent? Check the straightness of the bike front and rear wheel alignment, ride it and let go of the handle bars, does it wobble or go off in another direction? If in doubt get the AA or RAC to check it.(careful not to fall off the bike when testing it though!)

9.It's the wifes bike!
I find a lot of guys say "it's my girlfriends/wifes bike that i am selling" Well if they were it seems a lot of bikers in the UK are women; more than men! I wonder if that is true? Disregard the statement! A lot of Ebayers and advertisers do this to make out the bike hasn't been thrashed! (Sorry if it sounds sexist but it's true, so don't always believe in what a guy will say in the advert and remember, if it is owned by a woman, doesn't mean women are good and careful drivers too!)

10.Don't buy a bike abroad unless your willing to pick it up and ship it yourself, you could be scammed.


Summary
I would say, in general, check the bike for all normal faults and the above.(E.g. Head bearings, wheel bearings, bucked wheels, chain and sprockets, suspension leaks and pivots, forks, tyre condition, knocks scratches and dents, oil leaks, radiator leaks, rust in the tank?, engine oil levels and brake fluid levels, working lights?) If your suspect a problem do the relivent checks, and if you don't know much about bikes get an AA check as well. Also you must check the history of the bike and if it has any outstanding finance owed to it.

Model history
1996 4TV1 First Thundercat
1997 4TV3 New wiring loom fitted so alarm can be added
1998 4TV5 New style exhaust can
2000 Small revision to the rear suspension
2004 Officially deleted from the Yamaha range

Fuel costs
The Thundercat has an 18 Litre tank, at current costs in the U.K. at £1.10 GBP per litre at the least (may 2008) = £19.80 GBP to fill the tank, taking into account the reserve fuel had also been used.
From filling up in a fuel/gas station from the point when the reserve fuel light went on, I can squeeze about £18 into the tank and get about or near to 200 miles until the next time the fuel light comes on in normal conditions (riding to work in the city). Although I have managed to get 270miles out of the bike on the motorway. This was doing between 55-60mph all the way and drove me insane, but did wonders for the fuel economy. Obviously this changes from bike to bike due to carb settings and servicing etc, but take this as a rough guide.

Road Tax (2008) U.K.
Aprox £45 GBP

Insurance Guide.
Although Insurance costs differ from year to year and company to company I can tell you that with 7 years no claims at the age of 27 Insurance has cost me £350 GBP Fully comp. I hope this is some help to you. (May 08) It is a very good idea to shop around, Look in local books like the Yellow pages to get quotes and on-line. It's staggering the difference in prices but also be on the lookout for extras such as breakdown cover/road side assistance injury cover and most important make sure the insurance covers your equipment, helmet leathers etc as this can be very costly if damaged in an accident.

If you are looking for a bike with the similar ability  to the Thundercat, look at the Honda CBR600F, or the Kawasaki ZZR600 (which are still being produced) (Nov 2006) Also the closest Yamaha bike now produced New near to the Thundercat is the Fazer (May 2008). Kawasaki ER600 (Sep 09).
My own Experience riding one.
Update 08/03/11 I still have my 1998 Yamaha Thundercat. When I first Bought it, it had about 22,000 miles on the clock. Now it has 49,000 miles on it. It's still going well with very little attention, although the camchain is starting to rattle slightly. This is possibly a automatic cam chain tensioner issue.

Other problems i've had. The thread on the rear brake caliper holding it to the swinging arm went, it had to be re-tapped. The rear brake disk fractured in two places due to the brakes not being serviced on time and the break binding and over heating.(do this once a year at least or after winter)
The plug for the headlight melted, but this was due to a poor quality bulb, not the bike it's self. (buy decent bulbs)
Swinging arm has a few rust marks and paint if coming off the radiator due to aluminium corrosion. Easily fixable.
The two bolts holding the top of the fairing just behind the ignition barrel have a habbit of coming loose every now and then. (can make the bike rattle when going over the typical british pot holes)

These are small issues i've had but not what I would say were typical problems with the bike.
Also If you take one for a test ride and you feel like your fighting it going around corners and it's feeling a bit difficult to control, check the tyre pressures before you decide its not for you. It's the biggest cause i've found to poor performance on this bike and normally you'll find the bike is quite nimble even for it's size.
Update 25/06/2013
Cam chain issue has still not been sorted but as soon as it starts it fixes it's self... but this thing still goes on and on. I have now of date done over 67,000 miles. I have one other issue to address, the plates that hold the exhaust to the engine on the downpipes (headers) are so corroded that one is leaking exhaust. I've looked into after market exhaust downpipes, and new they cost around and up to 300 GBP or around 100 GBP second hand. It is not possible to replace the plates as they are fitted to the pipes before they are welded together.  But I've been advised with a little manipulation and cutting, the downpipes from a Yamaha R6 from 98-02 can fit. I have bought a set of very good condition R6 downpipes for 18 GBP on Ebay. To fit this the pipe between exhaust 2 and 3 needs cutting and sealing so that exhaust 2 and 3 can be pushed apart enough to fit to the YZF600R. I so far have not done this, but I will update as soon as I can confirm this. If this is true, it will save a lot of money. Also the bikes shims have not been done since 20,000miles but still runs well. It is burning a little oil, and this is probably why. But I have to say this bike is made to last!
I am seeing more and more evidence of rust inside the swinging arm as well, when the adjusters are taken off the rear of the swinging arm near the axel.
In my last M.O.T. (test) the bike failed on the second hand disc which I bought second hand and is my own fault. But this was rectified with a brand new EBC light disc for around 60 GBP. Also my fork seals failed just before my last M.O.T on the front. This had to be fixed by a workshop as I've been told you need a specialist tool to separate the forks. Cost 50 GBP for the labour done, after I provided the parts and took the forks off the bike. Be warned though, the fairing is really problematic to put on, and it took me half a day to replace correctly. Considering I've not done it before, it should be quicker to someone who knows how or has the manual to do this.

Update
04/06/15


She has now gone to a new home. Not because of any major issue or fault, but just because she had so much general work and maintenance that needed to be done outside of my budget at present. Tires x2, Rear disc replacement, pads front and back, downpipes etc. I've been reliably informed to the garage that I sold her to, that she was stripped down worked on and parts replaced for a low budget. 

The garage informed me that the cam chain tensioners were fine and that it was valve clearances that needed adjusting. So no major cost there for them. 

She has now been sold to a new owner.

Out of all of the bikes I've owned, she has been the best. Maybe not the lightest or fastest, but the most reliable and easy to run. I would highly recommend the YZF600R Thundercat to anyone who wants a cheap reliable 600cc motorcycle for all weather riding and long distance commuting with a bit of fun at the weekends. 

As for me.... I've now become a Honda VFR 800 Vtec owner. For the style of bike the Thundercat is, it seemed a logical choice... 

Hope you have enjoyed reading my review on the Thundercat. Maybe I'll be writing one next for the VFR. Though I believe I'm going to have more issues with it. 

Good luck and happy biking!


Buginson
 
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