HOW TO - Upper Cowl Removal on 5th Gen

Discussion in 'Mechanics Garage' started by zoom-zoom, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    As the title suggests I thought I might do up a thread on how to remove the upper cowl section on a 5th gen (98-2001) VFR800. There were a few maintenance items that I wanted to get looked after (needed to change a turn signal bulb, a headlight bulb and I am adding some LED instrument cluster lamps) and I had noticed a few other members post question in the last little while about how to change the dash lights and headlights and how to remove the upper cowl to do so. The owners manual does not do a great job of this, and while the Honda Factory Service Manual does a detailed description, not everybody has one.

    Here we go. First off, which tools would be required you might ask?? Most of the tools required should be in the tool kit that came with the bike, but here is a list.


    1. 5mm Allen Key - should be one in the tool kit of the bike
    2. 10mm Socket, extension, and ratchet handle (the 10 mm box end wrench in the tool kit would also suffice but may take longer)
    3. Phillips head screwdriver - one stubby one comes handy for the harder to reach areas around the fender
    4. A dish of some sort to put all the clips, bolts, screws, and band-aids in. (OK, the band aids are not required unless assistant is accident prone)

    Well that was easy, what could be simpler than a job that only requires 3 different tools?? Right?? That may very well depend on whether or not you have an assistant. My assistant for this task is my 6 year old son Liam. He is a great help, though very inquisitive, and thus, this job WILL, or likely will not, take you longer than myself. Liam loves to ask questions and he has an absolute NEED to know exactly why I do EVERYTHING I do when working on the bike. Thus, things take a bit longer when you play 20 (or 300) questions. Working on the bike is what my son likes to call his "Daddy Time". God I love the little guy, he is such a fantastic helper.

    Step one - Secure the Bike

    Place the bike on the center stand (if you have one) as this will make the bike a bit more stable when you have to move the front wheel from side to side. It is also very helpful when your assistant wants to pretend to be Ricky Racer and make motorcycle noises. Nothing worse than trying to unscrew stuff when the bike is rocking all over the place.

    Step Two - Remove the Mirrors

    This step is relatively straight forward. Using the 5mm allen wrench (I have a T-Handle set of wrenches that come in really handy for this and being bright orange, they are really hard to lose) remove the two allen head screws attaching the mirror bases to the upper cowl stay.

    Upper Cowl Removal (1).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (7).jpg



    Step Three - Remove the Inner Windscreen Trim Covers

    Inside the windscreen are two black trim pieces that are attached to the inside of the upper cowl stay. Remove the one phillips head screw from the end of the plastic trim and then pivot away from the screen and remove. Behind these trim panels is a screw on either side of the top of the instrument cluster bezel that threads in to the back of the upper cowl. These two screws must also be removed.

    Upper Cowl Removal (2).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (3).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (4).jpg

    Step Four - Windscreen Removal

    In order to remove the windscreen you will need to remove the two phillips head screws that are under the mirror bases. These screws secure the upper cowl to the mirror supports of the upper cowl stay. These screws may or may not actually be installed so if they are not there not to worry. Once these screws have been removed you can gently pry back the upper cowl near the end of the mirrors and lift the windscreen to remove it from the small posts on the stay that the windscreen holes slot in to. Once the windscreen is released from the upper cowl stay posts, gently pry up and back on the windscreen to release the positioning tabs on the lower portion of the windscreen that slot in to the upper cowl.

    Upper Cowl Removal (8).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (9).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (10).jpg


    Step Five - Unplug the headlights

    You can do this first, last or whenever but they must be unplugged at some point, and better now than when you try to remove the upper cowl later and risk dropping it when you have forgotten the connector leads are still attached. Ask me how I figured this one out.............. Gently push the connector in toward the headlight and squeeze the two locking tabs on either side of the connector to remove. If you turn the bars toward the headlight you are trying to disconnect, you will have more room for your hands. This may seem self evident but surprisingly it just isn't if you're like me and like to do things the hard way. Never underestimate the intelligence of a 6 year old. They are chalk full of useful information such as, "Daddy, wouldn't it be easier if you turned the handle bars to that side, your hand would fit better." Gotta love the way his mind works, and apparently mine, ................well, .................doth not, apparently.

    Upper Cowl Removal (6).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (5).jpg

    Step Six - Retainer Clip and Front Turn Signal Removal

    Remove the two plastic retainer clips that secure the upper cowl to the exhaust cowl cover (not really sure what this piece is called but the one in behind the wheel). The clips used require a phillips screwdriver and you turn them a half turn counter-clockwise and the center should pop out. If not, try holding the edge of the clip with you finger while turning the center with the screwdriver. One trick I have had success with is turning the wheel to the opposite side of the clip you are trying to remove to give you more room for the screwdriver. Another tip would be to use a phillips screw bit without the holder (just the bit between your fingers) as the clips are not usually that tight. Once the clip releases just pull it straight out. You can also undo the phillips screw that secures the front turn signal.

    Upper Cowl Removal (14).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (17).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (16).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (15).jpg

    You may notice that the upper clips on my bike (just under the headlight area) are a different style clip. These are not factory clips but ones that I have replaced as the factory ones were broken. They are trunk trim panel retainer clips that I sourced from my Mazda Protege a long time ago. They were available from my local auto parts store and they work sooooo much better. I have not replaced all the clips yet but I will when they break.

    To remove the turn signal from the upper cowl you need to gently pull the front of the turn outward until you can just see the arm that the screw attaches to. Once it just clears the fairing pull (or push) the turn signal toward the front of the bike to release the tab at the back of the turn signal. Do NOT pull it straight toward you at the back or you may crack the fairing or break the tab off the rear of the turn signal. Squeeze the tab on the electrical connector to remove it from the turn signal assembly and set aside.

    Upper Cowl Removal (18).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (19).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (20).jpg

    Step Seven - Remove the Allen head bolts securing the upper cowl.

    Using the 5mm allen key, remove the 3 allen head screws that secure the side of the upper cowl to the lower cowl. Since I was going to change the instrument panel lights and replace them with LED's, I also removed the 4 allen head screws that secure the instrument cluster bezel to the top of the lower cowls. With these removed, you can undo the 3 nuts that secure the gauge cluster to the upper cowl stay to give you room pivot the cluster forward a bit while removing the bulb sockets and bulbs.

    Upper Cowl Removal (12).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (13).jpg

    Gently pull the upper cowl mirror away from the mirror supports just to make sure they are still released from the mirror posts. Using the holes for the turn signals (once again the 6 year old has the mind of an engineer and is full of great ideas), grasp the upper cowl and gently pull it away from the bike.

    Upper Cowl Removal (21).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (22).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (23).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (24).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (25).jpg

    This is where you have hopefully remembered to unplug the headlights as it is a PIA to do when you have the cowl hanging in mid air resting on some unnamed body part while you attempt to fumble blindly with the connector that will now appear to be welded in place. Note to self (and others): The upper cowl can feel ridiculously heavy when hunched over and trying to madly unplug the headlights connectors, possibly causing back strain and undo stress to younger children within ear shot due to the abnormal, and uncontrollable, amount of swearing that may take place.


    Step Eight - Time for Celebration

    You should now have a pile of parts and/or assemblies sitting on the ground, a blanket, shelf, workbench, etc etc etc. that vaguely resembles the ones shown here. Note: Color, condition and placement may vary greatly depending on numerous factors. LOL.

    Upper Cowl Removal (26).jpg

    Congratulations, HOORAH, you are almost half way there. Time for a beverage. WARNING!!!! Alcohol being consumed during the process of removal may be detrimental to the condition of the fairing parts being removed. For GAWDS sake, Save the cowl, drink the beer when you finish putting the bike back together. JUST SAYIN..................

    Step Nine - Replacement of Extraneous BITS

    You are now free to replace any pieces that may have required the removal of this piece of your motorcycle. This list may include but is not limited to:


    1. Headlight Bulbs
    2. Instrument Panel and lights
    3. Relays
    4. Wiring various farkles
    5. Cleaning and waxing the frame and upper cowl stay and general cleansing of areas otherwise not visible (OK, OK, I may be one of the few to remove the upper cowl for this reason but heh, there were other reasons)

    One of the tasks I wished to complete during this process was to swap in some new LED's for the standard wedge bulbs (194 wedge bulbs) in the gauge cluster lights for the LCD information display, the coolant and fuel gauge, and the speedometer and tachometer. I purchased the LED's for the gauge cluster from a company called SuperbrightLEDs. The bulbs are a replacement for a standard 194 wedge bulb and they have a large selection of types, sizes, colors and prices. Here is a link to their website. The company was great to deal with and the bulbs were at my door within a week.

    2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (1).jpg

    http://www.superbrightleds.com/more...led-bulb-5-smd-led-wide-angle-wedge-base/206/

    There are three 10mm nuts on the back of the gauge cluster that can be removed to help with removing the bulbs from the back of the cluster. With these three nuts removed you can pivot the gauge cluster away from the upper cowl support stay so that you have more room to remove the bulb sockets from the back of the gauge cluster. The ones you need to remove are the 5 orange colored bulb sockets. The two blue ones are the turn signals and the orange ones are for the gauges. To remove the bulbs twist the bulb socket counter clockwise about a quarter turn and then pull back away from the cluster. When you re-install the bulbs remember that the LED's are not polarized bulbs meaning that they will only work if installed the right way. Once you have changed all the bulbs turn the ignition switch to the on position and cover the instrument panel with a towel to make it somewhat dark. If any area of the gauges is not lit up, turn the ignition off and then take out the appropriate wedge bulb socket and rotate it 180 degrees and re-insert it. This should solve the problem and then test again. I rolled the bike in to the garage and turned out the lights and when looking at the back of the gauge cluster it was really apparent which bulbs were working and which were not because you could see a small halo of light around the base of each bulb socket. Once they are all working, push the gauges cluster posts back in to the rubber grommets in the cowl stay and re-install the nuts.

    2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (2).jpg 2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (3).jpg 2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (4).jpg 2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (6).jpg 2000 VFR800 LED Dash Light Install (10).jpg



    Step Ten - Re-Install the Upper Cowl

    Installation is the reverse of the removal process. One thing I would caution is that when re-attaching the upper cowl, be sure to line up the positioning pins on the back of the headlight housing with the corresponding rubber grommet holes in the upper cowl stay and gently push the cowl back in to position. They can be hard to see but if you don't get them in the right spot, believe me when I say, NOTHING WILL LINE UP. First thing to re-attach might be the screws that attach the upper cowl to the mirror supports of the upper cowl stay (the ones that go under the mirror bases). These will easily hold the upper cowl in place while you fiddle around with everything else. The other useful tidbit of information I can offer is to make sure that upper cowl is positioned so that the exhaust cowl cover is behind the lip of the upper cowl as shown in the picture BEFORE you start to screw everything back together. It is very difficult to re-orient this joint once everything is screwed back together.

    The picture on the left below is with the pieces oriented incorrectly. The one on the right is with the two pieces lined up properly.

    Upper Cowl Removal (27).jpg Upper Cowl Removal (28).jpg
     

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    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  2. TNRabbit

    TNRabbit New Member

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    Great write-up! Pics would only make it better~
     
    Kan'ichirō Yoshimura likes this.
  3. mello dude

    mello dude Member

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    Nice job.... :cool:
     
  4. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Apparently I took too long to type the post and the pictures get deleted if not used within an hour of being uploaded. OOPS, what can I say, I am a slow typist. Pictures have now been added.
     
  5. Scubalong

    Scubalong Official Greeter?

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    :hss: What a great write up, ZoooooomZoooooom you must have a lot of free time, want to come over for beers and work on my bike? :rolleyes:
    Gret job boss :thumbsup:
     
  6. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Sure, all I need is airfare, oh, and a passport, and A beer. Just one beer though, I am a cheap drunk. LOL. Oh and my daughter Chantal, so badly wants to know if she can go for a ride on your dinosaur. She thinks it is soooooo cute, and says you look like you're enjoying it soo much that she wants in on the fun. Didn't have the heart to tell her that I think the dinosaur in question is a Velocoraptor, like the ones in Jurassic Park.
     
  7. Scubalong

    Scubalong Official Greeter?

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    When you and the family in town I will take them to visit the Dinosaurs :thumb:
     
  8. nookiaz

    nookiaz New Member

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    Great write up Mr. Z! I'm heading over to have mine worked on! ETA: sometimes next summer... :D
     
  9. M Jay

    M Jay New Member

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    Thanks for taking the time to do this, a really nice job.
     
  10. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Anytime, my good man, any time. I love to take things apart, carefully. My day job has me taking apart all manner and value of cars in order to fix dents, so it literally is WHAT I DO.

    i will be sure to clear a spot in the garage for yer bike Nookiaz.
     
  11. OZ VFR

    OZ VFR Member

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    Great work zoom-zoom, you have more patience than me.
    Only question is regarding the red Led's, are they bright enough?
    it is a mod I've been contemplating myself to preserve night vision, but worried that they would be too dull to see.
    Cheers.
     
  12. zoom-zoom

    zoom-zoom Member

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    Hey Cuelho1

    i would say that of all the Colors available that they might not be THE brightest color, but they certainly are brighter than stock, especially the LCD gauge that show the fuel and Odo, trip meter, temp etc. The info display is clearly visible in the daylight outside and you can tell its red. The speedo is not super bright but still better than stock. Another nice thing is that at night especially I don't find an issue with the gauges being soooo bright that they hamper my night vision while riding. I have found that when I looked at my wife's gauges on her 96 VFR750 in the garage, in the dark, and looked up it took a little bit for my eyes to adjust. I added blue LED's of the same type to her bike and they are brighter. When I look at my gauges in the dark and then look up right away, my eyes seem to adjust to the change more quickly.

    I have had had a couple cars in the past that have had red gauges and they are a lot less distracting when driving at night, yet they are very easy to read. I tried swapping the blue LED's from my wife's bike to mine and found them too bright. This is of course very much personal opinion.
     
  13. VFRkat

    VFRkat New Member

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    Great right up zoom. Thanks a lot for taking the time to put this up there. I'll be printing this off for the winter project :)
     
  14. joshcarr73

    joshcarr73 New Member

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    Thanks for posting this. Helps me out a lot.

    Josh
     
  15. adeyren

    adeyren New Member

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    Thanks zoom zoom, good write up. Like the leds.
     
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