Carb Tuning - Page 4, By Eric Gorr

Eric Gorr

Engine Builder
Jun 29, 1999
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Jetting Shouldn't Be Scary!

Jetting is the process of making adjustments to the air and fuel jet sizes in order to fine tune the carburation to suit the load demands on the engine and make the power delivery consistent and optimum. Too much anxiety is placed on jetting. Most people just want to call me on the phone and ask what jets they should put in their carb. That's an impossible question because that the big dirt bike magazines attempt to answer just to increase readership.

People get confused because they read jetting specs in a magazine, put those jets in their bike and seize the engine. Any quoted jetting in this book is just a baseline. Most magazines don't list parameters for their jetting specs like; Brand new bike running with VP C-12 fuel with Silkolene oil mixed at 30:1 and a NGK 8 spark plug, ridden by a really slow lard-ass editor twisting the throttle on a hard-packed track. Some part numbers and jet sizes are given in the Tuning Tips section for models that definitely need certain jets in order to get the bike near the baseline. There is an old saying that says you can fish for a man and feed him for a day or teach him to fish and enable him to feed himself for life. Here is a quick lesson on how to jet your dirt bike.

The Ride and Feel Method

The most basic method of determining correct carburetor jetting is "ride and feel." This method requires you to determine if the carburetor tuning is too rich or too lean by the sound and feel of the engine. The first step is to mark the throttle body in 1/4-throttle increments, from closed to full open. Then, this method requires that you ride the motorcycle on a flat, circular course. To check the carb jetting for throttle positions up to 1/2 throttle, ride the motorcycle in second or third gear. Roll on the throttle slowly from 1/4 to 1/2 open. If the engine is slow to respond and bogs (engine makes a booooowah sound) then the carb jetting is too lean. You can verify lean jetting by engaging the carb's choke to the halfway position. This will make the air-fuel mixture richer and the engine should respond better. If the carb jetting is too rich, then the engine will make a crackling sound; the exhaust smoke will be excessive and the engine will run as if the choke is engaged. Careful engagement of the choke can help you determine if the jetting is rich or lean. Another important tip is to just change the jets one increment at a time, either rich or lean, until the engine runs better. Most people are afraid to change a jet because they think that the engine will be in danger of seizing. Believe me, one jet size won't make your engine seize but it could be the difference between running bad and running acceptable.

To check the jetting for throttle positions from 1/2 to full open, ride the motorcycle in third and fourth gear. (You may need to increase the diameter of the circular riding course for riding in the higher gears.) Check the jetting in the same manner as listed above. The carb jets that affect the jetting from 1/2 to full throttle are the jet-needle, main jet, power jet (electronic carbs) and the air jet (on four-strokes).

If you want to take this technique out to the racetrack, you can test the pilot/slow jet when accelerating out of tight hairpin turns, the needle clip position on sweeper turns and short straits, and test the main jet on the big uphill or long straits. Of course be careful if you try to use the choke technique because you could lose control when riding one handed.

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