Community Commentary Lieback’s Lounge: Rookie Mistakes & Homemade Gaskets

Lieback’s Lounge: Rookie Mistakes & Homemade Gaskets

There was a vague smell of gas, but I thought nothing of it.

That changed quickly about 50 miles into a 200-mile ride after fueling my KTM 1190 Adventure R. The KTM was puking gas everywhere – a very hot KTM due to a spirited ride.

The problem? The fuel was spewing out of the new fuel level sending unit—a long cylinder that inserts into the gas tank and provides fuel gauge information. I think it’s a dumb design. Now I have more data to back up that sentiment.

The reason it was leaking is all my fault, though.

The Friday before, I had swapped out the old sending unit with the new one. The bike was stuck on empty for nearly 1000 miles, and it was starting to mess with my head.

KTM fuel level sensor
The KTM 1190’s fuel level sensor hides under the bodywork

I first attempted to fix the old one by sanding down the float contained within the cylinder. But, it still got stuck at the empty level, sending false signals to my dashboard.

I ordered a new one and installed it while my five-year-old son Enzo was running circles around me, causing some distraction. I forgot to check if the new one had an o-ring gasket. I thought about it after I installed it and installed the bodywork. I figured the OEM part would have one.

I was wrong. Stupidly wrong.

I wouldn’t know until I went for that ride with my good friend Jay, who was familiarizing himself with his new KTM SMT.

We both had around 60 miles left in our tanks. I planned a beautiful ride, with a gas stop about 50 miles away.

I smelled gas a few times en route to the fuel stop, and thought nothing of it. Once filled, though, the bike was soaked. Super super soaked. I hurried and pushed it away from the pumps, not wanting to turn the town into Three Mile Island.

I soon realized that my Cruz tool kit was in my Touratech bags. And those bags were NOT on the bike.

homemade gasket for KTM 1190 Adventure R fuel level sensor
The “new” gasket that came off Jay’s SMT

Luckily, Jay had just purchased a star key set. I told him to grab a set because KTM wisely uses them, and they never strip!

I took off the bodywork, and, as expected, the new sending unit was leaking. The problem was the o-ring gasket or lack of one.

While getting Jay’s tools from under his seat, he noticed a perfectly round piece of rubber that held his tools down. We measured, and it would work.

After some modifications, I had a new gasket. The leaking gas issue was over.

The process robbed about 25 minutes of our time, but during those minutes, a few other riders stopped by to check in on us. It was nice to see actual humans during this weird pandemic.

KTM 1190 fuel level sensor
The KTM 1190’s fuel level sending unit fitted with the “new” gasket

We continued our ride, and I didn’t have one gas issue since.

I learned a valuable lesson, and promise myself to never make such a rookie mistake again. How can one go from changing belts and adjusting valves on a Ducati to forgetting to make sure the fuel level sensor had a gasket?

Stupid. Dumb. Totally my fault.

After our ride, I did some research. The o-ring—basically the size of a condom ring—costs $40.

Will I change it? Hell no. The homemade fix worked, and that memory and solution will always be with me, each time I start that orange beast.

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007, and is currently Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling.

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