XR250 Tornado Known Issues

These bikes have regularly been seen with 180,000km on the clock, but that doesn’t make them flawless.

Cylinder Head Oil Leak

Some 2012 and onwards models have been known to leak oil from the gasket that sits between the engine casing and the cylinder head.

From what I have read online, this appears to be due to a faulty batch of engine cases and Honda is not acknowledging the problem. Replacing the engine casing means getting a new engine number, which means changing the engine number on your registration papers for your bike.

Changing the engine number is obviously a huge headache and I have chosen to just live with the oil leak on my wife’s bike and keep cleaning the engine casing of oil once in a while. The leak is so insignificant that it won’t affect your oil level in your engine in any meaningful way.

Cylinder Head Cover Oil Leak

I’ve read reports online that some 2018+ Tornados suffer from a leaky cylinder head cover due to the cover bolts stripping in the cylinder head.

Speedo inaccurate

The speedo over reads by between 5- 10%. So 66km/h is in fact 60km/h. Also, if your bike says that it has done 20000km, it’s only done 18000km.

Bearings Starved Of Grease

IMPORTANT: The Tornado’s bearings come with very little grease from the factory. Before any long trip, be sure to check your bearings for wear and repack them with water resistant grease where applicable. I use Motorex Grease 2000.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore this step. I did. After 25,000km (and 10 years on the road), my 2009 Tornado swing-arm bearings were reduced to a rusty powder. I had to replace the swing-arm pivot spacer as well as the bearings because of the damage that had been done.

If your bearings are fooked and you need to replace them, buy some bearing removal tools to remove the races. You’ll be so very glad you did… trust me. Or, take the bike to a mechanic with the tools.

  • Wheel bearings: When they wear out, replace them with Japanese double-rubber-seal bearings, not the single-rubber-seal bearings that come stock. These double-rubber-seal bearings contain grease and do not need to be repacked. Never, ever, ever, buy Chinese bearings. They will be done in 3000km.
  • Rear shock linkage bearings: Repack with water-resistant grease.
  • Swing-arm bearings: Repack with water-resistant grease.
  • Steering neck bearings: Repack with water-resistant marine grease.

Using a Dirt Bike Rear Tire

Use a 110/100/18 size rear dirt bike tire. I like the Maxxis Desert IT. I’ve heard that the MotoZ Hybrid and Tractionator are good too.

Do not fit a dirt bike rear tire with dimensions 120/100/18 as you’ll find that the tire is too wide and scrapes against the front of the swing-arm (nearest to the rear shock).

If you must use a 120/100/18, one solution is to use a 106 link chain instead of the standard 104 link chain. This moves the rear wheel back a little and will allow it to spin. Unfortunately, this also leaves you with very little chain adjustment room left.

Another solution might be to grind down the part of the swing-arm behind the shock where the tire touches. I have not tried this.

Weak Headlight Bulb

Replace the awful 35W stock bulb with an H4 12V 60/55W Halogen Bulb, which is a lot brighter and will not draw too much current on the bike. Any auto spares shop will sell them cheaply. Much better than any halogen bulb is the TUSK H4 LED Bulb.

Quality Control Issues in some 2018+ XR250 Tornados.


Conrod deformities

I’ve read reports that the some conrods suffered from poor quality control and that the gudgeon pin doesn’t fit snugly in the conrod bearing and can make a high pitched noise inside the engine. Fortunately, my 2022 model has not displayed this issue.

Casings corroding quickly

The image below is my buddie’s 2021 Tornado after 18 months sitting in our parking lot at the ocean. Granted, he does not look after his bike, nor wash it regularly, but still – my 2009 Tornado lived in the same spot for 5 years and never corroded like this. A pressure washer strips the paint of these casings. I can confirm that my 2022 Tornado is corroding much faster than my 2009 Tornado. I’ve sprayed the entire frame in anti-corrosion spray to help slow down the corrosion.

Corroded Honda Tornado

17 thoughts on “XR250 Tornado Known Issues

  1. How do I know when it’s time to change the timing chain in the engine? Can there be an observation window? Does it pull up automatically?


    • Hi Alexander. You will hear it rattling around in the engine when it’s worn out. That can also happen if the tensioner (next to the starter motor on the rear of the cylinder) seizes, which is less likely. I’m on 47000km on mine and the timing chain is beginning to rattle. I’m sure I’ll get another 10000km out of it.


    • Hi Geoff. There is no “team” – just me.

      Cam chain adjustment procedure should be outlined in the service manual. There’s no reason to adjust it unless it is so stretched that it needs replacing. The automatic tension adjuster should adjust it for you…


    • I’m no mechanic, but the common cause for overheating is fuel mixture too lean. Meaning too much air and not enough fuel. What mods have you done to the bike. The lean state could be caused by other things too (oil pump not working as it should, or air not getting to the radiator fins), but that’s where I’d start looking.

      Perhaps change the plug too. How do you know that it is overheating? It doesn’t have a temperature gauge.


  2. Hi,
    My tornado needs help!

    Recently it has developed somw issues – related to engine and/or carburetor. It kind of misfires, almost sounds like no combustion going on. Its like….du du du du du du..pufffff..du du dud dud dud du du puff..du du dudu dudu pufff.

    The mechanics in honda in nepal just cant figure out the problem. We have changed fuel injection but still no cure, changed spark plug..nope. No one can tell where to look for problem. Most of the mechanics say it sounds like carburetor but even with donor carburetor the problem is still there, although less obvious.

    Is there a tele bike diagnosis service or do you have any experience in this area.


  3. Hi. I have had my Tornado for 10 years. Over that period the starter motor has stopped working and I have had to take it apart and clean it and put it back. Is this a common problem, what would cause that to happen.


    • Hi Murray. It’s common on ALL bikes. The brushes wear out over time and stop making contact well. You can buy new brushes off eBay or the entire starter motor. I’ve had mine replaced already with cheap Chinese brushes meant for another bike and it works great.


  4. Hi.My 2010 250 tornado (19000km) has a intimitant problem.Every now and then when i stop ,i push start button nothing happens.Instrument panel comes on.I found if i put bike i gear and rock it ,then push start again it fires up.It has a new battery so i know thats ok.Any ideas ?.cheers


    • It’s probably the starter motor seized (because when you rock it it works) or starter motor brushes worn out , or the starter motor electrical system/button/wiring. I’d take the starter motor apart and clean it first. Get a mechanic to check the brushes. My 2009 had a similar issue and it was brushes worn out. Replaced them and it works fine.


  5. Hi there. I have just replaced the seat of bearings in the steering neck of my 2023 Tornado with ONLY 1,500 km, because of rust damage. I had them checked following your warning. Indeed, all bearings were starving of grease. If you got a Tornado, any age, please check the bearings before you get a non pleasant surprise with rust damage. Great thanks Bruce for this information.


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