Hydraulic tappets in 1100 California ’03-’05

February 1st, 201023 Comments »

2004 Moto Guzzi California EVFor those looking for a pre-owned Moto Guzzi California, something to be aware of is a recall that involved the hydraulic tappets in several 2003 to 2005 models.

Those were the California 1100 engines that were designed with hydraulic tappets.  Because of some manufacturing problems, a recall campaign was issued by Moto Guzzi for refitting these engines with new components.

If the present owner is not sure, you should check the VIN number with a dealer to find out if the recall service was performed on the bike.

You don’t need to avoid or fear these model years.  Owners have described these as the smoothest running and smoothest sounding Calis ever.  A multitude of riders have put very high mileage on these without a problem.

In fact, I know of a sweet ’03 EV Touring near Charlotte, NC that I would buy it right now if I didn’t already have my own Cali.  It’s  a one-owner bike, had every scheduled dealer-performed service, and has been described as the best running California that some of the highly experienced Guzzi riders there have ever been tested. (update – was $4900 ready to ride and has since been sold.)

There were two groups of bikes addressed, one was the group of unsold Calis and the other was the group that was already sold.

Back in 2003, there was a service communication issued to dealers regarding “noisiness of the timing system” due to premature camshaft wear.  This involved the Guzzi California motorcycle models of Stone, Titanium, EV, and EV Touring.

  • California Titanium, frame number: ZGUKDC1203M133654
  • California Titanium (USA), frame number: ZGUKDD0074M133659
  • California EV and  EV Touring, frame number: ZGUKDC1203M112261
  • California EV Touring (USA), frame number: ZGUKDD0024M112346
  • California Stone with frame number: ZGUKDC4203M111687
  • California Stone (USA), frame number: ZGUKDD0164M111418

The remedy was to inspect the wear of the cam, and if found to be excessive, to inspect the oil sump and engine for metallic debris.  Aside from replacing the cam and tappets, the engine itself would need to be overhauled if the metallic debris was found to have circulated through the engine.

To do the fix, dealers needed to order two different kits which were readied for delivery around February of 2005. One kit included the special tools required, and the other kit included the new parts.  The factory calculated this to be a 6 hour job per motorcycle.  Once all new unsold Guzzi Californias were fixed, then the recall campaign for customer’s motorcycles would begin, around March 2005.

It has been argued how Moto Guzzi handled this problem, but in the end, the problem was addressed, bikes were fixed, and many owners of “hydro” Moto Guzzi Californias have reported years of enjoyment.  If you’re considering buying a used California 1100 “hydro”, just have a Moto Guzzi dealer run the VIN number to see if the recall service has been performed.

Another thing about the 2003-2005 hydraulic tappet California 1100, is to remember to use the proper engine oil.  These are supposed to use 5W40.  Solid tappet Calis call for a different weight of oil.  For example, my ’07 California Vintage calls for Agip 4T Racing SAE 10W60.


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About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotoGuzziCalifornia.Com. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding and maintaining his Moto Guzzi California Vintage.

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  1. John says:

    The 2003 Moto Guzzi California owners manual calls for 3 liters of Agip 4T RACING SAE 5W/40. There are plenty of opinions out there about different oil grades to use. I welcome others to chime in on this.

  2. Robert McPherson says:

    I went to the only guzzi dealer in my state and asked to the correct oil for my 2003 california stone. he gave me 20-50. what should i be using? Thanks,

  3. Dan says:

    Update; got t-boned by red light runner on my kawasaki shortly after last post, healed up, got a corbin seat (stock seat sucks) in Hollister on the cali and put some miles on it, I love my EV! Need to get a external filter plate and new fork seals (Italian rubber suck) otherwise it’s one of the best bikes I’ve owned in 40 years of riding, could use a sixth gear tho.

  4. John says:

    Dan, sorry to hear about the unfortunate experience you had in San Jose, but don’t give up on dealers altogether, Munroe Motors in San Francisco may be your closest Guzzi dealer and they have been around since 1958. I’ve never been there, but they seem well worth checking out. I try to work on my bike as much as I am comfortable with, mostly because I find it very enjoyable, but I won’t hesitate to take it to a dealer after I have gained some experience with them before they work on the bike. The ethanol in fuel does not help anything in just about any bike, especially hoses and seals, but also metals. Fortunately my original Guzzi dealer switched my fuel hose when I bought the ’07 California Vintage. I’ve recently switched to running only Non-Ethanol fuel after hearing stories of ethanol corroded fuel injectors from my delaer that saw this in someone elses Vintage and had replace their injectors. There are web sites that show which gas stations sell non-ethanol, such as pure-gas.org, but since you are in California, that may not be an option for you, but I mention it here for anyone reading this to be aware.

  5. dan says:

    I have a ’04 Cali EV and the submerged fuel line blew out making it impossible to start, turns out the rubber isn’t rated for submersion so I took it to Moto Italian in San Jose CA, they found the recall and kept my bike for two months, when I finally got it back it had a scratch on the tank but it started and ran like s***, they didn’t cut the tops off the rocker adjusters, after getting it home I found the problem and have been doing all the wrenching myself ever since, the shop went out of business two weeks after I got my bike back.

  6. Lex Stewart says:

    Apologies – My Guzzi California is dated as 18/09/2004 on my local certificate of registration.
    i.e. a 2004 model. Not sure how it was imported into the country?

  7. Lex Stewart says:

    Hi There. I have recently purchased a California 1100cc and, after coming across this thread am a bit alarmed that I might have picked up a problem….!
    My 2010 Guzzi had 1224km on the clock. Yes its true. Was never ridden, by an old fellow. However, my concern is the recall issue.
    My frame number or VIN (vehicle identification number – for South Africa) is as follows: ZGUKDB2KD1M116172.
    Do I have a Guzzi that needs the mod? I have now done 5300km and love my Guzzi!
    Moto Guzzi seems to have pulled out of South Africa and I have no real history on my Guzzi.
    Any accurate assistance woukl be MOST appreciated.
    Regards, Lex Stewart. Durban, South Africa.

  8. Mike says:

    I am currently having the recall done on my 03 guzzi metal in California. Just as a heads up, the recall kit does not include the 8 o rings, or 2 head gaskets when they have to complete the overhaul. I had to purchase these, and provide them to the dealer. I figured it’d be better to spend the $70 out of pocket, then have them put the old ones back on. Thankfully the dealer seems to be doing a great job, even though its taking them more than the time they were allotted.

  9. Adam Baszczok says:


    Regards from Poland
    Im curently fighting with my California 03′. I have excesive noise from rigth cylinder/timing. I assume that this is problem of hydraulic tappet…Anyway I asked by our country Guzzi dealer – and they send me back infromation that there were no any service action for parts of engine,.Could someone from you guys try to check in your country if I have any recall action with my bike.


    Thx in addvance

  10. jane says:

    is the aluminium included in all this? i never see it written in all the info and as i am in new zealand where there arent really a lot of these bikes around i am having trouble finding info to do with my 03 california ali. cheers

  11. John says:

    Hello Andy, Nothing against the HQ, but I think you should double-check it at Moto Guzzi dealer just top be sure of that to avoid any worry. Ones that were addressed before original sale may be ok. There was also a recall for lower steering yoke failures on the 1100 EV (and 1100 Stone), so you should verify whether your frame number was included in that. Lastly, you may want to take a look to see if yours has a single plate clutch or dual plate clutch. I can explain in more detail how to check if you need.

  12. Andy Snook says:

    Hi , I have a 2003 cali ev with a hydro engine but my frame number does not match any on the recall list above. So my question is were any hydro engines ok or were they all fault.. I spoke to a chap at piageo hq in Itally and he said that my bike had no recall. Should i be worried . ps its done about 5000 miles now.

  13. John says:

    Hello Guido, the 2001 and 2002 California EV were not involved with this tappet issue. They use tappet part number GU17045860 which is the same reliable tappet as most of the Moto Guzzi big twins have used since 1976 up until the hyrdo years. Two clutch plates part number GU03084400 were standard on the 2001 and 2002 models also.

  14. Guido Lof says:

    Hi John, I have just found your website and it’s really informative.
    Last week I bought an EV Touring with hydraulic valves.
    The frameno. starts with ZGUKDC1102M
    So it’s the 2002 model, does this mean this motor doesn’t have the tappet problem? The engine runs great without any weird noises.
    And do you know whether this type has a single or double clutch?


  15. John says:

    Hi Bob, I have heard and read stories about the recall and some bikes being fixed completely, some partially, some at the factory, some at dealers, etc., so I’d take it in to an authorized Moto Guzzi dealer and see what they say about your serial number. Sounds like it is ok, but it is probably worth a visit.

  16. Bob Hadden says:

    So, John. I have an ’04 Titanium with a serial # ending in 64M133670. The frame # you indicated that was part of the recall ended in 74M133659. Does that mean that by the time my bike was built the problem with cams and hydraulic lifters had been resolved? My bike has always had ONLY AGIP 5w40 and every time I drop the pan to change the filter I look for any metal particles. So far there have been none to speak of. (2 or 3 very small flakes). The bike has just over 25,000 miles and I ride it “swiftly” on these great roads we have in the northern plains and mountains. (I once road from Faith, SD to Newell, SD ,75 miles in 45 minutes, to outrun a dangerous storm) I NEVER lug the engine and it is a very sweet running bike. I changed the valve cover gaskets last summer and the rockers looked original ie..no numbers or marks, just bronze colored plane machined rockers. What do you think?

  17. Craig says:

    The oil recommendations you state for the mechanical tappet and “hydro” California models (and various other Moto Guzzi models) were superseded by Moto Guzzi TECHNICAL NOTE No. 010-2006, dated 28-07-2006, which states in part:

    1100 SERIES California – Mechanical Tappets
    Engine oil: RACING 4T 10W-60 or as an alternative 20W-50

    1100 SERIES California – Hydraulic Tappets
    Engine oil: RACING 4T 5W-40 Oil to be compulsorily used for a correct operation of hydraulic tappets.

    A few other notes about the star-crossed hydro EV’s:

    1. Potential buyers need to investigate the bike’s history carefully, as some of the less-reputable dealers of the day reported to Piaggio that the recall was done for particular VINs, took the money for the valve train recall, but did not do the work. So, checking a bike’s VIN against the recall records can be misleading. If you don’t know or trust the dealer that claims to have done the recall, remove the valve covers and look. There is information on the internet as to what to look for. Be wary of a bike that has not had the recall; make sure Moto Guzzi will still pay for it, and that the parts and specialized tools necessary are still available.

    2. As a corollary to #1, try to determine if the recall was done before or after the bike was put into service, and, in particular, if it was done before or after the engine failed. Ideally, you want a bike that had the recall done before the bike was first sold. Metal flakes from the defective parts have been known to damage the engine beyond the defective parts themselves. If the bike was in service before the recall, the good dealers flushed the engine carefully and took apart, cleaned, and inspected the oil pump, before putting everything back together, but not all dealers are or were good dealers.

    3. The valvetrain was not the only serious problem with these bikes. Some left the factory with a single-plate clutch, instead of the more common dual-plate clutch. MG tried a single-plate clutch to lessen the clutch pull, and it was a disaster. Nearly every single-plate bike had its clutch implode within a few thousand miles of use. Most were changed out under warranty to the dual-plate design, but some were not. Any EV is no longer in warranty, so check to see which clutch is in the bike you are looking at. (There is information online as to what to look for.) Otherwise, it is an $1,800 repair bill to retrofit an EV with the dual-plate clutch. Since this was never the subject of an official recall, you would be paying for that, yourself.

    4. Wait! That’s not all…. The hydro EV’s were also plagued with cracking lower triple trees. The good news is: there were (I believe) no reported crashes as a result of this; the cracks are easy to spot (again, the information on what to look for is online); and dealer recall information on this is fairly reliable. Also, since this was the subject of a US government (NHTSA) safety recall, Moto Guzzi is obligated to replace the defective part at their expense, regardless of whether the bike is out of warranty.

    Other than those few things — it’s a fantastic motorcycle! No, I’m not being facetious. The hydro EV’s problems can be scoped out before you buy, and, IMO, it’s worth the effort.

  18. Lingan says:

    Just last year, I brought in my ’03 cali special sport for the recall. It took just 1 year and a few days to complete the recall, not the 6 hours the factory claims. The recall involves changing out the cam shaft because the alloy used was too soft. The factory in Italy sent my dealer the parts 3 or 4 times. Each time the parts arrived, the cam shaft lobes had little dings on them, some had metal debris in the box and there were virtually no packing material! When my dealer finally received a cam shaft that was usable, there were other parts that were sent that were mislabelled and therefore unusable as well. Each time parts are ordered, it takes months for the factory to send them out. And forget about the tool needed to do the recall. My dealer had to borrow it from another dealer because MG does not have it anymore. My cali had just 2500 miles on it and the cam already had some very very slight wear beginning to show. At least it is back on the road and rides like a dream…

  19. Dennis says:

    I have a 03 cal alum just talked to a dealer he looked it up and said it was still an active recall so i had him order the parts said he’d call when he got them im not having any probs yet but you never know 21500 miles, recalls are recalls just get them done just my 2cents

  20. John says:

    Hello and welcome! The California 1100i workshop manual specifies SAE 10w40 engine oil. Later California models specify 10w50 and then 20w50. My California Vintage specifies 10w60. So, with all this in mind and considering the higher temperature of your location, I doubt there is anything wrong with using 20w50. This is just an opinion. Any one else want to comment on this?

  21. Matt van der Meer says:

    Hi Sir, I have a 1995, 1100i, california with 117,000 km on it, I was told to use 20w/50. in the engine, is that the right oil, I live in Brisbane, QLD., australia, with plenty of hot weather in the summer

  22. Gerald V. Selvo says:

    Thank you for the info. I am looking at a 2003 Aluminum with only 712 miles and noticed a comment about the camshaft not being subject to any known recall. Your post cleared up everything. I will go back and ask the right questions and get the right VIN info. Thank you again.

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