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I’ve got a 2015 899 Panigale with 4200 miles that appears to have an oil leak at the rear cylinder head gasket and definitely at the valve cover gasket - rear cylinder as well. I picked it up not that long ago and it appeared to be overfilled with engine oil when I got it home. When I first checked the bike out, I did have the previous owner stand the bike up off of the kickstand and center so I could check out the oil level - he either didn’t have it center while I was down looking at the oil level, or had started the bike not long before I checked the level, because the oil level looked good (previous owner said around 200 miles since last oil change). So, I got it on the stands and removed ~5.5oz of oil to get it dead center on the sight glass. Shortly after, I was warming up the bike to throw on some tank grips, and I noticed that there was a very slight bubbling of oil at the head gasket (see pictures). At first I thought it was coolant, but it’s definitely oil. The leak must not be too old or progressed as there isn’t very much oil residue anywhere down low (exhaust, fairings, underbelly, etc.), just around the top-side of the case near the valve cover. I’ve looked through many forums to get some answers, but nothing super conclusive has popped up as to what others have done to remedy this situation. For reference - the photos are taken from the right side, squatting near the foot peg. The bubbling was initially observed to be isolated to the right side of the head gasket, but now I’ve seen the bubbling on the back/exhaust side too. My questions are:

  1. How likely is this a case of under torqued head bolts, or that the head bolts have backed out?
  2. How did you or others you’ve heard of having this problem resolve this issue?
  3. If this is, in fact, an issue with the head gasket, could I expect the gasket to blow, allowing some nice coolant-milkshake production, or is this little bubbly the worst it gets?
  4. Now this may be a dumb question or impossible to answer question, but should this bike stay parked until the issue is resolved, or can I take advantage of the nice weather and ride easy once or twice?
 

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Can't really answer because I don't have direct experience with this type of issue. In general terms, I would say to clean very well the area and try to identify exactly where the leak is. It's VERY easy for oil to travel and accumulate somewhere far from the actual source, because of gravity or wind. If I were you, I would keep riding the bike, but I'd keep a close eye on the leak, the oil level/color and the coolant level/color. This way you can assess the severity of the issue and decide what to do next. It might be just a small leak from the valve cover, which shouldn't be difficult to fix.
 

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Not sure why I thought I had to check the engine oil when the bike was warmed up, but I think it caused me to over fill the engine. This overfilled condition IMO resulted in oil leaking past the valve cover gasket. It took me some 4 hours to remove and replace the valve cover gasket. (Actually less than 5 minutes for the actual gasket work). There was a thread somewhere that discuss the possibility of the valve cover retaining bolts vibrating and losing some torque, resulting in loosing some seal squeeze. The torque isn't all that much on the valve cover bolts of 7.4 ft-lbs of torque.

Like 120CCPM mentioned, clean the motor up to better find the location of the leak. Also consider purchasing a leak detector kit. These kits come with fluorescent dyes that are formulated for specific engine fluids and a UV light.

From my 2014 owners manual. "Check the engine oil level through the sight glass (1) on the clutch cover. Oil level must be checked with the motorcycle perfectly upright and the engine cold."
 

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Hi, The valve cover gaskets are a fairly common source of an oil leak. I had both mine leak independently at some point. There is a half round portion of gasket at the end of the camshaft and the leak typically originates in the square corner where the half round ends. Ducati must know it’s a weak point because my manual called for silicone sealant to assist at those points. I have a couple of friends who are Ducati mechanics and they say that small leaks from the valve cover are fairly common.

I’m not saying that your leak IS from there but I’d definitely have a close look there first. One of the posts above mentioned that a little oil goes a long way. That is unfortunately true. Makes finding the source quite tricky. Good luck.
 
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