Kawasaki Ninja 500R / EX500 2nd gen (1994-2009) Maintenance Schedule and Service Intervals
This is the maintenance schedule with associated service intervals for the 2nd gen Kawasaki Ninja 500R, referred to as the EX500 originally (in 1994) and then Ninja 500, with the R added in later years. It’s also known as the GPZ500 in some markets.
The Kawasaki Ninja 500R is part of the Ninja sport bike series that most people know of via its successor, the Ninja 650. The Kawasaki Ninja 500R looks sporty but has a fairly standard, upright riding position. The Ninja 500R was the best-selling sport bike in many places for years and was a popular bike for road racing.
The Kawasaki Ninja 500R / EX500 is based on a 498-cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin with four valved per cylinder. It runs a low 10.8:1 compression ratio but makes decent power of 60 hp / 44 kW at 9800 rpm, with peak torque of 46 Nm / 34 lbs-ft at 8500 rpm.
The Ninja 500R was initially called the EX500 when first released in 1987. The 1987-1993 version of the EX500 is now known as the “Gen 1”. Kawasaki released the Gen 2 in 1993 with a host of updates (including an improved engine and 17-inch wheels), changed the name to Ninja 500, and later changed the name to Ninja 500R from 1998.
In 1999, Kawasaki updated the maintenance schedule, changing the service intervals from 5000 km to 6000 km. But since it’s the same motorcycle, the maintenance schedule can be applied retroactively.
2009 was the last model year for the Ninja 500, after which only its bigger stablemate the Kawasaki Ninja 650R was sold.
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Kawasaki Ninja 500R Service Intervals
The 2nd gen Kawasaki Ninja 500R has a 6000 km or 4000 mile service interval, at which point you should check the spark plugs, carburetor synchro, and other safety and emissions equipment. But you only change the oil every 12000 km or 7500 miles, at which point you also change the oil filter and check the valve clearances.
Like with many Japanese motorcycles, it’s the early valve clearance checks that are most important. Luckily the valves in the Ninja 500R are of a screw and locknut type and are easy to service.
The Ninja 500R has a liquid-cooled engine, so for old bikes that have been sitting, change the coolant. Also change the brake fluid if it hasn’t been serviced in a while.
Earlier models of the Kawasaki Ninja 500 / EX500 had a 5000 km / 3000 mile service interval, but as it’s the same bike from 1994 onward, you can use the updated schedule. Anyway, the difference is very small.
Maintenance Schedule for Kawasaki Ninja 500R
Below is the maintenance schedule for the Kawasaki Ninja 500R. It has been simplified a lot.
- Follow the earlier of a time or distance interval.
- For higher odometer readings, repeat the frequency interval established here.
- For items marked “check” — clean, adjust, tighten, repair, or replace as necessary
- Service the chain, air filter, and oil more often when riding in severe conditions (dust, rain, high speed, or frequent starting/stopping).
- The original intervals in miles were spaced oddly (3500, then 4500, then 3000, then 5000) for no good reason, so we simplified them to 4000 miles.
|km x 1000||6||12||18||24||30||36|
|mi x 1000||4||8||12||16||20||24||Or every|
|Engine oil — change|
Use SAE 10W-40 JASO MA oil, e.g. Kawasaki 10W-40 Motor Oil
|Oil filter — replace||✓||✓||✓|
|Spark plug — clean and gap|
Gap: 0.6-0.7mm or 0.024-0.028 in, use a gapping tool
Replace EX500 plug with NGK DR9EA, or DR8EA for cold weather
Tighten to 14 Nm / 10 lbs-ft
|Valve clearances — check / adjust||✓||✓||✓|
|Carburetor synchronization — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Idle Speed — check / adjust|
Target 1150-1250 rpm, or 1250-1350 rpm for california
|Throttle grip play — check||✓||✓||✓|
|Air suction valve — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Air cleaner element — clean||✓||✓||✓|
|Air cleaner element — replace||✓||5 cleanings|
|Evaporative emission control system (if fitted) — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Battery electrolyte level — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Month|
|Brake hose connections — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Brake light switch — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Brake pad wear — check|
Minimum thickness: 1mm
|Brake fluid level — check|
Note that fluid level goes down with pad wear
|Brake fluid — change (Castrol DOT 4)||✓||2 years|
|Fuel hose, connections — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Clutch — adjust|
Target free play: 0.07-0.12 in / 2-3mm
|Steering play — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Drive chain wear — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Nuts, bolt, and fasteners — check||✓||✓||✓|
|Tire wear — check||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|General lubrication — perform||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Front fork oil — change||✓|
|Swingarm pivot, uni-trak linkage — lubricate||✓||✓||✓|
|Coolant — change||✓||2 years|
|Radiator hoses, connections — check||✓||✓||✓||Year|
|Steering stem bearing — lubricate||✓||2 years|
|Master cylinder cup and dust seal — replace||2 years|
|Caliper piston seal and dust seal — replace||2 years|
|Brake hose — replace||4 years|
|Fuel hose — replace||4 years|
Maintaining the Chain on the Kawasaki Ninja 500 / 500R / EX500
It’s important to maintain your chain on the Ninja 500R, as on any chain-driven motorcycle. Use a good-quality chain lubricant like Motul chain paste, or a Motul chain care kit which comes with a couple of handy tools to maintain the chain.
Kawasaki recommends you follow the following chain maintenance schedule:
|Chain maintenance item||Every|
|Check drive chain lubrication condition, lubricating if necessary (Motul chain paste)||400 mi / 600 km|
|Check drive chain slack, adjusting if necessary|
Standard slack: 35-40mm / 1.4-1.6 inches
Re-tighten axle nut to 110 Nm / 80 lbs-ft when done
|600 mi / 1000 km|
- Do these items (checking/adjusting slack, and checking/applying lubrication) more often if you ride your EX500 in dusty or rainy conditions.
- Always lubricate the chain after washing the motorcycle.
Tyre size and tyre pressure for the Kawasaki Ninja 500R
The Kawasaki Ninja 500R has the following recommended pressures and tyre sizes standard.
|Wheel||Tyre size||Tyre pressure|
|Front||110/70-17 54H||225 kPa / 32 psi|
|Rear||130/70-17 62H||250 kPa / 36 psi|
Stock, the 500R shipped with Bridgestone G549/G550 or Dunlop K275 tyres.
About the Kawasaki Ninja 500R / GPZ500
The Kawasaki Ninja 500R (a.k.a. EX500) was Kawasaki’s middleweight sport bike for a long time and had a loyal following a good value everyday bike. There are still a lot of examples around, and they make for a great first bike or commuter.
It all started in 1988 with the original Kawasaki EX500, basically the same bike, but with older styling.
Kawasaki made the EX500 for five years, but in 1994 released the upgraded 2nd gen Kawasaki Ninja 500.
Here are the changes that Kawasaki made to the 1994-onward EX500 / Ninja 500 / Ninja 500R
- Wheels: Size change from 16-inch to 17 inch
- Engine: Improved CCT, flywheel, and transmission, dramatically improving reliability
- Brake: Rear disc rather than drum
- Suspension: Firmer
- Instrument cluster: Redesigned
- Fairing redesign
In 1997, Kawasaki released the first Ninja 500R (for the 1998 model year), which they made through to 2009. The Ninja 500R was a visual update, but Kawasaki also changed the maintenance schedule from 5000 km to 6000 km basic service intervals.
The heart of the Kawasaki Ninja 500R is a 498cc liquid-cooled parallel twin-cylinder engine. It has dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, but runs a very mild 10.8:1 compression ratio. This is to maximise the Ninja 500R’s long service life, even though it comes at a cost to peak power and torque, which aren’t priorities for the Ninja 500.
Nonetheless, the Ninja 500’s claimed 44 kW / 60 hp is spicy enough to have some fun with it, not too shy off the power made by the Ninja 500’s successor, the Ninja 650. It’s torque-forward, which means it’s suited to commuting. But it also revs enough to give the sporty at heart a mildly satisfying smile whenever you need to downshift and pull away.
In 2006, the Kawasaki Ninja 500R was replaced by the fuel-injected Kawasaki Ninja 650R in most markets. The transition took place in 2009 in the US.
Manual for the Kawasaki Ninja 500R
The above maintenance schedule comes directly from the user’s manual for the Kawasaki Ninja 500R, consulting various model years.
You can see that from 1988-1998, the service intervals were 5000 km / 3000 mi. Kawasaki updated the EX500 in 1994, also renaming it the Ninja 500 in many countries (staying the GPZ500 in some). But the maintenance schedule stayed the same.
In 1999, one year after updating it to the Ninja 500R, Kawasaki changed the service interval to 6000 km / 4000 mi (actually 3500 some intervals, 5000 others… annoyingly confusing, so 4000 is easier to understand).
You can get the maintenance schedule in the user’s manual on Kawasaki’s website here.