Kawasaki Tecate Specs and Review

Introduced in 1984, the Kawasaki Tecate was one of the best sport quads ever produced by an ATV manufacturer and the fastest 250-cm3 four-wheeler in stock form. Unknown to many, this quad was one of the very few machines that had both three-wheeled and four-wheeled versions. Discover one of the most underrated but brightest stars of the golden era of ATVs in this article.

The Kawasaki Tecate is regarded as one of the best sport ATVs of all time. This 4×4, produced from 1984 to 1988, features a 249-cc power-valve engine, 75-mph top speed, a compact chassis, and long-travel suspension. This four-wheeler is designed for dirt tracks and is a favorite among MX racers.

For such a capable, high-performance machine, many wonder why it had such a brief production run. Was the ATC ban to blame for killing the Tecate’s momentum? Or as the machine’s capabilities well beyond its time? Find out the answer by continuing to read this guide.

1988 Green and Blue Kawasaki Tecate 4 KFX250 ATV

The MX Speedster

The Kawasaki Tecate is 6th in the line of Kawasaki all-terrain vehicles since the release of the three-wheeled KLT-200 in 1981. Its four-wheeled version – the Kawasaki Tecate 4 – followed suit after seven more quads, becoming the 5th ATV produced by the Japanese firm since the Bayou 185. Following closely behind industry-leading vehicles like the legendary Prairie and Mojave, the Tecate boasted of a top speed of almost 75 mph – an unrivaled feat during its time.

Apart from being the fastest 250-class quad in the market, what makes the Tecate special is that it’s Kawasaki’s first-ever MX-ready dirt bike. Its power-valved engine, mechanism, and design are perfect for taking on those whoops, ruts, step-ups, and big jumps. High-performance and underrated, the Kawasaki Tecate is in the same ranks as the most prestigious quads and named by ATV Rider Magazine as one of the top 10 sport ATVs of all time.

Collectively, the Tecate series was available in the market from 1984 to 1988. The Kawasaki Tecate 3 (T3) was produced during the first three and a half years, while its four-wheeled version entered the ATV scene during the T3’s final year in production. Because of its short-lived production run, few off-roaders are aware of both versions – most riders are only familiar with the Kawasaki Tecate 4 (T4) that came out in the series’ last two years.

Kawasaki Tecate Specs & Features (KXF250 – Tecate 4)

Engine

The carburetor used for the 1987 Tecate-4 was a Mikuni VM34SS, borrowed from the later-year models of the Kawasaki Tecate 3 (KXT250). It increased by 1 mm the following year when Team Green decided to go with a Keihin carburetor for the 1988 version of the vehicle.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate 4 (KXF250A)
Engine Type 2-Stroke w/ KIPS & gear-driven balancer
Cylinder Arrangement Single-cylinder, 8-petal carbon-fiber piston reed valve
Carburetion System Carburetor, Keihin PWK35 x 1
Engine Cooling Liquid cooling
Engine Fuel Pre-mixed gasoline of at least Antiknock Index/PON 90 or RON 95, containing < 15% MTBE/TAME/ETBE, < 10% ethanol, or < 5% methanol w/ cosolvents & corrosion inhibitors
Fuel Capacity 9 L/2.4 US gal (0.8 L/0.21 US gal – reserve)
Bore x Stroke Ratio 67.4 x 70 mm (2.65 x 2.76 in)
Compression Ratio 8.9:1
Starting System Primary kick starter
Displacement 249 cm³ / 15.2 in³
Maximum Power 38 – 43 hp/38.5 – 43.6 PS (28.3 – 32.1 kW)
Maximum Torque 39.2 Nm (4.0 kgf-m, 28.9 ft-lb) @ 7,000 RPM
Top Speed 74.75 mph (120.3 km/h) – forums
Lubrication Petrol mix (20:1)
Engine Oil & Quantity 1.15 L (1.22 US quarts) of SAE 10W-30 or 10W-40 2-stroke oil (w/ SJ API grade & JASO T903 MA)

Drivetrain

The Kawasaki Tecate powertrain was highly regarded during its time and even by today’s standards. It was the only one from the factory that came with a power-valved motor. Some off-roaders find it comparable to the Banshee. The only downside is with the Tecate 3, which was said to be high-maintenance (according to former owners). Conversely, the Tecate 4 drivetrain received more praise and was the 7th fastest ATV in the US market during its production.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate-4 (KXF250A)
Clutch Wet, multi-disc type, manual
Transmission Type 6-speed constant mesh, return shift
Gearshift Pattern 5-up 1-down (1-N-2-3-4-5-6)
Drive System Chain drive, 20-link w/ 45 – 55 mm (1.77 – 2.17 in) slack
Overall Drive Ratio 7.440 (top gear)
Primary Ratio 2.818 (62/22)
Final Drive Ratio 3.000 (39/13)
Transmission Gear Ratio 1st: 2.357 (33/14), 2nd: 1.750 (28/16), 3rd: 1.388 (25/18), 4th: 1.150 (23/20), 5th: 1.000 (24/24), 6th: 0.880 (22/25)

Ignition

The four-wheeler has a two-position, key-operated ignition switch and an electronic-CDI-and-kick-starter combo that makes starting a breeze. A YTX20L battery (view on Amazon) with assembled dimensions below provides accessible power for electronic accessories.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate-4 (KXF250A)
Ignition Electronic CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition)
Ignition Timing 20° BTDC @ 6,000 RPM
Spark Plug, Gap NGK B8ES Standard, 0.7 – 0.8 mm (0.028 – 0.032 in) gap
Tightening torque: 27 Nm (2.8 kgf-m, 20 ft-lb)
Battery YTX20L/YTX20L-BS battery formats
Battery Dimensions (L x W x H) 175x87x155 mm (6.88×3.44×6.12 in)

Tires & Brakes

Triple hydraulic disc brakes fitted with dual-piston calipers and grippy tubeless Dunlop tires provide the 4×4 stopping power. In case of wear or damage, you can replace stock tires with Carlisle Trail Wolf ATV Bias Tires (view on Amazon) at the front and slightly wider tires at the back. You may also adjust the Tecate’s recommended tire pressure according to topography, rider weight, and riding conditions.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate-4 (KXF250A)
Front Tire, air pressure Tubeless, Dunlop KT926 AT20 x 7-10, 31 kPa (0.32 kgf/cm2, 4.5 psi)
Rear Tire, air pressure Tubeless, Dunlop KT927M AT20 x 10-10, 27.6 kPa (0.28 kgf/cm2, 4 psi)
Front Brake Type Dual discs
Rear Brake Type Single disc

Suspension

White 1988 Kawasaki Tecate 4 Quad ATV

Lending to superior handling is the four-wheeler’s long-travel suspension. In the two years of producing the quad, Kawasaki upgraded its suspension system to complement the top-end performance of the machine. Front-wheel travel increased from 7.5 inches (’87 KXF250-A1) to 8.7 inches. Similarly, rear-wheel travel went from 7.9 inches to 8.9 inches. Furthermore, the Tecate-4 turning radius adds to its stability, preventing slippage and allowing for smooth cornering.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate-4 (KXF250A)
Frame Type Double-cradle, high-tensile tubular steel frame w/ bolt-on rear section
Caster, Trail 4°, 28 mm (1.1 in)
Turning Radius 3.2 m (10.5 ft)
Ground Clearance 270 mm (10.6 in)
Front Suspension Type, Travel Independent double-wishbone w/ hydraulic shocks, 5-way preload & 4-way rebound damping, 220 mm (8.7 in)
Rear Suspension Type, Travel Bottom-link Uni-Trak w/ aluminum swingarm, remote reservoir gas shock, 5-way preload & 4-way rebound damping, 225 mm (8.9 in)

Dimensions

Given its engine displacement, the Kawasaki Tecate 4 is considerably lighter than other 250-class quads – thanks to its compact chassis and aluminum swingarm, among other things. The vehicle’s mid-section is narrow and has no problems carrying small to medium-built riders. However, it may not be as accommodating to operators at least 6’0″ tall – both in its load capacity limit and seat height.

1988 Kawasaki Tecate-4 (KXF250A)
Length 1,800 mm (70.9 in)
Width 1,130 mm (44.5 in)
Height 1,075 mm (42.3 in)
Seat Height (Unloaded) 800 mm (31.5)
Track (F/R) 830 mm (32,7 in) / 870 mm (34.3 in)
Wheelbase 1,225 mm (48.2 in)
Dry Weight 149 Kg (329 lbs)
Vehicle Load Capacity Limit 118 Kg (260 lbs)

Exterior

Team Green’s Fastest ATV has a simplistic but sporty aesthetic. The 1987 models were made available in three colors, including red, while the 1988 versions had only Lime Green and Polar White body panel options. It comes standard with a front bash plate and serrated footpegs. Like other older Kawasaki ATV models, the Tecate falls short on instrumentation. A Trail Tech 752-115 Black Vapor Digital Speedometer Gauge Kit (view on Amazon) will allow you to keep track of mileage and hours. Throw in a new stator and custom mudguards for much-needed splash protection.

Cost of a Kawasaki Tecate

The list price of the 1987 Kawasaki Tecate was $2,899, increasing by a mere $100 for the 1988 model. Because the wheeler was in the market for only two years, chancing upon a resale unit in near-stock condition is rare to impossible. If you go online, there will be trader and auction listings. However, most of them are sold for parts. The very few pre-loved machines that are up for grabs cost between $295 and $1,830. If you want to bring this quad back to its MX-track-ready form, you may need to prepare an average of $1,500 to $4,000 to make that happen.

Spark Plug Problem

One of the most common problems with the 1988 Tecate is that its spark plug does not seem to last long. Owners have noticed it does not even take more than an hour of rough riding for the spark plug to die. When inspected, the plug tip appears either golden brown in color or black and wet. It is also easy to tell when the issue is about to happen, as a weakening or unresponsive throttle often accompanies it.

Remedial actions include checking upgrades done to the motor that may have impacted the vehicle’s ignition system or electrical components. You may also need to determine if the quad has been used with the choke on at all times, making the machine more prone to having this problem. Make sure that the air-mixture screw is according to spec, too. Changing the coil on the frame, alongside giving the carb a thorough clean, has been proven to solve the issue.

If these check out, you may be looking at a potential carb tuning issue. Either that or the reeds are not metering the fuel correctly, causing your machine to run too lean or too rich. Examine the position of the clip, main jetting, and size of the carb, too. It is not wrong to swap out the stock carbs with a bigger one to gain power. However, doing so without paying mind to the carb size will result in having this issue forever.

Why the Tecate Never Caught On

The biggest benefit of owning a Kawasaki Tecate (regardless of the year) is its speed. During its time, it was the fastest 250-class ATV fresh from the factory. Its 8-petal carbon-fiber piston reed valve and 2-stroke power mill largely contributed to its unrivaled top-end. Plus, its compact chassis and overall ergonomics practically gave the Tecate invisible wings on the tracks and dirt roads. With these qualities, you’d think the wheeler would last more than a couple of years, right?

Setbacks

Well, its major setbacks ironically have to do with the reliability of its engine and electrical components (some of which will be discussed in the next section). Consequently, it is almost an expectation to undertake a build project when purchasing a secondhand Tecate. You will rarely find owners with vehicles in stock form. Most of them have their quads fitted with Delta 2 Reeds (view on Amazon), a Lectron carb, and the top end bored to 300 with full cylinder porting and polish – all to offset the shortcomings of the factory power mill. Other lowlights include a stiff clutch, uncomfortable seat height, and the lack of lighting and instrumentation.

Engine aside, all other vehicle flaws are minor and can be easily rectified with a few tweaks and compatible aftermarket parts. Like all other ATVs in the ’80s, the real reason behind Tecate’s short-lived production run is the 1988 Consent Decree. Kawasaki simply cannot afford to stick things out amid the piled-up lawsuits and consumer complaints. So, even if the Kawasaki Tecate 4 was four-wheeled and held lots of promise, the quad had to tuck its tail and run. By the time the ATC ordeal was over, and ATVs were the “in” thing, Team Green had to deal with stricter emission rules and 2-stroke engines phasing out. At this point, there was no chance of reviving the fastest 250-cc ATV in the market.

About Kawasaki

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. is a world-renowned manufacturer and one of the pioneers of the ATV industry. Founded in 1878, the Kawasaki Tecate 4 maker traces back its humble beginnings to supplying parts for shipping businesses. Eventually, the Japanese firm ventured into multiple industries, including automotive, transit, personal watercraft, hydraulic machinery, motorsport vehicles, defense, and aerospace and energy systems. Today, Kawasaki has grown into a multi-million-dollar corporation with three subsidiaries and over 34,000 employees worldwide.

Conclusion – Kawasaki Tecate Review

Today, you will rarely find Kawasaki Tecate ATVs in mint condition. Three-wheeler versions of the dirt bike or T3 models are close to non-existent. And the T4 units that do exist are treated like the royalty that they are – with owners spending thousands of dollars on performance parts and mods. For enthusiasts, every penny put towards the machine is money well-spent.

Whether on flat terrain, sand, drag strips, or an MX track, the Kawasaki Tecate still rides high as one of the fastest ATVs not only in its class but also in history.

Kris Peter

Adventure seeker and off-road enthusiast. I love the thrill of going off-road and taking on the elements.

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