Friday, March 05, 2010

A Little More Serious Wrenching

I've been doing my own basic maintenance - engine oil, transmission oil, filters, plugs, chain/belt tensioning etc. but I'm going to try some more involved maintenance on a motorcycle after I get my Morgan Carbtune carburetor synchronizer. The adjustment sounds pretty straightforward - there are three screws - one for carbs 1 and 2, one for 3 and 4 and one for synching 1 and 2 to 3 and 4. With the Carbtune you see the vacuum on all 4 carbs and it uses stainless rods for measuring the vacuum rather than mercury or some other liquid that might get sucked into the carb.

My main goal is to check and adjust the valve clearance on the Concours. Talking to a mechanic at a local shop led me to believe that I should also synch the carbs after the valve adjustment - so I ordered that tool.

It doesn't sound too hard other than you have to remove plastic fairings, hoses, wires, gas tank and be careful about following written instructions. The local independent motorcycle shop wants about 500 bucks plus parts cost. Since it takes so long to take off the fairings they figure it makes sense to only offer a major tune up which includes -

  • Change oil
  • Replace oil filter
  • Replace or service air filter
  • Check and adjust valves
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Check and adjust ignition timing (if applicable)
  • Clean or replace points (if applicable)
  • Replace coolant if needed (if applicable)
  • Synchronize carburetors or throttle bodies (if applicable)
  • Set idle mixture (if applicable)
  • Set idle speed
  • Adjust timing belt tension (if applicable)
  • Adjust any fuel injection sensors (if applicable)
  • Replace fuel filter
  • Lubricate all cables
  • Adjust clutch
  • Adjust throttle cables
  • Flush brake fluid and bleed system
  • Adjust brakes (if applicable)
  • Clean drive chain (if applicable)
  • Adjust primary drive (if applicable)
  • Lubricate and adjust drive chain/belt (if applicable)
  • Change shaft drive oil (if applicable)
  • Set tire pressures
  • Inspect all lighting and safety equipment
  • Lube all locks and pivot points
  • Check and adjust steering head bearings
  • 4 gas exhaust analysis
  • Road test

That's not a bad deal if you don't want to fiddle with it yourself, or are mechanically challenged, but I figure it will be a learning experience - plus I like to know that I did it right, or at least what I did wrong. This bike has nut and screw type valve adjusters so I don't have to buy valve shims which is a plus.

There's also a lot of information on the web, since this bike has been around since 1986 without a lot of changes, that may be useful in addition to a shop manual. The valve check/adjustment is done at 6000 mile intervals so it's something you'd do maybe once a year if you ride like me.

Not to over-generalize, but I don't have a lot of confidence in motorcycle service places, or other people's maintenance techniques/schedules, and prefer to do any maintenance I can myself.

I changed the oil and filter on this Concours shortly after I got it home and the washer that separates the spring from the oil filter rubber grommets had not been reinstalled. That washer has a tendency to stick to the old filter and get thrown away - unless you look at the diagram in the service manual and realize you're missing a part. The problem is without the washer the spring tends to chew up the rubber part of the filter and little pieces of rubber aren't good for keeping oil passages clear. Luckily in my case the rubber was intact - just torn up. I dug through a used washer/nut/bolt bin at Bent Bike for about 30 minutes before I found a replacement - but you couldn't beat the price - free. None of the local auto-parts or hardware store had that weird size metric washer and Kawasaki wants 3 bucks for a 30 cent the dealership that's open on Sunday is about an hour away.

The first time I looked at the air filter on my Sportster it looked like some insects had been chewing on the paper - there wasn't any shredded paper, just lots of little holes in the filter. Luckily I only rode it home about 20 miles and not in any dirty air before that check.

Many many years ago I took a Honda 350 to the dealership to have the oil changed because I knew a mechanic there and I wasn't sure about doing it myself. I noticed the engine felt kind of hot on my first ride. I got off to check and realized the oil drain plug hadn't been tightened - it had fallen out and the oil had drained from the engine. That was the last time I ever took a motorcycle to a shop.

I figure if I take it nice and slow I can get this job done without breaking too much stuff in the process or burning down my garage (you have to run your bike with the gas tank removed to sync the carbs...which sounds like a possible fire hazard if the temporary fuel lines aren't secure). Maybe I'll invest in a new fire extinguisher before I start this project.


Just rambling...

Some people like to keep their vehicles really dirty - sort of as a status symbol maybe? I like to wash/detail vehicles fairly regularly since it gives me an opportunity to look closely at what might be ready to fall off, getting rusty, ready to break or already broken. It seems particularly critical for a motorcycle since if the wrong piece falls off you might be going down.

I get to ride the Concours onto a truck scale to get it's official weight tomorrow. I should say I have to pay 10 bucks to do that in order to register it in Washington. Not really sure what the point is but the lady at the DOL told me I need the scale weight to get a title and registration. California titles don't have the scale weight on them. I'd never noticed that before but the KZP Washington title says it's scale weight is 360 pounds. The owners manual says the dry weight is 595 pounds so I guess I don't know what scale weight means - but you gotta have it.

I also get to drive out in the country to the guy's house that I bought the KZP from so he can sign a form that says what I paid for the bike. He gave me a signed Bill of Sale but the DOL thinks the bike is worth about 2.3 times what I paid for it. I'd be happy to sell it to them if they would pay me that. The bottom line is I have to pay tax on the transaction and it's a couple of hundred dollars more tax if we use their estimation of fair market value rather than what I paid for it.

I'm glad I have something to do with my free time - lot of fun - lots to learn, and the riding part hasn't gotten old and probably never will.