Sunday, August 29, 2010

Field Repairs

I spent the day taking the KZ1000 police bike apart so I could replace the valve cover gasket and repair a couple of stripped threads on the top end. The bike was seeping a bit of oil from the valve cover - not enough to be anything other than a slight nuisance when it blew a few little drops of oil on my pants while riding.

Getting to the valve cover requires removing the seat, gas tank, 2 ignition coils, 4 spark plug wires, the front fairing (because I needed access to get a straight shot with a drill into the stripped threads), headlight, cam chain tensioner nut/spring, 2 flapper valve covers, fuel line, vacuum line and unplugging some wiring. Once you get that stuff out of the way you remove 18 bolts that hold the valve cover on. One thing about working on a motorcycle is that everything is crowded into a small space - which adds to the challenge.

I had a new valve cover gasket from Z1 Enterprises (good price), some Threebond 1194 gasket sealant and a 6mm heli-coil kit. Things went as good as I could expect. Drilling and tapping a new thread on top of the open engine was interesting - I had to be careful not to go sideways or drop thread cuttings into the engine. I got it done but had to break off the top of the heli-coil because I was afraid to drill to deep into that soft aluminum head. The bolts in those two threads are "tight" now so that's good. The torque on the valve cover bolts is only 90 inch-lbs so you can't reef on them.

I used the Threebond on the half-moon cam end caps and that seemed to work just fine. It took awhile to clean the old glue/gunk off the valve cover and head. The valve cover was pretty easy because I could clean it with solvent and use a brass brush and a wood scraper. The head was harder because I didn't want to knock any glue pieces/gunk into the engine. I coated the new gasket with oil on both sides so it would stay in place and also to allow the gasket to expand as it soaked up the oil.

I took the bike out for a spin after I got it buttoned up and didn't see any oil seepage so I think I have it fixed. The real test will be the next time I ride that bike with a pair of khaki pants on...or I guess I could just look at the engine and see if it's staying dry.

I was thinking a lot of what I do mechanic-wise is like "field repairs" in that I'm sort of like a farmer who fixes stuff with whatever works out in the field - baling wire, duct tape, glue, scraps of metal or whatever is available to keep something running. It's not always pretty but usually I'm pretty successful and I like the challenge of taking something apart and putting it back together - hopefully working better than when I started. I also like repairing things rather than just replacing parts - and it gives me something to think about/learn about.

It's a fun hobby - I like the Sportster for the sunny days, the Connie for trips and the police bike for commuting in the rainy weather. It has good chrome that isn't rusting, the saddle bags and rack give it plenty of carrying capacity, the fairing breaks some of the wind and the big windshield keeps the rain off your face.

If I had the money, space, and time to ride them - I'd get a few more cycles - Suzuki V-Strom, something with a side-car, a Harley Road King, a Kawasaki Z14, a scooter (Vespa or a Ruckus), Triumph, Ducati, BSA, Honda 90, and a few others.