Sunday, March 28, 2010

Concours Peg Lowerer's - Kneesavers

I installed Murph's Concours Kneesavers peg lowering kit this weekend. They make a nice difference in comfort and don't make scraping the pegs any more likely. They use a thinner peg so ground clearance is the same as with the stock pegs. Given the way I ride, scraping the pegs isn't really an issue anyway.

I was a little worried about being able to adjust the brake and shift lever low enough - but it wasn't that big of a deal. I like the height of the brake and shifter better now than the original configuration - since they are adjusted to fit me.

The Kneesaver peg lowerers come with GL1800 pegs which worked out good for me since my left peg was broken and welded back together. I also replaced the drivers side peg mounting bracket since it was broken and welded as well.

The only potential problem I see is the rubber on the top of the pegs seems kind of thin and I'm wondering how long lasting it will be. Not a big deal to replace or repair if that ever happens.

I think I'm about done with messing around with the Connie for now and I'm looking forward to doing more riding and less hanging out in the garage.

I need to finish off the fairing repair. I tried using some paint from a local hobby store on the repair - but it doesn't match, and looks worse than no paint to me. I ordered a can of OEM color paint from ColorRite. I'm going to wait for some warm dry weather before I sand off the mis-matched paint and put on the matching color.

I'm also replacing the right side fairing rubber strip since it was damaged when the bike was laid down and the metal clamp inside the strip is exposed in places and showing some rust.

I plan to pull the luggage top box so I can sand and paint the bracket. It's a home-made job and showing a little rust too - or I might end up using some aluminum pieces after I have look at that bracket.

It's been fun riding to work most everyday (except a few when it was freezing and icy) but I'm really looking forward to warm dry weather so I can take some longer weekend and after work rides. There are a lot of interesting roads and places in the local area that make aimless motorcycle riding fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Spent This Evening Sniffing Glue

Inside Fairling Repair
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
I should say - I did some plastic repairs on the Conk.

I used ABS cement, ABS cleaning solvent, fiberglass cloth and cut up an ABS pipe fitting to repair the upper fairing crack, missing fairing piece and a broken plastic screw tab for the right turn signal.

This is a picture of the inside of the fairing. You can see the fiberglass cloth on the crack on the upper left - it goes diagonally behind that bracket, to the opening for the turn-signal, the broken screw tab is just to the left of the turn-signal cutout and the fiberglass cloth for the piece I fabricated from ABS pipe is just below the rear view mirror. I cut the ABS pipe with a hacksaw and used the plastic dust mixed with the cement to make a little thicker consistency material to fill the crack. This stuff is harder to work with than Bondo or epoxy type material but from what I gather ABS cement is the best thing for repairing these fairings. This type of repair is really cheap - the ABS cement, cleaner and an ABS pipe fitting cost me about 8 bucks at Lowes.

I don't care what the inside of the fairing looks like so I'll just trim the fiberglass after the ABS cement dries and call that part good.

Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
I'm not sure what I'll do with the outside of the fairing. I might sand it a bit and use some touchup paint and clearcoat on it. The ABS repair is visible - it's the black diagonal line and that black rectangle it connects to. It looks okay to me as-is and the main thing I wanted was to stop the right turn-signal from flopping around and firm up the right side of the fairing so the windshield doesn't vibrate quite so much.

Getting to the back side of the upper fairing was easy - just remove the windshield, the fairing pockets, unscrew the one screw behind the windshield that holds the instrument cover and lift it out of the way.

That ABS cement and the cleaning solvent are some really noxious stuff. The cleaner evaporates into the air really quick - and gives off a really strong odor that will make your head spin. I made sure I had plenty of ventilation and wore some rubber gloves to keep that stuff from absorbing into my skin.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kawasaki Concours Valve Cover - Well Seal Replacement

I spent today taking the Conc apart again so I could pull the valve cover to check and replace the spark plug well seals. The original seals, and dowel pins which align the seals, were in place. The seals had lost their springiness which was allowing oil to splash into the spark plug tubes. The most tedious part of this job was cleaning the old gasket maker material from the grooves in the valve cover where the seals sit.

I didn't use any sealant on the new seals but I made sure they were in place when I got the valve cover pushed back on. I also didn't replace the dowel pins since they seemed to be press-fit in place and there wasn't anything wrong with them. I cleaned and tightened the spark plug wire connections at the plugs and the coils while I was in there. I took the bike out for a run and it gets up and goes just fine.

I noticed the bike was missing the coolant reservoir cover on the bottom fairing in front. I thought I might have forgot to reinstall it last time - but I think what happened is that it vibrated loose because I didn't tighten the two screws that hold it in place. I am fabricating a cover using some scrap plastic, fiberglass mesh and ABS glue. A new OEM cover is 30 or 40 I'll see if my homemade one does the job.

It's amazing how much time I can spend fiddling around with this bike - but I'm learning and it's better than watching TV, mindlessly eating or aimlessly surfing the web. I didn't refer to any instructions or manuals today other than to check the torque values for some of the critical bolts. I spent a quite a bit of time fitting screws back into the fairings and side pockets. Using the screw map that came with Murph's screw kit will be a big time saver.

I still want to repair the crack in the upper fairing, install the Murph screw kit, and install the knee savers peg lowering kit when that arrives. I was thinking about replacing the spliced main fuel line - had my hemostats ready - but I decided against it since I put in a full day anyway and can image it could take a lot of futzing to get the new line on the carb bank and I'm not sure about ever getting a clamp on that line given the access. The splice I put in there is working fine.

Right now the bike is good to go and I hope to take it for a ride tomorrow after I install the coolant reservoir cover and make sure those screws are good and tight.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm Going to Get Good At Taking This Thing Apart

When I adjusted the valves on the Concours I noticed there was a bit of oil in a couple of the spark plug wells. I was focused on the valve adjustment and didn't stop to research what might cause oil to blow into those wells. Now I know - and I'm going to end up taking the fairings, gas tank, etc off so I can remove the valve cover and replace the well seals and alignment dowels. Either those seals are worn, out of alignment because the dowels are missing, or it's possible whoever had the valve cover off before me didn't reinstall the seals or the dowel pins. I won't know for sure until I take it apart again. I'd read that you should make sure the dowels don't fall out when you pull the cover (which I did), but I didn't bother to make sure the dowels or seals were installed to begin with. I just assumed all the parts were in place when I started.

A couple of tablespoons of oil blowing into the spark plug wells on to the exterior of the plugs isn't that big a deal (it's been doing that for at least 1200 miles and maybe a lot longer) but as more oil blows in there it could eventually cause an electrical problem since the spark plug cables/connectors aren't designed to be immersed in oil.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Valve Adjustment / Carb Synch - Complete

I spent about 20 hours this weekend installing the highway pegs, fender extender, replacing spark plugs, adjusting valves and synching the carbs on the Connie.

The hardest part of the job was taking all the stuff off to actually get to the valve adjusting nut/screws. I took pictures and had labels and containers to keep the various small pieces in some sort of order - and to remember how to reassemble things.

The valve adjustment itself takes about an hour - plus several hours to take stuff off so you can adjust the valves. I set the intakes (the rear ones - by the air box) to .006 inch and the exhausts (the front ones - by the exhaust pipes) to .008 inch. It helps to remove the feeler gage from the set and bend it slightly so you can slip it easily in between the screw and the valve stem. There are 16 valves to adjust - 2 intake and 2 exhaust for each cylinder. Access to get a screwdriver, wrench and torque wrench in there is a little tight but do-able. Getting the valve cover off is a bit of a challenge because it's a tight squeeze. The gasket stayed with the cover, and it's reusable so that's nice. I put a little silicone in the cutouts.

Carb Synch II
Originally uploaded by Jack Crossen
The carb synch is a piece of cake compared to the valve clearance. The trickiest part is getting the 4 vacuum lines off the carbs and then getting them back on. The vacuum from the four carbs were pretty close to each other anyway - but I turned the three adjusting screws a little just to see if I could get them closer. The tool itself looks pretty impressive and it came from England so I think it's pretty cool. The mechanic and books say you should synch the carbs after adjusting the valves - so I did it.

The only disappointing thing was that by the time I was done it was fairly late Sunday afternoon - and the weather wasn't all that nice, so I didn't have a chance to ride much. On the plus side - the bike is ready for long trips when it warms up - and I don't have to think about the valve adjustment for another 6,000 miles. I think it will go quite a bit quicker next time now that I know how to remove the various bits and pieces.


Problems -
Stripped a screw head that was recessed inside a hard plastic heat shield. Had to hack saw behind it to get the cover off and then use a vice grips to get it out. The fairing and heat shield screws are a problem in general on this bike. They are soft phillips heads - and there are a lot of them of various lengths. When my piggy bank is replenished I think I might spring for one of Murphs Stainless Steel Screw Kits with allen heads. That kit comes with a map to show which length screw goes where - which will be very useful.

I took off the pulse cover since I was going by the book. The gasket almost came off intact - but not quite. Scraping the old gasket off took about 30 minutes but I had a new one ready to install so it wasn't a big deal. Next valve adjustment I might use the bump-the-starter method of getting the cam lobes in the right position and won't have to take that cover off again.

Schucks has fuel hose but no fittings. Autozone has no fittings either. Carquest sold me a plastic fitting from a Holley carb kit for 2 bucks so I could splice into the fuel line and run the engine with the tank off for the carb synch.

Main fuel line sprung a leak near the end. I think I may have damaged it pulling it off. I spliced in a new piece of fuel line since replacing the fuel hose looked like it would require pulling the carburetors and the air-box (although you might be able to do it with a pair of hemostats - but once you pull the hose off the carb-bank there's no going back). This was about my 18th hour of motorcycle maintenance and I didn't feel like jumping on that. That spliced fuel line should work fine and a new one will have to wait along with pulling the front fairing to fix the crack, flushing the brake fluid and changing the coolant.

One of the rubber grommets on the frame that support the gas tank fell off when I was reinstalling the tank. Didn't realize it was off until I was buttoning everything up and noticed the gas tank was rocking from side to side. Had to take off - the 5 hoses, electrical connector and bolts to put the grommet back in place.

One of the California fuel tank vacuum hoses had a leak. There's a lot of rubber hoses on this bike for emissions control. Luckily Schucks had a piece I could use as a replacement.
Overall things went as well as I could of expected. The bike runs a lot better and I think I will be getting better mileage. I'm not sure if it's the new plugs, the valve adjustment or the carb synch - or all three that helped.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Love Getting Packages

My Carbtune, Plugs, Feeler Gage and some stuff from Murphs was waiting
for me when I got home today.

I'll be in the garage this weekend - learning about valve adjustments
and carb synchronizing and installing whatever is in the box from

Sunday, March 07, 2010

At Least I'm Starting to Smell Like a Mechanic

The Kawasaki Concours has an active owners group called naturally the Concours Owners Group (COG) which has an active and useful forum. There are also lots of suppliers of after-market and original equipment parts - one of the favorites being Murphs' Kits owned by a Concours rider.

I ordered the Kneesavers peg lowering kit, a replacement left footpeg bracket, highway bars and a fender extender from Murph. The peg lowering kit drops the pegs 1 1/2 inch and includes Goldwing GL1800 foot pegs. I need the replacement bracket to replace the cracked and welded one - that weld may hold forever but I don't want to take a chance that it will break when I'm standing up on the pegs. The highway bars will give me a chance to change leg/knee position and help on those longer trips. The fender extender provides additional protection to prevent the radiator from being struck by rocks and road crud kicking off the front tire. I want to get that bike ready for longer trips when the warm weather comes. My plan is to install the above items, replace the plugs, check/adjust valves and synch the carbs within the next couple of weeks - or shortly after my Carbtune shows up from England.

I spent a good part of the weekend fiddling with motorcycle stuff and riding. I found out the scale weight of this Concours is 680 pounds. The owners manual says the dry weight is 595 pounds. Go figure. I'm ready to transfer the title once I get the Bill of Sale and mileage statement from the previous owner in California.

I lucked out and found the previous owner of the KZP at home - and he was happy to fill out the form for the state stating what I paid for that bike, so I don't have to pay a couple of hundred extra in "use/sales" tax.

I changed the rear drive oil in the Concours. The oil fill plug was on tight and I finally figured out the wrench from my old 1978 shaft drive Yamaha fit the oil fill plug so I added that Yamaha wrench to the Kawasaki's tool kit.

I cleaned the air filter with some kerosene I bought at the Co-op in Marysville (that stuff is fairly hard to find). I also cleaned the chain on the KZP with kerosene - and decided next time I'll wear some rubber gloves to keep from totally drying out my skin. I used some of the gear oil as chain lube to see how that works. I was using PJ1 Blue Label Chain Lube and then switched to Dupont Multi-Use Lubricant - but the chain had picked up a lot of road crud. I lubed the chain with some gear oil this time because I want to see how much crud sticks to that compared to those sticky lubricants I was using.

I spilled kerosene on my boot, while doing the cleaning, so I have that distinct sweet smell that you may recognize if you've been around jet engines or other places where they use kerosene as a solvent or a fuel. I like it and think it would make a good men's cologne... the downside is it may only work if you are trying to attract other men. I also learned from the internets that some old-timers used kerosene as an additive when washing their cars. I used some of the gear oil/kerosene on the chrome and other parts of the KZP and it looks pretty good. Another plus with finding the kerosene is I also have some fuel for my Optimus No.00 camp stove if I want to make a cup of tea in the backyard or something like that.

I greased the swing arm on the Concours. Had to get a 90 degree adapter for my grease gun from Autozone to get on the fittings.

The Sportster didn't need anything so I just rode it.

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.