Bike repairs

July 13, 2012

Put a new battery in the bike today and it fires right up. I’m a bit worried my electrical system, specifically the stator, might be bad and won’t charge it. That concern is unfounded by the evidence at hand. The old battery just wouldn’t charge up at all on the charger. However, it’s kind of my nature to worry about the next thing up the chain after fixing something further down.

Put in a new speedo cable. Although it’s a bit drizzly, I took a quick ride around the block to make sure it worked. There again, I was worried that the clockwork gear either on the wheel or in the speedo itself may have been damaged. I put the bike back in the garage with a smile on my face.

Didn’t have time to get the inspection sticker. Now that the instruments work, I ought to be good to go. I had to spend much precious time and work getting that bike out of a state of neglect, largely due to a busy Spring, illness and stress. I feel a few miles under my butt ought to perk me up, get me in gear.

Even just working on the bike though makes me pretty happy. But it’s certainly nothing compared to the euphoria of a good ride.

Coming back in the house, I found to my surprise that my lovely wife had completed much work on a portrait of me. She used our favorite photo together as a basis. I was very impressed with her skill and really love it. She is thoughtful, supportive and kind. Puts everything in perspective for me.

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Sorry, but everything is broken this week.

July 11, 2012

I just figured out my Civic has a dodgy interlock switch under the dash after my favorite mechanic hosed me for a new solenoid a couple weeks ago. Madre de dios. If I ever go to a mechanic again, I swear and promise to Saint Columbine himself it will only be after I have torn apart the machine and figured out what the exact issue is myself, forever and ever, amen.

Or, I’ll just drive old stone-age machines I can bodge and tinker together myself.

As for my stone age bike, my speedo cable snapped and I am waiting on a new one to allow me to pass inspection. I spent June wobbling around with a viral ear infection and I’m pretty damn anxious to start my riding season. So far the engine is running better than it ever has while the suspension and tires feel great. I replaced a broken drive hump on her and it seems to be ticking along quite nicely indeed.

I’ve also started to care more about appearance. She’s a good girl and deserves to look her best. Lots of ArmorAll-ing, lubricating, Meguire’s-ing going on in the shed. While I was at a local bike shop on Monday, a kind stranger told me that he’d rather my Kawa’ than his neat vintage 650 Yammie twin! That’s about the second compliment I ever received about my bike and it kinda really felt awesome! I want more! Next step is a full-on wheel cleaning and polishing. Thereafter, repainting dodgy spots here and there. Then, perhaps a engine paint job.

I bought the old beast with a battery in it. I got four years out of that barely charging, acid-dripping piece of junk. This year I am getting a nice sealed gel battery. I hope it works out and the hi-tech battery doesn’t mind being in an old school bike.

Also this summer I’d like to replace old hoses and cables for some preemptive headache avoidance. And maybe a nice valve job!

Garage is working out well as a work-space. Just enough room to work on the bike but I could use a bit more. Hopefully I’ll get a day in soon to sort, eject junk, and come up with more elegant “storage solutions” for all my accumulated oils, unguents, pieces, parts, gidgets and gadgets.

Farewell moldy drywall and bizarre ancient wall covering material!!!

December 12, 2011

With the help of two strong volunteers (thanks guys!) I finally got rid of the rest of the foul wall covering in the garage. I did find some hidden, fixable problems, but I am grateful that the bricks look fine.

When I bought the house, the inspector found a termite issue in there and it was subsequently treated. Now the extent of the damage has been exposed. The wall studs, unlike the the other ones I have already seen so far, look terrible. Many are completely just plain all-gone at the bottom, poof! From what I can tell, the rot was caused by a combination of water damage from when the roof was leaking plus a massive bug colony. And maybe birds, squirrels, or other fauna. Gross!

Although I am not keen on putting up new drywall, I do suspect that a future owner may want to go that way. I do know however I would like sturdy wall studs in there to hang up shelving on. I have lots of tools and solvents that need to be kept far away from the kids and a few prized decorative knick-knacks as well.

The wood that remains will need a good twice-over to determine what can stay and what can go. It might be tricky work too as the wooden frame for the drop ceiling tiles I ripped out remains in place and rests upon a beams running atop the studs. I’d like to somehow put in some new studs and with no daughter-boarding too.The ceiling frame is neat, and might look fantastic after a cleaning and straightening. It might even have a degree or two of utility value left it for supporting light objects like chicken wire, tomato plant sticks, fishing rods, etc.. Lots of scraping and staining ahead I suspect.

Great to have more work space in there. The fellas helped do a good clean-and-sort job thereafter. I hope the garbage men are sympathetic to my struggle today; we left them several cans of scrap and gypsum board to dump. I figure though they charge me top dollar for “waste removal” so tough-darts. We filled every receptacle I have, so I’ll be sure to fill-up a couple more with the remaining detritus sitting by my wood-pile for them.

Once the new boards are in, it’s time for new electrical wiring! After that, I’ll need to call in an inspector to check that out before it can go live. Until then, I’m still using a giant extension cord attached to the back of my house and it surely sucks.

But, now the dust has cleared a bit, it is starting to look very, very nice in there, relatively speaking of course. Lots more space has been freed up and they’ll be even more after I bust up a broken IKEA wardrobe; I plan to use the fiberboard pieces for a table-top on my homemade work table. The joint could use a good shop-vac treatment to suck up all the dusty bits, followed by a good mopping. Part of the floor is covered by a neato sticky-tile floor treatment that I bet would look great with a bit of waxing.

Once it’s immaculate in there I feel it’s time for a space heater. No reason not to work in there just because it’s cold!

A Leaning Tower ‘a Piece ‘a …

July 9, 2011

Got a little detail work done this morning: the front porch rails received a coat of exterior white atop last weekend’s coat of Killz primer. I used a new can of Killz and an old can of white flat left by the former owners of my house. The house paint can was already cracked open, who knows how long ago, and pretty gloppy, but it did the job.

Next up on the porch, the slab needs the old blistered paint removed. I hope to use a buddy’s power-sprayer to make short work of it, but I may have to resort to using my power-sander. Thankfully it’s not too big, and the paint looks mighty loose. To replace it, my artistic consultant is leaning towards a good shade of blue.

I made a bit of a discovery in the garage too this week. Looks like at one point about four feet of corner brick wall settled slightly outwards from the structure. To repair it, my predecessor slapped some concrete in the cracks and walked away. Look like a big job to tear that portion down, plumb a good cinder-block foundation, and lay some bricks but I am pretty sure I can make it happen. It also explains the mystery of why one of the garage doors won’t close true. I look forward to both mixing cement and wielding a trowel again which I have not done in many, many moons. I will have to brace that corner of the roof, and level-up the garage door frame beams. Time to get a serious sledgehammer.

But first, the rest of the exterior needs re-pointing here and there. Also, if I dig out a rubbish pile left by the previous occupants, I can probably turn up a good number more of the vintage bricks I’ve been finding; I do want my repairs to blend in as much as possible.

My New Ant Overlords

July 7, 2011

On lunch today I went out to the parking lot at work to put a little 10W40 in my bike.  It was dripping a wee bit until recently and I was correct it needed a glug or two.

I popped open the seat to grab the tool kit beneath. Ants!!! Little tiny ones carrying eggs! Hundreds of them.  And little baby spiders too!!! Ewwwww!!!! I gooshed as many as I could, and gave the inside of the bike a nice rub with an oily rag, sending them into retreat. I think I remember learning somewhere that oil defeats the little fiends ability to walk and they hate the stink of it too. I generously greased up the infested tools and toolkit as well.

My garage is currently very dirty amidst its ongoing renovation project and they must have climbed aboard in the past couple of days. While I work in there, I must remember to spray down some organic insecticide I have that smells like Root Beer. Also, I best keep the bike nice and oily all over.

“They are Superior!!!

Songs for Motorcycle Riding

July 6, 2011

When I tell folks I ride a motorbike they frequently respond that they would too, but don’t because on a longer trips they would miss listening to their radio, iPod, CDs, eight-tracks, etc..

As an impassioned convert to two-wheeling, and having a few miles under my butt, I always try to convince them that they do not need a radio or distractions while on a motorcycle. Between the wind, the noises of the road, the sound of the machine, and the inner-peace that comes from ‘cycling, additional outside stimuli is not needed and against the point. Without fail, when the lecture is over I get a solid sideways glance along with a responding tone that more than subtly lets me know they think I’m off my rocker.

Admittedly though, sometimes when I am in a  good mood old songs come into my head while cruising down the road. Good old favorites that just seem appropriate for a time alone.  Here’s ten regulars with links. Enjoy!

1. Everybody’s Talkin’ – Harry Nilsson

2. Long Way to the Top if you want to Rock n’ Roll – AC/DC

3. Wayfaring Stranger – Bill Monroe

4. Who the Hell was in my Room Last night – Butthole Surfers

5. Maybellene – Chuck Berry

6. Travelin’ Band – Creedence Clearwater Revival

7. Ride the Tiger – Jefferson Starship

8. Wooden Ships – Crosby, Stills and Nash

9. Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – Genesis

10. Theme from “Gappa” – Seitaro Omori

Garage Progress Update

June 21, 2011

Making good headway on the garage. Almost all of the interior dividing wall is gone and the space has opened up nicely. I may save just a little bit of framing/stud intact for now as some shelving I previously reinforced might be attached to the studs by the original builder. The heavy beam across the top of the former wall seems sturdy enough to remain and I have hung a nice bright flourescent light on it. Still a little bit of door frame to go out. It’s termite-eaten and looks like crap. I also removed some random wood bits that were attached to the bottom of the roof itself. I was afraid the bits might be load-bearing, but later decided it was too frail a confabulation to shoulder anything, and may have been built only to keep the dividing wall from swaying.

Now the whole space is more accessible, I will have an easier time with the continuing restoration. More planks of paper wall material and sheets of moldy gypsum board need ripped out, along with all the accompanying rusty nails and detritus. Thereafter, a nice bucket of mud will point any bricks done in by the ravages of time and a nasty creeping vine I ripped down. One side of the garage, hidden by a hedge, seems also to have become a big dump of bricks, dirt and lawn junk.  I do want to get that out of there ASAP to remove any moisture or pressure on the wall. The roof needs a bit of paint all the way around, along with some drip rails to help the water go into a nice catch barrel.

In my backyard, the previous owners jerry-built a tree house. Carpenter ants loved the untreated wood bits, and made their way into some treated lumber bits as well. The well-intentioned orignal builder was no carpenter, and screwed the structure together with drywall screws, which promptly rusted, splitting the boards at the ends.

Most of the wood is going straight to the dustbin, but there ought to be just enough good wood left to finish up my muchly needed work table project. The table may be a bit overbuilt and heavy as heck when I am done, as I don’t honestly know how to build one, but I desperately require a place to install a heavy vice I picked up somewhere along life’s journey. The table must be fully capable of supporting the better part of a motorcycle’s engine block too.

My motorcycle now fits fine in the garage.  It’s great to have her in a space where she is protected from the elements and my kids as well. Although they are only two-year olds, for some reason they love to climb atop it, grab the handlebars and make motorcycle noises. Yesterday I charged up the battery, and simply honked the horn when they got to close, sending them running for cover.

The bike is running very well indeed. A dose of STP seems to have rid it of a bit of a rough idle. When running though, one bolt near the clutch housing is dripping a little bit of good-looking oil ever so slowly. I’m thinking the case might be a touch overfilled, or that bolt may just need torque’d back up to spec. Along with that, one of the exhaust cans seems a bit loose and rattles.

My old lawn mower is now running well after a bit of wrenching.  It was a gift from a buddy to replace mine that was sadly stolen. It’s a well-broken-in “ProPower Ulti-something” (K-Mart store-brand) with a Briggs-Stratton 4HP engine and front-wheel drive. I hit the blade on a stump and bent all out of whack.  Mt attempt to bend it back to spec failed miserably, so I hit the K-Mart for a replacement. I would have walked right past the blades without my son noticing them on an end cap.  Love the “Big K” and love that Boy!

Without the blade in the mower was running real smokey and stinky. After removing the belt housing, I sprayed out the drive-shaft with some oil to clean out the light patina of rust and help it turn better. The new blade thankfully had a universal mounting kit and attached neatly right on. Not sure what the torque setting is on the bolt, so I settled on “tight as hell”.  Firing it up it still was smoking bad. Checking the gas, I think it was grinding through whatever was left in the bottom of the tank. A short walk to the gas station got me a gallon of high-test to fill ‘er up, and I gave her a nice shot of STP too.  Fired up nice on the first pull, humming strong and no more smoke. The throttle cable on the thing needs replaced and it is stuck on wide open. I’ll get around to replacing it, but for now it still does the job well and very quickly.

Much, much to do, but still having a great deal of fun. May Zeus bless the inventor of the reciprocating saw.

Shade Tree Mechanique

May 13, 2011

Got to work on my buddy Morgan’s bike last night and had a wonderful time. For fun, I’d rather work on a old bike than most other diversions, especially on a nice Spring day under a big shady tree. Morgan’s dog, a top-notch, obedient four-year old kept us company, perhaps pouting a bit that our attentions were focused on a big pile of rubber, metal and plastic instead of her. I asked Morgan for a soda pop, and he gave me a grape energy drink in a tall can. Good on a hot day, refreshing, slightly strange futuristic taste.

He got himself a Kawasaki KZ440 LTD with a belt-drive a season or two ago. Nice medium-sized bike with a big, black leather seat. Parallel twin four-stroke. The thing would not turn over but the ignition worked and the starter seemed to work fine, at least audibly, per Morgan. The battery was new and fully charged.

My buddy had drained the gas, so we put in a quarter ounce of fuel stabilizer I brought along and he filled the tank back up. I was also armed with my. trusty tool kit, chemicals and other handy bike bits in a cardboard box, once a home to an exceptional case of local root beer.

The air filter checked out A-OK, but the oil looked high and fried in the engine case’s tiny clear window. Looking at the plugs next, they were recently changed Morgan said, but we found them now burnt black as sin itself.

Pulling the side cover, recently repainted a vintage racing red, exposed the bike’s two junction boxes. The fuses in their sockets were not blown thank Zeus; compatible, good glass fuses for a vintage bike are not an easy find. One of the boxes was hanging loose, and got properly secured back on its mount. The same box had also become home to a spider’s nest and got a good cleaning out.

A light cleaning with grease and fine grain sandpaper cleaned the plugs well enough to provide a proper spark. After a light puff of starter fluid in the air intake, she started but the idle was very weak. Sounded indistinct and weary. There was a good spark coming through on both wires, but the poor thing would stall out without some generous throttle twisting, even with the choke wide open. The choke lever felt loose and ineffective too.

A short walk to a nearby Advance Auto Parts allowed my buddy to put three quarts of motorcycle-quality 10W40 in his arsenal. Draining the oil reservoir produced a tub of black, foamy goo and sludge. The cylinders were not having a good time trying to churn that muck.

Pulling the oil filter revealed it was shot, meaning one more trip to Advance. Inspecting it, I found a tiny flake of metal or two. Sludge was caked in the filter holder’s crevices, requiring a little spray oil and elbow grease to wipe out. Gritty. Not good, but not a deal breaker either. I theorized the flakes were probably off the valves or maybe worse the cylinders. I recommended a thorough valve job and engine case inspection, including a Sea-Foam cleaning down the line, but it was not enough worry to quit the current job about.

The folks at Advance have their act well in gear, and had a Fram CH6012 oil filter ready on the shelf. Advance caters to the motorcyclist with lots of items and has good customer service too; Double-A, Pep Boys and AutoZone need to turn it up a notch.

Gaskets replaced, we put the oil filter in its new home. We carefully filled the crankcase, stopping to turn it over a couple times to let the oil settle and work its way into the engine and filter.
Morgan’s neighbor Bob dropped by to watch the show and entertained us with stories of the motorcycles of his long ago youth. He spoke dreamily of long-gone Norton Commando 750s, Triumphs, the perfect Moto Guzzi, the BMW that should have been bought but somehow got away.

Satisfied that the bike’s oil level was up to par, Morg’ fired her up for a good warm-up. The bike started strong, then stumbled a bit. I adjusted the choke; the once feeble lever tightened up and started to work well again, providing the desired mix of air and gas. Old Kaw’s with carbs take a few minutes to warm up and the bike started sounding better, then even better. Reaching a good idle with the choke now off, I told it’s rider to “kick ‘er in the guts”. A confident roar from the engine, a single tiny puff of smoke from the left exhaust, and the bike was now idling sweetly, making the nice, polite “tucka-tucka” sound of a side-by-side vertical twin. Twisting the throttle made her let out a strong, lovely purr.

Sun still up, there was time for some detail work too. I brought a pile of clean shop rags and gave her a good rub down. Cleaning off the layers of grime revealed a solid, shiny bike under there. A little more grease and rust remover allowed my buddy to adjust the front turn signal lamp that had slid down the handlebars a bit.

The rear left turn signal looked droopy but intact; a previous owner managed to give it a good whack I bet, then cobbled it back together. I recommend not rushing that fix, and checking online if any bits or spacers were missing. But, the hour was getting late, and other affairs beckoned me. Morg’ offered me a burger for my trouble, but I had to hit the road.

I heard today that the bike is doing great and 20 miles-per-hour faster on the top-end. Morgan was “psyched” too that a buddy just came over and fixed his bike. That kind of makes me chuckle as working on bikes, mine or friends, is my joy. Motorcycles can contain mysteries, puzzles, and have their own personalities. Fixing them iss like when you get to meet somebody new, making them better than they were, helping them on their way. For me, the feeling is close to the charge I get when teaching people when they are a receptive, grateful student, or lending a hand to my favorite charities. You can’t beat that feeling, and it stays with you, way down the line.

Decorating the Garage

May 9, 2011

Got to spend some time cleaning out the garage today. Dusted off a few mantiques to brighten up the place. I hung a rockin’ light fixture that I got from my good buddy Ben. Had time to dance with my lady to the sounds of 50’s music on the satellite radio. Life is good.

Doria took some great photos…

Spring

March 28, 2011

Spring is here, and I am back in the shed where I ought to be in my leisure.
Tended to the motorcycle’s rear brake first. It was a bit stuck, but a once-over with lots of grease, new brake fluid and a good bleeding has returned it to up to par.
I suspected the spark plugs on the vintage machine were fouled, and swapped out the old set for a new gang purchased for me by a very considerate friend. The old were ashen; too much oil last season and a weak battery being the likely cause. I made sure to screw in the new lot only after a liberal application of anti-seize grease to their threading; the very idea of stripped threads on an engine utterly terrifies me.
In the process, I managed to pull a spark plug wire out of its cap and had to re-wire it. Not something I’ve done before, but it seemed simple enough in execution. Better something like that coming undone in the shop than on the road I say.
I dumped out a fair share of the old oil and replaced it with a bit of fresh up to the fill-line. I thankfully had a new bottle in the garage larder, left over from tinkering with a car. For luck, I also gave the air filter a light squirt of starter fluid from a can abandoned some time ago in my garage by a fellow gearhead. A quick electric jump and the bike started with a roar, strong and lusty, and quick to warm up too with just a bit of choke. To test the wire job, I pulled the repaired cap from the spark plug which produced a mild electric shock to my fingers verifying my handiwork was quite adequate.
Engine at a good tick, I noticed a bit of exhaust coming out of the front part of the engine. Not good. Shutting her down to cool, I examined the front exhaust outlets to see they looked a bit rusty and crooked. Wrench in hand again, the first no. 10 nut cap on pipe four came off with no issue but its neighbor cleanly snapped off the dowel-like mounting stud. Fiddle-dee-dee. Removing the pipe collar, out tumbled a snapped 29 year old collar plug and a ratty looking gasket. Fudge. Tight clearances made getting the rest of the broken, rusted stud out a slow, contemplative affair.
Not pricey bits to replace, but I’ll have to wait a few days for the mailman to come with replacements. Also, I’ll need to check the other 3 to assess their worthiness. Again, better in the garage than on the side of the road. In the interim, I’ll air up the tires and thoroughly clean and check the crucial front brakes.
I save the broken bits off the bike for reasons of practicality, but perhaps for reasons of sentimentality or spirituality too. They are offerings of humility to both the Goddess of Speed, as well as to Columbus, the acknowledged Patron Saint of motorcyclists. In time, my garage will likely have an altar built in their honor, with small lamps burning smoky exhausted engine oil reverently.