Friday, June 29, 2007

Turning Point

So last weekend I had a little time during a visit from the sister-in-law and nephew and was able to get the remaining (important) parts left in the "basket" that came with the bike and attach them where they belong.

Lib and I hit the local AutoZone and picked up a fresh pair of plugs. When we got back I showed her how they work by plugging one in and laying it on the head while she turned over the motor. Not the fattest sparks I've seen but then again we were working in direct sunlight.

Once the plugs were in place all that remained was to attach the left-side carb and then rig up the Fuel IV. Attaching this carb was trickier than the other due to the oh-so-cool-but-always-in-the-way high pipes the exit on the left side (I'm not 100% sure but I think you have to remove the exhaust to get the left side-cover off…rather un-Honda). Finally the carb was mounted and even the crazy choke linkage was working properly.

Now back when I started this project I debated whether I should properly "rebuild" the bike or just put it back together and see if it works. Under different circumstances I would have opted for the former but as the deadline of the next Crud Run looms, I found the latter more prudent. I decided that I would put the bike back together with minimal "tweaking" and if it runs, then we'll just fix whatever problems come up. If not; well then it's time to take it apart and restore it properly.

Once the parts were in place I pulled the gas tank and the seat and prepared to wire up the Fuel IV. Since the tank is old and rusty, not to mention the unknown state of the petcocks I decided the best way to test run the motor would be to build some MASH-style apparatus that would let me get a little fuel to the carbs without using the regular fuel tank. What I came up with consists of a length of fuel line, a "T" connector and a small plastic bottle which once contained airsoft pellets.

The airsoft bottle was perfect because it already had a neat little spout that would hold the fuel line snugly. There were some other potential design problems but I just ignored them for this first test. JC Whitney sells a more sophisticated version of this tool for something like $60.00 which was way more than I needed to spend so I decided to go the DIY route.

After cutting the lengths of hose and fitting them to the "T" it took a little doing to get the hose connected to the carbs (especially the left one…stupid pipes!) but finally it was done and we were ready to test-fire the motor.

I filled the bottle about half-way with fuel; the entire apparatus was untested so I wanted to use the smallest amount of gasoline possible should it just spill all over the place. After filling the bottle it was screwed to it's top and then inverted, and you could see the fuel flowing down the lines and into the carburetors.

Ignition on, hit the starter…nothing.

Well almost nothing. Fuel begins to spill on the ground from the overflow on the right-side (high) carburetor. I quickly attach the rotted overflow hose to stop it from running all over the engine. Well we know fuel is getting to the carb, let's try turning it over again and see what happens…


I flip the fuel bottle over to stop the flow and examine the carburetors. The right-side carb (which is higher than the left as the bike is on the side-stand) is clean but looks like it dumped all the fuel that went into it on the ground. The left-side carb, which didn't eject anything out of it's overflow is now starting to seep fuel from around the float bowl. I pull the plugs to see what's getting into the chamber and they are both bone dry.

I guess the carbs are not in as good of shape as I had previously observed.

I turn the drain screws on the carb bowls and let the remaining fuel drain down onto the engine and drip from there into the fuel bottle I was previously using to feed the engine. There is a nice little "low-point" cooling fin on the bottom of the motor that almost magically collects all the fuel running over the crankcase neatly into one spot where it can easily be collected. Nice to know…

I spent that night considering the meaning of the day's events and deciding what the next best plan of action would be. Based on my original criteria, it was probably time for a rebuild, but fixing carburetors is a lot easier than that. However what's to say once the carbs are "on-line" that there wont' be another problem waiting in the wings? Finally I came up with three options:

1. Go down the rabbit hole, beginning with rebuilding the carbs
2. Tear the bike down to the frame and begin a proper restoration
3. Convert it to electric drive

I gave these three options about 48 hours of contemplation and came up with a hybrid solution. I realized that going down the path of troubleshooting each discreet problem as it arose could be a long process with nothing but failure until finally everything worked right (at least for awhile). I seriously considered the electric option, but there is a significant up-front cost that (at least for now) seems to exceed the cost of any other option.

In the end I realized that even going electric would require (or at least, desire) a rebuild of the rolling chassis so that is where I plan to begin. Ignoring the engine and related things for now, I plan to pull the bike apart and restore the rolling chassis to new (or better-than-new) condition. During this time I'll continue to evaluate electric conversion options and hopefully come to a solid conclusion by the time the chassis is restored and the time comes to deal with the engine.

I have a feeling I'll have plenty of time to think about this.

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