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.

Monday, June 18, 2007


I'm re-considering a frame-up restoration.

On one hand I think doing so will definitely blow my deadline of getting the bike rideable in time for the fall crud. On the other hand, maybe having it in boxes in all over the garage will motivate me to make more time for the project.

Six of one…

I blame Brillo, because I finally got around to giving them a try on the bike's chrome (one of the mufflers and the gas cap) and I was shocked to see that it actually worked to remove the decades of rust from the surface, leaving it as brilliant as a mirror. Seeing those funky Jetsons-esque cans glimmer in the daylight made me re-think the whole "get it done now and make it pretty later" attitude of this project so far.

Also the girls picked out some great colors for a new paint job and it would just be easier to do a good job of that with the parts all…apart.

I'll give it a week to decide.

Friday, June 8, 2007


We're going camping this weekend so I know I won't be spending any time with the bike; I figure this is a good time to get the journal caught up even though I don't have any pictures to post right now.

Last week just by chance I picked up a battery, they were on sale and I figured I'd need one eventually (although I was going to hold off until the bike was closer to running, just so I didn't have to let the battery sit any longer than necessary). Although I was going to tackle the carbs next, maybe I'll change directions and take a look at the electrical/ignition systems.

After giving the battery a night to charge (they say it comes charged but that a "topping-up" is a good idea) I dropped it into the bike. The trickiest part of this is routing the overflow hose, which is why some people don't do it. I've been on the receiving end of bikes where the previous owner didn't think the hose was important and I can say that it's not pretty, especially because often the bikes charging system is located downstream from the battery vent. But anyway…

Once it was in and the terminals fastened down I had to at least try turning things on. After figuring out the three positions of the ignition I was able to verify that at least the base electrical system worked (headlight turns on, neutral light goes green, horn works). The exceptions here were the turn signals (which would turn on but not blink) and the brake light (which worked for the rear brake but not the front). The turn signals, I know there is a "flasher" device that I would guess in a bike this old is mechanical, so I need to figure out where that thing is and see if it's stuck or something. The front brake light problem is probably going to be more trouble, but for now I'm not going to sweat it.

I did give the electric starter a push, just to see what would happen and it made some sounds. There were sounds of the engine actually turning over, and there was an occasional sound best described as "a fork in a garbage disposal" that used to emanate from my 1976 Yamaha XS650 electric starter. I'll leave this alone for now.

Next I wanted to check out the ignition to complete my testing of the "essential" electrical systems. I first tried the old trick of pulling a plug and grounding it against the head to see if it would spark when I turned the engine over; no dice. I checked over the connections, the spark wires, the coils, etc. and everything looked good so I figured either there was something wrong with my test or there was something major wrong with the ignition system. I had even peeked at the points a few days back and they looked almost new.

A few days later I received the service manual that I had procured from Ebay and it described another ignition test that bypasses the spark plug. You pull what I would call the "boot" of the plug wire (the part that goes over the sparkplug) off and then try to get a spark from the wire inside the plug wire to the head. Bingo.

Bad plugs, duh.

So it looks like we have spark, now all we need is fuel. I had gone through the carbs somewhat maybe a week or so ago and decided they looked good enough to try, so the last thing I did during this session is start to hang them back on the bike. I got as far as the right-side carb and ran out of time, so the rest of this discussion will have to take place after the big camping weekend.

I'm also looking for a cheap digital camera that I can get dirty to make keeping this journal easier. I've decided on the Vista Quest VQ1005, but I'm having a hell of a time finding one locally. If you know of a store that carries these, pass that info along.