Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Odds 'n' Ends.

Having realized my lower chain slider was heavily worn, and that I had a replacement sitting in the basement engine parts storage room from an XR600, I went to work installing it. I found that the one on the bike had totally lost it's plastic and the chain was riding on metal. Oops! I went into this thinking that this was a recent development, perhaps the reason for my chain's rapid slackening, but I found that this was not the case. It will still have a positive effect on the drive train. A chain riding on steel would fail sooner than one riding on plastic due to the vibration caused. So maybe it was the reason my chain stretched out, but now that the damage was done, replacing it would not allow me to readjust the chain tension, I was still at the end of my adjusters' travel.

While I had the rear wheel loose, I greased the brake shoe rocker inside the brake drum per the factory manual. It seemed to take care of the rear brake sticking I had been experiencing. It was such that I could feel a dragging resistance as I took off from a stop after applying the rear brake within normal usage. The only remedy was either to roll the bike backwards to free the brake, or ride through the resistance and it would go away. Still an annoyance I was unaccustomed to, and I was glad to have figured it out.

While I was at it I remembered my rear brake lever adjustment. Since raising the rear of the bike to match the front, my riding position had changed to further forward in the saddle. This position was more like that of the XR600 and XR650L, and also the position I'd end up in if carrying a passenger. Adding foam and contouring the seat to be more like the seats found on the aforementioned models would have to wait. The new position creates the need for the rear brake lever to come down so that I don't have to lift my foot to depress it. Fortunately Honda thought of this and added this handy adjustment feature.

I adjusted it once before the hardware store and readjusted it to a better position after I got back as it was too low.

The shift lever naturally followed.

Next on the agenda (well, on my ad-hoc agenda anyway) was making split expansion plugs so I could install my bar end weights. They were once held in by my Ghetto Machined rubber plugs backed with nuts for a rubber squish-fit, but one of them vibrated off while my brother was riding it during his visit. Since they were removed, I had been experiencing a lot of high-frequency vibrations in the handlebars, the exact reason these bikes came with bar end weights. It's a thumper, and it's not the bass I mind so much as it is the treble if you know what I mean. I went to the hardware store to look at the steel stock they had. There was a huge bar of galvanized 5/8" stock, a very small piece of which was required for this project. I checked the fit to my handlebars and found that it would be too big, and not close enough to do any of my patented Ghetto Machining on it to get it to fit. I checked the nut and bolt drawers and found clevis pins in a 1/2" size, and one of them for a couple of bucks would be enough. Getting to work, I drilled a somewhat plumb hole in the workbench for the work piece to rest in. The plumb was gauged by the level bubble on the back of the drill, perfect for the "close enough" craftsman I sometimes am. I had thought about making extra long split expanding fasteners to function as extra weight in the bars, but I am glad I went with the shorter ones. The most easily noticed reason is that there is some really tough goop crap in the opening of the bars, and there is a big enough piece in the left end that I had to tap in the expander to get it to go all the way. Besides not having a metal miter saw, a drill press, or a lathe, the construction was quite simple. Drill a hole through the axis of the bar stock so you have a thick-walled pipe, thread it at least half way through, cut it in half at an angle greater than 45*, then drill one half out bigger, so that when the two pieces draw together, there is room for one of the pieces to skew to one side, creating pressure and grip inside the handle bar end.

Since it was plain steel that can rust, and I may need to remove the bar ends at some point, I applied anti-seize compound to the threads.

On one side there was an even layer of the goop crap I mentioned earlier. I liked this as it added a vibration-dampening layer between the bars and the weights, making it less likely to vibrate the threads loose. So I applied a bit of silicone sealant to the inner wall of the other side before installing it. Now I need to find two bolts to replace the current sluggers I have in there. Apparently a flat (countersink), allen head, stainless m10 was too specialized a fastener to ask of my neighborhood hardware store.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Who is a dipstick now?

My XRs Only temperature gauge dipstick had accumulated oil in the gauge that was not draining away like it used to. Or this time the oil was so black that I had trouble reading it. I decided to find out just how far I could disassemble it. To my surprise, it came apart far enough that I could spray out the gauge face with brake cleaner, clean all the parts, and reassemble it.

I reassembled the thermometer and squeezed it into the screw cap filled with silicone sealant. I screwed it into the oil reservoir and noticed that the face was sideways and not easily readable as I thought I had positioned it. I then attempted to align it by twisting the temperature probe. I then had to re-adjust since this accidentally de-calibrated it. This thermometer reads a broad temperature range, between 50 and 350. To calibrate a thermometer that will read down into freezing temperature range, you put it in ice water and if it doesn't read 32 degrees, you rotate the stem or the nut on the back against the face with the numbers to adjust the reading. I counted up the dash marks and figured them for 5 degree increments, and eyeballed 32 degrees.

My recollection of the instructions that accompanied this dipstick were to rotate the stem in order to adjust the position of the face. Maybe they also said to remove the clip that holds the thermometer part into the screw cap. Either way, the old instructions weren't going to work because they didn't put enough silicone in there to begin with. The only place they sealed up was around the area that the nut meets the stem and the back of the face. That's not where the oil gets in though, it gets in around the outside edge where the press-fit cap holding the glass on and it oozes out through the space between the thermometer and the screw cap to the outside, pooling up on the outer face. To the credit of XRs only, this usually only happens when the oil is overfilled. On my journey, though, it was a lot better to be overfilled than underfilled. These temperature gauge dipsticks are constructed of good parts and put together very thoughtfully for the most part, but they need only a little more silicone to be perfect.

I will monitor the progress of the re-seal job and update the blog. Now that the bike consumes nearly no oil, I will not likely risk any more leakage unless I were to overfill it.

I confess, I did some detailing on the bike. It's beginning to show signs of its original finish as opposed to highway road grime, chain lube, oil, and mud. I think the rear rim looks kind of stupid with the silver aluminum color showing after all this time. The thing to do now is get another rim anodized black since they look better.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idles wild, dies while idling

I got it all back together with the Wiseco 9:1 piston a few days back. I heat cycled the new piston and broke it in 'nice-and-easy'. Here's the very first kick after reassembly:

I was still having the problem of stalling seemingly at random. A terible thing to happen on a kickstart-only bike in the middle of traffic. Especially one that is higher now and therefore harder to kick.

My mind jumped to a list of conclusions, such as, "it's that rust sediment I keep seeing in the carb bowls that's making it die". I went out on a wild goose chase for a paper filter that's going to fit in my small space. After finding mostly too large automotive paper filters and finally being told that paper filters are inferior to the little pressed-brass-pebble ones anyway, I bought a much-needed piece of fuel line at the last stop. I'm not sure if I believe him about the filter comparison, but I had never cleaned the petcock so I figured I had better take it out and clean that pre-screen off. I forgot to drain the tank on the reserve setting. When I went to remove the petcock, I found out first hand how much gas is in the reserve setting (quite a bit) and enjoyed the fringe benefit of the left side of my engine being degreased. Never did clear up that idle mystery though.

Today, I had decided to undo my stator's ground wire from the intake manifold bolt, to make sure it wasn't interfering with my tightening of the manifold. Stock stators don't have these ground wires, it's an add on by Ricky Stator, so you just sort of bolt it on wherever you can. I was tired of bolting it onto the sort of high-torque rocker box bolts. It was smashing the hell out of the poor little ring terminal. So I just put a wire extension with a gator clip on one end and clipped it to the frame until I feel like doing some electrical tailoring.

Finally, I got around to testing for leaks around the intake with an unlit propane torch with no results. The stator ground was still floating loose at this point and I thought I saw a spark. It worried me a little in the sense that sparks like that made a disaster possible, but how hard it was to light that torch with an open flame put my worries at ease. No leak detected from propane probing.

I checked the valve clearances and sure enough, they were the culprit. My exhaust and intake were both too tight, almost as if I'd gapped the two on that side as if they were both intakes and the two on the other side as exhausts. Wierd. Anyway, it idles without dying right when the light turns green, so that's good. I had forgotten how rock-solid at idle these engines are with all my chokepulling nonsense to deal with this issue. Now it would be nice if I could be flying along at 70mph and then pull in the clutch and know the engine would still be idling faithfully, but I don't think it's that good. I'm definitely on to something though.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

head gasket leak?

I kept riding it around, further and further. I rode it all the way to Charlotte for a meet-up at Lupies Chili Joint for one of the NC Adventure Rider dinners. We would have dinner and sometimes a sleepover somewhere in the state every month. It was a lot of fun getting to know strangers that ride, from the site that taught me how to work on my bike.

Some things happened, the order of these events is not certain.
-noticed popping sound under hard revs when I got the bike running again.
-realized it was the head gasket
-blew base gasket for no apparent reason (it was not related to the leaking head gasket)
-replaced both topend gaskets and gently replaced cam chain tensioner, not beating it in like a caveman, like last time
-used washers under all of the head bolts this time
-noticed valve train sounded better and engine was more powerful
-noticed head gasket popping still did not go away, questioned my torque and cleanliness of the head bolt threads, etc.

Somewhere along the way I realized that the steel cylinder sleeve was not level with the top machined surface that sealed the rest of the head gasket, like the timing chain hole. Having nothing to compare my cylinder to, I thought that maybe that was normal, but with all the popping and leaking, even after I used washers with all of the head blots (unlike the first time) and an OEM honda head gasket, it persisted.

I fell deeper in love with the bike though, even moreso than the truck. Through the ADVrider website, I saw the kinds of touring that were possible on even a small bike. I developed an interest in riding to the west coast on it. I had wanted to live near my sister in Oregon since I started visiting in 8th grade. ADVrider introduced me to the wild dirt bike world-tours of Lois on the Loose and Mondo Enduro. I still need to get a copy of Mondo Enduro.

Project underway.

I tried starting it obviously. Of course I wanted to ride it around if I could. The previous owner said it had not been started in 2 years, which was beleiveable, as oil was leaking out of seals, and when gassed up, the carbs leaked as well.

Finally I get a chance to start ripping it apart. My mechanical experience had mostly been on the 1992 Chevy S-10 and the Yamaha Zuma scooter, which I had put a carburetor and 70cc kit and stuff on. So this was like a bigass 4-stroke version of that, basically. It came with a manual so I couldn't screw anything up too badly. I cleaned the carburetors out, reinstalled them, got a cheap champion spark plug just in case my NGK was bad. Checked for spark, which I appeared to have.

I kicked the hell out of that bike, and I never got much more than a sputter. One day though, I got it to run for a while, and it smoked badly, misfired, and died. Later I would get it running long enough to ride it up and down my gravel driveway. What a tease! It had so much power that my 50cc-scootin' ass could hardly beleive it!

I had to have more. I just could not get it to start, so I began to check for other mechanical anomalies. I found out I didn't have spark anymore. I found out that I was hissing compression out of the carburetors. I had no way of knowing anything about the right amount of compression for this bike because I had no expreience with it in it's running form. There was no way to kick it over and know that it was way too easy and therefore it lacked compression, but after suspecting this, and telling some other XL600 guys that I could crank it right through the compression stroke with just my hand on the kickstarter, we knew something was up.

I tried a trick my buddy Sam Caldwell, and old, curmudgeony machinist about town told me about. With the cylinder head removed, I positioned it with the exhaust ports facing skyward, and poured gas in to see how well the valves sealed. Not very. Same test on the carburetor side revealed even worse-off valves. I had a machinist at an auto parts store look at it, and we dismantled the head. We found the valve seat to be loose on one of the valves, and he suggested knurling it and pressing it back in with some red loctite.

I never want to trust just one source of information, so I told this to Sam Caldwell, the curmudgeony machinist. He said that this was a risky proposition because the heat transfer properties of that steel valve seat to the aluminum head block would now be concentrated on those tiny little knurling points instead of the whole surface area. The tiny little points would get hotter becauase of less ability to get rid of heat through the aluminum, so it would get loose and fail more readily.

So now he had me good and scared. I didn't want to get the seat replaced since he told me that the way that they do this at the factory is probably with heat and liquid nitrogen. A shop could press fit it or do a less extreme temperature and possibly not press it in hard enough. I also didn't want to go with a used head; what if the previous owner had overheated it and the valve seat was on its way out?

So in one of my last transactions with Bike Bandit, I bought a complete head, OEM. It was wierd too, it looked like it had been made recently because the box did not look like it had aged from 1983, but the head was indeed mostly the 1984 design: 5th valve ith functional burp chamber, no reed valve equalization between the intake ports like on the 1983 (direct instead) and no pain-in-the-ass o-ring cap on one of the head bolts.

When I had asked via e-mail what the part number for the "head kit" included, since it was vague in the schematic, I was told, "everything needed for a complete head". It was just the block, valve guides, rubber intake manifold, and one head bolt, I guess to replace the one that went under the now-superceeded o-ring cap. I tried to get them to send me what they said it would include, bt they would not budge. I later found out that I overpaid by a hundred bucks or so, and now I use the Babbitt's website in Michigan to look up Honda numbers, and order from Zanotti's in Pennsylvania. I could use any site selling OEM parts to get the numbers from, but Babbitt's has the second best prices, a low price guarantee, and they are not Bike Bandit, so I don't have to look at their annoying lies or extremely high prices next to the part numbers. Zanotti's does not have a parts lookup page with pictures, but you plug in the part number and they come up with a low price and they order the part for you.

Anyway, I get the head, bitch about missing parts, get the valves and valve springs, anfter getting one wrong spring and a few e-mails back and forth and some more bullshit with Bike Bandit (I still had not learned yet) I got the head together and the valves lapped in and re-sealed. I got the cylinder mic'ed and found out I could get away with hone. The piston had been ruined, so I'd ordered one of those, a wrist pin, and a ring set. I finally got it all back together, and Bam! I'm riding this big-ass thumper down the road, barely shifting it correctly.

After only my first day of riding, it wouldn't start. I had to wheel it home from the local music venue, a real workout since this is a 300lb bike. After some diagnosin' around, I got a new stator and it fired right back up. Time for some hooligan riding!

Monday, May 4, 2009

1983: The XL600R. It was the beginning of the RFVC era, this engine was ahead of it's time, and the basic design was used from 1983-2009 in various Honda motorcycles: the XL600R, XR600, XL600LM in Europe, and the XR650L. The release of the XL600 gave way to the bike that won Baja in 1997 and 98, and is the most widely used motorcycle to explore the Australian outback; the XR600, which began production in 1985. It has the ability to be modified into about any type of bike you could want with the least work, from a Baja-burner clod-hoppper monster to "supermoto" styled speed demon. Owning a big red dirtbike has always been my fantasy since age 5. That is why it is the perfect motorcycle.

And, did you know it was featured in:

Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahnpolizei, TV Series, 1996-2009 ?

Here is the Internet Movie Car Database article!