|Bike maintenance, part deux
||[Jun. 24th, 2009|12:25 pm]
Doomie doomie doom!
Well, it's been a little over a month since my last post, and it's funny how much things can change!|
When last we joined out intrepid hero (shush, let me live out my little Mary Sue here), I had a motorcycle that needed new air filters to ride, and needed a lot of other little TLC that I wasn't sure I was qualified to perform. I went ahead and did the oil change I was talking about (which I had done several times before, no big deal) and found and ordered some K&N air filters. Then, I stumbled across XJBikes.com.
Turns out there's a whole freakin' forum devoted to the Yamaha XJ series of bikes (mine's an XJ550RJ, by the way - something that the site helped me translate into a 1982 (the 'J') XJ550 Seca (the 'R') - the sport model)! And these guys are hard-core - they restore bikes, they do chopper conversions, they do cafe conversions, the WORKS. If it CAN be done with an XJ, these guys have done it.
So I spend some time hanging out there while I'm waiting for my filters to show up, and I start to learn all kinds of things about the motorcycle I've ridden for the past four seasons:
1 - the Secas were badass in the early '80s - they were kind of the sportbike of their time, at least from '81-83. Six-speed gearing, a redline at 9500RPM, they were FAST bikes.
2 - The PO (previous owner) made SEVERAL aftermarket changes to my bike that I never realized, simply because I just assumed how I bought the bike was how it had always been.
2A: The bike USED to have an airbox that fed into all four carbs, instead of individual pod filters on each. This is the reason people gave me funny looks when I kept asking for the "pod filters for an XJ550."
2B: There was originally a wicked little bikini fairing that came stock with the bikes. Apparently, though, Yamaha made a point of emphasizing that it was removable...so most owners removed it. They are now incredibly difficult to find in any reasonable condition, and are REALLY expensive when you can find them.
2C: Stock exhaust for the 550s was a pair of chrome 2-to-1 pipes, one on either side of the bike, mounting under the passenger footpegs. Mine has a 4-to-1 that ends in a big-belled muffler on the right side. The aftermarket exhaust has created a whole set of issues: the PO took the centerstand off the bike to mount the pipes and collector, and never put it back on, so I have no centerstand; the single muffler angles up right next to the rear axle, so if/when I need to remove the rear tire, I'm going to have to remove the muffler first; finally (so far as I know), the header pipes for this system are just close enough together on the #2 and #3 cylinders that I can't physically remove my oil filter cover. I can unscrew it just fine, but it takes a lot of phylangial gymnastics to actually get the filter changed out, and it's preventing me from putting on a spin-on filter adapter, like the newer bikes have. Upside is, I always thought that problem was because of a crash (i.e. the pipes had gotten pushed together), but turns out, that's just a 'feature' of this particular exhaust.
2D: There used to be a fuse box attached to the airbox. Instead, I've got a bunch of separate inline fuses. That's gonna get changed REAL quick.
So like I said, I learned a lot of nifty stuff about my bike, including the fact that it's really NOT that hard to do a lot of the maintenance stuff yourself. I mean, I've had the Clymer guide for the bike since I bought it, but looking through a manual written for mechanics is a LOT different than having someone who's done the job you want to do say "Nonono, just stick the whoozit in the whatzit and then crank that sucker!"
That said, I've already done the following to the bike since my last post:
1. Put the new K&N filters on. Whereas previously each carb had its own filter, the K&Ns now put one filter on each pair of carbs - 1 & 2 are ganged, and 3 & 4. Net result - instead of four crappy-looking black sponge cylinders hanging off my engine, I now have two very sharp-looking chrome-and-red-fabric filters in their place, and the bike runs a LOT better - although that may have something to do with item #2...
2. Ran a can of Seafoam through the tank, as well as putting some in the oil, and no, I didn't use the entire can at once. In case you don't know (I didn't), Seafoam is this kind of "wonder engine cleaner" that's supposed to do all kinds of good things for everything from lawnmower to big rig engines. You're supposed to put some in the crankcase, some in the gas tank, and then some right into the air intakes...but I just did the first two, as my filters are a little harder to remove than most car air filters. It smoked, it stank (like Fresno in 100-degree heat, wheee petroleum!), but eventually it cleared...and oh my GOD, does the bike just SCREAM now. I can start at a dead stop at the top of an on ramp and be at 80 before I hit highway. Honestly, though, I think that's a combination of both Seafoam and the new filters.
3. Replaced the vacuum line and the fuel line running to the engine; also installed a little in-line fuel filter. I've never had any real problems with rust or gunk coming from the fuel tank (apparently the petcock has its own filter, which I've never looked at), but better safe than sorry, right? Plus, this combined with installing the air filters taught me exactly how my gas tank comes off of the bike and what needs to be disconnected and then reconnected. That puts me one step closer to actually maybe repainting the thing one of these days!
4. I took the entire instrument cluster apart, cleaned the hell out of it, replaced all the bulbs with new ones, and switched to LED bulbs for the speedo and the tach. My speedometer has ALWAYS read 5MPH under my actual speed (which almost resulted in a ticket the first year I had it), and I'm pretty sure it's more accurate now, although I have yet to have someone help me authenticate that. Sure is brighter at night now, though!
And that was all the work I had really PLANNED on doing, at least for the near future. Eventually, I knew I was going to need a new chain and sprockets, I was going to need to get that rear tire mounted, and I was going to need to replace my rear brake shoes - probably all at the same time, since all of those involve taking the rear wheel of the bike, and if I was having someone else do it, it just made sense to combine it all into one visit. The bike also needs to have the front brake fluid changed, a new front brake line, and it might need to have the MC rebuilt. Then there's the issue of the oil seep I talked about, which I'm pretty sure now is from a bad/old valve cover gasket. And someday the valve clearances need to be checked...and the carburetors should really be cleaned and synched...because I bet this bike could really strut, then. But this was all stuff for the far future, maybe even the winter off-season.
Then, while riding on Saturday, my chain snapped...and I find myself having to do at least the first batch of repairs NOW. I've got a chain and sprockets on the way, and I have a new set of rear brake shoes. My PLAN is to remove the rear wheel from the bike myself; replace the sprockets myself; replace the rear shoes myself; take the wheel into the shop and have them put the new tire on it; put the wheel back on the bike myself; and install the new chain myself. Hopefully that'll both save me a buttload of labor costs, AND let me learn how to handle these specific aspects of caring for the bike. For the first time, I think I really might be able to do all this stuff by myself. Wish me luck!