Monday, February 28, 2011

Anatomy of motorcycle repairs

"Change oil, remove battery and either drain out all the petrol or fill up the tank."
These are the tips I read for storing a bike for winter, 1 day before leaving for India. Naturally I scourge other websites which tell me that changing oil can be done later, after winter. When I plan to change the regulator that is apparently unrepairable.

After winter, I bring out the toolkit, fish out the pdf manual and scroll to the correct page. The battery-less laptop is upstairs, so I memorize the instructions, run down (so that I don't have enough time to forget). Start dismantling frame cover and seat.

Panic - "What does the regulator look like?!"

Run upstairs, stare at the photograph. Wonder if I am doing the right thing. Walk down, disconnect the regulator wires and start unscrewing the screws. A flimsy spanner screwdriver and rust on the threads ensures the following:
There is no way to put it back. Damn. Also realize that the new regulator has a slightly different shape and the screw would not fit anyway. "It wasn't all my fault", I convince myself. Use Velcro as a fix.

Ten thousand thundering typhoons! Bike still doesn't start.

Clean the spark plugs. Recharge battery for two days. Send out a "HEEEELLLP" post to motorcycle forums.

Next weekend:
Realize that I need to test the ignition coils. "Where are they?" The bike manual says, "under the petrol tank." Ouch. By now I am an expert at removing the frame covers. I take a deep breath and get to work at the petrol tank. Loosen the bolts. Try lifting the tank. It barely budges. Apparently I have to pull, tug, lift and wiggle the tank to get it to move. Swish, swish! Oh crap, the fuel moves around causing the tank to wobble almost out of control. Deep breath. Lift it and peek underneath - two fuel hoses. Rest the tank on the frame, run up read the manual. It says, "Turn the fuel cock to OFF position. Remove the fuel hoses." Hmmmm. Run down, tug at the hoses. They have been fixed by pressure clamps.

Re-adjust the tank on the frame so I can see the ignition coils. (Are they really the ignition coils?) Damn, I need a multi-meter. Put everything back.

The next weekend:
Procure a multi-meter. Test the resistances. Something is wrong, but you still cannot figure out what. Also, the resistances seem fine, i.e ignition coils might be okay. Pull hair out. Also, I *think* I did see the spark plugs spark when I last tested them with a charged battery. But the engine doesn't fire! I don't know what's wrong!

Realize I probably need a new battery. Order a new battery off the internet. Then realize that I might also need new spark plugs. Wait.

The weekend after that:
A friend takes pity on me and offers to help. Also, he has a ginormous tool-box with all kinds of spanners, wrenches and stuff. He has also successfully fixed his car from time to time. Kaching! We open the bike up. Successfully remove the tank and the hoses. Check the wiring, and the ignition coils - they are all fine. The scene is like this:
Yes, the manual is still a pdf on my laptop. And I figured out it's better to have the laptop downstairs. My friend then says, "Maybe the problem is not just the spark plug. Maybe your engine is not getting the correct air-fuel mix. We should check the carbs." Uh-huh.. have you done it before. "Ya, for a car, but never for a bike."

"Well, we are here anyway, let's do it", I say. "But let me take pics as we go, because the pdf doesn't really have great photos. There are too many hoses, pipes and wires running all around." I whip out the camera and the result is some amazing pictures that are of absolutely no help.

Cleaning the carbs seems too complicated. We start putting them back.

"Where did this hose go?" I ask.
"Dunno, check where the other end is", is the reply I get. So I tug at the hose. I start pulling it and it comes out completely. The other end isn't connected to *anything*. I stuff it back in. This makes no effing sense!

We put the stuff back. Apparently defeated.

The weekend AFTER that! (ya, this was a multi-week affair):
I buy the new spark plugs and the new air filter. Replace them. Figure out that the magical unknown hose was a water drain for the petrol tank. Use copious amounts of WD40 to destroy the rust at various places. Use copious amounts of chain oil to lubricate the damn thing. Fit the air filter, put the tank back, fix the new spark plug and connect the new battery.

Switch the fuel cock to the 'PRI' position, engage the choke. Pray and twist the key. The engine turns. Nothing. Twist again. Again the same. Twist again and pray..... IT'S ALIVE!!!!