Oldbike: Signs of Life From the Starter

Bad news (sort of) on the simplicity front of things with the project.  Upon re-installing the starter I have had some signs of life, which is good in one way, and bad in others.

What sucks now is that once I have a fully charged battery and I try this test again, if the starter fully engages and turns over the motor that would mean that the starter is good.  That is good news is it would be expensive to replace the starter if I couldn't find a rebuild kit but the bad news is that now I have to delve into the birds nest that is chasing down electrical gremlins.  The truth is I am much more experienced in the mechanical side of things than I am in electronics.  And there are a number of areas that could be causing the starter not to engage upon pushing the starter button on the handlebar controls.  It's not as simple as one switch, there are a number of safety features built into the ignition system that have to be functioning in order for the starter to work.  Off the top on my head the ones I can think of are:

1. The actual thumb switch on the handlebar
2. The clutch sensor on the other handlebar (will not let the starter engage unless the clutch is held in)
3. The neutral safety switch (if there is one, won't let you start the bike while it is in gear)
4. The stand safety switch (also if there is one, won't let the bike start while the kick stand is down)
5. Any of the wires interconnecting all of these switches.

So for now the next order of operations is to continue working on the carbs, and test the starter by jumpering the solenoid (which bypasses all the aforementioned safety features) and see if the engine will turn over.  I will also have to look at the wiring diagram and see exactly what I need to testing on the ignition system and learn how to use a multimeter to test current and switches.  The thing I have to keep in mind while I am working on all of this is that each thing that I do I am learning something and that was the whole idea behind starting this project!

There is one other thing that I will need to run down and that is what this brass vacuum hose connection is for on the carbs.  It looks like they haven't been covered by a rubber hose in some time

The Clymer Manual makes no mention of its function, only that there a hose connected to it so if anyone reading has a suggestion please post up a comment!


Found Coolness: They Call It A Swanson

Tom Haverford: Is that bacon on your turkey leg?
Ron Swanson: They call it a Swanson.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! And if you have some bacon laying around, by all means, make a Swanson!


System Ops: Blount Generating Station Double Rainbow

Picture taken from the MG&E General Office Facility (by Steve Salt an fellow employee). Pretty cool!


Oldbike: Why won’t you start?!?

The first thing on my list of things to do with the bike is to get it running.  Once that has been accomplished, I can start to work on the other details, but I want to hear it run first.  So after charging the battery (which the previous owner said was new this year) I reinstalled it and turned the key to the on position checked to make sure the transmission was in neutral held in the clutch and hit the starter.  Nothing happened, no clicking, no attempt at all by the starter to turn the engine over.  The headlight, which was shining brightly, did not dim when I hit the starter either.  So on to the next attempt, the kick starter, after a couple of kicks nothing came to life so that was disappointing but not surprising.  I did buy a bike that the previous owner did say didn’t run, but sometimes you can’t help but hope that it is something very simple.

My first suspect is the starter, because it didn’t work so my first order of operations is to bench test the starter, once I do that I can see if it is functioning or not.  My hope is that the starter is bad mainly because I can rebuild that for pretty cheap, and then I don’t have to worry about tracking down any sort of wiring issues.  So the first thing that I did was take out the starter, my plan being that I would take it to an auto parts place and have them test it out.  So I took the starter out which went off without a hitch except for having to remove the cam chain tensioner in order to get the clearance to remove the starter.  When I read in my Clymer that I would have to do this I was worried that it would be a hassle (like my SV650s were) but it was a simple mechanical process with no springs only a adjuster screw and a lock nut, soooo nice!

What I didn’t realize with my only experience being with automotive starters is that the solenoid is not attached to the starter; rather, it is on the frame of the bike.  So as soon as I get time I will re-install the starter and then I can jumper the batter directly to the solenoid and see if the starter engages that way which would narrow the problem down to the solenoid or the starter before the starter shows no life.  If it kicks over then I have to find the fault in the wiring.  I did do a cursory check of the wires running to and from the starter switch and the clutch safety switch into the wiring harness and they appeared to be fine.

The second suspect is the carburetors mainly because it’s a 31 year old bike and there has got to be some varnishing going on in there.  You would think that if the ignition system is working and the bike was getting fuel I would be able to kick start it, but there was no life.  I have already torn into one of the carbs which I would have done either way to be thorough (my next posting will be on the carbs)  I am hoping to find some clogged pilot jets that would be keeping the engine from being able to idle.  If there are no carb issues, then I am going to have to look into the ignition system such as the points and condenser (which I know nothing about) as well as the plugs and the spark plug wires.  Hopefully my first two suspects are the one or both of them that are the guilty party and I will have a running bike shortly so the fun stuff can start!


Oldbike: Upon First Inspection

After I returned the Menard’s truck, I set about my first real assessment of the bike.  I was really happy to see how good of shape everything appeared to be!  The tires seem to be in good shape, though I later found out (accidentally) that the previous owner had tried to convert the tube rims to tubeless. Eventually I will put tubes back in. Also the front tire was mounted on backwards (a little annoying).  The mufflers are aftermarket slip-ons, they are a little scratched up and could use some gaskets where the clamps go. I can see some carbon blowback in the header pipes.  Also he did not have the side covers, but he did have the front fender.  I’m not planning on using the stock seat but there is a tear in it that I may fix even if I don't keep it on there just for the practice. All the lights worked, even the little one that illuminates the license plate. The bike has been in a crash at some point, the headlamp is a little cockeyed and consequently so are the front turn signals since the headlight mounting bracket that they are mounted to, got bent. I do plan on straightening them out, but in order to get them off I have to drop the fork legs out of the triple clamps and I'm just not ready to do that yet. Once I can get them on a bench I can pound them back into shape.  The first thing I noticed once the battery was charged was that the electric starter switch did not work, the second thing was that the kick start also did not work. So I pulled the seat and tank off, and got ready to check the starter (to see if it works) and the carburetors (to see if the jets are clogged).

System Ops: NERC Notes

All the notes I generated while going through the NERC standards the first time


Oldbike: Bringing the Bike Home

By the time you are 31 (nearly 32), you have pretty much used up all the "favors" you have allotted in your lifetime from the people in your life that you know who have trucks.  Conversely, if you are a truck owner, you have pretty much used up all your patience for people who ask you if you can help them move something.  That being said I want to save the precious few favors I have from the "truck people" in my life for very important things.  Sadly, while picking up a $140.00, non-running, 31 year old motorcycle is an exciting event for me; I didn’t really want to inconvenience anyone with having to make the trip.

I had originally looked into renting a truck from a rental place (enterprise, u-haul, hertz) but most ended up running anywhere from $89-$130 for the day and I just needed a truck for about two hours to drive to Baraboo, pick up the bike, and then drop it off at the house.  Then it dawned on me, why not rent one of those trucks that Home Depot, or Menards rent for pretty cheap.  After doing a little investigating, it turns out that you don't even need to buy something to use it; all you need is your driver’s license, proof of insurance and a debit/credit card to secure funds.  It's only $18.95 for the first 75 minutes and then it is $5.00 for every additional 15 minutes after that.  Not a bad deal at all, considering that they don't charge you for gas.

So I went to Menard's (its closest to my house) on Thursday November 11th, Veteran's Day, and rented the truck and was off to Baraboo.  Upon arrival there was no one home but the bike was leaned up against the garage.  I went over to check things out and was pleasantly surprised, the tires seemed to be in good shape, the mufflers were aftermarket slip-ons that could use some gaskets, and although he did not have the side covers, he did have the front fender, and there was amazingly very little dirt and grime on the engine and also very little rust on the bike!

After having him and his buddy help me lift it into the back of the truck (the bed was too tall for me to use the short ramp I had brought to wheel the bike up) and a small detour to a buddy's house to pick up the front fender I was on my back home, after a small detour to see the new Veterans Memorial (in the picture) by the airport near the old Badger Ammunition plant.  When I got back to my house I was able to back up to a berm and use the ramp to roll the bike down myself and she was home!  All told I spent about $50 to rent the Menard's Truck which put my total for acquiring the bike at $190.00 sweet


Oldbike: The Beginning

CHEAP! 1979 suzuki 450 gs clean title - $140 (baraboo)
1979 suzuki 450... great bike... fun ride.. it has 19,000 miles
i was told it has some kind of intake problem and thats why it wont start... should be a cheap and easy fix, I dont have tools or time to work on the bike. As much as i want to keep it and work on it im selling or trading. Im pretty open minded about the trade just let me know. TXT or call anytime XXX XXX XXXX Names Jake... the bike has clean title new grips and new battery... i have fender and highway bars for it not in picture..

It all started with that headline on the local Craigslist page. Almost every day I look at the motorcycle section on Craigslist I wasn’t really looking for a project but starting in the end of October I began noticing that a lot of 70’s – 80’s Japanese motorcycles were popping up for very low prices. Eventually the reality of fall and winter started setting in and I realized that I needed a project for the winter to keep me entertained. I knew I wanted a motorcycle to fix up and the only other two criteria I had was that it have a clean title (hard to come by in cheap 70’s – 80’s Japanese motorcycles that are on Craigslist) and that is cost under $200. The above ad is the one that caught my eye, I already have one Suzuki (a 2002 SV650s) and I liked the idea of having another Suzuki twin (although a parallel twin instead of a V-twin) in the garage.

As you can see, the picture doesn’t really give anything away. It looks like a cruddy bike under a tarp and that is what I assumed two. The kid who was selling it didn’t have email, so I had to text him to get what little info I could out of him. I pretty much lucked out with the fact that this kid worked second shift because otherwise I’m sure that someone would have snapped it up before I could get out buy it. In the week and a half that I corresponded with the kid via text message, I was able to learn that it had just recently stopped running three months earlier and that was when he stopped riding it. That was enough for me to want it, it wasn’t going to be one of those bikes that has been sitting for the last 20 years and have all the issues that come along with that sort of bike.
This is the prologue to the story, the first few blog posts will get you up to speed with what I have done so far and then I will update as I do more work and the project progresses, so stay tuned!



Artsy Fartsy: Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

The new Veteran's Memorial on Hy 12 on the way to Baraboo. Thank you to all our Vets on this Veteran's Day!


System Ops: Axe Man

This man... may not be long for this earth. Potential Darwin Award finalist