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Thread: 81 GS550T Full Rebuild...In Ohio

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Default 81 GS550T Full Rebuild...In Ohio

    I don't know about you but I'm never satisfied with jobs I do if I didn't do everything necessary to make it right the first time. Some of you might remember this thread from when I first bought my GS550T in Colorado and began repairing PO mistakes:

    http://www.thegsresources.com/_forum...d.php?t=159732

    I've had many good rides and am very happy with a bike that I originally bought because it was the style I wanted and ultimately was free. This is where it is now:

















    As much as I tried to improve and make it my own, there were several things left undone. The frame needs a major facelift, my paint job on the tank was ruined from a brake fluid spill, and I found the source of an oil leak to be the base gasket and not the cam tensioner or valve cover like I thought. I also want to add a couple of "farkles" to help me keep abreast of what's going on with the bike.

    So, I decided to do a full frame restore and engine rebuild this year. I hope to be done in time for Brown County next year and am planning on taking the bike with us to Washington State when my last niece marries her fiance. My goal is to trailer the bike out and ride back the 2400 miles while the family follows in the truck.

    This time, I will have help from my 14 year old as she wants to start learning in preparation for when she gets her own bike. I'm looking forward to spending the time with her and hope we can both create some good memories in the process.

    I've already formed a basic list of items I plan on doing but I'm not totally sure which way I will go on some. I do know I'm keeping it as stock as possible (no cafe or other junk for me) and I'm not going to split the cases. Essentially, I'm going to:

    • Replace the base gasket and obviously the other top end stuff
    • Clean and repaint the engine
    • Repaint the frame
    • Fix the seat cover
    • Add in mounts for my voltmeter and 12v outlets
    • Repaint my carburetors
    • Repaint the tank and side covers with proper paint and clearcoats
    • Replace swingarm and steering head bearings
    • Replace all rusted bolts/nuts
    • Potentially replace the forks as I am not sure if what pitting I found is too much (will take and post better pictures)
    • Potentially replace the pipes depending on if I can still find the two others offered to me earlier this year
    But as I start in on this, I'm already running into some questions:

    • I know how to remove the engine from the bike, but what do most folks do for storing it until they are ready to put back in the frame?
    • When trying to clean up covers before painting, I used a wire brush on my grinder. If I decide to remove the paint, do you think I should clear the covers after I polish them? The paint job on the lower covers just hasn't sat well with me but then there are times I think they are nice...this is the main part I'm not still not decided on.
    • I have better access to a parts washer at the base auto hobby shop to clean up the engine pieces this time. What prep work should i consider doing before and after using it? I will repaint the engine but am not sure if I'll black it out or stay the silver color (these year 550s were the silver color engine).
    • For those who bought it, how do you like the sand blaster set up from Harbor Freight? I think it will help reduce some of my frame costs if I do the powdercoat route and definitely help if I paint it.
    • Since I'll already be in there, should I replace my clutch plates since they were already close to their service limits?

    Thank you for looking. More pictures will come as we start the work (Stabil was ran through the carbs tonight and bike will get torn down starting tomorrow).

    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Eish, Scott, two tear downs in two years, damn that bike gets a lot of lovin' or you just have an unnatural wrenching fetish
    To be very honest with you, if you are doing a frame off rebuild, that list of yours is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, trust me, so as our Auzzie mate Pete would say to the missus in a moment of foreplay......brace yer self Shiela.
    Nothing wrong though, I will be following with interest, as I did your first build.
    Oh by the way, how do you plan on breakng the news to your little princess that her carefully thought out and color mached blue carbs are to be relegated to the annals of history, make sure the video is running when you do, that will be a youtube moment for sure, you're a brave man Sparkie.

    Seriously, Scott, all good ideas you have thought of, but, if you are doing steering head bearings,and the frame is bare, I would do all the bearings while you are there, wheels as well.
    I must admit, I don't remember if you did them last time around, too lazy to go look.
    I have just got my motor sitting on the garage floor on a good thick piece of cardboard to it is not directly on the cement floor.
    I painted my frame with a good 2k as I thought powder coating was too expensive at the time, after buying everything to strip it and paint it, powder coating probably would have been slightly cheaper when all was said and done, except I did not have the lump sum, painting, I could spread the cost over several weeks.
    I would stay silver with the motor, but that is a personal choice you have to make.
    As I said, be ready to do a lot more than you think, once you start assembling again, remember the new shiny frame and swingarm are going to make everything else look tatty by comparison, and I know you won't be happy with putting them on your new work of art.
    Triples, headlight ears, brake calipers.......and so the list goes on, ask me how I know.
    Example; can't put these old calipers on the shiny new swingarm and forks, give them some paint, ok, while you are stripping them for paint, might as well renew the seals, good, now they are like new.
    Oh, hang on, these old brake lines, maybe I should replace them, yes.
    Newly rebuilt calipers, new lines....mmmmm, better do the master cylinder seals as well, and give it a lick of paint while I have it stripped.

    But I have no doubt she will be a looker and in superb condition when you are done with her, a keeper for sure.

    +1000000 on the quality time with the daughter, I think this rebuild is a fantastic idea, if for no other reason.
    Money can't buy those shared hours.
    Following closely.
    Last edited by Flyboy; 10-14-2012 at 01:11 AM.
    When in doubt, use full throttle.
    It may not improve the situation, But it will end the suspense.

    1981 GS1000G - Jennifer, Rebuilt and gorgeous.
    http://www.thegsresources.com/_forum/showthread.php?t=16236

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flyboy View Post
    Eish, Scott, two tear downs in two years, damn that bike gets a lot of lovin' or you just have an unnatural wrenching fetish
    To be very honest with you, if you are doing a frame off rebuild, that list of yours is only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg, trust me, so as our Auzzie mate Pete would say to the missus in a moment of foreplay......brace yer self Shiela.
    Nothing wrong though, I will be following with interest, as I did your first build.
    Oh by the way, how do you plan on breakng the news to your little princess that her carefully thought out and color mached blue carbs are to be relegated to the annals of history, make sure the video is running when you do, that will be a youtube moment for sure, you're a brave man Sparkie.
    Aye. I do seem to have an unnatural wrenching fetish in that I am never satisfied. If I know I did something wrong or not good enough, I'm already thinking about how to fix it once the money comes back around. I think I'll do the carbs to match the tank this year so yea, she'll have to deal with it.

    And it's been three years but who's counting?

    Difference being this time, I do intend to do everything right. The next couple of months will be cleaning work only as the money isn't quite there to buy parts yet. I'm supposed to get a performance bonus from old Air Force employer, but the VA and the Air Force have spent the last 6 months squabbling over how it will get paid instead of just giving it to me. Once that money comes in, I will order most of my gaskets and then budget in the money each payday to spend on the seat, powder coating, etc.

    Seriously, Scott, all good ideas you have thought of, but, if you are doing steering head bearings,and the frame is bare, I would do all the bearings while you are there, wheels as well.
    I must admit, I don't remember if you did them last time around, too lazy to go look.
    Yep, wheel bearings done last year. Do you think I should do them again?

    I have just got my motor sitting on the garage floor on a good thick piece of cardboard to it is not directly on the cement floor.
    Thank you...good to know.

    As I said, be ready to do a lot more than you think, once you start assembling again, remember the new shiny frame and swingarm are going to make everything else look tatty by comparison, and I know you won't be happy with putting them on your new work of art.
    Triples, headlight ears, brake calipers.......and so the list goes on, ask me how I know.
    Example; can't put these old calipers on the shiny new swingarm and forks, give them some paint, ok, while you are stripping them for paint, might as well renew the seals, good, now they are like new.
    Yep, already in the mind's eye to do. I'll strip the paint off of them over the next few months and then decide where I'm going with the paint later.

    But I have no doubt she will be a looker and in superb condition when you are done with her, a keeper for sure.
    I sure hope so...I'd like to really do it right this time so I just need to slow down and not rush through it.

    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

  4. #4
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    Yep, wheel bearings done last year. Do you think I should do them again?
    Nope.

    Relax Scott, you will do a super job, and I know all about skimming off the grocery money for a seal here and a gasket there....hehehe all part of the fun.
    When in doubt, use full throttle.
    It may not improve the situation, But it will end the suspense.

    1981 GS1000G - Jennifer, Rebuilt and gorgeous.
    http://www.thegsresources.com/_forum/showthread.php?t=16236

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    Default End of Day One

    Charmayne, Cheyenne and I started in on the bike late this afternoon and only spent about three hours due to other issues but we put a good start into things. While Cheyenne seemed to enjoy playing tool and parts monkey, Charmayne jumped at the chance of wrenching more enthusiastically than I thought she might by squealing with joy at removing the oil pan bolt. After checking the bolt head against the socket size, it only took another long minute to figure which way is lefty loosey on the ratchet and out came the oil. She also learned how to use the penetrating fluid spray so exhaust pipes and all four footpegs came off without busting bolts.

    After we removed the carburetors and the air intake manifold though, things came to a quick stop as I couldn't find my label maker tape to mark the wiring harness connections. I'll get some tomorrow and then we can remove the harness and remainder of the airbox.

    A couple of pictures from today.

    Parts labeled, put in ziploc bags, and stored in the parts bin.


    Where we finished for the evening


    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    In Ohio Now
    Posts
    11,174

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    I didn't realize until today, yes even with the pictures I took Friday, that the chrome side cover came off my left hand cover probably the week before last. Since this isn't sold still, does anyone have one I can buy? I'm looking on Ebay and one other place just in case.

    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

  7. #7
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    Location
    Mason, OH (SW)
    Posts
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    Scott, what paint did you use on that front right caliper? I want to make mine invisible too.

    I'll try to remember to check with my brother on the side cover issue. He also has a 550T, and may have spares.
    Dogma
    --
    Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insights can be winnowed from deep nonsense. - Carl Sagan
    --
    '80 GS850 GLT
    '80 GS1000 GT
    '01 ZRX1200R

    How to get a "What's New" feed without the Vortex, and without permanently quitting the Vortex

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogma View Post
    Scott, what paint did you use on that front right caliper? I want to make mine invisible too.

    I'll try to remember to check with my brother on the side cover issue. He also has a 550T, and may have spares.
    It was that new super hi-tech clearcoat made by you know who

    Yea that caliper came off last week when we found the leak and led to me starting this project a bit earlier than I originally planned. Course after thinking how long it took last year I'm glad I am. Fortunately I have a garage now and have no excuse when the bad weather hits

    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

  9. #9
    D-Mac Guest

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    I think we've exchanged messages before, but if you have questions about the 550T, you can find lots of pics in my '81 550T cafe thread.

    Like you, I decided to rebuild pretty much everything. It's a big job, although your bike is in MUCH better condition than mine was. Once you pull the head and cylinders, you'll want to measure the cylinders/pistons, replace the rings, deglaze the cylinder walls (all easy enough to do) and check the valve springs and valve seating.

    Looking forward to following your thread.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    The end of day 2 brought a few more things done and a couple of more items added to my list (gee Stan, thanks for jinxing me) to fix.

    Although Cheyenne had school work to do, Charmayne lucked out some how and didn't have any homework (need to call her 8th grade teachers about that). So after I got off work and bought new labelmaker tape, we marked the ends of the harness that will be hard to distinguish when we put it back on later. In the process, I discovered my heat shrinking ability over the neutral indicator wire prevented me from taking the connector apart correctly. Also, we found the headlight plug I fixed earlier this summer will need another repair as the insulation scraped on something in the bucket exposing the copper wire.

    We removed the entire harness, airbox, battery box, and rear fender (to include the turn signals and seat bracket). I'd say we'll have the rear wheel and most of the front end off tomorrow night and then I can start figuring out how to get the engine out of the frame by this weekend.

    Busted headlight plug:



    Charmayne removing the rear brake reservoir



    Where the bike sits now:



    And Charmayne proudly showing off her dirty hands:


    Cowboy Up or Quit.

    1981 GS550T - My Rebuild
    1981 GS550L - My Stepdaughter's

    Sit tall in the saddle Hold your head up high
    Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain't afraid to die
    and don't be scared, just enjoy your ride - Chris Ledoux, "The Ride"

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