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Thread: A little story on how I intially broke more parts on my bike than I repaired

  1. #1
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    Default A little story on how I intially broke more parts on my bike than I repaired

    Below is a short(at least, that is what it feels like to me) account of my journey as a GS owner. It also runs paralel with my journey getting a MC license.

    Around the same time last year I made a post about fixing an R/R. I had just bought a GS 450 and it needed some work. I bought it for two reasons: the first being it's old and needs maintenance so it's great to learn wrenching. The second one is that I love the early '80s UJM look. The first couple of hours with the bike were quite the adventure to say the least. Keep in mind, my techical skills were non-existant. The test drive already showed one issue, after stopping on the side of the road the bike stopped running. I didn't think much of it, besides that it was a thing to look out for and fix. I bought the bike and registered it on my name. While my girlfriend was riding it 100km home I saw the tail light stopped working while driving behind her. I had a couple spare lights with me in the car, but no screwdriver. Crap.

    With 40km left and driving at 10PM in the dark I signalled my girlfriend to get off the highway and stopped at a gas station. It was time to call our version of AA. Waited an hour while I drove laps around the gas station. The AA arrived, and took a moment to take off the cap from the tail light and put in a new bulb. On our way we went again, 5 minutes later. Most of the way back home was no issue at all, besides fatigue coming down on her. The moment she turns into our street the bike just dies again. But this time no lights would come on. No head or tail light, no dash lights, nothing. It didn't crank either. So I figured the battery was dead. It was of course. After parking the car I ran back and took the bike out of my tired girlfriends hands (talk about a trooper) and pushed it home.

    Here starts the initial adventure of the R/R, which would morph into a lot more work than I intially anticipated. But I can say that the end result left me with a big array of tools and a lot more mechanical knowledge. And after this afternoon, I finally made my first trip on the little 450.

    I had bought the bike, and I also had just started with my lessons to get my license. In my country there are two mandatory exams, the first one is with cones, and the second one is on the street riding through city centers, residential areas with lots of children and highway riding. The average is that people usually get around 6 to 8 lessons before each of the exams. Not too bad, but lessons are quite expensive where I live, at around 75 euros per lesson of 1.5 hours. You can do the math yourself. It's not cheap. So here I am, happily chugging along and just before my first exam is scheduled the second big covid lockdown happens. The exam gets cancelled and it's nearly 5 months later before I can start again.

    Coming back to the little GS. Around this time I felt confident I had done enough research which consisted of mostly reading everything on this forum and BikeCliff's site. The stator papers really saved me here since it was so so very clear that I could follow it. It made me correctly diagnose my issue with my R/R while suspecting my stator (it turned out to be fine). With some help from my brother who's an electrician we put in a new SH538 R/R and fixed the charging issues with the battery on the sidewalk of my house. Hurdle one cleared. At this point some test drives were made and there were quite a few issues with how it ran. The idle soared, throttle response was bad. It all just felt... Soggy.

    At this point, I did more research. Knowing it had to do with the carb I ordered a bunch of o-rings from Robert Barr. I also left it until around this summer in it's current state for a while since mechanically I was in over my head. And even if I weren't, I wouldn't have the tools to work on the bike.

    At the end of spring I was able to get back on with riding lessons again. Which kind of felt like starting from scratch. And now with a very large backlog of people that had their exams cancelled, people that planned on learning to ride during winter and those during spring. The backlog was triple the size not just for the riding school but for the agency taking the exams. The best course of action would be to wait until a spot could be found for my first exam covering my manouvering abilities. Finally, I was assigned a spot at the beginning of July. Took more lessons to regained what I lost and luckily aced the exam. Hurdle one down. Next exam? The first opening was end of october. Come on... Oh well, it is what it is. More waiting.

    With summer coming and the weather improving wrenching on the bike was easier again. Without a garage longer projects just aren't that easy if the weather changes daily. And here it can really be four seasons in a day sometimes... With the fancy o-rings in hand and some spring reading on how to take off the carb from the bike, take it apart and clean it I set off. And hit a bunch of snags. Some previous owner had already tried to clean it and stripped more than few screw heads. Most I was able to finally get off by using a small saw to make cuts in the head. But one of the pilot screws inside the carb was completely stripped. The screw removal bit I bought was too big to fit down the hole in the carb so I had to buy a special set but I finally did get it removed. Cleaned the whole carb as best as I could (carb dip is illegal here). Put it all back together again and then back onto the bike. I also took out the fuel gauge which didn't work. Turned out it did work great. Just that the float had come undone and was.... floating around. Easy fix. I then drained the oil and put in a new oil filter since it was stationary for such a long time. It seems that fresh juices never hurt, right? Bad weather coming again and no time to continue. Sadly I would have to wait again for better weather.

    Great, the bike is all in one piece again, let the carb tweaking begin, whoohoo. Or would I? No, that was just an illusion. The bike cranked, sort of tried to run but there was something not working well at all. Sometimes I could get it to run but then it would die after 25 to 30 seconds. After about fifteen minutes of fiddling that was the end. The bike would barely crank at all. Strange since the battery was on a battery tender most of the time, switching it between my girlfriends' and my bike. Turns out the battery was still dead. Checking the acid levels I noticed they were low and filled the thing back up. So I took it inside and back on the tender. The voltages came back all right and I put it back in again. It only performed worse. Somehow I started to suspect the stator, which I ruled out earlier. This of course was a very dumb suspcision but I acted on it still. Coming up is my most and least favorite part of my journey.

    So I drained the oil, pulled off the stator cover and inspected the stator itself. In my inexperienced eyes (and later my brother's experienced ones) it looked like brand new. So, that couldn't be it. Crap, and crap again. Took apart the casing for nothing. My main take away was that I was getting comfortable taking off some cover without doing massive amounts of research in case I would screw up. Good, good. So I figure, let's go back to where we were. I'll put it back together again and put in a new battery since the old one might just be dead as can be. Okay so I'll go through the motions again, put it back together, put in some fresh oil again and see what it does... The first thing I notice is that the oil drain plug won't go back in. Because being brilliant as I am I over tightened the plug and stripped the threads off of it. So I'm back to figuring out what to do.

    At this point, I will have to split up my story in another post, the forum doesn't like long stories it seems.

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    GS 450L '83


  2. #2
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    In the end the course I took was to order the corresponding HeliCoil kit to fix the oil pan. Taking it off was already a big undertaking, that thing was STUCK. After getting it off I went to drilling out the bad threads and making the proper hole on the sidewalk, greeting people and their dogs as they come along, and then tapping the new threads. Putting in the heli-coil was a bastard of a job, but I got it in after two tries, finally. So there we go again, reattaching the oil pan. Using my trusty new torque wrench I torque the plug and the screws on the pan. CRAP, one of the screws attaching the oil pan snaps. How big of an idiot am I? I check the settings on the wrench and amazingly enough it's set right. Accidents happen, metal fatigues... Now what? Hope for the best, I decided. So I refilled it again with some fresh oil. Time to finally get that carb tuning going now that I've put in the fresh battery.

    FUNNY JOKE. I should be a bad comedian because the same punch lines just keep repeating. Nothing is easy when you know nothing and have nobody to ask. I can get it to start and run but it's very very clearly having an air leak. And I just cannot find it. So I take off the carb again and check all the gaskets, seals, rubbers and whatever I can think off on the carb. It all looks good. I documented every step I took taking it apart and retraced those steps perfectly. It can't be the carb itself besides idle screw settings. I check the air box. The filter is clean, I put in a new one earlier. It's not too oily, the box itself is air tight... Airbox seems good. So I put the carbs back on the bike again. Now this was always a really annoying thing to do. It's just really really hard to get them to seat properly. And that turned out a big problem. After being frustrated being having to use so much force to get them in becuase the tolerances were so small I figure something is not right at some point between the air box and the cylinder head.

    Taking off the carb once again I go on an investigation. After too long I figure out that the two air box outlet tubes (or whatever they're called) were switched. There's a right and a left one, they're not universal. Both of them have a little notch that should fall in between two little pegs on the air box when they're correctly placed. They weren't, L was on R and vice versa. I can tell you that putting that carb back in went a lot smoother with those tubes back on the right side. Now I finally get to the point where I can try to tune the carb and get it running decently.

    Around this time (about a month ago) my last exam is also coming up so I really want to get this bike running so I can take it out. Luckily I ace my last exam as well. Huzzah. I took about 10 lessons more than usual due to covid. But I guess I can at least say that I've got significant riding under my belt already. With another three week wait(come on burocracy, 3 weeks? I get covid is making things difficult but 3 weeks?!) until I can pick up my updated license, there's still time to get the bike running again.

    It turns out I was able to get it running, somewhat. The air screw and the idle screw were quite difficult to get somewhat decently tuned to let it stay running. But here comes my last big problem. Remember my oil pan fiasco? It's leaking oil now that the bike was warmed up. Not just a little, but there's a small puddle after a few hours. It's not the snapped off screw, but it's the oil plug itself. I tighten it some more with my torque wrench. But the day after it is still leaking, just slower. I drain the oil, again and take off the oil pan. It turned out that my drilling skills are sub par. The redrilled hole wasn't precisely aligned with the new hole. So the plug didn't screw in properly and straight, it was a little crooked. This isn't something I can repair myself. If it can be repaired at all. Drilling a hole with a small battery powered drill on the sidewalk pavement makes for a subpar job, apparently. After some searching I find a cheap oil pan (taking a risk since it wasn't for the same model, or even the same brand bike. That turned out ok, luckily). Again I drain the oil and take off the messed up oil pan. All of a sudden I become very happy with myself because I was able to screw out the remains of the snapped off bolt with my fingers, which might be because I used anti-lock stuff on all the screws I unscrewed. It must be my smart move, surely. Since the new oil pan came with 12 screws, I can bolt it back properly again. Of course it doesn't leak.

    Taking some time to do a little bit of tweaking the carb, in the end I do finally seem to get it to take throttle input at least more than just sporadically. Since I had no intention to get my license suspended because I couldn't wait a week (I already waited long enough with covid) I threw my girlfriend on my bike to get her to do laps around the neighborhood. The bike died a few times (not enough gas makes the vacuum petcock not work, apparently), with me running after her with a small screw driver to adjust the carb. Finally it ran good enough for her to annoy the neighbors. Great succces.

    And now we're here today. I got my license from city hall yesterday but wasn't really up to riding in the dark after work with a bike that may not run for longer than a lap around the neighborhood. With my girlfriend standby in case of emergency I set out on a trip in some meh weather. But to my surprise the bike ran decently and without massive issues. Yes it idles too high (1800 rpm), the engine rpm sort of surges with going past 3/4th open throttle and the tiny fraction of where the cluck engages at the end of the lever is basically trash but none of that made me stall or give me any issues on the road. I didn't sit with 3k rpm at a stop light. The dumbest thing I did was fat finger the horn when I wanted to use the turn signal, startling the traffic handler guy at some road works. All in all, so far great success, just right before the winter. Coming in with no mechanical knowledge. Ending up with a working bike after some pains. I hope my rambling was enjoyable to someone and hopefully I haven't butchered this story too much writing it in English.

    Please enjoy the below picture(click to open larger version) of my bike while I am dodging angry looks from old upper class golfers when I parked the little GS near their fancy range rovers.

    GS 450L '83


  3. #3
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    This falls into the category of TMI. I couldn't read it all but I will say the bike is a good looker. Good luck with it.
    Larry

    '79 GS 1000E
    '93 Honda ST 1100 SOLD-- now residing in Arizona.
    '18 Triumph Tiger 800 (gone too soon)
    '19 Triumph Tiger 800 Christmas 2018 to me from me.

  4. #4
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    Excellent account of the trials and tribulations of getting an old snotter up to par.
    ---- Dave
    79 GS850N - Might be a trike soon.
    80 GS850T Single HIF38 S.U. SH775, Tow bar, Pantera II. Gnarly workhorse & daily driver.
    79 XS650SE - Pragmatic Ratter - goes better than a manky old twin should.
    92 XJ900F - Fairly Stock, for now.

    Only a dog knows why a motorcyclist sticks his head out of a car window

  5. #5
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    Good use of my time while waiting su the doctors office. Thanks for the story. Welcome to GS ownership too.
    81 GS650GL

  6. #6
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    Sounds like you really increased your comfort level of working on the bike.

    did you say an oil
    sump pan from other model did fit ??

    nice looking 450.

    Had 850G for 14 years. Now have GK since 2005.
    GK at IndyMotoGP Suzuki Display... ... GK on GSResources Page ... ... Euro Trash Ego Machine .. ..3 mo'cykls.



  7. #7
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    Gorgeous bike...and nicely spread out paragraphs to entice me to read your story...

    Ed

    ****
    GS750TZ V&H/4-1, Progressive Shocks, Rebuilt MC/braided line, Tarozzi Stabilizer[Seq#2312]
    GS750TZ Parts Bike [Seq#6036]
    GSX-R750Y (Sold)

    my opinion shouldn't be taken as gospel or in any way that would lead you to believe otherwise (30Sep2021)
    Quote Originally Posted by GSXR7ED
    Forums are pretty much unrecognizable conversations; simply because it's a smorgasbord of feedback...from people we don't know. It's not too difficult to ignore the things that need to be bypassed.

  8. #8
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    That was a long story, but I had fun reading your journey.

  9. #9
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    You wanted an adventure... and got one! Thanks for the nice write-up. I sympathize with many parts of this.

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