Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Let there be light!

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I have spent the last few days chasing down an electrical gremlin... For some reason, I was only getting 6 volts to the headlight low beam wire, and about .15 volts to the high beam wire. A little research on the internet indicated that headlight problems are often caused by a corroded starter switch or a corroded high-low switch. The starter switch has a headlight cutoff so that the starter motor can get maximum voltage when starting the bike. I took apart both of these switches. The hi-low switch was a bit crusty, but didn't look too bad. The starter switch had cocoons or spiderwebs growing inside of it.

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After scraping these out, the headlight still didn't work. I was pretty frustrated, but I took a wiring diagram and started tracing the headlight circuit. As it turns out, the problem was not in the switches. It was the fuse. This totally eluded me because I was getting SOME current through the circuit. Using the wiring diagram, I started unplugging harnesses and testing the headlight circuit from the headlight back to the power source. There was a voltage drop before the starter switch and before the headlight switch, so I knew that those were not the cause of the problem. The wire straight from the fuse box was also putting out about 5.6 volts. I opened the fuse box again (it was the first thing I checked), saw no breaks, and pulled out the fuse. Here's what I found:

The fuse had broken in the end cap. It hadn't blown; it had simply snapped. This allowed a small amount of contact, which closed the circuit, but didn't provide enough of a current path to power the light. Anyway, I have a headlight that works, and as a bonus, two sets of smoothly operating switches!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

True maiden voyage

Today, it was 41 degrees and sunny and the ground was dry. I decided to take the bike around the block. It started right up, even though it had been sitting for over a week through sub-freezing temps. When I walked it out of the garage, my foot slipped on a patch of transmission fluid, quickly reminding me that I had to be careful of such hazards.

I eased it into first, and the bike jumped and thought about dying, but didn't. I eased on the clutch, and the bike took off very quickly. While quickly stopping, I noticed that the choke was still on, which was making it idle at about 1300rpm... Looking back, this was probably one of the contributing reasons why I drove so quickly up my driveway and crashed last time. I pushed in the choke, and the idle dropped to about 800rpm. I eased out the clutch and away I went.

Right away, I noticed the bike pull to the left, so I'm going to have to see what that's all about at some point. However, I was able to make turns, both left and right, as I took Sycamore to Maple to Orchard to Illinois to Church back to Sycamore. I got the bike up to about 20mph... I still havent checked the oil in the forks so I didn't want to go faster than that.

Things I noticed: The back brake seemed weak. I hope I didnt get brake fluid on the pads. Maybe I should replace the rear caliper piston as I think it isn't a perfect seal. The front brake stopped the bike fine, though I wonder if the left caliper is gripping prematurely, making it pull to the left.

When I got back to the driveway, I cut off the bike and walked it into the garage around the puddles of transmission fluid. I was not going to repeat history.

Still on my list of things to do: fix transmission fluid leak on my car.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I have not updated this lately because I have been busy as hell. I filled up the bike with 2 gallons of premium and half a can of seafoam and rolled it out into the street. It was slightly rainy and the ground was wet, so I decided not to go down the street. Instead, I headed back up the driveway at a slightly fast 10mph. When I hit the brake, the front tire locked up on a spot of oil/transmission fluid/ something slick that had leaked from my car. The wheel slid out from under me and the bike fell over, skidding about 3 feet into the garage. It came to rest with its front wheel tangled up in a snow shovel, up against the side wall. Luckily, I jumped out of the way as the bike fell over and I escaped with a scratch on my leg above my boot. The bike was ok except for a chip on the valve cover. Picking it up and disentangling it from the shovel was a bitch because this bike is literally 600 pounds. Somehow I managed to get it up. Since then, I've sworn off rain and slick surfaces...

Lessons learned though:
Dont squeeze the front brake so hard, especially when it's wet.
Watch out for slick stuff on the ground.
Fix transmission leak on my car.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I tried to ride the bike out into the street, but only got to the middle of the road when it ran out of gas. I have two gallons of premium and a can of seafoam in the garage, and I will find out the roadworthiness of this bike shortly.

In other news, I took off the tank to mess with the throttle cables. I realized they were binding on the tank itself, so I reinstalled it in a manner that doesn't pinch the cables. The throttle returns to baseline much more quickly now. I no longer have to worry about the bike deciding to accelerate itself into warp speed without my consent.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

8 ft. Maiden Voyage!

It has been a while since I last posted.

After putting on the oil pan, I tried putting the exhaust back on. The new gaskets were too thick to stay in place when I put the clamps back on. That's when I realized that the old exhaust gaskets were still in the port. They weren't in bad shape, so I left them there. I had an exhaust leak on the #1 cylinder, but I think it went away when I tightened the exhaust nuts further. If it didn't, I'll drop the exhaust and reattach it... no biggie.

I did a bunch of miscellaneous stuff next. The bolts holding the seat to the frame were weird mismatched, too-long allen bolts, so I went to the hardware store and found some shorter hex bolts to replace them with. I learned a whole lot about metric sizing, and I had to return to the store once because I had bought some fine thread instead of standard thread bolts. I bought two new bolts for the rear brake caliper and then I bought a bolt for the rear shock. I had to bring Chal out to the garage because I couldn't align the holes between the shock and the frame myself. With the bike on the centerstand, with the rear wheel up in the air, I had to pull up on the rear wheel to just the right place while Chal slid in the bolt.

With that shock attached securely and both brakes operative, I deemed the bike rideable. I was quickly proved wrong.

When I tried to put the bike into gear, with the clutch pressed in, the bike would jump into gear and die as if I hadn't used the clutch at all. Luckily, on the CB900F forum, someone had the same problem, which was fixed by doing what was termed a clutch adjustment. The adjustment procedure was in the Honda Service manual, and was fairly easy. I had to loosen the nuts on the cable at the handle and at the clutch itself, and then pop off the clutch adjustment cover and fiddle around with the screw underneath. The adjustment cover was claimed to be unscrewable with a quarter, but I quickly bent one into a distorted mess. Somehow, I got it off with a pair of needlenose pliers, spread out wide into the notch, if you can picture that, and used it as a sort of screwdriver.

Having done the procedure, putting the required amount of free play into the handle, I fired the bike up under the threshold of the garage. I knocked it into first, and breathed a sigh of relief as the bike jumped, but didn't die. As I eased out the clutch, the bike eagerly moved forward on its own, to a decided resting place inside my garage. Because it was dark out, and I am still without a headlight, I declared myself a badass and called it a night.

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to try to take it around the block.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hopefully Back in Business

The oil pan came from Ebay last week: $9 + $8 shipping. However, I realized I needed an oil pan gasket, two o-rings for the oil cooler lines, and hell, why not get some brake pads. $36 later, I was set to put that oil pan bitch back on.

Realizing there was enough gasket to choke a small chicken attached to the block and the new-used oil pan, I went to work scraping at that. No luck there, as it was glued/melted on tight. I had to go buy a spray can of Permatex Gasket Remover for another $6.

The process of putting the pan back on is not complicated in theory, but was a bitch in practice. Luckily, I figured out that if I stuck the oil cooler lines into the front of the pan, a ghetto-rigged hinge was created. This allowed me to swing up the rear of the pan, slide in the gasket, and screw in the bolts. Done.

A problem remains: some of the bolts have copper washers, some don't. I didn't take note of where the ones with washers came from. Word on the street is that some of those bolt holes have oil running through them and the purpose of the washers is to contain said oil. When I get several jets of oil shooting straight down from the bike, I will know which bolts require washers.

The back brake pads are a slight conundrum. There is seemingly no hole in the brake pads to mount the pads to the caliper, so I have them resting on the bracket, around the rotor, with the caliper clamping them down. A thought did occur to me: perhaps the bolts mounting the caliper to the frame also support the brake pads... I will have to find out. At this point, the brakes drag slightly, but they do stop the wheel when applied.

I need to buy a bike cover from Harbor Freight so that Chal can take over the garage when it snows.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Say No To Drugs

The other night, I decided it would be a great idea to go out and work on my bike after partaking in some refreshments. In a display of unprecedented motivation, I ventured forth to drain the oil and remove the oil cooler lines to fix that leak at the junction with the oil pan.

Remembering how hard it was to get the oil plug out the first time, and begrudgingly recalling the broken ratchet that resulted from my preliminary attempts, I went full ahead with the 18" breaker bar to get the plug out.

Lefty-loosey, righty-tighty. It's a great mnemonic.... except if the bolt is facing UP.

Yes, after going lefty-loosey for about 12 turns, I stopped in a cold sweat, turned my head upside down, looked incredulously at the bottom of the bike, and realized that I HAD BEEN TIGHTENING THE FUCKING BOLT. By now, oil was seeping past the threads at an alarmingly increasing rate. I threw a small cup under the plug, and began turning the bolt the other direction. Sure enough, the plug started to remove itself from the oil pan as I had intended all along. I fully removed the plug and oil began shooting out of the pan.

"Oh yeah?" I thought. "Show me what you got." I had taken a two liter bottle and cut off the top so I had a nice reservoir to drain the oil into. I'm so clever sometimes.

The problem was this bike holds about 4 quarts of oil.

The two liter bottle filled up within a matter of seconds, well before I anticipated it would, and I became aware that we had reached capacity by the small sea of oil seeping across the garage floor like tsunami waves over Indonesia. SHIT!!!!!! I found some small cottage cheese container, and luckily, it was large enough to accept the rest of the oil from the bike. I ran inside, and got a bunch of newspapers. Luckily, I had a few down on the floor before I undid the plug, and I watched as the onslaught of oil drowned a picture of Peanut Tillman running an interception back for a touchdown. I continued throwing newspapers and an old towel onto the oil in a somewhat valiant attempt to thwart this local incarnation of the Exxon Valdez.

I wiped the oil pan drain off, and sure enough, the threads were misaligned, and there were cracks on each side of the hole.

I knew hot glue or RTV or even a weld was not likely to fix it, so I had to bid on another pan off eBay.

The good news is that this necessitates me taking off the oil pan, allowing me to clean the oil pump screen and check out the bearings. The bad news is that this necessitates me taking off the oil pan, not to mention that I have to buy a new one.