Thursday, April 30, 2015

I hate Küryakyn! But love Autozone by IH-35!

That may be a bit overstated, some of there stuff is okay, but I definitely hate these little guys! These are some of those Küryakyn Lazer Node lights which a previous owner installed in a set of otherwise great spark plug wires.

Let me back up a little bit. As I stated before, tonight was my go/no-go night for PMR5. Basically, I needed to be done tonight with most of the major work in order to have time for a shakedown ride tomorrow and be ready for Saturday. 

That didn't seem like that big of a deal, all I had left was to find why there was no spark and change the oil. The first part sounds daunting but I was certain I had hooked up something wrong in the ignition circuit. I've been known to do things like that.

I checked the ignition switch, all was correct there. Then tested the coil, it checked out fine and all of the wiring to it was correct. (Things were getting a little fishy.) 

Moved on to the electronic ignition. It too checked out fine. I even performed the tests where you rotate the engine (and hence the magnets) to certain positions to check the voltage drops. All good there. (Now things were outright suspicious.)

I was using new spark plugs so I ruled those out. Couldn't be the spark plug wires, those worked fine the last time everything was put together. I must've missed something with the coil or the ignition, I'll recheck that. (We should be well beyond "glaringly conspicuous" at this point but, in my stress trying to make my deadline, I was missing the obvious.)

Repeat the last few paragraphs a couple of times and now it was almost 10PM. The oil still needed to be changed and I still was no further than I was when I began tonight. 

Finally, out of desperation, I grabbed a piece of 10 Ga wire and stabbed it into the coil. I took the other end and wrapped it around the tip of the spark plug. Touched the other end of the plug to the head, hit the start button. "Tick-tick-tick..." a perfect, purple spark.

A quick continuity check confirmed it: the spark plug wires were to blame. (Yes, I know you figured that out a step three but where were you a few hours ago?)

Now, the next problem: where to find spark plug wires at this time of the evening. A quick search on the Interwebs and I found that the Autozone store near IH-35 in Round Rock is open until midnight. I went ahead and called first, just to make sure it wasn't a mistake or Mr. Internet lying as he's known to do. (Sure, now I check the obvious.) But indeed it was correct, there were open for two more hours.

Jump in the truck and a short ride later I was pulling up to the storefront.  I ended up being helped by the inventory manager who happened to be a long time Harley owner so he was as eager as I was to find a solution.

Obviously, I didn't expect to find the exact cable pair I needed but I was hoping for one of those universal cut-and-crimp-your-own kits. Unfortunately I learned they no longer carry those kits, everything they have is for a specific model vehicle.

But dammit! I've passed my deadline, made no progress tonight, and just raced to an Autoparts store. I'M NOT GIVING UP! So I asked what was the cheapest set that had the most wires (bang for my buck, "no pun in 10 did"). He pulled down a set for a Honda Accord (V6) with seven wires for $20. I looked at the connectors and realized they'd work so I took them.

Relax, I will order the correct wires later, (actually I plan to do it after this update) but this wasn't about "correct". This was about "now" and getting the bike running in order to ride in to work Friday.

So here's the set I got. They actually were a pretty decent set, despite being Duralast brand, plus the cable was "Made in the USA". 

They were, however, a bit long. Not an issue. I took the two shortest of the bunch and connected them to the respective places.  Made a few loops in them and zip tied them to the coil cover. Viola! Custom ignition wiring. And, as expected, I now get a nice solid spark.

The rest of the night consisted of a cold change of the engine oil, freshening the transmission oil, as well as a few other minor details. All of which were fairly uneventful. I resisted the urge to fire her up (other than to confirm ignition) because it was quite late and my neighbors (and Mrs. IE) have so far been very understanding about my garage antics.

Anyway, I'm now quite tired as you may tell by my rambling. Time to get some sleep before doing this again in the morning. Here's to a couple hours sleep and, hopefully, a first try start in the morning.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Who needs brakes?

On my first real ride of the bike I noticed rather quickly, while also traveling rather quickly, that the rear drum brake did not work. Taking a quick look at it after returning safely to the garage revealed it was stuck in the disengaged position. Since I knew I'd have the wheel off shortly, while ditching the rear fender, I figured I'd worry about it then. 

I did note the "inventive" spacer one of the POs used due to the stretched, or more likely wrong, brake cable.

I finally tore it down a few weeks ago but didn't find anything specific other than it being really rusty and crusty.

So I cleaned the mating surfaces of the pivot points really well and went to put it back together. Holy crap, you must have superhuman strength to be able to get those springs in place! The factory service manual says "Attach second spring in place with pliers." I must not have the right kind of pliers.

I put the parts on the shelf since I didn't need it just yet, hoping to find a better solution in the meantime. Well it was finally time to put the rear wheel together so I needed to come up with something.

With nothing better in mind, I resorted to brute force. Grabbing a couple of scrap 2x4s and a willing assistant/victim (my buddy Mike) we went to work. I connected the shoes with the springs, minus the pivot pin and shaft. We then inserted two of the 2x4s, with a third in between as a pivot.

While Mike pulled the two boards apart, I was able to slip the pivot and shaft in place.

That sounded dirty but, whatever, I was finally able to get the brake reassembled. It seems to engage and disengage just fine now. That sounds dirty too, think I'll just quit now.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Black because it's slimming and goes with everything....

I intended to do this before I put the tank back on which I removed while rewiring the bike. I would've been able to do a nicer job but I got in a hurry putting things back together. So for now, this will be good enough.

Apparently one of the previous owners was into airbrushing. He had applied a fairly decent paint job to the gas tank. It wasn't great but decent, however it's not really not my style. 

So what is the quick solution? Yep, you guessed it... rattle can! I taped off the parts I didn't want to "customize". Then hit the exposed areas with 400 grit sandpaper to rough up the clear coat. Again, I should've done this while the tank was off the bike, it would've been much easier/better.

Then I dug through my paint cabinet to see what I had available and found this guy. 

Oh, and I didn't use the BBQ paint because I was concerned about heat on the tank. I used this because I thought it was kind of funny (BBQ paint on a gas tank). If there is a heat issue concerning the tank, I think I'd be more concerned about the contents of the tank rather than the paint.

Anyway, a couple of quick coats and now we've got a new paint job.

As I said, I already have a paint scheme in mind that I want to do but at a later date. This was just something in the meantime. The bike has been unridable for way too long already while I was rewiring. I didn't want to do any thing that would add additional down time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Measure once and cut twice?

Is that how the saying goes?

I was putting the last few bits on to the rear fender I just installed including the taillight and the license plate bracket. When I went to attach my license plate, I notice the hole spacing is too narrow.

(No that's not my real plate number. I was just dorking around with MS Paint in an effort to disguise my real plate number and retain a little anonymity.)

Now keep in mind, this bracket part number is59981-74 which is for a 74 to 75 XLH/XLCH, not a 1978 but it's what came with the fender I got. However, I happen to collect motorcycle license plates, in particular the '60s and '70s, and know that the size and hole spacing hasn't change since the fifties.

So that leaves me curious as to why the holes are different. I checked the parts list and I don't think I'm missing any pieces to the bracket. Oh well, maybe a reader will see this and be able to answer the question.

Regardless, I had to mount the plate so now to figure out how to do so. Sure I could've drilled new holes in the plate to fit but, as I mentioned above, I collect plates and I *hate* to cut or drill a plate. Plus I picked up a second bracket at Bud's the other day so I decided to modify it instead.

My plan was to take a strip of aluminum stock I had, drill a couple of holes in it, and use it as an intermediary to bolt to the bracket and then to the plate.

On my first attempt, I just tried to eyeball it. As to be expected, the drill walked on me leaving one hole slightly off center. It's not a huge deal but it's the kind of thing that bugs me so for the second attempt, I was a little more methodical.

Unfortunately, the holes in the bracket and the plate are too close together to allow separate bolts to each piece. Instead I had to cut the ends of the bracket holes out and use the strip to sandwich the plate and bracket.

And here it is mounted up. It's not the greatest looking fix and I don't know how well it will hold up on the road but we will find out.

Friday, April 17, 2015


Yes, I know that was lame, but I told you that was what the problem was. (Not the lame, that's a condition and I can't help it. I mean the electrical from last night.)

I was tracing back the circuitry and came across this guy.

It's one of the few connections I didn't redo while rewiring the bike. It looked properly done, solid, and it tested out fine originally so I decided to reuse it. This is the ground wire (despite being red) that connects the rotary dash switch (on the tank) to the frame. It had pulled out and was sitting loosely in the shrink tubing.

I redid the connection and, sure enough, the accessory circuit and the lighting now work mostly as expect. I say mostly because I also noticed a slight issue with the rear turn signals but more on that in another post.

I also noticed the starter wasn't working. The relay seems fine but the solenoid doesn't seem to be functioning. I can jumper across it and the starter kicks in so, rather than debugging much more, I think I'll order a new solenoid. To be continued....

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wiring is done!

... but don't pop the champagne just yet.

I haven't bothered with updates on my progress because, well really, how many pictures of soldered connections and heat shrink do you want to see?

But today was a major milestone! I finally finished connecting all of the wiring for the Sportster. It was time to marvel in my awesomeness in motorcycle electrics; it was time to display my accomplishment! Connect power, turn on the circuits and... the headlight works!!  No, that's it... the headlight worked, nothing else.

Sonovabitch! I must've missed a ground wire somewhere. I'm too tired to deal with it now, I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Killing Time at Bud's

Things were really slow at work this afternoon. Okay, so things are never slow, I was just really frustrated and about to throw what I was working on through the wall. In lieu of destroying the project and some impromptu remodeling of the lab, I decided to take a few hours and pop on down to Bud's for some parts I needed.

I was hoping that it wouldn't be so busy since this was a weekday afternoon. The previous times I've been were on Saturdays which can be quite crowded. To my luck, there were hardly any people there which allowed me to browse unimpeded.  

Even without the crowd, Aaron was busy as always. The guy is a wealth of information on motorcycles and knows where (or at least in the general vicinity) every part in the place is located. With this, he's the go-to guy for the place so everyone that comes in or calls wants to talk to him. Needless to say, time with him is limited and it's impossible to have a complete conversation in one session due to others constantly seeking his wisdom.

That's okay, I'm patient and was in no hurry. Plus I always love digging around in places like that. Well today I was in luck! I brought my shopping list, complete with OEM part numbers and descriptions. I discussed the parts with Aaron and then was able to show him them in the HD parts manual. 

Once he realized I knew exactly what I was looking for (and since he was super busy), he let me come behind the counter and look through their inventory for the parts myself. He told me how things were organized and just requested that I leave it no messier than I found it. Otherwise, he turned me loose. I was like a kid in a candy store!

I was looking for a new set of inner and outer sprocket covers as well as a few other miscellaneous parts mentioned in my post about the sprocket nut wear on the inner cover. Specifically, these parts were on my list:

  Part #      Description
  34848-77    SPACER ASSEMBLY 77 & 78 - XLCH
  34893-75    SPROCKET COVER, inner N/A 77 & 78 - XL, XLCH 

  34870-75A   SPROCKET COVER 77 to * - XL

I didn't find what I needed back there but I found a lot that I wanted. Since I struck out searching behind the counter (as if being allowed back there wasn't cool enough), Aaron took me next door to the service garages and let me look through their own, private stash of small Sportster parts. That was super cool of him, and I really appreciated be allowed to do that.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much luck finding the inner cover or spacer support there either. But I did take the opportunity to look through every drawer on the chance that I'd see a part I might need or hadn't thought of yet.

In the end, I only came away with two parts. Neither of which were on my shopping list for the day but still useful. 

A spare lock washer is always a good thing to have since it seems like as soon as you bend the tabs more than once, they almost always break. The license plate bracket wasn't completely necessary either but it's NOS and in a lot better shape than my current one.

So I didn't find what I was looking for specifically, but the afternoon wasn't a total waste. I had fun digging through all the old parts and it was a good way to blow off some steam. Not to mention that it prevented me from destroying the system I was working on and a major portion of our lab.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Oh crap, I had a goal!

I've been regularly working on the Sportster, just not at the pace I need to and now PMR5 is slipping up on me.  Just saw a post on Chop Cult that reminded me it's less than three weeks away!

Not that I post to this blog all that frequently but expect even less than that. It's time to dig in and do some work! More frequent updates will resume following the event. (That's okay, there's only two of you who do read this any way.)