Miscellany: Motorcycle, 3

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1/6/2013. I couldn't mess with the headlight with the Sun shining in my face, so I tried the ignition more out of habit than expectation. It spun, fired, and caught! (For the record, it's 56°F out there.) OK, then. I ran it long enough to get the engine hot. It's still very reluctant to idle (in fact, I should say it won't idle, really). I cranked the idle screw to "faster" and got it to barely keep running with the throttle released and the choke off. When fully warmed up, it repeated that ratchetting behavior (engine holds the highest RPM and then, after several seconds, falls back to that reluctant, loping, lopsided, noisy, overly "mechanical," too-slow idle). When holding at high RPM, I applied the test Danny suggested: I sprayed each injector with WD-40. This had no effect that I could hear, see, or feel. I infer that the injector O-rings are intact and an air leak around the injectors is not the issue. When really warm (when the cooling fan is kicking in from time to time), the high idle is much too high. I cranked it back down.

I'm encouraged that by the time this weather is typical and my hip is on the mend, the bike may start easily enough. I'm pretty sure all can be remedied as long as it starts at all and gives me (and especially Danny) something to work with. There are still some issues to resolve, but it's just back from the dead. Of course there are issues.

Air leak at the throttle bodies? Throttle Position Sensor a little out of adjustment (there is no "play" on the throttle; release it and let it spin back to closed; just looking at it seems to rev the engine a bit, the least rotation certainly does). Check this using the choke lever -- does the TPS "click" coming off the floor? Are the cylinders synched well enough (at low RPM, especiallly, it lacks that characteristic K75 "turbine" smoothness)? I don't understand how everything relates to everthing else, so even if I know how to address one item, it's more than likely that I'll tackle them in the wrong order.

As I told Danny, "I'm no wrench." I haven't even managed to change the headlight bulb. On the up-side, the heated grips appear to work.

A little later: I love the internet. Found an old troubleshooting thread that explained how to listen for the TPS to click once just off idle (or with the choke just barely engaged). Done. Discovered that the idle screw had been set in such way that the TPS never clicked. I think this means that the fuel injection computer signaled the injectors to refrain from injecting below 2000 rpm. Or to stop inappropriately during startup. Hence all that cranking and no firing and the need to start and "catch" the engine with a little throttle input. And since the starter never gets the RPMs above 2000 and only the luckiest of coughs would get it there momentarily, the refusal to start and the impression that a lucky catch could keep it going. Hence also the refusal to idle once the starting lottery was won.

Either the idle screw or the TPS (or both) may have been miss-set, or contacts in the TPS might have corroded, (or, or, or...) but I think we are onto something. After a little tweaking of the idle screw, the TPS now clicks about where it is supposed to, and since the bike ran nicely for Danny last week and nothing but the idle screw has been monkeyed with... we should be back to where we were, at least.

Latest news: idling. There's a tiny bit of free play at the bottom of the throttle now. A little more, a little less might be an improvement. If all is not right, it is at least better.


1/7/2013. But not better enough. No start today, despite warmish weather. Didn't even offer to start. I'm taking some internet advice to change the plugs. The ones I supplied were old and untested; the word on the net is that once K75's flood, they're tough to dry out and the plugs are harder. Fresh ones can't hurt in any event. I'm trying the non-resistor flavor per many references. Hubris: I registered K75S.COM as if I will ever have the tours and pictures and sensible remarks to fill it.


1/8/2013. You know: the fact that the RPMs don't come down when the engine is hot and the throttle is completely closed means that the TPS has to be either mis-set or is not reporting to the FI computer. No? I mean really: release the throttle and the TPS is supposed to shut off the injectors until the RPMs drop below 2,000. If the injectors shut down, the RPMs must come down. They don't. Hence, the injectors aren't shutting down. So something is wrong with the TPS, the computer, or the connection (modus tolens...). And I'm thinking that there are a lot of hoses and caps that ought to be changed no matter whether they seem OK or not. Likewise electrical grounds. But it still needs to be run for a while to expose issues. It would be helpful if it would just idle some more. Warm weather coming in a day or two.


1/12/2013. An amazing number of the threads archived on the web about the symptoms my K75 displays share a common narrative arc: bewilderment (why does it treat me thisaway?), followed by answers and analyses by experts with keen and thorough insights (poor electrical grounds, subtle error codes thrown by on-board computers, temperature sensors, throttle position sensor misadjustment, fuel injector malfunctions, intermittent electrical connections, cracked hoses, air leaks, still more sensor issues), and end with the owner announcing, "Thanks, guys, but you know what? It turned out to be the spark plugs!"

plugSo today with the temperature at seventy degrees fondly Fahrenheit, I cranked the engine. It coughed twice and died and the smell of refinery juice began to pervade the air. The usual. I pulled the plugs which were black and soaked (the one shown had dried out to visible inspection by the time I made the photo). I changed them for new Bosch X5DC's (not RX5DC's) which I'd gapped to 0.035 inches (0.89mm) last night. I dabbed some dielectric grease on the ignition wire connectors to make sure a few isolated bits of corrosion, if any, wouldn't cost any spark. And I hit the starter. Almost immediately, George Jetson's flying car appeared before me. It still wouldn't idle worth a damn -- not cold, not warm, and not hot -- but it ran. Furthermore, holding the throttle steady did not result in steady RPMs. They rose or they fell, but they did not hold. Progress is progress. I shut it off, took my victory inside and went to work on Amy's misbehaving computer (those are problems I more or less understand).

A few hours later, a light rain began to fall and I went outside to cover the bike for the night. The key was in it, the battery was charged. Why not? I turned the key, dialed in full choke, and punched the starter button. It fired instantly and even seemed to idle reasonably well. I did not inquire too closely but shut it off, reattached the battery tender, and pulled the cover over it. I theorize that the second time there was no excess fuel in the chambers from a protracted, unsuccessful starting attempt. With a good spark, none gathered and things went better. In warm weather and with good plugs, what we have here is a motorcycle.


1/13/2013. Another warm day, another perfect start. Solid idle. Maybe we're past the point at which I should be amazed by this, but a hundred thousand miles from now will I still be just a little surprised?

I climbed all over the front end of the bike looking for some way to get one hand or the other up into the space behind the headlight bulb, get a grip on the connection, and give it a hard pull. bulbFound one: lie on the left side of the bike (kickstand side), feet extending toward the back; lift yourself up with the right hand curled over the fairing and reach up with the left hand and p-u-l-l. The connection comes off with a bit of a snap. The rubber gasket peels off easily enough. Then you there's the matter of that "retaining ring." Every manual from the owners manual to Clymer says the ring is there, includes pictures, and says which way to turn it and how far. But on my 1993 bike (made in Dec 1992), there is no such thing. Instead, the bulb is retained by a swing out, spring-wire clip. I only saw one finger tang, but there are two. Squeeze them together and the clip hinges open to the sidestand side. If you think there is only one compression tang and apply too much force while trying to open the gate, the hinge end may disengage and the clip come out whole in your hand, alarming you and inspiring instantaneous impromptu schemes for substituting bizarre widgets to do the clip's work. But never fear. The hinge of the springy wire just sits in a recess and you probably haven't broken or bent anything. Badly. Don't ask how I know this. You can see to fit the wire back into the bay in the white plastic collar that holds its hinge end better from the opposite, brake pedal side of the bike.

There's a photo on the Motobrick forum from "frankenbrick" that gives a pretty good idea of what's happening. I've linked to it, but you may need to be a registered member to see it. Note that the reference is to RS, RT, and LT models, not S, but this is the assembly I found. I wonder if Hammersley Motors repaired the headlight assembly back in 1997 using a different set of parts. They're out of the motorcycle end of things now and can't defend themselves, so I'm going to go ahead and bet that's just what they did.

When I finally got the headlight out, I was relieved to see that it was well and truly blown. Tungstun residue was swirled all over the inside of the bulb. See? Lookit that picture. The alternative would have meant tracing circuits and checking all manner of switches and connections to find out why the light wouldn't. Why is it blown? Don't ask such questions. Not today anyway.

I put release goop on the blade contacts of the new bulb, fit it into the socket, repositioned the accidentally removed spring clamp, swung it closed and worked the rubber gasket back on. Then I spent a while lining up and pressing the electrical socket back into place. It doesn't feel like it's going on very far and then snaps into place with a confidence-inducing click. (Look at the electrodes to see why; there are holes in the blades that engage with the inside of the connectors.)

I turned the key to "On," and There was light. I started the motor to be sure nothing would cut out and that there was energy for both the starter and the light. High beam, low beam, both look good. Tonight, when I went out to cover the bike, I started it again and let it idle (yay, idling!) while I looked at the beam pattern. It's hard to tell anything much down here in the driveway, but it seems plausible. From all my net cruising, I gather there are those who regard the stock bulb as dim. The K75 being a popular classic, there are fixes. Maybe I'll come to agree and put in relays for the headlight and maybe a higher wattage bulb, but night riding, let alone night riding autobahn style which is where the extra light is most appreciated, is a ways off, so that's a mod for another month.


1/17/2013. Rain. So much rain (5 inches in 3 days). The promise of snow tonight turned into an inch of slushy ice that will probably become a hard glaze by morning. It's a mess. The cover (my portable garage) is getting a real workout. I've been shopping for winter prices on jackets and gloves (Tour Master Rincon and Airflow?). Also, it occured to me that there's probably good hip protection out there. Indeed, for $75-100 there are armor-equipped shorts intended for street use; insert some or all the protectve pieces needed to feel safe. Some provide a gracious plenty of impact-absorbing (or distributing or deflecting) armor over the hip. Seems like a good idea tonight, but I'm fighting off a bit of cabin fever and am avoiding thinking about hip-stuff (a little over 3 weeks to go). I'll load the shopping cart, but I don't trust my judgement enough to hit the "checkout" button. Also, I keep going back and forth between Tour Master's L and XL sizing. I need to try one on and buy locally if at all possible.

At syslunch this week, I was talking with Preston about attitudes toward rain and riding. Time was, I would've thought nothing of going out in rainy weather. These days, if rain appears while out on a tour, fine, I'll be prepared for it and cope, but it's a consideration in a way it didn't use to be. For instance, I doubt I would select the bike to run errands or to do a day trip in rainy weather as I used to. I think I've become much more of a fair weather rider. You're supposed to enjoy riding, not sweat about your traction patch and spend a lot of effort keeping dry. If the weather is bad, a perfectly acceptable way to deal with it is to take the car. That's what they're for; that's why you pay insurance on them.

Next day: after most of the ice had melted, I pulled the cover and found a dry motorcycle. Unplugged the battery tender, applied full choke, pushed the starter. Started quickly, idled well, headlight is nice and bright. Just thought you'd like to know.

Next: I need some DOT4 brake fluid to top off the front brake reservoir (where is the rear brake analog?). Some wax on the tank and a touch of Polywatch on the fairing wouldn't hurt a thing. I tried on an old white Shoei helmet and found that it fits snugly and is reasonably comfortable -- look into whether the protective powers of helmets have a shelf life, and if so, what it is. Polish out some scratches on the visor. Not sure this one would be comfortable all day long, and the new modular, flip-up helmets solve some problems I remember very well -- like accomodating glasses. Once again, it is good to be part of an aging bulge in boomer demographics. Want a solution to our peculiar issues? Just wait a while and then write a check. The old Shoei will be fine until I get a chance to shop up the perfect lid for the next long haul.


01/21/2013. On a break from the inaugural festivities, I added just a bit of fluid to the front brake reservoir and cleaned up around the instrument cluster, fairing, etc. Also started it up and let it idle for a while. Routine and quite nicely, respectively, and thanks for asking.


Next day: cold! It was under 30°F when I walked up to the mailbox. On the way down, I saw the bike under its cover and thought about the key in the ignition. I resisted the urge, thinking, don't give it a chance to mess up. Treat it like a dog or an undergrad: give it all the chances in the world to earn praise; don't set it up to fail. It took some mighty restraint not to turn the key. (The day after that: I couldn't resist. It started right up.)


1/30/2013. Lotta rain, tornado watches in effect. But the cover worked perfectly. The K started on the first jab and idled rather well. Notes to self for a fuller tale by and by: earlier that morning, I do the Hickory loop, pink eye, urgent care goes missing, bp scare, I try to buy local and fail. And don't forget the sober briefing by Gentiva two days back.


2/12/2013. Mardi Gras. New left hip installed. Needs to wear in some before road trials. Details to follow.

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                   © 2013, David Cortner