Monday, June 30, 2014

Service time... part 2.

Ok, here's a bit more from my latest Norton session:

It is vitally important that the oil tank drain bolt be tightened properly. I've decided to put some lockwire on here, as losing the plug during operation would in all likelihood result in all the oil being dumped on your rear tire, with predictably horrifying consequences. On the bright side, you'd crash long before the engine was starved of oil so... silver linings, eh?
Andover offer a variant of this bolt/plug, with a magnet. I'm going to fit this to replace the original one since it's a little bit mangled, and will be checking it at the next oil change to see what will have happened in my oil tank.

As for the oil filter, provided you or the previous owner/mechanic didn't over-tighten it, a strap wrench like this is all you need to remove it:
Make sure the outside of the filter is free from oil and grease, then fold a strip of coarse sandpaper and wrap it around the filter, this will give you a lot more purchase on it and it should come off with very little effort as it did in this case.
Always inspect the new filter for any foreign particles, swarf, damaged o-ring, etc. Here's the new filter:

As you know, spin on filter cartridges need only be tightened by ½ turn after the rubber o-ring contacts with the engine/mounting flange. Of course, the o-ring itself should be oiled, and in some cases you can even prime the filter with oil before you install it. All that will prevent the filter from getting truly stuck on and you won't have to resort to "the negotiator" to get it off:

Last but not least, I replaced the battery with a Motobatt unit. I've not tried these before but they're popular, fairly cheap and maintenance-free. I also tidied up the battery tray and it looks considerably better than the unholy mess I had there before.

Here's a neat tip: use a wide strip of aluminium tape to secure extra fuses to the battery:

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Service time...

Well, now's as good a time as any to do a bit of a service!

This is one of those things that's unnecessarily complicated and fiddly on the Norton, but whatevs, that's just the way it is.
I have long felt that if Norton had stayed continuously in production, the Commando could have evolved in much the same way the Sportster has, keeping what was good and improving what could be better. Interestingly, the engineers who designed the clutch (and I think gearbox) for the Evolution Sportster came from Norton, and had designed the same components for the Commando when it was launched!
But I digress. On the plus side, doing an oil change on the Commando is bizarrely satisfying...
First of all, you will need several copper and aluminium washers. Some of the copper ones you may be able to anneal and re-use, but be sure to have it all ready before you start:

Few people do this, but it wouldn't be a bad idea, once the oil tank is drained, to remove its inner metal filter and wash it in some clean petrol. Chances are you'll find a lot of sludge there.

In this particular case, the filter is shiny-clean so I'm not going to bother taking it out this time, but that shows it's worth doing once in a while: last time I did an oil change I had taken it out and cleaned it well. That, plus a good oil with a good cartridge filter means all the lubrication system will stay cleaner, longer.
If you do take the tank filter out to clean it, you must use two new aluminium washers (042065), or that sucker will leak.

The reason my oil tank is empty is that the bike sat unused for many months and the oil gradually fell into the crankcase. Wet-sumping can take as little as a week and is totally normal, not a problem. The single most effective remedy is to ride your motorcycle often and regularly, just the way it was meant to.
We'll take a look at the oil tank drain in the next post.

Drain the crankcase as thoroughly as possible. I have the latest type, with both the large sump plug and the smaller one at the front.

Look, I know it's probably supposed to be a 9/16 AF wrench, but really a 14mm will fit perfectly. Both bolts have a magnet, which you should inspect and clean (motor oil is extremely hazardous stuff that should not come into contact with the skin. Wear gloves and dispose of it responsibly):
The large plug contains a gauze filter: in the proudest British engineering tradition, it all comes apart to reveal far more components than you would reasonably expect, and all should be cleaned and put back together.

Above, from left to right, the cleaned components are shown in the order of assembly.
For goodness' sake make damn sure that circlip is seated well... a massive crankshaft is spinning furiously just above it. And of course to remove the sump plug in the first place, and to replace it, you will need a rather large socket:

Something else that is very important is the large sealing copper washer, which must be replaced each time. They compress significantly when you torque down the sump plug, because they actually contain a sealant, which gets extruded when the washer is compressed and is only good for one fitting. Reusing an old washer means your crankcase will leak. You can see the difference between a new washer and an old one here:

With the crankcase and oil tank drained, with all fasteners back in place and torqued down, you can move on to replacing the filter cartridge (if you don't have one, I would strongly recommend you fit one, as well as an oil cooler if you live somewhere warm). Witold helped me do this last time with a strap wrench and some sand paper to improve grip. A long lever is also very helpful.

At this point the battery on my camera ran out, but I carried on with what I had to do, so the photos in the next post will be as fait accompli.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

When men were men, and Yamaha made pianos.

Ok, ok, I know this is neither British nor vintage, but it is going to be a classic, just you wait.

Note cat just behind bike.
What you see here is a 2005/6 Yamaha XG 250 "tricker", and while I don't much care for the name, the motorcycle itself is absolutely delightful.
The engine is a wonderfully small and compact SOHC 250cc air cooled single with a 5-speed gearbox and little else (though it does have a balancing countershaft!).
What sets this bike apart is how incredibly skinny it is. But just because it's small doesn't mean it isn't perfectly formed. There are a myriad thoughtful little details wherever you look, and the finish is not unlike that of much bigger and much more glamorous machines.
Don't let the name fool you, the only tricks you'll be performing with this are never getting stuck in traffic, and getting unbelievably good MPG, and that's good.
This particular motorcycle was sadly abandoned for several years and has clearly suffered from neglect. However, it is 100% complete and original, with relatively low miles on the clock (about 13.000 miles).
It should be a fun little project, and quick hopefully. A good thorough service, some oil seals for the forks (hopefully we won't have to replace the stanchions) and a good bit of sandblasting and repainting of stuff like the handlebar and throttle housing. First things first though, I'm ready to try starting the Norton, and then I'll get my hands on this one.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

wait... what?

More on this soon... (after the Norton is back on the road)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Valve adjustment.

This was still one of those seemingly trivial things left to do before I start the engine.
I have done this many times before on the Commando, as well as on other venerable OHV engines; but there is never a time when you can assume it will all go smoothly just because you've done it before: as I was rotating the engine (4th gear engaged, sparking plugs out, slowly rotating the rear wheel) I heard this sickening "t-KLANG!" and knew something was wrong.
Still, everything looked normal, and all four valves were opening and closing as you'd expect, so I proceeded to set the clearance as per the workshop manual: Inlet .006in. [0.15mm] and Exhaust .008in. [0.20mm].
However, when I came to the exhaust valve for cylinder 1, there was basically zero clearance between the rocker and the valve stem. Odd... how could this be? After all everything appeared to be in place.
Well it turns out that the rocker ball-end was not seated in the pushrod cup, but was pressing on its edge instead! Hence no clearance, it was simply too far up. So, rather than try to leverage the pushrod back in place and risk damaging it (unacceptable at this stage), I took the bloody rocker out and refitted it.

This was made much easier thanks to Thomasdunstall! Thanks Mario!

He's holding the pushrod in place using a very special tool... a piece of wire with a shepherd's hook at one end.

The good news is that with everything correctly back in place there was plenty of room to set valve clearance, and we are miles away from potential coilbound disaster when the valves are fully open, though of course I'll double and triple check that before I start the engine. That means that fitting heat insulating washers under all valves was a "gamble" that paid off, and I now have peace of mind of knowing that they're there, hopefully making my springs last a little longer.
Of course if you don't at least bust a knuckle, you're not doing it right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The little things.

I still had to fit the four studs for the exhaust valves covers. These came new from Andover and have a particularly nice finish, so I took a couple of photos:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Chop it!

Ah, so that's where the mudguard went.
So often, when chopping mudguards, the result can be less than aesthetically pleasing; this time however it is bang on. Good job guys:

Obviously the taillight, license plate and indicators will balance out the slightly "manx cat" appearance it has like this, but boy is that one tasty beemer. Here's some behind the scenes:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here's a few more...

Looking mean and purposeful, but where's the mudguard boys?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Colourful language.

Some exciting news folks, and to me this is just as exciting as the engine refurbishment I'm doing.
I've taken all of the Fastback's bodywork to Toni Raia so that it too can enjoy a redux.
The tank will get a new coat or two of clear, plus a good buff. The side panels are being totally stripped, repaired where the old seat base had damaged the fiberglass, then repainted with the same silver/grey Gianluca used for his Dominator, and new decals.

The tail is where most of the work will be done: a couple of years ago I dropped the bike in the garage like an idiot. I knew what I was trying to do was not practicable (moving it off a ramp with no room for myself), but I went ahead and did it anyway, and sure enough the laws of physics took over and I had to lay the bike down. In so doing, the tail got a nasty scratch right over the central decal and all the way down to the primer. This is a very special paintjob, and my priority has to be to preserve it and look after it. If we were to redo the tail completely, it would almost certainly not match the tank any longer, so instead what we've decided to do is an inlay with the aforementioned silver/grey and replace both decals on the tail. I'm confident it'll turn out cool. At the very least it will be something different, and I'll have salvaged the paintjob.
Lots of other Norton stuff fresh from a respray:

And Toni's personal ride, how's that for a calling card?