How to Revive an Old Motorcycle: Save Money on Gas/Fuel! Cheap Ride!

Picture of How to Revive an Old Motorcycle: Save Money on Gas/Fuel! Cheap Ride!
Motorcycles are a lot of fun. They can also make for cheap and convenient transportation. I will try to describe a few easy steps to revive (salvage) most old motorcycles. You would not believe how many motorcycles are ridden for 5-10 years and then just parked in a shed or barn to rust. In my experience, I've been able to save about 80% of the old bikes I get, with about $25-$75 in parts and 3-6 hours of work. I've been given several old bikes because someone just wanted them out of the way. I've bought others for less than $250, and ridden them thousands of miles. Hopefully this instructable will give you the information you need to do the same.

NEW NOTE: The response to this instructable has been really good. I hope to do another one related to slightly more advanced/unusual issues related to saving old 2-wheelers. I've had a lot of good suggestions (Tires, exhaust,points, etc.) that I hope to include next go round. Thanks for your enthusiasm and your continued patience!!!

Step 1: Choosing Your Bike : Better Safe than Sorry!

Picture of Choosing Your Bike : Better Safe than Sorry!
First of all, any free bike is a good bike, even if you just use it for parts. When it comes to actually buying a fixer-upper, you need to check a few things before you lay your money down. The three things (put simply) that a bike needs to run are fuel, fire and compression. These suggestions are for when you purchase a non-running machine.

1. Is it all there? Many broken parts can be repaired easily and cheaply, but missing parts must (usually) be replaced. Pay special attention to gauges, side covers, carbs, sprockets, and brakes. Lots of these parts "walk away" while a bike is lying around unused.

2. Is the engine seized? A seized engine may or may not be a big deal. If you buy one with a seized engine, only pay scrap prices as the engine MAY (or may not) be ruined. I'll show in a later "Ible" how to deal with a seized engine.

3. Can you shift through the gears? Transmission work is no small undertaking (but not impossible) for the newbie!

4. Does it have compression? If you can kick it over (or crank it), check for compression.

5. Consider buying a semi-classic, as these machines are easiest to deal with when searching for replacement parts.
fonz917 years ago
Re: Step #4: Some petcock/fuel valves have a vacuum line running to them, and fuel won't flow unless there's a vacuum. Hook up a vacuum pump to test in those cases.
crpt fonz914 years ago
Hi all
For vacuum pump I usualy use a syringe. Works great and it's cheap :)
skunkbait (author)  crpt4 years ago
Great idea!!
skunkbait (author)  fonz917 years ago
That's true. I came across one of those the other day. It kind of surprised me as it was a low-quality, low-tech machine. I'm used to seeing that on newer heavier machines.
Dear skunkbait,

Please help me! I have a Honda motorcycle and the pennies won't come out of the gas tank! I've tried everything (flushing, vacuuming, shaking). please help me!
how did you end up getting them out, if you did?
MonikaC15 months ago

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mjason11 year ago


Thats pretty nutty.hahaha

Hi. Sorry to correct you, but the big Suzuki two-stroke twin is actually an earlier model. It's a Suzuki T500 (L version) from 1974. The following year was also a T500 (M version) and also the first year of the GT500 (also an M version). In 1976, Suzuki brought out the GT500A, followed by the GT500B in 1977. But that was the final year of the big Suzuki twin, and also the final model year of Suzuki's GT triple range (GT380, GT550 and GT750). A sad year indeed for big two stroke twins & triples aficionados worldwide. The Suzuki GT500 had a single disc front brake whereas the T500 had a BIG (!!) tls (twin leading shoe) front brake. Also the paint scheme on the fuel tank is the same as here: http://www.suzukicycles.org/T-series/T500_models.shtml. I also had a 1971 T500R in 1981 (I was 17yrs young in that year!). Btw, Honda four stroke twins from the CB175 up to the CB500 were always excellent 'projects' to rebuild into v.reliable Jap classic runaround motorcycles. Just sayin'...!

sasadler2 years ago
I trawl CL looking at old motorcycles all the time. I have a collection of pictures... I just love them. My fear of owning a bike w/ a carburetor has stopped me for ever buying one. I am still intimidated, but your post is inspiring!!!

If you live in Seattle, you could totally teach classes on this. There are tons of people who want these old things.

Don't be afraid. If you go for a single or twin carb bike, it's not even that big of a hassle get set up!
The Rambler2 years ago
Wow, you've had a lot of awesome bikes pass through your hands. I'd love to get an older bike like the RD350 or XS1100 you've got pictured or a Honda CB or Scrambler. As far as I'm concerned the look of those is just timeless and so much better than some of the exaggerated styles available now. If I ever manage to get my hands on one I'll have to remember to use this as a reference for repair.
BBELL1012 years ago
Just finished working on my 1965 Yamaha YJ2S Campus 60, and now trying to get it sold. Anyway I am looking into getting another bike, possibly a 1970s Honda CB or Yamaha RD, what is "a lot" of miles on a bike like that? I am looking at a RD 350 that isn't running with 13,000 miles, and I don't know what to think. Help?
Limadito2 years ago
The only word that came to my mind when I see a RD350 is... lust   :-D
colelemi2 years ago
A buddy of mine just dropped off an old motorcycle at my house. He's moving out of the country and can't do the repair work on it. It's in pretty good condition so I'm glad I found this. Thanks!
2 stroke 3 years ago
i would love to get a yamaha rd 350 2 stroke forever
skunkbait (author)  2 stroke 3 years ago
I sure do miss my old one! But I still have a Kawasaki S2-350 two stroke...
as you cna tell from my username is that im crazy for 2 strokes i rode a 4 stroke dirtbike once and i hated it i like the unpredictable and violent powerband of the 2 stroke i cannot wait till the directinjected 2 stroke motorcycles come out check out the ossa enduro 250i a dream bike the expansion chamber under the exhaust is awesome too di incerases fuel economy by 45% and decrases emissions by 90% i think 2 strokes are making a grat come back onto the street
skunkbait (author)  2 stroke 3 years ago
I look forward to seeing the future of two strokes. I like the smell and the sound, but I LOVE the brutal powerband. BAck in the 70's, my father-in-law had one that would wheelie, at highway speed, with the powerband alone- no clutch work! I also still have 3 Harley ring dings and a Bultaco Sherpa-T 350 (trials bike).
i have a 97 honda cr 250 that im selling so i can go to university next year after my 5 years there ill get a new ducati 848 EVO and i will get a husquvarna te 300r which is comming out in 2014 just search direct injectes husquvarna 300 enduro i cannot wait till it comes out i just have to wait 2 years how awsome is that i cant wait for them to make it
potato4133 years ago
Any advice for places to find bikes to restore under a grand? Im looking for something like a cb750 to fix up but cant find anything on craigslist...
sorry i meant bikes at
you can find old bikesmat scrap yards they usually put the good stuff aside and the employees either take it home or sell it
peaksprt53 years ago
Be careful with older carbs. The metal is softer and if you use too much torque on the screws they strip easily. Rebuilt my fist carb which was a 78 Honda Goldwing. I stripped about 5 float bowl screws because I thought they needed to be tight. A good gasket will keep the fuel in. You don't need them super tight.
7070x3 years ago
For much less of hassle, it's worth of getting NEW plugs at any case. I used to ride 1962 Vespa (piaggio) two strokes engine that required me to clean dirty plug so often. Real pain in the butt, though actually what I usually did only sand off the poles of plugs and bend it inward somehow makes it easier for it to spark.
When doing this, also check the spark plug cable derived from the coil. Often, connection isn't so free at this point. What I'do: unscrew plug from its house, cut the outer skin of plug cable about 2-3cm. Roll up the bones, make them neat and clean. Put it back on. Check if it fires again (kick start it) and connect it to (-) ground.

abadfart4 years ago
i picked up this 1980 Honda cb650c for $400 and it was running but it stalled on my way home and it turned out that i was only running on three cylinders so i cleaned the carbs and now its only firing on one but i have full compression.
my bike.jpg
Hmmm, this might sound stupid, but how much gas do you have in it?

Is fuel flowing out of the lines going into the carbs if you detach them and turn the gas on at the tank?

What did you do to clean the carbs? Did you clean all the jets and blow out the idle circuits with compressed air or carb cleaner?

If all else fails, try new plugs.
i used a bath and soaked the carb parts then put them back together that didn't work so i replaced the fuel line but thats because somebody had trimmed it to nothing at all so i gave in and got 4 new plugs and it is now running but its slow jets are gummed up on the right 2 carbs. i got my bags on today and will be putting a windshield and highway pegs with a stereo on latter and im having my friend paint the tank. and im just going to ride it for a couple of days and see if it fixes the slow idle.
my bike with bags.jpg
If the jets are gummed up, the best way to fix it would be to remove the jet, take a small piece of wire (like from a wire brush), and poke all of the crud out of it (be careful not to scrape the brass), then blow it out with compressed air or carb cleaner.
ok its running now but i need to sink the carbs but i don't want to spend the cash on a balancer. i think i see my next instructabul
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
Twin carbs on a bike like that shouldn't be TOO hard to get ALMOST right. It is definitely possible to set four carbs by ear/sight/feel, but it's a lot of trial and error. Get them running as similarly as possible (spark plug condition, after a little running will let you know if they are similar). Also, soome bikes kinda need the intake to be through a common plenum. If so, get it as close as possible, and then re-install the airbox, BEFORE you decide if it's REALLY right or not.
well i think I'll try this and tune it up
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
That looks good. I may make one of those.

Doing it by ear/feel is difficult.

-Make sure all cylinders are hitting.

-With airbox off, and engine running, try to determine if each carb is drawing a similar amount of air. You may have to get creative here.

-If it has good power, and all cylinders are firing, then you go through a series of in-and-out tests with good spark plugs.

- If you can get the bike to run well, place four clean plugs in. run for 2 minutes and check. IF ALL THE PLUGS ARE THE SAME COLOUR, AND NOT SOOTY OR OILY, then it's probably as close as you can get without the right equipment. CHeck periodically to make sure one or more is not running rich/lean.

- If one (or more) plug is fouled/sooty/etc, then adjust the MIXTURE (usually not the idle) to the corresponding carb.

PS- Get a good diagram to tell you how to read your plug conditions.
sad day i got it running and balanced but then i sprung a fuel leak and am now waiting on a new set of o-rings from e-bay
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
We've all been there! I'm dealing with a set of leaky petcocks on a '76 Yamaha this week....
well i got new rings at a Yamaha shop and got it balanced using my Frankenstein carb balance but am now having trouble with hard acceleration, if i role on the throttle slowly it works fine but if i crank on it is splutters, pops and smokes. im thinking it could ether be a air leak or the less pleasant bad accelerator pump what would your thoughts be on this?
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
I'm dealin with the exact same issue on my everyday rider!

Sounds like an air leak. Might also be a fuel supply issue. Don't forget, tight new rings might even give you probs until they are broken in.
do you think it could be to tight of a fit of the ring on the pilot screw?
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
Hmmmm??... I kinda doubt it, but I have seen stranger things.

I actually thought of something else on the ride home from work this morning(65 miles!), but now I can't remember it. I'll message you if I can remember it.
have you had any experience with installing pod filters. i really want it running before i move. ill be down south and it will be warm enough to ride every day.
The first thing you need to do before installing pod filters is to get the bike running properly. If you start changing variables, it becomes more difficult to troubleshoot problems. Once the bike is running well, put on your filters. Some people say that pods are hard to tune. I haven't had any problems. Just go up 1-2 jet sizes, Maybe move the clip down a notch on the needle if it seems to accelerate poorly.
so i met a guy who had the same bike as i do except he had a bating fairing and pod filters. according to him the stock air box stared breaking down around 2005 and he had to switch to the independent filters when the leaks got to bad to fix and i was wondering if you had ever had any experience with this
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
Yep. Been there. Actually waitin for a set of individual filters as we speak!

My cousin (the REAL bike mechanic) taught me years ago, that on bikes with multiple carbs (at least triples and 4's) - that it is easiest to tune/run them with a "common plenum" (airbox).

But if you have to go with individual filters/pods- then you REALLY have to sync the carbs perfectly.

If you have a good airbox, it MAY make things easier. I was told that if the carbs are "close" to synced, then the common plenum will make up for any difference.

It SEEMS to be true, but others may disagree.

i forgot about one more thing. i had to make the my pilot screws are tighter than they should need to be in order to run without smoking out my garage and i was wondering if someone had rejeted the carbs at some point and that might be messing me up a bit
well the exact sync might be a problem when you are using a home made balancer like the one i made out of a vacuum gauge , tubing, a fish tank valve and pvc pipe. my other thought was to make a new box out of sheet mettle and just have 4 hoses coming out to hook in to the carbs
0813110113.jpgair box 1.jpg
ya im just grasping at straws at this point. i have inspected my air box and patched it but that didn't fix it and i pulled my carbs out and went threw the accelerator pump and found a part that i think might have bee out of place. they call it rubber stopper but its labeled 25 in the picture. from the diagram I'm assuming that it is meant to go right on top of the diaphragm (26) but it was sticking out of the carb
ok i have it built but now im waiting for my new filter but that comes on tuseday. ill put up pictures if it works
ive been working on engines for a while so im good with checking spark plugs
how do you do it by ear
i might just do a carb bath then use a ball needle to blow it out
jonnyjeas3 years ago
This awesome
mrlunna134 years ago
Do you know, or do you know if there is anything in here about a seized engine, or have you done the "ible" on a seized motorcycle engine?
Thank you,
Jesse M.
skunkbait (author)  mrlunna134 years ago
I really need to get back to that, as several people have asked me about the seized engines. I'll try and send you the short version first, as I'm too busy to actually get to writing the ible right now.
abadfart4 years ago
o i need some help on parts i cant find any body that caries the o-ring on a pipe that goes between carbs
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
Hmmm.. I don't think I have any right now, but I'd check the local farm supply or auto parts dealer. If they have fuel resistant O-rings that size, I'm sure they'll be cheaper than the cycle-shop.
thanks iv been looking all over the web for some that will work
hey im looking forward to buy and restore a honda cb100 is it an good?

Is it recommended for a person with no expertise whatsoever in bikes to take care for it?
abadfart5 years ago
how do people feel about bikes with automatic transmissions?
I didn't even know they made them.
Both Honda and Yamaha have made them for years. They were similar in looks to a scooter but with slightly larger wheels and more stable for it. They were commonly known as 'step thru's' and came in 50cc, 70cc and 90cc engine sizes. Fantastic and very, very long lived commuter bikes. My grandad had a Honda 50 about 40 yrs ago. Though, to be honest I preferred his Matchless that he rode in the 1950's :-)

Take care.

love Matchless. I have a 1959 AJS Model 16 myself ... the original!
They certainly made some amazing machines. I recently had the pleasure of having a little ride on a modern Triumph Thruxton 900cc. Got to say, WOW!!!! It was fantastic. My wife wasn't too pleased as she always says, "you are not having another bike". This is because when I was 17 I was extremely lucky not to have been killed when I hit the rear of a wagon at 90mph. I did not even break a fingernail... Yes, I've had bikes since then but I have also succumbed to very severe arthritis. One day though... one day.
skunkbait (author)  abadfart5 years ago
Mixed feelings there. They can make decent transportation, and they might be easier to ride (for the inexperienced). But on the other hand, old-school bikers will probably make fun of you.
ya but they are asking 125 usd for it im just wondering if its worth the cash
skunkbait (author)  abadfart5 years ago
If it runs or almost runs, I'd say yes. But if it's one of the Chinese ones, you could still regret it. And hey, if it's not your main transport, at least it'l be fun.
ya the breaks and carbs are gummed up and the tank needs cleaned. its a honda which i have always liked.
abadfart4 years ago
i am thinking about flipping motorcycles i am now riding my cb 650 custom but am looking at a 76 goldwing to fix and sell to buy more and do the same. my home town is very scares on jobs and i think i might be able to make a living off of it
skunkbait (author)  abadfart4 years ago
Dude. Awesome! It can be done. I made quite a bit one year when I had a little more time. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I've done all of this stuff at one time or another, and would be happy to give you my two cents.
ya i have my full automotive stall set up at my parents house with the carb bath an left with a nice big bench so i might as well make use of it
Kevanf14 years ago
Good 'ible' :) I love those old Suzuki GT models. I used to own a 250 that was sadly not as good as the older Hustler and Super Six models. I had mates who had 185cc, 550cc, 750 (kettle) and the 380cc models. I wrecked mine at 90mph 30 yrs ago. Thankfully I came out of it without even a broken fingernail. I'd still love another one now but they are pretty rare nowadays.

One tip with those GT models. Replace the swinging arm bushes. They are only made fo a substance called Tufnell and are dead easy to replace, no presses needed. Make sure the rear shocks are good and replace the fork oil. All fairly cheap but potentially life saving little jobs as they improve the handling no end.

Take care and ride safe.

I just picked up a 1972 GT380 *YES!* and I can't figure out why one of my cylinders isn't firing.

I've cleaned the carbs, cleaned the petcock, checked for compression (good), and made sure I have spark on all cylinders. I even put in new plugs all around.

I'm firing on 2 cylinders all the time, but I can't seem to figure out the right cylinder. If I start it up and run it a little, it idles rough (probably because the right cylinder isn't firing). After a couple minutes, the left and center headers are hot to the touch (as in you probably shouldn't touch them), but the right header is just warm. I get smoke out of all the pipes when throttling down, but only the left and center pipes at idle. I tried a little starter fluid. I didn't notice any change in how the bike ran.

The carb on the right cylinder seems to be sucking in air and I can feel a little coming out of the exhaust when running. The cci is working.

I'm stumped. Do you have any ideas?
skunkbait (author)  xfirexstarzx4 years ago
Good news and bad news. First of all congrats on the vintage ring-ding! 2 strokes FTW!

That being said welcome to why I love to PLAY with those little smokers, but I rarely use one for actual transportation.

First, when warm, (and without burning yourself), change the right plug with a NEW one, and see what happens. If it runs right, then for some reason you are semi-fouling the right plug on start-up. If it runs right then, look for the cause of the initial fouling.

If it doesn't run any better, then you haven't really lost anything, and you can determine that the bike is always running inconsistently rather than just during warm up.

Those bikes had points which might need attention (cleaning or even replacement), also, if you're brave (Don't try this at home kids!!), I'd touch the right plug wire, all over, while the bike is running (above idle, lets say 2,500 RPM). Then you'd know for sure if there was a short between the coil and plug.

Also, Bikes that age occasionally develop really finicky (read "replace it"), coils that can make other problems nearly undiagnosable.

Slightly possible the head gasket on "righty" gave out.

Finally, and equally likely, setting three carbs up (and synching them) is something I can ussually do, but I'd have to see the bike.

I tried new plugs and it looks like I have spark. Maybe I just got a bad plug that sparks only outside the cylinder (hey, it happened on my truck). I'll try one of the old plugs. At least one of the three old ones has to be good.

I'm going to try cleaning the carbs again and readjusting them. I found an online service manual and owner's manual. I couldn't figure out why the service manual didn't outline how to adjust the carbs. That section was in the owner's manual because it was such a common issue. haha

I also bought a new set of cylinders and pistons for cheap on ebay. I'm just crossing my fingers that it isn't a crank seal.

wish me luck!
skunkbait (author)  xfirexstarzx4 years ago
Agreed! If it's a crank seal: that's either real work, OR real money.

Good Luck!!
kyrisroy5 years ago
I have a 1969 Suzuki KT120. I got it running after it sat 33 years in my Grandfathers barn. It runs fine but it puts out a lot of white smoke out of the exhaust. Any idea whats wrong with it?? Thanks in advanced.
skunkbait (author)  kyrisroy5 years ago
IIRC, the KT 120's are 2-strokes. A certain amount of white/bluish smoke is a good sign. (Don't forget to add 2 stroke oil !) But if it smokes A LOT, even for a 2-stroke, it most likely has worn rings, or an incorrect carb mixture. Don't go playing with the carb right away, if the bike is running fine. That should be your last resort. Also, congratulations on getting the old bike running!!
I think its burning the transmission oil. i have had to replenish it several times. Do you have any idea where i can get new rings for it?
skunkbait (author)  kyrisroy5 years ago
I'd try my local Suzuki dealer. But if they want a ridiculous price, try ebay.
andres75 years ago
post was the word i was looking for, but it worked i dont understand how these floats work, because when they were together it kept sticking but now that there apart the little pin underneath the float works fine, im going to clean it and see if that helps.
skunkbait (author)  andres75 years ago
That is a common problem with bike carbs. I've even LIGHTLY sanded the pins to keep them from sticking. Good luck!
andres75 years ago
i have a 82 virago 920 and the carb is dissassembled but i dont no how to take the floaters out because they are held on by pins going into metal rods, this helped me on what to check to bring the bike back to life so thank you but do you have any idea of how to take them off?
skunkbait (author)  andres75 years ago
Most carb floats are held by a pin that goes through "posts" that are part of the carb body. Try and see if you can push the pin out with a punch or small nail and mallet. The pin, once loosened should slip in and out fairly easily. WARNING: Some pins will only come out in one direction. IF one end of the pin is larger than the other then tap/push on the smaller end. Let me know if this does the job. If not, I really need a picture of the float, pin and where they sit in the carb body.
inchman5 years ago

Great work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this to motorcycles in the past.

One thing that I want to add is that electrical systems can be intimidating, but they aren’t that scary.  We once rewired an entire motorcycle with and electrical cord from a $1 store to get the bike home.

But, to make it so even a rank amateur can find and fix most motorcycle problems, I created this on-line troubleshooting electrical flow chart…

It will deal with any motorcycle up to only the most advance motorcycles of today.  Give it a try!  (and let me know if you find any mistakes.)

Thanks again for posting this and enjoy! 

(Please feel free to share this link or add it to any future ‘ibles you make.)


skunkbait (author)  inchman5 years ago

Electrical issues are my weak suit. I can explain most things about bikes, but electrical problems give me a hard time.  I can usually get the job done through trial and error, but the flow chart certainly helps!
That's what I love about this site.  There is so many people sharing information that you can normally not only post a great idea or project, but you often get lots of great feedback on how to make things better, or new ideas altogehter.

Keep up the great work.  Every person that can experiance "in the wind" is a person forever changed for the better!
skunkbait (author)  inchman5 years ago
My oldest son's going to help me rebuild my '79 Sporty in the spring.  I'll probably be putting your chart to work on that one.  My youngest boy has a '73 Kawasaki thatt needs rewiring as well.

I read your blog, and I must confess I'm a bit jealous.  Wish I could get some contract work over there!  My cousin is doing his 4th tour as a contractor, after one tour while he was still in the military.
That's great.  From your profile, I can't tell where you are, but if you are near NJ, you can always come and use the "Garage M'hal!" 

It's the Mecca of shops!  8>)

Have a great time with those rebuids.  I'm totally jealous of that '79 however!

As for working here, what is your job skills?  We have openings.  8>)
ArcticChill6 years ago
I've got a 1975 Suzuki t-500. We think the carbs might need some work, any ideas?
skunkbait (author)  ArcticChill6 years ago
If everything else is in order (good spark and good compression), it's probably time to rebuild the carbs. The kits are pretty cheap ($8-$20 on ebay), and easy to do. If you're trying to save money, look in the carbs first and make sure they don't just need cleaning. When you get them back together and the bike running, you'll need to synchronise them. You should probably google "how to synchronize bike carbs). I can do it (through a lot of trial and error), but someone else could probably do a better job of explaining the process. If you get to a dead end somewhere, just ask me. I'll help if I can.
 AHAAHAHAH. I have a Yamaha Maxim 400, it has a custom engine header and exhaust pipe that was done in-shop, they estimate it's power to be up to 450. This is a dual cylinder engine, I even HAD an identical parts engine for this bike until it was left at the old house when we moved :(

I never did get it to run properly after my dad crashed it, I CAN get it to run, but it doesn't run for long nor smoothly, I fear that this so-called "carb syncronizing" may be in order :S
skunkbait (author)  Punkguyta5 years ago
I put many a mile on one of those old bikes.  I know the kid who still has it.  I think he FINALLY blew it up.  It seriously had like 50k on it, with no real mechanical work done to it.

Probably a sync issue, BUT those bikes frequently got holes in the (rubber) carb diaphragm (if it's the same as mine).  Also, some bikes must draw from a common plenum to run correctly, but don't think that'd be a problem with the old Yam parallels.  Mine was real sensitive to a low battery, if the battery was low, it'd only hit on one cylinder at certain speeds, and then would rapidly foul the plugs.
cody3165 years ago
hey i just bought an old kawasaki dirtbike this week, i got power going in threw the coil and none coming out, how much do you think a new coil is gonna be? (KX80 kickstart)
skunkbait (author)  cody3165 years ago
Kawasaki shop, EXPENSIVE! Ebay, $15-$25. Junkyard $5-$10. Fortunately, most coils off those little bikes are pretty much interchangeable.
ok, thanks alot man!
awupper6 years ago
Nice to see you started with a respectable and cool Triumph unit 650 motor. Would have been nice to see you stick with that.
awupper awupper6 years ago
Sounds like you have some really cool bikes. I think your insructabel is very well done. You covered all the bases for saving a bike.
skunkbait (author)  awupper5 years ago
I'm currently looking at a '80 BMW. It's a little out of my usual price range, but the reliability might be worth it. I commute 130 miles a day, and most of my old clunkers aren't really up to it (at least not often). My oldest son is redoing a '73 Sportster. It used to be mine, but he kinda confiscated it.
skunkbait (author)  awupper6 years ago
Wish I could have! But since this ible was about saving old junkers, none of my good stuff was included. I also have a few Harleys, Aermacchis and a Bultaco. I sold the Triumph engine to a professiolnal builder, but wish I still had it.
Farewell88s6 years ago
I'm looking at buying a 1977 Yamaha enduro for $100 but the engine and brakes are locked up. Do you think it is worth it to buy it and try to get it running again??
skunkbait (author)  Farewell88s6 years ago
That's a tough call. I wouldn't worry about the brakes. THey are cheap and easy to fix. THe engine is the issue. It depends on WHY it's seized. If it seized from heat, or lack of oil, it will be tough and a little expensive to repair. If it seized from moisture and rust it may be saveable, but maybe not. If it's just seized from sitting for years, you should be able to save it inexpensively.
It seems like it's been sitting for years but the guy that owns it now has no clue when or why it seized up
skunkbait (author)  Farewell88s6 years ago
That could really go either way. But $100 isn't a lot to risk. If the rest of the bike is in great shape, you could always make your money back (and maybe a little profit) by parting it out on Ebay.
Hey, so im looking to restore my 1969 honda 175cc, Its a pretty awesome bike, i already ripped off the carbs and cleaned them, what else should i do?
skunkbait (author)  old_bass_masta6 years ago
Are you planning to fully restore it, or just get it up and going again? Carbs are a good place to start as far as just getting it running. After that you have to make sure it has spark.
up and going, i already have it cleaned up. I am planning on replacing the plugs and then cleaning the fuel petcock. I needed a new can of carb cleaner, which i just got. the bike kicks and everything now, having difficulty determining how many quarts of oil i need to buy for it. any tips on replacing the spedometer cables?
skunkbait (author)  old_bass_masta6 years ago
I doubt it'll take more than 2 quarts. The dipstick is probably buit into the cap. Don't overfill! Speedo cables ussually just screw off on both ends. I'd buy a new one from ebay or a dealer. If you buy used, like at a junkyard, take the old one with you to make sure it matches. If you have a hard time finding one, let me know. I probably have one. When you replace it make sure the new one is screwed on fairly tight on both ends, or it'll slip. Also, you might spray a little oil into the new one before installing it. I can't remember exactly how those are routed, but anyway, just make sure you have some zip-ties (or similar) to secure it, and keep it out of the way of any moving parts.
Thank you so much!
skunkbait (author)  old_bass_masta6 years ago
No problem. When my cousin got in a little trouble, (he was going to jail!), he gave me his Honda parts collection. I don't know exactly what year every part is, but I can usually make a fair guess.
gatorboyz6 years ago
Hi. I am trying to learn how to ride a motorcycle and so I bought a 1973 Honda 350 from a friend and it has sat for 17 years. I was wondering what kind of oil do you put in to these bikes. Do you put like 10w-30 or something? Thanks for the time.
skunkbait (author)  gatorboyz6 years ago
Yeah 10W-30 or 10W-40 is fine. After you've run it a little, if it smokes or is "rattlely", you can step up to 20W-50. On the small machines like the CB 350, regular automotive oil is fine. On some other bikes though (my '73 Shovelhead Harley), you basically have to run gear oil (70W or so).
Skunkbait, thanks for putting this up. I'm 17 and hope to get an old bike for college (there's the mom factor though), along with the truck i already have paid off. I just want a weekend rider, and this shows the potential an cheap old bike has. Thanks again.
skunkbait (author)  capsaicinrain6 years ago
Hey, you're welcome. Prices are going up, but it's definitely still possible to get a cheap ride. My youngest son bought a small '73 Kawasaki on Ebay a couple of months ago. He paid $100 for it. With about an hour of work, a $2 spark plug, and some fresh gas, we were ripping up and down the road in front of the house. If you need any help, or have any specific questions let me know.
This instructabel is great! Turns out my carb was bad and needed to be cleaned the best way to clean it is to take off all the loose stuff like the on/off valve and the floaters ,and throw it in a boiling pot of water for like 10 mins. It works the best over all methods the compressed air helps a lot too! So now my 198somthin' Kawasaki runs like it did 10 years ago!
skunkbait (author)  the_burrito_master6 years ago
Glad to hear your Kwacker is up and running again. Boiling water is a great way to loosen things up!
Hey I didn't notice you were the author. you never answered my PM :P Actually I just remembered it's from 1972-3 pretty dang old..
what would you do about a seized up chain?
skunkbait (author)  old_bass_masta6 years ago
I'd take it off and soak it in diesel. Then once it was saturated, I'd work on the links one at a time, back and forth. Finally when (or if) you get it freed up, coat it in grease.
Be careful if your usng a dodgy chain. Im all for saving money, but I've had one jump off and lock my wheel at speed...... was not fun. I nearly pooped myself. Then I had to push the bike about a mile to my friends house with a locked back wheel. Then walk to the bus stop take the bus to work. It was really super lame.
sebastienl76 years ago
What are you doing with old gas?
skunkbait (author)  sebastienl76 years ago
If it's not too bad, I'll use it in an old lawnmower or other junky vehicle. If it's real bad, I use it to help burn off brush piles.
All i know is i have a 1979 Yamaha 650 that im trying to restore and im having a hell of a time pulling the damn thing off any suggestions???
skunkbait (author)  Theshowstopper_7996 years ago
Ok, This should do the trick. -There should be a couple of lightweight rubber boots (tubes) running from the air filter box to the carbs. Take them off. If they're in good shape, they should come off easily. If they are old, dry and cracked, you'll want to replace them anyway. -There should be a clamp around each intake boot (heavy hose/tube that sits between the carb and the head), holding it firmly around the "throat"/"neck" of the carb. (actually it's on the opposite side of what I have listed as the "throat" in the picture). Loosen the clamps. -Spray a good penetrant (WD-40, PB Blaster, etc.) generously on the area where the carb meets the rubber boot. Let sit for a couple of hours. -Try to pull carbs off. They should have a bracket holding them together, so pull on both carbs at once. -If the last step failed, this is where you have to BE CAREFUL. Find a strong piece of wood (metal will break stuff)to pry with. Pry the carbs backwards from the head. (I usually place the "pry bar" against the head and against the bracket that links the carbs together.) Pry gently from a couple of different angles. Or if you can get a friend to help, pry from two angles at once. Try to wiggle the carbs in an up-and-down motion. Pry again. Wigggle again, etc. Remember, this is not a feat of brute force. It's just about breaking the carbs free from the varnish and deteriorating rubber that holds them to the boots. That'll probably do the trick. If not, let me know.
frankfarms6 years ago
Hi, I am a total newbie to this stuff. I am only 13 yrs. old and am going to get a 1973 Honda CL 350 running. The bike holds a significance to me because my grandpa is the original owner of the bike. It still has the parking sticker from ISU when my uncle rode it! My dad also took my mom on rides on it in high school. My brother had it running about 5 yrs. ago. Wish me luck!
skunkbait (author)  frankfarms6 years ago
GOOD LUCK! Hey, if your brother had it running 5 years ago, (and it's stayed mostly out of the weather since then), this instructable should give you pretty much what you need to get it up and going again. One thing though, while you're working on it, don't ever leave it (for more than a couple of days) without the spark plugs in it. If moisture gets in the cylinders, it'll seize up. And they can be almost impossible to "unstick"! Let me know if you have any specific questions. I'll help in any way I can.
ehmbee6 years ago
Hey, my riding/hunting partner has the same RD350-same color too! Man that's a fun little bike, though with my large, nearly 300 lb frame I look like an ape romancing a football when riding it... My other riding buddy has a Kawasaki triple in his large collection-great acceleration but rides like it's hinged in the middle.....no wonder they called them "the widowmakers" Thanks for the always useful info-you can always pick up a bike needing carb cleaning or rebuilding cheep!
skunkbait (author)  ehmbee6 years ago
That's cool. I also have a '72 Kawasaki triple. It was my first "real" motorcycle. They don't call 'em "widomakers" and "flexy-flyers" for nothing! I had a kid on a new sport bike pull up beside mine. He was looking down his nose at that "rolling chainsaw". Let's just say I left him in a big cloud of blue smoke (until we got to the turns!).
The kids crack me up sometimes, they don't know what it's like to not ride something that is ultra-light and tuned. There is a crop of kids, though, who know what they are looking at and give you a nod of respect also. ANYONE can ride an R1 if you ask me. Taking a Widowmaker with a bad rear tire into a turn, and making it do things both the bike and Physics do not want it to do, THAT's riding. Real riders know this. Brotherhood Smells like Gasoline.
skunkbait (author)  ehmbee6 years ago
My oldest boy (turned 15 last week) has a '72 F7, and a '76 Harley SX 250. He really appreciates the old iron. My main ride (right now) is a '73 Harley. Yeah, if you grew up on the "ring dings", it's hard to get out of your blood. I've owned 40-something bikes over the years (including a couple of newer crotch-rockets) but for shear fun, give me a 70's smoker anyday!
wolft42926 years ago
Something you've left out is you should at the very least check that it has oil in it before attempting to start. It would of course be better to drain the old stuff and put new oil in. Also, if it has a rad you need to check if it has fluid in it (would probably also need replacing).
skunkbait (author)  wolft42926 years ago
Good point! I'll go back and edit (later tonight). That's the kinda thing that's easy to forget, but can ruin a bike quick. Thanks!
skunkbait (author)  skunkbait6 years ago
Ok, I rechecked the ible. I did mention it in Step 2, #7. Thanks for bringing it up though. "No oil" can ruin any engine immediately, and "bad oil" can ruin it quickly.
Sorry, you're right. I did go through it again. Must have missed it somehow. :=)
skunkbait (author)  wolft42926 years ago
THat's ok. I wrote the ible, and still couldn't remember if I'd mentioned the fluids. That's how easy it is to forget something that important! I ruined a Honda 550 once by running diluted oil, so doing things right is always a big priority to me. Thanks for making me re-check. I'd hate to leave that out, and be a party to the destruction of someone elses ride!
nejo00177 years ago
Hi and thanks for this instructable! I got a Suzuki GS550D; YOC '81 and really liked these different, cheap and handy collection of different models. If you got further tips for youngtimer-bikes it would be great to see another instructable. Cheers!
micp64 nejo00176 years ago
hi just wanted to let you know that i not long ago got my hands on an old suzuki 550 katana 82 model and put it back on the road so if you need any information on parts repair ect give me a yell
CReyes7 years ago
thanks this helps A LOT my friend has a couple of old bikes siting in his garrage (a Honda and a old Norton!) this will help me get started
skunkbait (author)  CReyes7 years ago
Just contact me if you have any questions. I'll be of help if I can.
Could you direct me to the article on how to free a frozen motor? Thanks
skunkbait (author)  creek22336 years ago
I never managed to get it finished, but I'll PM you with the basics a little latr this evening.
What about a bike with a leak in the gas tank where it is bolted to the frame?
skunkbait (author)  old_bass_masta7 years ago
The best thing is to coat the inside of the tank with "Kreem". I have also coated the area around a leak with fibreglass on the outside. I did it with epoxy once too, but fibreglass is better in my opinion.
Wade Tarzia7 years ago
Boy, that RD350 brings back memories! Back in the day before the modern crotch-rocket cafe racers, and just before those 3 cylinder Kawasakis were made (ca 1970-72) that was the rocket-bike. And unlike other almost-as-fast bikes, it handled superbly. But...it was so fast that its gas mileage sucked, if I remember correctly. When I was driving it back and forth between UMass/Amherst and home, 100 miles, I was always graphing the locations of gas stations. I think I got 25 mpg at best on the highway. I also noted something odd: it seemed to get better mileage at 70 compared to 55 (this was ca. 1976 back when the nations speed limit was 55 for gas-saving). Assuming I was correct, why would that be?
skunkbait (author)  Wade Tarzia7 years ago
Not quite 20 years ago, my first street bike was one of the Kawasaki triples. It got really bad mileage too. I used to ride it to dates with my girlfriend. Now she's my wife. I still have the old bike out in the shop. I enjoyed that old RD too. When you hit the powerband: "Hold On!" But it was graceful in the curves too. The only thing I can guess about the better mileage at higher speed, maybe it ran leaner at higher temps?
You still have your old bike, how lucky! I still have an occasional dream about my old motorcycles (from the age of 12 to 18 I lived on them and had a special part of my brain set aside for them). In the typical dream, my RD350 is ready for a dangerous high speed jaunt, my '72 Yamaha 175, mud still dried on it, is still to be discovered in my dad's old barn in an old horse stall that also has, if I pull aside some cobwebs and gray lumber, my 1968 Yamaha 100, my 67 Honda 90 street, and the 1966 Honda 306, which like an ancient DC3, rattled and banged and wobbled, and never let let me down. The 250 enduro I sold to fund my folklore fieldwork when in college (I had hardly ridden it and felt a bit guilty I guess) is somehow magically back, too. However, I am still looking for my 1960s Motobi, which was an Italian motorscooter that was remarkable for its motorcycle-type wheels (large spoked wheels) but otherwise was a step-through, shift-on-the-handle-bars scooter (such a sensible design I cannot fathom why the small-wheel-scotters persist). That's quite a dream-barn, a wonderful metaphor for memory. OK, sorry about that, folks. I was always nostalgic -- probably why I became an archaeology major -- and now that I am officially middle-aged at 50 I'm getting worse! Yet... I think a whole instructable might be written about celebrating old machinery! There must be a way...
skunkbait (author)  Wade Tarzia7 years ago
Check out the Scooter Trash community here at ibles. It contains a lot of stuff on the old bikes. We'd be happy to have you join! I'm thinking of doing a slide show here with the remaining dozen or so bikes I have. Do you remember the Bultacos? I've got a neat old Sherpa-T out in the shop, and about a half dozen Harley-Aermacchi 2-strokes.
Jim Bow7 years ago
I know you are not finished, but I want to make sure you mention tires. I was given a beautiful 1983 Suzuki GS750ESD. It had been dealer maintained and hardly ridden till it was garaged in 1988 when the owner got married. The only starting problem was with the fuel system, it had half a tank when he parked it, and the fuel turned to varnish. I cleaned that all up and it ran just fine. The tires looked nice, lots of tread, etc., but they had been aging for almost 20 years when I got the bike. The rubber had turned hard and inflexible. They had good grip on nice dry concrete, but as I was slowing down in traffic for a stop light, the front tire rolled onto a shiny manhole cover. With no ground traction, the brakes locked the tire up and down I went. I wasn't hurt, but the case got a hole in it and all the oil came out. The rotor ended up getting damaged. Repairs would have set me back almost $1100.00, so I parted it out. Invest a couple of bucks in new rubber before you take it on the street!!!!!!!
skunkbait (author)  Jim Bow7 years ago
Tires are definitely important for anything you plan to take out on the road, (dirt bikes can usually get by on old rubber). I'm thinking about doing an ible on how to change a bike tire.
Skunkers, I think I said about the tyres in our messages, vulcanised rubber has a shelf life of a around seven years, thats why you see old bangers running around on cracked and bulged tyres, the cheap ones are very hard rubber compared to good tyres and will last past that point... You can get about on them to get new ones but put them up to the inflation on the tyre and check for bulges, then leave overnight, if the air pressure is exactly the same or no more than 3PSI down you can get away with it, any bulges should immediately mean replacement of tyres, simply because if they blow out you are screwed...
Add my suggestion there: fill them for the first time with puncture repairing foam. I've never punctured a tire, ever!
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
What kind do you use? I've used Slime pretty successfully. A lot of the old bikes (and dirt bikes) still have tubes. Does that foam work with them too?
It's precisely with tubes it works best. It creates a nice foamy coat in the tube that makes it a lot harder to puncture. As for brands, I have no idea, as you probably don't have access to the same brand I used. I think it was Elf, and that's french.
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
I'll look for that online. I have seen it before, when I lived in the South Pacific.
Just to say thanks for an enjoyable instructable and I look forward to reading the one on seized engines (and hopefully more in future). This kind of motorcycle tinkering knowledge usually has to be gleaned from a variety of sources and experience so having tips like this in a single place is ideal.
skunkbait (author)  eviloverlord7 years ago
Thanks! If I'd known 20 years ago what I know now!!!! I'd have saved myself a lot of money, and I'd have been able to save a few bikes that I passed up as a lost cause. I hope my ibles help others avoid some of the common mistakes. If you ever have any specific questions about a particular motorcycle, let me know. If I can help, I certainly will! Also, check out the "Scooter Trash" group. We're putting together quite a collection of bike related ibles and forum discussions.
PKM7 years ago
Ah, this takes me back to tinkering on my dad's old YB100 (that was older than me and had done 120,000 miles) when I was a teenager.

Re checking spark plugs:
- I thought you had to touch the threads against the engine to complete the circuit... otherwise the circuit will complete itself via your arm, leg and whatever part of you is touching the bike (yes, this happened to me, yes, it was painful)
- if you are cranking the engine with no plug in, should you cover up the spark plug hole with a rag to stop the piston stroke sucking rubbish into the cylinder?
- I used to clean oily plugs over a gas ring, the flame is hotter and less sooty than a candle/lighter/match flame and burns grotty old oil off a treat

Good detail on the carb cleaning etc., and that's a very handsome Virago you've got there :)

Maybe I'll go have a poke around in my carb, OH WAIT
Esmagamus PKM7 years ago
Ether also cleans spark plugs nicely. It even degreases your skin, so watch out. About that spark plug checking, I once had to stop a motor immediately so I decided to grab the plug socket and pull it off... that motor did have a proper ignition system. The spark went around the plastic insulator and shocked the hell out of me.
I've also cleaned plugs (and carb parts and many other small bits) using an ultrasonic Jewelery cleaner with great success. For rusty exhausts, I've put them in the bathtub of hot water and washing soda with a couple of iron bars dangling from string and set up a basic electrolysis system using a car battery charger with great success. I suggest you wait until your spouse has gone out though - the bath needs cleaning after! Other instructables deal well with electrolysis - just make sure you get the polarity right.
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
I did that once too. Throttle was stuck. It lit me up!!
Next time I think I'll just kink the fuel line and let it starve. Who needs tasers anyway?
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
Or depress the brakes all the way, and ease out on the clutch.
It wasn't a motorcycle, it was a taser disguised as a weed wacker.
skunkbait (author)  PKM7 years ago
You're right about the plug. Gas cleans it better. I'm just used to doing it in emergencies. You're right about covering the hole too. I always do that on a dirty engine. I sometimes do it on a clean one too, to keep the fumes from igniting.
davidcarr37 years ago
Would somebody be willing to list the tools needed? Before I have a go at this I want to know I have the right tools. Cheers David
Well, that depends on several factors, such as the kind of bike you have, how old it is and how far can you go. A lot of things can be done with a set of spanners, a flat head screwdriver and a can of penetrating oil (that is not to be used in place of real oil and that is why oil squirt cans are nice to have around).
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
One other really handy tool is an "impact" screwdriver. A lot of screw heads will strip out especially on the old machines. Also, if you go Harley Davidson, you'll want a good set of SAE Hex-keys (Allen wrenches).
Impact screwdrivers are great, but they're not on "everyone's" set of tools. As for stuck screws and stripped heads, welding a nut on the head makes wonders. The heat from the molten metal heats the screw and either forces the hole to expand or makes the screw shrink when it cools down. Either way, it's out. About Allen wrenches, there is one lesson: never buy the cheap ones. I've stripped so many of those that now I don't buy them anymore. As a man I know once said "I'm not rich, so I don't want to buy something twice". His stainless steel barbecue grill is 20 years old.
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
On about my third 20 year old bike, I realized I had to have the impact-screwdriver. After my third impact screwdriver (like 10 bikes later), I realized I had to have a good one. Two Harleys convinced me of the need for decent Allen wrenches. Your right though, welding onto the screw is even better if you can just replace the screw (which is smart anyway), and if you have a decent welder (which I didn't until about a year ago).
Not having easy access to a welder, a set of screw extractors is a cheap way to do the same thing. More annoying though - some of those screws can take a loooong time to drill into deep enough for them to bite.
skunkbait (author)  eviloverlord7 years ago
Yeah, I use the extractors about once a year. They certainly do jobs that even the welder can't accomplish (like when the head breaks off). But like you, I find the drilling, and re-drilling can be quite a pain.
Then again, there's a chance a bit breaks inside a deep hole and then you've got a bigger problem than before.
skunkbait (author)  Esmagamus7 years ago
Done that too! It's important to usethe biggest bit appropriate for the job. I usually don't use an extractor unless the bolt/screwhead is already broken off.
benthekahn7 years ago
I restored three old Honda 90s last summer with my friend and his dad. In those bikes, the spark plug would only work when the threads on it were touching the metal frame of the bike (grounded).
Hey, just a word of caution: Make sure there are no gas fumes ( or other flammable gases ) near the spark plug when you do the spark test! When I checked the spark on a SeaDoo (pwc) last summer, I nearly lost my face and arm when the whole thing burst into flames!! BE SAFE!
skunkbait (author)  welderwort7 years ago
Thanks for the word of warning. I think it got breifly mentioned elsewhere, but not in detail. If the carb has fuel in it, I always plug the hole (when checking spark). SOmetimes I use a spare plug.
skunkbait (author)  benthekahn7 years ago
Yeah, when I'm testing plugs, I try them first ungrounded, and if no spark, then I ground them. If that doesn't work, we draw straws over who'll hold the plug, and who'll kick the bike. OUCH!
Ya, when we tried them ungrounded then grounded and they still didn't spark, we bought a new one.
skunkbait (author)  benthekahn7 years ago
Yeah, a new plug is best. Or you can pull one out of something else (that's working) and try with it. Holding the plug, had always been a joke in my family. My kids were good about testing the spark "manually", until they did it on my 1000 Sportster. It has a real hot coil. My boy swears he started to go into convulsions!
Ha! My family too. my uncle did it to me using a Kawasaki H-1 and I did it to my little brothers using a Knighthawk 750s man, good times. on a side note not a good prank on a modern bike.
skunkbait (author)  pyrotmaniac7 years ago
Yep, the hotter the ignition, the longer the convulsions!
lol yeah you get enough juice you'll be at it for hours
skunkbait (author)  nitrox0277 years ago
I may post a video. Of course it'll have to be me or my wife, as I can't put evidence of "child abuse" on the net!
If the coil is REALLY hot there is only one convulsion.
skunkbait (author)  benthekahn7 years ago
Yeah, but the twitching and foaming at the mouth can go on and on.
I went into convolutions once from a disposable camera capacitor.
triumphman7 years ago
Hey Skunkbait, very good advice, I have been riding M'cycles since my first 1964 Honda 90 cc Trail/Street Bike. It was the beginning of a wonderful mode of transportation to my first job in high school. All the next bikes got bigger and better or better and bigger ? I have been there and done that! Still riding my favorites- '67 650cc, single carb,Triumph Trophy Sports (totally restored)beauty, '72 Norton Commando 750 cc, Interstate (Large Gas Tank- hence the name" Interstate"), and a Grocery Store Loader-upper, 1982 Gold Wing Aspencade (1100 cc) Monster 4 Cyl.& 4 Carbs! These three keep me busy, with maintenance and all! But well worth it, when the air hits your face, and you feel the freedom of the road! I ride at any excuse to take one out! The Classic Brits are my Favorites though!I Had a Gold & White Triumph Bonneville, she was awesome,whish I never sold her. But Uncle Sam grabbed me up and I needed some cash. End of story! Anyway, good job mate! As ever Triumphman!
HTR's '67 Triumph TR6R.JPG
Great advice. I am in the middle of fixing up a 1972 bmw r75/5. How about that seized engine article next. Flushing out the gas tank of rust is very important and I might also recommend sealing the tank to prevent any further rust issues.
skunkbait (author)  captain atomo7 years ago
I'll definitely do the seized engine one soon (I have one). Also, I'll probably do one on coating the tank. It's deinitely important to follow the instructions to the letter!
protocolZA7 years ago
I been (re)building bikes since i was a kid (11/12) and I'm currently rebuilding my ZXR400 that i had standing for over 6 years. The tank was full of rust. I had read about putting bolts/sand/stones/whatever in there and shaking it, but I used to use pool acid (hydrochloric or sulphuric) that is available at almost every shop (in South Africa there are millions of swimming pools). I diluted it a bit, about 30% with warm water and filled the tank up and let it sit for about an hour, then i cleaned it out (dont just dump the acid in your drains...) and then did it again, then i washed the tank out with warm water, then put a cup full of paraffin in and shook it around to give it a slight oilyness so it wont rust while i strip the rest down.
skunkbait (author)  protocolZA7 years ago
I've used the acid before. I always use it when I coat a tank with sealant. The paraffin is a good idea!
scruthut7 years ago
Been doing this for years. Don't forget to search for user groups for your particular brand of motorcycle. They can be a real resource for parts, inspiration and knowledge. you might also make some cool friends and have a few laughs. Also if you are going to start riding read the first article here http://ambergrismooon.blogspot.com/
It has some important things you should know. The rest of the articles are not too bad either! Have fun and ride safe!
skunkbait (author)  scruthut7 years ago
Thanks for the info!
lrooff7 years ago
Remember that not all old motorcycles are going to be worth the effort, especially if you're looking for fuel economy. I have a lot of fond (and not so fond) memories of my Kawasaki H1 (Mach III) from 1969, but I won't recommend it for anything except for fun or a collector. It was the original crotch rocket, able to do a quarter mile in under 12 seconds right out of the box, but it also averaged less than 25 miles per gallon -- hardly an economy vehicle by anyone's standards. It also had a wicked torque curve that jumped off the page at about 600 rpm without warning and some squirrely handling in the turns.
lrooff lrooff7 years ago
... make that about 6000 rpm, not 600.
skunkbait (author)  lrooff7 years ago
I get you. I still own a '72 S2 350! I acknowledge that 2-stroke street bikes are best for speed, fun and parking. But, once again, if you only pay $300-$500, what do you have to lose? My experience with truly "cheap-to-ride" bikes has been with my old Yamaha AG 100, and my sons' Ninja 250.
kennydude7 years ago
awesomee man, i havent read the whole thing yet, but it looks freakin rad. its funny, cause when i get back from vacation the girl and i were gonna rebuild one - this is a great start - lookin forward to the read!
skunkbait (author)  kennydude7 years ago
Thanks. Hey, if you have any specific questions, let me know. This is just a bare-bones guide, to get you up and going. I'm gonna do a follow-up soon with a few more indepth cycle-issues.
Good write up, except I was taught to never use emery to clean electrical contacts. the stuff's conductive, and can get into the little places and short out the works. Maybe not so important with bike points, but could really screw up a GE 600V traction motor. Since gas hit $4 here, "scrap value" for anything on 2 wheels is at least $700...
The only time I would even bother with cleaning the points, is when it may be necessary to get home or to get a an engine of unknown condition started with the let amount of investment. Most often it's best to remove the points so you can hold them in a manner to insure the contact surfaces remain as parallel as possible. After you get home or the engine proves worth the investment, install new points. In general cleaning electrical contacts with an abrasive is a quick fix and can actually reduce the contacts service life. Get that puppy running install new points and carry a new set in the tool kit.
skunkbait (author)  static7 years ago
Yep, I was kinda shooting for the cheap/quick fix. I won't sink money into a bike until I'm pretty sure it'll run. Replacing the points is definitely the best way to go if you really need the bike to be reliable.
Some electrical contacts have graphite grease in them to make them last longer. At least Valeo does that. Instead of having metal contacts getting worn from arcing, the conductive grease does that.
Double that and you'll know almost how much I pay for gas. 8.60$/gallon.
fishnflute7 years ago
Very nice so far. I recently restored a 1982 AMF moped and had to learn all of your comments on my own through multiple sites. The one bit I just got together, and I haven't seen on any other site, may be controversial to some motorcycle mechanics. If someone has a two stroke engine, and not exhaust system at all, they normally would have to buy a new expansion chamber and possibly a muffler. However, if they have a welder and some sheet metal, they could make a rough exhaust to get the project at least up and running. The expansion chamber consists of a cone coming from the engine, expanding towards a cylinder, and then the cylinder collapsing back to a smaller tube by a second cone. From this a tube with many holes drilled in it should be wrapped in steel brillo pads. I was hoping to do an instructable on this but wanted to see if it works first. This process, with an extremely rough exhaust system gave me 5 more miles per hour and quited the bike down to where I could ride it through a snotty neighborhood. No one else mentions this quick fix and I hope you will.
skunkbait (author)  fishnflute7 years ago
That's a good idea. I've never tried it that way. I've always just patched a rough exhaust. Hey, do an instructable on it and we'll ad it to the "Scooter Trash" community topics. I've heard of doing that, but just haven't tried it yet. Thanks for the input.
I've been hunting for a good first bike like this *here in Columbus, OH. Any thoughts on specific models to look for? Any leads? Thanks
skunkbait (author)  graphikartistry7 years ago
Are you mechanically inclined?
um. yes and no. not so much with small engines and such + I have zero space (i live in an apartment. I do have several peoples who are/ do have some space. the problem is none are local. answer your q's?
You know, I like to work like I was wearing a suit. That means doing dirty work like digging or messing with engines and still have my trousers clean, my boots shining and no oil/dirt on my face. Do it slowly. Take out a part, wash it, put it on a piece of paper on your desk and treat it like it was a clock. It's mostly about "how", not "what".
skunkbait (author)  graphikartistry7 years ago
If you can find a good used Ninja 250, you'd probably get a lot of value for your money. Make sure you get one that is mechanically sound. The cosmetics aren't that important for a first bike. First bikes always seem to get scuffed and dinged.
skunkbait (author)  graphikartistry7 years ago
The Honda XL series is good. Also, the small Kawasakis (500cc and less) are pretty trouble free. I highly recommend a Ninja 250, or a Vulcan 500. Both of those are very forgiving for the beginner, but will last forever if maintained properly. If you're looking at older bikes, I recommend the Honda CB series. All of them are good, but the 550s and the 750s are easiest to find parts for.
hondagofast7 years ago
My 1967 Honda CB160 needs the points cleaned, the carbs cleaned or rebuilt, a new battery, an oil change, new fuel lines, spark plugs, air filters, a new seat, the exhaust cleaned, the valves set.... Probably new tubes in the tires too. The bike was free, as it sat in a unheated shed with no cover for 24 years.
mrfixitrick7 years ago
Man, you would show that RD350. 1973, I believe. I bought one new; rode it and loved it for many years. I drag-raced it a few times...still have the trophies. Best time in 1/4 mile of 13.54 seconds at 99 mph...not bad for a stock bike!
Nice article, but I can't agree with your advice to flush fuel lines. As someone who maintains two 23 year old Honda's, take my advise and replace the lines. gas line is cheap. One leaky/split gas line can ruin your entire day (and maybe your bike and maybe you). Liquid tank liner can work well, but prep work is essential. Your suggestion of pennies to knock off the the rust is a great idea.
skunkbait (author)  bolomkxxviii7 years ago
I may not have written clearly. I meant to suggest flushing ONLY the petcock and fuel filter. I would advise replacing any questionable fuel line/hose. It's a lot cheaper to replace $3 worth of hose than to burn up your bike, your pants, your leg, etc. !!
And, dear readers, make sure you replace fuel line with fuel line. Any other kind of tubing just flat won't work. Either go to a dealer, or purchase it at your FLAPS. If you go to the FLAPS, the stuff they sell you will have "fuel line" printed on it every foot or so.
fukenfooser7 years ago
WOW,.!!! That First picture of the "RD350", That bike would only cost you more money, Two cylinder, two stroke, likes to RUN, into the higher RPM's and gears. I had one in the early 80's that I got for a $80 rifle scope About a grand in tickets in two summers parked for a couple years, let a friend ride it on day, 12 hundred in a single stop. LOL! Sold a couple years later for $300. Would love another one, (Older and wiser) :)
skunkbait (author)  fukenfooser7 years ago
Yeah, It's true. I have to confess that the 2-Stroke streetbikes (I still have a 1972 Kawsaki ring-ding) have a way of causing trouble! They are good for fun and convenient parking, but not nearly as economical as say a Honda 750-4. If you ride a ring ding: you smell like oily smoke, you might go deaf, not cold weather friendly, but they are FUN!
Nothing quite like leaving a grey-blue trail hanging in the air everywhere you go. I like 'em because it's a lot easier to do engine work if necessary.
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
Yeah, I used to get to work and people would go "Snff, snf" -"You rode the the Kawasaki, didn't you?"
FireBAT7 years ago
Very nicely made instructable! I just gut back from AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in Ohio. That's the largest collection of old, weird, rusted-up-but still-running motorcycles in the world! Probably the only place where you'll see a brand-new Harley Trike parked next to an Ariel Square 4 and a ragged out Allstate that looks like it was stored under water for 30 years. I have a '75 Goldwing, 2 '78 'Wings, a '76 CB360T, and an '84 Nighthawk 700SC waiting in the barn!
skunkbait (author)  FireBAT7 years ago
Sadly, I know where ther's an alstate that has been stored in water (cow dip) for @ least 30 years! Hey, Those are the Wings I like. I'm "babysitting" a stripped down '79 right now. I'm not a real fan of plastic and extras. But I am a HUGE fan of the Wing engine and running gear. Wanna sell? Check out the "Scooter Trash Community" instructables group. We'd love to have you!
altomic7 years ago
when I was living in Japan there was this shed that I walked past on the way to the staton that was crammed full of junk. Through the gloom, mess and cobwebs I could see 3 honda monkeys. man that would have been a nice score.
skunkbait (author)  altomic7 years ago
I love Monkeys. They're fun and pretty useful. They're good to carry in your truck while off-roading. If you've got a Monkey, you can at least ride back to civilization in the event of an emergency. I've owned one in street trim and one in dirt trim. I'll buy another if I can find a GREAT deal.
abadfart7 years ago
very nice iv wanted a motorcycle for years where did u look for free bikes
skunkbait (author)  abadfart7 years ago
I 'm kina known in my area as being "the motorcycle guy", so sometimes they just come to me, but newspapers, junkyards, impound lots, are good places to look. If you see a house for sale and a few neglected bikes, that's a good place too. Lot's of times when you buy an old bike, those people can put you on to free or almost free "parts bikes".
skunkbait (author)  skunkbait7 years ago
Also, it's always polite to offer to pay a little (scrap prices) for the bike. If you get it home and can't fix it, you can always part it out on Ebay.
thanks man ill probably go junk yard cruising when i get my pay check and maybe ill check with tucker
themadman7 years ago
why do you have a right shift Triumph engine with a single carb when all of the rest of the photos are of Suzukis,Yamahas and Hondas? Note on classic british engines: they can have so much compression that they can appear to be seized.
skunkbait (author)  themadman7 years ago
I saved the Triumph engine from a literal junkheap, and the sold it to a professional chopper builder a couple of years ago. Most of the machines I own now are actually Harleys. The one I ride is a '73 Sporty, with right shift. Yeah, on the old Trimph's, BSA's, and Norton's you'd either do well to take a fat guy with you (to kick the beast), or pull the plugs and give it a kick to determine whether or not it's really locked up.
back in the '80s, my dad had a BSA A10 Chopper. everyone wanted to have a ride on it so my dad devised a challenge, whoever could start it within 3 kicks would get a ride on it, and whoever couldn't would buy a round of beers. by the end of the night he was so drunk he had to call his mate to pick him up. thats my little story over, I have forgotten the point of it but its something I thought I would share with the world
At a show put on by the local British car & bike club last year, one guy rode his BSA in. Kind of a short, scrawny fellow like myself. I was there when he was trying to get it started to ride it out. It involved jumping off the fender.
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
My '73 Sporty is high compression (CH), and can be a bit trying (especially when it backfires!). I can't imagine fighting some of those old Brit bikes, especially on a cold day! Thank God for the add-on pressure release valves!!!
skunkbait (author)  skunkbait7 years ago
I'll try to post some pics of the (current bikes) Harleys, Aermacchis (HD), and the Bultaco Sherpa soon. I did't have time to snap new photos, and all these are from 2-3 years ago. They have been rescued from rust, and moved on to new homes, (and owners with more time on their hands) except for the old XS1100 (still in my stable).
midnitemac7 years ago
My dad has an old Yamaha in his garage from when he was younger, I've always wanted to fix it up! Thanks!
skunkbait (author)  midnitemac7 years ago
Hey, if you come up against any probs with the Yam, let me know. I can probably help. It's not that I'm particularly smart, I've just spent WAY too much of my life with motorcycle parts on the kitchen table, in the bathtub, and on my nightstand. Just ask Mrs. Skunkbait, she'll tell you the long greasy story!
"In the bathtub" lol. Never quite gone that far, but I do remember hearing of the days when my parents' living room sofa was a '51 Warrior. And I have ceased to find it strange to see wiring harnesses hanging on doorknobs when I visit biking relatives...
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
The bathtub thing was back when I was "Kreeming" an old Honda tank. We lived in an apartment and I had nowhere else to work. I even did a paintjob (tank and fenders) in the spare bedroom. If they hadn't been getting ready to re-do the apt, I definitely would've lost my security deposit!
Ha! You can generally tell when I'm about to paint something, because I'll be standing in the checkout line at Costco with a huge box of plastic garbage bags and a 12-pack of packaging tape rolls. No more sneaky overspray for me!
bigtank23857 years ago
My uncle is willing to GIVE me a late 70s MOTOGUZZI if I can fix it up. There's nothing major wrong with it, it just needs new tires, and some small engine stuff (spark plugs, clean-up, etc.) It's in great condition paint and leather wise-a few small rust spots. And i love the fact that it's automatic. He has Ridden it for about 5 years and doesn't have the time to fix it up. This looks like a good summer project for me!
skunkbait (author)  bigtank23857 years ago
That's awesome. I've worked on a couple of Italian bikes, but never a Moto Guzzi. THey are great machines. I like the transverse V-twin engines.
Spectrace7 years ago
good job with the instructable. Me and my dad recently got his 73 Honda CB550 out of our garage and have been cleaning it up. Bad thing is that there was 21 year old gasoline still in the tank.(EWW! so he got this tank cleaner and sealer stuff called Kreem don't remember the price though) Lucky thing is he ran the gas out of the engine when he put it into storage. He hooked his car battery up to the terminals on the bike with his jumper cables and tested the electric starter (IT TURNED OVER YAY!) so now all we have to do is finish getting the rust off the chrome parts with steel wool and finish the tank with the Kreem products. :)
skunkbait (author)  Spectrace7 years ago
Follow the Kreem instruction EXACTLY. I've done a couple, and it really does a good job when done properly. I had a '78 Honda 550 back when I was young they are great machines. I may still have a couple of engine parts lying around. If you need something, just ask. If I have it, I'll give it to you for the cost of shipping.
Thanks for offering but everything is there on my dads bike. only thing as I said is to finish getting the rust spots off and clean the tank oh and I forgot to mention it needs a new battery(you should see the thing after its sitting there for over 20 years). The only thing missing is the right side mirror which fell off and broke. He found a place online where he can get it but i don't remember the price or shipping.
skunkbait (author)  Spectrace7 years ago
That's cool to still have so much intact. So many bikes lose peices over time!
A lot of older bikes use rotary ignition. You better check the condenser, points, and timing in such a bike while you're checking spark plugs. While you're at it, get a set of feelers for the cams/valves... About 20 years ago I fixed a 1971 Kawasaki A1 (250 cc 2 stroke), drove it for thousands of miles, then sold it for more than I paid. My next bike was a Honda CX500- water cooled, shaft drive, electronic ignition. All I ever had to do to it was adjust the valves once in a while- easy because it was a V-twin engine.
Oh yeah, if the bike has been sitting exposed to weather for a couple years you might need to replace ignition wires. They tend to crack and leak when they've been sitting out for a while.
skunkbait (author)  Mark Rehorst7 years ago
That's good advice. You should really do an instructable on electrical troubleshooting for motorcycles. I know how to do the simple electrics, but I have a hard time explaining it all. We have 3 early 70's Kawasaki 2-strokes in the shop right now. My first "real" bike was a '72 Kaw S2-350.
Keith-Kid7 years ago
You know what I find funny, as soon as I saw this title in the home page, I thought "I bet skunkbait made this!" I was right!!
bumpus7 years ago
Excellent! A friend of mine is looking to get a motorcycle when he goes for his license, I'll make sure he sees this. Very well done!
Gjdj37 years ago
This is really nice! I'm saving up to buy a motorcycle when I get my license. These are some really good instruction. 5 stars and favorited.
Nice one, time to get my 77 KZ750 back on the road where it belongs! Thanks
skunkbait (author)  potatomansoup7 years ago
My cousin had a Z1000. That whole line of machines were well-designed. If you come up against any unusual problems, I may know the answer. Feel free to ask.
Notags7 years ago
Right on time with this!! I've got a '72 Honda 350 Four in the garage that needs to get running again. Needs a few carb linkage parts (broken), battery, etc. Carbs are clean, tank is rust free, kick start works!!
skunkbait (author)  Notags7 years ago
Awesome! I owned a '72 350-4. Those are neat machines. It was kind of an exercise in engineering. They basically shrunk the 750/550. Time and finances dictated that I parted the old machine out. Wish I had carb parts for you! They're long gone. I'm down to wiring, shocks, and frame. Good luck with yours. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.
Skunkbait, you've done it again, great 'ible, as fas as the seizing bit goes it's good you warned them of the risks, granted we had things that ran with no oil and no piston rings for their lives, on the colt it was much more powerful... Rated, featured, bowed to...
skunkbait (author)  killerjackalope7 years ago
Many, many sincere thanks!
Good 'ible needs recognition...
Rishnai7 years ago
Another tip for anyone doind a carb for the first time: remember to put the new float valve seat in if you took one out. Otherwise, you'll get gas all over your lawn. (You mean you're not doing this outside? Outside with ye! Fire is sneaky, and fuel/cleaner vapors more so.)
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
Yep, you can never be to cautious when fuel is involved.
Indeed. I keep a halon extinguisher within arms reach at all times when messing with fuel for just that reason.
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
The XS 1100 pictured in the ible is the one that nearly burned the garage and the Corvette. I learned 2 lessons. 1) Take it outside. 2) Keep an extinguisher handy. (Halon is best for fuel, water often just spreads it!)
Plus, they're tiny and keep a charge a heck of a lot longer than CO2. I've reached for an extinguisher and found it empty one too many times to trust them ever again.
Rishnai7 years ago
A word of warning: the metal around kickstarters can fatigue and crack with repeated abuse, especially cold winter starting. A small crack can get big, way too fast, and dump transmission fluid all over your back tire. That doesn't make for good stopping, although it can make for a fun ride, after which you'll need to change your shorts.
skunkbait (author)  Rishnai7 years ago
Unfortunately, I've got a picture for that. I'll add it soon.