Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oil Filters Exposed, or: "Why FRAM filters suck"

I came across this lovely bit of information many years ago, and it's important that everyone knows: FRAM filters suck. They have been banned by the NHRA, AMA, CSS, and WERA motorcycle racing organizations, because of frequent failures on the track. We're talking "blowing off the bike and covering the track with oil, and then blowing up your motor" failures.

I've personally seen fram filters come apart internally and rattle around, and I've seen them implode due to a faulty bypass valve. (Fram doesn't even use a spring for the bypass, just a piece of metal -- the ONLY piece of metal in the entire filter).

But, I won't bore you with my anecdotes, instead I'll give you actual information and proof. I found this a few years ago, and it's been continually updated ever since:

Seriously, FRAM is probably the worst possible filter you can put on your motorcycle or car. Don't believe me? Cut one open yourself. You'll be sickened by how poorly constructed the filter is. Don't risk your motor on junk. Buy NAPA, Wix, or K&N for your cars, Emgo, HiFlo, or Vesrah for your motorcycles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

JB Weld is magic

A great many people scoff at the use of JB Weld as a permanent repair. The stuff is amazing, but it's (perhaps not unfairly) associated with half-assed repairs that cause more problems than they solve.  Well, I'm here to say that if you apply it properly, and there is minimal stress on the part, this stuff is amazing.

Years past, I came across a CX500 motor, where the owner had somehow busted the water jacket (blown head gasket and massive overheat). It was broken right around the steel cylinder, a big V-shaped chunk was missing. He repaired it with JB Weld, of all things. He said he carefully cleaned and dried the aluminum, applied the JB weld, and sanded it down to the same level as the head. Then installed the head gasket and drove it for 10,000 miles. Eventually he decided he wanted a new motor, and he drove it to my dad's place. We swapped his motor for a low-mile motor in good shape... but we just had to remove the right head to see his repair. It was still holding strong, and it took quite a bit of effort to chip out so that we could see the extent of the damage.

Now, a busted water jacket repaired with JB Weld is impressive. The sealing surface of the head gasket right around the cylinder experiences wild temperature variation, as the engine heats up to operating temps. There's constant pressure from the head gasket, and the JB Weld was exposed to moving coolant. But that's still not magic.

Repairing an entire missing chunk of a motor. THAT is magic. I picked up a 1993 CB750 Nighthawk that had been wrecked, for $500. The owner locked up the front wheel, had a lowside slide, and then slammed into the back of a car. The bike went under the car, and the electronic ignition cover on the left side of the bike was sheared off by the undercarriage -- taking a big chunk of engine case with it.

See the missing chunk of metal? 

Not only that, but all of the bosses for the bolts that hold the cover on were busted off as well. This side of the motor contains the pickups and the timing gear, and it runs in an oil bath. No pressure, but the crankshaft has no seal on the end, so oil that comes out of the crankshaft bearing makes its way to the oil pan by draining through this area. So the bike can't be operated with a big hole in the case here.

The very first thing I did was load the bike in my truck, and bring it to my welder. This is the guy I use for any welding project that I'm not capable of. The guy is deaf as a doornail -- I have to scream at the top of my lungs, or write down my instructions, because 40 years working in a machine shop without ear protection has rendered him almost entirely deaf. I've seen him fix aluminum wheels that were curb-checked and cracked all the way through. I've seen him cut, shape, and weld extreme rake into a chopper. I've even seen him weld super-thin sheet metal without distorting it.  But, he wouldn't touch this. Said it was beyond repair, that the porous nature of cast aluminum combiuned with 20 years of oil contamination would prevent a quality weld, and that I should look for a replacement motor.

So I was looking on eBay for a used motor, but thought I'd give a shadetree fix a try. I went to the auto parts store and bought several tubes of epoxy putty. These are the size of a roll of quarters, and consisted of aluminum powder suspended in a two-part epoxy putty. Squish the putty together to activate it, and then apply and wait for it to harden. Since I had such a big area to cover, I found a piece of quarter-inch think aluminum, bent it with a BFH (Big Fucking Hammer) so that it had a curving radius, and then cut it with an angle grinder to fit the hole as best I could. I cleaned and roughed everything up, and then applied the putty to the case and to the aluminum piece. I also built new bosses with the remaining putty. After it dried, the repair looked like this:

I made the bosses oversized, so there is enough 
material there to support  a bolt.  I still need to 
drill and tap the last hole
Same angle as above, case is repaired.
I sanded the JB Weld down so it was level, and you can see some of the aluminum piece that makes the gasket sealing surface. It wasn't completely level, so there is some putty on top of it in places to level everything. I bought a new cover and used it to locate the last hole. I drilled and tapped it, then applied a THIN layer of silicone to a gasket, and bolted the cover on. I didn't dare tighten the cover too much, but I didn't have to. There's no pressure in here, and just a little more than finger tight is all it took to keep the cover on. There was a very, very infrequent oil drip, which I later went back and fixed by doubling up two gaskets with silicone sandwhiched between them. (The trick is, apply a thin bead of silicone both sides of both gaskets, snug everything up finger tight, and then let the silicone dry overnight. THEN tighten a quarter turn or so)

This worked for more than 15,000 miles without any problems. I even went touring hundreds of miles from home, and I wasn't worried a bit. I never did find a good used engine for a good price, and I eventually sold the bike for next to nothing, because of the damage. It still looked pretty nice from a few feet back though.

Nice new cover bolted right on
From a few feet back, she actually looked pretty nice. 
Not bad for $500
So JB Weld may have a bad rap, but it turned a $500 parts bike with a clean title into a runner. I spent less than $70 on the repair, and most of that was the new cover and the timing trigger. And this is why JB Weld is magic. Given the right situation (no shear stress) it can do amazing things.

I had no reservations taking it touring in the
Blue Ridge Mountains
A marvel of modern science

Hello Magnus, my old friend. (V4 repair and revival)

I'll admit it. I let a bike I love sit for way too long. I never used to understand how someone could let a motorcycle sit and go to pasture before, but here I am with a bike that was in need of major repair. It was still drivable, but then the brakes started feeling very wooden, and to top it off the fork seal puked oil all over my rotors. So out of sheer frustration, I just let the bike sit for almost two years.

Now, it's not like I wasn't riding. I had a CB750 Nighthawk that I brought back from the grave, and I was working on my big CX500/650 Cafe/Adventure/Scrambler project. I finished the CX, sold the nighthawk, and finally, my eye fell to my 1984 Honda V65 Magna, sitting in the corner of the garage, dusty and lonely. Almost 80,000 miles on the clocks, but on her second motor. The original motor I broke second gear after 36,000 miles. Well, really more like 32,000, but I kept riding it another 4000 miles, skipping second gear. I put a nice 14,000 mile motor in her, and rode it until two years ago.

Removed bodywork and exhaust. Carbs, radiator, and rear
wheel still have to come off before the motor can be removed
At just a hair under 80k on the clocks, 2nd gear failed again. I was being careful and didn't abuse the bike at all. I suppose I should be happy, the motor lasted 58,000 miles before second gear started popping out. Well, now I've acquired yet another motor. I'm not sure if the transmission is even good in this thing, nor do i know the mileage. But the cams are perfect and the motor is very clean, so I'm hoping for a good transmission too.

I could repair the original motor. But, 2nd gear is no longer made by Honda. I'd have to buy a used transmission for $150-$200 off of eBay, and hope 2nd gear isn't trashed. Then I'd have to have the transmission undercut, for another $300. I paid $350 for this motor, and last weekend I dropped the old motor out and bolted the new one in.

It's never that easy with a bike that's been sitting though. The carbs were full of green goo, and I had to rebuild them. The Kerker exhaust system has a couple of dents from where I tried to ride over a curb, and they need to be pulled out to restore performance. (Or I need to buy a new exhaust system). The muffler I installed really killed my power and my gas mileage, so I need to replace that as well. I removed the heat shield between the radiator and the carbs, because I was sick of removing the radiator if I needed access to the carbs -- bad idea, as that caused a vapor lock condition on a hot day.  So i had to buy a new shield off of eBay, paint it, and install it.

Big ole dent in the header for the #2 cylinder
This header has seen better days
I've swapped over most of the chrome covers from the old engine to the new, and I need to swap over my Kevlar clutch, my good starter gear, and my oil pressure gauge. I replaced a spark plug wire that was pinched and damaged as well.

I have new brakes on the way -- new master cylinders and new pads. Lots of little modifications are on the way to make this even more of a cafe bike. So even though the new engine is in, the valves are adjusted, and the carbs and radiator are back on, there's still a very long way to go (and lots of parts to buy) before I can even start her up again. Still, that day will be here pretty soon.

New motor installed, carbs, radiator, and wheel back on.
Need to swap clutch parts and then I can button up the motor