Lubricating a motorcycle

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Lube-It-All. I wonder if the title of this post might be a good name for an oil-change franchise. Or, it may be a good name for a medicine that treats constipation. It’s catchy in both instances. Moving right along…

The great unwashed

An often overlooked area of motorcycle maintenance is lubrication. Most bike owners change oil as required. Some change it with religious fervor while wringing their hands over what brand to use. However, many of those same zealots won’t lose any sleep if the bike’s bearings aren’t greased at the required intervals.

Of course, cleaning and lubricating or replacing bearings at home isn’t as quick and easy as an oil change. It can be downright painful in some cases. Bikes don’t have automotive grease nipples, so things—big things—have to be removed to get to the bearings. Big things like swing arms and wheels.

The historical details of the ZN aren’t known, at least by me. So I’m just assuming it’s had no maintenance whatsoever unless there’s evidence to the contrary. With bearings, there’s no way to check for evidence except by removing things, like swing arms and wheels.

The lubrication plan for the ZN includes the swing arm, rear wheel, shaft drive, final gear case, drive shaft joints, front wheel and steering head.

The first step is to…remove things. First to go is the rear wheel and final drive case. The next is the swing arm. With the right tools, there’s no real trick to removing these components. On the ZN, everything is held together with bolts and circlips/snap rings. If something isn’t coming apart as it should, then my bet is there’s a snap ring holding it in place somewhere.

There’s a right tool for every job. Years ago, I grew tired of cheapo snap ring pliers. They were the kind with multiple tips that would be interchanged and (precariously) attached to the pliers. They’re sold for a few bucks everywhere and were good for the weakest of snap rings, maybe. To replace them, I bought a 12-piece Convertible Retaining Ring Pliers Set that handled internal and external rings of all kinds and at all angles. I was completely satisfied that I’d never need to buy another set of snap ring pliers again.

Sometimes there’s wisdom in platitudes or clichés. For instance, there’s one about “never say never.”

After removing the rear wheel with final drive case, I got to the drive shaft and swing arm. Everything was moving along well. It looked like all the fasteners were removed. But, the swing arm was hung up and I couldn’t expose the drive shaft.

Tail-12I didn’t see any problem until wiping away enough old grimy grease from inside the rear drive shaft joint. There it was—another snap ring hiding under the grease. Fine, I’ve got just the ticket in my handy dandy 12-piece kit. With the appropriate pliers in hand, I reached in to grab hold of the snap ring and…nothing. The nose of the pliers weren’t long enough to reach the ring. It’s about 1/32” too short. So back to Amazon for these and wait for delivery. It didn’t matter much because I was also waiting for the USPS to deliver the grease seals and wheel bearings.

My new snap ring pliers did the trick
New snap ring pliers…a silly millimeter longer

Thanks to Amazon Prime, the OTC 0400 External Straight Tip Snap Ring Pliers arrived in a day. Ten seconds after getting the pliers out of the package, the snap ring was removed and in my hand. There’s a right tool for every job. That’s a platitude too, isn’t it?

At this point, it’s just waiting for parts and then reassembling everything. For me, the worst part of this job isn’t removing things or putting things back together. It’s not playing with grease over and over again throughout the day while reassembling components. The worst part is cleaning up the dirty old grease and grime. One of these days, it would be nice to have a parts washer for the garage like this or something like it. One can dream, right?

Next: Building a bobber-style saddle (1 of 3)

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