Starting a bike that’s been sitting idle

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Some things have finally calmed down, including the big snow-making machine in the sky. And while there’s a break in the action we call ‘life,’ I decided to attempt the next two items…priming the tank (done; more in an upcoming post) and seeing if the bike starts.

BatteryTenderFirst things first…will it turn over? Well, let’s give it a try and see what’s what. We’re not going anywhere without hooking up the new battery that’s fresh off the Battery Tender. Now…the intent here is simply to see if the motor turns. I want to avoid long drawn out cranking on the starter as well as a complete start.

If the motor is reluctant to turn, it’s a real bad idea to force it. That unwillingness by the motor may mean the rings are corroded into the bores and could break. If that’s the case and the rings break, then there’s nothing else to do but rebuild it. This is why I dribbled a bit of oil into the cylinders a day or two before attempting it to turn over.

A couple of things to remember. Make sure the bike is in neutral. Sidestand down. Spin the motor on the starter without having the ignition on. In other words, flip the kill switch to the “off” position (you know…that red rocker switch on the right handlebar control). Turn the key to the ignition position and hit the starter. Use only short bursts on the starter.

FuseAlright, now for a moment of truth. Turn the key and … whoa! Nothing. No electric power at all…no idiot lights…no headlight…no horn…nada…zip. Better check the main fuse. Who knows how long the fuses have been stuck in the fuse box. The fuse box on the bike is a little funky, at least for me, and I have to watch that I don’t snap off the little tab on the bottom of the box. Anyhow, the 30 amp automotive fuse is gone. A new one popped right in and we have ignition…and the motor turns over. Good start—no pun intended.

That’s a good omen. Let’s go for the gusto and try to start this thing. Alright, re-install the surge tank with new carburetor boots, air box, battery box and battery. A cool little twenty minute job and this bike will be halfway to being on the road. OK, I exaggerate but it’ll be one step closer to being on the road. So what the #&^$@* is up with the surge tank? If I get the boot on carb #1, then the boot on #4 pulls off. If I get the boot on carb #4, then the boot from #1 dislocates. An hour later and I’m seriously thinking about purchasing a different surge tank. No way…calm down. Take it apart and check it out.

The carb boots aren’t numbered for use on a particular cylinder. However, the section of each boot that attaches to the carb is slanted. If they’re arranged so the first two slant to the left and the other two are slanted to the right, it may work. In fact, it does work. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest.

AuxFuelTankNext, we need fuel. If the surge tank was a pain, try maintaining or fixing a motor with just the factory fuel tank. Put it on, take it off, put it on, take it off. Yeah, I’m not having that. Instead, I use an auxiliary fuel tank. Nobody needs to spend a lot of money for one of these tanks. They can be made at home for just a few bucks. An interweb search will show many examples and ‘how to’ ideas. It’s necessary however to use materials that can handle gasoline without falling apart.

So far so good. Just let the gas flow (through the inline fuel filter), turn the key to ignition and thumb the starter! Almost, but no cigar. OK, I really didn’t expect it to start right up after sitting for so long. Geez, it really stinks like gas in here. Hit the starter again…here we go! OK, it sounded like it was about ready to go. Wonder what that puddle is under the bike? Gas…and lots of it pouring out of the overflow hose. Oh joy.

Besides flooded carbs, there’s a reason or reasons why there’s fuel on the garage floor. I need to think about it and make a plan. In the meantime, evaporation can go to work on the gas. The guy who sold the bike said the carbs were cleaned and put back together just as they were, in stock form. That may be the case but the fuel that drained from the float bowls didn’t look healthy to me. I wouldn’t even use it in a lawn mower or trimmer.

Time to give it another go. Yikes! It started…and proceeded on its own to rev up higher and higher, until I had to shut it down. That was crazy, especially now that it won’t start again.

Houston, I have a problem.


Next: My garage workshop, part 2

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