I've often made mention of the $10.00 part, buried deep within the engine of an otherwise perfect bike, screwing up. The end result is much grief trying to get at said $10.00 part, resulting in much expense to the owner. Although this sort of thing is relatively rare when buying a used bike, it can and does happen. I guess my time was due for a major headache like the one I've just mentioned. Case and point: A 1984 Honda Goldwing of the Interstate/Titanic variety. This particular bike was involved in a minor rear end collision with another bike. The accident left the wing with what I would call minor cosmetic damage. There were a few bent trim pieces, a cracked saddle bag, and the odd scrape and scratch here and there. The owner was looking for a new ride and the crash gave him the perfect opportunity and reason to sell.
Other than the obvious damage, there was also an oil leak coming from the left valve cover and a small hole in the muffler. The bike started and ran great and the crash hadnt caused any serious mechanical damage. The owner also said he had just replaced the alternator last week (which had cost numerous large dollars) along with a complete tune up. The bike was priced to sell at $1800.00, as is of course. I haven't done much work on a land yacht so I figured it would make a nice change.
Once home the bike was given a good wash to remove all the oil that had spewed out through the failed cover gasket. I picked up a new gasket along with a manual and set about the task of replacing the leaky rubber with a fresh one (I guess that explains the kids - Ed). Of course to get to the valve cover the engine guard will first have to be removed ..... Oh, and the lower fairing so I can get to the engine guard bolts ..... Oh, and the middle faring must come off so I can first remove the rad screen to then get to the lower fairing bolts, but first the inner trim piece must be removed to access the screws that hold the decorative carb trim bits that block the last bolt that holds the middle access panel as to remove the middle fairing and then the lower fairing in order to remove the engine guards to find the guard is threaded in between the head pipes, necessitating the removal of the head pipe bolts so I can lower the pipe enough to slip the engine guard out and remove the valve cover......
With the valve cover off I took the opportunity to check the valve clearances which turned out to be spot on. This gave me confidence in the owners story that the bike had been given a complete tune up. The new gasket was installed and all the pretty bobbles were put back on. I changed the oil so I could have a peak at the stuff that came out. Wow, like new and without metal, this is a good thing. Fresh oil and a new filter were installed and the bike fired up. Ta da!! No leaks.
That evening I went out to start up the Titanic and take my kids for ride when a funny thing happened. When I pressed the starter button the starter motor engaged and whirred around but the motor did not turn over. Now when the starter turns but the engine does not, the thing, or things, that connect the two items is obviously connecting no longer. If this was happening on my (in)famous Virago, it would be no problem, simply remove 15 bolts, pop off the left hand engine side cover and have a look at what's a miss. Not so with the Titanic from Japan. It's starting system runs in the back of the motor, behind the alternator... The alternator? But it was just replaced. I bet something went wrong when it was going back together. I'm saved! If the alternator was just done surely the shop that did the job would honour the work done and have a look (foolish boy - Ed). As it turned out the work was done a little over three months ago, and the shop that performed the original work would happily look at the problem, but not on a warranty basis. I'm not saved! With the starting system placed where it is, the motor must be removed from the bike in order to access the starting mechanism.
The phrase removing the motor from a bike in most cases is an accurate description of the process. On the Titanic removing the bike from the motor is a better description of the required process. To remove the engine from the Goldwing, simply take the task of removing the valve cover and multiply it by 100. Once all the pretty, non-functionals covering all the crucial stuff are removed you can then start the job.
A 1200cc Goldwing motor is no 400cc twin, so the idea of doing this job by myself was out of the question. This operation would require assistance from those strong-like-bull, smart-like-streetcar (What? - Ed) and in-need-of-free-food types. Fortunately in this industry there is no shortage of this type of individual. So I promptly fired up the Sonic Signal and shone it out over the skies of Toronto. Within hours the Bar-BQ was glowing, the bike was off the engine and the tribe rejoiced around the deck, celebrating the job and giving thanks that all had returned from the garage with their digits still intact. A sacrificial baked potato was left on the grill as thanks to the powers that be.
With the motor removed from its host, removing the rear engine cover was a breeze. The starter mechanism was visually inspected and all appeared as it should. I decided to activate the starter by way of booster cables and a battery so I could see the starter system in action, or lack of action. The starter motor would spin, which in turn would cause the starter drive chain to rotate around the rotor, which is attached to the crankshaft and so should also spin. The rotor was staying put as the drive chain spun happily around behind it. It would seem there is some sort of disagreement between the rotor and its mate, the starter clutch. In fact it would appear that they've stopped communicating. I felt that a trial separation would be appropriate at this time. The rotor was pulled out of the relationship and inspected. Well what do you know, one of the three rollers and its accompanying spring is missing. That would be the problem, with only two rollers and springs the bike might start if you caught it at the right point, but if you didn't the bike would not turn over. Finding what is causing the problem is a great feeling, locating two little bits in a motor of this size is a sickening thought. I mean, I don't even know if the parts are in the motor. What if they fell out during the last operation? I don't mind buying new ones, they're not a big dollar items but what if they're floating around the engine waiting to cause a terminal problem? I began a systematic search for the missing pieces and was quickly rewarded by finding the roller stuck in a crevice of the rear case cover. Now all I had to do was find the smaller spring. It is often said an untrained pair of eyes can see what the veteran cannot. Enter my neighbour Bob, who is always popping in to see what trouble I'm into. I explained what I was looking for and Bob had a look inside. Within a minute he pulled the tiny spring from a groove in the magnetic rotor. This was perfect, not only did I not have to buy any new parts but I was now assured there were no unwanted things bouncing around in there. I placed the AWOL parts back into their respective places and retested the starting system. The big 1200 cranked away on the bench perfectly. I tried this several times just to make sure nothing was going to fall out. With the testing completed and my worrisome mind somewhat at ease I installed new gaskets on the rear case and clutch covers then retested the starter once the covers were bolted back in place (you can never be too cautious in this game).
The engine was now ready to be refit into the mother ship. The Sonic signal was once again lit, but as it turns out everyone had just eaten ... bad timing on my part (Gadzooks Sonicman, your faithful sidekick, Bobby H. - The Boy Blunder, never got the signal! Try the 100 Watt bulb next time - Ed). Fortunately Bob was still here willing and able. Mmm... Two guys a 1200 four cylinder and a hydraulic jack... Yeah we can do this! One hour and ten minutes of huffing and grunting later the bike was back on the engine. Now I had to put all those THINGS back on. Once most of the nicey nice stuff was prettily replaced, I thought I should have a look at that little hole in the exhaust. Just like its ancestor of the White Star Lines, the little hole turned out to be a fatal gash - one that would require replacement of the whole muffler unit. That's a price that may very well cause my own fatal blow. $599.00 Oooooh, I'm dying again! (And thats just for the rear section folks). What do you do in a situation like this? Why, you go to the salvage shops, which of course do not have what you want in the condition you want it in. So you eat it and buy the one from Honda. It sure was a lot of money, but at least it looks pretty!
The new pipes were installed and the rest of the shiny stuff was put back on. Unimportant things like anti-freeze and spark plugs were also replaced. The carbs were set up and the air filter changed. Two month had passed and I was now ready once more to take my kids out for a ride. I pressed the starter button and the engine fired right up. The first kid clambered aboard and as we eased away from the dock and out onto Harwood Avenue, my rear lookout pointed towards an approaching Diki Dee cart and shouted "Ice Cream ... Right Ahead!"
Thanks for reading.
© 1997 Canadian Motorcycle Guide