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Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

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trevor machine
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Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 5:24 pm

Weather's been really pants here for the last few weeks - past five winters have seen me doing a few hundred miles each week this time of year. But winter 2017 has been far harsher so far, with very stiff frosts every morning consistently for three weeks or more. The lanes around here are not gritted - so, even though the main roads aren't too bad by late-morning, midday, etc., actually getting to those routes is hard enough in the car never mind by bike.

In light of this, I decided to plumb in one of my spare Optimate leads to the 500's battery and do an alternate two-day charging regimen with my KLX in a bid to maintain the bikes' batteries.

When I first connected the 500 to the charger I got a display telling me the battery needed a bit of juice. That's one yellow light and one green light. Once the battery has drawn enough current, the display changes to two green lights and the charger switches over to a maintenance sort of mode.

So, the next day, I headed into the garage to see if the two green lights were displaying. And they were. Having decided to head out, I clobbered up, did a quick POWDER check, put some air in the front tyre, keyed the ignition, idiot lights came on, thumbed 'start' and...CLICK.

NB not the 'clickclickclickclickclick' that speaks of solenoid shenanigans and a battery with insufficient charge to crank the starter. Just...CLICK.

So - I reconnected the charger and noted yellow and green lights again. A few hours pass and two green lights appear. I therefore hit start again - but, again, CLICK.

Now I'm thinking what, starter motor? Nah - this is a Honda. It might not be the most thrilling bike in the universe - but one thing you can usually count on is it starting. After a nuclear war. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Etc. A cold spell in an English winter should be shrugged off, no problemo.

So I then thought well maybe I didn't refasten one of the terminals with sufficient gusto. But no - even though they're a bit tricky to get a socket on, I honestly can't think they're so loose as to cause an electrical issue. And yet just 'CLICK'.

Now, it may be that the battery has chucked the towel in. But really - it's not THAT long ago since I ran the bike. And it's always cranked eagerly and started first time. True, there was a time a few weeks ago when the bike was being reluctant - but I think I'd used too much choke and flooded it, and kept trying to start it when I should've just let it stand for a bit. When I did this, I did nearly have the battery die on me. And, true, it HAS been consistently and continuously cold for more than a fortnight. However, the bike's garaged, I've never had problems before, and in any case, why is the Optimate showing two green lights but there's insufficient charge to even crank once or twice nor even do the clickclickclick thing?? That single, resolute thunk of a CLICK is a bit worrying.

Before I shell out for another battery, what else - if anything - can I try? I suppose I need to get some sort of multimeter on it and see what's what. 

I wish I could say how old the battery actually is - but I really can't remember if I've ever replaced it in the five or so years of ownership. I don't think I have. I suppose, theoretically, it could be the original battery from the late '90s. Is that possible? Unlikely - but possible. Dunno what to try now. This is very out of character for the bike - it's always been eager to start, all times of year, all kinds of weather. Nor can I quite think that a moderately healthy battery would give up the ghost when confronted with a few nights of frost. scratch


Last edited by trevor machine on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 4:38 am; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by teamster1975 on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 5:29 pm

Silly question, have you tried rocking it back and forth in gear?
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 5:36 pm

Yes! I actually have tried that. To free up the brushes, is it? Maybe I should try that with a bit more vigour. I was a bit limp-wristed tbh.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by teamster1975 on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 5:55 pm

You need to shift it enough that you hear the engine slightly turn, I've had it happen a few times over the years! Symptoms were always 1 click when pressing the starter.
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trevor machine
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 6:01 pm

You rule. My optimism is restored! Smile
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by tt fan on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 6:09 pm

You mention alternative charging with a KLX if the batteries are similar could you 'borrow' its battery to see if that starts your CB, or at least try a jump-start from it?i
I share all your sentiments about how tough and reliable our CB's normally are, but i would bet the problem is your battery.
Mine has been funny about starting this winter (and having left it on optimate overnight didnt seem to make any difference) so i've just fitted a motobatt MBTX9U 47 quid from busters and all seems well again.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by Jameshambleton on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 6:48 pm

Sounds like a bad ground to me, check the battery terminal bolts.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sat 16 Dec 2017, 7:35 pm

LABEL ME SOLVED!

Just ventured out to the garage for a fag and thought fuck it, let's see if I can rock some life into the old beggar. Sut astride it, pulled the clutch in, put it in first, paddled a few feet, came down on the seat at the same time as letting the clutch lever return. Repeated that a few more times, then turned the ignition and thumbed the starter. Didn't manage to actually fire it up, but it was cranking and it came close a couple of times. Am now definitely more optimistic that it'll start tomorrow. Tbh I think I might have had the fuel switched off. Like a nonce. Anyway, reattached the optimate leads and put it on charge. Tomorrow morning should hopefully see the bike fully roused.

Thanks guys esp. teamster.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by teamster1975 on Sun 17 Dec 2017, 10:07 am

Superb, well done Trev! Very Happy
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sun 17 Dec 2017, 2:16 pm

HUP HUP HUP date!!

Okay - got the bike "started". Yay. But also nay. It cranked and started for a bit but wouldn't rev, and cut out. Like a reluctant metal mammal starved of fuel. So I flipped the fuel cap to listen for the sighing of a dying wee beastie. But nowt. No sound of air escaping.

Instead a somewhat different sight greeted my eyes - NO FUEL. What the hell. Tank completely drained. Checked trip meter - tells me 162 since last fill up. So...what??? Last few mouthfuls of petrol have evaporated somehow?? I mean, what are the odds of me just getting back home on, well, fumes?

Well all I could do was play along. Went to shed to get green plastic container of petrol kept aside for lawn mower duties and put about half a pint in, turned tap to reserve, and went  through the starting process.

Wow - bike so not happy. Started it but the amount of smoke and general reluctance was immense. Did manage to get running on two cylinders but my god it sounds rough as arses. What the actual hell. Totally and utterly out of character for this bike.

Shitty weather is really starting to piss me off. I get the distinct feeling if I ventured forth the bike would be jolted out of its lethargy and be its normal self in less than a mile.

Alternative plan - go to local Shell station, get a can of fresh petrol, fuel the bike up, pray for a less hideous climate. E.g. this morning, 7:30, temperature was -3, and the lanes here were utterly treacherous. Could barely even walk down the road never mind ride a bike anywhere. Gritters stop at the main road about two miles away. Two hours later it's pissing down!! Why isn't it snowing?? It's still bloody cold out there. Snow would at least have a seasonal vibe - instead this freezing rain is just thawing the roads to reveal a thick coating of brown shit everywhere.

It's like my garage has turned into some weird temporal vortex. I parked my bike in there three weeks ago, when it was a sprightly, eager thing - always happy to start, run and receive a decent thrashing. Fast forward to now and it's turned into a geriatric basket-case that won't even idle and only comes on two after being tortured into yowling submission. It's aged about five hundred years in just over 20 days. THANKS WINTER!!!
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by teamster1975 on Sun 17 Dec 2017, 10:05 pm

It sounds as though the bike gods are keeping you inside in the warm with a beer, I'd heed that and attack the bugger when it warms up a bit Smile
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Mon 18 Dec 2017, 6:52 am

agreed Neutral
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by eternally_troubled on Wed 20 Dec 2017, 10:47 pm

You probably just ran out of petrol, but, before you go pouring too much more in check that it hasn't somehow drained into the engine... it's unlikely but a quick sniff in the oil filler is worthwhile.

I have had this happen on a non-CB500 bike and the only answer is to drain the oil, replace the tap seals and the float valve needles in the carbs.

I stress that it probably isn't this but it is worth a check...
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Sun 24 Dec 2017, 6:59 am

Thanks for that ET - I think you might be on to something.

Latest developments suggest there's certainly a more serious problem than simply a weak battery and a stick-prone starter motor.

Hints of other things being awry came to light when, after making numerous attempts to start the bike over a several days, me and a mate decided it was time to delve deeper and suss out once and for all what the hell has happened to this damn bike to make behave so uncharacteristically.

Time to check for a spark.

However before I can report on our findings there, a totally separate problem came to light! I'd switch the petcock to nine o'clock prior to lifting the tank off...and lookie here. A slow yet continuous droplet of fuel. Now, let me just quickly note that this petrol tap has always been weird. I've owned this bike from when it was an 8k minter and that damn tap has never felt quite right. Example - it often proves utterly impossible to turn. Few seconds later, bam, twists as though nothing ever happened. Very annoying and somewhat strange, as it's like it's playing some weird mind games on you. At any rate, I think this explains why the bike refused to stall when I was trying to lay it up. Yeah I know, I should've just drained the carbs. Eh. Moving on.

Both plugs were wet, smelled of fuel. Dried them off. Both sparked. Seen fatter sparks in me life, like. But still. Arcing was observed.

So - plugs back in, fill carbs with a bit of petrol via the tube and try starting it again. Nowt. Not playing ball at all. Okay - bit of bum bumping side saddling down the road mebbe? Well, the road was slimy with mud and the entrails of my despised enemies (but mud, primarily), so traction was in meagre supply. Nevertheless, the bike's reluctance was much in evidence.

Now, finally, I should also report that earlier we had actually succeeded in firing the bike up. Yes it did decide to start - but my god would it f*** idle. Didn't wanna know. This happened a couple of times. Sounded really ill - came on two, mind. But yeah - wow. Bike's well stricken down with summert. Smells wrong, sounds wrong, feels wrong (on throttle).

As me mate said, it's really not best pleased this interloper - the zxr9 - has turned up. 500's gone all my bat my ball not gonna play any more. Jealous or what. Why do bikes take the hump like this?? Petulant brats sometimes. It's not like I wasn't ever gonna ride it again. Although yeah okay the 9 instantly began to dominate the garage even though it was on decade old shoes, had shagged headstock bearings, was 4k overdue a huge main service, front forks were on max adjustment yet still as soggy as an old mattress, and it was like riding a rudderless barge. Even with all that crap going on, it was out 20 rides for only one the 500 was seeing. Plus the 500 saw its stable mate and brother, the green 500 get sold off at the beginning of autumn just gone.

The remaining 500's got really down about everything.

And now I need to sniff its oil hole for weirdness. That will only deepen its malaise, I'm sure.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by teamster1975 on Sun 24 Dec 2017, 11:56 am

Hrrrm, I wonder whether the diaphragm is knackered in the petcock?
Found this rebuild kit
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 4:33 am

Yeah that too is a possibility.

Before I say more though, ET's diagnosis was helpful and accurate.

Many shenanigans are afoot. A strange tale will unfold - on Christmas Day...stay tuned for a festive case of motorcycular mystery. Intriguing evidence has come to light. Some of it genuinely a bit frightening!
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by tt fan on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 9:45 am

I know bike shenanigans are not funny, but your write up is - very! Still say a battery will help matters, and raise you a set of plugs in light of the new evidence... Petcock problem also noted because strange as it sounds the quality feel of the click and motion of that little beauty was one of the things that first said to me these little bikes are better than they had any right to be! Hope you get it sorted soon mate.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by eternally_troubled on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 10:23 am

@trevor machine wrote:
Before I say more though, ET's diagnosis was helpful and accurate.


In this particular case I'm not happy to be correct...  it will be probably be ok, it's just a pain-in-the-arse to fix, given the carb removal - mind you, you can test how *much* the float valves leak by seeing how much the carbs overflow when connected to a auxiliary tank held above the bike - probably better to do this once they are off the bike!

Also, if you do end up removing the carbs, might be worth shelling out for a set of new carb rubbers - £25 plus postage from Lings ('ere) - as they are usually pretty buggered (if they start to leak air you will have a whole new set of running problems!).

I just hope that my bike will be more co-operative after being layed up for a month or two - the good news is that I rode *a* motorbike yesterday, just not the CB500 (it is in need of an MOT).
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 3:09 pm

Cheers guys - really good info there.

So here's the latest. Went out on the 9 yesterday, Squires, Tadcaster, Borough Bridge - or half way there. Had to turn round cos it started raining. Big drama at Lotherton Hall cos me mate nearly topped him sen pulling out of the junction at the end there. On his street triple - little Fiat coming from the right. He's so knackered at the moment with this puppy staffy bull he's bought - won't let him sleep. Needless to say the incident wrecked our confidence and we felt like crap after that.

When I got home, my other mate Mike had just pulled up. He'd been dwelling on what might be wrong with the 500 and wanted to try some stuff.

First thing he said was let's drain the carbs and see about this petcock situation. I said about ET's comment on checking the oil filler stick for fuel smell. Anyway, first we slackened the bowl screws off and put a tray under the overflow pipes at the back of the bike. While they drained, I whipped the oil stick cap off and bloody hell, straight away a massive flood of oil and petrol slopped onto the drive.

Meanwhile, at t'other end of the bike, the sight that greeted our eyes was a bit of a head scratcher. Clearly visible in the petrol was an accumulating layer of sediment beneath the petrol. First thought was some sort of oxide. But as I said to Mike, look in the tank - it's as clean as you like. No sign of rust anywhere. He said yeah but what about the seams we can't see. Fair play.

In any case, as plausible an answer as plain old fashioned rust was, this sedimentary layer didn't quite look or feel that way. It was too fine, we felt - not gritty enough somehow. Secondly, colour - it wasn't orangey red but pinky.

Wtf.

There was a fair amount of this stuff. Second theory - village shop has a petrol pump, dearest fuel in five counties. Mebbe I'd got a limp-me-to-a-proper-garage amount - say, a tenner - recently, thought nothing of it, but it was a pump full from the bottom of the shopkeeper's underground tanks.

Seems far-fetched, but then what was this stuff?? Okay - third theory. This is the bike I crashed a few years ago and damaged the tank. Sent panels away to Dream Machine paint in Notts, cos another mate in the next village has a good friend who works there who'd do it as a foreigner. All panels two hundred quid - including lacquered decals and everything. Too good an opportunity to miss. But, point is here, this sediment almost felt like paint - you know how spray paint that doesn't land on a properly prepared area forms into a kind of dust? This stuff was like that - almost like a red lead oxide kind of thing. Perhaps a primer layer? Prepped the outside of the tank and some had blown inside during the process??

Even more far-fetched. We'll probably never know. So - suitably confuzzled we then made an oil catcher by cutting the front off a 5 litre 10w40 container I had lying around and undid the sump plug to let everything drain out.

Meanwhile, we're still checking the carb drips - which seem to all be clear of sediment at this point. Whatever else we concluded, it was apparent the "off" position on the petcock doesn't work properly. This is now definitely confirmed. A steady drip, followed by a short stream - that's the pattern there.

The reason I said "frightening" above was because as I said to Mike yesterday, hydrolock. Supposing I've been trying to start the bike and a sump full of petrol has expanded the volume of liquid such that it's in the top of the engine, and everything's been smashing into it, unable to compress?

Mike said that was a bit pessimistic - after all, we'd only been putting a pint, pint and a half's worth of petrol into the tank when trying to start it. That made me feel a bit better. Plus anyway, a catastrophic starting failure would probably have ensued - i.e. a more dramatic, conclusive one. His point was that even though we'd effectively increased the volume of liquid in the engine, by mixing the oil with petrol, it wasn't like the tank had been say half full and an amount of that magnitude had made its way south. Again, I took some heart from this observation.

Next steps - maybe try to flush everything through. But how? Pour petrol into the engine through the oil filler and leave to drain overnight? Then 3 litres of new oil? Get the tank off, remove the petcock, and try and flush that through too? We're just thinking of how to go at, really. Any suggestions would be great.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by ANDYC on Mon 25 Dec 2017, 4:34 pm

Petrol in the engine is never good.
It strips th oil film from the bearings and everything else. Just fill it with either clean oil or flushing oil and run it up to temperature, drain it and refill it with the correct oil.
Fixing the fuel tap problem would be the first thing to sort out though.
Just a thought,  the petrol you had in the can for your lawn mower, it wasn't pre-mixed with two stroke oil was it.
That could be an explanation for the pink substance.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Tue 26 Dec 2017, 8:15 am

Nah - it's a four stroke mower (a Honda "Izzy"). But you have reminded me something. Any petrol I put into the tank I did so by pouring it through a clean rag that I bunched up and stuck in the filler hole. I was conscious of the fact that theoretically any fuel not put into the bike from a commercial pump could perhaps contain unknown contaminants from whatever source, so I subjected it to crude filtration. It's slower and messier that way, but I think it serves a purpose.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by skyerae on Tue 26 Dec 2017, 10:17 am

I used to have a Yamaha FZR and it was fine when it decided to work but one day I couldn't get it running properly. It would start (badly) and idle but as soon as you began to rev her she died. I got about 100 feet out of the village to get her looked at and she died. After lot of shenanigans we got her to the garage and spent a stupid amount of money to get her running. The running issue was due to water in the fuel (almost a 50% mix) I had filled up the bike at filling stations on the way to work, one was right up against seaside and the other up the top of the hill with the sea side at the bottom of the hill. The mechanic said that one of the tanks must have rusted through and sea water was getting into the tanks. I have NEVER used these two filling stations again and advised a friend not to top up there when out for a blast - he managed to get to his town and fill up with what was left in the VFR.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by trevor machine on Tue 26 Dec 2017, 11:38 am

Interesting stuff. I do always try to avoid the pump at the village shop - I just have it in my head somewhere that big commercial petrol stations are preferable in almost every way (biggest incentive is price, but I do honestly also have concerns about the quality of the fuel - it's Rix fuel - but also the tanks beneath ground). Sometimes needs must though, and I cave in and buy from there.
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by skyrider on Tue 26 Dec 2017, 2:02 pm

you sometimes have to take that risk and hopefully its ok and better than pushing to the next garage
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Re: Special extended Christmas edition of knackered bike - now with added mystery

Post by skyerae on Tue 26 Dec 2017, 2:31 pm

Pushed the FZR about a mile up a b****y big hill as the hydraulic clutch lost all it's fluid and it nearly killed me. I had to stop at a traffic light and as it was the start of the uphill couldn't get up speed to push start it. Once I crested the hill I push started it (which was really easy to do) and after this i just changed up and down without a clutch - as there were only a few traffic lights and once out of Aberdeen there were none.

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