Sunday, May 9, 2010

Simple Engine Parts

Quick, close your eyes!  It's a motorcycle without anything on. Actually the stuff that's not on is all the plastic "Tupperware."  Yesterday I did valve adjustment, changed the plugs and the air filter. It's kind of a big service so I have more to do but I'll spread it out over a few weekends so I can continue to ride.

Whenever I do engine work I'm generally struck by the fact that these simple engine parts allow us to be transported to and from various destinations. We don't see these parts but we rely on them to do their job and not fail.

I use the term "simple engine parts" because the gasoline combustion engine is really a simple design. The first time I delved into doing major work on an engine was soon after Amber and I were married.  We had a VW bug that needed an engine rebuild.  We didn't have the money to pay a shop to do it so she encouraged me to try it myself.  It seemed like a monumental undertaking so I bought a book called "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive."  It was a step-by-step manual for, what it stated on the cover, "The Compleat Idiot."  The word "complete" was intentionally misspelled.  This spiral bound book was very detail oriented as well as funny.  It even pointed out the times when the reader should take a break and have a beer.

When I took that engine apart I still remember that I got a slight sense of intruding in an area I shouldn't see. Kind of like seeing my own kidneys. It was a sacred thing that I shouldn't mess with because those engine parts were so important to the whole car that regular people shouldn't look upon them, let alone touch them. I don't want to see my kidneys, I just want to know they are there and working properly.

I've gotten over that feeling of holding engine parts high on a pedestal.  But whenever I do some wrenching I get a sense of respect for how these simple parts allow us to travel with a safe and confident feeling.  And how I generally take for granted when I turn the key everything will work well. Kind of like my kidneys.

Our son and his family came to the house yesterday.  The weather was so nice he rode his motorcycle while our daughter-in-law drove the kids in the car. I think our grandson is going to have a bend towards riding someday. All of us were hanging out in and around the garage on lawn chairs with a couple of motorcycles and a scooter. Three years ago that would have been unthinkable. What have we come to?

This morning on my ride to the jail I noticed many of the fields have crimson growing. I stopped to take one shot of the red blanket over a farm.  A word that comes to mind that describes the weather and the sights this morning is glorious. These days are the reason we live in the Northwest.

While cruising along this morning enjoying the view and taking in the fresh morning air the thought occurred to me, "Man, those valves are popping in and out at a fast rate.  I hope I did everything right!"


  1. Hi Mike,
    Eek! Naked motorcycle!! They sure look different without their "tupperware".

    Ron does most of the work on the bikes, and used to do all our auto maintenance. I like seeing all the secret engine parts, but am all thumbs when it comes to tools. I mostly watch and hold flashlights.

    Is that a clover field? It seems too early for clover. I think it's all this cold weather, but it seems like spring hasn't even started. I love the photo though, very pretty and the red makes the Beemer really stand out.

  2. Kari,
    The field is crimson and I think clover. Like the old song (well before your time) "Crimson & clover...over & over." Yesterday morning it seemed like it was everywhere. I wonder if it would be good ground cover in flower beds and on slopes?

    Hope you had a good Mother's Day!

  3. Mike:

    I remember that song, and perhaps a few older ones too.

    I wish I could watch you adj the valves. I would image you back off both nuts and put a feeler gauge in there, tighten the first one and lock it with the second one and recheck the gap. I always wondered what it looked like in there. so your bike has 2 valves on each side ?

    sorry for all these questions, I don't have the Compleat BMW valve setting guide for idiots book. If you could also show me how to lube the splines then I will be set to purchase a Beemer like yours. What scares me off is the maintenance, and BMW labour rates.

    Wet Coast Scootin

  4. Bob,
    No problem with questions. My bike has 2 exhaust valves and 2 intake valves on each side. You're right about the nuts for each pair of valves. They are adjusted as a pair and the goal is to get them as close to being the same as you can. The exhaust valves run hotter so they have a wider gap (.30mm) while the intakes are (.15mm). Once you get the hang of it it's easy peasy!

    Before I got my bike I was concerned about the maintenance too but having worked on cars I felt pretty confident I could do most things myself. The best $33 I've spent so far is for a video that guides you on all of the major services. You can watch some of the videos and get all the info here:

    I'm sure there will be clinics in Redmond at the rally this summer too. The BMW Motorcycle owners club forum is also a good source for info.

    Thanks Bob!

  5. Mike:

    How about an original "MIKE" production. I would like to hear someone with an Oregon Accent

    Wet Coast Scootin

  6. That's funny Bob. I might consider a video but I'll have to come up with an accent.

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    Contact Country Sales & Service for Kubota Engines & Engine Parts