Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Couple of Errands

Last night when Amber got home from work she said the 4Runner had a funny smell. When I went to check there was a slight amount of steam coming out from the grille.  Upon opening the hood it was apparent that coolant had sprayed across the front of the engine. There was a slight hissing sound which lead us to a couple of cracks in the top of the plastic radiator. It's usually good when these little opportunities happen late on a Friday but they tend to tweak the weekend plans a bit.

I took the Vespa to the parts store this morning because it's the ultimate errand machine at roughly 65 mpg. I also took it because it's fun and it was a beautiful day and it needed some attention. I guess it could be called a mini Italian Garage Queen.

An Auto Zone opened about a month ago in our town and I am happy to give them my business. I like Auto Zone and it will replace the other store I've been using for generic parts.

Here is were I buy the import parts. I've shopped here for years. They know me and their prices are very competitive. When I called earlier in the morning to order the radiator they gave me a choice. A plastic one for $129 or a metal one for $210. Since we have about 357,000 miles on the original plastic one I went plastic again. The only stickler with these guys is sometimes I don't get the right part and don't find out until I can't make it fit on the car. More about that in a minute.

I used bungy cords to lash the radiator to the Vespa. That was a first. I mentioned to a guy walking into the store that the ride home might be tricky. He said yeah, but he's been to Asia and seen worse on a scooter. I was slightly concerned about the radiator falling off and the car behind me running over it.

These hairline cracks shown below were the problem in the old radiator. I think we got our moneys worth out of it though. The 4Runner is 15 years old.

Before leaving the store with the new one, Gerald the counter guy, was bothered by the fact that the box had been opened previously. We checked it and everything looked okay but it wasn't until I got it bolted in and went to hook up the bottom hose that I noticed the radiator was too short. It turns out it's the wrong one. I'll get it exchanged on Monday. This probably happened to the last guy who bought this one. Sometimes Murphy's law is unavoidable when it comes to cars and motorcycles.

Late last night Amber came down with a 24 hr. flu as did one of our daughters. I was chief cook and bottle washer so dinner tonight was quick and... cheesy.

This was another first. I've never brought pizza home on the bike. The best part was hearing the comments people made. Even the guy in the store asked, "How are you going to get the pizzas home on the bike, man?" Oh, they shouldn't be too hard after bringing home a radiator on a Vespa.

God's speed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on the Road

Yesterday morning as I rode to the county jail to do volunteer work, I had some wonderful memories in my thoughts.  Not only being Easter, it happened to be our 40th anniversary.

 Some thoughts on the road:
  • I'm thankful that Amber agreed to marry me.
  • I can't believe she's put up with me all these years.  
  • I'm thankful God has blessed us with our family.  
  • Forty years ago I didn't know that my love for Amber would be greater today than it was then.
  • I wouldn't change a thing.
These years have gone by way too fast.  Treasure each day.

God's speed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

"But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” 

Mark 16:4-7

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meeting RichardM & Downtown Parking Farkle

Last week in a post on Richard Machida's blog he mentioned that he would be stopping in Oregon to visit relatives on his way home to Alaska from a meeting he would attend in the East. I commented that it would be nice if we could get together for lunch, so we did yesterday.  Richard was gracious enough to stop and meet me for a late lunch at a Subway Sandwich shop about 15 miles south of Portland.

This is only the second time that I've met a fellow blogger.  Last year I met with Irondad a couple of times and I came away with the same feeling yesterday. These meetings are unique.  That is, the connection is further down the road than it normally is when you meet someone for the first time.  And there's plenty to talk about while filling in the blanks that are left with blogging.

I greatly enjoyed meeting Richard and getting to know him. We're both originally Southern California guys who have migrated to the Northwest. And we're both Beemer riders. He hadn't eaten since early in the morning when leaving Washington DC and was willing to interrupt his drive to be with relatives and have a late lunch with me. 

Thank you Richard for stopping on your way south.  Hope you continue to have safe traveling my friend!

Before I met with Richard I had a sales call at one of the older hotels in downtown Portland.  Just to briefly explain our parking meter system, we used to have the standard coin meters at every parking spot.  Some years ago the city installed green boxes like the one on the left.  This is where you pay to receive a small parking permit which is displayed on the inside of the window of your car facing the sidewalk.  Most people don't like this because you have to walk to the box in the middle of the block, pay, wait for the permit to print, then walk back to the car.  If it's raining it's a hassle.  

For motorcycles the instructions say to display the permit somewhere near the seat, as in sticking it between the two seats.  Of course this means it can either blow away or even be stolen. Mix rain into the equation and the permit is in bad shape.  Since the permit is also the receipt, if it disappears you also lose your proof of payment. It's a pretty lame system for those on two wheels.

A few weeks ago while parking, a meter person had just finished giving the car in the next spot a ticket.  I brought up this point about motorcycles being at a disadvantage and he gave me a coupon to get a free parking permit holder.  I didn't know these existed!

I sent in the coupon and within a couple of weeks received this handy little farkle.  The parking permit is held captive in the plastic display and kept safe from the elements or someone lifting it.  Yesterday was my first time using it and as I walked away from the bike in a downpour I walked with confidence knowing I had city approved protection.

It's funny how little things like this can bring happiness.

When I came out of the hotel the shower had passed and the sun was shinning.  Perfect for the ride to meet Richard, although it wouldn't last. In the short 15 minute ride down I-5 there was sun, rain, and hail. Typical Northwest spring fare.  If you don't like the weather stick around for ten minutes and it'll change.

God's speed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Breaking a Beemer Boxer Myth

Yesterday I adjusted the valves on the Beemer and I'd like to break a myth about servicing BMW boxer engines. One of the reasons that some people speak poorly about BMW's is because they require servicing every 6,000 miles.  This is true of any horizontally opposed engine with mechanical valves such as the original style VW Bugs and Porsches. The reality is it's not only a fairly simple task, it's also very satisfying.  Allow me to explain but first a little background.

Many moons ago when I met Amber she had a '67 Bug and I had a '61 356 Porsche convertible.  Every time I'm reminded about that car I feel like... ah, crying because it sure would be nice to have now.  Shortly before we got married the Porsche had a valve burn out because it was adjusted too tight.  At the time I didn't know anything about working on cars so I took it to the same independent shop that I use to take my '63 VW Bus for servicing.  The problem was the shop wasn't real experience at working on Porsches.  We didn't have the money to get the Porsche fixed and working on it myself was way too scary.  It was something only professionals should do, or so I thought.

About a week before our wedding I had the Dunlop radials taken off the Porsche and put on Amber's Bug.  That was probably a bad move because the night before our wedding we left her Bug parked outside our future apartment and it got stolen.  The car was later found but had been converted into a dune buggy.

About three years later we bought a beautiful light blue '68 Bug for $800.  After about a year the motor needed rebuilding and my independent shop wanted $700 to do the job.  Not long before this we had bought our first house and our first daughter was an infant.  We were strapped for money and spending $700 was out of the question.

That's when Amber coaxed me into rebuilding the motor myself.  At first I was reluctant because it seemed like a huge mountain to climb with me not having any experience.  I bought John Muir's book "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive."  If you haven't seen this book it's worth a look if you can find one.  It's both informative and funny.  By the mid 70's VW Bugs were everywhere and this book was popular. Now it's a classic.  Like it says, it's for the complete idiot.  It walks a person through every step including when to take a break and when to have a beer.

It was because of this book I was able to rebuild that motor.  It was my first and consequently a hugely rewarding experience.  It opened my eyes in so many ways as to how a motor works.  I felt I knew that car inside and out.  The result was a far more gratifying driving experience. The myth was broken that only professionals can work on cars.

Now I'd like to break that myth for you on how difficult Beemer boxer engines are to service.  Let's look inside.

Without going into a lot of boring detail let me just say that each cylinder has two sets of valves which consist of two intake and two exhaust.  The goal in doing a valve adjust is to insure that when each set opens they open to a prescribed amount.  Let's get on with the work and hopefully this will make more sense.

The photo above shows the intake valves on the throttle side.  They're hidden inside the two springs.  We'll look at the adjusters in a minute.  Look below the lower valve spring and you'll partially see a chain.  This is the timing chain and has two markers on its gear that tell us when each piston is at "Top Dead Center" (TDC).  We want the the piston in the ready-to-fire position at the upper most point (TDC).  That way there will be lash or looseness between the end of the valves and the rocker arm adjusting nuts.  In a position other than TDC those springs would be compressed and that would be a bad time to set the adjustment.  The rectangular block barely visible to the left of the chain is our marker that tells us the piston on the clutch side of the bike is at TDC.  I put the bike in 6th gear and bumped the back wheel with my hand in the direction it normally goes to get this marker in its position.

The good news was both sets of valves on the clutch side of the motor were still within the correct tolerances and didn't need adjusting.  See how easy that was!  We're halfway done already! 

The photo above shows the throttle side of the bike.  I have already bumped the rear wheel so the marker for this side is in its proper spot at TDC.  This side is where our photos will come from.  I've stuck the four feeler gauges in their respective spots to show where all the action happens.  The exhaust valves are on the right and are adjusted to .30 mm clearance while the intakes on the left and will be set to .15 mm.

There is more to this but I don't want to risk your eyes glazing over and you dozing off at your computer. If your laptop isn't plugged in your battery will wear out and you'll wake up to a black screen.  No, I've never done that.  Although this might make a handy sleep-aid in the future so feel free to use it that way if you desire.  There won't be any copyright infringement.

Here's where things get kind of busy.  There are three things going on.  We're sliding the feeler gauge up and down to feel the drag between the valve end and the adjuster.  We're controlling the drag on the feeler gauge with the hex wrench in the left hand.  And we're tightening the adjuster nut with the 10 mm wrench in the right hand once we get to the correct drag.  This is done in concert. The key is to get both valves set to the same drag so they're as close to identical as possible.  This makes for a smooth running bike with a smooth idle.  This is the hardest part of the process but trust me, after you do this a few times you become experienced quickly.  It's a simple trial and error process that's fairly easy after you get the hang of it.

This is repeated on the intake valves but using the .15 mm feeler gauges.  Once we get these two sets adjusted we're done.  You now have the satisfaction of doing the job yourself, spending the afternoon bonding with and learning more about your bike, having the assurance that it's done properly, and saving a fair amount of cash.   BMW club members have a wealth of information available on the forum online for doing all kinds of work.  So if 6,000 mile services are keeping you from owning and enjoying a BMW Airhead, I'd like to expel that myth.

No matter what brand of motorcycle you ride, if you haven't done your own work don't let the fear of the unknown stop you.  I recommend getting a manual, doing the research, investing in some tools, and enjoying the extra part of owning and riding a motorcycle.

I also changed the oil and filter and want to mention that I had a helper.  Our 5 year old granddaughter, Avery, was handing me tools and was the person behind the camera on some shots.  She said she might ride on the Beemer someday and that maybe it will be when she's eighteen.  I told her I hope it's sooner than that!  She brought me the handful of dandelions.

When the work is done and there aren't any leftover parts, that's a good thing. The only thing left is to wash the bike and go for test ride.

I can't think of another machine that gives the owner the reward of actually feeling and hearing the results of a tune-up like a motorcycle.  Because we're straddling the motor and holding the handle bars we can sense when things are a little off or spot on.  Doing your own work gives you an even greater awareness of how your machine is running.

It's been almost two years since I got the Beemer.  She's due to have the brake system flushed so stay tuned for that job in the coming weeks.

God's speed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Simple yet Complex

This is not an endorsement but wood would you buy one of these?  Not even to reward their hard work?

While watching this for the first time I was babysitting our 4 month old granddaughter.  She was dozing in her infant seat on the kitchen table.  This video put her to sleep!

God's speed.