Sunday, April 3, 2011

Time away - not always a good thing.

August or September was the last time my VX moved under its own power. Today, after working on the front carburetor yet again, she is still not running well. Actually, she isn't running at all. She turns over, spits and sputters and then stops.

Yes, it is time. Time to turn her over to a professional to diagnose and repair. I am not an engine mechanic. I can work on pretty much any other part of the bike, but that engine confounds me.

Times are a' changin'.

My daughter was just accepted into the University of Iowa; definitely a step up from the College of Southern Nevada where she has been attending classes for the last few years. Hey, it is a FANTASTIC thing! I am seriously one proud papa!

However, that means changes... changes in my finances. The old Chevy S-10 I have been working on will need to be sold after her move is complete. My little Honda Rebel, one of the few Rebels to have been ridden from one side of the country to the other, will be sold. Yes, even my Harley Sportster may need to be sold. Hey, my daughter wants to earn an Ph.D... So, Ya, what do I need with all these bikes? Need to do what needs to be done.

Since I own two VX 800s, guess these will be my bikes of choice. So, my Project Vixen is moving up a notch. Time to bring in the professionals at Nevada Suzuki.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Little Hiatus

This is certainly not a break of convenience, it is a break of necessity.

Over the last month I have acquired another VX800, this one an original 1990 California version. After MANY hot days spent in the garage, all that remains, hopefully, is to disassemble the rear carburetor, clean, reassemble then mount both and I should have a running bike. After that, the carburetors will need to be balanced, new front tire mounted, fender mounted, speedometer worm gear mounted, new spark plugs and I should have a running, ready to register and insure motorcycle.

As a matter of fact, I just received the clean Nevada title for it today in the mail.

However, this Las Vegas heat is not terribly conducive to working on a motorcycle. Typical daytime temperatures in my garage are 115F to 120F. Up to 115F is tolerable if well hydrated and water is regularly consumed. However, after six hours in that heat, my body requires a minimum of 24 hours to recover. Last weekend was likely too much strain and full recovery required more than two days.

So, after I finish the rear carb and mount them back on the motorcycle, I am taking a hiatus until the weather cools off.

Oh, here is a post I made on my other blog about the front carburetor and how the diaphragm was messed up.

Ride safe, all!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Got Another VX!!!

Yes. My main stumbling block in this project was the engine. Either of the two engines I have need serious work to operate. BUT, another VX800 with, what the owner said, was a completely rebuilt engine, came available!

After the engine was rebuilt about 6 years ago, it started having rear carb problems and was put into storage. Over the years he sold pieces from it, so when I looked at it a few weeks ago it was missing plastic pieces, a tank, exhaust and a few other things. Well... I have those parts!

Yes, she does run (not well), but there are carburetor issues. From what people tell me, it is very usual for bikes that have been in storage to have carburetor issues.

So, before I start tearing into her, I want to memorialize what she will look like when complete. Everything is on except the front fender and yet-to-be-designed-built-or-purchased trunk.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Motorcycle Plastic Repair - Part 3 - Break Repair

After becoming fairly confident this method would work on a completely broken piece, the two pieces were cleaned with soapy water and rinsed. Please note that clean plastic when doing this sort of repair is quite important. If there is dust and dirt on the plastic, it will become part of the bond and weaken the plastic.

Plenty of cement was applied to both pieces to be bound together. The broken edges were not sanded smooth. The goal was to help align the pieces properly by fitting the broken parts together the way they broke. There was some resultant deviation in the final bond so perhaps sanding the edges smooth would have been a good idea.
An oversize fiberglass patch was cut for this. I wanted plenty of support for this.

After applying not one, but two patches of fiberglass and saturating them with cement the entire thing was held together by your's truly for about 15 minutes. Any sort of more stable wire or clamp based support just seemed overly complex. After 15 minutes of curing the piece could be set down on my work bench so it could complete its curing without holding it together.

After curing was complete, the flash plastic on the finished side was trimmed with a razor, the whole thing sanded with #180 grit sandpaper, washed, rinsed, dried and sprayed with three coats of Rustoleum Flat Black Acrylic Enamel. It is the same used on my front and rear fender.

In the final outcome of this break repair, there could be improvement. I could have sanded the joint a lot more for a completely smooth surface. My goal here is not perfection but experience.

Please note... Just before taking this picture I ate a breakfast of pancakes with powered sugar. I get my camera, slightly wipe the repaired crack with my hand and take the picture. Little did I know, or realize at that moment, the powered sugar remnants on my hand would be so attracted to the plastic and show up as obviously on the crack. So, just a hint... before taking pictures of repaired cracks, wash all powered sugar from your hands. :-)

Motorcycle Plastic Repair - Part 2 - Complex Cracks and Ready for Clear Coat

After what seemed like success on the smaller crack I attempted to repair the larger crack.

After applying ample cement and fiberglass, this crack required bracing to maintain the required shape while curing.
Sometimes one must be creative. After trying several brace points, this one was found to be best. This held the repaired cracks together quite well.

(Picture after the large crack repair had completely cured.)

After the cement cured I removed the VX800 label with a razor blade. Previous attempts with chemicals and sandpaper were successful but required a lot more work than a simple razor.

I then again donned a breathing filter/mask and eye protection, and sanded down the existing clear-coat with #180 grit sandpaper. Where the plastic cement squeezed through to the finish side, excess was easily removed with a razor. The cement will not adhere to the finish. Or more appropriately, didn't in my case. These points were sanded smooth. Yes, some of the welded crack repairs can be seen on my experiment, but with more work and sanding they can for the most part be made invisible on the finish side.

At this point I washed the now sanded, finished side well with soapy warm water, rinsed and let dry. Cleanliness is important if you want a good finish. Even the smallest dust particles will leave marks in the finish.

After the piece was dry I wiped it down with a dry cloth in an attempt to remove the dust. This was a mistake as that created a static charge on the plastic piece, making it attract dust particles like moths to a porch light.

After cleaning the dust off as best I could with a damp cloth, the piece was coated twice with Rustoleum Sandable primer. After drying I wet sanded the primer with #1200 grit sandpaper, rinsed and let dry.

I then applied two coats of Rustoleum Gloss Protective Enamel #7762 Sunrise Red. After three days curing time, the red was wet sanded with #1800 sandpaper and wiped down with a damp cloth. It then received a final coat of red paint.

In this experiment, the final desired result was knowledge and experience, not a perfect piece. Regardless, the resultant piece, ready for clear coat turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. With more sanding, time and a few more coats of primer and red, I have no doubt this could result in a mirror finish.

(Please note that the picture does not properly depict the true color of the paint. It is much more red with a somewhat pearl finish in the sunlight than shown here.)

Coming up - Part 3 - Repairing a complete break.

Motorcycle Plastic Repair - Part 1 - Cracks

Over the last few weeks, after the failure of attempting to use a soldering iron to mend the broken plastic on my VX, I decided to try my hand at using a plastic cement, or "chemical welding." As a complete novice, the pieces came out rather well.

Before getting into the details of this, the standard disclaimer applies: I am just a beginner; this may not work in all situations; this method my not be optimal but worked for me; I am not responsible for ruined plastic, fiberglass stuck in your skin or fingers stuck together. Remember... YMMV.

First things first. There are several different types of plastic used on motorcycles. Luckily most plastics are marked. In my case, it was not. However, there is a typical rule of thumb that unidentified black plastic is ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). It is important to know what kind of plastic is being repaired. Mismatching plastic to cement can cause your plastic piece to liquefy or do other bad, bad things.

After some research it was determined my parts were indeed ABS. A quick trip to Lowes and less than $10 yielded enough fiberglass sheeting and ABS cement to fix two dozen motorcycle plastic pieces.

The type of cement used is Oatey Medium Black ABS Cement. It is intended to be used on ABS plumbing but works quite well in this application.

DO NOT smoke or have open flames nearby while doing this. The cement releases flammable chemicals while curing. JUST DON'T!

The fiberglass in the sheeting splinters easily. Use gloves while handling or expect to get fiberglass splinters. Further, USE A FACE MASK or OTHER BREATHING FILTER. Fiberglass splinters in your throat or lungs is NO FUN and can cause very bad things to happen. And, as always, when doing things like this, wear eye protection.

OK, onward...

Step 1 - clean and scrub the cracks with warm soapy water (dish-soap worked well for me). Rinse well and allow to completely dry.

Step 2 - Cut a patch of fiberglass that will overlap the crack or break by at least 2/3 inch on either side. 2 inches overlap would be even better. Cut the fiberglass with a fresh razor blade, not scissors. Scissors will splinter the fiberglass badly.

Step 3 - Apply a liberal amount of ABS cement to the inner part of the plastic piece, where there is no finish or coating. If there is any finish or coating on the inner part of the plastic, it must be removed. This only works when the cement contacts raw ABS plastic. Be sure to get the cement into the crack.

Step 4 - Apply the fiberglass patch.

Step 5 - Apply enough cement to saturate the fiberglass and adhere it to the plastic.

And here is the finished product from the inside. It isn't pretty but after completely curing for more than 24 yours, this patch seems to be just as strong as the surrounding plastic.

Part 2 - coming soon. Complex Cracks and Ready for Clear Coat.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Plastic Repair with a Soldering Iron

It's Monday; lunchtime. Time to try my hand at plastic repair.
This is part of the right plastic panel from VX#1. Completely failing would be painful, but I have the plastic from VX#2 and it is in much better condition.
First, I pressed aluminum foil onto the piece. The thought was that it would help keep the heat focused on the plastic and not allow the plastic to burn. See how well the crack stands out on the foil?
I then started by following the crack with the point of the iron. I didn't press too hard at all. I wanted the plastic to heat evenly and slowly. After I could feel the plastic become soft, I started rolling the tip of the iron so plastic around the crack would melt into the crack.
Here are my initial results. Yes, they look a little rough but at least the plastic didn't burn.

The results were indeterminate. The smaller crack on the left sealed well. The larger crack on the right did not completely bind through the crack. It may be due to the heat not being applied for long enough. That is my uneducated guess anyway.

Tomorrow I will attempt longer exposure to the heat.

I also found this interesting post about using a soldering iron to repair larger cracks and broken plastic pieces. Looks promising. The author recommends using aluminum screening to reinforce the plastic. Looks like it is worth a try.

The crack seal attempt did in fact, fail. I stressed the piece and even the small crack opened. But I learned that the heat needs to be applied for a longer period of time to heat the plastic more thoroughly. We shall see if my second attempt tomorrow succeeds.