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Mar 31, 2009

Spring Maintenance Tips (or Ignore me now and ride later… much later)

Tech Tips

I can tell from the Royal Enfield chat boards that I participate in that spring has sprung for many of you and it is time to ride.

Time to talk about Spring maintenance. You are one of two kinds of people, those that washed and waxed your bike, lubed everything, put new oil in it, used fuel stabilizer and put your battery on a Batter Tender, covered your bike, put it away in a nice, dry and maybe even warm place… or you’re one who just plain put it away, rode hard until the last hours and then put it up wet (so to speak). The first group knows the drill and are probably already out riding as we speak enjoying the attention that only the Royal Enfield brings. I can tell from the chat boards the rest of you are scratching your head and wondering what happened over the winter… “but it was fine when I put it away” is a commonly-heard refrain. For this group I will try to get you back on the right track with some Spring maintenance and tune-up advice.

First of all, there is a good chance you may need a new battery. Even you don’t, your battery will need to be charged. When charging a battery on an Enfield, never use a charger that uses more than 2 amps. Any more than that and can cause damage to the bike, including warped plates. Before charging, make sure it is filled to the proper mark with distilled water. Do not add acid. If you live where we do (in the frozen tundra) and you didn’t charge your battery over the winter, odds are pretty high that it froze and cracked the case (a discharged battery freezes at a much higher temperature than a a fully-charged battery). Be sure to check for damage, fill with water, clean the terminals of all corrosion and then charge it. Charge it fully, don’t be impatient.

While the battery is charging, it is a good time to take care of the items you neglected in the fall. Drain the engine oil and the oil in the primary chain case. Check the oil (5 speed) or grease (4 speed) in the transmission, and top off or change if needed. Add a new oil filter and re-fill with oil. The engine will not take quite as much oil as your owners manual says (there is always a little bit still in the nooks and cranny of the engine), so take care not to over-fill.

Next, check the tightness of your primary chain, adjust if needed and re-fit the case using a new gasket if needed. Refill with either the recommended fluid, transmission fluid or other “made to work with a clutch” primary oil. Adjust the drive chain and rear brake rod. Inspect the tyres carefully for any weather checking on the sidewalls, bulges, tread damage etc. Then fill to the correct air pressure.

Remove the petrol cap and see what kind of mess you have in there. The best situation is if you filled the tank with Stabilized laden petrol, turned off the petcock and ran the carburetor dry. In this case, you will most likely have no trouble at all. You should check the rubber hose between the carburetor and intake manifold and the carburetor and air filter box. These are both wear items. I highly suggest that you remove the  intake rubber and inspect it very carefully, especially under the clamps, for any signs of cracking. This is an important step. If needed, replace one or both rubbers.

Smell the gasoline, if it smells at all like varnish or if you didn’t use fuel stabilizer, drain the fuel. Odds are that it is bad or at least not good. If you left the carburetor full of fuel you have a 30% chance that all is well. You can do the math on the other side of that equation. While you have the carb off to check the rubbers you might as well remove the float bowl and clean any gunk, oil, gas, etc from it. Use some carburetor cleaner to spray through the main jet and pilot jet and as well and any other passages a carburetor cleaning tool may also come in handy. While you have it apart, lube the throttle cable. Our cable lubing kit is the easiest way to go. If you see any fraying or corrosion on this cable or any others, pickup the appropriate OEM or premium replacement cables and replace them now. When all of this is finished, you can refill your tank with fresh gas (not the stuff that has been sitting all winter for your lawnmower). Then check the steering head bearings for tightness.

This next step may seem backwards, but I like to wash the bike at this point. Dry it with soft towels or compressed air (making sure that you don’t blow water into any electrical connections). After washing and drying your bike, wax it. Pay particular attention to the wheels, spokes and paintwork. In our store, we’ve got some greate products for cleaning wheels, plastics, metals and most other bike surfaces. We’ve even got a detailing kit for the more obsessive Bulleteer.

Now lube, inspect and adjust the clutch, decompressor and front brake cables (unless you have a front disc brake). The clutch cable wears the quickest, but don’t assume anything about the other two. Use the cable lubing device or some other lubricant. Adjust the decompressor so that it will move just a little bit (1/8 to 3/16″) before it starts to engage the decompressor mechanism.

I like to put a nickel in the crack between the brake lever and the brake perch when I adjust the front brake cable. I then adjust the threaded end near the brake lever to take up any slack. If you have a disc brake, carefully inspect the master brake cylinder window for proper level, the hose for cracks and the pads for proper thickness.

The clutch cable is a bit more sensitive to adjustment. Improper clutch adjustment causes more shifting problems than any other single thing. I tell people to adjust it as “tight as you dare”. I like to put a dime between the clutch handle and the clutch perch and then tighten the cable so that the adjusting lever just touches the rod which actuate the clutch (not true for the new UCE bikes, but those are all too new to be coming out of storage this year). Adjust the clutch cable on the right side, either where it enters the side case for 5-speeds or though a window in the upper right-hand side of the 4 speed.

Now take some engine oil in a squirt can and lube the rear brake mechanism where it goes under the frame. Use chain lube and lubricate the drive chain following the instructions on the can.

Using a grease gun, grease the two grease zerks on each side of the swingarm and brake mechanism (if you have them on your bike). If you can’t get to them, a bit of oil will do the trick. If you have a 4-speed, there is a grease fitting on the top of the right-hand outer transmission cover. Put just a little grease into this fitting; this is a case of “less is more”. Rotate each wheel and make sure the bearings are smooth.

If you have any annoying drips or leaks, this is a good time to fix them. Usually all you need is a slight tightening of something or a new gasket/washer.

While you are digging around on all of these things, we recommend that you put a wrench on every nut and bolt you can find to make sure none are missing or loose. Don’t overdo it and strip something out but be diligent.

If you have a bike with points ignition, remove the distributor cap and check the point gap. Twist the points cam (which will move the advance weights out) and make sure they retract properly. The points rubbing block lifted off of the cam with a screwdriver the cam should snap back into place. If not, investigate. If you have a points ignition, be sure to check the timing, especially if you’ve adjusted the points.

Remove the spark plug, add a teaspoon of engine oil to the cylinder, and kick the bike through a couple of times. I like to add a new spark plug every spring but that is up to you, given the condition of the installed plug.

By the time you have done all of this, your battery should be ready to reinstall. Measure its voltage before you install it. It should be at least 12.5 volts. If not, you may have a bad battery on your hands. This is the single biggest thing we hear in the spring: “the battery was good last fall…”. I like to check the grounds on my bike before I reinstall the battery. There is a bolt that holds the battery carrier in place. If you remove the battery carrier you will see that most of the ground wires are fastened to the frame by that bolt. Clean them up with some steel wool, fine sand paper etc.

2 Responses to “ Spring Maintenance Tips (or Ignore me now and ride later… much later) ”

  1. battlegraphics Says:

    Gad! This makes me so happy to live in Florida where one can simply keep the bike running all year ’round. Oddly, nothing seems to reduce the maintenance load like regular use.

  2. meilaushi Says:

    I live in Western Pennsylvania, and while there are those here that talk about a “Riding Season”, I find all year is the riding season. Winter just requires wearing properly insulated clothing, and avoiding riding (if one doesn’t need to) on those days when the roads are icy. Other than that, the bike goes when it would go any other time. 20° outside? The ol’ Bullet starts on the second kick just about always!

     
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