Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Freedom isn't (maintenance) free!

To a motorcyclist, riding is synonomous with freedom.  And it is probably the same for those who ride horseback.  It is also the case with bicyclists, though it isn't as effortless and commuting on a bicycle is more risky in most populated areas due to lack of well laid out bicycle routes.

For the first time since I purchased my motorcycle in April of this year, my freedom to ride was impacted by an issue with the bike.  Given that the bike is nearly two decades old, this isn't as shocking as it may seem.  But if I wanted that freedom back, I would have to either fix the problems myself or pay to have them fixed.  It was a tight month monetarilly, so I couldn't just rush in and get the bike serviced. Since I have a car, it wasn't an emergency, so I chose to make figuring this out part of 'my daily ride,' as maintaining the motorcycle is as much a part of riding as the act of riding itself.

After my battery wasn't charging on July seventh, my daily ride experienced its first hiccup.  I did buy a battery only to find that by the eleventh, the problem was not only recurring, but my taillamp was also out.  This precipitated an interruption to my daily ride, as I chased out the problems.

It has been a long time since I have had to do vehicle maintenance beyond oil and filter changes, so part of the process was clearing off my tool cart and going through my tool box and taking accounting of what tools I presently have and what tools I need.  Firstly, I had to buy a multimeter, as my old meter was long gone.  I still had a test light, however, and a fairly complete set of metric and standard sockets and allen wrenches, and I still had a full set of vicegrips, screwdrivers, adustable wrenches, and various pliers and wire cutters.  I even still had my fancy wire stripper that I purchased from Radio Shack about twenty years ago.  Last month, I had also purchased the shock preload adjustment tool.  I was off to a good start.

The initial replacement of the battery was easy, much easier than on a car.  Housed in the compartment with the battery is the wiring harness for the tail light, signals and brake light.  I was able to determine that power was going into the harness.  I went to the taillamp itself and found that power was going into it, but the bulb was still not lighting.  With my test lamp, I was able to determine that there was a grounding issue inside of the socket.  The socket was, unfortunately, pressed into the lamp assembly and was not replaceable.  This brought me to the next part of the adventure with the tail lamp.

Battley said that they could order one, and did.  The part was about seventy five dollars.  Not surprising on an OE lamp assembly.  However, I got a call the following day that the part was obsolete and the Motor Company no longer manufactures it.  With a near twenty year old bike, this was again, not surprising.  They did locate one at another dealer, but it didn't arrive until Tuesday the following week. 

While waiting for the part, it was time to get my work area into working order.  I cleaned the windows, evicting the spiders.  I took the old AM/FM/SW radio that I haven't run for years and plugged it in.  It worked very nicely.  With that and accounting of my tools done, I organized my tool box and car, threw away the junk and relocated the various non-tool items that had accumulated on it in the years since I worked in automotive service.  By the time I was done, I had a clean and organized work area.  Now to buy that meter.

Meters at Radio Shack really haven't changed much since I worked there.  I left there, in fact, the same year my bike was built.  Freedom from Radio Shack coinciding with the year my motorcycle, which would afford me a level of freedom not experienced in a car, was built.  Symbolic.  In any event, I opted for an analog meter, as the only meters that ever broke when I worked there were the digital ones.

With the meter purchased, I set to testing the charging system, which was putting out only 12.5 volts.  I got optimistic that it was putting out about fifteen, but then realized that I was reading the wrong range on the scale.  The light finally came in and I was able to install it without issue.  My old Snap On soldering iron held its butane and fired up after a decade of disuse.  Over the years, I'd accumulated several duplicates of box wrenches so I took the standard ones along with a ratchet and a standard socket set and put them into my tool pouch.

Last night, I was finally able to take the bike out and ride for about an hour.  It was a wonderful feeling to be free again.  But just like our national freedom, freedom to ride must be maintained and sometimes repaired.   Having the skills to do this makes the task easier and less expensive, but more importantly, it affords you freedom from being dependent upon the garage to keep your bike running.

Rock hard and ride free!

1 comment:

  1. A good read, Daniel! Glad you've been able to fix the bike yourself and learn a few things, as well as remember some things, too! <3