Saturday, October 24, 2020

Honda… 1967

 American Honda was running into difficulties in 1967, at least with the US operations and sales. They had amassed a huge inventory of slow-selling models and financial challenges almost lead to their downfall in the American market. Honda’s engineers were also tasked with working on a new car line (N600-Z600 sedan/coupes) had just pulled out of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and were diving into automobile GP racing, so resources were scattered out everywhere.

Honda had been selling basically the same motorcycles for 7 years, with few updates. The US line-up for 1967 was the whole line-up of now-obsolete push-rod-50cc Cubs (Honda went to OHC engines in 1965 with the S65), a transition from the CA95 to CA160, CB/CL160 twins, 250-305s and the blossoming CB450, which finally got a 5 speed transmission. Honda reportedly had imported 100,000 50cc Cubs during the early years. At $245 the Cubs few out of dealerships initially, but then languished as more powerful machines were offered.

While Honda continued to churn out old models, their rivals were gaining a big foothold in the US. Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Bridgestone (which closed in 1971) all had innovative models, many with 5-speed transmissions and colorful paint schemes. The snappy performance of the 2-stroke engines gained many fans, especially due to their lightweight engines, which had few moving parts in comparison to Honda's more complex but sturdy four-stroke machines.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Honda began to move in the direction of cosmetic and mechanical upgrades to all of their models. Looking at the 250-305cc models, there were just a few visible changes, like alloy forks on the CB72-77s and restyled seats with upturned forward edges. Honda changed the transmission and crankshaft splines for easier manufacturing and added on some chrome fenders and an oval tail light to the Super Hawks.

Honda Dreams were mostly unchanged after the switch to “late style” models in 1963. Honda swapped out the old, tall, thin batteries for the short, fat CB77 batteries in 1966, which continued until the end of production. The oval tail lights are shown in the parts books for the 1967 models, but few have ever been seen in the US.

The buzzy Honda CL77 305 Scramblers had an engineering makeover, including the transmission splines and a rubber mount update for the seat, rear fender, muffler, fork ears and footpegs to improve rider comfort. The 1967 models also gained the “oval” tail light on the end of their production models, first on the standard silver-painted fenders, then with some late-release chrome fender models which also came out with the first of Honda’s Candy Blue/Candy Orange paint schemes.

There were other little detail changes like cleaned up carburetor bodies which had vestiges of never-used power jet casting features removed. The horns were changed to cheaper plastic versions and even the tappet covers had a different shape but never had a revised part number.

The “041” oval tail light assembly was sourced from a small C50 step-through model, but applied to all of the 1967 machines. For models like the SS125A-CL125A and the new 5-speed CL175K0, which were only sold for 3 years, the shape of the tail light defines whether the bike is a 1967-68 or 1969 which had a new taillight design featured on the CB750K0 machines.

For new models like the CB/CL350s and carryover CB/CL450s the tail light shapes were oval for 1968, then followed by the enlarged CB750 types.

One of the major changes for Honda in 1967 was the switch from JIS tread pitch to ISO standards. This changeover leads to many difficulties for models which were instituted before 1967 and continued afterward, like the S/CL90 models, CT90, and the CL1750K0. When looking at the microfiche parts illustrations and part numbers you see the transitions on fasteners and any other parts with threaded holes during the period.

The JIS to ISO changes affected 3,4,5 and 12 mm screws/bolts


3mm                                          0.6                     0.5

4mm                                          0.75                  0.7

5mm                                           0.9                  0.8

12mm                                         1.5                  1.25

The size of the bolt heads was also revised


3 mm                                      6 mm                  5.5 mm

4 mm                                      8 mm                  7 mm

5 mm                                      9 mm                  8 mm

6mm                                       10mm                  10mm

8 mm                                      14 mm                  12 mm

10mm                                      17mm                  14mm

12mm                                      19mm                  17mm

14mm                                      21mm                  19mm

16mm                                      23mm                  22mm

18mm                                      26mm                  24mm

20 mm                                     29 mm                 27 mm

All of these changes affected even the handlebar switch screws, as the transition continued. The rare NOS handlebar switches that come up for sale for most models, including the 250-305s all have JIS-threaded screw threads. Unfortunately, JIS threaded fasteners are quite hard to find anymore, so you are faced with having to re-thread JIS holes to ISO for these parts, as well as the 5mm screws on 250-305 point covers and dyno covers.

 Things began to start looking up in 1968, with the release of the all-new 350cc, 5-speed twins, the 5-speed 450s, and even the new CL175s now came with 5-speed transmissions. Most all 1968 models sported metallic paint schemes, more chrome and a new sense of purpose as they moved into the end of the 1960s.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Small part, big confusion…the 250-305 kickstarter pawl

 There are three little parts on the end of the kickstarter shafts of ALL 250-305cc twins from the 1960s. They are:

SPRING, PAWL product number: 28228-250-010

PAWL, SPINDLE product number: 28255-250-020

PIN, PAWL product number: 28256-250-000

Notice that the center codes of these parts is 250, which comes from the first generation dry-sump engines, which were built in 1957-60.

       Kickstarter shaft with kickstarter pawl and pin shown in correct installation order.

These parts are responsible for the kickstarter arm engaging the transmission’s low gear, which is connected to the crankshaft via the primary chain. While the kickstarter shaft only moves when the kickstarter lever is depressed, the kickstarter pawl/spring/pin parts are all actively engaged when the engine is running. The pawl is pressed into the inside features of the transmission low gear by the spring and pin, which stabilizes the spring as the assembly rides up and down inside the transmission gear.

For the kickstarter function to occur properly, several things have to be properly aligned and in good condition.

1. The low gear is supported on the kickstarter shaft by a stepped bronze bushing, commonly called the “low gear bushing.” This bushing is supporting two gears with a step in the middle to separate the two gears on the shaft. Over time, the bushing wears down, causing the low gear to wobble on the bushing. Also, the little step ridge on the center of the bushing gets worn down laterally, eventually wearing the ridge completely off of the center of the bushing surface. When this happens, the low gear is both wobbling on the bushing’s exterior and is also allowed to move laterally towards the adjacent gear and away from the kickstarter pawl.

2. The kickstarter pawl has a bit of “float” in the end of the kickstarter shaft, but needs to be fairly squared up inside the low gear’s inner engagement features. If the low gear gets too cockeyed and wobbly on the bushing and kickstarter shaft end, then the kickstarter pawl can’t fully engage the inside of the low gear and the whole mechanism “slips,” instead of engaging the engine properly.

3. Because the kickstarter pawl is always engaged, operating basically as a one-way clutch, the edges of the hardened steel pawl eventually wear down, causing another reason to create slippage when you try to kickstart the engine. The little pawl pin pushes up on the back side of the pawl to keep it engaged with the low gear teeth. The pin is spring-loaded by a tiny coil spring that drops down into the hole in the end of the kickstarter shaft. After many millions of cycles of up and down for all three parts, they eventually wear out. The sides of the spring can wear flat and begin to grab the outside of the pawl pin and the two begin to accelerate wear together, as they do their best to support the pawl itself. The tip of the rounded pin begins to flatten out, as well. In high-miles engines, the “teeth” that engage the kickstarter pawl on the inside of the gear also wear down, so they can’t hold the pawl end properly.

4. When maintenance is left undone, due to lack of oil changes, poor engine tuning and other factors that put additional stress on the kickstarter pawl system, eventually it fails completely. Because these parts are part of the transmission, the engine cases have to be split in order to replace the worn and damaged components. In some cases, either the end of the kickstarter spindle that supports the pawl will break off and/or the roller bearings that support the transmission gear on the opposite end of the shaft will wear through the hardness of the shaft surface and begin to dig into the shaft. 

Instead of rolling smoothly, the transmission gears start to engage the shaft during on-off throttle conditions. What happens is that the kickstarter shaft begins to swing back and forth, while the bike is being ridden. On a CB72-77, the kickstarter arm can come into contact with the rider’s shins on the right side, in a surprising display of force, as the kickstarter arm goes forward on its own, then whips backward towards your leg.

5. Another wear point in the transmission, being affected by the kickstarter pawl is the 14mm end spindle bushing surface face. The continuous movement of the pawl pushes up against the edges of the 14mm bushing causing the pawl to dig a trench into the bushing face. This adds more end play to the already sloppy transmission gears/shafts and can cause the gear dogs to lose their engagement contact surfaces. When this happens, the transmission jumps out of gear and when this repeatedly happens, the transmission gear dogs get rounded off causing even more shifting difficulties and damage to the transmission components.

In more than a few cases, while doing repairs on used 250-305 transmissions, has lead me to discover that a previous repair attempt has left the kickstarter pawl improperly installed. On a recent CL77 transmission repair, the bottom end, which had been apart twice, had the pawl installed backwards, so that the sharp edges were engaging low gear, just barely. It was “working” to a degree, but obviously it wouldn’t have lasted for a lot longer. The owner reports that the transmission repairs, including offset cotters, now shifts very smoothly and the kickstarter works perfectly.

                                             Incorrectly installed kickstarter pawl!

Bill “MrHonda” Silver


Image credits to and Cappellini Moto (spindle bushing), eBay sellers and MrHonda.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Adjusting to the modern world…. Re-jetting vintage Honda carburetors

 For those of us who were alive and involved with 1960-80s Honda motorcycles before the advent of “unleaded gas” and “10% alcohol gasoline,” we remember that Honda motorcycles were carefully jetted for maximum power, economy and reliability, right out of the crate.

                                            Honda CB72 carburetor with "power jet" function.

Reviving those 40-60 year-old motorcycles generally requires fuel system cleaning and a careful inspection of the carburetors. Before the introduction of CV (constant velocity) carburetors on the DOHC CB/CL450 twins, the vast majority of Honda’s carburetors were made by Keihin and were simple throttle-valve units, consisting of a float valve, float, main jet, idle jet, carburetor slide and tapered slide needle. Changing the fuel calibration of the basic designs to accommodate various versions of each application was generally required when the exhaust systems were changed from CB=Street to CL=Scrambler. With mostly identical engine specifications between two series of machines, the change from a low-mount to high-mount exhaust causes the carburetors to act differently and so Honda’s engineers carefully made appropriate changes to needle taper, main jet and sometimes the idle jets to bring a smooth fuel delivery to each application.

For the most part, Honda offered many sizes of main jets, idle jets and needles to re-calibrate the carburetors, as needed. In the early 1960s, Honda changed the basic shape of the float bowl from a rounded shape to one that was more squared-off on all sides. There was no need to change the calibrations as the body shapes changed. When owners began to alter either the intake or exhaust system for more “performance” the original calibrations are no longer valid. Changes to the intake or exhaust systems often require a change in the jetting of the carburetors due to an increase in airflow or alterations in the intake or exhaust tract length. Changing the tract lengths changes the resonant frequencies of the systems which can enhance or detract performance from the original settings.

For example, the difference between the 305 Honda Super Hawks and Scramblers lie in both the exhaust header pipe lengths, muffler lengths and the length of the intake to air cleaner runners. The engines have the same pistons, cam timing, valve sizes and carburetor bodies, but the standard main jet of a CB77 is #135 while a CL77 runs jets down around #130. Even the pilot jet sizes change from #38 to #42 between the two models. 

The Scrambler’s long, long, header pipes have a much different resonance frequency that bounces a pressure wave back to the exhaust port that can affect the incoming intake charge in the cylinder. The longer intake and exhaust tracts of the Scrambler enhances some of the mid-range torque, while the shorter CB intake and exhaust lengths enhance higher rpm performance on the road or race-track. Scramblers are geared shorter than CBs, so feel “more powerful” than Super Hawks, but the CB77s will hit nearly 100 mph vs about 85 mph max on a Scrambler. While 305 carburetors with 26mm slides have 2.0mm cutaways, the CL72s have a 3.0mm cutaway but the CB72, with the same-sized carburetor has a 2.0mm cutaway. You have to look over each item carefully, if you are tempted to start mixing and matching Keihin carburetor parts from similar models.

Be aware that prior to 1967 all of the Honda carburetor jets were JIS thread pitch and thus not interchangeable with later ones. Main jets in ISO dimensions have a ring marked around the outside edge of the jet, whereas the JIS threaded jets were left plain. This can cause great confusion when you have a model like the 1965-69 S90, CL90, SL90 models. which bridged the 1967 changeover gap. When people start trying to mix-match a box of loose parts from models like these, problems will arise.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century and most all markets have succumbed to at least 10% alcohol-infused gasoline which is fairly unstable in long-term storage and has less fuel energy that pure gasoline. In order to compensate for the loss of fuel energy (and a slightly different fuel viscosity), the rule has become that bumping the carburetor main jets up at least one size (5 to 10%) will equalize the air-fuel ratios that these old engines were used to seeing. After setting up stock CB77 Super Hawks to original stock settings of #42/135, I found the bikes to having flat spots and seemed to be struggling at highway speeds. Swapping the #135 main jet for a #140 pretty much cured the mid-range/top end power problems and even helped the normally cold-blooded Super Hawks to warm up quicker and have better overall throttle control.

Similarly, I have had to re-jet a number of CB400F Super Sport fours from #75 to #80 main jets, in order to overcome the same lean conditions. I made that change to a bike that I sold to a young man from NY. He flew in to San Diego and drove the newly rebuilt machine all the way back to NYC in 4 days, running it at 70-80 mph for most of the trip. When I first drove the bike, after a careful check over (and it had an electronic ignition), the bike struggled at freeway speeds, feeling flat and struggling. A simple step up in the main jets solved the problem and allowed a successful cross-country journey, which I think might have suffered a melt-down due to the original lean jetting coupled with alcohol gasoline.

Bear in mind that by the mid-1970s, the EPA was beginning to lean on motorcycle manufacturers for their part in the increases of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon that the world was experiencing. Motorcycles were carefully calibrated for emissions during start-up, idling, off-idle performance and at full throttle, just enough to keep them from seizing their air-cooled pistons during extended riding conditions. I think we have all seen the idle mixture screw limiters that were required to keep owner’s from destabilizing the factory settings. Lean mixtures due to slide needle taper designs were another part of the equation and soon owners were putting little thin shims beneath the needle heads to raise them up slightly to enrichen the fuel ratio mixtures at part-throttle.

1980s Kawasaki motorcycles were famous for requiring 5-minute warm-ups, just to get the bikes down the driveway due to lean idle/part throttle calibrations required to keep the engines clean enough to pass the EPA regulations. Kawasaki was always pushing the envelope on performance machines, but the more power they make, generally, the more pollution is created in the process.

In order to enhance engine performance, companies like “Dyna-Jet” began to develop “Stage” kits to help owners get a handle on carburetor calibration issues with either bone-stock machines or for ones that had a 4:1 aftermarket exhaust or replacement air cleaner element or full system. These were sold under the guise of being a “racing” product that was not to be installed in production street bikes, especially in strict-California emissions zones. Dyno tests generally showed some improvements to horsepower, throttle response, torque readings and overall drive-ability with installation of the kits, but obviously the previous emission calibrations were out the window and any measured emissions were substantially higher than those that were create at the factories.

The days of carburetors are numbered due to the introduction of efficient fuel-injection systems and computer-controlled ignition advance curves. But in the meantime, we have to do our best to work with what we were dealt with from the factories dating back sixty years. So, to begin with, we have to clean, clean, clean the carburetor bodies and all associated components, then start to make educated guesses about what the engine will need in the way of corrected fuel-air ratios at all engine speeds and conditions.

Just assume that the use of alcohol-gas is going to make the engine run lean with stock OEM jetting settings. Once the fuel passages are all clean (ultra-sonic cleaners are great!), then a careful look at each internal component is next and then consider obtaining some slightly larger sized main jets to begin the calibration experimentation. Multiple test rides will give you a “seat of your pants” feel of what the bike is trying to do and what it wants in the way of fuel needs. When you feel the flat-spot or performance plateau/misfire, try to pull the choke up slightly to see if the problem gets better or worse. If it improves, you need to richen up the mixture. If it gets worse, lean it out again.

Reading spark plugs is somewhat of a black art, as well, but an initial look at the overall appearance of the plug tip will tell you if it is running lean (all white tip), rich (black and sooty), fuel/oil-fouling (wet end) or has a nice tan insulator without a lot of build-up of carbon or oil.

The bike should start up with sometimes full choke for just a moment until it is running, then reduce choke to around 1/2-3/4 while the engine warms up. Backfiring back through the carburetors/air filters is a sign of a too-lean fuel condition. If the bike fires up with no choke, it is generally running too rich at idle and off-throttle. The engine should idle down normally after about 4-5 minutes of operation time and the air-mixture screws should cause the engine to change idle speed and quality when they are turned in and out within a quarter-turn of normal. Always make the final idle mixture adjustments when the engine is at full operating temperature.

If the idle mixture screws are not responsive, then you have issues with jet sizes, blocked air/fuel passages inside the carburetor body, air leaks at the intake manifolds or warped carburetor bodies at the flanges. Ensure that the suggested float levels are use without fudging more than a millimeter or so. If you have fuel running out of the bowl’s overflow tube, you either have a float valve not sealing, a float level that is too high or a crack in the brass tubing of the bowl overflow tube.

While Honda bolted carburetors directly onto the cylinder heads in the early years, they began to recognize the high-frequency engine vibrations could cause fuel frothing and inaccurate metering at various engine speeds. The new-generation 350s and 450s used rubber-fused manifolds to secure the carburetors to the engines with both damping qualities of the rubber, as well as some heat insulation features which helps to stabilize metering in both hot and cold driving conditions.

As an example: The little 1960s Honda 160-175 twins had solid-mounted carburetors, bolted to aluminum intake runners, which were then insulated from the head with phonolic blocks and o-rings. But, when Honda revised the 175 twin engine up to 200cc in the early 1970s, they created rubber intake manifolds to improve fuel metering and vibration dampening of the carburetor bodies.

Some of the most confusing carburetor sets are featured on Honda CB/CL350 twins. There were several different carburetor body styles and 4-5 different calibrations suggested for the bikes, depending upon whether they were CB or CL versions (and the early SL350s, too). In the case of the 350s, there were different camshaft timing periods between CB and CLs, so that, alone, is enough to cause changes in calibration settings. These early CV carburetors featured both a primary and secondary main jet to help with the transitions from part throttle to full throttle conditions. Sometimes, all the changes needed were to bump up the primary main jet to the next size in order to smooth out the throttle response. One of the problems with 350 twins is that they vibrate quite a lot and the original mufflers for both CB and CLs tended to either break or rot out prematurely. Replacing the damaged components with OEM items (of which there were several types) was often costly and the parts were hard to find due to demand. Owners resorted to use of other slip-on muffler systems which had different lengths and back pressure features, all of which caused metering problems back at the carburetors.

Many of us “old-timers” know that the carburetors are the LAST thing to blame/adjust when engine performance is suffering. Setting up carburetors to operate correctly requires a sound foundation in several aspects of the engine’s systems. Go back to the beginning: Compression test, valve adjustment, camchain adjustment, ignition timing settings, spark advancer function, coil/condenser/point conditions, spark plug caps and even the correct spark plugs are all to be checked and confirmed before diving into the carburetors.

If you have a low-compression engine that is using oil and fouling spark plugs, the carburetors probably are not the root cause of your engine performance issues. If the point contact faces are all pitted due to age/miles or a bad condenser, you will have erratic ignition output at the coils. If the coil leads are crispy and cracked, the sparks might be jumping to somewhere else than the gaps of the spark plugs. Spark plug caps should have no more than 5k ohm resistance measurements and should be screwed onto the spark plug wire ends which have been trimmed back to bare wire.

Aged condensers cause points to arc randomly or excessively which adversely affects ignition coil output. Make sure that you are using a fully-charged, load-tested battery and that the charging system output is keeping the battery charged during operation. Engine vibrations can cause loose connections in the wiring harness and individual connectors to loosen or disconnect altogether. When Honda started putting ignition switches up in the center of the fork bridge, the pull on the switch connector often causes the switch connection to come apart, partially or completely. Bikes with KILL switches need to have the switch contacts checked and the wire connections secured so the coils get a steady feed of voltage.

All of these aspects of motorcycle function and maintenance can come into play causing performance issues that are first attributed to “the carburetors.” Obviously, if the carburetors have been sitting for months/years with old fuels in the bowls, then they need careful cleaning and scrutiny for normal function. Carburetor work is made more difficult with the alcohol in the fuel, which attacks most rubber parts, especially float bowl gaskets! If you drop the bowl off of a carburetor and the gasket is not the original glued-on version, chances are that the gasket will swell up and will NOT fit back into the carburetor body grooves. Cleaning with soap and water then drying in the sun or gently with a heat gun will generally allow them to reclaim their original shape and size. If you are doing a lot of jetting or carb work, plan on getting several sets of bowl gaskets to have on hand for quicker service procedures. 

To review:

Test drive evaluation…

First, start the engine and listen to it to hear if it is going to need a prolonged period of “warm-up” or if it will take enough throttle to drive off after a minute or two of running. Run the bike up gently with slowly increasing throttle openings. Listen and feel if the engine is taking throttle cleanly or if there is a hesitation or misfire occurring at certain throttle openings. While driving, if it is safe and easily accessible, pull up the choke lever or knob slightly during the time when the misfire or roughness is occurring. If you feel a surge of power or increased smoothness in the engine performance, then you will need to enrichen the fuel mixture at that point.

Off-idle hesitations can be resolved with either an increase in the size of the idle mixture jet and/or raising the needle slightly with shims. If the hesitation is more in the ¼ to ½ throttle settings, then you can raise the needle a little bit more and/or increase the main jet size slightly, one step at a time. Remember that if you increase the main jet size, you have enriched the whole fuel ratio from around ¼ throttle all the way up to WOT. If you get a good full-throttle response, but the mid-range is sagging and the plugs start looking dark and sooty, start to lower the needle back down one step at a time.

It’s a balancing act, but one well worth pursuing in order to maximize the engine’s performance over a wide rpm band and to conserve fuel that might be wasted in an engine that is running excessively rich. Pull a spark plug or two and look at the tip to see if they are getting a nice color on the ends which indicates proper jetting.

Excessive rich conditions can wash down the oil on the cylinder walls, leading to ring wear or even piston seizures in extreme cases. Excess fuel will contaminate the engine oil, as well, leading to lubrication breakdown. There is a whole chain of events that happen when you start to “adjust” the carburetor settings, so think it through first, before you begin wholesale changes. On many bikes, just removing the carburetors is a huge pain, so you don’t want to be in the position of having to do it more than once or twice, at the most.

Take time to understand each stage/function of a carburetor, so any changes you make are done with caution and thoughtfulness about what you are trying to achieve. Carburetor wizards are getting harder and harder to find these days, now that fuel injection is becoming more and more common. Take time to learn the craft for yourself and to help your friends who are in need of timely and educated repairs.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver


Friday, August 7, 2020

1964 CL72… ornery and out of the ordinary

Lately, I have been nursing a somewhat one-off 1964 CL72 250cc Scrambler, for a new customer who has owned it for many years. His family owned a Honda shop in the Mid-West and this bike has stayed in the family for a long time.

I had been contacted by the owner to “get it running” after it had been stored for a long time. It seemed like a fairly simple request, but I haven’t worked on a 250 Scrambler for quite a while and had forgotten how difficult they are to do simple maintenance on without having to disassemble half of the bike every time you need to service the carburetors.

What’s special about this bike is that it had been built with Akront alloy rims, over-sized tires and a CB72-77 cylinder head, featuring a tach drive. A later model CB77 speedometer and headlight shell were installed in place of the usual single meter setup. Additionally, the bike had been fitted with a YL72 alloy fuel tank, which was a factory-issued “racing part.” These tanks are very rare and made of an easily damage alloy, so finding ones in good condition is a rare event, 56 years after production.

I gingerly removed the fuel tank after working off the old fuel lines and set it aside for petcock repairs. Also, the original gas cap latch for the “flip cap” filler had broken and somewhere along the line the owner’s father had contacted me about some billet ones that I have made available for the past 10 years. The problem was that the retainer pin had been removed/lost and so a beach-ball inflator had been inserted into the cap latch pin hole, as a temporary fix. Additionally, the caps had a cork gasket installed to seal the opening and the cork had broken up so a 329 code Honda gas cap gasket was installed around the central holder. The OD of the gasket was too small, so the cap leaked during driving.

When the tappet covers were removed for a valve clearance check, I was greeted with the look of alloy valve spring retainers, so I could only imagine what had been done to the engine beyond that. The clearances were close to stock .004” so I just reset them all to that, hoping that the camshaft was still a stock unit. The carburetors and air filters were removed for cleaning (filters replaced) and that gave easy access to the camchain tensioner adjustment nut/bolt. The adjuster moved in about an eighth of an inch, so you can either assume damage to the roller or just a lack of maintenance of the tensioner.

The clutch pull effort was very heavy, leading me to think that there was some kind of heavy-duty clutch installed, perhaps with the 275-810 clutch springs from the CB77s. After draining the dirty oil and removing the clutch cover, the clutch pack was removed. It was apparent that the clutch was a Barnett performance unit, including the springs. The clutch plates were stuck together and the wire retainers for the clutch hub were missing. Fortunately, the clutch plates were of the correct thickness so that the wire retainers could be installed, making for a clean clutch release action for city driving.

With the clutch cover removed, the oil filter was accessed, which proved to be packed with an eighth inch of dirt/crud. The filter was cleaned and reinstalled. This bike had the “small hole” clutch cover, which barely clears the OD of the filter, so doing a filter service with the clutch cover in place is impossible. Overall, the insides looked fairly clean, so the cover was replaced. In order to minimize the clutch pull effort, the kickstarter cover was removed for replacement of the clutch adjuster. The clutch adjusters are made of a soft material and wear down quickly, especially if not kept lubed up and when asked to work against heavy-duty clutch springs.

The carburetors were removed, disassembled and cleaned in a sonic cleaner, then reassembled with new bowl gaskets and o-rings; the rest of the parts were reused. The petcock was rebuilt with an aftermarket kit and all was put back on the bike for an initial fire-up. Well… The petcock fuel lever was pitted on the back side, so it was dressed up with a file, which took out most of the imperfections. Even after a couple of rechecks, it continued to slowly drip, drip, drip… When the carburetor fuel lines were attached, the float bowls began to weep around the forward straight edges of the bowls. This has become quite a problem for me lately. Part of the problem is that the non-OEM gaskets are a little too wide where they encounter the locating posts. The gasket channel is about 3.25mm and the gaskets are 3.5mm wide. When installed the gasket tips up against the posts and doesn’t lay flat into the channel. Installing the bowl should, theoretically, just clamp down on the gasket and flatten it into the channel.

Most of the aftermarket gaskets are layered instead of solid material and it may be that the gasoline is bleeding through the material. Even rechecking the float levels several times, the bowls continued to weep a bit. I dug out a solid rubber gasket from an old kit and installed it in the left side carburetor, which seemed to have solved the problem, but I only had one to use. The bike came with a box of odd spares including a set of 1967 CB77 carb bodies. I took the bowl clip off of one of the spares and tried it on the CL72 carburetor after I had notched the gasket with a small paper punch. That seemed to work, but overnight there were signs of fuel leaking and it turned out to have a tiny crack in the overflow tube. A spare bowl was installed and that seemed to be the cure.

With everything installed, it was time for a road test. Initially, the bike fired up loudly (straight pipes with no baffles) and it seemed more or less okay. When I took off, in gear, the engine bogged down, then cleared itself after about 3k rpms. Above those engine speeds it seemed to run strong, but cracking the throttle in low gear at slow speeds repeated the bogging down feeling. Because it was jetted for 1964 fuel (no alcohol and lead added), I have generally found that the carburetors need to be jetted up to compensate for the 10% alcohol in the gas. Removing the float bowls, in order to change the main jets, set up another challenge… the float bowl gaskets fall down and absorb the alcohol in the gasoline, causing them to swell up and then they don’t fit back into the carburetor bodies!

I have found that taking the gaskets out and laying them in the direct sun for an hour generally dries out the gasoline and the gaskets shrink back to size again. I reinstalled the new main jets, after I had raised the needles one notch and put it back together again. Now it wouldn’t even run on the right side cylinder! At first, there was no power to the points on that side. Removing the seat and then the tank bolt gave enough room to access the wiring connectors to the coils. One connector was snapped in, but you could feel that it was dancing around inside the connector. A squeeze with some pliers and a good push in remedied the power problem to the points. I dropped the tank back down on the mounts and tried to start the engine again… STILL not running, but on the left side now. I raised the fuel tank back up and got the bowl off from below the carbs. There is VERY LITTLE room to do carburetor work on the left side with the carbs still mounted on the engine. The float valve needle turned out to be rubber-tipped, and it jammed itself into the float valve seat, shutting off the fuel supply to the carburetor bowl.

I dug out an all-metal float needle and installed it while the carb was still attached and shrouded by the exhaust pipes and the dipstick tube. This really takes watchmaker skills to do and it doesn’t go easy if you are successful. Of course, the float bowl gasket had dropped out of the body, so that was the second step to accomplish. Eventually, everything was back in place with larger main jets and needles raised up. The result was pretty much the same as before. It still has a big bog off-idle, then clears up and runs well at high rpms. Pulling the choke on when it was struggling just made it worse, so apparently, we have to go the other way with the needles and see if that helps, even though it is counter-intuitive to what is generally found when jetting vintage Hondas.

Potential factors in why it is running the way that it does are: Straight pipes with no baffles installed. The pressure waves from the long pipes may be out of synch with the carburetor calibrations causing an over-rich condition. Secondly, if the cam was changed, along with the valve springs/retainers, the cam timing may be causing low-speed running issues and/or both factors could be at play.

The throttle cable on the bike was very old and coming apart at the ends. I decided to stop playing with it until a new cable comes in and then I can drop the needles back down at the same time. Other tasks done on the bike included painting the aftermarket chain guard and making repairs to the gas cap.

The bike barely stood on its centerstand because there as an ancient 4.00x19” tire mounted on the back and a 3.50x19 tire on the front wheel. Several hundred dollars later, a stock-sized set of Metzler tires were mounted up, but the bike is still a little unstable on the centerstand because the aftermarket rear shocks are about 1/4” longer than stock.

Much of the wiring harness was replaced, previously. The neutral light bulb was broken when inspected, but a new one didn’t light up apparently due to a neutral switch malfunction, which is located beneath the kickstarter cover. In order to remove the clutch cover or kickstarter cover, the footpegs must be unbolted from the bottom of the frame. There are few straightforward repairs or adjustments that can be made on a 250-305 Scrambler, without having to remove 3-4 associated parts in order to gain access to what you wanted to do in the first place.

Of all the 250-305 models, I have found the Scramblers to be the hardest to work on and the least satisfying to ride once you finally get them going properly. Because of the closed-loop frame and the exhaust system bolted to the side of the chassis, the amount of vibration becomes excessive and fatiguing, at least to me. For the die-hards who think that Scramblers look cool and sound cool, they can have their say, but they will not sway my opinion of them in the least. Give me a nice Super Hawk any day!

Bill "MrHonda" Silver 07/2020

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Desert Dweller comes home to roost… 1970 CB175

Rather than rescue puppies and kittens, I always seem to be drawn to the unfortunate, neglected Honda motorcycles from the 1960s-80s. Here was the text of the Craigslist posting:

There a few added photos of the extra parts that indicated that the bike was, indeed, beginning a resurrection. The “problem for me” is that the bike was located way out in the desert about 100 miles away. I asked if he ever came back into San Diego, so perhaps he could bring it closer to me and we could meet up somewhere for the purchase. The seller, Sam, came back and said he was going to have breakfast with his son in nearby Lemon Grove (5 miles away), so “no problem” to bring the bike and parts all the way to my driveway for no additional cost. SOLD!

We already had discussions about what it needed, right away, in order to get it back together again. The parts list included a right side air filter/tube, cables, sprockets and chain. So, we arranged for the transfer on 6/9/20 around 9am. Before the deal was consummated, I had already ordered $120 worth of parts to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. The first order of business will be to assess the actual needed parts that are missing or damaged, then clean the whole chassis bits. Beyond that, I have to decide what to do about the color choices. The bike is the same color/year as one that I had bought new in Puerto Rico, during my stay courtesy of the USAF in 1969-70.

Paint options include a professional job by my local paint wizard Jerry, buying a $600 used tank from the UK or doing a rattle can job in some other color just to get by for now. The frame is black, so hopefully can be cleaned and touched up with gloss black paint, but the side covers and fuel tank will need something special to set it off from the normal paint schemes, I think.

The next day….

Well, the first thing in the morning, before the bike arrived, I realized that I had made a big mistake on ordering the air filter parts that were mentioned as missing. Despite the seemingly identical appearance between a 1969 and a 1970 CB175, there ARE differences in a lot of small items, including the whole air filter system! The 1969 bikes have a small, uncovered filter with a separate air filter connector tube. The 1970 models have a different filter system that includes plastic covers to enshroud the whole filter assembly leaving an air intake port high in the outer cover. The air filters have an integral connector tube, as well. The bike turned out to have a 12/69 build date, putting it squarely in the 1970 production run, not the “as-advertised” 1969 model year stated.

Other changes were the shape and design of the outer side covers, rear shock covers, seat cover pattern, rear sprocket, fork covers and minor changes in the paint scheme. The main product code for the 1969 is 306, but the 1970 looks like it has 315 coded parts added on. According to the parts list, the top fork bolts are 273 code from the CL72!

So, what could go wrong…?
1. The supplied rear tire is a 3.50x18, so too big for the bike.
2. The supplied left air filter is a 351 code for CB200T, not a 315 CB175K4 code part.
3. The forks were stuck in the steering stem, but finally worked loose. When dismantled for a fork seal change, there was very little fork oil left in the forks, replaced by moisture which caused the fork bushing and rebound valve to be firmly rusted in place. Used fork set was ordered from eBay.
4. Both handlebar controls were damaged and unusable. $120 for a pair.
5. Headlight shell was cracked around the edge (brittle plastic) and replacements are in the $150-250 range. Found used for $60
6. Air filters are $75-85 each side, when you can find them. DSS to the rescue. $150 a set
7. The left side carburetor slide was MIA, so a used replacement was found for $30. A few weeks later the seller found the slide hidden beneath his Harley...
8. All of the side cover grommets, instrument cushions and fork cushions needed to be replaced.
9. The rear brake shoes were worn down, requiring replacement.
10. The bike had the chain come off the sprockets at some point, damaging the sprocket mounting bolts and nuts, plus wore a groove in the rear shock body. Replaced all the hardware and front sprocket.
11. The front sprocket required use of a 3-jaw puller to remove from the rusted shaft.
12. All the cables were fried due to heat and age, which was visible and expected.
13. Someone had tried to replace the point set with something from a different model or manufacturer, so they re-drilled screw holes in the point plate to get the points to mount up and function. $30 for used parts
14. Coil leads were stiff and broken, so a replacement coil was ordered. $30
15. The centerstand leg on the left side was bent forward and there was a big ugly weld on the foot. Heated up with a MAPP gas torch and straightened out somewhat.
16. Pinholes in the top of the front of the gas tank! REDCOAT sealer used, but failed to seal up the pinholes.

I repacked the steering head bearings and slowly cleaned/painted the frame, as I went from front to back. Finally, I realized that the best thing to do is to remove the engine from the frame and finish cleaning it up, plus get the engine down on the ground for a major descaling and cleaning job.

With the engine out, I noticed signs of water in the right side intake port, so the cylinder head was removed to find some water damage in the cylinder and piston. It was still on STD bore, so it seemed reasonable to just have it bored out to .5mm oversize and have a fresh set of cylinders to work with. The camchain tensioner rollers were hard and pitted, so those needed replacement, as well.

A set of .50 pistons/rings and a bore job cost $160. The valves/seats were still in decent shape, so were cleaned and reinstalled with new stem seals on the exhaust sides. You could tell that the engine had been out for some reason before, as there were non-OEM nuts and bolts holding the engine into the frame. I pulled the clutch cover to get a quick view of the inside of the engine and found only 3 of the 4 required clutch spring bolts in place.

With the engine out and top cover off the camshaft and rockers looked dry, but not damaged, fortunately. The camchain tensioner rollers were worn out, so a good used tensioner was found on eBay along with a new center roller. I had to wait an extra 5 days for the correct center roller after the seller sent a mystery roller from his bag of three that wasn’t even close to fitting.

I sprung for the whole master carb kit from which included floats and various sizes of jets for idle and main jet calibration. For some reason, the left carburetor would not fill properly until the old parts were reinstalled.

New handlebar switches came from and my friends in Thailand, who supplied a new clutch adjuster. With 16k miles showing on the odometer, you expect to find worn parts here and there like the clutch adjuster. All new cables from were shipped at a reasonable cost, but there were some issues with the clutch cable end not fitting back into the clutch joint and the front brake cable fitting was 1mm too large for the backing plate. The throttle cable junction was made up of plastic and big molded rubber parts that got trapped between the tank and frame. 4into1 acknowledged some of the issues with their supplier and eventually refunded me the cost of the cable set.

The fork covers were all trashed from crashes, so I ordered up some various ones from DSS. The fork ears come in several variations of how the turn signals mount and where the reflector mounts. Most of them were very inexpensive so I bought a number of them just to see if I could put together something a little different than the original setup. DSS supplied most of the rubber grommets for the frame side covers and instrument mounts. The speedo and tach instrument light sockets are rubber coated and were baked into the meter housing openings. Once removed, the little indicator jewels fell apart from age and heat. Ultimately, the meters did operate correctly, so the other issues were left as-is.

There was LOTS of cleaning of the desert dust and corrosion. Most all of the chrome parts were pitted and caked with dirt/dust. I rattle-canned the frame with black Duplicolor engine paint, as I went along. This was destined to be a daily driver not a showpiece, so a whole teardown/powdercoat of the chassis was not in the budget, which still got blown up in the end. Even with generous discounts from my suppliers and careful eBay shopping, the parts bill ran up past $1200 quickly. My labor time was beyond 30 hours, but when you are in quarantine, what else is there to do, anyway?

When all the components were finally assembled, the bike fired up using a spare CL175K0 fuel tank that was given to me by my friend Ron Smith. I had soaked it for a few days with white vinegar to help clean out the insides, but it turned out to be inefficient as newly introduced fuel seemed to dissolve leftover fuel deposits which contaminated the petcock and carburetors. The original fuel tank had been coated with REDCOAT tank sealer, but it didn’t find its way all the way up towards the pinholes in the front of the tank. Even so, with a couple of gallons of gas, the bike was fired up safely and then developed more problems. There was smoke coming from the left side muffler and what sounded like camchain noises coming out of the engine… Gads!

I pulled the engine again, removed the top end to check for broken rings and possible causes of the camchain noises, but found nothing out of the ordinary. The intake ports in the head had gathered up a lot of unburned deposits, which apparently were being slowly sucked into the engine, causing plug fouling and smoke. A big shot of brake cleaner purged the intake ports and the engine was reassembled again. The aftermarket gasket kit was not very accurately made and the thin, non-asbestos paper that the kit was made from was pretty much a single-use product. The clutch cover gasket was cleaned and coated with Gasket-Cinch to help seal up the weeping on that side and the simple round 3 hole gasket for the dyno cover continues to leak oil for no apparent reason. The aftermarket gasket thickness is thinner than original OEM gasket materials.

After reinstalling the engine and taming the carburetor feed issues, the engine fired back up sounding much healthier and without smoking. The plugs came out tan-colored, instead of black and oily, finally. There is still a bit of an air leak or some kind of issue with the left side carburetor at idle, but the engine pulls with good power off-idle and beyond.

I’ve lined up a good used rear luggage rack for the bike and it will wind up being my mule to haul stuff back and forth the PO a couple of miles away. That was the original intent, anyway until I went out and bought a new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650!

Well, it lives again, but needs a good paint job unless a new buyer likes the “rat bike” look. The bike has made several post office trips and seems to be running normally, so far. May need to make a few more jetting adjustments, but otherwise, it is what it is… a 50-year-old Honda CB175.

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

Monday, June 1, 2020

No, no… a thousand times NO! Aftermarket parts...

There is odd synchronicity that occurs in my life, at times. I acquired a mostly original 1966 CA77 305cc Dream recently. I discovered that the ignition point set was not the original, but one of the various aftermarket copies, which are nearly impossible to adjust to OEM specs.

Then, yesterday, I wound up in a 30-message email exchange from a customer who was rebuilding a CA77 engine and experiencing great difficulties with the ignition timing. He sent photos of the engine’s cam timing setup, which all looked normal. It’s kind of hard to get Dream cam timing off a lot or even the point cam. The point cam is double-ended for the 360-degree crankshaft Dream engines, so you can put it in either way and it still works. If you do that with a 180 degree CB/CL engine, you will wind up having to install the points plate upside down in order to make the engine run.

My distant friend (in Canada) was tearing his hair out because when the points were set to normal gap, the ignition timing was about 30 degrees advanced. He was concerned that something was wrong with the cam timing setup or somehow installed the point cam in incorrectly. The point cam only goes in one of two ways, so you can’t install it 30 degrees off, no matter how hard you try.

My suspicions zeroed-in to the ignition points, which I have observed repeatedly as being out of specifications in all cases if they are not OEM parts. I asked if the points were ND stamped (Nippon Denso). I could see in the slightly blurry photo that it was a ND point setup vs. the optional Kokusan designed parts. He replied that the point plate said DENSO on it next to the contact set, which didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear. I could see, even in the photos, that the insulators for the point wire were a bright red plastic, which is almost always a sign of aftermarket point installations. ND uses a Bakelite-type of insulator which is a dull red.

I sent him photos of close-up images of new ND points and asked if they matched up with what he had on the points plate. Another out-of-focus photo came back, taken about 3 feet away. Again, I asked: “Does it have the ND stamp on the point contact set?” Finally, he replied that it didn’t have ND on the points and he noticed a <F.E.W> mark where the ND was supposed to be. I tracked down a couple of sources of genuine ND points and sent links for him to purchase the correct parts.

                                <F.E.W.> aftermarket points. Note backing plate position

Somehow, he still wondered if installing an electronic ignition would solve the problem. Well, the answer is YES because the trigger wheel is held onto the point cam with a set screw, so it has virtually infinite adjust-ability. Eventually, he resigned himself to ordering a set of ND points and will report back to me about the results.

Concurrently, I received prompt 4-day delivery of some Dream parts from DSS (, including a set of ND points and condenser and set about to install them in the 3600-mile Dream engine. As I extracted the old points, I looked at the contact base with a magnifying glass and discovered <F.E.W> stamped on the point set. The bike had been running with the points, but the point backing plate was turned all the way to the right end of the adjustment slot. The point gap looked to be about. .008”; just enough to break the circuit but not what Honda specified normally, which is .012-.016.”

Note that the rubbing block contact point is different between the two examples. ND at the bottom of the images.

With the new ND point set installed, the end result was the backing plate set more towards the center of the slot and the point gap around the.016” range. The bike fired up normally and settled down after a brief warm-up. What I did notice when checking the static ignition timing is that if the timing was just to the right of the F mark on one side, a full revolution put the point opening just between the T and F marks! With a dynamic timing light, you will see the idle timing marks shifting back and forth depending upon which end of the point cam is being used. You can either leave it as-is and live with the inaccuracy OR you can use a wet-stone to carefully work down the point cam lobe that is more advanced, so that eventually both ends are going to open the points right at the F mark alignment.

                                 Nippon-Denso original points. Note backing plate position

In any case, DO NOT ORDER/INSTALL any points that have <F.E.W> or a little three-blade propeller stamp which is from the Daiichi company. Both aftermarket point sets will give you the same headache, without a doubt. So, again, I say “No, no… a thousand times NO” to the installation of any aftermarket ignition points that don’t have ND stamped on them. The part number for the ND points is 259-004 vs. 259-003 for the Kokusan point sets, which will not install on a ND point plate at all. There are aftermarket copies of the Kokusan points as well, so BEWARE of fake copies. Unfortunately, for vendors of those products, they are stuck with an inferior product that should never be marketed in the first place.

And now you know....

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

Thursday, May 28, 2020

MrHonda is bitten by a small white shark…

So, I saw this bike listed on Facebook Marketplace for sale, right before the owners were moving to TN. I had seen the bike for sale on Craigslist and eBay auctions in the past year, then it disappeared for a while. Now it was back...

Ad text:
This is a very clean bike. You could ride it down Ortega or park it in your man cave. Over $5,000 went into making this bike so pristine. It has been garaged, It has CA plates but currently in Non Op status. I have pink slip.

Well, with the Coronavirus thing happening, all there is to do is work on motorcycles and/or buy/sell some. I had worked the herd down from 5 to 2, but that situation doesn’t last for long around here. My brother, Jim, had a 1984 VF500F Interceptor for a number of years and I wound up working on it a few times. Honda changed the carburetor calibrations several times, plus put out a TSB on “drive-ability” for the 1984 models, which carried 102-105 main jets and even different needles between front and rear carburetors. In 1985, the main jet sizes dropped to 90 front and rear with all the same needles. I tried to get the update kit for my brother’s bike, but Honda wanted to know if the bike had excessive leak-down, which this one did, probably due to lean jetting affecting the valves. I wound up buying one of the takeout engines (Honda had some bearing problems with early models and replaced whole engines under warranty) and replaced the heads with fresh parts and put a DynaJet carb kit in it at the same time. Wow, that bike was fun to drive after those upgrades!

So, back to the little white shark 1985 VF500F Interceptor for sale…. They dropped the price down a few hundred dollars on the ad, but when I spoke to the owner, he offered it for an additional $300 off, considering I was making a 180 mile round trip from San Diego to Mission Viejo, CA in Orange County. I was lead to believe that the bike had been running a few months back and that he put stabilizer in the gas tank. He offered a OEM shop manual and tons of receipts for work done in the past, including new head gaskets from Cometic being installed.

Dazzled by the amount of work done to the bike and the overall look, I over-rode my internal guidance about not buying dead bikes for too much money and drove up and bought the thing. You could see that massive amounts of work had gone into the bike over the years. The whole chassis was powder-coated as were the engine covers and even the water tubes that transfer coolant across the engine. The wheels were powder-coated and the bodywork was all refinished in “Shark white” paint. Well, what the heck.. how bad could it be, given the story behind the build from the owner who had had the bike for 5 years. Well, it was worse than I thought, but somehow expected.

The battery was stone-dead, due to a lack of battery acid/fluid which had never been maintained. I bought a battery from the local auto parts store and had to service it before use, so it sat overnight on the charger. The next day, with a fresh battery installed, I checked the gas tank and found it empty! I went to the 7-11 and bought a couple of gallons of premium fuel and filled the tank. I turned the ignition switch on and moved the petcock knob from OFF to Reserve and hit the starter button. It burbled to life after a few moments, but then I noticed a pool of gasoline beneath the bike! I turned everything off and looked carefully at the carburetors for signs of an overflowing float valve, but nothing was noticed there. Looking further back, I saw fuel drooling down the rear cylinder, right below where the petcock would be located on the tank. Off comes the seat and the two bolts holding the tank on and with the fuel line disconnected, it was obvious that the fuel leak was coming from the petcock seals.
I had to drain out the gasoline and then turn the tank up to access the petcock body. It is held on with 2 bolts and comes right off once the fuel knob is removed. I first thought that the little sediment bowl was leaking, but with the petcock on the bench I could see that the normally riveted petcock plate was held on with a couple of screws. The internal gaskets on these petcocks are the same 4 hole gaskets as were used on the 1960’s Honda Super Hawks and Scramblers. Fortunately, I had an aftermarket kit in stock and borrowed the 4 hole gasket to use on the Interceptor petcock. It didn’t fit quite right, at first, but with a little bit of pushing, it finally seated down in place and the outer plate was reattached. I put gas back into the tank, while it was sitting on the ground and there were no leaks, so I put the tank back on the bike.

It fired up again, with no leaks, this time. I put the seat back on and decided to try the bike on a test ride around the block. While it sounded throaty with the little cone mufflers attached, it seemed to be running on all four cylinders until the throttle was cracked open. It stumbled and bucked and felt like it was running out of gas, so I pulled some choke on and it improved slightly. A few more blocks down the road and the bike continued to run rough and irregular. Even with full choke, it wouldn’t take full-throttle, so I marched it back to the garage, knowing I was about to face what I feared the most; carburetor cleaning!

I have had horrible experiences with a 1988 VF400 NC30 JDM bike a few years back and it never really ran well, even after several dis-assemblies and parts replacements. Those carburetors have a pivot bolt that holds the bodies together, but allows the V to be flexed a little bit in order to fit them back into the manifolds. The VF500 does not have that feature and once the mounting plate is removed, the whole rack of carbs kind of falls apart, losing the connection tabs that synchronize the carburetor shafts. I threw the whole pile into a drain pan and pulled each float bowl, cleaning the jets and checking float levels. I noticed that the main jets were #94 from a Dyno-Jet kit, designed for the 1985 model carburetors. The needles had no marks and the clips were at the #2 notch from the top. There were notes in the shop manual about the jetting and needle clip settings, which verified that this was a kitted carb set.

I really didn’t find a “smoking gun” problem with the carbs, although you could see that old fuel had been left in the bowls for an extended period of time. The bike’s registration ran out in 2018, so that was probably the last time it ran, anyway. I moved the clips down a couple of clicks and reassembled everything again. Getting the linkages back together was a challenge and I finally put the mounting plate back on the carbs, to help hold everything together. Unfortunately, the throttle cables are difficult to install with everything connected, so I eased the mounting plate back off to allow the carbs to reconnect to the manifolds, but then the linkages came adrift and the whole event just got very ugly. It probably took an hour to get the carbs into the manifolds and get the linkage tabs reconnected with the little springs set just right. Finally, at 7:30 PM I got the bike to fire back up again, but I left it set with the air filter housing removed and gave it all a rest until the next morning.

The next day…

After reassembly, the bike fired up on choke, sounded “okay” and it ran for about 10 minutes, but then suddenly lost power and stalled. I checked the gas cap for signs of a vacuum blockage, leaned the bike over to the left side for a moment and then it started back up, limping back home slowly, stalling twice more before finally returning home. I had only put 2 and a half gallons of fuel in it and had run it around on several trips, but when the fuel tap was opened to ON or RESERVE, I could see some fuel flowing through the inline gas filter. Still, something was seriously wrong. Was it dying electrics or some kind of fuel flow issue?
As I pondered the possibilities, I noticed a couple of harness wiring connectors that weren’t connected to anything. Finally, it dawned on me that these bikes came with an electric fuel pump one of which was sitting in the parts box that came with the bike. Despite what appears to be a gravity-fed fuel delivery possibility when you look at the relationship of the tank to carburetors, Honda thought differently and put a pump in the system. I fetched the pump, read the book about how to jumper the fuel cut relay connector (fuel cut relay was missing, unfortunately) and the pump rattled to life. The next task was to re-plumb the fuel lines from the petcock, back to the pump which is located a couple of feet away, then return the fuel lines back to the carburetor fittings. Honda has an elaborate system of pre-curved fuel lines, fuel line connectors, an in-line filter and other fittings, all of which were missing.

I tried to work out a deal with an eBay seller who had the whole used fuel line system, but he wanted $35 for shipping the fuel lines and a tool box. We wound up in a stalemate, so other options were needed. Some 1/4” hose from the auto parts store started the process and I discovered that some 10-12 gauge electrical butt connectors could make fuel line connectors to use in the interim. Perhaps, that the whole issue, all along, was just a lack of fuel feed to all the carburetors. I had used an infrared temp gauge to check the header pipe temperatures and both right side cylinders were colder than left side cylinders. Being that the coils fire front and rear cylinder pairs, that eliminates a lack of spark to the ignition system.

In an effort to eliminate other possibilities, I removed the radiator to access the spark plugs and allow the use of a compression gauge to check engine health. The speedometer was also not working and when the fairing cowl was removed, the speedometer showed signs of being broken and 1984 VF500F was written on the back of the meter unit, consistent with coming from a salvage yard. Instead of a nicely-built custom bike, it was looking more like a bitsa-bike instead. More eBay shopping turned up a good used speedometer and a few other necessary items.

The newer 1986 Speedometer came in and installed fairly easily, but the first test ride yielded the same outcome; no speedometer function. Pulling the lower fairing allowed for use of a small floor jack to fit underneath the oil filter and provide a lift point to pivot the bike on the centerstand. Removing the front wheel hardware just enough to remove the speedometer drive brought clarity to the problem. The plastic/nylon speedometer gear teeth were stripped along the edge where the spiral gear contacts the drive sprocket teeth. It’s not a commonly found part, but Partzilla had one that arrived with a $30 price in a few days. Meanwhile I decided to order a new set of tires and a pair of good used OEM mufflers to take some of the roar out of the exhaust note.

In a now-normal bit of confusion, I wound up with a pair of right side mufflers and nothing for the left. The eBay seller who had mislabeled the muffler, took it back for refund and another left side was tracked down and purchased. New muffler packings were also ordered as they seldom survive muffler refitting.

The good news is that the bike fired up and loves having a fuel pump in the system. It pulled to redline in lower gears, pulled well at mid-range, shifts well and rides with authority. This was the bike I remembered from back in the 1980s!

Really “tired” of this…

The May 5th tire order, from Chaparral Motors in San Bernadino, via eBay, seemed to go well at first, with promised delivery in a couple of days. What showed up was ONE rear tire with labels attached, and some Fed-Ex messages about a damaged bar code, which was apparently reconstructed. There were no notes about the second tire. I tried to contact Fed-Ex via phone but was put on endless wait times. I tried to contact Chaparral Motors to find out what had happened to the order. Three times, I was on hold for 30 minutes, then gave up using the “call-back” option with a selected time for the return call. Well, that didn’t happen for over a day. I tried to use an old CS email message to hit them directly, but that didn’t have any response. I was assuming that Fed-Ex had somehow lost the other tire, but usually, when a pair of tires are shipped to me, they are banded together, which these were not. Finally, Chaparral called back from the automated system. The woman didn’t know who I was or what the issue was as there is no tracking of the calls in as to what the issues are. She said that there were only three people available to return calls and they were backed up for over a day, so far. She pulled up my order account information and noted that “We didn’t have the 16” tire in stock, so I’ll have to order it now.”

So, now I have lost 2 days waiting with the bike off its wheels waiting for fresh rubber. A couple of hours later, another woman called from Chaparral off of the second “call-back” message I had left and I asked her to verify that a tire was ordered for me. She said that it was coming from another vendor warehouse in California, but the invoice had been sent for the purchase. From that point, things spiraled downwards for several more days. You can see that the tire was ordered and shipped, via UPS this time. It had to come from Visalia, CA which is a good 300 miles from San Diego. Tracking showed it coming down to LA overnight, then stalled out due to unexpected delays.

Out for Delivery
05/12/2020 11:32 AM.
Chula Vista, CA, United States
Out For Delivery Today

05/12/2020 2:14 AM.
Chula Vista, CA, United States
Destination Scan

05/11/2020 1:30 PM.
Chula Vista, CA, United States
Delivery will be delayed by one business day.

05/10/2020 10:34 AM.
Chula Vista, CA, United States
Arrival Scan

05/09/2020 9:53 AM.
Vernon, CA, United States
Your package has been delayed due to events beyond our control. We're adjusting delivery plans as quickly as possible.

05/09/2020 8:07 AM.
Vernon, CA, United States
Departure Scan

05/09/2020 12:53 AM.
Vernon, CA, United States
Arrival Scan

05/08/2020 9:16 PM.
Visalia, CA, United States
Departure Scan

Past Event

05/08/2020 7:22 PM.
Visalia, CA, United States
Origin Scan

 The tire shipped on Friday, stalled in LA, then arrived in Chula Vista (12 miles away from me) on Sunday morning. I had gotten delivery messages from UPS, first for a Saturday delivery before 9PM. They don’t work on Sundays, so I expected the delivery on Monday, which was indicated in the next UPS message. That didn’t happen either, even though the tire was sitting in the depot. Every time I checked the delivery information, there was only an arrival scan, not a destination scan or out for delivery message. Later on Monday, the “delivery delayed by one business day” message showed up on the tracking log.

Tuesday morning showed no changes. I called UPS to try and get a live person, which wasn’t available on Monday, and finally got connected to an off-shore call center, probably in the Philippines, that said that it was scheduled for delivery on Tuesday. Later on, a UPS notice popped up showing that the tire was out for delivery between 12:45 and 4:45. I needed to coordinate the tire arrival with a trip to a shop to get it changed and balanced, so I can get the bike back up on its wheels again. When I rechecked the tracking status in the afternoon, the message reverted to “delivery by 9PM” again. It’s a 50-50 deal if the tire actually makes it here on Tuesday after all, as far as I can tell. I wouldn’t be surprised to get another “delayed one business day” message later on. To be fair, we are in the middle of the Corona-virus pandemic and businesses are impacted greatly in many cases. However, if the original order had been tracked properly, the second tire would have been shipped at least a day earlier and perhaps gotten here on time.

Part of the worry was that I had my 1967 CB125SS up on my repair rack, with the Interceptor parked behind it with the wheels off. The little 125 had been sold on BAT auctions and the shippers were set to pick up the bike on Tuesday. My options were either to put the old wheel back on the bike and gently roll it out of the shop to clear room to remove the 125 or pull the front stop off of the repair rack and go forward with it into the shop, then drag it around to fit out the side door to the garage, then out past the Ford Focus parked inside. The car was parked to far to the left, so I had to get the keys and move the car out of the way, roll the bike out, put the car back and wait for the shippers to arrive. So, at least that worry was handled by 10:30 AM. The bike shipping people showed up around 11AM and the bike was gone within 20 minutes.

All the while I am waiting for signs of the UPS truck and arrival of the tire. While writing this, it is 4:40PM and no tire has arrived so far, so now we go into Wednesday for arrival and tire mounting. Also coming this week is a new speedometer cable, which was supposed to arrive here on the 12th, but tracking shows it headed towards New Orleans! So more messages out eBay sellers to find out if they misrouted the cable or if USPS has lost it in the system. It’s not been a good week for bike parts and repair schedules.

In the meantime, I installed some new OEM-looking front turn signals to replace the fragile little LED units that had been mounted previously. The wires must have been about 22-24 gauge, as they were easily dislodged from the printed circuit board when the wiring routing was changed. I had to re-solder the wires twice in order to get them to work for my initial ride a week before.

The new units were less than $40 for a set of four, including proper dual filament fronts so that the running lights could be used properly. They are still made in China, of course, but were a good deal more sturdy than the installed LED lights. There are aftermarket OEM-type turn signal mounts and light assemblies still available for these bikes, but each part was about $25-30, so about $50-55 per corner.

UPS was supposed to deliver a customer’s CT90 big-bore kit from DrATV in Nebraska today, the 12th, according to messages on Saturday, but at 4PM today a message came through that the delivery is now on Wednesday the 13th from 10:45 to 2:45. As Shakespeare once wrote, “When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions.”

I called UPS at 8:30PM, knowing that the tire was not going to be delivered in the darkness. Fortunately, I got an honest man on the customer service line who told me that the tire never was loaded onto the truck that day, for reasons unknown. He offered to have the local office call me with an explanation and to see if they will just hold the tire at the depot so I can go and pick it up instead of waiting fruitlessly for another “delivery” on Wednesday. I have no idea what is going on with this office, but it is not in the best interest of the customers at this time.

At 10PM, an hour after the “cutoff-time” for the Tuesday tire delivery, I received a new message from UPS:

Hi William, your scheduled delivery date has changed.

Rescheduled Delivery Date:
Wednesday, 05/13/2020
Estimated Delivery Time:
by 9:00 P.M.

 So, again, despite assurances that I would get a call with update information, neither event came to pass. On Wednesday afternoon, I drove 8 miles over to the UPS depot, stood in line for 30 minutes in the sun and then was told that the tire might be on the truck for Thursday, or I could ask for it to go into Will-Call status and I could pick it up on Wednesday evening from 7:30-8:00PM. Finally, at 8PM on Wednesday night, I was able to receive the long-awaited 16” front tire for the bike. On Thursday morning I received a message from UPS stating that my tire had been “delivered” at 8PM, the night before.

I hauled the wheel and tire down to my friend’s shop in National City, CA. He was able to change it out and install a new valve stem in less than twenty minutes. Then, off I went to go home and reassemble the bike. With correct-sized tires, the bike sits noticeably lower than before and seems much more responsive to changing directions and the ride-quality has improved, as well.

During all of this waiting and uncertainty, I received the $30 plastic gear for the speedometer drive unit, as well as a new replacement speedometer cable for the bike. Also received was a new set of brake pads for the triple-disc brakes. Everything went back together fairly smoothly and the bike received a favorable test ride experience, including a working speedometer.

On Friday, the left side OEM used muffler showed up, so the little custom stainless cones were removed and replaced with twenty pounds of OEM stock mufflers, which were substantially quieter than the slip-on units. I used the bike to make a trip to the Post Office for mailing of some motorcycle parts and was able to really fully experience the solid feel of this little Interceptor for the first time. It has been a love-hate experience for the past few weeks, but the bike’s potential has finally been fully realized. Now it is time to enjoy the fruits of my labor, perhaps for the next few months or longer. I am really beginning to like this bike a lot now!

Bill “MrHonda” Silver

Several friends, who rode behind me, noticed some “smoke” coming from the exhaust system on hard acceleration and coming off of stoplights where it idles for a few minutes. This kind of behavior points to worn valve stem seals in most cases. Apparently, when the head gaskets were replaced, the valve stem seals were ignored. On a 140 mile run, the oil level dropped down to the add mark, requiring most of a quart of oil to refill to the top fill line. Subsequently, on a 80-mile trip, the oil level dropped again about halfway down the stick. I have ordered a set of engine gaskets, which are in short supply now. These are coming from the UK. I am not looking forward to tearing the top end off of this bike for stem repairs. I attempted to buy a whole parts bike locally, but after driving 50 miles to see it, the seller promptly left to go on errands when I was 5 minutes away. The white shark is nibbling away at me again.


Label Created
05/08/2020 9:59 PM.
United States
Order Processed: Ready for UPS