Saturday, December 17, 2022

Frankenbike 4.0 revisited again...

Just when I thought we had a handle on the bike’s reliability, new problems surfaced. Jake reported that the bike died on him while driving back from a 20-mile ride. It blew the fuse and he attributed it to the 60/55-watt headlight that had been installed by the previous owner/builder. Fortunately, he had a spare fuse with him and was able to change it out and make it back home again. The battery kept going low and he had to take it to the local auto parts store to recharge it every few days while running with the lights OFF as much as possible.

I was back for my monthly chiro appointment, just down the street from where he’s been living; still in his dead Prius car next to the railroad tracks. I stopped by to check the bike out and we confirmed that the headlight H-4 bulb was too much for the charging system, then with the bike running, it was apparent that there was little or no output from the stator. In the back of my mind, I thought that I had a CB350 stator and a 35/35 H-4 bulb at home so developed a plan to come back and install them.

Honda’s later model stators run in oil and ones for 350-450 and even the 160s are similar in design, at least from a quick glance. They all have little pigtail wires for the nearby neutral switch and have a round plug that meets up with the wiring harness. It’s a 70-mile round trip from home, but the continuing problems with the bike spurred me to gather up my tools again and haul the critical parts back up to N. County to help keep this man on the road with something other than his beach bike.

I really don’t spend a lot of time with 350 twins, at least by choice, so wasn’t deeply familiar with the differences between the stators of that era. The one I had in the shop came to me years ago from an unknown source, but it tested out fine and I was confident that it would solve the problem. However, it wasn’t quite as easy as I had hoped…

I met Jake at his little camping spot where the bike had been used sparingly for the past few days. I leaned the bike over against my truck’s tailgate to keep the oil inside the engine once the stator and cover were removed. I had replaced the inner gasket previously and hoped that it was still intact when I removed the parts. Fortunately, it was still solid and was set aside while I removed the stator from the cover. I noticed that the stator had a burned spot at one of the coils and that was what was grounding the output. I pulled out the old one and went to install the replacement only to discover that while the OD and ID were correct and the wiring connectors were a match, the replacement stator was much thicker and all of the mounting holes were not threaded which was needed for the 350 covers. It looked like some longer bolts might secure it to the cover, so after a short walk to the local Auto-zone. That was a waste of effort as they didn’t carry any loose bolts of any kind in the store, so we moved the bike away from the truck with a rag in the engine case drain hole and drove to Home Depot for hardware.

I found some longer bolts and nuts/washers at the store and headed back to the bike, which was about 5 miles away. The bolts looked to work fine, but then when I tried to install the dyno cover, I discovered that the lack of threaded holes kept the cover from being installed! So, one more trip to Home Depot to get some oval screws for the cover and nuts lead me to assemble the whole cover together from the inside, so the next time there is a need for accessing the rotor for timing, etc. the whole assembly will have to be removed again. It’s a stop-gap repair for the moment and I still have no idea of what the stator actually came from originally, but in the end, we had a charging system that was building the 11 volt battery condition up past 12 volts with an increase in the RPMs.

We had changed out the headlight bulb already, but I went back into the headlight shell and jumpered the yellow and white/yellow wires from the headlight switch to kick in the extra AC lead power back to the rectifier/regulator unit and the test results were even better. What was envisioned as a 30-minute repair job ended about 3 hours later, but with a successful result. Checking eBay for stators, there were a number of correct ones available for less than $50, so we’ll grab a good one for the future and have it handy for any future repair moments.

The bike is now much happier to start up and run well now that there is a current of voltage feeding the battery. It’s hard to know what the next challenge will appear, but for the moment the bike resumes its transportation duties and gives Jake some new options for continuing his photography business. Hopefully, some new opportunities will arise to help him get back into stable housing and get his dead car repaired. He really has an amazingly positive outlook on life, despite all of his current woes.

I’ve certainly learned a lot more about the CB350 twins than I had imagined, but it all comes in handy at some time, especially in cases like this. Now, just what does that stator actually fit…..?

Bill Silver

aka MrHonda


Tragedy.. Frankenbike gets run over

Maybe it needs an exorcism or some kind of spell breaker, but only days after I was able to get the Frankenbike Honda 350 back on its feet, I got a call from the owner who said, “ The bike got run over by a Toyota Tundra while it was parked at a cafe on Hwy 101.”

                                            Frankenbike revealed... on the way home again.

As if the owner hadn’t suffered enough trials and tribulations in the past few months, this happens! The only bright spot is that the perpetrator was kind enough to stay put, offer his insurance and driver’s license, and then paid $325 to have the bike hauled 30 miles down the coast to me on a Friday evening. If we can keep the costs down to around $1000, then the driver won’t put it on his insurance. So, we’ll see about that...

The bike arrived in the dark on a big roll-back tow truck. The tow truck driver had to back off the rear brake adjuster nut so he could roll the bike as the brake pedal was solidly jammed up against the footpeg bracket. I got up on the bed, holding the bike upright while the driver loosened the tie-down straps. He lowered the bed down to the driveway and I backward rolled the bike down to the ground safely.

I rolled it up next to my daily-driver CB77 and threw a cover over it for the night. On Saturday morning, the extent of the damage was revealed… The centerstand foot was twisted completely under the bike and the brake pedal smashed against the footpeg. The front wheel and headlight were all out of alignment. Sometimes you can loosen the forks and reset the wheel alignment, but in this case the fork bridge was broken at one side, so that put an end to any adjustment attempt. The bike is a 1972 CB350 and all of those twins have rubber-mounted handlebar mounts which are positioned into the fork bridge. This bike had none of that and it took about 15 minutes of research online to determine that the fork bridge and steering stem were from a CB400F! That model is in high demand for restorers, so spare parts are in short supply. After some digging, I found an eBay seller who had the bridge and stem for sale for $100, plus $20 shipping.

The next thing was to track down a brake pedal and centerstand for the bike, which were normal CB350 parts. There are a lot of these bikes being parted out, so I picked out the best-looking ones and bought the pair for a little over $100. Then you wait…

I couldn’t really tear down the front end, until the centerstand arrived, so all work ceased after I had removed the centerstand and brake pedal earlier in the morning.

When the parts started to roll in, I was able to install the replacement centerstand which has a powerful return spring. That allowed me to put a jack beneath the engine on a frame mount and push the front end up enough to remove the wheel assembly and eventually replace the frayed rubber boots with a new pair that came from an eBay seller. Finally, after using the front axle bolt as a guide to even up both fork assemblies in the triple clamps, I was able to get the front wheel pointed in the right direction again.

As a side task, I ordered a set of OEM Honda carb slide needles to replace the aftermarket kit parts which actually separated in the carburetor while running. I re-routed the cables and pinched the cable holder brackets together just enough to get the cable adjusters to stay put.

The brake pedal installation was the next to last task but took some time as the pedal that was purchased for the bike differed from the one that was removed. I wound up on the bench grinder whittling off some excess metal that was hitting the frame and engine cases. The part number changed from the original 286 to a 317 code part in the later years. Another case of assuming that most of those chassis parts were all the same through the years is when you find out the hard way that they are not!

Eventually, all the damaged parts were replaced, the carbs remounted with upgraded needles, and all the electrical systems working apart from the turn signals. The bike fired up on the second kick and made the usual racket from the poorly baffled mufflers, so I didn’t run it through the neighborhood at the 6pm finish time. The next day I was scheduled for a doctor's appointment about 2/3 the way back to Leucadia where the owner lives, so I loaded up the bike and hauled it back to it came from, prior to the accident.

In the end, it is still a Frankenbike with poorly designed modifications that will slowly fail in time. But for the owner, it is basic transportation that he sorely missed for the 10 days that it was with me being mended as good as possible, given the time constraints and the limited budget allowed.

I probably haven’t heard the end of this bike’s story, but for now it is functional and doing the best it can, all things considered.

Bill Silver aka MrHonda