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Old 04-17-2013, 11:05 PM   #46
Mikepotter86 OP
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Joined: Sep 2010
Location: Alexandria VA
Oddometer: 169
Brakes On!

Making a 30 year old Airhead run after a few years neglect proved easy, but getting it to stop and turn may prove to be a different story.

It seems I spent half of my free time in March and April performing the load/unload/ repeat process, and much to the dismay of my condo neighbors, the RT took up semi-permanent residency in the back of the truck. Despite a minor oil leak- which I have tentatively identified as pushrod seals, and steering head bearings which were quite still on a 30 degree tech day in February, the first order of business was to get the bike to stop.

As I am sure will continue to be the norm for some time, we kicked off the day by driving to the storage unit, rolling the bike into the truck and heading to a generous and more grown up (at least grown up enough to have a garage) friend and club member’s house.



This time I was working with the assistance of my friend, neighbor, and coworker Taylor, who has recently entered the fold as a BMW owner. The objectives for the day were to replace the corroded master cylinder, and swap out the 30 year old brake lines for some shiny new stainless steel lines.


My new brake, steering, and fork parts have arrived... more to come soon.

When I first started researching the brake system online, I found out I was one of the lucky ones, with one of the first “non-ATE” braking systems. On any RT older than mine, and on many other airheads of the era, the master cylinder is mounted under the tank, making it quite difficult to work on, maintain, etc. The more modern braking system on the 81+ model RTs, like this one, are handlebar mounted, and have been widely touted as more powerful, more reliable, and easier to work on – after my recent experiences, I can only confirm that the handle bar mounted mater cylinder is easier to add fluid to.



We easily removed the old, leaky, yellowing, master cylinder, and put the new unit in place. The brake lines wouldn’t be quite as simple. Rather than having the front brake lines run directly down the forks to the calipers, like the Japanese bikes I have worked on before, the RT has one line running from the master cylinder to a distribution piece under the tank which connects to two separate metal pipes, which connect to the lines running down to each caliper.



We removed the tank, loosened a clamp, and slid this piece back, and easily removed the line the master cylinder and each of the lines to the caliper. The new steel lines went on quite easily.



Shortly after getting everything else in place, however, we soon realized it was nearly impossible to position the distribution unit with both pipes connected, so we removed the left side and loosened the right, and then slid the unit into place and proceeded to play a 45 minute game of “Am I cross threading this?” with the left side, which fortunately resulted in a success.



The “banjo bolts” required several attempts at appropriate adjustment to line up with the master cylinder, but this was easy to do with the included tools. Once everything was in place we connected the calipers, flushed out all the old fluid, and bled the brake lines the old fashioned way, within minutes brake pressure was strong.

The new brake line for the rear caliper went on easily, but flushing the lines the old fashioned way was not working, after 30 minutes of opening the bleeder, depressing the lever, closing the bleeder, and repeating we still had no brake pressure. So half a day of work and +/- $400 in parts, I now have perfect front brakes, and no rear, rather than the opposite.

I’ve received a lot of great advice on how to appropriately bleed the rear brakes since posting for help on ADVrider and will be applying this advice in my next attempt, weather permitting, this Saturday.
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:44 AM   #47
TNL
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Location: Alexandria, VA
Oddometer: 27
Great post!

Great post! Although, you forgot (or perhaps intentially left out) the part about us forgetting to tighten the nut for the line coming off the splitter -and the joy that was discovering the brake fluid had leaked all over the place when we got back from lunch! Ooops.
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Old 04-18-2013, 12:19 PM   #48
Plaka
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikepotter86 View Post
Making a 30 year old Airhead run after a few years neglect proved easy, but getting it to stop and turn may prove to be a different story.

It seems I spent half of my free time in March and April performing the load/unload/ repeat process, and much to the dismay of my condo neighbors, the RT took up semi-permanent residency in the back of the truck. Despite a minor oil leak- which I have tentatively identified as pushrod seals, and steering head bearings which were quite still on a 30 degree tech day in February, the first order of business was to get the bike to stop.

As I am sure will continue to be the norm for some time, we kicked off the day by driving to the storage unit, rolling the bike into the truck and heading to a generous and more grown up (at least grown up enough to have a garage) friend and club member’s house.



This time I was working with the assistance of my friend, neighbor, and coworker Taylor, who has recently entered the fold as a BMW owner. The objectives for the day were to replace the corroded master cylinder, and swap out the 30 year old brake lines for some shiny new stainless steel lines.


My new brake, steering, and fork parts have arrived... more to come soon.

When I first started researching the brake system online, I found out I was one of the lucky ones, with one of the first “non-ATE” braking systems. On any RT older than mine, and on many other airheads of the era, the master cylinder is mounted under the tank, making it quite difficult to work on, maintain, etc. The more modern braking system on the 81+ model RTs, like this one, are handlebar mounted, and have been widely touted as more powerful, more reliable, and easier to work on – after my recent experiences, I can only confirm that the handle bar mounted mater cylinder is easier to add fluid to.



We easily removed the old, leaky, yellowing, master cylinder, and put the new unit in place. The brake lines wouldn’t be quite as simple. Rather than having the front brake lines run directly down the forks to the calipers, like the Japanese bikes I have worked on before, the RT has one line running from the master cylinder to a distribution piece under the tank which connects to two separate metal pipes, which connect to the lines running down to each caliper.



We removed the tank, loosened a clamp, and slid this piece back, and easily removed the line the master cylinder and each of the lines to the caliper. The new steel lines went on quite easily.



Shortly after getting everything else in place, however, we soon realized it was nearly impossible to position the distribution unit with both pipes connected, so we removed the left side and loosened the right, and then slid the unit into place and proceeded to play a 45 minute game of “Am I cross threading this?” with the left side, which fortunately resulted in a success.



The “banjo bolts” required several attempts at appropriate adjustment to line up with the master cylinder, but this was easy to do with the included tools. Once everything was in place we connected the calipers, flushed out all the old fluid, and bled the brake lines the old fashioned way, within minutes brake pressure was strong.

The new brake line for the rear caliper went on easily, but flushing the lines the old fashioned way was not working, after 30 minutes of opening the bleeder, depressing the lever, closing the bleeder, and repeating we still had no brake pressure. So half a day of work and +/- $400 in parts, I now have perfect front brakes, and no rear, rather than the opposite.

I’ve received a lot of great advice on how to appropriately bleed the rear brakes since posting for help on ADVrider and will be applying this advice in my next attempt, weather permitting, this Saturday.
It can be worth taping off the edges of the fairing at the sides. 2 layers of duct tape over blue painters tape. Keeps these from getting beaten up if you drop it. Also you can remove the mirrors, two nuts on the inside, quick and easy, Put a bolt or speedy tie back in the hole to hold the fairing to the fairing bracket.

While you are in the area and having so much fun:

Remove the plug from the ignition module and make sure the contacts are nice. Clean them up if needed. Ditto the starter relay (the silver box at left under the splitter). If the outside of the starter really is looking a bit corroded (white stuff), rub it down with steel wool and give it a coat of vaseline. Ditto the frame tube under and around the splitter. You can brush on some black enamel with a disposo foam brush or just vaseline it. This can be done without removing the lines, you should have enough room to lift the splitter slightly and get under it. Also remove the ignition module and redo it's thermal grease. Don't lose the clip. Touch of silicone grease on the plug o-ring and inside the boot. Now the electrics in this area are rock solid.

The bleeder nipples have little rubber caps on them. These should be nice and fresh. If hardened, replace them. I use just a touch of silicone dielectric grease in them (same stuff you use on your spark plug boots). Those little caps keep moisture out of the nipples. It's a really bad place for corrosion. Usually when I have the system fully empty (as opposed to simply changing fluid---yearly) I take the bleeders out and wire brush the threads.

Plan on changing the fork oil. Very important and you want the tank off anyway. (not necessary to pull tank but handy) This is another once-a-year item and not doing it can cost you a fork rebuild. It may be too late already but you'll know when you ride it. Rebuilding the forks isn't a big deal, bunch of replacing seals and whatnot.


Check HT wires coil to plugs for resistance and check the coil ends for cleanliness. Another tank-off project. Also 12V connections at the coils. Clean as needed.


Remove starter cover and clean the elec. connections at the starter. Remove any wildlife.

Check and clean any other connections along the backbone. Ignore plugs with nothing connected to them.

That should do it for tank-off service and picks off a bunch of little points of future issues.




Future reference:

Get a turned down socket for the swing arm pivot locknuts. Then you are ready for that work. Not costly, or you can make one. Also get a pushrod seal drift. You can make one but the real deal is cheap (like $12 or something) has perfect geometry, is nice steel, etc.

Get two stainless washers from hardware store and put them on the petcocks ahead of the fuel lines. Makes it easy to remove the lines. Now taking the tank off is a snap. Needless to say (almost), replace all fuel lines.


Damper knob has a spring behind it. Likes to throw the little screw someplace you can't find it. Dash pad is a clip-on. Worth pulling to check rust on the bar. Clean and grease. 4 Nuts release the bar clamps. Two go through vibe mounts for the gauges so special washers. Mark bars before removing. They just flop forward. You should be able to change oil w/o disturbing them.
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Old 04-18-2013, 07:23 PM   #49
Mikepotter86 OP
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Joined: Sep 2010
Location: Alexandria VA
Oddometer: 169
Plaka,
Thanks for all the great advice! I have a lot to do. I replaced the fuel lines the same day as the brakes! Forgot to mention it.

Taylor,
Thanks for the feedback, and again for all your help!
Mike
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:50 PM   #50
Plaka
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikepotter86 View Post
Plaka,
Thanks for all the great advice! I have a lot to do. I replaced the fuel lines the same day as the brakes! Forgot to mention it.

Taylor,
Thanks for the feedback, and again for all your help!
Mike
Most of the stuff I mentioned is in the realm of quickie projects. But those elec. connection can bite you later. It's an old bike, worth checking then as you access an area.

When you put the tank on, make sure no cables are touching the backside of the petcocks. I don't think it's an issue with the 1-->2 throttle cables, not sure. It is with 2--->2 setups.

Save all small scraps of new fuel line.

On that Right grip, only a small amount of non-silicone containing grease on the bar. make sure the area where thr throttle stop screw contacts is clean clean. Remove the screw and clean it too (don't lose spring). You want to be able to lock the throttle with it (tuning) so you need friction so no grease. But do service the throttle cam/chain. Evaluate wear, grease it. If getting worn (<1/2 teeth remaining) budget for new. You will have too much slop in the throttle. It's sloppy at best so things get worse. It may be the stupidest design on the planet--overly complex, works poorly, wears too soon. A good one would have a fraction of the parts, zero play and last forever. I haven't looked at the newer bikes to see if the silliness continues. BMW can be VERY slow to correct bad designs. (pretty quick in the case of the SWB /5, people were getting killed, but the switch gear took forever)
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Old 04-19-2013, 11:56 AM   #51
garthg
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People getting killed?

Plaka, really?

Quote: "BMW can be VERY slow to correct bad designs. (pretty quick in the case of the SWB /5, people were getting killed, but the switch gear took forever)".

I had a SWB /5. The back end hopped around a little on the freeway, especially on grooved pavement in CA, but it never felt dangerous. And it was a lot of fun in the tight canyon roads. Noticeably quicker to steer.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:07 PM   #52
Lornce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by garthg View Post
Plaka, really?

Quote: "BMW can be VERY slow to correct bad designs. (pretty quick in the case of the SWB /5, people were getting killed, but the switch gear took forever)".

I had a SWB /5. The back end hopped around a little on the freeway, especially on grooved pavement in CA, but it never felt dangerous. And it was a lot of fun in the tight canyon roads. Noticeably quicker to steer.
BMW sold lots of early /5's with poorly mfg'd top fork plates which misaligned the fork tubes causing binding, weaving and all manner of handling woes.

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Old 04-19-2013, 12:37 PM   #53
KustomizingKid
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Great thread!

You BMW guys are funny though... all these special tools and talking about maintinence like it is some kind of pagan ritual. Take off your special exhuast nuts with your special spanner, but only after doing your exhaust nut rain dance and putting on your exhuast nut removal hat.

Hahaha... motor on.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:48 PM   #54
Lornce
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Originally Posted by KustomizingKid View Post
Great thread!

You BMW guys are funny though... all these special tools and talking about maintinence like it is some kind of pagan ritual. Take off your special exhuast nuts with your special spanner, but only after doing your exhaust nut rain dance and putting on your exhuast nut removal hat.

Hahaha... motor on.
After 30 years plus for many of the folks here, it's more like a motor reflex than a pagan ritual.

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Old 04-19-2013, 01:04 PM   #55
Mikepotter86 OP
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Haven't noticed anything too deadly yet...

 photo R75R100.jpg

Mikepotter86 screwed with this post 04-19-2013 at 01:42 PM
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Old 04-19-2013, 05:39 PM   #56
Plaka
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Originally Posted by Mikepotter86 View Post
Rear brake needs adjusted and rear shocks are worn out. Do a close up of the petcocks, too blurry to see the cable routing.
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Old 04-19-2013, 08:57 PM   #57
squiffynimrod
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plaka View Post

Get two stainless washers from hardware store and put them on the petcocks ahead of the fuel lines. Makes it easy to remove the lines. Now taking the tank off is a snap.

And this is why I keep combing Airhead threads. A simple, and functionally elegant solution.

Thanks!

PS Nice RT BTW. Great story.
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Old 04-19-2013, 09:02 PM   #58
Mikepotter86 OP
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Location: Alexandria VA
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Plaka,

You're talking about the /5 now?

Lets keep it on the RT until I finish that, I only ride the /5 500 or so miles a year, and I am sure there is plenty I could get around to on that.
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Old 04-20-2013, 05:54 PM   #59
Mikepotter86 OP
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Now offering rear brakes

I was beginning to feel like all I'd ever do was load and unload the bike from my truck. With warmer weather here to stay, hopefully, I made the decision to move the bike from the parking garage a few miles away, to the motorcycle parking area outside my apartment. Hopefully now I can start tackling all the little quick fixes that are needed before the bike can really ride and run.



Today, based on the feedback I have gotten here on ADVrider, I was able to successfully bleed the rear brakes. After angling the bleeder valve up, and attaching a speed bleeder, I was able to achieve brakes pressure in a matter of minutes.

While I was at it, I noticed the rear brakes pads, although well within spec for thickness, were for lack of a better word, kind of flaky. Although the front were in better condition, I'd rather not take any chances, so I've decided to replace all of the brake pads.

Tomorrow i am hoping to tackle a number of small maintenance items:

re-install the seat latch
grease the swing arm
greasing all cables
touch up frame where brake fluid damaged paint
clean and grease electrical contacts (as advised on this thread)
apply penetrating oil to exhaust nuts- I will do once a day for a week before attempting to remove.
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Old 04-20-2013, 07:22 PM   #60
Plaka
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Joined: Jun 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikepotter86 View Post
I was beginning to feel like all I'd ever do was load and unload the bike from my truck. With warmer weather here to stay, hopefully, I made the decision to move the bike from the parking garage a few miles away, to the motorcycle parking area outside my apartment. Hopefully now I can start tackling all the little quick fixes that are needed before the bike can really ride and run.



Today, based on the feedback I have gotten here on ADVrider, I was able to successfully bleed the rear brakes. After angling the bleeder valve up, and attaching a speed bleeder, I was able to achieve brakes pressure in a matter of minutes.

While I was at it, I noticed the rear brakes pads, although well within spec for thickness, were for lack of a better word, kind of flaky. Although the front were in better condition, I'd rather not take any chances, so I've decided to replace all of the brake pads.

Tomorrow i am hoping to tackle a number of small maintenance items:

re-install the seat latch
grease the swing arm
greasing all cables
touch up frame where brake fluid damaged paint
clean and grease electrical contacts (as advised on this thread)
apply penetrating oil to exhaust nuts- I will do once a day for a week before attempting to remove.
Cables don't get greased. The throttle mechanism on the bar does. The cable pivots in the clutch lever does. Cleaning and greasing this annually is pretty important. Inspect both ends of every cable, esp. the speedo cable at the transmission, for bad boots and the clutch cable for broken strands on the bar end. Inspect the cable jackets, minutely, for nicks in the plastic, worn lettering (should be white, not discolored or worse, fading away) or rusty fitting. Attention to the carb end of the choke cables here. Ensure cables aren't wearing grooves in the backside of the petcocks. If cable housings are twisted so the lettering is not strait with the lie of the cable, this should be corrected or the cable replaced. It is wise to order a dozen or so of them and then select the best. Many do not come from the factory with the correct strait lettering. Cull and return the defectives. Many people have to place multiple orders to get a correct cable. Now you know.

if you park next to another vehicle, especially a two wheeled one, it should be a BMW. BMW autos are permissible if they're the cooler ones. A 2002i for example.

"BMW Parking Only" signs are available on the net if contaminating offenders don't respond to a few hints (or flat tires).


When you get a new airhead, even if you own one already and have performed the ritual, you should start an oil thread that's just about your particular bike. Examine it with utmost care for unique features that require a new interpretation of "The Best Oil For My Airhead" to cover your particular case. You can fade out with grace after the first 75 posts.
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