Go Back   ADVrider > Bikes > Old's Cool > Airheads
User Name
Register Inmates Photos Site Rules Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 08-13-2014, 07:43 PM   #1
AlexSonoma OP
Joined: Jul 2011
Location: San Diego, CA
Oddometer: 27
Best way to learn to wrench on airhead?

I just picked up an R80/7, and while this is the third airhead I've owned, I've never really learned how to work on one myself. Any advice to someone who would like to learn how to work on his own bike? I have the clymer manual which I've read through but still a little worried to just start taking things apart. Appreciate the input!!
AlexSonoma is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 07:58 PM   #2
therealbatman's Avatar
Joined: Nov 2006
Location: Cadillac, MI
Oddometer: 468
Ask lots of questions here, read other threads on similar projects.

Learn who is in the know and who likes to think they are in the know when you are sifting through the details in the will soon become evident.

Take lots of photos and notes as you go so you have a reference to fall back on. Go slow and methodical. GET A TORQUE WRENCH AND USE IT! The aluminum can strip if you're ham fisted.

Do not be afraid ....jump in and do it. The satisfaction knowing you did your own work is worth more than twice what you would pay someone else to do it.
1978 BMW R100/7
2008 Wee Strom
therealbatman is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 08:01 PM   #3
rockin' the toaster
Renner's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2007
Location: sunny SoCal
Oddometer: 2,297

and get to know other Airhead owners too.

Plenty of their ilk in these parts.
"If you want to fix it with a rock, you have to stick to stone-age technology" -Anton
"...solving the latest crisis that is preventing my Airhead from taking me to the bar." -Beater-
Renner is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 08:34 PM   #4
Stay Horizontal
boxerboy81's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Melbourne, Oz
Oddometer: 2,606
Torque wrench..good advice.
Get friends that have one too. Excellent advice.
Get a manual..done...but learn to cross reference certain things. They're not always right.
Document as you work, including the specs you use.
Buy spares in bulk with the new friends.
Start building a small inventory of spares. If you see a bargain part second hand, consider buying it. eg a transmission.
boxerboy81 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 08:36 PM   #5
Studly Adventurer
OLD GREEN's Avatar
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: N.W. Oregon
Oddometer: 620
My experience with most anything mechanical is that you just have to jump in with a "can do" attitude. There is plenty of information and people on this forum that are more than willing to help if you get stuck.

I also agree with therealbatman that you should get and use a decent torque wrench, at least until you get the feel of things.
OLD GREEN is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 08:59 PM   #6
because I can
Joined: Sep 2010
Location: San Francisco Bay area
Oddometer: 9,116
Torque wrench? They mean torque wrenchES. Using torque wrenches right on airheads means you need at least three different torque wrenches with three different torque ranges.
supershaft is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 09:13 PM   #7
etj's Avatar
Joined: Jul 2001
Location: Woodinville WA
Oddometer: 28
Other thoughts:

I would also pick up the Haynes manual. I like it better, especially the wiring diagrams. I have a hardcover. Somewhere on the net is an errata sheet for the Clymer.

Also, bookmark Snowbum's site: It can be a hard read, but the info is gold.

Join the Airheads mail list and maybe the ABC (Airheads Beemer Club), in addition to things here on ADV.
etj is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 09:17 PM   #8
Joined: Dec 2005
Location: Lethbridge, Alberta
Oddometer: 65
Look into I know there are 3 tech weekends in CA this month and I think you can access the info on their site. Not sure if any are close enough for you to attend but they can be a good opportunity to learn a great deal about working your airhead. If you can't attend you may be able to hook up with some of the local heads.
MOA 34048, USCA 7957, ABC 3303
81 R100RT, 81 R80G/S, 81 R100EML Sidecar rig
81twins is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 09:32 PM   #9
wadenelson's Avatar
Joined: May 2014
Location: Durango CO, Phoenix AZ
Oddometer: 625
take pictures as you take it apart.

lay the parts out in the order you took them off, and photograph THAT

Print out the photographs so your kids can't accidentally delete them off your camera/computer.

Apply anti-seize to every steel bolt going into an aluminum hole. Personally I like wire-brushing (on a bench grinder) the threads on all my bolts, ESPECIALLY if there's any "white rust"

If you haven't got a set of metric GearWrenches yet, go buy one. But NEVER use these to bust tight things loose, you'll ruin 'em.

never force anything. If it won't go, get a guy with experience either to break it or break it loose for you. He'll often show you the hidden bolt you didn't see. He's got the tools -- like the die grinder, wheel of death, etc. to cut heads off bolts if necessary. Stuff you'll acquire 3 years from now. But you need the compressor, today.

buy a Porter Cable pancake compressor ($99, amazon) and start with a 3/8" air ratchet to make assembly / disassembly 5x faster. I've bought several ratchets at pawnshops... test them as soon as you get home, or take 'em to your mechanic to test for you. want a very low torque one, just to spin nuts on and off faster, and use an open-end or torque wrench to finish tightening everything. Oil your ratchet daily with 3 drops of pneumatic tool oil where the air goes in. Get the quick disconnect kit with the compressor & hose.

pay PARTICULAR attention when you remove 5 bolts, 3 long and 2 short as to which goes in which hole. Take a sharpie and write an "L" on the block where the long ones go. Or take pictures with just the long ones hanging out of their homes. Put a long bolt in a short hole, try and torque it down and you might crack the block.

decide if you're a dry (gasket alone) guy or a goop everything, including gaskets guy. Personally I think the goop guys are insane. I regularly found oil passages blocked by big wads of xs goop.

Take your heads to a machine shop to do the 3-angle valve cutting, head milling, etc. You'll love those guys. They'll teach you lots.

Don't drop your (new) torque wrenches. Can lose the calibration.

After a year or so you'll get a feel for the German torque standard (Guudentight) and no longer need torque wrenches for anything but head bolts, connecting rod & cam bearings.

Go around in a circle tightening bolts, never tighten one to 50 foot-pounds with the one next to it completely loose. Take them all to 15, then 30, then 50.

When you strip or bust off a bolt or stud, get someone who has already repaired 25+ of them to fix it FOR you. You WILL screw up the head or crankcase if you don't have that level of experience and try drilling it, EZ out, etc. This is where years of experience in the shop really counts Some guys will apply heat using a torch, weld a nut onto a snapped stud, others spray freeze, everybody develops their own sequence of escalating steps for removing broken bolts & studs. BTW, This is the one and ONLY time you'er allowed to use Vice-Grips in a repair shop.

Ditto for drilling out and tapping a hole one size larger, often going from metric to SAE because that's all the boss you have to work with. Get a professional machinist to do this sort of work for you. Hell, you don't even know what size to drill the hole to use a tap of size "XX" He's got the wall chart if he doesn't know from memory.

Blue locktight is your friend.

If you get through a complete motor rebuild without at least one stripped or broken bolt/stud, plz notify the Pope, the second coming is about to occur.

You WILL put at least one part back on in the wrong order, and then have to take five others back off to put the one you SHOULD have put on next. Take a break, start fresh tomorrow instead of getting PO'd that you didn't take a picture at this vital stage of disassembly. Tell yourself, "Wade told me this day was gonna come..." ;)

Yeah, be SURE and put oil in it before you crank it. Tape a "NO OIL" sign to the ignition switch until oil has been added.

Do not ever insert a bolt and NOT finish tightening it down, as the phone will ring or you will otherwise get interrupted and forget. If distraction occurs, remove the bolt, set it back on the workbench or floor and THEN answer phone.

Or if there are 5 similar bolts, leave the 5th one completely out until ALL of them have been snugged down, as a reminder.

If the engine starts, runs, and doesn't make BAD noises, hide all the leftover bolts somewhere you can retrieve them if you ever have need. Do not discuss them, show them to friends, discard, or bury them in the back yard.

There it is. 40 years of wrenching experience in under 1000 words...

wadenelson screwed with this post 08-14-2014 at 08:10 AM
wadenelson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-13-2014, 11:17 PM   #10
Out of the office.
Joined: Dec 2003
Location: Where the Ghetto meets the sea.
Oddometer: 6,357
Take your time, do things slowly and conscientiously and as you do more you will build more skills.
I like manuals, I read them for fun.

Pick up Haynes motorcycle mechanics, fuel system and electrical system manuals

Get the best tools you can afford, I'm still using the first few tools I paid for with my own money
some 30 years later.

Ask question, the resources in this forum alone are worth what you paid for them....
But seriously there are some folks out there with mad skills when it comes to making these bikes work right.

Get a multimeter. learn your way around a wiring diagram. The Haynes book on motorcycle electrical systems will help with that. there's also an airhead charging book out there that I've heard is a very good book to have .

One of the great things about airheads is how easy they are to work on, which is a good thing, since they are chock full of the finest of German Engineering, which is fantastic at answering questions that have never been asked.
On vacation for a spell
squish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2014, 12:25 AM   #11
ME 109
Beastly Adventurer
ME 109's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Albury Australia
Oddometer: 3,029
Best way to learn? Break stuff.
Lord of the Bings, kangaroo farmer
ME 109 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2014, 12:48 AM   #12
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Bath Uk
Oddometer: 2,346
Originally Posted by ME 109 View Post
Best way to learn? Break stuff.
"decide if you're a dry (gasket alone) guy or a goop everything, including gaskets guy. Personally I think the goop guys are insane. I regularly found oil passages blocked by big wads of xs goop.

Get a die grinder with the 3m abrasive disk system to remove old gaskets, etc. (again, pawn shop specials...) But careful, these leave grit behind, you MUST bathe the parts in solvent, blow dry them afterwards. Again, pawn shop..."

The gasket removal advice is dangerous, would result in buggereing up smooth surfaces and spraying abrasive everywhere, would you really do this on cylinder/ crankcase joint? Or timing cover gasket? Air tools are not required for someone starting out maintaining their own bike. IMHO etc etc
R90s 1070 replica, R90/6, 1958 R50
1971 Commando Fastback
chasbmw is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2014, 01:39 AM   #13
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Apr 2014
Location: Germany
Oddometer: 335
Originally Posted by AlexSonoma View Post
I just picked up an R80/7, and while this is the third airhead I've owned, I've never really learned how to work on one myself. Any advice to someone who would like to learn how to work on his own bike? I have the clymer manual which I've read through but still a little worried to just start taking things apart. Appreciate the input!!
That will we be difficult without knowing your general practical skills. Do you regular maintenance work on cars like wheels, brakes, oil service? However, you need a set of metric tools in decent quality.
FrankR80GS is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2014, 05:19 AM   #14
bush pilot
Beastly Adventurer
bush pilot's Avatar
Joined: Jun 2006
Location: Thailand
Oddometer: 2,526
Acquiring mechanic skills takes time. This is from an old school of hard knocks student.

You need some basic tools.
Combination wrenches, (the forged china made from wally world are adequate)
a set of boxed end wrenches is good to have too.
A set of line wrenches.(Craftsman)
1/4" drive socket wrench set. ( sears craftsman's will do)
3/8" drive socket set.
1/2" drive socket wrench set. (the stanley kits are ok)
Allen wrenches all varieties including socket sets.
A set of punches and chisels.
A couple rubber mallets both hard and soft, a brass mallet, a brass punch,

An assortment of visegrip pliers. Channel lock pliers , big and small.

A very high quality set of screwdrivers, or just the nifty snap-on ratcheting type.
An impact driver.
a two pound body working hammer. Maybe some smaller ball-peen hammers too.
A good quality cutting dike.

A cripping tool and wire-stripper.

Duct tape, zip ties, safety wire, and blue locktite.

and of course a propane torch, judicious use of heat makes many jobs much easier.

That'll get ya started on your learning curve.

Unlike when I started out you got a zillion youtube videos to help ya out.
USA travels 09'
Anchorage to Ushuaia
RTW...part: Europe
Iron Butt #35784

bush pilot screwed with this post 08-14-2014 at 05:46 AM
bush pilot is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 08-14-2014, 05:29 AM   #15
Beastly Adventurer
MotorcycleWriter's Avatar
Joined: Dec 2012
Location: World's Rockiest Trails
Oddometer: 1,223
The biggest impediment to becoming a mechanic is the fear. Fear that it's going to be too hard. None of this stuff is hard. Sometimes it is complicated. Sometimes it is tedious. But none of it is actually hard. Some things to keep in mind:

Ask lots of questions.
Don't 'force' things.
If it seems too tight, it probably is.
Be patient.
Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.
Don't buy cheap tools.
Realize when something is over your head before you get in over your head.
Keep a journal.
Get a good manual... and read it. And something that didn't exist when I was earning my toolbox: YouTube.

But mostly... get a wrench, start wrenching.
MotorcycleWriter is offline   Reply With Quote


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Times are GMT -7.   It's 11:35 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015