Retorquing the Head

Jumping around a bit… back on the 14th I posted a question about retorquing the head on this bike:

I’m not impressed with how this forum does quotes, so I’m just going to copy and paste here. My original post went like this:

So I have oil leaking from the left side of my just-purchased XS650, specifically from the head gasket. It runs good, so no compression issue is evident. I saw this old thread:

The members there talk about retorquing the head bolts, which I have already been advised to try on my 1980 Honda CB650 which has a similar issue. I’m good with doing that, but the thread above is light on details, and I’m the sort who likes to have everything nailed down.

First of all, brass washers are mentioned, from Mike’s XS.  This the correct part:

According to the parts fiche on CMSNL (which is the one I use all the time for my other bikes), there are 4 part no. 90210-10004 washers used, which according to Mike’s XS are the equivalent parts to the brass washers they are selling. But according to the parts fiche, there are also 4 part no. 90201-10131 washers, under the other four acorn nuts. Turns out these are standard steel washers and do not need replacing.  However, those nuts still need to be retorqued.

5twins replied to my question on the XS650 forum about retorquing with some advice on different washers that might work, and ended with this very useful rundown of the procedure:

“Yes, remove one at a time, clean and lube the threads (anti-seize), then torque. I bring them up to about 25 in a couple steps, then once all are done, go back and bring them up to 28. The only other bolts that contribute to sealing the head gasket are the 2 under the spark plugs and that little 6mm at the rear. The other smaller bolts in the top cover only hold that cover on. You probably don’t need to disturb those.”

JimD54 added a link to his engine buildup thread. Lordy, I wish I had those skills. He recommends 27 ft-lbs torque on the acorn nuts and 72 INCH-lbs on the little one at the rear. He says 14 ft-lbs on the other bolts, but the diagram he included shows 16 so I’m not sure what’s best there. 5twins didn’t weigh in on the torque for those either. Yamaha’s manual says 16 ft-lbs, so I suppose that’s the answer, and the little bolt at the rear calls for 7 ft-lbs; if I haven’t messed up the math, 72 in-lbs. is 6 ft-lbs, making JimD54’s recommendation pretty close to the manual.

SO at the moment I’m planning on going with this:

Studs/acorn nuts 28 ft-lbs
Bolts under spark plugs 16 ft-lbs
Little bolt at the back 7 ft-lbs

Here’s a diagram I made to help me remember the procedure.  I printed it out and stuck it up on my parts shelf with magnets, for easy reference while doing the job.


As you can see, I’ve revised the diagram from the Yamaha manual, reorienting it so front is down (as JimD54’s diagram is in his thread). I’ve numbered just the bolts/nuts that got attention, and included the torque measurements I chose after all the discussion I read and participated in on the forum.

… and now the job is done.

I don’t think the retorque has fixed the oil leak. Maybe, maybe it’s slowed a bit, but not stopped, nor even slowed as much as I hoped. Gah. Retorquing the head was a lot easier than I expected though. I can’t really tell if the current leak is actually the head gasket, or if it’s the base gasket, as there is so much oily crud from the head gasket to the base gasket on the left side of the cylinders.


Resoldered the turn signal switch. No pictures, because (a) it’s an ugly job of soldering, and (b) I was too busy exercising my vocabulary to take any pictures.

Next, I hooked up the new master cylinder and bled the front brakes. I pulled the tank to protect the paint, and while I had it off I looked over what retorquing is going to involve. Decided I didn’t have enough time to do that too (work, you know?) but I did have time to get the bike inspected:


I checked the oil before starting out; it’s about halfway between the lower and upper lines on the dipstick, and I only had to go a mile to get to the inspection station. There was a fresh thin trickle of oil from the left side of the cylinder when I got home, so I won’t be taking any long trips until I get the retorque done. Maybe soon.

I did notice that the bike is very stiff shifting down; shifting up is pretty smooth when it’s rolling, but it’s a bear to get into neutral. I did set the free play at the clutch when I put the new bars on, and while the clutch is very stiff it does seem to disengage fully.

Just Did One Thing

Okay, so I did a little bit today. Doesn’t look like much…


That’s the new brake light lead I made to connect the “generic” master cylinder to the XS650’s wiring harness. After I took the picture I installed and tested it, and it’s perfect. Also hooked up that floating ground wire.

SO now here’s my list of must-do’s before I can get this beast inspected, licensed, and on the road:

— Drain, refill, and bleed the front brake;
— Resolder the turn signal switch and reassemble the left pod; and
— Retorque the head, installing the new brass washers along the way.

I have everything in hand needed to do the first two jobs, but do not have the wobble extension needed to retorque the head. I’m hopeful I’ll get all of this done next week, after a trip to the store this weekend to get that extension.

Rigging Up These Lights

HOKAY DOKAY. I did some things:

First, I unscrewed the headlight and tried to open it up. Tried, and failed… it would come out half an inch and catch. Took me a bit of messing around to get into it, and when I did I discovered the problem was those screws that allow the sealed beam (as 5twins mentions) to swivel when you adjust it side to side.

See, the large rubber washer thing and the metal washer were on the outside, and there were no nuts on the inside. Seriously. I had to go back and review the fiche to make sure I understood how it was supposed to go together. As I was marveling at how screwed up it was, I found the missing nuts (and those two little bushings)… lying in the bottom of the headlight bucket, trying to fall out on the floor.

I brought all the bits into my office (where I normally service computers), laid it out on my workbench and took it the rest of the way apart. The rubber ring that goes around the sealed beam? Not lined up with the bumps. Nor were the bumps lined up with the reliefs in the metal ring where they were supposed to be.

So I carefully put it all back together as indicated in the parts fiche, and it looks a lot better now.

Then I turned my attention to the turn signals. Here is the right signal, before:


And after:


And the left, before:


And after:


I fixed the warped baseplates (whatever those are called) by putting them in a vise with a flat, smooth piece of cheap metal pressed against the top side to protect the finish. The studs got fixed by the same means as the left rear… I threaded three 13mm nuts onto the studs to protect the thread, then slipped the assembly into an iron pipe and bent it straight. That last one, the left front, had to be readjusted several times because it was bent in two distinct places, and it’s not perfect but I don’t think it shows too much.

Finally, I turned my attention to the faulty blinkers. The right blinkers started working again, mysteriously, but no left blinkers. I rearranged the connections in the headlight so that it would activate the left blinkers if I signaled right, and lo and behold, they worked. Thus, it had to be the switch. I started disassembling the pod and discovered that yes, there is a bad solder joint… two, in fact, one on the left turn side and one on the common connection. The common connection must have been cutting in and out, which explains the intermittent failure of the right turn signals.

I also found this:


The loose connection shown turned out to be the ground for the left-side switch pod, and indirectly, the ground for the right-side pod as well.  Hooked it back up.

Disassembled the left-side switch pod and discovered that two of the three solder points on the turn signal switch were loose.  That will have to be attended to soon.

For those who might be interested, here’s the “before” picture of my front end:


And after:


They aren’t perfect, but they are a lot better. I think I can live with it.

Next up will either be the retorquing or the resoldering… next week, I’m sure, as I’m rather busy with non-motorcycle activities this weekend.

More Things I Did

Things I did on the 25th:

I put the new bars together in a “preliminary” fashion:


The left side blinkers used to not work… now neither side does. Never disconnected anything, so I’m not sure what went wrong. I haven’t removed the old master cylinder completely, as I need to open up the headlight and sort out the wiring… and of course, remove the tank before actually disconnecting the brake line, to avoid damaging the paint.

Some Things I Did

Things I did on July 24th:

I pulled the bent left rear signal, ran three nuts onto the stud, slipped it into a piece of iron pipe and bent it straight. Bent the mounting point (tab? flange?) straight with vice grips, put it all back together and here it is:


Sorry I don’t have a “before” pic. So now I have to disassemble the headlight to do the same thing to both front signals… and straighten the headlight lens while I’m in there. Later.

Next, I carefully threaded the new left mirror into the damaged clutch perch threads. I think it’s going to be okay. The new master cylinder has a silver-colored lever, so I pulled the stock black lever from the clutch and put on the one from my TW200, which isn’t a perfect match but it is close.


The TW got a set of shorties a long time back, and as we all do, I threw the old ones on a shelf in case I ever needed them.

Styling Changes for the XS

The master cylinder on my XS650 is pretty crappy (leaks, and so disfigured that fixing it seems a waste of time) so I knew I was going to order another “generic” unit like I put on my 1980 Honda CB650. But that MC won’t work on the pullback Special bars, and I don’t like them anyway. So I posted this thread:

I’m not going to quote it all, just the bits I actually did; you can read the original thread if you care. I ordered a bunch of parts from eBay using a one-day-only $25.00 coupon, and here they are:[​IMG]

The handlebars are Emgo Chrome 7/8 in. CB750K Replicas, part # 23-93145; Width: 32 in., Rise: 5 in., Pullback: 5-1/2 in., Center Width: 6 in., End Rise: 6 1/2 in.

I held them up over the stock bars on my Yamaha TW200; they are the same width, approximately, but angled differently, and I’m wondering if I can find bars like that which are not chromed because they’d be perfect on the TW.

Plan of attack going forward: Pull the tank, retorque the head (installing the new washers as I go), install new bars and attendant bits, connect, fill, and bleed the new master cylinder, and then (and only then) put the tank back on. This still leaves the bent signals to fix, and the left turn signals don’t blink as of right now so I have to figure that out yet.

Do all that, and if the oil leak is at least slowed, get it inspected and some plates on it. Gah. Lots to do…

New Project Bike: 1980 Yamaha XS650 Special

Here’s my new project:

Here’s the instrument cluster, for reference. I rode the bike less than a mile from the seller’s residence to the gas station and reset the tripmeter when I filled it up, but I must have screwed up because it’s only 15 or so miles from where I bought it to my home.[​IMG]\

She has a head gasket oil leak the seller said was very minor that I’m not so sure about… it worries me. Needs a new front brake master cylinder, something I’m pretty comfortable doing, and three out of four turn signals are mangled. Seller claimed it was from a static fall, and there is no road rash on the damaged signals, supporting his contention… but if that is so, how did a fall on the left side damage the right front signal? Ah, the questions of life.

Took off the mirrors, and put the left one back on… because the left mirror was attached to the right side of the handlebar on a clamp, and the right mirror was crossthreaded into the mount on the left side. You all know that Yamaha bikes have left-handed right mirrors, but apparently the previous owner didn’t. Gah. The collar nut is missing from the right-hand mirror, so I couldn’t remount it, but after running a bolt through the left-hand mount from the bottom to straighten the threads, that mirror went on fine.

Removed the expired license plate from the bike.

Loosened one of the bent signals to examine it. The flange it attaches to is also bent, but I don’t expect any trouble bending it back out. Haven’t dug into the headlight to remove the front signals for examination as yet… hoping the headlight bucket and mount is undamaged.

This is an ongoing project; look for more shortly!

I had a dream…

I had a dream the other night, and there was a motorcycle in it. (You are surely not surprised, are you?) It was parked in the lot of the lake where I swam as a child, and though it looked ordinary enough, to me it was beautiful.

Indeed, it may well have been the motorcycle of my dreams.

The tank and side panels were white, the latter plain, the former decorated with a single blue and a single red stripe angled in a fashion that suggested the ’70’s to me. The rest of the bike, all the parts that could be painted, was black… frame, engine, rims, lower fork tubes, the works. The engine was a large-bore thumper; though the side panels and tank bore no information, I felt sure the engine was around 650 cc or so. The stance of the bike was street standard, neither a leaned back cruiser nor a leaned forward sport bike. I didn’t know for sure, but to me the bike looked like either a Yamaha or a Honda; indeed, in some mysterious way it looked a lot like my Yamaha TW200, just a bit thicker and more solid.

The styling was ’70’s classic, with separate tank and side panels (instead of being curved to look like one piece as became common in the ’80’s and later), chrome fenders, spoked wheels, and the big round headlight that seems so perfect to me. The seat was street standard too, with just a slight step up for the passenger.

It had that indefinable air of a stock bike, despite the unmarked tank and side panels. It looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor… the showroom floor of my dreams, obviously.

Awake, I could see that my subconscious mind had built a bike by combining the best features of my two current motorcycles, the TW200 and my Honda CB650. Here was a relatively slim, probably good-handling street bike (like the Yamaha) with torque and power enough to haul my overweight carcass with some authority (like the Honda) and the kind of retro looks that make me smile.

Yamaha doesn’t make a retro-standard that big. The old SR500 was pretty close, but by the time they bumped the engine up to 600 cc (the SRX600) class the bike had a new frame that just would not be retro enough for me. If I were to try to build a bike like this now, I’d probably start with the Honda XR650L or NX650 Dominator. To get down to a street stance, I’d relocate the swingarm pivot higher and switch to a shorter shock; the forks would probably need to be exchanged for those from some other streetbike (the CBR600F, for example, has the same diameter fork tubes, though the latter bike is quite a bit heavier so there would be adjustments needed… the Yamaha YZF R6 is closer in weight and also has 43 mm forks, so maybe a better choice). Lacing on a 16″ rim in back in place of the stock 18″ and a 19″ front rim in place of the stock 21″ will bring the seat down an additional inch, resulting (I would hope) in a standard-looking bike stance.

I’d want it to look as stock as my dream bike did. To do that, I’d use old stock parts almost exclusively, incorporating custom bits only where they wouldn’t show. eBay is an excellent source of such bits. Though my dream bike was unmarked, I’d be sure to have a Honda badge or decal on the tank, and the side panels would be marked CBXR650 or some such mash-up. The goal would be to have a bike that looked like it rolled off the production line in some strange parallel universe where Honda decided a big-bore thumper would make an ideal street bike… maybe one where the Ascot actually sold well.

A Minor Milestone

Today I passed a milestone of sorts with my CB650. When I purchased it, the bike had 6226.6 miles on it:

This morning I reached this mileage:

This is exactly twice the mileage the bike had on it when I purchased it… or in other words, I’ve now ridden the bike as far (and farther) than both of its previous owners combined.

It’s not much of a milestone, I know.  But it amuses me.  This 1980 Honda went 6226.6 miles in 36 years, and another 6226.6 miles in 2 years.

Hopefully it has many years and many miles yet to go.