Oil, Brake Fluid, And More Oil

First, let me start by saying that the Redneck Rope Trick has its limits, and I’ve reached them.  The oil leak on the Honda CB650 is now too much to hold back with some twine.  I’m afraid she’ll have to sit in the garage until some time next year when I can get an expert to take a look at her.

Regarding my Yamaha XS650, things are looking quite a bit better.  I mentioned a gas leak in my last post… well, I fixed it using a very cost-effective Fel-Pro radiator seal: https://www.autozone.com/cooling-he…mostat-gasket/fel-pro-thermostat-gasket/68354 which I learned about on the XS650 forum.  Sorry I don’t have a link to the original post.

So on August 15th I set out to change the oil in the XS.  When I got the bike a month earlier, the previous owner told me it had been changed recently, and the oil does indeed look, well, not fresh but pretty recent. But, considering the many sins of the PO I’ve already uncovered, it seemed smart to go ahead and change it now.

I could not budge the oil plugs, neither of them. I didn’t realize just exactly how BIG they were until I tried to find a socket to fit… nothing in my metric selection is nearly that big. I do have a high-quality crescent wrench (yes, there is such a thing) that I carry on my TW to deal with the rear axle, and I tried that, but I couldn’t move them.

The forum came to the rescue again, revealing that they were 27mm monsters.  I ordered a very reasonable 27mm impact socket, 6 point, half inch drive, from Amazon:


I learned that the original crush washers were most likely, well, crushed.  Turns out they are $7.50 or more each from Yamaha. Some digging around the forums led me to alternative sources, and eventually to this item:


Now the Amazon page doesn’t tell you much, but I looked the part number up online and found a better page here:


In short, they looked perfect, and when I had them in hand I verified that they were, in fact, perfect.

MEANWHILE, back on the forum I was told that I’d be dropping the sump plate.  Why, I asked, and the answer is that there is another oil filter in there.  In true XS650 fashion, the sump filter would almost certainly be damaged, and fixing it would be more effective than replacing it.


While waiting on the items mentioned above, I decided to see what I could do about the squishy front brake on my bike. I started a separate thread, to discuss what might be wrong:


Got just what I needed there too. According to the suggestions, either it’s the rubber brake lines (which surely need replacing anyway) or there’s a bubble stuck at the top of the brake line. So I did a bunch more parts research and ordered these items:

Brake line: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B073Z8GZSC/

Banjo bolt with bleeder: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07DSH5N9F/

The brake line has pretty nice reviews; the bolt I’m taking a chance on, but for under $5.00 it seems like a good bet. It showed up in the mail the other day, and looks good as far as I can see.  Still waiting on the brake line.

It was the 29th of August before I found a good time to actually do the oil change.  I put a big breaker bar on the socket and the socket on an oil plug, then used a hydraulic car jack and a wood block to press the socket firmly onto the front oil plug.  I put some tension on the breaker bar with my leg, then whacked it a few times with my maul (the breaker bar, not my leg, thank goodness) and it broke loose.

Did the same on the rear plug, then drained the oil.  Pulled the upper filter and cleaned it, then reinstalled; then I pulled the sump plate.

Here’s what I found:

Got a few bits of the crud in the picture above out in the oil at this point, but the big bit had to wait until I pulled the sump plate.  The old gasket was not stuck too firmly to the engine cases (good news) but came off of the sump plate in pieces (bad news).  I ended up using liquid hand soap and a plastic pot scrubber, and quite a lot of elbow grease, to remove the last of the gasket.

The sump filter was blown out, too, but so neatly that I didn’t immediately realize it was blown out. It had a T-shaped split, vertical up to the top of the filter and then about 10mm left and right, with a little bit missing at the top.

Given that I was looking at more involved repairs, I oiled up the new gasket and reassembled everything gently, knowing I’d be taking it all apart after I figured out whether to repair or replace that sump filter.

I was seriously thinking I was going to have to do a top-end job, given the bits of the cam chain guide I found in the sump, but in reviewing the forum I discovered that it’s apparently acceptable to ignore the little bits as long as the engine doesn’t make undue metal-on-metal racket.  With hope in my heart I decided to move on with the oil change.

Incidentally, the computer-cut sump plate gasket I got from eBay is just a bit large, but not large enough that it wouldn’t seal. Scaling is something that’s always tricky when computer cutting.


Repairing the torn filter became my focus.  Here it is, after degreasing but before any repair:


Definitely needed a patch. I should mention that I removed the loose bits after this picture was taken, but before patching.

Most guys either apply the slow-setting JB Weld to the filter fabric directly, if there’s enough to glue back together, or if not, they glue a metal piece over it bent to carefully fit.

I had a different idea… denim.  Natural fibers won’t melt in the hot oil, and with JB Weld applied to inner and outer surfaces, no fibers should be able to escape.  The resulting composite should, I expect, be able to handle quite a bit of abuse.

So here it is:


I cut a patch out of a worn-out pair of shorts, using some of the relatively unworn material inside a pocket. I buttered it up nicely with the slow-setting regular JB Weld and applied it, holding it in place with rubber bands as shown. I removed the yellow rubber band after taking the picture, and wiped off some JB Weld that was on the lower mating surface.

After the inner layer of JB Weld was set up, I took off the rubber bands and used a shop brush to paint more JB Weld on the outside, thinly, but thick enough to secure all loose fibers in place:


And here it is tonight, with the JB Weld completely set up:


I felt around the edges and used sidecutters to trim off a few overly sharp bits, places where a thread coated with JB Weld stiffened into a point. Not so much that I think they will be a problem, but just for the sake of neatness.

Notice the area of filter fabric between the patch and the magnet (the flat metal part).  This area is subject to tearing out, now that the more vulnerable area is closed off.  I applied a coating of JB Weld to it as well, as suggested on the forum by member 5twins.

September 7th, i.e. today, I put it all together.  I had to trim a bit of the denim/JB Weld composite from the upper corner of the filter to get it in (though I think it would have gone “as is” if I hadn’t had to work around the kickstand). The gasket I got off of eBay is, as mentioned above, just a hair big but not so much that it doesn’t fit; I think it will be okay, anyway. We’ll find out soon enough.

Reviewing the various threads on oil changes AND the inventory of my local stores, I ended up with 15W-40 Shell Rotella. Filled it up, pulled the choke and started the XS for the first time in about two weeks. Raining, so no test ride today… I hate riding in rain.

Walked off to put stuff away while the bike warmed up; heard it revving, indicating the choke was no longer needed, so I looked over and saw the XS MOVING BACKWARD!!!


Ran over and realized the vibrations of the engine as it revved were causing the bike to “walk” backward on the centerstand, kind of like those football player figures in the old games. Pushed in the choke and it settled down.


I listened to the bike for a while, even revved it a little (with my hands on the bars so it wouldn’t wander away), and I’m just not hearing any metal-on-metal racket to indicate that the cam chain guide has gotten naked. So I’m hoping the bits I found in the sump are all there are, and that the guide is in fact good for a few thousand more miles; I’d like to make it to 2020 before I rebuild it (or have it rebuilt) given that I expect expenses from the Honda next year.

If I haven’t screwed anything up, my XS is fresh and ready to run. Still needs the squishy front brake fixed, but until the brake line arrives from China or Mars or wherever I can’t work on that.

Redneck Rope Trick, and Test Rides

A month or so back my Honda CB650 went on the disabled list, owing to the fact that the oil spray from the leaking cylinder head was messing up my work pants.  I looked into retorquing it, as I had done to the XS650, and saw that it was a much bigger job AND that many more experienced CB650 owners didn’t think it likely to work.


But in the process of searching for a solution, I ran across this one guy on this forum who said his solution wasn’t to fix the leak, but to stop the spray.  He shoved nylon rope (so he said) into the fins, blocking the cylinder head joint; oil that sprayed out was thus caught by the nylon rope, which he would replace from time to time, and his pants and shoes were kept clean.

Now, nylon (or poly) rope doesn’t have that high of a melting point, but I know from experience that natural fibers can actually take quite a lot of heat.  So I got a roll of sisal twine (not actual rope) at Wal-Mart and ran six wraps (really, three wraps of doubled twine) around the engine at the base of the cylinder head.

I’m calling this the Redneck Rope Trick.  Not saying the original guy was a redneck, but I am, so there you are.

So tonight, having done this oh-so-technical fix to the Honda, I decided to take time to test ride both my 1980’s.

First I did a 33.6 mile loop on the XS650, running the Deer Ridge – Irish Ridge road.  Saw some deer, didn’t hit any.  Burned 0.6 gallons of gas, so 55 MPG or thereabouts. Still no oil weeping out of the head… perfect!

Unfortunately, when full, gas weeps out of the gas cap. Guess I need a new rubber washer for that.

Also, the aftermarket mirrors from 2FastMoto I put on are crap. I really want a set just like the ones on my Honda CB650, so it’s off to eBay to see what I can find.

Next I took the Honda out, running over to Knox City, then north to Colony, a couple of my favorite roads.  Coming back down toward La Belle from Colony, I turned off and took Deer Ridge to Midway, then instead of continuing on Irish Ridge I went on down to Lewistown and thence home.  About 42 miles, altogether.  Saw more deer near Deer Ridge State Park, but again, didn’t hit any.

The CB is SO MUCH smoother than the XS.  This should surprise exactly no one.  But the XS is so much nicer on city streets… it’s geared a bit higher, and doesn’t need to be shifted as much.  And it sounds GOOD, throaty and assertive.

I am the proud owner of two frickin’ awesome vintage bikes, and I could not be happier.  So glad no one could see me laughing maniacally as I whipped them down the ridge roads…

Twisted Forks

Having taken a test ride with my wife back on the 9th, I discovered the forks are twisted a bit. Long long ago, when I weighed roughly half what I do now, I owned an XL125 Honda, and if I dropped it, the forks would twist. Then I’d just roll it up next to a tree or telephone pole and twist it back the other way, and everything was fine. I haven’t tried it yet on my XS. I asked for and got advice on the forum, but the advice kind of wandered around a bit.  I decided to turn the upper fork tubes 90 degrees to the right, which theoretically should reorient the bends “out” rather than “back on the left, forward on the right.”  Then the axle should pull it all back together.

Short answer is, it almost worked.  The front was quite a bit straighter, but still annoyingly bent to the left.

So I rolled it up to a telephone pole and straightened it… and all was perfect.  Gah.

After taking a longer ride, I noticed it had begun to twist again, so again I rolled up to a telephone pole and straightened it.  Not sure if it will eventually settle into place or if I’ll have to do something else.  Another 1/8th turn on the upper tubes might do the trick.

ALSO, on a brighter note:  The other day I did retorque the head and took a 20 mile loop ride. Oily drip from the left side of the cylinder. Someone on the forum counseled patience… so today, while checking out my straightening job, I took about a 10 mile loop. No oily drip this time. Maybe it’s good for a while… I can hope.

On a related note:  Purple Power does WONDERS getting black oily crud off of the engine!

Retorquing the Head

Jumping around a bit… back on the 14th I posted a question about retorquing the head on this bike: http://www.xs650.com/threads/head-retorque-and-brass-washers-question.52552/

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: http://www.xs650.com/threads/styling-question-probably-a-stupid-one.52557/

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…