Samuel Johnson, the guy who wrote the Dictionary of the English Language, once said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless.” There’s more to the quote, but the point here is, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way in life — especially if you’re working around bikes. And since we’re on the topic of knowledge and integrity, our techs at J&P Cycles — with a combined 750 years of technical knowledge— have agreed to share some of their favorite tech tips with us. Think of it as a sort of Hints from Heloise, only for motorcycle riders instead of housewives. You might want to write some of this stuff down:
- High-pressure car washes can force water into the plugs, wires and electrical connector plugs. The water in these connectors can change resistance values and will cause poor performance and misfiring even when everything appears to be dry.
- When working with electrical components and wiring connections, always use dielectric grease in the connectors to prevent moisture and corrosion from building up.
- When troubleshooting electrical issues, always start with a motorcycle battery that you know is good. If you suspect the battery is the issue, have it charged and load-tested before beginning diagnosis.
- When installing additional electrical components to stock wiring harnesses on any motorcycle, make sure you use heat shrink tubing and inline fuses on the power leads and wherever connections are made. The idea is to waterproof them as much as possible.
- Always check the oil when the bike is in the position outlined in the manual.
- The first tool out of the toolbox should be your manual.
- Check your tire pressure when the tires are cold.
- When changing the motor oil and using a spin-on filter, always coat the rubber seal with fresh oil.
- When installing the derby O-ring on pre-2000 model Big Twins, sometimes it’s difficult to get it to seat properly and hold long enough to install the cover. Use a thin layer of grease on the O-ring and you’ll find the primary surface holds it in place as well as adds a little extra seal to the derby cover.
- Spraying ceramic-heat paint or high-temperature paint inside new exhaust pipes before bolting them onto the bike may prevent discoloration on drag pipes that don’t have a heat shield option.
- After installing exhaust pipes, make sure you clean them before running the bike. Fingerprints and oil can burn discolored spots in the exhaust.
- Boot and rain suit material can easily be removed from exhaust heat shields using Easy Off oven cleaner. Just heat the pipes up to operating temperature and apply the Easy Off. The material will wipe right off! But be sure to cover up anything that’s painted because this product gobbles up paint, too,
- Before trying to re-jet your carburetor, you should make sure that your timing is set properly and — if you have a mechanical advance — make sure it’s not worn out. A worn-out advance unit will allow your timing to advance too far and show up as a lean condition on a perfectly jetted carburetor.
- When experiencing starting issues, make sure there’s gas in the tank.
- The most common cause of pushrod cover leaks is the pushrod rubbing the inside of the pushrod cover. One way that you can avoid this is to chamfer the inside edge of the top tube at the middle and at the top.
- Adjust valves (as needed) with the engine dead cold.
- If you’re having trouble bleeding your brake or hydraulic clutch line, slowly pull the lever in and let it flick back out. Keep doing this for a few minutes. Eventually this will draw air up to the master cylinder and you’ll start to see bubbles coming up out of the cylinder.
- If you install all-new brake lines and you’re bleeding the system, make sure to bleed the fittings that connect the line to the master cylinder and the caliper.
- Never use a silicone sealant when installing oil pump gaskets. Silicone can clog oil passages in your engine, causing costly damage. A good coat of aluminum-based paint or a copper spray sealant can give good results on paper or Mylar gaskets.
- Sprockets are usually only good for the life of two chains, then it’s best to replace both sprockets and chain at one time. Worn out sprockets will ruin a new chain in no time.
- It’s a good idea to service front and rear wheel ball bearings every spring or every 5,000 miles, whichever comes first. Keep the pressure washer away from the bearings.
- Lubricate the throttle sleeve and housing with a light coating of graphite.
- To remove handgrips, use a long thin ice pick or screwdriver. Slip it lengthwise between the grip and bar or the throttle sleeve as far in it will go. Spray WD 40 or contact cleaner in the cavity created. With a twisting motion, remove the grip. If that didn’t work, repeat the procedure.
- For maximum life of throttle cables, lubricate every 5,000 miles. Lubricate the cable with light oil or cable lube and lubricate the elbow with grease.
- When installing shorter shocks, first check the tire fender clearance. In order to do this, install one shock with the spring removed and compress the shock. You must have at least a 1-inch clearance from the top of the tire to the fender to allow for the growth at higher speeds. With shocks removed, check the swing arm bearings.
- When replacing fork seals, always put a piece of wax paper over the end of fork tubes before sliding the new fork seals on. This will protect the new seal lip.
- Never clean acrylic screens with ammonia-based cleaning products or glass cleaner. The solvent action of the glass cleaner will destroy the acrylic. Do not allow brake fluid, alcohol or strong solvents to come in contact with the screen. Permanent damage will result.
- When installing parts and accessories, always be sure to read the instructions and verify that all parts are included prior to disassembly of the motorcycle.
- Stay organized — when taking a part off, keep it in order of removal, including bolts, washers and nuts. That’s so when you install the new part, all you have to do is follow the trail of parts. It also helps to keep tools organized. Only keep the tools you will use in your work area.
We hope some of these basic tech tips were helpful. For more technical-related tips, feel free to check out The Tech Tips and Tricks series by Easyriders. As always, if you have questions or need assistance picking out performance parts to suit your needs, don’t hesitate to chat with a J&P technician via Live Chat. Or call J&P’s technical support staff at (800) 397-4844.