Wrenching on Your Bike – Don’t Panic

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January 24, 2013 | By: Lowell Anderson

Lowell Anderson wrenchingOver the years I have worked on all kinds of bikes, street bikes, dirt bikes, mini bikes and everything else under the sun. I am happy to say that I have never had to pay a mechanic to work on my bike. I have always managed to take the challenge of working on my bike head-on whether I knew what I was doing or not. I use the resources around me to get the problems fixed. Sometimes this is really a frustrating endeavor, but in the end, it is worth it!

Last year I was working on an old street bike and pulled a real bonehead move! While I was working on the carbs, I didn’t tape the end of the cables after I pulled them out. Inevitably, one of the choke plungers fell off and dropped into one of the ports. This is where the dumb move came into play. As soon as I heard the “ting..ting..knock” of the piece falling…I panicked! I got all p**sed off, started throwing pieces around and getting all upset at the stupid thing I had just done. I continued down the path of stupidity by taking apart the top end of the motor. After I pulled the head off and started searching around, I still couldn’t find the piece I lost. I started to freak out completely thinking it dropped all the way down into the cases and I was going to have a hell of a time fishing it out. Then it happened! While leaning over the top of the engine I saw it. The choke plunger was lying in a crevice ON TOP of the motor!!! First I was really p**sed at myself, realizing I had done something so stupid, and then it hit me! In that moment, a real lesson was learned. When you are working on something mechanical, you can’t panic. You have to control your emotions, and take your time. That is something I will never do again.

I started working on cars when I was a kid simply because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do the work. Growing up, my family was broke, so we fixed everything we had. Many of the mechanical issues I ran into were things I had no clue how to fix, but learning is a process, and taking the time to find the problem part, learn how it works and then fixing it or replacing it has served me well.  It has literally saved me and my family thousands of dollars over the years. Working on things is not something I have always wanted to do. Instead it was something I did out of necessity. Looking back, I would not have done it any other way. There is a true sense of accomplishment when I complete a job. There is also the comfort of knowing what I just worked on was put together right, which is something you cannot get when you have to rely on someone else. I have never been the trusting type, so when it came to fixing a dirt bike I was going to jump 90 feet through the air on, I was not willing to trust that to someone else. What has always amazed me are the people who love mechanical things, but  simply have no clue how to handle a wrench. Some of the best riders I have met over the years simply could not do basic maintenance on their machines. It wasn’t because they couldn’t physically accomplish the work, it was because they lacked the interest, or confidence to do the work. Things like changing your oil or cleaning your air filters is something everyone should learn. Working on dirt bikes is relatively easy compared to cars. You can start with basic stuff, and just work your way up the mechanical ladder from there.

The point here is that you can do anything you put your mind to. With all the resources close at hand today there is no excuse for not doing the majority of your own mechanical work. YouTube is loaded with videos that show you how to fix things. Not only can you save a few bucks , but you can learn something in the process. If you run into a job you just can’t do then get some help with it, but don’t just give in. Learn something you can hand down to your kids some day. These are skills that keep paying for the time you have invested in them over and over again.

And remember…if you hear a “ting..ting..knock”…don’t panic! Happy wrenching!!

 

Comments (22)

Thank’s for your story, I have been Lucky and have been around Bike’s my whole life my dad was allway’s wrenching on his Bike’s and I was the helper.my favorite was his Indian fluid four.I started riding mini bike’s at around age 5 but I will never forget when I graduated to my first real dirtbike it was a 73 Honda SL 350 I bought it with money I saved myself. the only problem was that the timeing chain adjuster was broken so my dad took it all apart replaced the part put it all together it ran excellent but then he took it all apart again and said now you do it .Thank’s Dad R.I.P. I have done all my own repairs since then…

Like you Lowell, my family and I fixed EVERYTHING to keep the costs down. I have done most everything on my bike except mounting and balancing tires. I encourage all people all the time to try DIY.
My motto is:
With the three “T’s”, it can be a breeze!…..
Right Tools, enough Time, and a good Temperment!

I have a 2006 Yamaha Road Star 1700 cc and a very brief and vague ‘owners manual’. I am not very ‘handy’ and sometimes I make things worse than fix them.
What is the best way to find pictures, explanations, etc to walk me through stuff. The shop I get parts from and some work done has a web page with brands, years and items. I looked up headlightbulb to replace mine and every model year turned out to have the wrong headlight and parts inside.
Thank you.
Buck

Like you do, I always get a sense of accomplishment when completing even the smallest of tasks when wrenching. I also prefer to do it because I know it is done correctly. My daughter is about to turn 6 and every time I am in the garage, she is with me. She sees my enjoyment and being that she has her own tool box, she is delighted which makes me happy since I learned the ability and gumption to take on projects I know nothing about from my dad. Great article, reminded of my youth and the future with my little one.

Great read! Been there done this so many times. haha… You don’t have to be a master mechanic to work on your own bike. Everyone starts somewhere at some point. Wrench it, ride it, and enjoy it. -Mike

This article hits home for me. Thanks for writing it. Thanks to my late dad for helping me to learn and gain confidence from my early childhood also. Some of the earliest pictures of us was the children helping repair his clunkers. I now do almost all my own mechanical repairs also. The only repairs I usually do not are when I simply do not have time to. I am in a build at the moment to put modern aftermarket electronic fuel injection on my 95 FLHT. If all works out I plan to market the kit and do installs and move up to Forced Induction. Safe Riding! -Sam

Your blog is the story of my life as well! I grew up on the poor side of town and we simply could not afford the shop rates at dealerships and repair places. Consequently, I learned how to fix everything I own by myself. I did take some auto repair courses in high school shop classes, but when it came to my Harley-Davidsons, which I’ve been riding since I got out of the military in 1977, I’ve had to learn from day one. I feel as though riders like us have “earned” out right to ride by knowing our bikes inside out. So many people today just walk into a dealership and plunk down their credit cards and all of a sudden they’re a biker. But they don’t begin to know anything about working on it themselves. I guess that is how dealerships stay afloat. Thank you for your insight into your life of riding and wrenching on your own bikes. I can definitely relate to this article!

It’s the greatest time of our life to traval . left ga. Traveled to Minnesota, fished an week, Returned to Ga. 3000 miles, This fall left Ga. Travaled to Tx. Then to California, then to Twin falls,ID. And back to Moutlrie, Ga. 6400 miles so total 9400. Miles, A wonderful safe trip on our first big trip. We would encourage everyone who has a chance for a big one, Do It. We are both in our 70′s. Gary&Gert

Well said, great article filled with nothing but common sense. Thank you, your article hit home with many of us. Just good old fun to read.

I’ve always had excellent service done on my Harley at the dealer but last weekend, I decided to change the oil myself. I know, small potatoes, but a big deal to me. I made a mess on the garage floor but got the oil changed.

When I was filling the oil tank, I poured in 3 quarts and then was beginning to pour the other 1/2 that it’s supposed to take. It started spilling out the filler neck!

I began to panic a bit and tried to think of where I went wrong; did I read the manual wrong or is something f*^ked up?

It didn’t take to many seconds for me to figure out that the new filter had not had any oil circulated into it yet. I cleaned up the mess, replaced the filler cap, and then started the motor.

After running it for a minute, I shut it down and checked the oil again. Right about where it should be.

So you’re right, Lowell, the panic is usually for naught and doesn’t help the process of figuring out what to do next.

for a simple job the tools cost a small fortune. I can do carbs & points, engine and trans rebuilds but computer controlled ….I gave up!!!!

Tip Masking tape your friend

Great article. I lack the confidence. I met a retired Harley engineer who has been encouraging me to try some basics like adjustments on the throttle, replacing grips, changing the secondary lube, adjusting the belt, etc. My wife bought me the shop manual for Christmas. I will try to remember your advice because I’m sure the learning curve won’t always be kind. Thanks!

I remember wanting a motorcycle since I was very young but like I was told…girls don’t ride motorcycles. I finally moved away from home and bought an old CB400F. I paid $100 and collected it from the weeds that had grown up through it. It came with a Clymers manual and all winter I wrenched and shined and couldn’t wait to ride. Finally the day arrived. I put gas in it and watched a goodly amount pour out thru the carbs. Took a block of wood and tapped the carbs until the floats came free. Turned on the key….And It Ran!!! I’ve never looked back. I have made mistakes…but I learned from my mistakes. It’s part of owning a bike. Ride on!

I agree, it’s a great feeling to acomplish a repair on the bike. I own a 73 Triumph so I do alot of repairing. As I get older and can afford it I let the trusted mechanic do some of it though. Wish there wasn’t a need for so many special tools, although many times you can make your own at little cost.

Many times I have found If you take your time andlook at thinges that you did not label swhich as wiring, you can eliminate 90% of the guess work just by carefully anilizing bends,ggrease etc. To where wires or cables go.

Enjoyed the article-will I start working on my bike more ?….hmmm…..getting old and lazy…maybe I can just sell it and buy another…..you hit the nail on the head with the “don’t get mad, get focused” idea though. thanks for writing.

Nice. I have been working on a 1993 Honda Nighthawk CB750. I am pretty good at mechanical things and I continue to expand my knowledge by trying more on my own. I recently pulled a bone head move and forgot to lable some wires on the Nighthawk while replacing the cylinder head cover gasket. Put the bike together and now the once great running bike won’t start. I was frustrted but now I am challenged to find the problem and be a better back yard mechanic. The artical is great it reminds me to just go for it, take my time and when frustrated stop and think and move on.

When I work on any motorcycle the first thing that I think is W.W.L.A.D.

Wow, incredible article! I’m so glad a friend of mine referred me to this blog. Keep up the good word! Go DoG!

Nice blog

Awesome. At 48 years of age I find myself wanting to learn more and more and hopefully help a fellow (or lady) out in the process. All too often it seems dealerships only want to serve the bikes that are still under warranty. So the rest of us need friendly mechanics without the man breathing down thier neck in the name of productivity!
Cheers to the shade tree mechanics!
BigR.

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