Monday, May 27, 2013

Final Drive: I Am Not a Professional: But I play one on TV

There are days I wonder to myself, what the hell am I doing? Have you had these days? Sometimes it's like everything I touch turns to crap. This doesn't happen often, may be every few or a little more years, but it is disconcerting none the less. I recently found myself asking myself that very same question after doing the 18K mile service on my R1200RT.

I had planned for the 18K mile service well in advance. I bought 4 quarts of Mobil 1 V-Twin the month before, which was $2 off a quart on sale at O'Reilly's, a quart of Valvoline Synthetic 75w-140 for the transmission, a quart of Mobil 1 75w-90 for the final drive, 4 NGK DCPR8EIX spark plugs (which were harder to find than a set of points for a 1923 Excelsior), a Mann MW75 oil filter and I already had the crush washers for the transmission and oil drain. I started at 9am on a Saturday morning, which is actually late for me. First, off with all the Tupperware, which takes 15-20 minutes to remove 90% of it. I started from the front, with the valve adjustment and spark plugs. Oops, the lower spark plugs have a retainer that requires a T-30, which I don't have. Off to O'Reilly's to pick it up. Just a comment here: Why does BMW, in their wisdom, make the bosses that the spark plugs are ensconced so small that anyone that changes plugs needs a socket that is as thin as a crepe? Can you say wafer thin? Valves were marginal in needing adjustment, which is a good thing. They've needed adjustment each time I adjusted them at 6K and 12K miles. Hopefully it is a sign that things are settling in. I then cleaned up the gaskets and mounting surfaces for the valve covers, mounted them and torqued to spec. My iPhone came in handy as I put in all the torque specs for the bike before I started work. Next, time to install plugs. Another lesson learned here on the lower spark plugs: Do not try to be GI Joe with Kung Fu grip when removing coils. Carefully wiggle the boot on the insulator to get the coil off the plug or it might be possible to break the plastic boss for the voltage lead plug for the coil. Talk about wafer thin, the plastic on that coil plug boss is thinner than this, but not nearly as enticing, but almost as expensive.

Next I moved on to the oil change, changing out the oil filter and replacing the crush washer on the drain plug. Torque to spec, or so I thought (later on that), I added 4 quarts of Mobil's best to the engine and on then next, on to the transmission. I drained the transmission, new crush washers on the fill and drain plugs, torque the drain plug to spec, fill with 75w-140, torque the fill plug to spec and move on. What is truly lovely about draining transmission fluid from a RT is that not only do you have to take off the right side body work to drain and refill, you need a small funnel or an ad hoc representative (I used a 1 liter water bottle. Aqua Fina seems to work fine) to route the fluid into a drain pan or the catalytic converter and god knows what else will get bathed in the stuff. For those that don't know what gear lube smells like, you are in for a treat. It's smells like a cross between turmeric and cat piss. It might appeal to someone that lives for Indian food, but it does nothing for me. Get it on your clothes and you'll hear from whomever does your laundry, I guarantee it. Next up: The final drive and I don't mean another column here, but the gear lube change for the final drive on my RT.

Changing the final drive fluid isn't bad. Remove the left pannier, muffler hanger bolt, loosen the muffler clamp, rotate the muffler clockwise (another idiom that has fallen out of favor in the digital age. If I have to explain it, you probably shouldn't be doing this.) which turns it down. When the muffler is at the floor, then we can remove the 5 bolts for the wheel, remove wheel and set it aside. At this point, I can open the fill plug, which is on the upper left side of the drive on the back and then remove the drain plug at 6 O'Clock (Here I go with the anachronistic idioms again), draining the drive, or remove the ABS/Speedometer sensor on the upper right on the back of the drive. I chose the latter (on model years prior to 2009 I believe, there is no fill plug. You have to go through the sensor hole.). It's a good idea to see if there is any metallic particles on the sensor and if so, clean it. The drive requires 180ml or cc of gear lube. It used to be something like 230cc's, but BMW revised this figure downward when there was a spate of final drive failures, which is a subject that lives on it's own. At this point, it's just wait for the drive to drain, reinstall the drain plug, torque to spec, fill the drive, and reinstall the sensor. All is well, right?

Well, as they say, all that glitters is not gold and Murphy was indeed an optimist. I've also come to some conclusions when working on BMW's. The week following the service, I smelled that lovely and familiar turmeric/cat piss smell after riding. Upon inspection, I saw the transmission drain plug was leaking. I also noticed some weeping of he engine oil drain plug. I checked the plugs with a torque wrench. The transmission was in spec, the oil drain wasn't (and stopped weeping after this.). Since I didn't have spares for the transmission and I didn't trust the third party I bought them from, I decided to go to the dealer and get some replacements, which I did. I again did the Tupperware dance, drained the transmission and installed the new, BMW crush washers. They seemed tight after this but...I smelled that familiar smell in ensuing days. In keeping with the Shakespeare theme here, O what smell through yon drain plug stinks of cat piss and turmeric? This time it was the drain on the final drive, which used an O-Ring. I had replaced the O-ring at 3500 miles when I changed the final drive fluid last, so I figured it was still good. I was wrong. What is interesting is that in between the transmission and final drive seepage/weepage was a fuel strip failure. When I had the bike in for that warranty repair, I asked the service writer to look at the final drive to see how it is, in terms of tightness (a sign of impending failure is too much movement while rocking the wheel while holding it at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock and it's not much movement either.) and the service writer said everything was fine. I wonder what the techs thought of the weepage on the final drive drain plug and the spotting on the wheel? I won't mention names here as I have already laid a stinker in the room in regards to GOAZ, but there was some evidence on the wheel of seepage/weepage on the wheel as well as the drain plug. This weekend I drained the final drive and replaced the o-rings for the sensor and the drain plug. We'll see, but I am hopeful.

So, Jim's Law of working on BMW Motorcycles:
  1. Always clean gasket/sealing surfaces scrupulously and use a solvent like acetone. 
  2. Always replace  o-rings and crush washers with each service where the drain/fill plugs are removed and use BMW parts. No exceptions.
  3. When unplugging connectors or removing an item that is plugged in, use extra-special care. BMW does not engineer these parts to withstand the power of Thor and you'll find that flimsy plastic piece will cost you a small fortune to replace, because you'll have to replace the whole unit of whatever it is.
  4. When their are requirements in the owners or shop manual, follow them to the letter. BMW is made by Germans. They are an exacting people, unlike Americans or the Japanese, who give a little more leeway at times. I have no idea about Italian bikes, other than being half Italian would lead me to believe that with a Ducati or Motoguzzi or other Italian bikes, it all depends...
So there you have it. An 18K mile service that seemed to span a few weeks. Normally I am very good about these things, but this time it was a real Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment or moments. The good thing is we live and learn, at least some of us do. We also have "those days" where we wish we could get a do over. In the end it's all good. I think...

Thank you for reading this blog. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Final Drive: Heat

No, I am not talking about the coming of summer in Arizona and the heat that comes along with it. I am talking about taking heat for my post, Make it Progresso, or Make it Yourself. Seems that some in the bike repair industry took umbrage. Billy Walker (you'll have to be a member to see this) doesn't think dealers ever do things wrong. OK, I overstate it, but he's definitely a cheerleader for motorcycle dealers and he didn't think my blog post was the best way to deal with my issue, which was small. One of my points is that if you can fix and maintain your own motorcycle, do so. You'll save a bundle and even Billy will agree that no one likes (loves) your motorcycle as much as you do and if you are competent in maintaining and repairing your bike, you'll have the pride of knowing it was done right. That said, to Billy's point, BMW mechanics spend time and money keeping their skills up to date, work hard and after thinking about it, may be I should have gone back and had them take care of it and publishing the article was the equivalent of pissing in the hot tub. Well, may be not quite that bad, but I have to admit I couldn't help myself when I got the idea for the article. I still think the general of the idea of the article is a good one. So, If I've stepped on any toes, I apologize, especially since Josiah from Dirtball Customs referred me to GOAZ. Josiah is a real nice guy and I would recommend his services to anyone that needs their bike looked after and I would recommend GOAZ as well.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Final Drive: Commuting and the March of the Ants

Most of my riding is commuting, although at times it reminds me more of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona Spain than actually getting somewhat and at other times, most of the time it reminds me of Ants Marching like a herd of biters on The Walking Dead. I would also say it's worse on the way home as opposed to on the way to work, although all sorts of reprobation, mass destruction and mayhem from johnny playing the hand flute to Carol high on a veritable Brompton's Cocktail , who goes the wrong way on the freeway, probably because she didn't want to miss Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. Some of my personal favorites are: Reading the paper, putting on make-up, the driver getting a blow job, talking on the cell phone and texting. What's even more amazing about talking on the cell phone is that a lot of these idiots have cars or trucks with bluetooth/hands free capability and yet they have the phone glued to their ear with their head against the side window or they are talking to the phone like a communicator from Star Trek. Either way, they aren't paying enough attention to the most important task at hand.

One of the biggest dangers I face going to work (as well as coming home from work) is that I use the HOV lane and there is always some idiot that is late for work, wants to get home so they don't miss Dr Phil or their kids baseball game and they cut into the HOV lane without looking to see who already occupies that lane. The other day some steampunk dread looking asshole cut into my lane and when I honked while hitting the brakes and moving over the shoulder, he gave me the finger and was yelling at me. I scooted away and made as much distance between us as I could. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. What is even more incredulous is that more often than not, there is only one person in the car and they are trying and often do use the HOV lane illegally. Sometimes I wish I was a cop, as I could make a pretty good living at it based on the jackassery I see everyday. It wouldn't be difficult to find work to do. Like the other day...

The other day I was riding up 87 on the way home, which is my favorite part of the ride. Some guy in a 2000ish Impala is wandering in his lane. As I pass by the ersatz Tommy Chong has a blunt the size of my middle finger, sharing it with his friends. Again, I made way to get as much distance between he and I as possible. The week before, I encountered the second coming of Bob Marley in an old Chevy van on University, near 40th Street. This guy was all over the freaking place. I would have thought Stevie Wonder was driving the van. Once past Mr Doobie, I made sure the distance between us grew. It isn't always like this. Most of the time it's just bumper to bumper traffic on the 202 and it's a de rigueur chore to wade through the marching ants to get to the HOV lane, which while adventurous in some ways, it's a lot easier on the clutch than having to ride in traffic and when it get hot out here, it's a blessing. You haven't lived until you've ridden in bumper to bumper traffic when it's 110˚F outside.

And so it goes, day after day, navigating my way through the morass of cagers, just trying to get to my destination safely. Like Rick Grimes stuck in Atlanta in Days Gone By, riding to work  can be a challenge sometimes, if not entertaining at other times. The thing for me to remember is that job # 1 is to make it to my destination safely. Not too long ago I would have ripped someone's arms out and beat them to death from some of the cager antics i still experience, but with age comes clarity. It isn't worth it. At some point I realized that it was no harm, no foul, let it go and keep going. I'm supposed to enjoy the ride...How about you?

Thank you for reading this blog.