Monday, September 27, 2010


The last week or two have been rather disappointing to say the least.
After the last successful rides (which were almost two weeks ago now) I basically haven't been able to get her running again.
At first it was starting but idling only on the left cylinder. We did some tinkering with carb settings trying to be sure both were synced but, and we cleaned the air filters which were pretty nasty, and we put it all back together and then we swapped the wires for the condensers and the spark plug wires to see if that would get the right cylinder firing and tell us if the one cylinder thing was electrical or mechanical...
And now she's just dead in the water. Won't start at all. Switched everything back and still nothing.
It seems that there is spark at both points, but it seems weak at best, and weaker (to the point of maybe being intermittent) on the right. Same at the plug. Spark on both, weaker on the right.
I don't totally know what I'm looking at, but I have to say that the spark doesn't look all that healthy on the left when you get right down to it but like I say, I haven't got any real experience with it.
We've tried disconnecting different circuits to see if something was maybe shorting out and causing a drain on the power, and that hasn't helped.
Tried some new condensers, and that didn't seem to make any difference either.
The condensers and coils seem to pass the bench tests outlined in the Clymer manual, but from what I understand those aren't necessarily definitive as to whether the coil is good or not.
I guess we need to pull the air-boxes back off and see if something we did back there knocked something loose, but it doesn't seem like there was anything that much back there that would prevent it from starting.
At this point we're kind of at a loss and lacking a solid strategy that makes much sense.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

test rides

Well, she fired right up this morning.
After a little fine tuning on the point gaps and some carburetor adjustment we took a few short test rides.  The missing was greatly reduced, and she was hitting on both cylinders at least most of the time...least I thought so.
Idle speed is kind of variable (1100 to @ 1500 rpm), and occasionally she will stall at idle the lower speed but running pretty well other than that.  You can hear a little popping in the video.
Didn't die on any of the test runs, and seems to have plenty of pick up.
I'm feeling very optimistic at this point.  Don't get to play tomorrow...root canal.
Next we'll get into doing some fine tuning on the carbs.  Also wondering about the air filters.    I have 2 sets.  One is the paper style, the other is the foam type.  The paper ones are kind of dirty, the foam ones have some kind of greasy residue on them...Can they be cleaned, or just replaced?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Feeling much better thank you!

Well after some frustrations, some progress.
The spark plug caps came and got installed and didn't resolve the problem.  Well they resolved the problem of the resistance being 19 ohms on one plug and infinity on the other but the bike still wouldn't start.
We've only been working on her sporadically, some days not at all, but until today we weren't able to get the infernal machine to crank. A cough here, a sputter there but mostly a lot of nothing.
There is nothing exciting about tracing out the wires and hoping to find a loose one somewhere, so it was tinker some, walk away a to brood, tinker, brood... A couple semi-eureka moments (was that wire loose or did I just tug it a little too hard?) but nothing much encouraging. 
Finally decided to go back to the beginning and check timing and points. Some how ignition timing plate had slipped. Set that back and viola...she fired up.
She's still missing a little on the left cylinder (I don't think that set of points is properly set-up yet) but she was definitely firing some on both cylinders, and it ran long enough that I was able to get some readings on the charging system.  These numbers may be low but I guess they are better than nothing.  At idle speed (@ 1300 rpm) the voltage reading across the battery was 12.2 Vac.  At  @ 2000 rpm reading was 12.7 and at @ 4000 rpm it was reading 13.7.  I'm thinking this may be a little lower than desirable but it is positive so that's sorta OK right?
I didn't think about running the check on the alternator while I was working on her but tomorrow, after I go back through the points and timing I will check that as well.
I was encouraged enough today to forestall the the idea of parting her out on e-bay for another couple of weeks.

Friday, September 10, 2010

what is it?

What is this?  I can't find this mystery piece on any of the drawings for the 1976 CB500T.
What is it, and where is it supposed to mount?

Logic and electricity

I'm not an electrician, not even close, but I can kinda sorta read a schematic some and know that wires, and switches and relays are very much like a computer program flow chart or a logic problem (both of which I studied in college about a 100 years ago and wasn't real good at but I do kind of understand the concept of "if A=>then B" and all that to some degree, and I did work in factory where sometimes I could logically convince the electrician where he should be looking to resolve the problem) so it really wasn't connecting with me as to why doing some static tests on a few component and removing a wire that wasn't going to be used would suddenly make the Honda not start at all.
But now I have a theory at least.
After we scrapped the idea of getting the electrical starter working (mechanical problem, not electrical) I decided to pull the wire, which was an add on and not part of the harness because of some previous owner's tinkering.
I took it loose at both ends, cut the visible ties and tried unsuccessfully to pull it out. Eventually the tank had to be pulled and more ties cut before it came free.
By now the battery is recharged and we want to start it to check some voltages while it's running to see if we can isolate the charging problem but it won't start. Not getting any fire, and not making any sense. Nothing we did should have made a difference, and it was starting so readily two days before.
When I initially reported that the battery wasn't charging some suggested looking for loose wires. A while later, since I seemingly wasn't getting any juice from the coil, I'm looking for some test for the coil. Find one, and the first step is to take the black/white wires loose from the coils to do a of them is already kind of loose in the connector.  Ah-hah, maybe that is the charging problem, but it never came to the point of finding that out because the testing indicated that there was a problem with the spark plug caps and now I wait for those...
But this morning I get a revelation...the loose wire wasn't the charging problem but maybe it was the starting problem.  Looking at the diagram I find that the black/white wire at the coil comes from the run/kill switch, and with that circuit open I'm guessing I found the problem with the no fire issue.
And I'm assuming that the way this wire got loose is that when I tried to pull out that starter wire it tangled in the wire to the coil and pulled it loose...and that is why removing the starter wire made the bike not start (with the kick-starter.)
So I'm hoping that this will resolve the starting problem and that the new spark plug caps (which should be here today or tomorrow) will resolve the firing on one cylinder issue, which still leaves the charging problem...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

more baby steps

still not wanting to start, and remember that when it did it seemed to not always fire on the right cylinder.
more routine tests, this time the ignition coil.
according to the book you short the wires from the coil and check resistance from shorted wires to the spark plug wires.  you should get the same or very similar readings on both sides. I'm not getting any readings. [what, oh, wrong setting on the multimeter]
when I remove the spark plug caps and check continuity on them I get 10 ohms and 8.5 ohms.
when I do the above check of spark plug wires without the caps in place I get 10.3 and 10.4 ohms. (someone on one of the forums I go to for advice says this is a good number for the coil.)
when I install the caps again I get 19.0 and infinity. when I switch the caps side-to-side I get infinity and 19.0.
sounds like a bad cap to me. (and the bad cap was on the right side which has been observed as not firing consistently)
2 suggestions from different forums suggests that my evaluation is likely correct.
ordered some caps (paid a little extra for expedited shipping since they were so cheep) and now I wait again.
if I get lucky the new caps will make it easier to start and resolve the firing on one cylinder problem.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Saturday we had this thing where it would start almost effortlessly nearly every time with the kick-starter.
Yesterday we were just test testing continuity of a few components to see if we could determine why the charging system wasn't working.
Tested the rectifier and the voltage regulator and they both seem OK based on the testing procedure found in the Clymer's manual. The leads for the alternator all checked as per the book as well.  The only static test we didn't do was the checking of  the alternator core just because I wasn't exactly sure how to do it and ran out of time due to other commitments. So far we haven't found anything we could put our finger on but that's as far as it has gone for now because the infernal machine won't start. Occasionally it will fire and sputter but mostly nothing.
Battery was fully charged when I started this morning (because I charged it) but the engine just doesn't want to cooperate.
I think I'll let it slide for the day and enjoy the company of my lady.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

As veiwed from the side-car of the Ural

Sometimes a step backward is really a step in the right direction.
Tony and I had been piddling around with the Honda some for a couple of days without a lot of success. To be honest it was kind of a half hearted piddle, until yesterday.
For a few days it was: try to start it, it catches briefly and dies, and we are looking at on-line trouble shooting guides to find the symptoms...fires up and then just quits. Gradually it gets to sounding a progressively worse, until it gets to the point where sometimes it starts to sound like the starter clutch isn't actually engaging all the time. Then Thursday we began trying to get it started via the kick starter, forsaking the convenience of the electric starter to avoid hearing the sound. The results were the same just locked up. Totally locked up.
In my mind I was thinking that it was the same old problem with the alternator/starter clutch.
So yesterday I pulled the left cover and sure enough... The new starter sprocket retaining plate was bent, the sprocket had just about totally disengaged from the starter clutch, and the starter chain was bound up against the side of the crank-case housing and tight as a banjo string (I used to have a banjo so I know how tight the strings are and that's not just a trite expression I'm throwing around loosely.) For some reason one of the screws attaching the starter clutch to the alternator rotor had backed out (I lock-tited them) and forced the sprocket out of position. This was a problem with this bike before I got it, and after seeing what happened this time I'm figuring this is how the kick-starter shaft got broken in the first place.
I don't know why these screws won't stay tight, I just know they won't and I may be at the point that I don't care.
We take all that mess out, (by the way, all the parts I've been ordering and waiting on for the last month were in that little sub-assembly), readjust the idle screws on the carbs back to the point that someone recommended either here or on facebook, and kick her over and...whoa! Fires right up and is idling smoothly at 1400 rpm! We repeat this several times just to be sure it wasn't a fluke, and it fires up everytime with one or two kicks.
So we spend an hour or so checking and adjusting the brakes and adjusting the clutch (is the sweet-spot on the clutch adjustment really that hard to hit?) before deciding that we've reached the point that there's nothing left to do but to do it.
Tony follows in the Ural and Desiree records the event on her i-phone from the side car.
And now some questions...
At the end it died. The ride was just over a mile. I was just going around the block so luckily when it died we were only about 200 yards from the house.
It seemed to be running pretty well initially. Plenty of power, plenty of pick-up, but after about 3/4 mile it strated coughing and missing pretty bad.
When it stopped the battery was dead. No horn, no nothing.
We pushed it up the street a ways and when we got almost back Tony tried it and the horn was working and it fired up (less than 5 minutes elapsed.)
So, what to look for now? Not charging? Dead short? Where should I start looking and what testing can be done?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What now?

You know the old joke about the dog that's always chasing cars and then one day he catches one?  Now what's he gonna do with it?  That's me with this motorcycle. Now what?  I don't know if I ever really expected I'd get her torn down, put back together, and running or not but here I am...and there it is. 
By the way the juke box (zune) was playing random songs when she started and the song that just happened to be playing was, Joe Ely "The Road Goes On Forever."

I edited this video...cut the first 5 minutes or so out..  Didn't think it would be too interesting watching me try to start it, scratch my head, try to start it, scratch my ass, try to start it fiddle with something on the left side that you couldn't see from the camera angle over and over for five minutes so I edited it.
The spark plug wire on the left cylinder is not in very good shape and not making good connection.  That is the primary reason it wouldn't start at first.

Once it started every time the engine kind of paused it made a funny noise.  It didn't really sound quite the same on the video, at least I didn't think so...does that noise sound bad?
I let it die at the end because I noticed that it was starting to smoke.  It's not real visible but if you watch carefully you can notice about 2 minutes into the video there is some smoke coming up by my right leg.  It appeared to be coming from or around the pre-chamber between the pipes.  Maybe just normal from solvents burning off or a symptom of something bad?
If anyone has any ideas about the noise or the smoke, speak up please, I'm looking for advice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The coming

The parts I orded came today.
All of them.
I am dying to get back to work on the bike but I may wait until this "hammie" is feeling just a bit better.