Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ball and chain

Just a few short weeks ago, the jag was at Steffy's Garage for a loose nut on the lower ball joint. As always, there's a reason these things happen. The following Monday, she went back to the shop since it felt the same as it had before. The mechanics went over it and found that the lower control arm was worn around the post for the joint, so they mended that as well.

Despite the mending, the front end still felt strange and Penelope developed a frightening groan and creak every time the wheel turned. She visited the garage again last week and the verdict was bad bushings. The mechanic insisted she could be safely driven despite the noise, so she was taken home and only driven a few times.

Yesterday, on the way to take the kid to work, this happened:

Passing over a light bump in the road, the front right wheel made a horrible bang and poor Penelope started careening off into the opposing lane. With the brakes firmly depressed and some creative steering or possibly wishful thinking, she was brought to a stand-still on the edge of the road.

Time was spent awaiting a roll-back and with more hideous clatter, Penelope was unceremoniously dragged from the banking and onto the truck.

This past winter, the lower ball joint was replaced with what was presumed to be a new, properly constructed unit. As one can see from the above photo, the lower ball joint is not exactly where it belongs, and that hole in the wheel is not what one would normally term "stock." It turns out that the replacement part was never lubricated at the factory. For those who aren't familiar, these parts are supposed to be pre-lubricated and sealed. Since there was no lubrication, the parts would bind and heat up, causing damage to the surrounding areas. From the explanation given by the mechanic, this wasn't showing up when the vehicle was on a lift because there was no weight on the wheel. 

Steffy's contacted the vendor, who agreed that this part had been defective. The vendor then contacted the manufacturer, who apparently can't see the problem with producing a faulty product and therefore refuses responsibility for their failure to produce quality merchandise. The manufacturer's name is withheld at this time as there may be future litigation.

Thankfully both Steffy's Garage and the vendor are willing to stand by their work and show integrity in so doing. This means there will be no out of pocket expense at this point in time. 

It boggles the mind really, but for now, it is a relief to know that Penelope will be receiving an almost complete right front suspension, wheel, and two front tires (because of equal wear). 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Foggy in the morning

It's autumn, and September has given up her place to October. With the progression of the season, cooler nights have brought morning fog to the Conestoga valley. 

Riding in fog comes with it's own unique set of challenges and increased danger.  For riders whose primary riding takes place commuting over the same roads every day, there is the benefit of memory. We often find ourselves zoning out a bit on familiar roads due to familiarity. Fog changes that; corners, bumps, intersections, and other landmarks become a matter of memory or guesswork. A very familiar road is like an old friend; we know its traits and idiosyncrasies, and even its quirky sense of humor. In the fog, we are reminded of which roads are truly our friends, and which are mere acquaintances revealing a hidden character trait or two we never knew they had.  

Even those roads we ride every day reveal to us whether we truly know them when the visibility is poor. That little depression we always avoided, suddenly grabs a tire, or a hidden driveway belches forth an unexpected vehicle. Things we take for granted on clear days become a danger when the view ahead is dim.

But the sun always comes out eventually. It's harvest time here in Lancaster county. The farm stands are cycling away from fresh tomatoes, peppers, corn, and green beans, and on to more autumnal produce.

Occasionally one will happen by an "honor" stand, such as the pumpkin stand pictured above, where the prices can be extremely reasonable. The fall colors invite passerby to stop and browse at their own leisure, choosing to purchase or not, as fancy might take them. A pair of pumpkins and some gourds found their way into the scooter's crate to eventually find a home in the front garden next to some newly planted mums.

Autumn is such a peaceful sleepy time of year. The greens and yellows of summer give way to golds, oranges, reds and browns. Foggy mornings pass to reveal a waning sun which stretches its fingers forlornly across the landscape in a final attempt to warm the ground rendered dormant by the change of seasons relenting as it sinks into the southwestern horizon, defeated for today but resolved to return once again on the morrow to fight again the battle with the harbingers of winter. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A little junk in my trunk

Well, the Jag's being silly again. Do you remember those comedy gags where cause and effect don't match up; like when a drawer is closed on a bureau and a different drawer opens on its own? Well, the Jag thinks it is a comedian.

You kinda have to see it for yourself to get the full giggle out of it.

So, yeah. Penelope's British. She walks to the beat of a different drummer.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A bolt and a belt

It's amazing how much havoc a little loose nut can create. That can be taken in different ways, I know, but in this case, I mean a literal metal nut.

Over the last two months, I've been experiencing increasing amounts of "bump steer" while driving the Jag. For those who do not know (and I did not until recently), bump steer occurs when there is an issue with the front steering assembly and one hits a bump or other abnormality in the road surface. The bump causes changes in the camber and alignment due to any number of issues with the front end.

On Saturday, a friend was having his brakes replaced by another friend who is a freelance mechanic. He offered to take a look at the Jag and see what was causing the problem. So, we shook the wheels good and looked at the brakes and so on, and there seemed to be nothing really obvious. As he did not have the equipment there in the driveway to properly assess the steering rack, he suggested I take it to a shop to have it looked at.

Yesterday and then this morning, the bump steer was even worse than previously. It was so bad, I felt like I was driving in heavily gusting winds. As soon as I could, I called the garage I normally visit and they told me to get the Jag there as quickly as possible.

The above is a picture of the lower ball joint on the front passenger side of the Jag. It was so loose that the front wheel had a large amount of play in it. Apparently while messing about with the wheels on Saturday, though the wheel wouldn't shake at all for us, we managed to loosen it up a little further.

But now Petunia is back to feeling like herself again. It's amazing how a good bolt tightening can help one feel so much better.

Which brings us to the boy's scooter. As previously reported; two weeks ago, the belt blew. Another was purchased and with a newly purchased impact wrench in hand, was then installed. This was a relatively easy repair, but ineffective as the belt I'd purchase turned out to be rather...well, cheap as one can see:

Yes, that's the "new" belt. It lasted all of a mile and a half. So, a better quality belt (Powerlink), was purchased, as well as a new variator just in case, and those are now running well. The new belt has about ten miles on it and has been checked for wear, of which there seems to be none so far.

So my opinion continues to stand. Chinese Scooters work for secondary transport. They are cheap to fix when something goes wrong, but it seems there's a lot that can go wrong with them.


Funny thing happened as my kid was on his way home from work. It's another loose nut story. The nut came loose that holds the opposing plate for the variator. So the variator would spin out, but since it had no pressure from the kickstarter gear plate, there was no friction to move the belt. A few minutes, a few twists with a socket wrench, and he was able to limp it home. A bit of threadlocker is all that is needed and it should be right as rain. Still, it's more work to do.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

low carb

I spent most of my Saturday with my arms elbow deep in the bowels of a Chinese scooter. 

It was a cool day, so it wasn't the worst way to spend an afternoon.  It's amazing how much trouble that shiny silver carb cover was hiding. 

About two months ago, the scooter in question went to a shop to have the carb checked because it was flooding. It was fine for about two weeks, then earlier this week, it started flooding again. After work on Saturday, I opened it up, put a bit of carb cleaner in it, and it fired up and was puttering away nicely, then cut out. We loaded it in the back of my wife's car (it was at the home of one of my son's friends), and took it home. At home, a quick inspection revealed that, wonder of wonders, there was no gas in the tank, which is apparently a requirement of internal combustion engines. After the addition of fuel, the scooter again fired right up, and seemed to be idling fine. After a few minutes at idle though, it suddenly started to rev higher and higher, then cut out. Apparently this is what was happening when it was shredding belts a few years back, except in that case, the engine would rev so fast the belt would fly apart.

It would then start and run for a bit, then eventually flooded. I tinkered with this and that and since the carb has been worked on a few times and I have no idea how to competently take the thing apart so I just ordered a new one off Amazon for $25.00. It's a standard carb type and replacement parts are so cheap, it wasn't worth taking to someone for a rebuild. I figured it might take some tuning, but would be easier than trying to figure out what is wrong with the old one. I also ordered a new fuel petcock as it was one of the other possible causes of this revving issue, and for good measure ordered one of those snazzy little air filters to replace the crummy old airbox.

The parts arrived today and were waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home at six. After about an hour of unplugging this and that, replugging this and that, and mashing my knuckles into the scooter frame, the new carb was in place along with the replacement petcock.

A quick last check and I inserted the key into the ignition and hit the starter. The starter whirred and whirred as fuel slowly trickled down the transparent lines to the fuel filter. A few moments later, the engine chugged to life, sounding better than it ever has to my ears. The scooter ran for a good twenty minutes with no issues and idled at a regular rate.

So, yes, I still think Chinese scooters aren't for everyone, but with a bit of mechanical ability (and if I'm any measure to go by, it's not a whole lot), they can be repaired and maintained very inexpensively. Consider that my Kymco just had to go through inspection, and the bill for labor and parts came to $455.00. Compare that to this little 50cc with its simple engine and it's hard to argue that they aren't a viable alternative. I'm not certain I would rely on a China scoot as my sole transport; however, I will keep observing and continue to take in data.