Author: Buck

Project: NTV600

I’ve bought a 1988 V twin, shaft drive, naked Honda as my next challenge.

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The camera flatters it, it’s a bit rusty and the paint isn’t as lovely as the on the pictures.

Apparently it was stood for about 14 years, someone put it back on the road last year, and it’s blown up.

The guy selling it said he thinks it’s dropped a valve into the barrel, whilst running. (Which will have done all kinds of damage to the front pot.)

Here is the one of the front spark plugs. I’m inclined to agree.


After a frustrating day on Nathan’s bike’s electrics I made a start on this today.

The manual says you can strip the pot with the engine in frame, which is a bonus, but it’s still a huge faff.

Just to move it into the shed (I’ve relegated Nath’s to outside, under plastic) I had to remove the seat, tank, side covers, air filter box, (must get a new air filter) take the radiator covers off, disconnect the radiator hoses from the engine, then remove the radiator.

Once I’d done that I was free to move the bike into the shed and start work.

I had to disconnect the carbs and move them out of the way, take off the cylinder head cover, then found out I had to remove the radiator cap assembly just so I could swing the cover out. The other spark plug was wedged in tight. I think it was embedded in the piston. I got it out in the end.

And I’m here.

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To be honest, that all looks deceptively pristine.

I’ll take the cylinder head off tomorrow. Then it’s all going downhill.

Fun times.


I gave it a go. There’s quite a bit to it, not just unbolt the head and pull it off.

I drained the coolant, then the oil. This came out in the oil.


It’s not large, but it looks like the stuff of which the engine is made. And nothing metal should be in the oil, especially not that size.  Oh dear.

I removed the covers to the crank bolt thing and the inspection cover. In the book it says turn the crank nut anti clockwise until the Top Dead Centre (TDC) mark on the rotor aligns with a notch in the inspection hole.

I turned it around a bit, but you’ve only got about 3/4 of a revolution then it jams solid.  Oh dear, oh dear.

In that space I managed to find the timing lines, so that was good, but the next thing was to turn the crank around until you can take out two bolts. Except I can’t get a full revolution of the crank. I got one 10mm bolt out (really stuck) but it’s really, really hard to get at the other one. I can’t revolve it far enough to get a socket on it, to apply my breaker bar or impact driver, to stun it loose. All I could get on was a small 10mm spanner and that was rounding the bolt head. I was very frustrated. It’s simply impossible to access because I can’t revolve it and the frame is in the way.

I was despairing. Beaten at the first hurdle by a 10mm bolt, and a dead engine with metal in it.

I gave up.  As I was putting my tools away I realised the solution was in the statement. I can’t access the bolt because the frame is in the way, so remove the engine from the frame.

I said to Wendy, “if there’s metal in the works I’ll be getting a replacement engine anyway.  Either that or strip it right down…”

As I was saying it I realised I’d lost sight of the goal. I was rushing to get the bike back on the road and ride it. That’s not what this is about. I want to practice and acquire mechanic skills. Stripping the engine completely is perfect for me.

I’m refocusing.

It takes as long as it takes. Better to have a year long project to keep me busy than throw another engine in it and learn nothing.

Start again tomorrow.


Another bout of plague weakness has been slowing me down, but over three sessions I’ve managed to strip the assorted parts off the engine to drop it. It has been a pain, but tonight it finally came out.

Then I was stuck. The frame comes down in two arms, which, if the engine was on the ground, would give you just enough room to wriggle it through the V of the engine. As it was on my trolley jack it wouldn’t fit. In the end I had to get Wendy to move the trolley jack as I lifted the frame off the engine. Well, she tried. The inch she moved it was, oddly, enough. Bless her.

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So, here we are. I’ve moved the frame out of the shed and covered it in plastic. I’ll pop the rocker box cover back on and give the engine a damn good clean with paraffin. (Don’t know why paraffin, but that’s what it says in the manual) then set about stripping it.

I’ll try jacking it up again tomorrow, see if it’s any easier to lift, but if not I may have to strip it, at least partially, on the jack. It weighs a ton.

See how it goes. If I’m really stuck I can always buy an engine hoist. They’re about £120, but once you’ve got it, it’s there for life.

Another thing I’m thinking about is upgrading my shed. This is a great shed, but just not big enough. With the front wheel wedged in the gap between the bench and tool cabinet (shown above) I still couldn’t shut the shed door fully. And I have to step over the front wheel to work on each side of the bike, or swivel over the bike. Then squat awkwardly to work on each side. I undid the wrong bolt twice tonight, because I lost sight of the right one as I stood to get better leverage to break it free.

A new shed is a lot of money and faff but it would make life a lot better, if I’m sticking with this. And there’s the rub. I get mad enthusiasms, then lose interest.

Anyway, progress. Get it cleaned, and stripped. I’m dying to see the devastation under that cylinder head.


The good news is: once I’d raised the jack up fully I could keep my back straight and use my legs for the lift. If you think of Caine moving that cauldron at the beginning of Kung Fu, it was like that but more painful.


Done though.



The bad news is that stuck 10mm bolt was a pure pain. I had to drop the engine just for that, but when I did it was too late, the damage was already done, the bolt was rounded. And, I realised after, it took my 10mm socket with it. The socket has been rounded as well. I’ve had to buy a new one. I spent two days trying to get the bolt out. I couldn’t impact drive it, get a spanner, socket or breaker bar on it, I tried to cut a groove in the bolt head and use the impact driver to shock it loose. Nothing. I bought some toughened drill bits and and extractor kit (left handed thread, so as it bites and turns it screws the bolt out) but after two days of trying to drill it I’d drilled in about 2mm, the extractor couldn’t get a grip. In the end, in desperation I used my angle grinder to grind the bolt head off and yanked the sprocket off. Just to rub salt in the wounds, the remaining bolt came out quite easily with a a pair of mole grips after that.

That was my penultimate ploy. If that hadn’t of worked I had left was to use the angle grinder to saw clean through the cam chain, sprocket and bolt. That would have been awful. For one bolt.

Anyway, with the 10mm out of the way it didn’t take me long to get the head off.

There’s your problem, there mate:

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The valve has indeed fallen into the cylinder. And punched right through the piston.

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And smashed my cylinder head in. Like the piston the cylinder head should be smooth.

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It’s not as easy to see as the piston on that picture, but it is so deeply scored it’s basically scrap metal now.

The valve should look like the black one, top left on the picture above.

Not so much.

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It’s Sunday today, Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow, so I’m probably going to have to wait until Tuesday, but I’m going to ring and price a rebore/ pistons/ rings for both barrels. That would be my best option, at least I know I’ve got a balanced, good as new set of barrels and pistons.

If it’s a complete rip I can get a used barrel and piston, and just get new rings. Not the best option, but should be sufficient.

I’ve ordered a second hand cylinder head off eBay. It’s still got the valves( / valve springs, retainers) in but nothing else. I’ll read up on how to check the valves and such before I rebuild it, but hopefully that will be a bolt-on replacement.

Now I have to strip the engine right down and clean every bit of metal out of it. I was talking to a professional mechanic I follow on Twitter, and he said “and replace the oil pump, etc” I hadn’t thought of that. They’re not dear, 40 odd quid new, but it hadn’t even occurred to me. That would have been a disaster, rebuild it then the pump starts releasing metal fragments or just seizes.

What Just Happened?

This is a weird one.

Out of the blue our Lisa called me to ask a favour. She’d seen the best ever antique chest of drawers for sale on some Facebook sales thing. And it was only a tenner!

The trouble was it was at Buxton (and she’s not confident to drive on motorways) would I drive her there?

Off the top of my head I immediately thought of rush hour traffic around the M60 (Manchester ring road), the queues from Stockport on to the A6, the roadworks on the A6, the crawling traffic unable to overtake the slow lorry or tractor…

Oh dear. But, it’s my sister. And it was something she really wanted. And it was cheap and she’s not got much money.

There was no point in driving her there, I’m the named driver on Wendy’s policy, which I’ve recently found out, means I’m not able to drive other people’s cars third party. So I couldn’t drive Lisa’s car, and if I was going in Wendy’s I might as well go straight there.

I googled it, an hour and five minutes. Ah well, get it done.

Then Lisa text me the postcode. Actually further away, and a longer drive (1.30) but google said I could go M6 south and cut across country at junction 18. Splendid! Heading away from Manc and completely avoiding the A6.

To be fair Lisa did read out the dimensions, which I roughed from metric into English, as about 3’ x 4’ x 2’.

No problem.

The first night I was supposed to be collecting it I was waiting around for hours, the woman selling it had given out Lisa her landline number, then gone out to Stoke for a few hours, so when I tried calling her she didn’t answer as she was out. In Stoke.

That was a bust.

The second night, she was going to be in. I set off. Nice nip down the M6, always a joy, then off at junction 18. I’ve never driven far across country from that junction. It is rally country. Small country lanes, single lanes at some points, blind bends and summits, in the rain. It was a nightmare.

On the bright side, tired as I was, I was pretty damn alert.

I finally got to this huge mansion in the country and rang the number. The woman answered and said to drive in and park in the West Wing, (!) she’d wave to show me where to go.

I parked and went to the house. She answered in her dressing gown and let me in. She said there was no way I was going to get it in to a Mini but she’s show me what she meant. I followed her upstairs.  She explained I wouldn’t be able to lift it as she’d done her back and her fellah wasn’t here.

This was feeling a bit weird. Alone in a house with a woman I’d just met, in her dressing gown.

OK, fair enough.

She said I could take the drawers this time and come back for the rest. It was going to take me several long walks to the car, so while I was doing that she was going for a shower.


Seriously, WHAT?

I’m not a rapist, murderer, burglar, but she didn’t know that. She’d let a random bloke into her house then left me with the run of the house while she went for a shower.

This was definitely weird. Still, crack on.

I was on my second or third trip, alone in this bedroom, when suddenly I heard a bloke come in downstairs, shouting the woman’s name. Presumably thinking I had raped and murdered his missus. She was a few door away from me, in the shower, so couldn’t hear him to reply.

Oh very dear. So not good.

What can you do in that situation except carry on as normal and wait for it all to resolve itself?

I managed to get all the drawers into the car, but that was it, it was totally full.


I was renting a van anyway on Friday to pick up my next project (more on that in another blog) so I asked if she would hang on to the rest of it and I’d have to do the trip again.

I got home and did the figures. Unfortunately the van place shuts at 16.00 so I was going to be up against the clock the whole day. The only way I could do it was to pick Lisa up (I needed a second man to help me carry the chest of drawers down the stairs, -and chaperone me from mad shower woman-) at 08.00, get there early for the van collection, actually be on the road for the booking time of 08.30, down to Wellingborough, 20 minutes bike collection time, up the M1, across the A50, then up a fairly decent road to this place near Buxton, fly back, drop Lisa and the furniture off, which left me with, at best 50 minutes to drive across town, unload the bike, fuel up and get back to the van place and be inspected by 16.00.

It was going to be tight. And stressful.

Then this evening (Thursday) I got a call off Lisa.

She’d stacked the drawers in the corner where she was planning to have the unit, and, without the frame, they were already too big for the room. And not very nice. And not in great condition. And not what she wanted.

Hahahahahaha. *weeps*

In other news I’m interviewing for the position of ‘sister’, at the moment.

OK, that was a nightmare. A long, weird, pointless waste of time and effort. But on the bright side, tomorrow is now going to be a really relaxed affair. And I don’t have to see mad shower woman again. So, swings and roundabouts.



Project: Nath’s 125

I’ve made a start on my mechanic-ing.

I went and got Nathan’s dead heap.

It’s seen better days.


I say I got his heap, that was a challenge in itself. How do you get a full motorbike into the back of a Mini?

Not easy.


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Which then fits neatly into said Mini.

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But, after breaking my back, it’s still a pile of broken bits.

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I sorted my shed out to look like this:


The bike was as dead as a very dead dodo, so I couldn’t just strip the engine down, as there would have been no way of knowing if I’d rebuilt it right.

I had to put everything back together and try to get the bike running before I could take it all apart and play.


That’s with the bike strapped onto the jack thing. I had to ratchet strap it on as there are no forks on it as they are totally smashed.

It’s been horrendous. The engine is quite light, as engines go, but it fits in the frame really awkwardly, and you have to hold it in position with one hand and a knee as you try and fit a bolt through the holes to support it. Then I went around fastening all the connectors and wires. They build them with oddly shaped connectors so they can only fasten to the corresponding odd shape so you can’t get it wrong. But when I’d rebuilt it there were two loose wires, no battery, and an odd shaped connector with no mate. I had the tank off a few times, searching for ages, I just couldn’t find it. The workshop manual is black and white pictures with no “what the hell is this bit?” section.

I gave up for the moment and decided to fix the bent side stand cut off switch I’d noticed while stripping it. Where’s the side stand?

Ah. It’s attached to the foot pegs (which were so badly bent I’d left them.) I went and got them and there was my blue connector! YAY!


The battery arrived today so I fitted that as well. The barrel on the ignition seems smashed so I took that off and ordered a new one. Happily the electrical bits come out as a separate unit, so you just have to change the barrel, no need to solder in new wires. I had a play with the remaining unit and reckoned I could operate the on/off switch without the barrel for now, but still no electrics at all.

I found and changed the main fuse. Nothing. Realised the starter relay was missing a cable, attached that properly. Nothing. I took the smashed headlight apart and realised two connections were undone. I traced them back and it was the ignition. I reconnected them, messed with the ignition electrical unit, and … LIGHTS!

I gave the starter a few blasts and got the engine turning over, I checked and I’ve got tons of spark at the plug!

I’m such a happy bunny! I’ve not got it started yet, but I’ve got a solid plan of attack. While it was just sat there, dead, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Now I’ve got lights, horn, starter motor, spark at the plug etc, it’s feels like it’s just a matter of ironing out the petrol feed problem.

I’m ordering the tools I need as I need them. They are surprisingly cheap. £12 for a compression test thing, (the very first test, according to my yank mechanic guru) £7 for a multimeter (tests all your electrics). I’ve had to watch videos on how to use a multimeter, I’ve no idea, but once I’ve got the hang of it I’ll be able to work out logically and definitively the source of any electrical problem. No more prodding wires and hoping for the best.

The next time in the shed I followed the fault finding chart. I used the compression tester (tons of compression) and the petrol pump pressure tester (zero pressure. Ah. Houston, we have a problem.) I used the multimeter to check there was voltage through the petrol pump circuit (yes) and that the lead to the ECU (the computer brain of the bike) was unbroken (all good) then I removed the pump from inside of the tank, squeezed out the filter and checked all the connection were good. I replaced the pump, tried to do a pump pressure test again, but there was so much pressure it squirted out! Sorted.

Tried it and


I was going to test my valve clearances then, as a bit of a dry run for my proper bike. Yamaha have made it too easy to be any good though. Inspection covers? An adjuster, instead of having to lift the cams off? For shame, Mr Yamaha. However, as soon as I started I realised Mr Yamaha was just teasing me.

An 8mm bolt recessed into the engine cooling fins. Upon which you can just get a spanner, but not turn it, and it’s too far recessed behind the fins to use a socket. And my long reach socket set only goes down to 10mm. Super.


I’ve ordered an 8mm, long reach socket.


The next session some of the bits I’d ordered had arrived.

I fitted the new ignition lock (had to snip the wires, fit new connectors and find the right wires as they were coloured wrong. They had black, black and white, red and brown. The ones on the bike were black, black and white, green and red. But black and white didn’t correspond to black and white. Of course not. Where would be the fun in that?)


Then set about trying to fit the new forks. I wasn’t sure they were going to fit as they were a cheap generic Chinese copy set, and I thought they might only be for the other model of this bike. They fitted, but the top and bottom yokes that hold them were out of line.


The screwdriver illustrates the where the bottom yoke was pointing, smack into the side of the top yoke.

I stripped the headstock to check for damage.


And refitted. It was still out of line. I managed to force one fork in. Then I realised the bottom yoke was a bit bent (from the crash) which was why I was still struggling. I tried to gently persuade it back into position (with a hammer and a cold chisel). I got the fork in, but when I fitted the pinch bolt the bottom yoke was too bent and it just stripped my thread.


I’ve ordered a used bottom yoke. I’ll have to take the forks out and strip the headstock right down to replace it, but that should mean the front end is fixed then.

It’s starting to look like a motorbike now though.


And the brakes fitted straight into the holes on the fork leg, so it is definitely the right forks.

I’ve ordered a cheap headlight, and as I was finishing up Wendy told me some parcels have arrived, so I’ve got the brake and clutch levers, gear change lever, and the faux induction pod thing for the smashed off space on the front right of the engine space in the last picture.

I forgot to say, as I’m trying to spend as little as possible to get this back on the road, I took the badly dented tank off, drained it, took the pump out, then pushed a lump of hard wood through the hole and started to beat the dents out. There are some hard to reach creases in the metal that I’m scared could split, but a guy on youtube showed a trick, where you inflate a motorbike tyre in the tank and gently pop it back out into shape. It’s worth a go.

I didn’t take a specific “before” picture so I’ve had to edit this one out of a full picture, hence the low quality.


After my first attempt at panel beating.


I’ll try the inner tube trick next.

The tank is ongoing. The inner tube, predictably, popped. But it took some of the dent out.

I stripped the front end down, properly this time, clocks off, handlebars etc hung to the side.


Then fitted the new bottom yoke. This time the forks just slid in.


So that’s the front end sorted. I’ve ordered a headlight, then I’ll reroute all the electrics through that and attach the clocks and such. I’ve already fitted the new levers and that shiny pod thing.


Coming together nicely.

Then I looked again at the thing on Nathan’s V5 Logbook, “This vehicle has been salvaged because the estimated cost of commercial repair was more than value of the vehicle.”

Fair enough. But I thought I’d better see if If I have to do anything special to put it back on the road. I googled that phrase and it’s the technical wording for “written off.” Still not a surprise. But there are four categories of ‘written off’, the first two mean the vehicle can never go back on the road. The first means it’s so badly damaged it’s too dangerous to even sell the parts. WHAT? (As an aside, private sellers are under no obligation to inform you of insurance categories against the vehicle, which is nice.)

All that money I’ve spent on bits… Quick panic then I found out you can pay for an HPI check that tells you which category of write off it is. Nath’s is Cat C, repairable, but deemed too expensive to be worth paying for. But it can go back on the road.

I said I was here to learn. That was a huge thing to learn, after I’ve been buying vehicles for 37 years.


I’m currently learning about electrics. The hard way.

To swap the smashed headlight you have to disconnect basically the whole wiring loom (as it’s routed through the headlight) fit the headlight then reconnect everything.


To add to the variables I’ve fitted a new ignition lock which runs non standard coloured wires and I’m trying to fit new clocks as well.

I put it back together and tried it and only the right hand side switchgear was working. I had the parking light but no headlight, the starter motor but no indicators, some of the clocks lit up, others not. It was baffling.

I tried different wiring combinations, blew the fuse about 5 times, and still had nothing to the right switchgear.

I’ve had to learn how to read a schematic, then read the post on electricals on the Yank’s site, (he is awesome, despite his views). The trick seem to be to trace the power line from the battery then use the multimeter to check the voltage in and out of every junction.

It took me ages to get to that basic step. Once I’d worked out a process I soon tracked down there was voltage going into the headlight relay, but none coming out on one wire.

Crossed it to test

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And there was light!

I’ve got my headlight on dipped and high beam, and the horn. All that’s left is to replace the headlight relay, track down what’s wrong with my indicators (they have a relay, have I fried that as well, somehow?) and make sure I’ve got full power to the clocks.

I’m waiting until the tester light and relay get here to carry on.