Midnight Ride

My friend Alex’s recent acquisition, a nice 1989 Honda CBR600F

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in the position of trying to convince someone that they do in fact need a motorcycle in their life, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done foolish or stupid things to bring a motorcycle home, and it surely wasn’t the first time I’ve frozen my ass off on a motorcycle at 2:00 in the morning. Sadly the crazy series of events that unfolded last night were actually quite predictable when you mix a young man with the need for a bike and cash in his pocket, a long-time rider and motorcycle enthusiast eager to help, and a motivated seller with a cheap 20-year-old sportbike. On Saturday evening we headed up to Vancouver Washington to inspect a CBR 600 that Alex had spotted on Craigslist for $1350.

After preparing for the worst we were actually quite surprised by the condition of the bike. Aside from a destroyed front fender, missing mirror, and a few scratches on the plastics the body was in remarkable shape for an almost-vintage sportbike. Indeed most of this bike’s kin have been crashed then scrapped, rattle-canned in dismal flat-black, or stripped of their shattered shells entirely and morphed into squidly “street-fighters”. This example, though far from perfect, was still a respectable street machine. The style of the late 1980′s and early 1990′s sportbikes is destined to be classic since it was the era that brought us the first modern fully-faired race-bikes-for the road. I suspect that in a few more years Honda Hurricanes, Yamaha FZRs, and Suzuki GSXRs will be to my generation what the 1960′s British twins were our father’s.

There were some problems beyond the obvious cosmetic ones. The chain and sprockets were complete junk, red rusty grime was visible even though the chain was well lubricated and the teeth on the rear sprocket were nothing but a series of small bent-over points with razor-sharp edges, in other words perfectly normal for this kind of bike. Then there was the running issue, the owner claimed a fouled plug was to blame for the uneven idle and rough acceleration, I took a quick test-ride and it was indeed very reluctant to rev. The skeptic in me was thinking that any sane person would have changed the $2 spark plugs if that was all that was causing the problem, why try to sell it in this condition if the problem was so easy and inexpensive to repair? There was a good chance something very major and expensive could be the source of troubles. After much hesitation and negotiation Alex struck a deal and dollars changed hands.

The proud new owner astride his steed.

Now it was my turn, Alex had not yet got his motorcycle endorsement so it was my task to ride the bike, but how do we get this thing back to Eugene, 150 miles away? It was already after 9:00PM! After a terribly long phone call to Geico (those cavemen sure are slow!) Alex handed me a scrap of paper with the bike’s newly assigned policy number and the recently signed title should I run afoul of the law, which was seeming more and more likely. As we merged onto I5 my doubts were growing, by the time we crossed the Columbia River bridge into Oregon, around 10:45PM, I knew I wasn’t getting home on this thing. I took the next exit straight into one of Portland’s crappiest neighborhoods where I found a dimly-lit parking lot to consider our dilemma. Feeling the exhaust pipes told the story, 3 burns and then a cold pipe, it wasn’t running on #1 cylinder. Amazingly the cycle’s original tool kit was still stashed under the seat and contained a spark plug wrench, good fortune too that it was an outer cylinder not firing since the inner two would have required major surgery to access. Still what were we to do at midnight, 2 hours from home with an immobile motorcycle, this situation was getting frustrating quickly!

Yours truly trying to get all the cylinders firing.

Luck shifted to our side when I switched the #1 and #4 plugs the miss changed cylinders too, amazing, it might just be a faulty plug after all. My fears of low compression, burnt valves, carburetor failures, and similar were fading. After scraping the plug’s electrode with a screw driver tip it finally showed some spark when the engine was cranked, weak sideways little sparks but there was a glimmer of hope. I installed the plug and the engine lit on all four for the first time. A test run up the road confirmed that this was now a real motorcycle! I grinned in my helmet and thanked fate for giving us a break.

The ride home was freezing cold and nerve-racking as the interstate was being heavily patrolled for late night DUI drivers. Luckily none of Oregon’s finest noticed my expired tags and the CBR didn’t miss a beat the whole rest of the trip. The 600F actually rode quite nicely, it has good power, decent brakes, light steering, and a comfortable riding position. Pulling into my driveway at around 2:00AM I was relieved to be home safe on a running motorcycle, it had seemed impossible or at least very unlikely just a few hours before.

I awoke Sunday morning after just a few hours sleep and headed out to the garage with a cup of coffee. This isn’t even my bike but I couldn’t wait to clean it up a little. Alex was out of town for the day so I decided to take some liberties with his new girl. I removed most of the body work and cleaned it up, leaving the filthy engine and frame for him. I changed all the fluids and replaced the spark plugs. The motor revs happily now but a test ride will wait until the chain and sprockets are replaced along with the mirror.

Starting the disassembly and cleaning process

Carburetors and cables all working smoothly

She sure looks good with the VFR!

Congratulations Alex!
I look forward to a long summer with many happy miles ahead.

How to replace the front brakes and wheel bearings on a Porsche 911SC

porsche 911 sc front brake caliper

The design of the Porsche 911SC brakes requires that the brake calipers and wheel hubs be removed in order to replace the brake discs which are mounted to the back of the hubs, the hubs contain the front wheel bearings. At this time I am going to replace the front wheel bearings, grease seals, brake rotors, brake pads, and front brake hoses. This job will require that the brake system be bled out so I also plan to flush the hydraulic system completely with fresh DOT-4 fluid.

This job is relatively simple but since it involves the braking system as well as the wheel bearings and associated hardware that hold the wheels onto the car it is essential that all work be performed carefully and completely.

-Floor jack and jack-stands or an automotive lift
-1/2″-drive ratchet or breaker-bar
-19mm 1/2″ drive socket for lug nuts and caliper bolts
-1/2″ drive torque wrench (accurate!)
-3/8″-drive ratchet with metric sockets and various extensions
-11mm open-end wrench or line-wrench
-13, 14 and 17mm open-end wrenches
-Large Slip-joint (Channel-lock) Pliers
-Medium-sized hammer
-Various punches
-Bearing race driver set
-6mm hex (allen) wrench or socket
-Latex or Nitrile gloves
-Lots of rags
-A friend to assist with brake bleeding or a pressure bleeder
-Brake cleaner

Let’s get started!
-Photos are clickable for larger more detailed pictures.
-Leave the keys in the ignition so you will be able to turn the wheels side-to-side.
-Before raising the car loosen the front wheel lug nuts.
-Never rely on a jack alone to support a vehicle!

Here are the new brake components that will be installed.

These are the new bearings and seals.

Use the jack or lift to raise the car high enough to get the front wheels off the ground. If using a jack make sure to place the jackstands securely under the frame.

Once the car is lifted and safely supported remove the front wheels.
You’ll now have access to the Brake and wheel-hub assembly.

Use an 11mm wrench to remove the caliper hydraulic line where it enters the caliper, if replacing the rubber lines undo the fitting above after removing the large retaining clip (pictured below). Plug the end of the line and the caliper to prevent excessive brake fluid spillage.

Remove the two 19mm brake caliper securing bolts.

The caliper is now free and can be pulled off the brake rotor.

With the caliper off drive out the brake pad retaining pins with a small punch.

Caliper disassembled.

Clean the calipers thoroughly with brake cleaner, a soft brush, and rags. Castrol Super Clean and warm water is another option that works very well for removing that stubborn brake dust and grime. Set the calipers aside to dry. Now it’s time to replace the wheel bearings.

Use a pair of large slip-joint pliers to grip and remove the bearing dust-cap from the wheel hub. Underneath you will find the bearing lock-nut.

Loosen the 6mm hex pinch-bolt on the bearing lock nut then remove the nut and washer. You can now pull the complete hub and rotor assembly from the car. Once removed wipe as much grease as possible from the inside of the hub and the axle spindle.

Remove the 5 13mm nuts and bolts that secure the brake disc to the aluminum hub and discard the disc (unless you are planning to reuse or resurface the rotors). Clamp the hub in a vise and use a large flat-tip screwdriver or seal-puller to remove the inner wheel bearing seal.

Withdraw the seal and the inner bearing and clean the hub thoroughly with solvent or brake cleaner and plenty of rags. The bearing races are pressed into hub and must be tapped-out using a long punch and a hammer. Take your time and work carefully to prevent gouging or damaging the soft hub material when removing the steel races. Tap on the exposed lip of the bearing race as shown.

Hub shown with the races removed.

I prefer to work with clean parts so I recommend cleaning the hubs again with the races removed. Make sure the bores where the races sit are smooth and undamaged, if you nicked the edges while tapping-out the old races use a bit of emory cloth or a small file to smooth any imperfections before installing the new bearing races.

The Bentley service manual recommends that the hubs be heated to 250 degrees F. to aid in the installation of the new bearing races, while not essential it does expand the metal and ease installation greatly, (also adds a pleasant smell to the oven)!

The new races can be installed with a punch but care must be taken avoid any damage to the surface where the bearings will ride. A bearing race install tool kit is the best way to install the races without damage. Select the proper sized attachment and tap the new races into place as shown below.

Carefully tap in the new race.

The hub showing the races fully seated.

Gloves are a must for the next few steps. Use a high-quality wheel bearing grease to lubricate the new races and pack the wheel bearings, also add plenty of grease to the insides of the hub. I’m old fashioned and prefer packing the bearings by hand rather than using one of the many available bearing-greasing devices, the clean-up is easier too, just peel off the gloves and toss them when the job is done.

Packing the new bearings with grease. (To do this by hand place a large glob of grease in your palm and force the bearing into it until grease comes out the inside of the rollers as shown. Make sure it is well lubricated).

Wheel hub with the bearings fully greased and installed.

Now place the new grease seal in position and tap gently into place. Make sure to install it squarely and tap evenly around the outside edge to prevent distorting the seal. If the metal is bent or distorted the seal will not work properly.

Wheel bearing seal installed.

Clean the new brake rotors of any contaminants or rust-preventative oils then
attach to the wheel hubs using the 5 bolts and torque the 13mm nuts to 18 ft. lbs. Carefully slide the hub onto the spindle and install the grease-packed outer bearing, washer, and retaining nut.

Tighten the retaining nut firmly while spinning the hub assembly, then back the nut off and re-tighten it until the washer can just barely be moved with a screwdriver. It is important that the bearings have some pre-load without being too tight. If you can’t wiggle the washer at all they are too tight, if the washer moves freely or you can feel play in the disc they are too loose. When the bearing pre-load is correct tighten the lock-nut pinch-bolt to 11 ft./lbs. then tap the dust cap back into place.

Use large channel lock pliers to slowly compress the brake caliper pistons back into the caliper. Note: If the caliper pistons will not retract, the dust boots are torn or missing, or there is visible fluid leakage from around any of the pistons it is time for the calipers to be rebuilt or replaced, do not reinstall damaged or nonfunctional brake components!

Once the pistons are fully retracted into the caliper bores you can install the caliper. I like to add a few drops of blue loctite thread locker to the caliper mounting bolts for extra peace of mind.

Install the caliper bolts and torque to 94 ft./lbs. Then reinstall the brake fluid line to the caliper.

There are a million or so products on the market designed to prevent disc brakes from squeaking or squealing. I recommend using one of them to coat the back of the brake pad where it contacts the piston. Brake noise is usually caused by the pads vibrating and resonating in the calipers when the brakes are applied, a light coating of lubricant between the pad and piston is often all that is needed to prevent this.

Slide the pads into the caliper.

Reinstall the pad retaining pins and spring-plate.

Use a punch to drive the pins fully into the caliper and the brake job is nearly done.

All that is left is to bleed out any air and then reinstall and torque the wheels. Top-up the brake fluid reservoir with fresh fluid and open one of the caliper bleed screws using a small hose to catch fluid in a suitable container. Have your friend, assistant, wife, or complete stranger pump the brake pedal until clear bubbe-free fluid is coming out of the caliper, then move to the other side making sure that the fluid reservoir does not run out of fluid. Reinstall the road-wheels and torque to specs.

*Notes on safety with new brakes.
-Pump the brakes several times before starting the car to move the pads against the rotors and verify the pedal feels good and there are no fluid leaks.

-It is important to drive the car gently as the pads will need to fully seat and wear-in to the new rotors before maximum braking effect is possible. There are many opinions on the proper method for breaking-in new brakes and I will not get involved in that discussion here but to simply recommend taking it very easy on the brakes for at least the first 100 miles or so.

-It is good practice to remove the wheels and inspect the brake and bearing components after the first test-drive to verify that everything is tight and leak-free.

-Most importantly if you have any doubt or problems with the brake system do not continue to drive the car! find and repair the fault or have it towed to qualified shop for repairs.