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Greetings ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Jake's Tale of Frustration and Woe. A tale of constant stupid nonsense punctuated by periodic glimmers of hope.



But first a Jag.

This is (was) my 1977 Jaguar XJ-S. AKA "Not a terribly great idea, looking back on it.". Bought during a depressive episode this first-generation XJ-S came complete with rusted-out floors and a Chevy 350 swap. I recently moved to a new apartment which is better than my old one in every way except one detail: I was not allowed to bring my project car 1977 Jaguar XJ-S with me so on Craigslist it went. I’ve sold a lot of cars on Craigslist and I am not sure if it’s a sign of the times or a sign of the car but the XJ-S garnered more facebook inquiries and emails than any car I had sold until this point. Unfortunately while showing it to one interested party I pushed the gas pedal and the car slowly crept forward. Not great. After trying my best to play it off I took a look the next day and found instead of nice red ATF the transmission was filled with a grey liquid that I determined was probably a mixture of water from the radiator and friction material from the clutches. Lovely.

Now stuck with a deadline of 1 week to get the Jaguar gone and now stuck with no transmission I wasn’t super sure of my chances of actually getting something worthwhile for it. My biggest fear was that I would be stuck scrapping it for $100 and a disappointed expression from the tow truck driver. Fortunately I soon received a text.


"Trade for Vulcan 500?"

…well, sure.





After a quick spin around the neighborhood on one cylinder we loaded the bike up and went to get the Jag



Trade complete! Time to disassemble immediately.



After sitting in a garage for over a year the Vulcan was not a happy camper. Starting it was nearly impossible and once it was started it would only run at high RPMs. Idling just didn’t happen and it seemed to be running on only one cylinder.



It definitely shows its age.



Despite having only 14k miles the tank is pretty battered though thankfully rust-free.



The key is pretty cool. V is for Vulcan.





Immediately the carbs were removed and disassembled. Stripped fasteners and globs of RTV on the float bowls told their own story as we peeled back layer and layer of this bike. The carbs themselves didn’t seem all to terribly dirty but the RTV did not inspire confidence. I ordered a rebuild kit and went nuts with the carb cleaner spray.
 

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While waiting for the rebuild kit to arrive I did a valve adjustment, due at 12k miles but very probably not done. As these bikes age the valves actually get tighter against the cam and will eventually not close all the way which can burn the valve seats and melt the valves. No bueno. While turning the engine over to align the cam I heard a hiss from the plug wells. I looked down and saw bubbles coming up through the coolant that had puddled in the well.

After removing the spark plugs to figure out why compression was leaking past them I noticed they were missing their metal gaskets that seal against the head. A peek down the spark plug holes revealed the gaskets were crammed in the heads and packed full of grime.



Two hours of prying with a pick and a screwdriver revealed these two glorious nasty wedding bands. Packed full of dirt and crud and not sealing at all. I have absolutely no idea how these got smashed into the heads that bad in the first place but it was a huge relief to pop in a couple of fresh spark plugs and hear them sealing against the head instead of letting out a pssshhhh with every compression stroke.



One massive unrelenting struggle through this whole thing was getting the carbs in and out of the bike itself. The airbox does not slide back thanks to the “ears” that butt up against the frame, and obviously the engine doesn’t go anywhere. Cramming the carbs back in here requires heating up the aged rock-hard rubber with a heat gun until it gets all nice and pliable and then smashing the carb in place using your fingers and a blunt screwdriver to peel the rearward boots over the carb inlets. At one point I pulled off the rubber gloves I was wearing and parts of my fingerprint went with them. Definitely a party.



Fortunately the carbs themselves are relatively simple and come apart like a big ol lego set.



Main jet on the left in its holder/emulsion tube, pilot jet on the right.Main jet screws into the emulsion tube.



Main jet screws into the emulsion tube.



A part of the rebuild kit was this new pilot screw, spring, washer, and rubber o-ring.



And into the ultrasonic cleaner it goes!

And this song and dance took 6 iterations before finally working. But hey, it could be worse.



I could have four carbs like my buddys bike. Eugh.
 

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Clean!



Installed!

And also the wrong main jets!

The whole time I was cleaning these I had some doubts that the main jets, labeled “135” were the wrong size. Stock size main jets in a Kawi 500 are #102. Pretty obvious that they’re different right? Well, not really. The numbers on jets are measured using two different schools of thought: explicit aperture size, and flow rate. So for some manufacturers #135 might mean 1.35mm. For other manufacturers #135 is 135ccs per minute of fuel flow. OEM Kawasaki jets, according to the internet, are measured in MM. So a stock jet would be 1.02mm.



A 1.27mm allen key fit easily through this jet, so it likely uses the same measuring system and is 1.35mm which is grossly oversized for this application.



One quick trip to the dealership later and I had a #105 jet set in hand. Here it is compared to the #135. You can see the difference. Why not a #102? They didn’t have them in stock but said this was “close enough”. Got it.



Unwilling to remove the carbs to swap jets I managed to wiggle the bowls out and pull the jets with the carbs in place. The bowl gaskets fought me hard on the way back in but a few dabs of super glue on the gasket channel on the bowl kept them held in place well enough to slam the bowls back onto the carbs.

The bike fired and ran much better but when we pulled it back in there were some new additions to the floor.



Suspecting a leaky crank cover I went to drain the oil by cutting up a 1 gallon jug to use as a catch can for the ~3 quarts of oil that these bikes hold. After dropping the oil plug and turning around for a moment to wipe the oil off I turned around to a view of absolute floor annihilation.





Roughly two gallons of gassy oil quickly overflowed from the catch pan and spilled all over the floor. Fortunately the gas helped keep the oil from soaking into the concrete too bad but it was still a super swell time.



One constant this whole time was replacing Phillips (or JIS) screws with these deep Allen head stainless ones from the local hardware store. At roughly $1 apiece they’re kind of on the pricey side for bulk fasteners but they don’t strip out at these torque levels and a small Allen key (I believe these are 4mm head) is far easier to keep in a tool kit than a myriad of bulky screwdrivers.

Once I got all of the clamps replaced and tightened down properly the bike was one idle adjustment away from running! Grand total spent to this point is an estimated $120 on fluids, air filter, rebuild kits, jets, etc. but the bike is running pretty well now!

 

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Oh Lordy, Lordy!!

If this bike could speak, it would be spewing out moans and groans of luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuv for you!

"Finally someone is taking care of me!"

Two gallons of oil??? Yep. Lordy, Lordy!!

I wonder how much joy you'll possibly find in the cooling system?
 

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YouDaMan, Jake :good:


Coincidence???...I think not. :serious:
 

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All washed! The purple shines through a little bit.

Instead of going on a date with the fiancee I bought her a helmet and we rode around Wichita 2-up for 3 hours. The loud aftermarket exhaust quickly wore on me though.





Hung out with a buddy. Rode his Honda Shadow 750 with ape hangers. It was pretty terrible, though the brakes were phenomenal.





One of my turn signals was smashed off so I replaced them both with these cheapos that I had lying around. Sweet mother of god the wire routing in these things is horrid. Soldered and heatshrunk and tucked back up into the fender.



"Borrowed" some mirrors from my broken Rebel 250.





Here's the damage to the tank from this not being taken care of. I may try to pop these out as best I can and then skim with bondo and repaint.

Got the front brake flushed out, lubed both throttle cables and the clutch. Brakes still kinda suck though. Might try some new pads. I went over everything with brake cleaner but it's still mediocre at best, especially compared to that Shadow 750.



Took it on a trip. 80mph for an hour is an interesting time without a windshield. Wasn't altogether awful. Bike is only getting 33mpg or so. Not sure what all is up with that.

Got sick to death of the noise finally. Picked up this set of factory Ninja 500 mufflers for $30. Not awful.



It only took 4 hours to put the stupid things on.



The right side came right off but the left side of the crappy aftermarket mufflers refused to budge. Ended up mangling it with an air hammer to get it off. Oh well.



The super simple “straight piece of flat stock with a hole in either end” brackets worked great to hold the mufflers in place. The problem at this point was the exhaust clamps were too big and I couldn’t find any for sale locally. Hmmm.





The solution was to cut a quarter inch out of the band and TIG weld it back together! I also replaced the super lame rusty bolt and death-wheel’d off the gross nut.

https://youtu.be/y6hPyEOJMSI

The phone and echo are trying to make it sound louder than it is. Above 20mph the wind noise is louder than the bike. While accelerating I can actually hear the straight-cut gears in the transmission and the clutch engaging over the exhaust. It’s glorious. I can now start and choke it in the mornings without waking up the neighbors.

To finish catching up to yesterday one of my other photographer buddies had a technique for light painting he wanted to use that involved tying strips of kerosene-soaked t shirts to a chain on a stick and walking it behind the bike with a long exposure. It turned out fairly well.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
Oh Lordy, Lordy!!

If this bike could speak, it would be spewing out moans and groans of luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuv for you!

"Finally someone is taking care of me!"

Two gallons of oil??? Yep. Lordy, Lordy!!

I wonder how much joy you'll possibly find in the cooling system?
Shockingly the cooling system seemed fine. Green coolant came out, green coolant went in. It was a little low but nothing to terribly concerning. T

Do I win the award for longest consecutive posts? lol. Hopefully I can keep this thread updated as I go along! Got some 2K Clearcoat in the mail, going to hit up a local outfit for some color-matched base coat.
 

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Hi Bill! It's a '96, which makes finding parts fun as I have to assure people it's a 500 LTD and not the earlier "pre-facelift". Right now my battle is trying to figure out if I'm running rich, or lean, and why. I mentioned poor fuel economy but it also requires quite a bit of choke to start and keep running and occasionally backfires through the intake at idle and sometimes under deceleration. I'm thinking it's lean but I already have slightly oversized (#105 vs #102) main jets and my pilots are the factory 2 1/8th turns out. I need to re-consult my service manual and see if I can fiddle with the pilot screws a little bit.

Currently looking into getting some craft foam and fiberglass and making a set of reproduction "close enough" side covers since my right one is MIA and my left one is all cracked and nasty. Either that or borrowing a buddys brake and making some more agricultural looking ones out of sheet aluminum. Would rather make my own and learn some more fabrication skills vs pay $80 for somebody else's take-offs on eBay!
 

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Bikes are so satisfying to work on. I've done few complete rebuild and custom jobs on cars and trucks but they don't compare to bikes.
Currently rebuilding a 1969 Mach 1. I still prefer working on my bike.

Love the thread! It goes well with my morning coffee! Felt like I needed to clean my hands a couple of times before touching the mouse.
 

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If it exists, I nominate this series of postings as "best ever of the 500 forum." In addition to providing much hilarity you gave us a lot of practical knowledge...I am in awe of your sense of humor.
 

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Thanks for the kind words everyone! Currently working on a starter motor rebuild and fiddling with my idle screws searching for better fuel economy and less backfiring as well as biding my time until I can buy some new fork seals. Under heavy braking my forks compress completely and I can watch bubbles of fluid come out of the seals. Not good! I'm sure the lack of a center stand will make that job especially great. Current plan is to use an engine hoist to lift the front end by the handlebars.

In the meantime, here are a couple pictures I took of it yesterday. I found this adorable little intersection in the middle of an old neighborhood with a guitar shop, coffee shop, barber and masseuse. Seemed extraordinarily out of place but infinitely charming.





 

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https://youtu.be/DHlq9PT7ZN8

My starter pooped out. I needed to ride 100 miles the next day so I pulled it out and cleaned the utterly trashed brushes off and was able to get 7 days worth of use out of it before it stopped working again. Fortunately by that time I had my rebuild kit. Here's a video of the process of re-brushing my starter.



In other news, I absolutely hate hate HATE these stinking carb boots. The ones from my airbox are rock hard and refuse to stay put. Stupid. Looks like Ron Ayers has a pair for $40 but... ugh. Not meaning to offend, but thing like this just made far more sense on my Honda CX500. The engine-side boot had a bolt-on flange that was super easy to remove and gave all the room in the world to slip the carbs in and out. This nonsense requires doing rubber yoga and possibly tearing your fragile boots to get the carbs in and out of there and then prying and grunting to get the carbs situated between the two boots. It's enough of a hassle to almost make me consider pod filters but I have had friends go that route and be stuck in an absolute tuning nightmare so I think I'll try to stay stock with my induction system given that this is my commuter.

Though if I were swimming in money it would be fairly neat to get some smoothbore Mikunis matched to some pod filters and toss those on there ;)

Side note: I've tried searching around but can anyone direct me to the proper term or an explanation of the air valve and PCV-looking system attached to the valve cover? I'd like to verify it's working properly so I can rule it out as a source for some of my issues.
 

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The carb boot design is really, really poor. It's so frustrating. I was tempted to go pod filters but apparently these carbs just don't function correctly at all with them.

Also my second saddle turned up so I will be cutting up the old one tomorrow!
 

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Them carb boots, man. They were the bane of my life on my old KZ1000, and were a major factor in my decision to never own another carbed bike.
 

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The carb boot design is really, really poor. It's so frustrating. I was tempted to go pod filters but apparently these carbs just don't function correctly at all with them.

Also my second saddle turned up so I will be cutting up the old one tomorrow!
I believe pod filters will work if they have a restrictor on them (some people put a sock over them) so that they make the same amount of vacuum as the factory airbox. The problem is there is absolutely no way with pods to match the resonance of the airbox that helps mitigate the (I believe) 3k-ish RPM torque dip, so really the only point is "I don't have an airbox/my airbox is broken and these pod filters were cheaper". Maybe Biker Bill knows more about this than I do, though.

Them carb boots, man. They were the bane of my life on my old KZ1000, and were a major factor in my decision to never own another carbed bike.
Yup. If I ever buy a bike after this I'm looking at a modern 650cc standard-type. SV650 maybe. I really like the Kawasaki Z650 naked/standard-style Ninja thingie. Look like great little fun commuters.

Has anyone ever bought "new" airbox boots that have been sitting on a shelf for forever? Were they nice and soft and pliable or will I be needing to immediately restore them with some wintergreen oil?
 

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I believe pod filters will work if they have a restrictor on them (some people put a sock over them) so that they make the same amount of vacuum as the factory airbox. The problem is there is absolutely no way with pods to match the resonance of the airbox that helps mitigate the (I believe) 3k-ish RPM torque dip, so really the only point is "I don't have an airbox/my airbox is broken and these pod filters were cheaper". Maybe Biker Bill knows more about this than I do, though.
Yer that all sounds familiar. I would drop the factory air box like 3rd period French if there was a reliable alternative.
 
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