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Discussion Starter #1
Goodmorning!

So I just recently bought a 1997 Kawasaki Vulcan 500! I’m new to motorcycles. It needs love and I’m trying to wrap my head around some of the maintenance/repairs that need to be done. When I bought it, it fired up, but the person I bought it from said that he could barely get it to stay running. I did notice gas leaking from the petcock area, like a lot. The bike sat for a while and it wasn’t set up properly for long term storage.i did look in the gas tank and it appears to have a rust spot near the bottom of the tank, which confirms the flakes I saw in the fuel filter that he added onto the bike. That being said, I took the carburetor out and noticed one of the needles was bent, and the jet on that side was clogged. Ordered a rebuild kit; but don’t know really anything about carburetors. My question is, what kind of things should I look at to get this thing up and running? Also, I opened the oil cap and didn’t see much oil, I stuck my finger in there and it has a smell of gas. Bought 10w40 and a k&n oil filter, so I figured I would change out the oil. Any help would be appreciated!
 

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Welcome aboard!

First question: You said the bike sat for "a while". Do you know how long? Months? Years?

Rust in the tank isn't good... but they can be sealed. I recommend the POR 15 kit. It's not the cheapest, but it works great. With the fuel leak you mentioned, do make sure it's coming form the petcock or petcock gasket before trying to seal your tank. There's a small chance you have a rust hole. Water will settle to the lowest portion of the tank (below the gas), so the bottom of the tank is the first area rust will develop. Rust holes aren't common, but do occur. Best to do a visual inspection to make sure.

These carbs are pretty straight forward. Take your time, clean everything thoroughly (even the little holes that seem to go nowhere), and be careful in reassembly. Take plenty of pictures and notes if you're new to this.

My next question... You said you took the carb out... Was it a single carb or a pair? The 500s come with a pair of carbs, so just making sure we are on the same page.

Oil smelling like gas says you definitely need an oil change. But make sure you use a motorcycle specific oil. Most typical automotive oils don't work in motorcycles (there's a whole technical explanation for this, but I'm just trying to keep the post shorter by skipping that at the moment). I personally use Valvoline 10w40 motorcycle oil, but there are a host of others out there. Some of the Rotella 15w40 is suitable for motorcycles, just make sure to look for the JASO rating on the back of the jug. You can usually buy Rotella at Wal Mart or similar for $15-18 a gallon, which would serve you well for a couple oil changes.

Before plugging in that K&N filter, go grab a couple of cheapie oil filters. Chances are during your rebuild, you'll need to change the oil another time or two, so use the cheapies first.

Other things to look for in a long term stored bike:
Conditions of all the rubber hoses, boots, etc.
Brake fluid flush
Check electrical system for corrosion, chewed/frayed wires, etc.

That will help get her running again, then we can deal with road readiness (tires, light functionality, etc)

I'll be around, and I'm sure BikerBill will poke his head in as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hey thanks for replying!

As far as I know, it sat for around a year, the previous owner sent it to get fixed, the “mechanic” never did anything to it, except rattle can it blue lol. so the guy took it home and posted it online.

I’ll look into the tank sealer, thanks for the recommendation!

And it has dual carbs, just to clear that up. I took some carb cleaner and a guitar string and sprayed it all down cleaned out all of the small ports, and that’s how I found out that one of the needles that sit in the rubber diaphragm (almost looks like a nail, or firing pin) was bent. Also I noticed that the floats are spring loaded? From what I know about carburetors (which is very little) is that the floats are supposed to be free moving? These ones just stay in the up position due to spring retention.

I did pick up oil from cycle gear, they pointed me towards mobile 1 full synthetic 10w40, and a k&n filter, so I’ll take your advice and run some cheaper fluids/filters through it first so I’m not wasting the good stuff.

I’ll take a look at all the wiring and hoses while I have the tank and seat off, I’m sure they are due for replacement. And I have to find a tool to remove stripped bolts, because the brake fluid reservoir bolts are stripped out.

Thanks for the advice and I’ll keep poking around with it. I’ll update periodically and I welcome any help!
 

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The floats should not be spring loaded. If they have springs, something definitely isn't right. Study the diagram here and tell me if this is your setup or not:
https://www.partzilla.com/catalog/kawasaki/motorcycle/1997/vulcan-500-ltd-en500-c2/carburetor-parts

This is the tank sealer kit I was referring to:
[ame]https://www.amazon.com/POR-15-49229-Cycle-Tank-Repair/dp/B00J5947ME/ref=asc_df_B00J5947ME/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241984506923&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1847639644271661332&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9012198&hvtargid=aud-798931705416:pla-569363002014&psc=1[/ame]
I don't mean you have to buy from this seller (or on this site), but it's the first one that came up when I googled the kit to give an example.

I would personally stay away from the full synthetic on your bike for one big reason... It was probably ran with conventional oil, and that allows the seals and gaskets to swell just a little... Enough to prevent leaks. I have seen other bikes where the owners switched from dino oil to full synthetic and all of a sudden they had oil leaks everywhere and couldn't understand why. The synthetic oil doesn't react the same to the gasket material, so the gaskets shrink back and now you have leaks... I'd run conventional or a synthetic blend to prevent this.

Next tip: Stripped brake fluid reservoir screws....

I use a 3/16" standard drill bit and carefully drill the screw heads off. Make sure you're centered before you start and stop as soon as you see the ring (screw head left around the drill bit) start to move.

Once you drill one or both out (however is needed), you can lift the cap off and grab the stubs left with pliers and turn them out. The screw head is what holds the tension against the cap, and often the stubs will come right out with just your fingers once the head is removed.

Kinda FYI: At the shop I work at, it's $20 for us to drill and replace screws in a master cylinder like that, but once you've done it a few dozen times, it only takes about 5 minutes to do both screws.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I figured the float hardware is either the wrong one, or put in wrong. Thanks for confirming that theory for me. The link you sent looks just like the set up I have. I may order some backup parts there just for kicks!

I kinda thought about keeping it on original or a synthetic blend type oil but the guy at the shop was very adamant about using full synthetic so I went with it since it’s my first bike and maybe he knew something I didn’t.

And I’ll see what I can do about drilling those bolts out, how hard are they to find for replacements?
 

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As bad as this sounds, a lot of the bigger retail companies are pushing the full synthetic oil without knowing truly why. Certain oil companies are pushing them to push it, so they do. It's the herd mentality... once one cow moves and runs into another, they both start moving the same way... Of course, that may also be your retailer's primary oil supplier, and they get certain discounts the more they sell, too.

Checking my manual, your bike calls for 10w40, 10w50, 20w40, or 20w50 weight, and API SH or SJ rating with JASO MA. To untech it, conventional oil with the JASO MA rating, which means it's certified for motorcycle use.

The screws needed for your master cylinder are pretty easy to find. There's a Lowes about a mile from the shop that usually stocks them. We buy a 100ct box at th time usually (not a normally stocked quantity, but they do it for us). Take the stub when you pull it to match thread pattern (I want to say M4, but don't remember the pitch). Thread length will be around 5mm (below the tapered head that is). When I pulled mine on my 500, one stripped due to rust. I went ahead and dropped stainless screws in as replacements. Still was less that $1.50, and the pack had extras (it was a 6 or 8 piece pack for $1.28 i think). In Lowes, they're usually in the drawers in the hardware section, in the little white packs.

Of course, if you're like me, once you know the sizes and how many you need, I ordered a whole bunch of stainless hardware online. I found 100 packs of the screws for the top carb plate (around the diaphragm) for around $3. Only needed 8, and the packs in Lowes had 7 per pack, so was cheaper to order 100 than buy 3 packs. I'm a huge fan of stainless hardware in certain applications, motorcycles being one of them.

Sorry for rambling on... It's been a long week today spinning wrenches on the better half's car, plus I love to talk shop, so there you have it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I’m definitely going to look into getting just some plain oil, no synthetics. The place I went just about only had Mobil 1 so I figured it was their vendor, and at $13 a pop it wasn’t cheap either lol.

I’ll look at Lowe’s for what they have once I drill those screws out. I have a couple places around here that should have it. I definitely love to have backup hardware, and a lot of the screws on the bike are showing surface rust so I’d like to change them out anyways since it’s pretty cheap.

I did take a look at the hoses and wiring, it looks like everything is in good shape, maybe he recently had the hoses changed before he sold me the bike. The wiring however looks as good as 22 year old wiring can be, I did notice that maybe there’s a couple butt connectors spliced in some wires? Not sure if it’s factory or not, I’ll try to upload some pics. The negative cable that grounds to the starter was looking a little corroded so I took a bit of sandpaper and lightly took off what I could, I didn’t want to be too hard because the ring terminal connector is made out of brass.

I also took a video of the floats to show you what I was talking about, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/WYq9Wv8oNfc
 

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Sorry Vulcandoc, I have to disagree. Don't junk it.

The bits of your bike I can see look pretty good overall. The area shown in picture 2 is a whole lot cleaner than the same spot on my '08 was (or is).

I do understand the surface rust issue on the hardware. The PO of my bike kept it parked outside without cover, so both the good FL sun and the rain had their turns. That's why I dropped a couple hundred $$ on stainless hardware to replace everything as I work the bike over. Don't get intimidated by that figure, I bought a lot of 50 and 100 packs of stuff where I really only needed 2 for the bike, but it's stuff I use all the time anyway.

To get the proper styles of bolts, you'll probably have to hunt around online. Some of the standard bolt styles just don't look right when replacing a different style of bolt, and sometimes won't work (like when there's metal surrounding 3 sides of the bolt).

A little time online and you'll find what you need.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Your PO and mine sound the same. I’m not scared to roll up my sleeves and do some work, most of it looks to be in good condition, mostly cosmetics that I’m being picky about. It can all be replaced at some point or another, other than the brake fluid reservoir bolts. I like your idea about that hardware, the more the merrier in my eyes lol. Hopefully I’ll be getting my carb rebuild kit this week and fix the floats, replace gaskets, and replace that needle. I did look into that por-15 kit and it has some hit and misses, is there any special precautions I should take with the prep or seal process?
 

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Basic precautions: Keep the tank clean (unless you plan on repainting it).

When sealing a tank, I usually water flush the tank before I start to get any residual fuel out.

The instructions say to add water to the degreaser, but I don't. I seal or plug every hole on the tank as well for obvious reasons. The rubber vacuum caps work well for the vent holes. Remove the petcock and seal that hole, as the nuts and washers can damage the screen (since you have scale coming through to an external filter now, that's another issue to address later). The cap should work fine for the main filler neck if your gasket is good. Good duck tape should work for sealing the hole where the petcock goes. Change the tape after every step.

Since you already have rust scale (the flakes in your filter), I'd add a handful of small nuts and washers when doing the degreaser step. Pro tip: Count how many of each you put in and check them all first to make sure they stick to a magnet. A magnet on a stick will be your friend for removing them.

Add the whole quart of degreaser, and shake the heck out of the tank. Think the way your washing machine does... back and forth. Rotate the angle of the tank as you go so the nuts and such scrub different surfaces from different angles. At the shop, I'll usually spend about 2 hours on this step alone. It's time consuming, but the better your prep, the better the end result.

After scrubbing, I usually carefully drain and filter the degreaser back into the bottle. A good funnel and a coffee filter work well here. Then I remove all my nuts and washers.

Next is to water wash the tank again to get all the degreaser out. Spend 20-30 minutes to get it all out thoroughly. Flood the tank and drain it a few times, hold the tank under water (if you have a barrel or similar), whatever works.

I thoroughly dry the tank at this stage and do a visual inspection. I use compressed air to remove the bulk water remaining, then a heat gun to aid my dry times. Be careful not to overheat the tank. If it's too hot to keep your hand on comfortably, it's too hot. For the visual, I have one of those scope type cameras that hooks to my phone just for this type of work. If needed, I'll repeat the last steps, and scrub the tank again.

Next comes the metal prep (or acid treatment). The instructions say you don't need a thoroughly dry tank, but I found it works better if you dry the tank completely first. Also to make this easier, I use a chair that has a nice, soft padded base and back.

Add the whole quart of acid, slosh it around good for a couple minutes, and set the tank down. Come back in a couple minutes, slosh it around, and set the tank down in a different position. The idea is that every time you set the tank down, the pool of liquid is resting on a different part of the tank. Continue this until you have had the acid resting on every part of the tank, twice. It'll take you a couple hours. You want to coat the top, bottom, sides, front, back, etc. Every time you move it, slosh it around really well. This makes sure areas like the top of the hump get treated as well, because there's no real way to set the tank with the acid resting on it. The chair I mentioned comes in handy because it allows you to rest the tank in different positions with support to keep it form flopping over.

After that, filter and drain the acid back into it's bottle.

Water wash the tank again to remove the last of the acid, and thoroughly dry the tank again. This time, it's a must do. A single drop of water in the tank can ruin the sealing process.

Now, remove your filler cap, and the pipe plugs from your vent lines. Shove pipe cleaners or similar into your vent lines as far as they will go. If they get filled with sealer, they're blocked permanently.

Add the sealer into the tank, and seal the filler neck with a good duck tape. take 30 mins and keep turning the tank over and sideways and all around to make sure the sealer coats every bit of the inside of the tank. Then, after another 20-30 mins, you can drain any excess sealer (if you wish), or stand the tank up and let any excess sealer pool to the back (skinny) end of the tank. You can also try setting the tank flat to let any excess pool into the low sections, but you might have to do some extra cleaning around the petcock opening this way. Give it another half hour and unseal everything. Pull the pipe cleaners out as well. If the sealer dries with them in place, they're in there for good. Take a minute and make sure the area where the cap sits is clean as well as petcock mounting areas

Let the tank sit 4 full days (5-6 is better). You cannot add fuel to the tank before the curing time is complete, and if you opt to let excess sealer pool to the end of the tank, it may take an extra day to fully cure.

Now, reinstall your hardware and you have a nicely sealed tank!

I did see some of the negatives on the POR kits, and the vast majority come form people not following the directions properly. I have sealed probably 100-120 tanks at the shop and another 20 or so at home and have never had an issue. I take that back, my very first tank failed miserably. I didn't follow the directions. I didn't degrease the tank first, didn't dry the tank between the metal prep and sealing, and didn't block off my vent holes. After that failure, I bought a new tank. Some conversations with the POR people showed me where I went wrong, and they were nice enough to send me another kit. I tried it on a junker tank I had following their directions, and it worked beautifully. The junker tank had 3 or 4 pinholes from rust, and it sealed them right up. That was some years ago, and my buddy who has the bike now still rides it and no leaks!

Any other questions, I'll be around
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow that sounds pretty meticulous! Very thorough though thanks for giving a heads up. I’ll make sure to put a day aside to just working on that. Would a hair dryer work in place of a heat gun? Or does it not get hot enough?
 

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Wow that sounds pretty meticulous! Very thorough though thanks for giving a heads up. I’ll make sure to put a day aside to just working on that. Would a hair dryer work in place of a heat gun? Or does it not get hot enough?
The short answer is yes. It will actually be better if you're not used to the process because it's almost impossible to overheat the tank that way. I've actually scorched the paint on a couple of my personal tanks trying to get in a hurry (and still learning my process). Thankfully they were getting repainted anyway, but lesson learned.

BTW, another tip... when drying, stand the tank vertical, filler neck down, and stick the tip of the heat gun/hair dryer right against (or into) the filler neck hole. The closer to bottom the filler neck hole is, the better. That pushes the hot air directly into the tank and out through the petcock and vent holes, giving a bit faster dry time as it will more evenly heat the entire inside of the tank. once the tank is warm (not hot), rotate the tank around from time to time to move whatever water is inside around and get it in contact with the warmer parts of the tank. Water will tend to settle along the bottom seams if you rest the tank on a surface as it would sit on the bike, so a little extra attention in those areas from outside helps as well.

Here in FL, we also sometimes can just set the tank outside in the morning and let the sun cook it all day. That's pretty effective, just slow. Seeing as how you're way up north, I don't know how well that would work for you.

It'll be a full day's work. At the shop, I can usually knock out 2-3 tanks in a day (10 hours), but that's pushing it. That's also staging the timing of each one just so, so as I'm acid washing one, i'm degreasing another, and so on.

I'm actually working on plans to build an automatic shaker for cleaning tanks... basically a glorified paint shaker (though not as fast or violent lol). My biggest issue at this point is secure mounting for all of the various types of tanks, since we see everything from typical motorcycle tanks (like on the 500) to the HD twin tanks, to in-frame tanks (think Goldwings), to smaller tanks like on the old Honda 3 wheelers, even the occasional lawnmower or tractor tank. I have my media figured out, it's down to a matter of mounting the tanks securely.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
So I got my rebuild kit in, replaced the jets, needles, and gaskets. The throttle was sticking open so I pulled the start/kill switch apart, took the throttle cables out and put a few drops of 3 in 1 down the cable tubes, and now it works great! Snaps to the close position no problem. I also got those brake reservoir screws out and got replacement ones. I figure since I have it apart may as well do a brake flush too. When I had the carb out I went ahead and cleaned the air filter box. I got everything back together, wanted to start it and see if she would stay alive. Still need to do the tank but the rust doesn’t look like it would prohibit fuel to be siphoned out. She started up for a good few minutes, had to adjust the choke to get her idling, but then after a few minutes of warming up she bogged out and wouldn’t start back up. I did notice fuel leaking from where the petcock mates with the tank, as well as the nipple on the bottom of the float bowl. I tighten the screw the intersects the nipple on the bottom of the float bowl, and it looks like fuel is no longer leaking from there. Do you think the fuel leaking from the petcock is starving the carbs causing it to not run properly? It’s a good amount of fuel so I’m kind of thinking I need to replace the gasket. Either way I’m going to replace it. I’m just curious if I’m overlooking anything that could cause the engine to not idle or run properly?

Thanks
 

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Gas in the oil??

Gas in the oil mean your needle in float bowl is leaking. Overfilling the carb and flowing threw the intake washing oil off piston and mixing with gas.

Fix this problem first.

:surprise:

Tank rust go to ace hardware get some chains 8 inches long put some vinegar and baking soda in tank with chains and shake around to get the rust out. Flush tank then use a inline fuel filter.
 

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Gas in the oil mean your needle in float bowl is leaking. Overfilling the carb and flowing threw the intake washing oil off piston and mixing with gas.

Fix this problem first.

Tank rust go to ace hardware get some chains 8 inches long put some vinegar and baking soda in tank with chains and shake around to get the rust out. Flush tank then use a inline fuel filter.
Yep... that's what we're working on, except for the chains thing. The chain idea isn't a new one, but it's not very effective either. Tank sealer is sooo much better, and the correct way to handle the issue. Without sealing the tank, rust will only develop over and over until you have holes in your tank.
 

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So I got my rebuild kit in, replaced the jets, needles, and gaskets. The throttle was sticking open so I pulled the start/kill switch apart, took the throttle cables out and put a few drops of 3 in 1 down the cable tubes, and now it works great! Snaps to the close position no problem. I also got those brake reservoir screws out and got replacement ones. I figure since I have it apart may as well do a brake flush too. When I had the carb out I went ahead and cleaned the air filter box. I got everything back together, wanted to start it and see if she would stay alive. Still need to do the tank but the rust doesn’t look like it would prohibit fuel to be siphoned out. She started up for a good few minutes, had to adjust the choke to get her idling, but then after a few minutes of warming up she bogged out and wouldn’t start back up. I did notice fuel leaking from where the petcock mates with the tank, as well as the nipple on the bottom of the float bowl. I tighten the screw the intersects the nipple on the bottom of the float bowl, and it looks like fuel is no longer leaking from there. Do you think the fuel leaking from the petcock is starving the carbs causing it to not run properly? It’s a good amount of fuel so I’m kind of thinking I need to replace the gasket. Either way I’m going to replace it. I’m just curious if I’m overlooking anything that could cause the engine to not idle or run properly?

Thanks
Okay, now on to this part...

Please, let's save time... do not run the engine (freshly built carbs) on rusty fuel. I ~hope~ you at least plugged in a fresh fuel filter first. If you didn't take these precautions, it's okay, it just may mean a bit more hands-on work. Running on the rusty fuel can let those bits back into the carbs, which can mean having to go through the process of removing and cleaning them all over again. Best course of action is to either take care of sealing the tank or purchase/make an external fuel bottle to run the bike on with the tank removed.

A bottle of the sort I'm referring to can be found here:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Motion-Pro-Deluxe-Motorcycle-Auxiliary-Remote-Fuel-Tank-Tuning-Bottle/162052281351?epid=171146515&hash=item25bb119407:g:hoIAAOSweW5VWRV8

I actually made my first one from an old food can with a fitting brazed into the bottom to attach the hose to. I've also made a temporary version out of a 2 liter bottle and air fittings drilled through the cap.

Great thinking cleaning the air filter and checking your cables! You got ahead of me on that, but it shows you're looking in the right direction.

As for your leaky carbs, after you make sure your bowl drain screw is decently tight, if you're still leaking fuel, try giving each carb a couple decent taps on the bowl with something like a screwdriver handle. Not so hard as to knock them loose, but firm enough to jostle the float inside a bit. Many times the float will stick initially and leak from the overflow port, and a couple good taps will free it up. I'd guess about 80% of the bikes we do carb rebuilds on at the shop leak initially. A couple good taps usually lets the float settle into it's proper position and pivot freely.

Also, unfortunately, if this doesn't work, the carbs may have to come back off to check for crud from the tank.

The fuel leaking from the petcock won't starve the bike. From what you described, the opposite is happening. You're getting too much fuel for one reason or another. If you want to test this, hold the throttle wide open when you try to start it after it bogs out and dies. But also be ready to back it off as soon as the bike fires.

As for idle, you shouldn't have to have the choke on at all to get the bike to idle. If you do, that shows something is still plugged or generally not right inside the carbs, and they need to come back off and be checked again. There is a pilot jet and a main jet. The pilot jet controls fuel metering for the idle and low RPM ranges. It's also very commonly overlooked during a carb cleaning.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Ok so I stood the bike up, like I’m going to ride it, and fuel started dumping from the air box runoff hose. Soooo I pulled the carbs cause something isn’t right. I took some pictures so you can see what’s going on as well because my descriptions aren’t the best since I’m new to this. Thank you for all the help by the way! Hands down best forum community!

Anyways, as far as I can tell everything still looks clean. Bad fuel hasn’t gummed anything up that I can see, I still did pull the jets and spray some carb clean though. One thing I didn’t do before was pull the floats apart and look at the “plungers”. One was pretty fouled up and the other looked alright. I replaced both anyways. The floats themselves look to be in good condition (no warping, cracks) so I left those alone. I pulled the idle/air mix screw (I believe that’s the name for it). I counted the revolutions it took to go in first (which was 1 1/2 revolutions each) then pulled them, cleaned them, and put them back in with the same 1 1/2 revolutions. If there’s anything I’m missing to double check let me know. I’ll wait before I throw the carbs back in (I have a GREAT time with the throttle cables and my fat fingers lol).
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Also I just checked the float height and it was set at 23mm. I went ahead and adjusted that back down to what the manual says (17mm). Hopefully this is the last time for a while that I have to mess with this thing. It’s definitely not my specialty lol
 
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