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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Vulcan 500 Leaks & other issues

Hello everyone, I have a 2003 Vulcan 500. She's been running fine, but I took her to the shop for an inspection today and here are the issues:

- Left fork seal weeping, needs seal replaced
- Oil and coolant residue under water pump, possible water pump leak
- Sprocket is showing signs of wear
- Front tire has low tread depth, should be replaced soon
- Front brake pads at 1mm

I am new to motorcycles, but I am wondering if any of these issues are fixable by myself. I am not super mechanically knowledgable, nor do I have a jack, but the shop quoted me $1200 for the fork seals, sprocket, and possible fix of the oil leak, so I'd really rather try to fix things myself...

Please let me know what you think is doable! And also if you know of any good jacks for the vulcan 500, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks in advance :)
 

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First, welcome aboard!

Working on your own bike is a great way to get to know the bike better, and these bikes are actually very easy to work on. I'll go over your list and give you a few pointers...

Tools: You'll need the basic mechanic's hand tools (ratchet & sockets, screwdrivers, etc) in metric (mm). You will also need a torque wrench. A good basic one is here:
https://www.harborfreight.com/38-in-drive-click-type-torque-wrench-63880.html

You will want a motorcycle jack. At the shop I part-time at, we have all the fancy air lifts and goodies, but for my home use, I use a basic motorcycle jack from Harbor Freight Tools. At around $100, it's a great investment that will end up saving you a lot of money in the end.
https://www.harborfreight.com/1500-lbs-capacity-atvmotorcycle-lift-60536.html

Your front brakes are probably the easiest thing to do on your list. My shop manual says it's a 15 minute job. If I remember correctly, it's only 2 bolts that hold the caliper on, then open the caliper back up, change the actual pads, and reassemble.

Front tire: This one you can partially do yourself, and partially it's best to have a shop help with. Removing the wheel from the bike is pretty straightforward. With the bike on a jack, remove the front brake caliper, then remove the axle bolt that goes through the center of the front wheel. Be careful of the speedometer drive that's on the opposite side from the brakes. From there, I would personally take the tire/wheel to a shop and let them change the tire and balance it. Remember, brakes go on the left (as you're sitting on the bike). The tires have a rotational direction, and the shop will need that bit of info to properly mount the new tire correctly. By removing the wheel from the bike, it cuts a lot of labor costs a shop would charge. At the shop I work at, it goes from 2 1/2 hours down to 1/2 hour, or about $185 down to about $35.

Fork seals: This is another one you can partially do yourself and partially at a shop. You can remove the fork legs yourself. First, remove the front wheel (just like for changing the tire), then remove the fender. Loosen all your bolts for the turn signals and misc clamps, then the main clamp bolts on the triple tree. Carefully slide the fork leg down and out. I would go ahead and do both fork legs at the same time. That way the oil is consistent through both, seals are all fresh, etc. From there, I would have a shop repair them. There are some specialized tools used, and a couple parts under high tension that can be dangerous if you're not aware of them. But again, by removing and reinstalling them yourself, you save a considerable amount of labor costs.

I grouped those first 3 together because they can all be done as a set without excess assembly/reassembly. If you are repairing the fork seals, you will already have the front wheel off and front brakes apart, making the overall job more streamlined for you.

Also see if the shop you use will allow you to bring your own parts. You can often find good quality parts cheaper than the shop's prices (and definitely before their markup). The parts for this portion aren't very expensive, say around $100ish (front tire, fork seals and dust boots, front brake pads).

Now, oil and coolant residue. before you do anything about replacing parts, check the fluids, clean the area thoroughly, and run/ride. Then come back and look again. You could have residue from a sloppy fill, or you could have a leak. The only way to know for sure is to clean it up and see if the fluids come back. No point spending money on parts you don't need yet.

Chain and sprockets: I am actually going to defer this to BikerBill. I have not done a chain/sprocket change on this bike, but I am getting ready to on mine. However, BikerBill has done a few on his 500.
 

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Apart from this, consider getting new radiator cap and checking thermostat, most of the people don't bother but it is important, I bet that cap on the bike has never been replaced and it will probably leak some pressure. New is under $40.
If you see indentations on rubber seal on radiator cap, replace it.
Fork seals, water pump gaskets, water pump seals - this is all cheap, each part costs less than $15 each!
Sprockets and chain, brake pads, new tires are major financial impact.

But $1200 is too much IMHO, for that money you can get whole Vulcan 500 in good condition.
DKC wrote you good tips, bikerbill will know more about rest.
Getting all the needed parts and tools will not cost you much more than 1/3 of the price shop asked for.
Just do some research and see where you can get what you need for lowest price.
 

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Welcome viva500. Both DKC and Markoen500 give some good advice.

The chain and sprockets replacement is fairly straightforward. If you choose to use the OEM chain you will have to remove the swingarm to replace it as it is an endless-chain type. (no master link) I use standard chain with a clip style master link. The front sprocket nut will probably need an impact wrench to remove. Replacing the rear sprocket requires removing the rear wheel. JT Sprockets has served me well in the sprockets department. I am currently using a Regina ZRP 520-110 chain, although any quality 520-110 o-ring chain can work. Just make sure it is motorcycle specific.

Regarding the leak on the engine: It could be the water pump shaft seal. Take a look at the post links below and compare. Do the cleanup suggestion from DKC to evaluate it before taking things apart. Unless you are comfortable taking semi-major engine components off leave this one to the professionals.

https://www.vulcanforums.com/forums/50-vulcan-500/74682-oil-leak.html#post1201858
https://www.vulcanforums.com/forums/11-general-vulcan-talk/4977-highest-miles-vulcan-500-a-6.html#post2337601

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks so much for the advice DKC, MARKOEN500, and bikerbill.

I bought a jack yesterday so updates on these problems will come soon!
 
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