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Discussion Starter #1
So must be a midlife crisis thing, but I just bought my first bike - 2004 Vulcan 500. I'm looking for some advice on what I need to have checked out or done maintenance wise to make sure it's safe, and get it running in top condition.

Bike was very, very lightly laid over with a small dent/scrape on the side of the tank, and just a bit of the tail pipe buggered up. I'll get to the cosmetics eventually but not worried about that now.

Previous owner very rarely rode it the last 3 years, but seemed to take good care of it. Tuned up and oil changed 2 years ago. Other than that he said he really didn't have any mechanical issues. Test ride (I had an experienced rider do it) rode very well, but has a slight hesitation when you get on the gas from low RPMs. Needs a rear tire (suggestions?).

I plan to change oil and filter. I've drained the fuel. Tank that I can see looks totally flawless inside. Plan to run a bit of Seafoam (chime in with your favorite in-fuel carb cleaner), thinking it's probably just a bit gummed up.

1) What do I need to have checked out to make sure the bike has no issues that would be a safety hazard?
2) What other maintenance issues should I have done/checked?

I plan to have a local shop check it out but wife has me on a tight budget so I want to do what is necessary and no more. I don't mind tinkering (used to have to with my 67 Mustang 20 years ago all the time) if there are tasks that make more sense for me to do myself.

Any advice/tips greatly appreciated!
 

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I had a 67 Fastback for many years (red). Wound up giving it to one of my sons, so I can tell you within a few inches where that car is right now. In fact I'll see it tomorrow. Damn I miss it!

Ok, you ask about safety items to check/do.
Aside from changing the rear tire anyway because you already stated it needed changing, I'd research online on how-to read the codes on the tires so that you can determine how old they are (or in your case just the front tire). All tires have a code on them telling of their manufacture date. Even when you buy "new" tires its possible to get some that are already a year or two old. Tread life is only part of the story. Read up on how old motorcycle tires should be before they become a safety hazard due to pure age. Note that there are different opinions on this subject. Time makes a difference. Once you've educated yourself on the subject, you can see how old your tire is and then make your own decision as to keeping it or not.
Another school of thought there is that if you're going to change the rear tire, you may as well change the front if for no other reason but to keep them both on the same change-out schedule. But knowing the age is a good thing to know just for giggles.

There are tons of good tires out there. I think Shinko makes a good, inexpensive tire that'll do you right. Shenko 230 TourMaster are what I am running right now but really, there are TONS of great tires to choose from.

SeaFoam is good to use.

While this is not a safety related thing, you may want to, at the very least, flush the cooling system and put some fresh coolant in it. I use a product called Engine Ice. I also changed out my thermostat and hoses a couple of years back. Nothing was giving me problems but since I am the original owner of my '06 Vn750 I knew the system was all original and due for a change just because of age. Yours is 2 years older. If it's all original you might want to swap it out. (Think: what would you do for the Mustang?)
Oh, one thing to be positive of in relation to engine coolant. Regardless of the brand you buy make absolutely sure its for motorcycles. DO NOT use the same anti freeze that you'd have put into that Mustang.

Same basic age-related storyline goes for the brake fluid. If it's original, then its time. Use the standard DOT 3 or 4 brake fluid the bike's book calls for. I'd not try to get anything "high performance" or "racing". That stuff is made to be changed out far more often. I've discovered that the folks in the closest motorcycle dealership (Honda/Yamaha) didn't know that. You can educate yourself on the subject of brake fluid online.

If you can locate an online Kawasaki maintenance manual for your bike, download it. There are other folks that make good manuals, too. When I am about to do something that I haven't done before I'll just print out the appropriate pages and bring them into the garage with me.

Quite a few folks in here have or have had 500s, a handful of people just recently joined. You can hang out in the 500 section of this forum and see what other people talk about.

How's your air filter?

You've got a fun bike. ENJOY it!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks VN570. All good stuff.

Coolant doesn't scare me to do myself, brake fluid on the other hand... Getting a little more nervous monkeying with something so safety critical.
 

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I've got new brake fluid in my garage but simply haven't done it yet. Brake fluid doesn't like moisture and with the exception of hard core summer here, there is always a lot of humidity in the air in western Washington state. Maybe I'll do it this summer.
 

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So it runs and goes. I wouldn't worry about minor flaws in how it runs till you put some miles on it. Carbs tend to self clean with use if you are lucky. Do what you said you were going to do and ride it. Go slow, get used to each other, if you have a place with no traffic run it slow in tight circles and figure eights, and get the low speed handling down pat. Get used to the brakes, shifting, stop and go. Then go on a day trip and enjoy.
 

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If it is chain drive, clean the chain and check for rust and kinks. If in good shape use a quality chain lube and keep it lubed and clean frequently. 500 is a great bike. I miss mine, I traded it in on a Nomad and am loving it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So it runs and goes. I wouldn't worry about minor flaws in how it runs till you put some miles on it. Carbs tend to self clean with use if you are lucky. Do what you said you were going to do and ride it. Go slow, get used to each other, if you have a place with no traffic run it slow in tight circles and figure eights, and get the low speed handling down pat. Get used to the brakes, shifting, stop and go. Then go on a day trip and enjoy.
All good advice... We're out in the country, but with a lot of subdivisions so I'd call more of suburban/rural. I've taken in out on a madden voyage in an off-peak hour in terms of traffic, but it's not ideal for learning in a safe environment like would be if there were very few driveways and intersecting roads. I know of a great industrial park that is dead after the normal work day that would be perfect. Unfortunately it's about 5 miles down a major 4 lane highway I'm not crazy about until I get more muscle memory and a feel for emergency braking, etc., so it's kind of a catch 22.

I plan to do a motorcycle riding course when schedule allows.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
So good news so far... I drained the fuel in the tank and filled it with fresh with a good dose of Seafoam. On the madden voyage, the hesitation was gone almost instantly. Hard to believe it would work that quick but in any case it's very smooth and responsive so I think we're good on the carbs.

Weather is still unusually cold in Northern Indiana but I've talked to a local shop about the back tire and I'm going to take advantage of the sucky weather to drop it with them and have them replace the back tire. They have a Dunlop of some sort in stock for about $100+ install. They offered to do a safety inspection free of charge to check brakes, etc. to make sure she's mechanically safe.

Meanwhile I'm going to shop for safety gear. I'm looking for a leather armored jacket. I have a borrowed full face I plan to use for an extended period. Style wise ultimately I'd like to go half-helmet, but some of the stats regarding your face taking impacts in accidents have me re-thinking that one.

Thanks again for all the advice!
 

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Yeah, SeaFoam is pretty quick acting. You don't really feel the effects if your fuel system is in decent shape already. But if its all gunked up, yep, you'll feel it then.

Its also ok to put it in your crankcase oil BUT you absolutely HAVE to change the oil out very soon afterward. If you suspect there is goo internally, for whatever reason, put the recommended dosage into the oil, ride it for 40 or 50 miles (tops) and do a THOROUGH draining of oil, replace the filter, and assuming it has an oil screen, clean that also.

SeaFoam in the oil is definitely not a long term thing to do but it will give the guts a good cleaning. If you don't suspect any internal issues then I'd leave well enough alone and just let the fresh oil do its normal thing.

I have three helmets. The original is a half face but I don't wear it anymore. It has too much of a "Spaceballs" look to it. Kinda dorky. My other half face is white and has its own sun shield that flips down. And I also have a full face job which feels safest.

A thought for you to ponder about is helmet color. Two of my helmets are black. I put some yellow reflective tape on them so as to show-up at night (not that I ride much at night). The third helmet (half face with drop down sun shield) is white. I remember reading somewhere that car drivers will see a white helmet faster and more often than a rider with a dark helmet. After reading that I also tended to notice bike riders with white helmets more so than black helmets. So I purposefully chose white. Whenever I decide to retire my current full face one I'll replace it with a white one, too.
 

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#1: Realize your bike is 14 years old and that it will need some initial maintenance. Learn to do it yourself; not hard, just scary for the first time and is fun and very, rewarding.
#2: Always assume the previous owners did nothing, check things for yourself if you are going to keep it and ride it. Get a service manual and jump in there like we all did. If not your cup of tea, then plan on spending $$ for dealers to do it. In 2009 I took my new 900LT to a dealer to service it. I think the bill was close to $300. Then I did it again the next year. NEVER AGAIN I finally told myself. Since then my grandson and I have bought over 50 old bikes (mostly dirt bikes) and semi-restored them. All but one of the 50 ran GREAT when we were done. (The one that didn't, we traded for another that did. It was a vacuum leak on a 1988 Honda 2-stroke we never could find. We would have found that leak today. LOL )
#3: Don't spend any money on cosmetics, or anything, except for what it takes to get the engine running great. Then you know you have a good bike and then make sense to spend money on the other things, but after you have ridden short distances testing tranny.

Whenever I get an old bike that I'm going to ride (assuming it's running) I do what others above have already suggested to you. The very first things I do are to check/adjust the valves and pull the carb and check float height, jet sizes, and clean it pristine. I empty the old gas, and drain FRESH gas thru the petcock and into a white coffee filter lined Mason jar. If there is ANY debris in it, off comes the tank, hoses, and petcock for inspection/cleaning. On all old bikes, I put on new fuel hoses. PO's often use the wrong hoses and ethanol loves slowly eating them up=tiny, tiny pieces of rubber in your newly cleaned carb. Then I change all fluids, check all hoses and cables, and check brakes. When I'm stuck waiting on parts I clean the bike and read these forums and other related sites. LOL Keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Its also ok to put it in your crankcase oil BUT you absolutely HAVE to change the oil out very soon afterward. If you suspect there is goo internally, for whatever reason, put the recommended dosage into the oil, ride it for 40 or 50 miles (tops) and do a THOROUGH draining of oil, replace the filter, and assuming it has an oil screen, clean that also.

SeaFoam in the oil is definitely not a long term thing to do but it will give the guts a good cleaning. If you don't suspect any internal issues then I'd leave well enough alone and just let the fresh oil do its normal thing.
Hmm... saw that you could put it in the oil, but good to know about the long term thing... I don't suspect anything wrong in there, but I've got a new filter and fresh oil I was going to put in as soon as I get it back from the shop putting on the tire. Makes me ponder throwing some foam in for a few miles on the old oil before the swap. Thanks.
 

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Sure. If you plan to change the oil anyway then it won't hurt to put in whatever dosage is correct and then go ride it for a nice 40/50 miles. Once it has cooled down enough to handle, drain as many drops out of it as you can.

The basic thing to remember about oil and a motorcycle is that it is best to run just normal oil in it. Don't get into oil with any special cleaners or anything. Don't get sucked into buying/using super-duper claims of an advertisement or knuckle-head sales pitch. You just want it for the basic lubricating quality and nothing else. SeaFoam in it is a special purpose event meant to be very short term.

The reason is the clutch discs are also in that crankcase environment. So longer-term than the 40/50 mile "SeaFoam run" is not good for them. And once you do it, you should probably never have to do it again.

There may not even be any real reason to do it in the first place. But, assuming you only have it in for ONE ride, it won't do any harm and may do some good, although you probably won't be able to feel a difference. At least you will KNOW that it was done. As texasgrape said: always assume the previous owner did nothing.
 

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I always wonder how Seafoam can tell the difference between the oil chemistry that is designed to cling to critical metal surfaces for protection and the un-desireable components that are sticking to other surfaces?
 

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I have never used it in my oil (I would be a little hesitant on that)Maybe to clean & flush...But never long term.... But I use it in my fuel once a month.
 

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I use Seafoam every fourth tank. When I have about 2 gallons left, I add 3 oz. to the remaining 2 gallons to scavenge any moisture and to run some through the carb hopefully keeping it clean. Gas mileage drops significantly which is why I use it sparingly. Never used it in the oil.
 

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SeaFoam use in oil should really ever need to be, at most, a one-time thing, and under the very short-term conditions that I spoke of. So, if you put it in your oil this morning it better damn well be out of the motor before night time.

Its something that you "can" do but probably won't "have" to do unless you suspect something is amiss inside. Or it can be done so that you can reset your own mental maintenance clock and you'll KNOW that as of such and such date it definitely has a clean insides regardless of how well (or not) it was maintained before.

I also run it through my gas tank once in a while but on no particular schedule. I tend to carry some with me so that should I fill up from some local, non-big name place (Bob's Gas stop instead of, say, a Shell or Chevron station) or I fill up at any station that is also in the process of re-filling its own underground tank (which would be stirring up the muck at the bottom of the underground tank) I'll have it available right now.

So, not intending to turn this thread into a SeaFoam commercial, its one of the simple things that can be done by someone of even minor mechanical experience, when getting a new-to-them motorcycle. Skinnyguy has already noticed the bike to have more pep to it.
 

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I still wonder while Seafoam is scouring the gobs of gunk out of the inside of the engine why it does not also scrub the oil additives that stick to vital parts that require protection, thus accelerating engine wear?

As an add, any engine that I have had apart is remarkably clean, anyways.
Motorcycle engines are not usually subject to the conditions that produce sludge and slime that many car engines are.
Modern oils are a marvel of complex chemistry and to add something that has the possibility of altering its properties is not good, in my book.

Does that make any sense?

Just my opinion.
 
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