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Discussion Starter #1
Hi ! I've been advised by the administrator to re-post here, having initially posted under 'new-members'. Bear with me ...

I'vecently acquired a 1992 Vulcan EN500A3 with 32,000 miles on the clock. It's been sitting under a tarp in the woods for the last 5 years ! Not surprisingly, the piston rings have rusted into the bores, and the engine is seized as a result. I've got the plugs out and I've half-filled the cylinders with a mixture of WD40 and 2-stroke oil. Now, here's my dilemma. As you probably know, the VN500 won't let you change up through the gearbox at a standstill, so with a view to rocking the pistons loose 1st gear is my only option (not ideal). Furthermore, shock loading is reduced by slight elasticity in the belt-drive, which doesn't help at all. The alternative, would normally be to put a big wrench on the hex on the end of the crankshaft, but as far as I can see, the Vulcan doesn't have one ! That leaves the starter motor, but I am very reluctant to engage the starter on a seized engine. Has anyone got any better ideas as to how I might break the pistons loose ? Any advice much appreciated. Many thanks.
 

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One of the advantages of motorcycle engines is their small size, so take advantage of that. If the pistons seized you have no idea what else is messed up in there. Personally, I'd suggest you just rip the engine out and rebuild it. It would also allow you to check all the seals, etc and remove any rust-related debris.

If you're not a gearhead, now is a good time to learn! If you can grab a Haynes/Chilton or official Kawa manual you should, but if you can't maybe you can find someone to help you. Worst case, you can YouTube it.
 

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Well, 2 things could help. using a wooden rod and a hammer, give the tops of the pistons a few hits. not "trying to drive a railroad spike through a 4x4" hard, but solid. It's not so much trying to move the piston as just to give a little shock to crack the rings loose. the other thing you can try but is pretty iffy is to use a torch to heat it up after you drain it, then hit it with the wd 40 again.

The other options are to try marvel mystery oil, automatic transmission fluid or coca cola in there :D
 

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From your intro thread:

Thanks for your prompt response. What would you recommend as an effective readily- available penetrating fluid ?
I don't know what's available in France, but there are several brands here in the US. "Liquid Wrench", "Blaster", and even, confusingly enough, a "WD-40 Multi-Purpose Penetrant" which is different from what we all call WD-40. Any auto parts shop should have some brand of it. You don't need to fill up the cylinder half-way -- 1 to 2 cm deep should be more than enough. If you can get some of that Marvel Mystery Oil, give that a try. It does contain "penetrant additives." People swear it cures everything from seized engines to male pattern baldness!

I had forgotten the Coca-Cola trick that EasyEJL mentioned -- it's not a joke, the phosphoric acid in the Coca-Cola attacks the rust. Given enough time it might attack the rest of the steel in there, too, but it is much less reactive with steel than with rust. Just don't pour it in and leave it for a month or something!

As USinPhils says, your wisest course toward a long-lived and properly performing bike is to pull the engine and rebuild it properly. Whatever is rusted together in there -- and we're assuming it IS rust, not an engine that welded itself together from overheating or oil starvation -- the metal isn't going to grow back. A lot of the other tasks ahead of you get a whole lot easier without the engine in the way, too. (If it was so wet the engine rusted inside, chances are good you have some electrical issues to sort out in the chassis wiring and some brake work to do as well, at the very least.)

But, if your attitude is more, "Hey, let's not go insane. It's a 25 year old bike, let's see if we can get a season of riding out of the old girl," at least do an oil change once you get it loosened up. You'll probably end up cleaning the carbs and rebuilding them, too. Be very suspicious of the brakes; the previous owner obviously was not a great maintainer of motorcycles. Those tires are probably antiques by now -- they don't last forever, even if they're just sitting in a field doing nothing.

One way or another, it sounds like you have a winter project ahead of you. Whether it is a big one or a small one is up to you and the bike. Good luck with it!
 

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On the LHS of the engine (as you're sat on the bike) there are two plugs. Unscrew the lower (and larger) of the two and you will find a nut for the crank.

I don't envy you that job at all.

How does the rest of the bike look?
 

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Lucca, what we're all trying to tell you is this is probably going to be quite the project -- and likely not a cheap one.

As sfair indicated, you don't even know it is the rings that are seized. If that much moisture got into the engine, it could be just about anything, including the expensive bits in the crankcase.

In the US, the value of that bike in good condition is about $850 -- 715 Euros. As it sits right now, it doesn't even have an official value, it's a parts bike.

You'll almost certainly spend at least that much by the time you put on fresh tires, buy a new battery, rebuild the brakes, and fix the inevitable "little things" besides the seized engine. Unless you're like some of us and just like fixing stuff, this doesn't look like much of a bargain even if you got the bike for free.

On the other hand, if you're one of us who just likes a project, have at it!
 

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No I dont understand how sitting for years in the woods would seize the rings or anything INSIDE the engine.
It should be sealed up and no way for the ring to rust.

This is a piece of junk and treat it as such!
 

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No I dont understand how sitting for years in the woods would seize the rings or anything INSIDE the engine.
It should be sealed up and no way for the ring to rust.

This is a piece of junk and treat it as such!
Oh, I can come up with a scenario or two -- like coolant in the crankcase from a leaking water pump seal, and/or a head gasket that was leaking before it got put away that left coolant in the cylinder.

Or some extraordinary combination of bad condition and bad luck that somehow transported moisture through an open valve.

What I can't seem to come up with is any "normal" or minor way it would happen. As is usually the case, there probably was some good reason the bike stayed parked for five years.

As I said, quite the project -- at a minimum.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Well, we'll see. The bike was given to me for free with clear title, so it doesn't owe me anything. It was sat out in the woods for 5 years without a seat, so the airbox was very exposed to atmospheric moisture, and I assume that might enter at least one of the cylinders via the carbs ? I don't think it's unusual for abandoned bikes to seize-up. It's got a crankcase full of oil, a radiator full of coolant, and no significant rust. The exhausts are good, the brakes work and the electrics are fully functional. Sure, the carbs will need some love, but that's no big deal. The previous owner (a good friend of mine) assures me that it was running just fine, but he didn't have the money for a new set of tyres. He's got five kids and he works full-time. He couldn't bring himself to sell it, but he never got around to rescuing it. Happens all the time.
 

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I think it's safe to say we're all hoping it works out great for you Lucca -- just don't want you getting into something you didn't want to get into.
 

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"If" the rings are rusted to the bores, and you do get it running, it will kill mosquito's for miles around, for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for the tip, but if I remove that larger central plug on the LHS of the engine, will I lose the engine oil ? Also, from the Kawasaki parts diagram, it's not obvious that the EN500 A3 has a hex on the end of the crank, but I'll take your word for it ! The bike is otherwise in surprisingly good condition, but if I can't get the engine turning-over I'd be the first to admit that it's only fit for parts. I'm now soaking the cylinders in a 50/50 mix of ATF/acetone, which is supposedly the most effective penetrating agent known to mankind ! I'll give it a week, then at some stage I'm going to have to think about hitting the starter-motor. Truth is, I really haven't yet managed to get much force into it. I'm sure that rolling it in 1st gear amounts to three fifths of you know what, even with the plugs out. I'll keep you posted.
 

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No you won't loose the oil. Those two plugs are there to do the valve clearances. It's not a big nut - think it might be a 16. Go clockwise.

It's a shame you don't have a bore scope to just have a bit of a look. I'd be kinda surprised if it has seized.

Certainly it won't cost you anything to find out and then you can go from there.

FWIW I know if bikes have sat for a long time the clutch plates can bind. This is not uncommon and will, for example, cause the engine to stall if you put the bike in gear while it is running. I wouldn't be surprised if sticking it in gear and not being able to rotate anything is because your clutch is stuck.

Values this side of the atlantic are stronger, and they're not common bikes. Just be aware that little things add up. I'd also encourage you to tackle one area of the bike at a time, and put it back once you're done. Very easy to end up with a load of bits and a hundred bolts that could go anywhere.

Please keep us up to date!
 

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Well, we'll see. The bike was given to me for free with clear title, so it doesn't owe me anything
If I might, a tip: set a financial limit and stick to it. If you have a spouse/S.O., make them MAKE you stick to it. As others have said, this can be a serious money pit if you allow it to be.

Personal story time: I purchased a 2005 Honda CB400 for 3k USD which is relatively standard here as a CB400 retains value. I put another 2k USD and 2 years work into it before my wife told me to sell it and get my Vulcan. Chances are, to get it to 'new' standards I'd have put another 2k USD into it.

For something like a 500, you're likely to spend half as much fixing it (if Trainer is right and electrical is out, plus you have to worry about hoses, cables, etc) then you would getting a Vulcan S (yes, I am biased, it's a sweet ride).

If you want a project, have a project, but give yourself a realistic limit.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for the advice. Thus far, it owes me the equivalent of $10. I'm going to let it soak for a week, then I'm going to hit the starter motor ! I'll keep you posted.
 

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Thanks for the advice. Thus far, it owes me the equivalent of $10. I'm going to let it soak for a week, then I'm going to hit the starter motor ! I'll keep you posted.
Nooooo. IF the engine IS still locked up, rest assured you will break the weld on the starter gear....minimum.

Before engaging starter...would suggest to assure the engine is able to fully rotate by hand ...remove the big plastic circle, center on the generator cover...14mm socket rotating clockwise.....spark plugs removed.
 

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Thanks for the tip, but if I remove that larger central plug on the LHS of the engine, will I lose the engine oil ? ....
Wait -- are you going to leave that old oil in it? You've been pouring goodness knows what into the cylinders counting on it to seep down the cylinder walls past the rings. Next stop -- crankcase.
 
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