Frequently Asked Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
- Selling a motorcycle; what is its value?
Professional motorcycle repair options
2. How do I get parts for old motorcycles?
- Buying a classic motorcycle.
- Learning to ride — be smart about it!
- Getting a non-running motorcycle back on the road
- Shipping a motorcycle
- What kind of MPG can I expect out of a vintage bike?
Yes, occasionally, but I have to buy them at a steep discount because who knows what it may take to get them running properly --and more importantly, I hate to work for free. If you are interested in selling your motorcycle, please send me close up digital pictures and tell me what you want to get out of it.
- Craig's List- possibly a good place to buy bikes if you are mechanically inclined, a poor place to sell. Most buyers are bottom feeders and you will not get top dollar. Also do you want people coming to your house?
- Ebay. There are positives and negatives to selling on Ebay..
- The Good: Ebay gives the widest audience. I have seen some motorcycles sell for great prices, and I have seen some that didn’t bring what they were worth. Those that are in near perfect condition can bring premium prices. Otherwise they are often lost in the shuffle. However, it is certainly better than selling in the newspaper.
- The Bad: If you aren’t a current EBAY user, there is a raft of information, including bank accounts etc that you must divulge online before you can even get registered to sell. Sometimes people steal your ebay account and cause you all kinds of grief. I once had it happen to me! It is your worst nightmare. Someone hacked my account and listed a $1500 sewing machine. (SEWING MACHINES come on!) By the time I got to look at my account, they had four other similar listings on a 24 hour with a “buy it now” option. People had already bid on them. It was absolutely horrifying! Try getting someone at Ebay to talk to you! It appears as if Ebay has taken care of the problem, but boy am I gun shy now!
- Also, you must understand how EBAY works. You pay your listing fee no matter what. There are a lot of dead beat bidders. They win the auction, but never show up to buy the product. Ebay will bill you for completed sale. You have to go through the rigmarole of getting it adjusted. It is a big Hassle and potentially expensive to re-list. I have seen bikes that had to be relisted 3 times to get a real buyer to show up and pay for it.
- My advice is that if you decide to sell on Ebay, reject bidders that have feedback scores below 10, and require a good sized deposit to be paid within 5 days, or threaten to give bad feedback.
- Cycletrader.com It can be expensive, but it gets good national coverage. Also Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader Magazine (associated with cycletrader.com) gets good newsstand coverage.
Obviously I have thousands of classic parts on my web site, it is a good place to start :)
Some parts are easier to obtain than others. Engine parts, drive train, and cables are often available. Sometimes even the major manufacturers can surprise you by still having some very old parts in stock. Check there first. Gas tanks, plastic and body parts are VERY Difficult to find and even harder to match on color. Ebay seems to be the best bet, but sometimes you have to wait months to see what you want to buy. Please be careful, parts are often improperly advertised, and even a part that fits a particular motorcycle may not fit yours because the Japanese sometimes substituted different parts during the same model year. This can be especially true ordering from Asian reproduction companies. The parts they sell may not really fit your bike so be very cautious
A really good option is to join the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club. www.vjmc.org For a $30 annual investment you get a beautiful full color magazine bi-monthly that is chock full of information and technical tips. Also you get free buy/sell ads that run both in the magazine and online.
Tell 'em David sent you, member #4720!
First check and make sure that it has proper oil level in the crankcase. Almost all motorcycles have a dip stick or a "sight glass" to determine the proper oil level. Some much older and usually small two cycle bikes will only have a small set screw somewhere on the lower outside of the engine case towards the bottom. If you back this screw almost all the way out, oil should seep out and you know it is properly filled. This oil is just for the transmission, as a two cycle piston gets its lubrication from the gas/oil mixture. If not at the proper level add the proper amount of the correct weight of oil. If you want to be totally protected in the process, change the oil before you proceed.
Check Air Cleaners for disintegrated foam filters, obstructions, and, believe it or not, birdseed or nests which mice often drag into intake systems (even in covered garages). You do not want to suck them into your carburetor!
For those motorcycles with just a kick-starter, it is best to have a new battery. It helps, and in some models, is an absolute necessity for it to start. Also an old fully discharged battery will not absorb voltage spikes and you can possibly blow out your VERY expensive to replace light bulbs. If it is an electric start you will need a new battery just to turn the starter over.
Once you put a new battery in it and turn the key on, do the turn signals, horn and brake lights work? That is an excellent sign. Next, does it have gas in the tank? A motorcycle must have good gas no more than a year old to function properly and start. If it is very old gas, the chances of the bike starting are not good. Is the gas actually getting into the carb(s? The way to tell is that sometimes carbs have a drain plug at their bottom and you can back it out and see if gas runs out. If so, it is getting gas to the carb. If not, pull off the gas lines at the petcock, will gas flow? If not, move to step 3.
Turn the key on. For pre-1980's bikes, put the choke on half setting. Post 1980, full choke. Make sure the engine on/off switch is in the run position! Will the kick starter kick the engine over smoothly? Or will pushing the electric start button turn the engine over? Do not keep the electric starter turning over for any more than 10 seconds at a time. Give it a few minutes’ rest after 4-5 attempts. You may give it only the very slightest of turns on the throttle while it is cranking. Do not keep twisting the throttle hoping it will start. You will flood the engine with gas!
If it doesn’t start, go to the next steps. Remember if it has been sitting for years with old gas in the tank and carburetor, your chances of starting are unlikely. Both gas tank and carburetors will need to be fully cleaned out. Carb internal jet passages are tiny, and the gas turns into varnish which clogs them. It will not start, and even if you get it running, it will not idle cleanly if these passages are not clear.
Buy brand new spark plugs of the proper heat range. Do not count on the fact that the current spark plugs in the bike are the correct ones. Someone may have installed an improper heat range or length in it. A motorcycle parts department will have reference books to tell you which plug your model should use. Make sure that YOU are not standing in moisture and are touching only the rubber cap, or you may shock yourself. Turn the ignition key on. Take the plug wire cap off an existing spark plug of the engine. Put the new plug into the plug wire, and ground it(touch it) to the engine cylinder. Then have someone else kick the kick-starter over. If it is an electric start, push the button.
If you see a spark jumping across at the electrode of the spark plug or to the engine block that is a good sign. Sometimes you will need to do this with lights out because the spark is difficult to see. If it is sparking, put the new plug(s) in the cylinders, and follow the choking procedure above.
If it is not getting spark you have a problem. If it doesn’t spark, it could be a myriad of other items. First check for a blown fuse. Fuses are usually located close to the battery area. Replace only with the same amperage fuse! Check for power at the ignition breaker points which are usually under a cover near the top of a cylinder. If it doesn't have points but has an electronic ignition you cannot do this step.
Are the points opening and closing? You may have to replace breaker points, and set timing. Make sure your engine start/stop switch is functioning properly and is not electrically shorting you out. If it still will not spark, then unfortunately the problem is more complicated than I can explain in this paper.
IF THESE STEPS DO NOT WORK AND YOU ARE MORE MECHANICALLY INCLINED TRY:
Take off the gas tank. Drain all old gas. Remove the petcock. Clean the petcock screen that protrudes up into the gas tank. Do not try to blow high pressure air through the petcock, you will ruin it. I would not attempt to disassemble and clean the petcock any further unless you are very mechanically inclined and have on hand very hard to find petcock rebuild parts. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by buying a new petcock, which unfortunately can be $50 or more.
Get “milk stone remover” from a farm supply store. Mix it at about 25% ratio with water. Plug the petcock opening and put the mixture along with a cup of old bolts into the tank. Slosh them around vigorously a few times each day to break up the rust. Let this mixture sit for at least seven days, then empty. The mixture can be re-used. Put the petcock back on, and fill the tank approximately half full of gas. In the open position, see if gas flows through the petcock. If it is a "vacuum" petcock from some models, this approach will not work. This type of set up requires that the petcock be hooked up to a vacuum line which pulls the mixture through the petcock. With a vacuum petcock, the "prime" setting may allow gas to flow. The goal is to see if the petcock actually works.
- Take the carburetors off and completely disassemble them. Be sure to wear gloves; old gasoline is some of the nastiest stuff. Be careful; take digital pictures or observe the process fully as there are many small parts that can be lost easily. Soak all carb parts in parts cleaner for two days. Warning: do not put any rubber parts, composite parts, or painted carb bodies into parts cleaning solution; otherwise, they will be ruined. Next, blow out all jets and passages thoroughly with compressed air. Set the mixture and idle screws to factory specifications. Reassemble.
- Follow previous choke instructions and try to start the engine. Use only a maximum of 1/8 turn on throttle while cranking or you will "flood" the carb. If you get it running, let it run at low speed for about 10 minutes, and then change the crankcase oil.
- If it does start in neutral, be careful. Sometimes clutches will seem fine, but they stick. So when you put it in gear it just goes-- with no way to disengage the clutch. Point it in a direction where you have plenty of room to ride, or brace it up against a solid object like a block wall.
- Please dispose of all chemical waste responsibly by recycling.
- Inspect the tires carefully; the best practice is to put new tires on if you have any concerns about their condition.