Jason J. Gullickson

Jason J. Gullickson


We’re going camping this weekend so I know I won’t be spending any time with the bike; I figure this is a good time to get the journal caught up even though I don’t have any pictures to post right now.

Last week just by chance I picked up a battery, they were on sale and I figured I’d need one eventually (although I was going to hold off until the bike was closer to running, just so I didn’t have to let the battery sit any longer than necessary). Although I was going to tackle the carbs next, maybe I’ll change directions and take a look at the electrical/ignition systems.

After giving the battery a night to charge (they say it comes charged but that a “topping-up” is a good idea) I dropped it into the bike. The trickiest part of this is routing the overflow hose, which is why some people don’t do it. I’ve been on the receiving end of bikes where the previous owner didn’t think the hose was important and I can say that it’s not pretty, especially because often the bikes charging system is located downstream from the battery vent. But anyway…

Once it was in and the terminals fastened down I had to at least try turning things on. After figuring out the three positions of the ignition I was able to verify that at least the base electrical system worked (headlight turns on, neutral light goes green, horn works). The exceptions here were the turn signals (which would turn on but not blink) and the brake light (which worked for the rear brake but not the front). The turn signals, I know there is a “flasher” device that I would guess in a bike this old is mechanical, so I need to figure out where that thing is and see if it’s stuck or something. The front brake light problem is probably going to be more trouble, but for now I’m not going to sweat it.

I did give the electric starter a push, just to see what would happen and it made some sounds. There were sounds of the engine actually turning over, and there was an occasional sound best described as “a fork in a garbage disposal” that used to emanate from my 1976 Yamaha XS650 electric starter. I’ll leave this alone for now.

Next I wanted to check out the ignition to complete my testing of the “essential” electrical systems. I first tried the old trick of pulling a plug and grounding it against the head to see if it would spark when I turned the engine over; no dice. I checked over the connections, the spark wires, the coils, etc. and everything looked good so I figured either there was something wrong with my test or there was something major wrong with the ignition system. I had even peeked at the points a few days back and they looked almost new.

A few days later I received the service manual that I had procured from Ebay and it described another ignition test that bypasses the spark plug. You pull what I would call the “boot” of the plug wire (the part that goes over the sparkplug) off and then try to get a spark from the wire inside the plug wire to the head. Bingo.

Bad plugs , duh .

So it looks like we have spark, now all we need is fuel. I had gone through the carbs somewhat maybe a week or so ago and decided they looked good enough to try, so the last thing I did during this session is start to hang them back on the bike. I got as far as the right-side carb and ran out of time, so the rest of this discussion will have to take place after the big camping weekend.

I’m also looking for a cheap digital camera that I can get dirty to make keeping this journal easier. I’ve decided on the Vista Quest VQ1005 , but I’m having a hell of a time finding one locally. If you know of a store that carries these, pass that info along.