Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Motorcycle Service Fun (Sarcasm)

Some of you know that I own an FXSTSSE3 and that I ride - a lot. (in English that's a 2009 Custom Vehicle Operations Screaming Eagle Springer Soft-tail) Riding a lot means that Harley-Davidson's 2 year unlimited milage warrantee expired this mid-May and the bike just rolled over 40K miles. That expiration means that I feel free to do my own maintainance. I know a company can't make you use their service centers to honor warrantees, but I also know that this is an expensive bike that gets way more miles than Harley anticipated and conversations that start and end with "your people are the only ones who ever touched it" cut a lot of wiggles out. Yes, I own the actual Harley service manual for that motorcycle.

So, back to my tale. I am mechanically adept, I am damned good with tools and with reading, understanding, and following instructions. I cannot do anything with the computerized bits but that is outside the perview of service. Some of the service is complex, partly because the bike has a springer front end but it isn't beyond me or anyone competent. The last service was done while I was on the road back from FL and it seems that somebody managed to not understand torque specifications. To change the oil in the primary case you pull the drain plug in the bottom and then remove the primary cover to replace the oil. The drain plug was no problem, the #27 torx head screws in the primary cover were an issue, well ... two of them were. The specification are 84-108 inch pounds which isn't a lot. The top two screws refused to move with a hardened tool steel socket and 1/4 inch rachet. The torx grooves on the top one simply started going away, even with tapping with a light brass hammer and that is what it took for the next one left to it. The top one took being driven loose with a chisel, a bad thing, but I did get the cover off and the oil replaced. I will have to replace those once I can get to a dealer. I was not happy.

The next problem point was the oil filter, no filter wrench I could put on it would budge the damned thing. Not the light rubber strap wrench which should easily have removed it, and not even the Harley wrench borrowed from a local motorcycle shop. This filter is to be torqued 1/2 to 3/4 turn from gasket contact by specs. That is a bit more than you could manage with your bare hand, but it isn't a heck of a lot. I wound up driving a screw driver into the filter and cranking on it - not once, but three times for a total of 3/4 turn and then the Harley wrench barely got it off. At that point the gasket was squealing as it turned. I don't know how much beyond gasket contact that thing was turned but it was a lot and with holes through the side of the filter a lot of oil ran out on the engine.

The engine and tranny in these bikes go through a very wide temperature range, they get darned hot and they are subject to vibrations and that is a consideration whenever messing with one. But way tighter is not way better. This is what Harley publishes torque specifications for, that difficult environment. By the time I was done with these problems I was pretty unhappy - swear words were involved.

The oil all looked good which in nice and having nice fresh oil in the bike is very good - and better yet, I won't have this mess again.


Anonymous said...

I've had to remove oil filters with that method. Phillips drivers punch through the filter's metal skin fairly easily; a long-shanked driver gives pretty good leverage.

If most mechanics were women, we'd see this a lot less often. Women don't feel the need to prove their "manliness" with the tightness of fasteners.

Men, on the other hand, will shear the head off a bolt trying to "educate" the bolt on who is the boss.

Among men, finesse is a rare thing, and the lower you go on the socioeconomic ladder, the rarer it gets. Mechanics are pretty near the bottom so there's a lot of hamfisted, bull-in-china-shop tool usage there. Not a lot of brain surgery; a whole lot of rock-breaking though.

Chuck Butcher said...

I know Karl, and directions are for wussies. What upset me more than the plain stupidity of the oil filter qne primary cover was that this previous service was by a Harley dealership and I was paying that kind of money to avoid anything like this.

Without any nonsense like this, a 5K service at a dealer is 3 hrs from the time the bike rolls in. Thanks to the front end requiring a 1500 mi service/adjustment I've had this done 8 times in 2 years which doesn't include tire changes which don't manage to coincide - hardly ever. Thanks to the value of the wheels and tire sizes Harley will continue to get this business.