Tractor 4

I’ve had a hell of a day off.

Happily, since I’m having to buy all my tools again but in imperial, and the Harley was £2,000 to start with, work has suddenly gone mad. 4 shifts, 6 shifts, 5 shifts for next week. I certainly can use the money but it’s making working on my bikes a lot harder.

Anyway, I was off today so cracked on. My goal was to strip the heads, check the valves and the barrels, and check the cams for timing.

I’d been doing 40 minutes or so before work to get all the peripheral bits off. I got stuck with one nut that just I couldn’t get the breaker bar on, and ended up rounding the head. That was on the front exhaust pipe. I was hoping I could remove the barrel with it attached, then work on it.

I succeeded! Yay for small victories. I had to angle grind the nut then hammer it with a cold chisel to turn it.

I stripped it down to the pistons without much further drama.

But, as is the law, one allen bolt just would not turn on the cam side casing. I was wriggling it backward and forward, sprayed oil on it, it was seized solid. In the end I snapped the bolt. Balls. I had to drill it out. I think I’ve repaired it enough to accept another bolt, but I’ll have to wait until after the rebuild to find out for sure.

I did an internet test on the valves. Poured petrol on them from the top, turned them over and looked for leakage. There was none. So valves are sealing OK.

I checked the bore on the barrels. There are some marks, more like a shining of the cylinder than scratches. You can still see the original cross hatching under the shine so it can’t be deep. I don’t think it’s the barrels/ pistons/ rings.

Hmmm, on a big screen they do look like proper scratches.

Once I’d finally got the cam cover off I checked the cams. All the timing marks are perfectly lined up. I took them out and cleaned them, put them back and they are still perfectly lined up. Having a cam/ pushrod system is clunky but easy to work on.

The bad news is I think this was a badly looked after bike, that went off the road for a reason. Someone had over-tightened an allen bolt to the point the allen key head snapped off in it. Then they’d left it there. Worrying.

Then I dropped the oil and saw the sump plug.

It’s a bit out of focus, but that was after I’d already given it a bit of a wipe. It’s covered in thick greasy/ oily sludge and, most worryingly, metal filings.

I’m in a bit of a quandary. Metal shavings in the engine is really bad news. I’ve ordered some more tools and, when they arrive, I’m going to strip it right down and split the engine cases.

Depending on what I find I’ll decide what to do. If I’m lucky it will all be fine and I can just clean it all out and rebuild, knowing there are no more metal filings in my engine.

Then I have to decide which way to go. Rebuild with the original barrels, big bore them to 1200cc, or get a big bore kit. Assuming the rest of the engine is worth saving. Those metal shavings had to come from somewhere.

As I’m writing I’ve come to a decision. I think I’ll rebuild with the original barrels. I’ve just ordered a complete engine gasket set. What I’m going to do is completely strip the engine, (and give everything a good clean while it’s in bits and the engine is out of the frame), hopefully just clean accumulated sludge of 20 years out of the engine, then rebuild.

I’ve really narrowed down the possibilities of what the problem could be. I’m leaning towards timing issue now. Rebuild it, make damn sure all the electricals are tight, then play with the timing, perhaps. I’ve got a rebuild kit for the carb, which I will be doing, but the engine start fluid seemed to rule that out as the primary problem. I think it can only be an electrical fault. Timing or a duff component.

So that’s the plan. Strip, clean and inspect, hopefully nothing awry, rebuild, get it running.

My shed is already looking like a Harley parts bin.


Then run it as a dog for a bit, then do it all again. Strip it down as a winter project and completely tart it up. Powder coat the frame, fork legs and mudguards, new stanchions, chain and sprocket set, get the tank resprayed, big bore kit, wheels and tyres.

It’s going to be a shedload of money, but I get all the fun of playing with it as I do it, then a pristine bike to ride and enjoy for many years.

That’s another thing in the favour of my rebuilding it without the big bore: when I actually start riding it I may hate it. Right now I’m in “HARLEY DAVIDSON! SQUEEEE!” mode in my mind. Fangirling all over the place, but when the reality of a slow, heavy, no weather protection bike hits I may not want to spend a single penny more.

Tomorrow I’m going to test my calf on a run and have a go at sorting my VFR. It’s an electrical fault and I hate electrics. I’m really not looking forward to that.

Right, hopefully that’s settled my fevered brain a little. My obsessing has been getting more than usually frantic. Because of the whole “HARLEY DAVIDSON!” thing. Poor Wendy having to listen to me obsessively ranting on.