new rider/learning mechanics any tips?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by One Fat Roach, Mar 23, 2013.

  1. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach honey badger

    Mar 23, 2013
    I just started riding in 2011, I'm 26 years old and have little to no experience working on anything with an engine. I own a 1980 Honda 250 XL, recently i just changed my front brake cable and it was easier than i imagined. As soon as I replaced that my front headlight stopped working. It seems as soon as I fix one thing, something else goes wrong. Is this normal? And also how do I go about trying to fix something with pretty much zero knowledge? I've been reading a lot on these forums as well as others but the lingo is way over my head. Any help is much appreciated
  2. trc.rhubarb

    trc.rhubarb ZoomSplat!

    Nov 15, 2011
    Concord, CA
    Keep reading, soon the lingo will make sense. Read all the posts from people with a similar bike, you never know when that info will come in handy.

    Seems just about anything you want to do can be learned on youtube anymore.

    On a bike that's been around for 33 years, plenty can and will go wrong but its a simple machine for the most part and lots of people are here ready to help you out.

    Good luck!
  3. GreaseMonkey

    GreaseMonkey Preshrunk & Cottony

    Jun 16, 2006
    The only county in Illinois with no train tracks
    Fill in your profile, and put down the general area where you live as there may be a helpful person close by.

    Other than that just take things as they come! One thing that can be helpful to you is to locate a digital copy of a shop manual for your bike, put it on an old flash drive (or maybe nowadays an old mini usb card) and stash it somewhere on your bike so if you have to work on it someplace away from home you'll have the manual.

    And yeah, old stuff wears out and breaks but all in all your bike is a pretty good and reliable model provided it hasn't been too abused or neglected (neglect is often more harmful than abuse). And to answer your question, for some weird reason a bunch of stuff will sequentially break on you so you have a month of headaches, and then everything will be cool for the rest of the year unless you are stupid and jinx yourself by telling someone how trouble free your bike is being.
  4. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach honey badger

    Mar 23, 2013
    Thanks. Getting the original manual will be a major help I imagine. Regarding the headlight I just replaced the bulb last fall. Maybe I knocked a wire loose?
  5. gto3

    gto3 Been here awhile

    Sep 26, 2010
    The skoka
    Some things are easy to fix while other things are not and actually take some mechanical knowledge to diagnose ie.a non running bike.

    Keep this in mind-I've been around bikes for a lot of years and about 80% of the problems I've seen with bikes that won't start or stall are electrical-a loose wire ,bad regulator/rectifier/stator,battery(charging system related)Shops and dealers love these problems because they can take unsuspecting newbs to the cleaners.Get your self a multimeter and learn how to test these systems(the procedures will be in the manual for your bike)
    Buy yourself a set of tools ,you don't have to spend a fortune.Up here in canada eh we have canadian tire.They sell a 180 piece tool kit which consista of ratchets,torx bits,sockets etc and the price is very good (under a couple hundred bucks)You can strip a bike right down with this kit.I don't know where your located but try to find something similar.Your owners manual will have a section with the tools you'll need,some you should buy,others you can do without.
    I could probably babble on all day,lol,anyways good luck
  6. gunnabuild1

    gunnabuild1 Long timer

    Sep 13, 2008
    Ipswich Queensland
    Just remember when you get stuck or are having trouble this is the same way most of us started learning.
    And the bike you have is just about perfect for you to learn with.
    Stick with it, the things you learn apply to more things than just the bike.
    If your getting frustrated or angry ,walk away,take a break ,have a smoke or a drink or a cuppa whatever you like.This will save you money and time in the long run.
    Have a look for some basic motorcycle mechanical books
    Haven't read those myself just an example but I've got a bookshelf full of similar titles,one in particular still gets pulled down to check on every now and then had it for 31 years [shit what happened?]but it's simple and doesn't assume you know anything and they are the most useful ,to me anyway.
    This one basic as hell but thats how you should begin.A little dated now, but hey I like old bikes.
  7. concours

    concours WFO for 44 years

    Dec 2, 2008
    Kensington, NH USA
    33 year old bike, yes, normal... some failures are old age, some are self-inflicted (possibly DPO's, aka Dipshit Previous Owners). Some are trama, some from piss poor "repairs" by well intentioned yet clueless owner's. Make friend's with someone who is mechanically inclined. and RTFM!
  8. Stan_R80/7

    Stan_R80/7 Beastly Gnarly

    May 12, 2012
    Here are some tips:

    1. Get a manual for the bike. It has photo's and can really help decipher the lingo.

    2. Aluminum threads with steel bolts can strip fairly easily because the cast aluminum is typically 1/3 the strength of steel. The number of stories of people using a torque wrench (incorrectly?) and stripping out a bolt is all too common. If you can use a torque wrench correctly, know how to calibrate it, and have some experience then you may be successful. Otherwise, I found hand tightening the bolt/nut/screw using the smallest wrench that will work has provided the best results. Loctite works well on aluminum threads with steel fasteners and may be the best choice if there is a concern over stripping threads. There is a large thread on ADV Rider on using Loctite with materials including aluminum: Thread inserts can repair stripped threads - at a cost.

    3. Take digital photos a). before the work is done. b). during the work c). after the work; then compare the before and after photo's. Many (many, many) questions and concerns can be resolved with 'photographic evidence'.

    4. If the are two of something - only work on one at a time. So, when then inevitable - wtf, where does this go? - comes up there a known good copy to answer the question.

    5. Get some tools. Often the manual will tell what tools are needed, otherwise look to your local hardware store and auto parts stores. Often tool sets are considerably less expensive than buying separate tools.

    6. Read the manual. Yes, it is not enough just to have the manual somewhere. Specifically, look in the sections talking about oils and greases and maintenance schedules to figure out what you need.

    7. Get some gloves to work on a hot engine and remember that generally none of the gaps and tolerances are checked with the engine hot. I try not work on a hot engine because it is a good way to get burned.

    8. Don't be afraid to take things apart. If it seems stubborn or you can't figure it out without breaking it, stop, ask questions, Google what you are doing, etc.

    9. After working on the bike, go for a brief ride down the street and back, then re-check that everything is back together and hand tight. The before photo's help.

    10. Often, after parts are worn, they have a specific orientation due to wear. Always mark, photograph, and record how the worn parts are assembled so they are put back in that same orientation.

    Enjoy the bike and your new skills!
  9. H96669

    H96669 A proud pragmatist.

    Nov 20, 2009
    Hiding off Hwy 6, B.C.
  10. Foot dragger

    Foot dragger singletracker

    Dec 27, 2006
    chico,just below rag dump(nor-cal)
    Go slow,only listen to half the advice you here on ADV,most of it is hearsay and old wive's tales.

    Steel bolts are routinely torqued in aluminum threads,that's why they call it a torque wrench so you DONT strip it.
    Buying a basic torque wrench can save you money in the long and short run.
    Play with it some when you get it,get used to it.

    Loctite is not used on aluminum threads,grease is used,seems crazy but thats what a pro mech will tell you.

    Take your time and take a break when things get tricky or frustrating,sometimes when you come back to it,it will be easy to finish.

    I broke all kinds of things when my dad was trying to show me how to wrench as a kid,it can get real expensive breaking things.

    Go slow and think your way through things.

    A manual is the only way to have a clue,that and google,and the guys on google could have it wrong also.

    Shops charge from 70 to 90+ an hour to fix stuff,good to do it yourself.

    Best of luck!
  11. dtysdalx2

    dtysdalx2 PITA but useful

    Aug 1, 2004
    Moneyapolis, MN
    +1 what everyone else said.

    Get to know your bike inside and out if you want to fix everythingy yourself. And buy tools.
  12. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach honey badger

    Mar 23, 2013
    Thank you for all the input. I got such a late start in learning to ride but I really want to become good at this more than any other hobby. Ive become addicted to riding and all i really wanna do with the rest of my life is keep my bike on the road, upgrade to a KLR650 one day and work just enough to maintain those things. No kids, no girl, nothing tying me down just a pinched wallet. Everyone here is helpful and polite thank you mucho
  13. Warin

    Warin Retired

    Aug 30, 2012
    I would say ...

    Take your time. You are learning as well as doing so expect to take say 3 times longer than someone who 'knows what they are doing'. When you finish a task - go back over it and check to the sides .. displaced wires, loose bolts are things to pick up before your say 'finished'.

    Read ALL the advice given
    . Then filter it with your situation, circumstance and experience.

    If you don't understand something .. ASK.

    Loctite.. if the manual calls for Loctite use it.
    For other places where it is not specified and alloy is involved DON'T use it.

    As well as the manual, the parts book can be usefull... it has diagrams of the parts involved and can be used to help understand how things come apart/go together. Some times a parts supplier will have an online version - use it.

    Welcome to the club :1drink

    Oh on buying tools - buy GOOD ones that will last and not destroy things, ask here for advice on what brands/sotres are 'good'.