Author Archives: Drew

A Bit of a Wobbler

When out on the BMW sidecar outfit at the weekend I noticed a trace of steering wobble that was not there before.

Once back home I checked things over.

First check was tyre pressures, especially the front wheel. These checked out in spec.

Next was steering head bearings, and the front wheel bearings while at it, these were all free and had no play so that was something else crossed off the list.

Next in line came the rear swing fork and wheel bearings. Some play was found in here in both horizontal and vertical planes.

This cleared the swing fork bearings, if these had been at fault the play would have only been found in the horizontal plane, so new rear wheel bearings were indicated.

Thing is that the rear wheel in my combo is an EML unit and NOT a BMW one so the bearings in it are different to those shown in the spares book, and, as I wanted to have the new bearings “in hand” before I started work, I needed to know what they were.

An email to EML themselves failed to receive an answer so I tried the BMW lists on the internet. I received an answer from a member in the States who has an EML outfit with the bearing numbers and I soon managed to get a set from a local bearing specialist.

So, to work!. First thing is to get the bike up onto it’s centre stand. Not as easy as it sounds because the reduced tyre sizes I run have lowered the bike. It’s only by about an inch but the roll-on action of the centre stand no longer works, you need to do a dead weight lift of the bike to get it high enough to lower the stand and it’s b—-y heavy, in fact it needs the use of a jack to remove the risk of a rupture!

Next is that as I am running a non-standard tyre, a wider section car tyre, on my rear wheel the normal BMW quick removal system does not work, the tyre will not clear the brake shoes and drive hub, I have to remove the wheel complete with the rear bevel box and this is not as simple a job as it seems.

First is to disconnect the rear brake rod, next drain the oil from the drive shaft housing, undo the 4 nuts securing the bevel box to the swing arm, remove the lower mounting bolt from the right hand suspension unit. (Oh and it gives more clearance to work if you remove the offside silencer to start with)

Now you can remove the rear wheel spindle and pull the entire assembly back out of the frame, and it’s heavy!!.

Once I had the assembly clear I could lift the wheel away and have a look at the bearings. Sure enough they had been fitted with the bearing numbers facing inwards so I could not read them! Typical!!.

As my rear wheel is literally a car wheel bolted onto the bike hub the next step was to remove the wheel from the hub, just a case of undo the three lug nuts. (The wheel I’m using is from a Citroen car, typical French skimping on an engineering job! Just use 3 lug nuts when everyone else is using either 4 or 5!!).

With the hub clear it was now just a case of using a long drift to punch out the old bearings, heart in mouth moment as I checked the bearing numbers then the relief of finding I had the correct bearings in hand!.

Replacement was simple just thoroughly clean the hubs bearing seats and bore, grease up the new bearings and the spacer and hub bore and fit the new bearings in place, the old bearings make a good pressure bush for this and all that’s left to do is re-assemble everything and find that the wheel is locked solid when I nip up the spindle nut but will turn when I ease the spindle nut!

Guess who forgot the spacer between the hub bearings and the drive?.

On the original BMW hub this is captive, held in place by a separate grease seal between the (open) bearing and the drive. EML widened the gap between the bearings by substituting sealed bearings for the bearing/grease seal pair and using a loose spacer on the spindle instead. An improvement giving a stronger hub for sidecar use BUT!.

This resulted in blue air and a frantic search for the missing spacer!.

Once it had been found and installed, the wheel was now turning easily and I could look to refitting the assembly onto the bike.

Simple way was to put a 4 inch piece of timber down and stand the wheel assembly on that. Doing this brought the bevel box up into near its correct alignment with the rear fork and made it a simple matter to bolt it in place and refit the suspension unit and the rear wheel spindle, not forgetting the rear brake actuator rod.

An AHA! moment

Well I’ve been busy on the LE again and think I may have found the ignition problem.

I needed to know what depth I had between the top of the ignition unit’s top plate and the bore in the end of the crankshaft, this meant taking out the fixing bolt and when doing this I steadied the shaft from turning by holding the unit, as soon as I had eased the centre bolt a little I felt the bob-weights move under my fingers when they had been solid before.

On trying the unit I found the bob-weights would now open out readily. I re-tightened the centre bolt and found they were locked up so that while the engine had been running it had been locked on full retard, no wonder performance had seemed lacking!. It looks like the last person working on the engine electrics had over-tightened the retaining bolt and jammed the unit.

Hopefully the unit has not been damaged by this but we’ll have to see.

I’ve since tried her up the back lane and she seems a bit livelier, but I’ve found that I omitted the seal between the carburetter and the inlet manifold when I put things back together last time. On having a look at the seal it appears to have been cut from a piece of old inner tube, it’s certainly been either knife or scissor cut so I’ll need to get a new one up.

I’ve just totted up what bits I now need, it may be small stuff but it totals out at about 21 quid so It’s worth sending down for them.

It’s amazing how it’s a number of small things are giving the problems now! I had thought that all that was wrong with her was the corroded water pipes! But I suppose that’s what happens when you take on a rebuild.

A New Addition

I decided to go the drill blank route to make the ATD extractor so ordered up a 3.5mm drill blank and a 1 inch long 5/16 BSF bolt along with a couple of nuts.

I now needed to determine the requisite lengths for the extractor parts, I did have suggested dimensions from an internet posting but I’ve learned to always check these before use.

To get the dimensions I need to remove the front cover from the engine. Under this cover is an inner cover carrying the two ignition coils and the points. Behind this cover is the generator and flywheel, the ATD mounting onto the nose of the flywheel with a bolt going through the ATD plate into the hollow nose of the flywheel.

I immediately ran into a problem!. The LE is a small machine and is built low to the ground, to access the front end of the motor you need to not only get down on your knees but have to grovel and I am no longer as young as I used to be.

This pushed me into deciding to do something I have thought about for a few years now, but with the other bikes I had managed by getting a wheeled stool, I decided it was time to get bike lift!.

A problem I have with this is space, a lift will have to be kept between two bikes with another on it, I’ll need to wheel it out to work on a bike but then put it away when finished for the day as I have to get the combo in as well, (insurance demands that it is garaged any time it is left unattended!).

So it was a case of get a notebook and pen ready and fire up Google!.

I’d already decided to go the whole hog and get a table type lift rather than a simple frame jack, (these are not really suitable for use on a BMW anyway) so it was a case of see what was available.

Having recovered from the shock of seeing the prices being asked for the powered types (and realising that my little compressor was not man enough to power them!) I decided it would need to be one with a hydraulic jack.

This brought the prices down to the “reasonable to pricey” range.

Next was size, turns out that some are shorter than a bike so it has to sit on the front wheel and a jack under the frame or a centre stand, an under frame jack is not suitable for a BMW so one of these would mean putting the bike on its centre stand then dragging forward to the front of the table again before lashing it down to keep the rear wheel aloft. The idea is to make it easier so beggar that type.

Anyway I settled on one from CJ Autos that would fit into the available space, was a reasonable price and available; It’s in the garage now, fits nicely into the space available, the LE is up on it now and I’ll be able to make a start on producing the extractor tool tomorrow.

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It’s now tomorrow and I’ve been out in the garage most of the afternoon, the morning was largely spent walking the dogs.

First thing was to get the combo out and get some space to work in. I moved the table out into the space to find it has the “shopping trolley” problem in not wanting to roll straight, a nuisance when it weighs over 100kg but liveable with when you know about it.

Next thing was to run the LE up onto it and secure it, the front wheel clamp works but is awkward to wind in when one hand is supporting the bike, I’ll have to look into this when putting one of the bigger bikes up on it!, a bike support mount might be a better idea

Anyway I added a couple of the trailer straps to steady the bike before I tried to lift it, then it was fit the pump pedal and try it out.

Nae bother! Up she went and I popped the locking bar into place.

I had to remove the front cover from the LE engine unit next and straightaway I found a snag.

Clearance between the front mudguard and the front of the engine is limited and I found that while I could remove the bolts securing the cover there was not enough clearance to remove the cover. Normally you’d put the front wheel over to one side and then there’s plenty room but the wheel clamp prevents the wheel twisting.

Fortunately the stand on an LE does not lift the bike off its wheels so I could safely roll her back far enough to get the wheel to turn far enough for clearance but could not have done it with a BMW, one lesson learned!.

With the cover off and the table raised there was no need to grovel to see what I was doing. The first thing was to have a look at the ATD and I found it locked in the full retard position, no wonder the old lady would not run properly!

As soon as I eased the pressure on the centre bolt the bobweights came free, all that seems to have been wrong is that the ATD had been overtightened on the taper so we’ll give it a try now before trying to disassemble any further.

While I had her up on the table I found that one of the rubber coolant pipes was leaking. The extra height let me see that the hose-clip on it was not on square and so the pipe was not snug onto the stub on the water jacket. Due to tight clearances it was a right flaff to get the clip on square, but that’s why it was on squint in the first place.

Fortunately it was the return pipe so I’ve only lost the header volume of the coolant, but I’ll have to top up the radiator before I can run her. Snag of a watercooled machine in winter, I’ll need to get some more anti-freeze and de-i water to top up with.

Then it was just drop the table and offload the bike. The table then pushed back to where it is stowed easily enough but I don’t fancy trying to move it with a bike on it, too bl–dy heavy.

As it is it sits between two bikes and the LE is run up onto it, the extra height means the LE’s handlebars and controls clear those of the other two and the combo fits in nicely behind it.

The snag I found with clearance at the front will only affect a bike where you need access to the front of the motor but it brought home the advantage of having a full length table rather than the cheaper option where the rear wheel is left over open air once you remove the ramp and of having sufficient width, I had seen one lift that was basicly a length of 6inch channel!. The one I’ve gone for has a 550mm wide table and would fit between two bikes in my shed but most I saw were in fact wider (and pricier!).

Timing Snags

Following a good firkle round on the LE Velo Clubs website and mining the data on their Forum I’ve come up with the information needed for checking the ignition timing.

Apparently on an LE it fires 29º BTDC. Considering that I have another side-valve boxer motored bike and it fires at 42º BTDC this seems a bit retarded but that’s what it says, both motors are just about square so it’s not that one is a longer stroke than the other.

There is also the fact that this equates to 0.26 inches of the piston down the bore as well as dimensions for the flywheel tool so this will help making up the special tools the book requires.

Only other thing needed is the extractor bolt for the ATD unit.

This is supposed to be available through the club spares scheme but is currently listed as “Not Available”, Typical!!.

From the picture it’s similar to the BMW tool for this job but the BMW one is metric threaded and will not fit, again Typical! as I have two of these!

Daft thing is that when I made the BMW ones the difficulty was in getting the correct grade an metric thread, now it’s the other way round as I’ll need a long high tensile 5/16 inch BSF bolt to make the Velo one and no-one keeps BSF stuff on the shelf these days!.

A possible snag here is that the tool has a long, slender tip, it has to be just under the core size for 2BA to go into the end of the crankshaft and that’s about 1/8 inch, it’s probably more practical to insert a suitable drill blank into a 5/16 inch bolt to make it as skimming down a bolt to this size on a big lathe is not the easiest of jobs.

ADJUSTMENTS (2)

While I was looking through the box of odds and sods that came with the bike I had seen a chunk of metal I had not recognised the purpose of. It was not till I went to make a new handlebar end plug that light dawned and I realised that it was in fact the missing plug so that saved me a job.

Having the plug “in hand” I now needed to fit the new grips.

First was the clutch side so I warmed the grip to soften it a bit and swilled a drop of petrol inside it to act as a lubricant. The grip was a tight fit on the handlebar but eventually submitted and was slid into place and the end plug fitted so attention was turned to the twistgrip side. To fit this one it was so tight I wound up removing the twistgrip sleeve from the handlebar before it also gave up the fight and was wrestled into place.

It was now time for another road test and I could feel that the little lass was not happy, felt like the ignition was badly retarded so it was back home and read up in the books.

Turns out that there is no figure posted for the ignition timing, you set the engine in position with tool LET 953, you can then check the flywheel is in the correct position with tool LET 952 and if that’s right you can set the ignition. There is an index mark on the flywheel that shows TDC and you set the ignition timing to that on full retard

I can hire the tools from the LE Club, but neither will be difficult to make. Snag is if the flywheel is in the wrong position, to remove it means another two special tools and you also have to remove the oil sump to block the crankshaft from twisting as you slacken off and re-tighten the flywheel securing nut. Why could Velo not have done it by making provision to block the flywheel the same way BMW did in their boxer twins?, easier for service, works just as well and you don’t have to drain the sump to do it, come to that their trick of marking the TDC and ignition advance points on the flywheel would be an improvement as well . It’s much easier to work on the big Velo singles!.

Adjustments!

After a bit of thought I came to the conclusion that a probable cause of the problem could be that I was not getting full opening of the throttle, especially going by the excessive free play in the twistgrip.

So I popped the carburettor off and had a look. Sure enough I was getting, at most, half throttle! No wonder she felt a bit flat!.

I tried taking up the free play with the adjuster on the top of the carburetter but this did not have enough adjustment so it was up to the other end to see what I could do there.

My LE is a composite of a MkII chassis with a MkIII engine unite. Can’t speak for the later models but mine is fitted with a involute scroll twistgrip and these tend to have more free play than the more usual “drum” type grips.

Looking at the twistgtrip I couldn’t see how it came apart so I posted a query on their Facebook page.

From the replies I found that there was a bar end fitting securing it in place, originally these bikes were fitted with an open end grip on their bars exposing this but my bike has been fitted with aftermarket closed end grips which had hidden this.

A blast of the heat gun persuaded the plastic gip to soften a bit, enough that I was able to remove the grip and once that was off it became obvious how to take the twistgrip apart.

Having had a look I saw that the inner cable was too long. I could try to move the cable nipple back along the cable a bit but I’ve never had success in trying to re-solder onto a used (and oily) cable.

The other option is to make up a cable stop to effectively lengthen the outer cable, looking round I found a suitable bit of brass bar so its off to the lathe!.

I soon had the cable stop made so next thing is to try it on the bike.

Well, it fitted in place without any difficulty but I now had the opposite problem, not enough free play! I had now spaced the cable too far out from the original stop.

As the cable had seated very deeply into the original stop all I had to do was convert the shouldered stop I had made into a simple spacer bush so the cable no longer bottomed out in the original stop.

Problem seems to have arisen because there are 4 different throttle cables listed for use on an LE Velocette so it’s 3 to 1 that I have the wrong cable fitted, problem is that with a hybrid bike like I have which cable is correct? Still, my little bodge gets the little lady up and running and is easily undone, next time I’ll probably just make up my own cable for her.

Now the reason I could not see how to dismantle the twistgrip was that a closed end type grip had been fitted, one in an inappropriate colour for a staid old lady like the LE so I went and bought a pair of black rubber open ended grips for her.

Now looking at her, although it is as standard, the throttle side grip has a shiny metal end cap with an acorn nut on it to close off the bar end while the clutch side is bare, black, open handlebar end so I’ll have to do something about that, a bit more time on the lathe is in prospect!.

First Time Out

No excuse now, I’ve been out and taxed the LE! That means it’s now time for the acid test!.

So it’s on with the riding jacket and wheel the little lady out of the garage. Get my helmet and gloves out of the sidecar and we’re ready to go.

Fuel on, set the choke, turn her over a few times to prime the cylinders and then switch on and give her a kick.

On the LE, Velo described it as a “Footstarter” rather than a “kickstart” since it took so little effort to start the engine and it lived up to the name, a gentle prod and the engine is running.

Wait about half a minute to warm up and take off the choke and it’s into gear.

Bit of a crunch suggests the clutch needs adjusting but we’ll see to that later, ease the clutch in and we’re moving, easy pull away but feels a bit sluggish.

Into second gear and she pulls away nicely initially but soon runs out of puff.

I’m thinking “Last time I rode an LE it was smarter away than this, but hell, I’m used to the 800cc BMW.

Going up the hill out of the estate and it’s obvious something is not right so I turn right onto the main road, it’s down hill and I get into top gear, a quick check, ammeter showing a charge so the generator is working OK, oil-pressure up to 30psi so that’s OK bot there seems a lot of lost motion in the twistgrip.

Turn right back into the estate and back home.

First time out a run of less that a mile but a couple of problems have shown up.

Still she ran nicely, sounded sweet but badly down on expected performance.

LIFE!

I’ve been up to Halfords and got some antifreeze and found a little ploy. They are listing antifreeze concentrate at £4.49 per litre, distilled water to make it up is £2.00 per litre, that’s £6.49 for 2 litres of mix.
A 2 litre bottle of ready mix is £10.49, not a bad mark up!, but then you find there are no litre bottles of the concentrate in stock!!.

So, the other car shops round here having put up the shutters I had to get the readymix.

Anyway it was back to the bike and fill the radiator, leave for 5 minutes and check round for leaks.

Now the acid test! Petrol turned on, set the choke, put the key in and turn on the ignition, ammeter shows a discharge so battery is connected the right way round, turn the engine over a few times to get the fuel through to the cylinders and then give her a kick, try again and it feels like she’s trying to start, and again – nothing, try a few more times without result and notice the warning light is out and ammeter on zero – battery was flat!.

As I’d just charged the battery overnight it meant the battery was shagged so it was a case of turn off the fuel, take off the battery and put the bike away.

Once I was back in the house I went on net to Tayna Batteries, by now it was after 6.00pm but I put a new battery on order through their systems.

I received an acknowledgement the next morning with a tracking number for the order and I had the battery in my hands by lunchtime the next day!.

Out into the garage and fit the battery, fuel on, choke on, turn her over a couple of times, ignition on, kick and she’s running, open the gas a bit and nothing happens ????? then light dawns, I take the choke off and I’ve throttle response, as revs increase the ammeter moves from discharge to charge, lights and horn work, oil pressure showing in the 20 – 30psi range, so things seem right.

I’ll leave it till tomorrow for a trial run as I need to get her taxed first.

On With the Job

Parts arrived today, not bad, only a weeks turn round time, so it’s on with the job!.

The Velo special spanner made snugging up the barrel base nuts a doddle!, wish I’d had it when taking them off!, not only that but it doubles for removing the magneto mounting nuts on the big Velo!.

Once I had both barrels snugged down I had to reset the tappet clearances. This meant taking off the inspection covers to get at them. Valve clearances on these engines is 4thou on the inlet and 6thou exhaust at TDC. As one turn of the adjuster is 38thou you can set the inlet to about 2/3 of a flat open on the adjuster , nip it up, check it with a feeler gauge and if OK then lock it down. For the exhaust you set 1 flat open and then check, spanner access to the tappet lock nuts was poor so I dug out the obstruction spanners used for doing the Panther’s tappets. Have to try and get some better quality ones though, the Panther ones are simply cut from ¼ inch sheet and are a bit crude.

Next was refit the exhausts, bit fiddly but no problems.

I refitted the cylinder head studs, these had been removed to send the barrels away to have the water stubs replaced, and then put the heads back on, but while I had them off I took the opportunity to check the ignition timing — points opening at TDC on full retard –, while there is a marking on the flywheel for TDC, because the flywheel is not keyed onto the crankshaft the accuracy of this depends on the workmanship of the person who last refitted the flywheel. Since the ignition is really a flywheel magneto this setting is important, the fact that Veloce did not key the shaft suggests they did not fully trust the accuracy of manufacture of Miller, who supplied the system, as neither the flywheel or the ignition advance unit are keyed.

Onto the home straight now! Just refit the inlet manifold and carburetter put on the water hoses and all that’s left to do is refill the radiator. It’s now into October so that’ll have to wait until I can get some antifreeze.

Starting to get her back together

Since I do at least have a pair of cylinder base gaskets among the bits and pieces that came with the bike I can get started putting her back together.

First thing is to clean the crankcase faces where the barrels mount so it’s a case of getting in there with a cloth and some Panel Wipe to give a clean metal surface.

The barrels themselves need the same treatment and then the greased gasket put in place on the barrel. I know the obvious is to put them onto the studs on the crankcase but that would have the base cover plates lying on top of the greased gasket and the plate acts as a support for the piston while fitting the barrel.

The bores were wiped clean and then given a wipe of oil, slipped over the pistons and slid home onto the case studs.

Access to the nuts on these studs is awkward, Velo supplied a special spanner for the job, which I don’t have of course so it’ll need to go onto the parts order so until that comes I’ll just spin the nuts on finger tight and await delivery.