Normally, my old bikes start right up – even if I haven’t started them in awhile. This latter being a regular thing during the winter months, when riding a motorcycle is either not possible (snow-ice and single track vehicles don’t mix well) or just miserable, due to the cold and the lack (in my case) of a heated riding suit.
But sometimes, one of them won’t start – or is hard-to-start. This happens – eventually – with any machine, whether used irregularly or regularly. Regular use results in wear, which – eventually – leads to something wearing out. Irregular use can lead to something not working, which amounts to the same thing.
It won’t start – or it’s hard-to-start.
The difference, old-vs.-modern machine, is that the old stuff was almost entirely mechanical, with few electrical things that could go wrong and even those were easy enough to diagnose and repair. For instance, when my ’83 Honda wouldn’t start for the trip back home from my buddy’s shop a month or so ago, it was easy enough to diagnose (with a multimeter) a dead battery and then that the new battery wasn’t being charged – and that the bike needed a new rectifier. It took a couple of minutes to install a new one and then the bike started right up.
It has been hard-to-start other times as well. Every time, it’s been because the carburetors needed cleaning and/or so did the plugs, which have to be cleaned (or replaced) more often when a machine is fed fuel via carburetor(s) because these mechanical fuel-mixers do not ration the air-fuel mix as precisely and finely as electronic fuel injection does. Carburetors sometimes feed the engine a bit more gas than is ideal – this is called a “rich” air-fuel mixture – and that tends to result in carbon building up on the spark plugs, resulting in them not firing as well – and the engine not starting as easily (if it starts at all).
The carb(s) can also get gunked-up with the residue-result of fuel chemically degrading/interacting with carburetor parts, such as rubber/plastic parts. Inside a carburetor, there is a bowl – which is filled with liquid gas, just sitting there. The gas is not in a sealed container – and we all know what happens when gas is left in an unsealed container for say several months at a time. This is a much-lesser-issue with EFI because the fuel circuit in EFI is sealed – and because there isn’t a bowl of liquid gas just sitting there, gradually decomposing.
But, when something does go awry with the EFI, there is generally little you can do about it. In part because few of us know what to do about it. Or can know. Not without the necessary diagnostic equipment, which in some cases costs more than the vehicle. And which in most cases, most of us wouldn’t know how to use, regardless. You marvel at the black box – knowing the genie within is unhappy but not knowing how to make him happy.
It’s different with the old stuff. The mechanical stuff. You can see what might be wrong. It’s a visual-physical process of diagnostics. Is the carb gunked up? It’s easy to tell. Just inspect it. If it is, just clean it (or them, as the case may be). This latter is something almost anyone can do who is willing to do it.
Almost anyone can understand it, at any rate.
Four screws (typically) hold the fuel bowl to the carburetor – if it’s a motorcycle carburetor. Remove them and you have the bowl in hand. How does it look? Is the gas yellowish? Is there sludge in the bottom of the bowl? If you’ve found either, you’ve probably found your problem. Clean the bowl – with carburetor cleaner – and maybe dump the going-bad-gas you left to sit in the tank for too long.
You may need to go a little deeper into the carb(s) and clean the orifices – jets and such – through which the gas must freely flow. But once again, you can see (and handle) all of these mechanical – these physical – parts and that makes seeing what’s wrong a lot easier than wondering what’s wrong within the black box, the computer that runs the EFI as well as many other things besides.
When my laptop computer stopped working, the only thing I could do about it was take it to the computer store, where the technicians understand the workings of things that cannot be seen or handled and which operate on principles opaque to the understanding of Neanderthals such as myself.
And that’s why I ride bikes that are mechanical things rather than electronic things. They may not start sometimes.
But when they don’t, I can usually get them running again.
That works for me.
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