Thursday, October 08, 2009

Rescued by a Russian

As I wrote last night, discouraged, I had decided today to have Natasha; my 1996 Ural Sportsman, trailered to Linden Engineering so they could remove the front cover and replace the timing gears and alternator.

We had bad weather today (I still rode to/from work though) with freezing fog and occasional snow that didn't stick to the roads. Linden had arranged for a tow truck company to get my Ural. They called me and asked if they could do it tomorrow since the weather was crap and their truck was undergoing some clutch work. I asked what the cost would be, was told $130.

Being the cheap guy that I am, this cost gave me pause and motivated me to try and remove the dang rpoc screws again tonight. Phil, the previous owner, had mentioned that perhaps an impact driver would do the trick. I mentioned this to Andre, my russian friend from my contract work at DIA for UAL, and he surprised me when he showed up at my house with an impact driver that he picked up at the auto parts store! I had just been expecting Andre to show up with screw extractors, you see. The cost was $14 and I am here to tell you, worth many times that amount!

Here's what an impact driver looks like, this one is from Sears. A wonderful tool, thanks for the tip, Phil!

Yep, the impact driver did the trick, we got the dang rpoc screws out with very little problems. The cover came off easily enough and this is what we saw:

Success! The cover is off!

Check out all the metal shavings at the bottom edge!

We had a heck of a time removing the cam gear and shaft. We thought all we had to do is clear the push rods from applying pressure on the cam gear's lobes. So we removed the rocker arm assemblies and removed the push rods on the left side and extended out the ones on the right as shown below:

This however did not do the trick. There was still something hanging up the cam shaft lobes.

Then, by using the great instructions and photos on Bill Glaser's Unofficial Ural Motorcycle Service Manual website, Andre and I were able to figure out the next steps in order to remove the cam gear. This is the large gear in the picture above. Had I been smart, I would have looked at the link beforehand and done it in the order shown, saved us a bunch of time!

We ended up having to, in order: (note, I am probably not using the right names, refer to the pictures)
  • Loosen the rocker arm assemblies on both sides of the motorcycle and remove them.
  • Once the rocker arm assemblies were removed, we removed the push rods on the left and extended them on the right. (See above picture)
  • Remove the left side exhaust pipe from the left jug, which freed up the jug. You need the special pin wrench from the Ural toolkit to do this. Once loose, just tap the u-shaped exhaust pipe with a hammer till it comes off the jug. (Must buy myself a rubber mallet for such jobs)
  • Pull the left jug enough so that its base cleared the engine case and the tappets were exposed behind the cylinder and cylinder heads (within which the push rods travel).

The left jug, once freed from the exhaust pipe, slid outward easily, note the tappets which were now free to move out of the way of the cam gear's lobes.

This freed up enough space so that when I pulled the motorcycle forward while in gear, the cam gear rotated more freely and I lucked out and stopped the motorcycle in the right position. By this I mean the cam shaft had rotated so that it's lobes were clear of the tappets inside the engine case. I was then able to just pull and it came out easily. We had been beating on it before....when we should have done the above steps beforehand. Now we know. I am very glad I did not have to loosen the right side jug, the sidecar being there makes it a pain in the butt to work on.

Now, I've just got to figure out if the cam gear comes off the shaft or does it come like that in the new set. I am hoping I can take it to a machine shop if it has to be pulled off and pay them to do that properly and easily.

Now to order the replacement timing gears and a rebuilt alternator. I know, I know, I should get the Herzog gears and the Denso alternator, I know! But the damn Densos are on backorder and I am unwilling to wait. I need to get Natasha road-worthy as it looks like an early winter for us. I truly believe if I am zealous about checking the clearance of the gear on the alternator, that it will last longer in spite of being a rebuilt version of the one that failed so thoroughly.

All that remains to be pulled is the crank gear, shown in place above. It's seemingly undamaged but will compare against the new one to make sure.

Here's a closeup view of the tappets (small metal tube within the round openings), the cylinders and cylinder heads mate up to them and the push rods are the actual contact on the tappets.

Here's the removed cam gear and shaft, to the left and right of it are the rocker arm assemblies, the small gear to the right is the oil pump gear that came off the opening on top of the engine, the cover for the oil pump gear is the big round cover at the base and to the right of the end of the cam gear shaft.

Just look at how the alternator's gear wore down the cam gear's teeth!

Another view of the left jug, pulled clear of the engine case, that round opening on top is where the oil pump gear goes into.

Just before I succeeded in pulling the cam gear and shaft out, I was visited by Mike, a fellow Ural owner who'd emailed me from my postings on He's got a 2005 Ural Troyka and was interested in the work I was doing. I would have been too in his place. So now, I know a local fellow Ural rider, we can compare notes, go riding together and be support for the other in case one of us breaks down. It's all good!

My grateful appreciation to Andre for all his help so far and his steady confidence throughout this trying process. He's told me he'll be here for me as we put it all back together again.


I'd like to mention a tip from Chris, of He suggested using a torch to heat up the crank shaft gear and at the last second hitting the shaft itself with a quick freezing spray, both available from auto parts stores. The hot gear should then slide right off. It's probably the method I will try first the next time, if ever, I have to remove the cam shaft gear (the large one in the middle of the timing gear tower).

His method precludes the need to do all the engine disassembly that I did this past week, and when successful you remove the cam gear without removing the cam shaft. Assuming of course all you wanted to do was take the gear off.


Kelsey said...

I'm glad to see that you got it open!

My bike is from 1995, but there's only 2,000km on the clock, so hopefully we have some time before we'll have to do this ourselves.

Charlie6 said...

Kelsey, 1995 eh? you probably have the russian "grenade" alternator as well...I am told really that some of them are reliable. All I have to say is keep close watch on noises from the alternator area. If noisy, adjust the mating angle per the online instructions at Bill Glaser's site.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I admire your frugality and stick-to-it-ness. If you are really cheap, the best way to save time and money is wait until you have the right alternator and gear-set. If you go through another crappy Russian alternator (which seems perfectly likely), you will ultimately spend $1000 for the fix as opposed to $600.

Good luck with this. I was just thinking (rather candidly), better you than me. My project for this winter is getter stiffer springs installed in the forks.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Charlie6 said...

Jack, patience is not even close to making it in my list of personal achievements....we'll see how the second one goes, might order the denso at same time and replace when it comes in assuming the second one has not destroyed itself first.

1weekender said...

Congratulations Dom,

I'm glad you decided to do it yourself. The money saved on towing and paying a mechanic can be spent on good tools.


Conchscooter said...

My winter project is to continue riding my clockwork Bonneville. If you plan to ride this thing in winter in snow you might want to pack a tent and survival gear. Anyone who owns a 14 year old motorcycle with 1200 miles on the clock is a walking ad for unreliability and difficulty of use. With your commitment to actually riding you run a real risk of dying a lonely death by the side of the road from hypothermia. In the immortal words of riepe: rather you than me. Your family seems to like you which would make this foolhardy act of replacing weak parts with more weak parts a shame.

bobskoot said...


I agree with Mr Conch's synopsis about buying quality replacement parts which are more reliable than that RPOC cause it would most likely be the less expensive route in the end.
In order to minimize the possibility of being stranded in the middle of nowhere, broken down, with no cell phone service, perhaps you should consider a SPOT-2, which communicates with satelites. This is a new model, just being released.
I am glad you managed to hook up with another Ural owner.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Charlie6 said...

Phil, I am hoping it'll be a cheap way to learn and master this motorcycle.

Conch, it may irritate you, this quest of mine to master this seemingly unreliable beast and then take her out into the wilderness....but then again, quests aren't supposed to be easy...are they? I actually ride prepared and with the skills I am gaining, I think it makes me a better rider.

As to using bad parts...yeah both you and Jack have a point. I've a plan though to not even use an alternator....more to follow.

Charlie6 said...


yeah, I've been eyeing that SPOT device, I do find myself in spots with no cell to the options I'm considering...there's unstated factors re reliability, see my latest posting. Also considering non-standard options. I do understand that you get what you pay for....but you see, its not really the money, it's the time. Patience is not one of my virtues, and yeah, it's costly.