Showing posts with label Natasha Maintenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Natasha Maintenance. Show all posts

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Servicing Natasha's Front Shocks

Recently, I'd noted both my front shocks on Natasha, my Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig, had leaked oil out of the shock absorbers.  I figure the final straw was my taking Natasha on an attempt to reach Argentine Pass, after all, they're supposed to be serviced every 10K Km I believe.

Natasha is now over 25K Km and she was way overdue the servicing of her front shocks.  I consulted the goldmine of Ural information at Bill Glaser's site and assembled my tools.  You have to compress the shock absorbers in order to remove the retaining rings that hold everything together under pressure.

The above link shows you the procedure step by step, I shall just write about some of the "highlights" I encountered during my servicing of the front shocks on Natasha.

This is a shot from Bill Glaser's site showing the homemade shock compression tool he made and which I copied:

image source: Bill Glaser

I started with the right front shock, here's a view of Natasha's front wheel sans the shock

From Bill Glaser's website: Top view of shock showing the two chrome keepers 
which hold the shock inside the bell cover and spring.

Here's a shot of my shock compression tool, after I'd compressed it and removed the shock assembly
from the above spring housing

Here's the shock's housing, wiped down clean and secured to a vise so I can remove the cap
holding the shock components within the black shock housing.

Here's the Ural shock tool needed to loosen and spin off the threaded metal cap that secures the shock components inside the oil reservoir which itself is inside the black metal tube

Note: the cap tells me I have the 12mm seal model of the shocks.  This is good as its the one in stock at Ural dealers, the 14mm seal is apparently unobtanium here in the west.

While Bill Glaser's site goes into detail on how to further disassemble the shock further if components are damaged, I only had to replace the old oil with new 20W50 Engine Oil.  A bit messy until I got the hang of it but really it was just cleaning and replacing of the shock absorbing fluid.

You can see, not much of the old oil was left in the reservoir (light brown tube)
The lower item is the shock itself which fits inside the brown tube.

from Bill Glaser's website: a better view of the shock's piston body free of the oil reservoir

Here's Natasha's left side front shock, after having removed it from the spring cap assembly
note the dirt and grease on it which I would clean off.

The left front shock had some damage to the metal cap on the piston, I'll be ordering a replacement soon I think.  Also the shock tensioner appeared to have been damaged before and re-welded, another thing to order for my peace of mind.  It did however, have much more old oil remaining in its reservoir than the right side shock!

The first shock took about an hour, the second one took less than 20 minutes as I had the hang of things now.  Re-assembly of the shocks was a bit messy as I got used to the new oil spilling out a bit when introducing the shock into the reservoir tube.

Once capped into place, I slid the clean shock housing into the cap and spring assembly, worked the nuts loose on my compression tool and voila, a serviced shock ready for installation onto Natasha.

The original plan had been to only do the front shocks as I was bidding on a pair of barely used shocks on Ebay.  I then changed my mind and removed the left rear shock and started working on it!  Alas, the motorcycling gods decided I'd push my luck enough for one day.  I could not, after much effort, remove the metal cap off that third shock!  I stopped before I buggered the cap up and made things worse.  It seems to be working fine as is, though not as "strong" as the newly service front shocks.

I put the un-serviced left rear shock back in place, got cleaned up and put away my tools.  After lunch, it was a short test ride to make sure nothing fell off Natasha.  I have to tell you, the front end suspension is much smoother now when hitting bumps, no more feeling like she's bottoming out and no fighting the handlebars when hitting a bump on a turn!  All good stuff.

My continued thanks to Bill Glaser and the wealth of maintenance/servicing information he's compiled and posted freely for the benefit of the Uralisti community.

So, except for the difficulty in removing the cap to the shock, it was a pretty easy maintenance operation.  I am going to figure out a way to put a "cheater bar" on the end of the Ural shock wrench to enable me to service the remaining three shock absorbers on Natasha.  For now though, we're ready for the rocky trails once again!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A missing part causes a Wrench-Intensive weekend.

Recently, in the hopes of finally getting past the heat-related "fails to start" engine issues on Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig, I'd bought a gently used Ducati Ignition system from a fellow member at

The price was less than 1/2 of the retail price for the latest ignition module type for Urals so how could I say no right?  The parts arrived promptly and on Thursday afternoon of last week, I dismantled the existing Type IV ignition module and took it off Natasha.  It was when I got stuck removing the mounting plate for the old system that I realized that I was missing a seal plate for the new Ducati system!  Doh.

You see, I'd been following the illustrated "how to" guide published by JohnBG of and neglected to notice that I was missing this part:

old seal plate on left, new one on right
 photo source: JohnBG's Ducati Ignition Install Guide

The function provided by the seal plate is to keep the oil from the engine from leaking out into the front cover area where the ignition's rotor and electric pickup is located:

Here's the front of the engine, the cam shaft's end poking through from inside the engine.

Here's the new seal plate which I was missing

I emailed the previous owner of the ignition kit and he promptly replied telling me he'd thought the piece was not Ducati-specific.  He also mailed it out to me the next day so I should have it by Tuesday of this week.

So Friday afternoon was spent removing the old mounting and seal plates from the front area of the engine.  Dang P.O.S. Russian pot metal flat tip screws proved stubbornly hard to remove without damaging them.  There were seven in all and all but one I managed to remove using penetrating oil and time.  The last one involved the removal of the front wheel and fender so I could line up an impact driver on it.  Three hits and it was loose!
Knowing the seal plate was not missing and on the way, I spent most of Saturday doing what I could with the ignition components I did have.  Here's a shot of Natasha with her fuel tank off so I could get at the mounting points for the new module and install all the associated wiring.

A bit messy in terms of wiring, grease and such under the tank, I know.  All that would be cleaned up and corrected over the course of the weekend.

A view of the front of the engine, plastic cover and old ignition pieces removed.  As you can see, the old alternator is still mounted, serving only as a 7 lb+ cover to keep engine oil inside the front engine area.

I spent some time cleaning up the areas exposed by the removal of the gas tank.  Did some rust removal and paint touch-up.  Cleaned up the wiring underneath, routing wires cleanly and installing the wiring for the Ducati ignition system at the same time.

Two holes needed to be drilled into the support frame welded onto the frame which the gas tank straddles when mounted.  This procedure went well, though I did introduce a slight nick in the speedometer cable's sheathing with the drill bit.  

Here's the Ducati coil, mounted securely onto the support frame above where the old ignition's plastic cover goes.  You can see part of the electric pickup that will "sense" the rotation of the new rotor/interruptor on the camshaft for ignition timing purposes.

The "brains" of the Ducati Ignition system, bolted onto the support frame under the motorcycle's seat.  Those exposed wires you see I ended up covering with some black duct tape to keep water out.

Once I'd gone as far as I could without the missing seal plate, there were two other tasks that came to mind that I'd been meaning to do.  Service the splines on the drive shaft and try removing the failed alternator and putting a metal cap in its place to keep the oil inside.

 A shot of twin rainbows visible from my driveway, this on the afternoon after the work above was done.
I am hoping it was a good omen for the work.

Sunday was spent doing the two tasks above.  Neither was a major ordeal, just time intensive, especially the removal of the final drive and the drive shaft from the rear of the gear box.  For this operation, I was following the excellently illustrated and annotate guide from Bill Glaser's site.

I was way too engaged by the procedure, not to mention having grease-coated hands, that I didn't shoot any pictures while I did the spline lube service.  Instead, here's pictures from Bill Glaser's site which show you a bit of what was involved.  

Here's a view of the drive shaft, it connects to a rubber donut behind the gearbox that acts as a shock absorber and coupling unit.  The splines to be lubed are visible on the left end of the shaft.
photo source: Bill Glaser

Here's a view of the final drive and one of the four bolts which affix it to the rear swingarm
photo source: Bill Glaser

Here, the final drive is unmounted from the swingarm and being moved to the left to uncouple it from the swingarm and the sidecar propeller shaft
photo source: Bill Glaser

The Final drive, ready to be cleaned up and serviced.  
Mine was much greasier and dirty than Bill's unit above!
photo source: Bill Glaser

My final drive had apparently never been serviced until that day.  The splines were bone dry, with some minor damage due to lack of grease, some light rust and some wear.  I believe it's still usable though.  Due to the lack of prior service, it took quite an effort for me to free it from the gearbox's coupling device.  The final drive unit is pretty heavy and unwieldy so picture me with it in my lap, my feet braced against the centerstand's legs and pulling backwards with all my strength!

I pulled so hard I ended up pulling the rubber donut/coupler off the rear of the gear box!  No big deal as it just gets pushed on, which I did using a large flat tip screwdriver as a lever.  Once I finally got the drive loose, I spent quite some time cleaning it up and servicing the splines.  I used Honda Moly 60 grease as it's got a good reputation among Beemer and Honda owners for such usage.

Along with some assistance from my loving wife, I got the final drive installed and it snicked into the coupler unit with nice and smooth due to the new grease I'd applied.  The hardest part of the install was aligning the yokes for the sidecar's propeller shaft!  I am quite certain the next time I go to pull off the final drive, that it'll come out quite easily!

Next task, the removal of the failed 35Amp Russian alternator, otherwise known among the Uralisti cognoscenti as the Russian Hand Grenade.  As I mentioned before, I'd been using it only as a cover to keep oil from splashing out from the front portion of the engine.  The idea was to take off it's 7lb+ worth of dead weight and replace it with a metal cover.

To that end, I ended using the "top hat" metal plate that came with an old Ural air box I'd obtained from another fellow owner.  A little drilling, a little filing and I got the existing holes on the plate to fit the mounting bolts that used to secure the failed alternator.  I used gasket making material to hopefully create an oil-tight/airtight seal on the opening.  If it doesn't work, you'll see the alternator placed back in on future pics!

Things look quite "roomy" here now with the failed alternator out of the picture!

I did some final cleanup, replaced the gas tank and hooked back up all the gas lines that go to it.  Now Natasha's ready for the Ducati-specific seal plate and installing the remaining components of the Ducati Ignition system should be a breeze.

 Update: Later on today.
The missing seal plate came in the afternoon mail!  I put it on with no issues, put some gas into Natasha's tank, and she fired right up!  I next hooked up my timing light, shone it into the opening and saw that the timing mark was almost dead center already.  A little fiddling with the rotor pickup and it was dead center.  I got her buttoned up, got geared up and went for a quick test ride.

She rode beautifully.  Engine was nice and smooth, well as smooth as a Ural can be anyway.    I'd adjusted the clutch before due to a piece of it breaking off at the handle but I think I'll get used to new "friction zone" soon enough.  I came home to put the front fender back on.  The elated feeling was only slightly dulled by seeing that my metal cover replacement for the alternator's mounting point had failed miserably though.  There was evidence of an oil leak down the right side of the engine.  Oh well.  (note, there's a minimum width requirement for whatever is used as a cover, otherwise you end up pulling out the mounting bolts!)

About an hour later, there was more gas spilled on the driveway as I had to remove the tank, remove the cover plate, put back the failed alternator and replace the gas tank.  I really have to get quick disconnects for that crossover tube between the two halves of the gas tank!  (Stupid design)

Another test ride, no oil leaks this time, I need to buy a new mounting bolt for the front fender but its fine now with a temporary replacement.  Natasha is back among the "living" and will be my ride to work tomorrow.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Tech Day with the Denver Area Uralisti

A beautifully sunny day here in Colorado, and I hosted the DAU's first Tech Day.  We had a total of five Ural Sidecar rigs in my garage/driveway the weather couldn't have been any better for it.

The tech day (gathering to exchange technical know how, practice jobs you've never done under guidance, shoot the breeze and share in general motorcycling camaraderie) was scheduled to start at 8:00AM.  I had the garage emptied of cars, leaving only Natasha in her usual spot.

Before the arrival of the Uralisti

Pretty soon rigs and riders started arriving with Steffen making a surprise and welcome appearance after having written saying other commitments precluded his participation.   Introductions all around, coffee in hand and breakfast noshes provided my Martha my loving wife, and we got ready for work.

Left to right: Craig (S 854), Jay (Mapperjay) Steffen (Scapello), John (Spat), 
Brian (Trialsguy) and yours truly.

Jay had brought along the factory fuel can and bracket to mount and lucky for him Craig had mounted his exactly where Jay was planning.  The assembly went in smoothly I believe, at least I didn't hear any cursing from Jay's rig's area while we were starting work on my sidecar's tire swap.

mounting Jay's new fuel can bracket on his Patrol

My objective for the day was to swap out the tires on all three wheels on the Ural.  Two were near the limit in terms of wear and one ended up a working spare. There was some debate whether to use the 110/90 -10 heavy duty inner tube or the 3.5-19 regular duty inner tube.  We ended up with the heavy duty as they were similar in size:

John and I comparing the new inner tubes

Brian, who is a new Ural owner, had come by truck as he's on the way to Wyoming to participate in a cattle roundup/drive along with his wife and some other folks.  I am hoping he'll do lots of pictures as he's participating on this drive on his trials motorcycle!  Being a new owner, he was glad to pitch in to get some hands on practice on some of the tasks we were doing today.

Brian, loosening the drive wheel's pinch bolt prior to removing the old pusher tire

Here's a look at my garage and driveway with all the rigs present and accounted for.  There's still room for more rigs in case you're a Ural rider or heck any kind of sidecar rider.  I am sure we'll be doing this again.

The fleet's in!

Another view of the fleet

Here's Steffen's indecently clean Retro, you can see Jay's Patrol and John Gear Up inside the garage

The first tire we swapped on Natasha was her sidecar tire which was worn smooth down the center.  The operation went well with lots of kibitzing from all involved.  I learned smoother ways of doing it and the first tire was installed with a new inner tube and we didn't pinch a hole in it!  One down, two to go.

Once we had the pusher tire off, that one proved a bit tougher to work on for some reason.  It was Jay's turn to try it and his luck of the draw wasn't too good.  Much struggling ensued with some head scratching but we finally got it done!
Tire #2 was a booger to get the old tire off, getting the new tire one wasn't too bad.

While all the above was going on, Craig and Brian graciously worked on my rear drum brake on the tug and on the sidecar.  Craig was doing most of the guiding and Brian was getting his hands dirty.  They got my brake shoes adjusted, the brake cam angled better for leverage and cleaned out the excess grease I'd left in there.  Thanks guys!

 Here's Craig and Brian working on the sidecar's drum brakes
(I kept hearing them talk about greasing the brake shoes....hmmmm)
photo courtesy of John
Brian and Jay expressed interest in the valve clearance checking procedure on the Urals and John stepped up immediately and used his own rig to demonstrate his version of the procedure.  I believe that both Jay and Brian are now familiar with the process and will be ready to do this on their own rigs when the time comes during services.  Oh and Jay swapped out his air filter for a new K&N filter as well, under supervision of course so it all went rather smoothly.

Alas, Craig had to leave us prior to this point, he had to motor down to Colorado Springs and meet people.  Steffen would soon follow him as he had soccer matches to attend with his kids.

Craig motors away

We had a brief break for a quick bite, courtesy of Martha.  Andrey, my Russian friend showed up around this time as well and joined us for some conversation around the kitchen table as everyone got something to eat.  Andrey even brought us a bottle of vodka!  

Lunch break over, John finished showing Brian and Jay the valve clearance check procedure and I remounted the front wheel with the new tire on it that Brian had helped me swap.  That one went the easiest of all three tires today!

Working on the third and final tire swap, this is the front wheel

I did a quick adjustment of the brake controls.  There was general cleaning up of tools and putting them away along with cleaning things up.  Jay left us at this point as he had other things to get done.  Brian left soon afterwards after some more chatting with John and I.  We hope to see him at an upcoming trial motorcycle event down near Howard, CO.   He lives in New Mexico, near Sipapu, so John and I are thinking of going to the annual gathering of Beemers there and perhaps seeing Brian again then as well.

Here's Brigitta, parked out of the way.  She remained unmolested but admired by all.

That left John and I, and he graciously accompanied me as I took Natasha out on her new tires to do final adjustment on her brakes.  There were a bit loose so I tightened them down some more, did some quick riding with semi-hard stops until I got things braking nicely.  Nice job there Brian and Craig!

 Natasha and her new tires
photo courtesy of John
John then left after a few more words, it was his tire irons that made the job so much easier along with his expertise with tire swapping.  Thanks John!

Once John had left, I piled up four worn tires I had, two of which had been with me for a while from the 1150RT I used to own, Maria.  I motored over on Natasha to the local tire shop where we buy our car tires.  Since I was a client of theirs, they let me throw the tires into their disposal bin, no charge!  Otherwise, its like $2-3 bucks each, good deal

The cars are back in the garage, the motorcycles are back together in their single bay.  Nothing was broken and I believe a good time was had by all.  Much learning and practice was performed so it was a successful tech day I believe!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Servicing Natasha's wheel bearings

Almost 5K Kilometers overdue, today I serviced the front and sidecar wheel bearings on Natasha, my Ural sidecar rig.  Why so late, well, about 5K kilometers ago, I was actually recovering from a sheared apart sidecar drive shaft!  Scheduled maintenance was really the last thing on my mind.  Still, no excuse.

I didn't service the bearings on the present pusher tire since it's a new wheel with new bearings.  I just realized though as I write this that I forgot to do the spare wheel's bearings.  Dang it.  Oh well, it's a spare for a reason, not much wear on it.  It'll wait till the next cycle of service.

Following the beautifully written and photo demonstrated instructions at Bill Glaser's outstanding site, I removed both front and sidecar wheels, took out the bearing assemblies, cleaned them of the old grease (what there was remaining anyways), packed new grease into the bearings, put it all back in the hubs and remounted the wheels.  NO problems, no hassles, easy peasy!

 Here's a view of the sidecar wheel's hub splines, they were in good shape

This is a view of the sidecar wheel's drum brake assembly and splines, also in good shape

The front wheel's drum brake assembly, note that it does not have splines
so yes, if your pusher wheel becomes stripped of its splines,
you can swap the front and rear wheels and carry on!
(Yes, I would clean all the brake dust off before putting the wheel back on)

I guess there was no grease on it from the factory since no splines are involved in the front wheel
I went ahead and gave everything a light coat of grease anyways to prevent further rust

 This is the old grease on the sidecar wheel bearings, they were definitely due for service!

 The sidecar wheel bearings and bushing, with new grease on!
I used this video to learn how to "pack bearings" by hand   It's easy, but messy.

 This is the front wheel bearings, glad I pulled them today to repack them with new grease!

 Ah, new grease on the front wheel bearings and bushing

Re-assembly was per the instructions at Bill Glaser's site.  I really could not imagine trying to do this service without the help he's provided to Uralisti everywhere!

As I said before, no problems encountered and there was only minimal use of the BFH to "entice" things to fit correctly.  I feel better now about the condition of all the wheel bearings presently on the rolling wheels on Natasha.  Another wrenching experience for the old knowledge bank.