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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Selling Natasha, the Ural sidecar, as a project rig.

This past Sunday, I finally had some time to take Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig, out for a test ride.  She'd been making some strange noises from the drive train area last time I commuted to work on her week before last.

The arrival of the new sidecar for the V-Strom had taken all my time as you can imagine.

I got her, riding pretty well I would say, to a nearby county road and posed her as follows with a hazy view of the Front Range mountains.

 Looking West to the Rocky Mountains

 Looking East towards the prairies 

As I shot the above pictures, I took off my riding glove and placed my hand on the rear wheel hub, it was way hot to the touch!  Dang near got a burn on my fingers.  Not a good sign.  I took it easy going home, but could see signs of final drive oil spewing onto the wheel's rim.

Got her on the centerstand, and removed the drain plug on the final drive, this is what I found:

The golden colored metal flakes you see were non-magnetic, figure they were the brass spacer ring that was part of the replaced items when I rebuilt the final drive back in February.  So I continued flushing out the unit with new oil, and was gaining some hope as the oil drained went from immediately turning from light brown to black to remaining light brown.

I would put the new oil in, drain plug reinstalled of course, spin the pusher and sidecar wheels several times to work the new oil around within the final drive's casing.  Two flushes, came and went.  On the third flush, I actually turned on the engine and spun the wheels since they were up in the air.  I then went to drain it again and I heard a "clink" noise of something metallic dropping into the catch container.

Yep, that's a ball bearing stuck to the magnetic tip of the drain plug.  That means at least one ball bearing assembly has come apart within the final drive!

As I've a new sidecar rig to break in, and I've not the time or inclination to once again dismount the final drive on the Ural, take it apart and assess the damage, I have placed her on craiglist for sale:

Here's a link to the AD on craigslist if you're curious:  LINK

So far, a couple of nibbles but shipping costs and the older Urals' sterling reputation are not helping things in terms of making a sale as you can imagine.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Natasha, not quite dead, and feeling better.

As my steady readers know, a bit over a couple of weeks ago I had another "repair challenge" set on my by Natasha, my '96 Ural Sportsman Sidecar Rig.  It was initially, apparently the death knell of my relationship with this beast of a motorcycle but things have gotten better since then.

Much like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where the guy is seen hauling a cart through a plague-ridden medieval town, yelling: "Bring out your dead, bring out your dead";  I too was in that situation two weeks or so ago.

source: Google
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I thought the Final Drive on the Ural was toast and not worth further investment of time or treasure.  I was the guy carrying a body to the death cart which was not quite dead yet.  It was Natasha who spoke to me as I took her final drive apart and said: "I'm not dead yet".  Further disassembly and research intimated that she might be "getting better".

Since then I've had quite the "crash course" I've had in basic disassembly of a Ural fulltime 2WD unit, diagnosis of problems of which there were two major ones, and the eventual replacement of same.  Ready help came from a fellow SovietSteeds member: Ron C aka n3303j online.  He'd rebuilt this model final drive before and offered me guidance, help, info, and tips on taking things apart, checking them and then putting things back together.

Thank you Ron, I am in your debt.

I'll spare you the boring technical pictures and details here.  If you're really curious, there's a picture series on picasa which details the disassembly I did and what parts got replaced:  LINK

After receiving the final part this part Saturday (and not realizing it till Sunday morning due to it being buried in snow on the porch) and spending Super Bowl Sunday working on her with my youngest son's help; Natasha was back together.  Monday, my wife and my youngest son helped me mate the tug back to the sidecar, Natasha was whole once again.  It was dark by the time I got her wired up to the battery in the sidecar and figured out some minor issues.  Went out for a very short ride, less than 1/2 mile in the snow-packed neighborhood but she seemed fine!  Those short few minutes riding about were glorious!

Today, we woke to a good 5-6 inches of snow and I used Natasha to take my oldest son, Patrick, over to school.  Man, it was fun sloshing about the deeply rutted neighborhood streets for the whole mile to the school.  We both got quite cold in that short ride, as I'd not fitted the windshields back on to the rig or the heated grips!

Here she is, mated back onto the sidecar and ready for more test rides

So far so good, no leaks from the final drive, the rear wheel remains with no wobbles and nothing has fallen off.  The windshield is back on, heated grips are wired up again, and soon she'll be ready for the forthcoming Elephant Ride on Guanella Pass this weekend!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Every Ural rider needs an Oscar

Today, after a week of research, weighing and comparing options available to me in terms of either fixing or replacing Natasha's final drive, I finally decided to at least look at the innards of the final drive and judge for myself the extent of the damage.

As you might have read from my previous postings, I'd been unable to remove the axle from the rear or "pusher tire" and therefore couldn't remove the wheel in order to get at the final drive assembly.  It was well and truly stuck in there, and repeated hammerings accomplished nothing but damaging the threaded end of the axle.

Today, Oscar, a friend from work and my now best wrenching friend, came over with his tools.  The first order of business was to cut the outboard end of the axle, as close to the wheel hub as possible. Once the loose section of the axle was removed, we could then slide the wheel with final drive still attached to the left.

This would thereby free the mounting bolts which secure the FD to the right side swing arm mounting holes.  Once free of the mounting holes, the only thing holding the final drive to the motorcycle would be the prop shaft which mates it to the rubber donut which mates it in turn to the transmission.

Oscar wasted no time and before I knew it was sawing away at the axle:

Oscar and his sawsall

Using what Oscar described as a blade that was "toast", it took him
only a few minutes of steady cutting to cut the axle

The stub in the left swing arm's pinch bolt was being difficult in its own right, but Oscar's slide hammer made quick work of that.

Now came the fun part and the inspiration for the title of this posting.  Using a breaker bar, I managed to push the final drive to the left and off the mounting holes of the swing arm.  Now, the wheel and final drive assembly were only connected to the motorcycle via the prop shaft to the transmission.

I loosened the prop shaft from the donut and while Oscar basically dead-lifted the entire rear end of the motorcycle, I wrestled the final drive free of the portion of the donut which connects it to the transmission.  Oscar continued to hold the motorcycle's rear end in the air and I slid the wheel and final drive out from under it.

I then took the wheel off and we rolled it outside to examine it.  The axle remained stuck in the wheel hub and since it was toast anyways, Oscar then hammered it out.  We noted a groove had been "cut" into the axle so it was toast regardless.  So, what cut that groove you ask?  I'll tell you.

The Ural wheel design is like so:

Part number 20 in the picture above depicts the two roller bearings into which the axle, p/n 11 above, is inserted.  They ride on both ends of p/n 27 which is a bushing.

The inner roller bearing had apparently seized and basically shredded itself to pieces inside the wheel hub.  In the process of doing so, it seized the axle (probably where the slight groove was cut) and prevented me from pulling the axle as normal.

Here's the two roller bearings in question, the whole one is the outer bearing.  
The one in pieces, used to look like the one in the upper left corner.  Nice huh?

Here's the final drive, cracked open for your viewing pleasure and for my eventual disassembly to inspect for damage and replacement of parts as required.

As a portent of hope, all the gears spun smoothly within their respective housings.  
I could move them with easy with my fingers, and by using the prop shaft.  
So hopefully, no major damage to the final drive components themselves!

The wheel hub splines on the pusher wheel were of course toast as well.  I'll be needing a new wheel, again.  I am also thinking that I will need a new driven gear spline assembly:

The driven gear spline, looks pretty bad to me, and probably the cause of the stripped wheel hub splines.

I continued on for a bit more but stopped to take a break.  Pictures were sent to the Ural dealer for price quotes, we'll see what the totals entail.  It might be cheaper to replace the whole final drive with one of the newer ones which are better and more reliable.  Though a new one won't be full time 2WD, it will come with engageable 2WD.  We'll see.

The above start of repair efforts does not mean I've discarded the notion of perhaps replacing the motorcycle with a different tug.  Or finding a new rig to take Natasha's place.  All options remain on the table, to include as I mentioned, getting a new Ural Final Drive.

That is one thing about Urals, the design has changed so little in over 40 years, that a 2010 Final Drive bolts right onto a 1996 frame and transmission!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

As I prepare Natasha for departure...

Truly amazing all the knowledge I was lacking when it comes to mating a sidecar to a motorcycle.  I knew that I'd bypassed such lack of knowledge back when I first started thinking of buying a Ural Sidecar Rig.  I figured that since they build their rigs from the ground up to be sidecar rigs, that all the details of mating such things together would be designed in and worked out.

For the most part, I was proven right with the Ural rig I rode for almost 18 months.  No need to mess with the alignment, or necessitating a subframe mount on the motorcycle to use as mounting points and as a bonus, they sport the capability to go into reverse and offroad with minimal hassle.

As I now start the process of figuring out how to connect my Ural sidecar rig to my 1987 R80 Airhead Beemer (Brigitta), some of the things I am learning are weighing heavily on my mind:

1.  I am going to need a reinforcing subframe mount that gets attached to the R80, to provide mounting points for the sidecar and it's frame.  You can buy something pre-made and have it shipped to you for assembly but there might be some welding and cutting involved to make it all come together.  Roughly $1000.

2.  You can ship your motorcycle and sidecar rig to PA where an outfit called cstanley motosports will handcraft and assembly together to mate your motorcycle and sidecar together.  You'll lose your motorcycle while they work on it of course, roughly 4-6 weeks assuming nothing weird is encountered or their workload is too heavy.

3.  The value of the Ural tug in terms of parts and the rarity of my sidecar due to it being designed for a fulltime 2WD tug apparently exceeds her current book value as a whole motorcycle sidecar rig!  In talking to other mechanics/dealers, they've expressed interested in the final drive, as broken as it is...the 750cc engine is apparently of value as well since a new one will run you $5k or more.  The sidecar, when new and without all the extras it's got on now, ran $4200 for just the tub and wheel!

4.  If I keep the Ural sidecar, I'll have to buy a way 1WD swing arm that bolts onto the sidecar frame to secure the sidecar wheel to the sidecar, that job is presently done by the propshaft that connects the sidecar wheel to the failed final drive.  That obviously goes away with a different non-Ural motorcycle tug.

5.  And, if I was to pour more money into Natasha, her broken final drive can be replaced as a "bolt on" operation for about $900 or so with a new final drive with engageable 2WD.   This option however will face resistance from my loving wife in terms of "what, more money down that particular money pit?".

The benefit of course of keeping the sidecar in some sort of fashion is retaining the ability to go offroad with relative ease though getting stuck will be far easier with the loss of 2WD.  Riding on snow though should still be doable and the R80 should be able to move things along at 70-75 mph all day long.  Finally the option to carry one of my family as a passenger.  Keeping up with highway traffic while attached to a sidecar, what a concept.

So the above mess of data and options will continue to swirl about my head.

In preparation for the hopefully soon sale of Natasha as a parts motorcycle, I separated her from the sidecar this morning.  It was not as complicated or difficult as I feared.

Here is the sidecar rig to the left and Natasha on the right, separated probably for the first time 
since she left the factory.

A closer, lower view of the mounting points on the sidecar frame

Natasha as a solo motorcycle.  

Before you even ask, I've read and have no reason to disbelieve that trying to ride the motorcycle without a sidecar can be difficult as she's got leading link forks which are great for steering a sidecar but not so great when it comes to a solo motorcycle.

I've also received marching orders from my loving wife to procure a second motorcycle to use as spare while I figure out the above.  She's great isn't she?  I'm thinking a GS, which model, I don't know.  Some would say the 1150/1200 series but their heavy bulk could make offroad adventures more "interesting" and involving heavy lifting operations than I want.  The F800s are not much lighter and I read of folks riding around the world on the 650GS which are much lighter.

Given all the above, your feedback would be appreciated.

Natasha the tug, is toast

My adventures with Natasha, my '96 Ural Sidecar rig have come to an end.

During a ride to the hardware store during lunch yesterday, she started emitting a loud metallic rubbing noise, very similar to what I'd experienced before when the splines on the wheel hub of the pusher tire had stripped; and there was no force able to be applied to the rear tire.

I coasted to a stop a bit short of a mile from the house, in a local neighborhood.  Since I was so close to home, I just pushed her there, and boy was that a long way to push.  But I had to get home you see, as I was telecommuting and my lunch hour was expiring.  At this point, I was mad because I'd somehow stripped yet another wheel hub spline and it would cost a bit over $250 to replace it

Later on that afternoon, once my shift was over, I tried to remove the rear wheel on the tug (that's what sidecarists call the motorcycle portion of a sidecar rig).  I've done this many times before, both to swap out tires, wheels and do services.  This time, the axle was not coming out.  I could barely, with much force and using the tommy bar as a lever, even get it to rotate!

I even tried loosening the mounting bolts on the final drive (FD), made sure the castellated nut was off and the pinch bolt was complete luck.  You're supposed to be able to just pull it out

Removed the sidecar propshaft from the FD and pounded on the axle from the right side.  No luck and I damaged the threads while doing so, which should give you an idea of how hard I was hitting it with the BFH.

While long range plans in my head had included someday replacing the Ural tug with my '87 R80 Beemer Airhead, I had been planning on it being done AFTER this Winter.  What is it that they say about the "Best laid plans of mice and men"?  Or in Mr Riepe's case the "best laid mice of men and plans"?

Some phone calls later, my decision was made, try and sell the tug as a parts motorcycle to the local Ural mechanic: Linden Engineering up in Golden, CO; and start the process of obtaining the right subframe mount and parts to mate my R80 "Brigitta" to the sidecar.  Further on down the road, figure out a way to afford a GS type BMW for two-wheeled motoring.

It's kind of sad and dissapointing in a way, but I think in the back of my mind I knew this day would come.  If nothing else, Natasha's sometimes questionable reliability precluded the really long distance rides I wanted to do with a sidecar.  I've been lucky each time she had issues, I was close to home and not up in the mountains.

More to follow...

Update: 31JAN2011: So, the damage was mostly in the wheel hub.  Replacing the driven gear hub in the final drive which was eating the wheels, replacing seals/bearings.  We'll see if I can repair her for now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

36 days later, Natasha is back home!

A happy day for me today, as repairs on Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig were finally complete.

My loving wife drove me to Golden, CO where Linden Engineering is located and dropped me off.

Natasha was waiting for me to take her out for a test ride, which I did after a lengthy conversation with both Dennis and Linda, the husband and wife team who run Linden Engineering.  There is no such thing as a short conversation with either one as they are quite gregarious and yet very pleasant to converse with.

Took Natasha out for a test ride after Dennis fired up the engine to show how smooth she was "ticking over".  First thing I noticed was the whine of the alternator which is now repaired and providing power once more to the rig.  Yes, I've gone back to the Russian Hand Grenade alternator, we'll see how long this one lasts.  I've had many conversations with Ural mechanics and they've persuaded me to try it again.  The key apparently is aligning the alternator's gear correctly with the timing gear.  Not too tight (and quiet) and not too loose (and noisy).

The test ride went great, no issues and the rear brakes really work well now that Dennis replaced the shoes for the rear drum brakes and adjusted them.  Her idle is at a low 700 rpm but Dennis assured me she was fine at that and to ride her for a bit that way.

More conversations later with Linda while she made out the invoice, another talk with Dennis about keeping an eye out on the swingarm which he thinks is a bit out of true and placing some stress on the final drive and rear wheel assembly.  He'd been unable to pinpoint it and my eagerness to get her back precluded more time in his hands.

Yes, it had been a long time without my Ural but it all seemed worth it as she pulled strongly through the gears as I headed away from Linden Engineering, through Golden and up the road to Lookout Mountain to give her a little workout and shakedown.

 Here's Natasha on the way up Lookout Mountain with Golden CO
and points south in the background

A panoramic view of the same location, to give you a better view of the curvy road up the mountain

She did fine running all the way up to the top of Lookout Mountain and back down again towards US40.  I took US40 east back towards town and ended up taking the side road down to the town of Morrison.  I was trying to get used to the additional engine noise caused by the alternator, she's definitely a bit noisier now but I  can live with the noise now that battery range is not an issue.

As you can see from the pictures, we had ourselves a beautifully sunny day with temperatures in the 50s.  This brought out many other motorcycle riders as they too enjoyed the weather.

I took city streets back home from Morrison, Natasha still performing great and me getting used to riding on three wheels again.  It felt quite good to "lean out" on the sharper right hand turns while going at speed, I'd missed that.

I got her home, cleaned her up from all the oil that had spewed out when she broke last month, put the leg guards back on to cut down the updraft when going faster than 50 mph, removed the second deep cycle battery (thereby regaining valuable trunk space in the sidecar), and generally got her settled into the garage.

The girls are back together

So, how would I rate Linden Engineering?  I'll put it this way.  They've always given me the impression of being a one man shop with all the pluses and minuses that go with that.  So, why did it take so long to get Natasha fixed up?

Lack of repair parts for one, apparently the rocker arms have been redesigned for the newer models and are not backwards compatible.  After the initial orders had resulted in the wrong parts being sent out from Ural, Dennis found that the factory had recalled the ones I needed but failed to supply replacements to the dealer network.  Dennis basically had to hunt them down by calling the suppliers/dealers he knew, finding one rocker arm in Florida and the other in Tennessee!  The Ural parts and supply network is apparently pathetic, though apparently some guy has been hired by Ural to fix that, I wish him luck.

Second, Dennis lost the use of his "motorcycle guy" at about the same time that all required parts finally arrived at the shop.  This was about two weeks after I'd left Natasha at the shop; and this left him a man short and the workload is such apparently that Natasha was untouched for over a week.

Third, Dennis had to try and cover for the missing tech and shortly after that the temporary loss of another of his mechanics which added to his own workload.  At this point, he was two mechanics down, so really it was only the last couple of days (not counting Thanksgiving Day) when Dennis himself had time to work on my Ural.

Dennis is definitely a top rate mechanic with many years experience.  If you take your Ural to him, be prepared for it to take a while if parts have to be ordered.  If he's short staffed, it'll take longer obviously.  If its something minor, and he's got the parts, it really shouldn't take very long at all if he's got the time.  Heck, you might get fixed that same day.  

There is no dedicated parts department, that would be Dennis.  The parts delays due to availability is nothing he can control, I see that now.  Time to start looking on ebay for parts I guess, to hold in stock.  Sad reflection on Ural but I guess I've been spoiled by how BMW always stocks parts even for the vintage era motorcycles!  This is not the case with the Ural, I guess its part and parcel of Ural ownership.  I was lucky he had a cylinder head assembly on hand, otherwise Natasha would probably still be waiting for parts.

One last thing, if you're used to or want daily feedback and reports, they're too busy for that at times.  Linda did her best but she's not technically conversant and every time Dennis has to stop to render status for a customer is time he's not working on a vehicle.  I think I found this the most frustrating.

I would say, once Dennis gets his staffing issues sorted out, that I will return to him for repair work when I need it on the Ural.  Patience is definitely something you need for small shops like his, so make sure you have a spare motorcycle and a good long period of good weather ahead if your spare doesn't have three wheels!

On the plus side however, its small shops like this that give your vehicle that personal touch.  Dennis "sorted out" some other things on Natasha as he found them.  It added to the cost but if it improves things, why not.

Thanks Dennis and Linda for getting Natasha fixed up!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Update: 12DEC2010:  Well, the repaired alternator didn't last very long.  I spotted smoke coming out of it today while riding, I took it off when I got home and fear I may have overtaxed it by hanging Christmas lighting on the rig.  So I started the process of removing the alternator in order to remove the adapter gear that mates to the engine's timing gears, this to take the alternator out of the equation until I could get it fixed.

example picture from Bill Glaser's website

The gear you see in the above picture is the adapter gear which mates to the timing gears.  As I unbent the cotter pin to start its removal, the piece I was unbending broke off!  You wouldn't think that after only two weeks of daily usage, the pin would break that easily, would you?

I got the cotter pin off and it was showing signs of wear/damage at several points.  I'd read about situations where this cotter pin goes "missing", the castle nut comes off, the adapter gear gets loose and causes damage to the timing gears.  Kind of similar to what happened to me when I first got Natasha, except in that case the gear seized somehow and sheared off instead.

I got the adapter gear off and thanked my lucky stars I'd overtaxed the alternator with the Christmas lights.  You see, the silver lining to my overtaxing the electrical system was finding a failing cotter pin.  I believe it would have been just a matter of time before the rest of the cotter pin failed, and eventually the whole gear would come loose, ruining my timing gears again!

Natasha is back to using a total loss electrical system, she's much quieter now too with the alternator out of play.  I'd not realized how noisy the damn thing was until I fired her up after putting her back together.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A windy ride to visit Natasha

Yesterday and today proved quite windy in terms of riding a motorcycle. I thought it was bad yesterday afternoon when I went for a short ride, I was mistaken.  Today as I rode to Golden, CO to visit Natasha while she's partly dismantled, would prove to be a day of stronger winds with temperatures in the low 40s.

I was riding Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer and there were times when the wind tried to toss us around in our lane as we slabbed it to Linden Engineering for pictures.

I got to Golden with no issues, just a few adrenalin-generating moments due to the wind but that's it.

I met Anthony, a Colorado School of Mines student who works as a mechanic for Dennis at Linden Engineering.  He seemed quite enthusiastic to be working on Natasha and he looked forward to getting her fixed so he could take her out for a test run.

Here's Natasha with Anthony working on mounting the seal on the final drive unit

We chatted for a bit as I took pictures, and he showed me the valve guide which had failed:

It appears the metallurgical quality of the Russian made valve guide was "lacking"

I can readily believe now that the failure of valve guides is apparently as common as Dennis had alluded to

As Anthony described it to me, the valve guide above had broken and come loose from the channel in the head of the right side jug.  This allowed compression to escape resulting in the loss of power I experienced along with oil seeping past multiple seals in the engine.  Not only that but now the valve was "loose" within the head and caused some damage to the rocker arm assembly:

Overhead view of the right jug, the two rocker arm assemblies are in the lower middle
That's the replacement cylinder head with good valve guides.

A closeup of the intake side rocker arm assembly, the circled area is where the damage is.
The damage was caused by the valve being "loose" within the channel

Here's a view of the old cylinder head of the right side jug and the valve cover.  Note the burnt coloration on one half of the valve cover itself.

To the right of the above picture, are parts of the Russian 35amp alternator that Dennis is trying to resuscitate,  he believes he can do it anyways.  Long run, I do see a need for an alternator and Dennis assures me he can mount it not only correctly, but mark it so I can check on it periodically.

Anthony also showed me the rubber seal for the final drive which turned out to be fine.  However, he'd found the screws on the retaining plate for the seal to be loose!  He could turn them with his fingers!  So, the old seal is going back on and they'll be applying some loctite to the screws.

Here Anthony demo's where the seal goes, and the mounting plate that holds it there.
You have to make sure to line up the holes correctly, there's one specifically for drainage.

I spotted this poor old Ural tug, with what appears to be a 650cc engine on it.  Anthony told me they were not going to repair it, just use it for parts apparently.

 Note the older 14 Amp Generator mounted on top of the engine.

So, I came away from Linden's with the conviction that things are well in hand for Natasha.  The cost estimate is a bit higher than I expected but hobbies have their prices don't they?

I also learned that I had been right, they had to disconnect the upper sidecar supports and loosen the forward mounting point to enable them to push the sidecar away from the engine to unmount the right side cylinder head.  I'll know next time that it's not necessary to remove the whole sidecar.  Note: ensure you don't remove the cotter pin, it's apparently a pain to put back in, just loosen the bolt which allows the parts of the ball joint to "spread".

I made my way back home, still riding in pretty strong winds though temperatures had soared into the upper 40s.  I even spotted two other motorcycle riders on the way, one was a motor cop on the job and the other rider just out enjoying a day without snow in the front range.

As I write this, there's reports of 1-2 feet of snow over the mountain passes.  I am feeling much better about having not taken the option of riding Brigitta over the passes somehow and try and make the Utah trip work out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vacation becomes staycation, Natasha experiences minor Chernobyl

There I was this past Saturday, riding along C-470 westbound, going for the junction with the I-70 Super Slab and points west, destination for the day: Moab, Utah.  The day was sunny, the passes were clear with a snow storm coming in, and temperatures were in the 50s in the front range.  Perfect!

We didn't even make it out of the Denver Metro area!

I started losing speed shortly I transitioned from the E-470 to C-470 slabs and found myself unable to maintain even 60mph!  When I reached the point where even 50mph was a problem with the throttle twisted wide open, I pulled off onto the Platte Canyon Road exit to assess the situation.

There was lots of engine oil pooling on top of the right side engine jug, some of it had been caught by the airstream and had sprayed the right side carburetor and my leg with a nice coating of engine oil.  Not good.  She ran like crap and I had troubles keeping the engine going until I could park her.

I called my loving wife who'd passed me in the minivan and she turned herself along with my two sons around and joined up with me.  I called a co-worker friend of mine, Oscar, and he headed my way with his trailer.  This was the trailer we decided not to use as we'd last minuted doubts about the minivan being able to tow it and Natasha without straining the transmission.

Oscar arrived soon after I had unloaded Natasha's sidecar of trip luggage/tools etc.  The owner of the house at the side of which I'd parked came out to see what was going on.  He nicely gave me permission to use his driveway and we got Natasha loaded up easily enough.

From there, Oscar towed Natasha home with the initial intention of myself and Oscar doing the repair work.  We thought, based on the symptoms, that the rings on the piston had failed.

Once Oscar got me and Natasha home, he went off to Conifer as originally planned for a day with his in-laws.  Thanks Oscar!

I started tearing down the right-side jug but was brought up short by a small pile of fine metal shavings laying in the right side valve cover.  Not good.  I was now looking at either having to remove the engine from the chassis or the sidecar from the subframe in order to have room to work on removing the jug.  At this point, I gave up and put Natasha back on the trailer, tied her down and took her to Linden Engineering for a diagnosis.

The minivan really felt the effect of towing the trailer with Natasha on top.  So I wonder how badly we would have strained the transmission while trying to climb the Continental Divide both at the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass!

Got a call from Dennis of Linden today, the good news is he expects to have her all fixed up by the end of the week.  He found the following repairs needed:

1.  The valve guides in the right jug had come loose and had to be replaced.  This was causing all the engine compression to be blown out of all oil seals, hence all the oil coming out.

Picture from Bill Glaser's site, 
shows the valve(where finger is pointing) being slid into the valve guide 
on his Ural's cylinder head. 

As I understand the operation, you somehow heat the jug till it expands enough for the new valve guide which gets inserted and when the jug cools down, is locked into place.  Apparently not something I could do at home.

2.  He found some damage on one of the right jug's rocker assemblies and it will be replaced.

Again from Bill Glaser's site, a picture of what a rocker arm assembly looks like

3.  He's trying to figure out if he can resuscitate the Russian 35amp alternator.  He and the mechanic at Wagner's Cycle, Mike, both say the alternator is a good thing IF you mount it correctly.  Jury is still out with me on putting it back on, will see what Dennis finds upon further tearing down the adapter that mates the alternator to the timing gears.

4.  The leak I'd had in the final drive is caused by a failed seal, that'll be replaced tomorrow.  I'd had that leak for a while now and had been leery of tearing apart my final drive to get at it, now it'll be fixed.  Link to procedure on Bill Glaser's myural site.

I'll know for sure if the above is the seal that failed when I pick up Natasha at the end of the week.

5.  Lastly, he's going to check my clutch lever assembly to see what's going on with that, probably replacing the clutch lever assembly would be my guess.

So, not a great start for a week long vacation planned among the massive rock formations of Utah and Arizona's Monument Valley.  Oh well, at least she broke on this side of the continental divide, logistics to recover her would have been much harder on the west side of the divide.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kerthunk! What the heck was that ?!?

In the riding to and from work since my first DAU Tech Day, I had heard and "felt" a pretty noticeable metallic banging noise.  I always felt it at the forward edge of my seat and it was quite disconcerting as you can imagine.

Each time, I'd pull over and look for loose items directly below the seat area since that's where I'd feel the impact.  Nothing found.  My mind would then race through all the possibilities, usually involving a failing gear train or engine parts slowly tearing the whole thing apart perhaps.

First time, I found the lid to the small ammo can I use as a wiring junction box to be loose, wheeeew I said to myself, it was just the lid bouncing up and down.  (though even then I wondered why I felt the impact under my seat".

Next time I rode Natasha, it happened a couple more times and it was starting to really worry and annoy me.  More close inspection of the area below the seat and behind the engine.  Nothing!  I convinced myself that it was the center stand legs being bounced loose during travel and the return spring on them banging it back onto the motorcycle frame.  To prove the theory, I zip tied the center stand to the frame and went for a test ride, no banging noises! 

The next day, however, proved me wrong.  Natasha exhibited two quick loud mechanical banging noises in a row as I was making a right turn and at the same time I started losing power; I could not go faster than about 35 mph!   I found a place to pull over but no obvious signs of damage once again.  I didn't want to be late for work so I continued on.   Engine performance was OK for a bit but less than 2 minutes later I started losing power again.

I then looked down at the trip meter and realized I had gone over 250km since the last fill up!  Dumb ass, I had forgotten to engage the fuel lever into the Reserve position!  Once that was done, I had good power once again and I pulled into the nearest gas station and filled up.   The good thing was that the loss of power thing was NOT associated with the loud metallic klunking noises!

I sent out a help message to the DAU and responses came quickly back suggesting things to check.  One of them struck a chord with me, when Craig suggest back-tracking on what I'd done during Tech Day.

Once I got home, I started on the front wheel and damn if it did not exhibit a very noticeable metallic rubbing sound when I spun the tire!  I dismounted the tire and was shocked to see one of the brake pads hanging only by one of two tension springs!

 The end of the spring is embedded into the braking material, not resting on top

I know Urals are tough but for the front wheel to be able to roll without noticeable problems and STILL brake is amazing.

Yep, it was the loose brake pad, probably getting moved by forces while I rode that would once in a while get free enough to klunk around inside the wheel hub.  This would cause the loud klunking noise and the it would just settle for a while until next set of right forces got it loose again.  Damn.

I called around the nearby area Ural dealers with no luck.  One didn't return my calls and the other did not have it in stock!  It was a $5 item and my Ural couldn't be ridden safely without it.  Craig, a fellow Uralisti then emails me and says to go down to the BMW dealer and ask for a brake pad spring for a /5 motorcycle!  He'd heard that they worked just fine.

What the heck I said to myself, the Russians copied the Germans as it was back before WWII, it should work.  I called the dealer and had them set aside a spring for a 1975 R75 Airhead Beemer.

I picked up the part after work on Thursday and it was BMW PN 34-21-1-457-091.  It was slightly shorter in length than the Ural OEM spring but it worked just fine.  In a matter of minutes, my front brake assembly was back together, wheel on and mounted securely.  Not only that, but the part was only $3!  Yep, amazingly a BMW part was cheaper than a URAL part.

I rode to work yesterday, Friday, and no loud metallic klunking sounds!  I was a happy Uralist once again.  My thanks my fellow members of the DAU who offered advice and suggestions.  Big thanks to Craig for getting me to retrace my steps and mentioning the bit about a BMW /5's motorcycle's spring working as well for the Ural!

Today was maintenance day again for Natasha.  She's a bit over 19,000 Km's, so I changed out her oil filter and engine oil, gearbox oil and final drive oil.  About an hour's worth of work.  Then I placed 2 ounces of Dynabeads in each of her new tires to balance them out and hopefully get them to wear evenly.  I must say, it was easier to put the dynabeads into the new inner tubes than the Russian one that came with the Uralshina tire on the front wheel!

Later on in the afternoon, I had an eye appointment for computer reading glasses.  Afterward, I headed to nearby culdesac hill (that's my name for it anyways).  There were tornado warnings to the east of us and there were some interesting cloud formations in our vicinity.

The ground conditions were good, not muddy at all off pavement, so I was able to ride Natasha up a very small hill nearby to pose her thus:

Natasha out in the wilds of Arapahoe County's suburbia

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Why Natasha didn't like rainy days.

You've probably heard me complain at times of rough idling and acceleration when riding in wet or rainy conditions on Natasha, my Ural Sidecar Rig.   I'd tried many things, thinking at times it was the air filter getting water saturated due to the poor design of the air filter box; or the carburetor throttle cables not functioning smoothly or sticking.  To remedy that, I switched to an oiled K&N filter, carried a spare filter (which saved me once from being stranded) and added a larger cover over the air filter box intake hole, problem solved I thought.

In the back of my mind though, I'd always though perhaps it could be the ignition coil.  The symptoms were similar under rainy, wet conditions as when I went through a bad coil period shortly after I bought Brigitta, my '87 R80 Airhead Beemer.  Brigitta's condition though had resulted in the inability to hold idle while in the rain and really poor running condition.

Add into this mix, the fact that Ural ignitions type I through V have known issues with heat from the engine and the coil, so that on warm days, it can affect engine performance.  To fix that, other owners had drilled holes in the plastic cover which protects the ignition module and coil.  As I'd experienced firsthand the effects of heat on the ignition module, I'd done the same:

These photos were from the sovietsteeds forum courtesy of jpanyon, this is not Natasha but a similar Ural

The venting of the plastic cover does seem to help a lot on hot days or when riding in warm weather in stop and go city traffic.

However, as I am sure you can see it coming, the holes now let in water during rain!  So, the last few rainy days I'd experienced some rough idling and poor acceleration from Natasha on my work commutes.  Not good.  A small shield in front of the vented cover had yielded mixed results.

Today I finally had some time to do some troubleshooting.  First I made sure, while the engine was running, to spray water around the carburator hose fittings to see if I had air leaks, there were none.

Next I liberally sprayed water from a spray bottle onto the bottom half of the vented front cover, above where the "silver hockey puck" or Type IV ignition module is mounted.  No effect, still smoothly idling engine.

Then I sprayed water into the holes at the top right corner of the cover, bingo!  The engine started running rough immediately and soon shut off.  Aha!

I removed the horn and removed the plastic ignition module cover and tried the water spray again with the engine running.  This is what I saw, note the electrical arcing!

 A good pic of the coil, note the silver tab parallel to the securing screws for the spark plug cables
the large silver colored round cover is the "silver hockey puck" ignition module

What those metal tabs are for, one on each side of the coil, I have no idea.  They're not used and after some more testing I decided to cover them with some heat shrink insulation.  I ended up doing both tabs and all the wire connectors as well.  Everything on the coil is nicely insulated from water now except where the spark plug cables plug into of course.

I started the engine back up after the insulation work, sprayed water at the coil from all angles and no arcing or negative effects on the engine's performance! 

Success!?  We shall see at my next ride in the rain on Natasha.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A trip to Linden Engineering for Natasha's new wheel

As you probably read in my previous post, I stripped the splines on Natasha's pusher wheel yesterday.  I called around and Dennis of Linden Engineering in Golden, CO had a black painted one in stock for a good price.

I headed out to Golden around 11:00 AM, using the wife's minivan as I didn't want to put undue miles on the knobby spare tire.  Dennis and his shop are always a busy looking place and today was no different.  Still, he brought out the new wheel and then proceeded to swap the tire from the stripped wheel to the new wheel, while also doing two other tasks apparently!  He's never still for very long!

As Dennis worked to swap the tire around, I walked around the front of his shop and captured these other Urals who are in for work. (Sorry for the picture quality, all I had was the camera on my cellphone)

Army Green, looked in pretty fair shape

Natasha will eventually end up with black rims front and back like this one, pretty ain't it? 
Check out the black painted exhaust pipes as well.  
Note the latest iteration of the URAL logo on the tank

Then there was this Ural Troyka who I realized had once belonged to an acquaintance I made while repairing Natasha's timing gears!  Mike had been the owner of this pretty rig but ended up selling it to Paul.  Now Paul, has lost the use of his legs and is having Dennis modify the Troyka so he can ride it without having to use the rear brake pedal or the shift lever.  Now that's a hard core rider!  I hope to do a writeup about him and his Troyka someday.

These are the front (disc) and rear (drum) brake handles since Paul 
can't operate the standard rear brake pedal

 The Kliktronic electronic shifter device, its presently unhooked from the shifter which
is located below and to the right of the black air hoses leading to the carburetor

 A previous iteration of the URAL logo.  The work YPAN means URAL in Russian

Nice color scheme eh?

By this time, Dennis was done swapping the tire from the old wheel to the new one and off I went to my home to put it in place of the knobby tire spare wheel.

It took me very little time, lots of practice lately I guess, to swap out the knobby for the DURO tire on the new wheel.  Here's some pictures of the splines involved:

Thankfully, the above photo shows my final drive's spline gears are just fine!
  No need to replace it which would involve rebuilding the dang Final Drive.

The spline conditions on the spare wheel's hub, pretty good

Here's where the pusher tire mounts up, the final drive's spline is in the middle, note the brake shoes 
still have plenty of stopping material.  I cleaned up the greasy mess you see before I installed the new wheel

 I didn't think to take a picture of the "virgin" splines on the new wheel before I'd started
putting new grease on the splines but you get the idea

New wheel in place, I like the black rims and hub!

Note:  Today I realized and was also told in the sovietsteeds forum that I could have swapped the front and rear wheels and gotten home as well.  You see, the front wheel does not require splines!  Doh.  But that's OK, it would have bugged me to have one wheel buggered up, even if still functioning fine.  

I plan to get a replacement hub, new bearings and bushings and repair the old wheel.  Then I'll have two spare wheels and tires!  All in all, a pretty good learning experience.  Tomorrow, I'll be taking off the other two wheels and servicing the bearings and hubs on them, they're overdue!

Finally, here's a old scooter I saw at Linden's, for the scootering clientele that visit this blog: