zaterdag 12 juli 2014

From the Beast's clutches

I was sorta hoping that with the final month until the trip to Scandinavia, it would be plain sailing as far's bike prep was concerned.

Ofcourse, The Beast had other plans. The clutch seemed to be detiorating quite rapidly the past few weeks, so I thought it would be wise to change out the plates before setting off on another 5000 mile adventure.

Now, ofcourse I had no prior experience with changing out clutches, so I studied the workplace manual and checked what was what. And well... the fact that the entire operation was spread out over 5 pages seemed like a bad omen.

After closer inspection the operation didn't seem that much more difficult than the gasket change I did a few months back... so I decided to bite the bullet and go ahead with it. The way I saw it, it'd be also some worthwhile experience would there be any clutch issues on future trips. I planned in a long weekend at Project-HQ, got all the spare parts, and rolled up my sleeves.

Day 1

The first thing to do (besides letting the friction plates soak in oil overnight) was to get everything else out of the way. The clutch cover is bricked in behind a crashbar, side cowl and exhaust system, so all of those had to be removed before I could get to the meat of things.

Ofcourse, the crashbar and side cowl were no problem... but the exhaust system was another matter. It's held on by only 6 bolts, but after that, the exhaust is still stuck snugly in the engine. Long story short, it took alot of prying, pushing and pulling before it finally came off.

After that, it was time to undo all the bolts of the clutch cover. My small ratchet couldn't get a real grip on the little 8mm bolts, so I used a normal wrench instead. After criss-crossing my way past all the bolts and undoing the last one the sky seemed to herald the arrival of downpour. It was the end of the afternoon as well, so I decided to call it a day and continue the next morning.

Day 2

Now, I thought that undoing all the 14 bolts would be enough to get the clutchcover off... but after getting the final bolt out, the cover was still stuck to the rest of the engine. And I do mean 'stuck' - no matter how much leverage I put behind the handy pointy bit in the side of the cover, the sucker just wouldn't budge.
The Beast's past maintenance before my ownership had already indicated the clutch had never been replaced, so basically, I was facing a 15 year old gasket-seal put in by a Honda factory. Great!

It took countless blows with a rubber mallet, and only after then trying to lever the thing off again did it finally pop off. Finally I could get to work on the clutch itself.

Undoing the four bolts that hold the springs in place was pretty easy, but as soon as you've taken the retainerplate and the springs out, it's time for the biggest hurdle: the 27mm clutch central locking nut, which you can see below, right in the middle of the clutch assembly.

I had already done some research regarding the torque settings required to put all the bolts back, and whilst most bolts take about 12Nm, this daddy takes more than 10 times that. No surprise there though, since it holds the entire clutch assembly where it should be.

However, it also told me that removing the thing would be an absolute nightmare. For starters, the clutch hadn't been touched since the factory, meaning the nut would be as tight (and stuck) as it could possible be. Also, the bike should be in gear for removal; if you try and remove the thing with the bike in Neutral, the entire assembly will just spin freely.

Putting the bike in first gear is also not good enough, since there won't be enough resistance to get some real leverage on the nut. Also, if you then try and remove the nut, the bike will try to move forward, since the assembly is attached to the final drive and with it, the rear wheel.

The only option I had was to put the bike in 5th gear for max resistance, apply the rear brake, and hope for the best. In the end, it took me a two-foot adjustable wrench, an extra three-foot length of pipe and an extra pair of hands for it to finally let go.

But then, I could finally have a look at the plates. And they looked pretty woeful, compared to the new ones. I guess that's what over 90K's worth of kilometres and 15 years of usage will do to a clutch. By this point, the sun was already setting, so I decided that after scrubbing the remainder of the old gasket off the cover I'd put it back on, and would continue on the third day.

Day 3

The only thing I had to do today was to remove the remainder of the old gasket on the engine, so the new gasket could provide a proper seal. On its own, it's not a difficult job... but as it's a paper gasket and this particular one had been stuck on the same spot for 15 years, it proved amazingly tiresome. It was like a thick paper sticker was stuck on there - there wasn't a chance in Hell it would come off in one piece.

Also, bear in mind you can't really use anything metal to scrape off the old gasket, since the engine is made from aluminium; using steel to remove a gasket might damage the sealing surface of the gasket. I used tough plastic ice-scrapers instead.

I then also found the source of all the little half-inch pieces of steel wire that kept lodging themselves in my feet. Apparently, the clutch cable was also a little bit worse for wear.

This meant that regardless of how far I'd get with the gasket removal, I had to wait at least one more week for a new cable to arrive. The removal of the gasket proved to be a grueling process, with 1 hours worth of scrubbing yielding only 1 inch of clean metal.
By this point, my hands were marred with cuts from the sharp edges of the engine, and I decided to call it a day.

It was quite demotivating to be all ready to put the Beast back together, only to be kept at bay by a piece of paper. Then again, in the process I'd found out the clutch cable was overdue for replacement as well... which was quite the relief. It easily could've snapped somewhere in Scandinavia... so it's only good I found out now.

Day 4

After waiting for a week for a replacement cable and some gasket remover to arrive, it was time for the final straight - remove the remainder of the old gasket, and put the entire thing back together again. I wanted to finish it all in 1 day, but I was apprehensive whether the gasket remover would work. I sprayed it on, replaced the clutch cable while waiting, and then rolled up my sleeves again.

Within 30 seconds after the scraping had been re-initiated though, I had done a piece just as big as the 3 hours had yielded the week before. I probably should've bought this stuff long long time ago.... I was done with the entire thing in a manner of 2 hours. I have to stress the importance of doing this properly though - the surface of both the cover and the engine need to be as clean as they can in order to provide a good seal.

I checked the set-up of the renewed clutch housing for the third time, and set to work getting it back into the Beast. No sweat there - only the Big Daddy nut once again took some extra hands to get it as stuck as possible.

Then new springs and the retainer plate went back on...

...before it was time to put the new gasket on the clutch cover. I smeared both sides with some oil to be safe.

Back where it should be, all hooked up! Time to remount the exhaust, get some fresh oil in, and get ready for the most nervous moment of an operation like this: starting the bike back up again.

After some usual hesitation, the Beast rumbled back into life. The exhaust appeared to be leaking though, but after a few listening and feeling -laps in the street and tightening up its bolts a little better, the noise was gone.
The only remaining issue was that the bike had trouble engaging into Neutral, but once I'd slackened the new clutch cable a little, that problem was gone too.

Mission accomplished!