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The tinker’s work is still never done

February 23, 2008

Holy cow! The 76 station at Westlake and Mercer is selling premium for $3.899 a gallon?!

Good thing I don’t need gas. I’m off to Kat(t)’s place to fetch Frankenstella. The PX will visit her garage, and I will take Frankenstella home to exorcise its demons, or at least get it to idle properly.

Now that I’ve had a chance to get some lengthy seat time on a Stella, I find there are a lot of things I like better than the PX. I don’t mean noticeably more power, either. Just nice little details.

The tabs that hold the cowls on are maybe half an inch longer, making it easier to place the little wire thing on the cowl. The handgrips don’t slide off. You have a gas gauge and a reserve setting on the fuel tap. The new ones have a neutral light and a stoplight indicator, the latter to let you know immediately if the brake light is burned out. Well, yeah, the extra horsepower is nice.

Otherwise, they’re the same. Frankenstella’s major issue is an erratic idle. Slow one minute, fast the next, sometimes frighteningly so. I had vanquished that beast in the PX, and was eager to use that knowledge to exorcise Frankenstella’s demons.

Kat(t) said go for it, she’d be in class all day. Her new GTS is down at Big People, an electrical gremlin sidelining it twice. She’s gonna need a functional scooter.

The plan is to remove the exhaust pipe, check it for holes, cracks, bad welds, etc., then reinstall it if it’s otherwise okay. This was covered earlier.

Of course, I had the Simple Green and the scrub brush because a cleaner bike is a more pleasant bike to work on!

Having a little less than 2,300 miles on it, Frankenstella was not particularly covered internally with ooky schmutz, but still I cleaned everything I could reach. Ditto for the underside of the floorboard.

Ooky schmutz

Ah, but there was ooky schmutz in the worst possible place: the connection between the pipe and the engine exhaust port. The PX has never had that problem, and neither has any other bike I’ve seen. This only happens if the connection between the two is not perfect. There’s an air leak, just like we all thought.

This stuff was too ooky to respond to Simple Green. You need paint thinner, aka mineral spirits. On the pit crew, it was known as “solvent.” Gallon jugs of the stuff can be had at any hardware or paint store, sometimes for just a buck or two. Slosh some into a shop rag or blue paper towel, and wipe away.

The pipe and the port are now clean as a whistle. Oddly enough, the bolt attaching the pipe to the suspension arm was a 9/16″, something not in my tool box. Should be metric, right? Even in India, right?

As luck would have it, our friend Chuck had called asking for a progress report. Yes, he has a 9/16″ socket, and sure, he’d be happy to bring it by. On his Stella. Yes, our friend Chuck got a sweet deal on a Stella being sold by someone forced to give it up due to health issues. Gotta love Craigslist, for sure. We kid him, he’s a collector now: he has the ’64 GL he won at Amerivespa, the GTS and now the Stella.

The pipe was fine, the end spotless as was the exhaust port and the part of the engine surrounding it once wiped down with paint thinner.

The pipe securely connected, the proof now found itself in the pudding. Let’s light this candle!

A short hit on the starter button, the engine fires. Broop… broop-broop, broop… broop-broop. In other words, it’s idling the way a Stella is supposed to idle. O-TAY!!

We put everything back together, put the tools away, and after a change of clothes for me (I’d been sitting, kneeling and crawling on wet pavement for a few hours), we’re off for a test ride, our friend Chuck leading the way.

Pulling up to stop signs and red lights, Frankenstella idles contentedly. It goes up hills with authority, in 4th gear no less. It accelerates strongly. Oh, another thing I really like about Stellas—they run on regular gas. The PX requires premium.

I decide to speed the idle up just a tiny bit, but otherwise the bike is good. Well, adjusting the clutch and shifter cables wouldn’t hurt, but that’s something for another day.

Most importantly, when I shut Frankenstella off and leave it, turning it back on results in the same idle speed. Every time. Whoo-hoo!

Look at the time… Kat(t) will be home shortly. I ride back to Capitol Hill and park in front of the garage.

She arrives shortly after. Start it up, I say. She gets on and fires it up, but there’s a look of disbelief on her face. “We need to go for a ride,” I say. Okay, let me get a coat, she says.

So, we head north on 10th, toward Roanoke. Kat(t) rides fast, I am a few lengths behind. Down the hill, over some gawdawful pavement (it’s only about 50 feet, why doesn’t the city do something about it?) to the red light at Roanoke.

Kat(t) is grinning. Not quite the sh*t grin from the ride to Renton, but grinning nonetheless. We head down the twisties to the traffic circle at Boyer, then on to 23rd Avenue. Up the hill, not as fast as with Doc, but fast enough for the PX to need 3rd gear to keep up.

Back at her garage, Kat(t) assumes an almost-fetal position on the seat as she keeps saying, “It works! It works!” I try to tell her how a properly-assembled engine will work as it’s supposed to, but she keeps talking about karma. Whatever. She’s happy, though it occurs to me as I write this if something goes wrong, I’m most likely dead meat. Her recent luck with scooters has been mostly bad.

We were going to ride up to Bellingham tomorrow, but with her GTS laid up at Big People for a week (or more), a ride to Edmonds on Frankenstella would be better. “Is Edmonds on my map?” she asks, referring to a map I drew of the immediate Seattle area.

Nope. A bit further north. Favicon

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One Comment
  1. February 25, 2008 11:24 am

    YAY!!! this is a great description of Frankenstella’s issues. I believe that in the 6 days I had Stella_2, a distinct black spit was accumulating on the rear floorboards at the engine exhaust/pipe. Keep an eye on this on Stella_3.

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