Bike won't start: the long story

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Kuda
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Bike won't start: the long story

#1

Post by Kuda » Mon Aug 28, 2006 6:57 pm

I realize it's too early in the year for a long post, as everyone's out riding/wrenching, but I'm really at my wits end here. After almost a year's worth of careful rebuilding, the bike won't start. Here's the long story, with what I hope is enough details to help folks get an idea of what I might be missing...
The bike: '49 FL, new rebuild with KB 8.5 to 1 pistons, Hastings rings, FLH cam, stock wheels and rods. Rebuilt original heads (by Head Hog), all stock valve sizes and guides. S&S G carb with O-ring adapters on heads, Morris G-5 magneto, no battery, original style lifters with Sifton solid aluminum pushrods.
Problem: Purchased bike as a basket last year with an assembled “recently rebuilt" (which I did't trust) engine w/700 miles on it. Title good, cases original and matching belly numbers, heads right year, original but chopped frame, and lots of Taiwan chrome parts (which are still in the boxes, soon to be Ebay'd). Assembled bike with current and new parts and got it running (10 miles total), but it showed signs of overheating and low oil flow. Tear down showed that tolerances were way loose, pistons galled, cylinders scored, valves way oversized and sloppy in the guides. Sent out bottom end and heads to Head Hog, who totally rebuilt them (with the exception of the intake nipples, more on that later) it to stock specs.

(Side note: Also found that when previous owner had the motor rebuilt, they painted the inside of the cases with Glyptal, but failed to remove pieces of sponge used to block off oil passages to prevent paint from getting in there. So motor was running basically dry for 710 miles. Needed total bottom end rebuild, which was done.) Flash forward 6 months.

Assembled engine with same components except for addition of G-5 magneto. Wouldn't start, even after re-timing 9 ways from Sunday. Pulled carb, found intake manifold sloshing with gas, but plugs were dry. Pressure tested manifold (thanks Cotton!) with tool (thanks Mskbeam!) and found massive leaks around intake nipples, the only part NOT rebuilt by Head Hog (my mistake). Sent heads back to Head Hog, intakes welded up and redrilled and new O-ring nipples installed. Also sent new magneto to Buck at Goblin Millworx (great guy, BTW), had mag completely checked and certified OK. Double checked pushrod adjustment, using both Manual specs (rear intake at highest point, adjust front intake, front exhaust at highest point, adjust rear exhaust, etc) and “loosest fit" specs (rolling engine over until loosest fit is felt and adjusting there to barely spin with two oily fingers). Reassembled, pressure tested manifold again, holds 20 psi with no bubbles. BUT, the same problem remains: won't start, gas puddles in the intake, and plugs stay dry. Even tried starting fluid, and squirting gas directly into plug holes, no luck...
New plugs, gapped at .20, points gapped at .015 (per Morris mag) on highest point of lobe, cigarette paper used to static time off advanced timing mark. Weird thing is, if I put my hand over carb when kicking it over, it feels like it's *blowing* against my hand instead of sucking. I double checked all the cam timing marks before assembly, but I forgot to check the breather gear timing. Which makes me wonder: Could breather gear timing be off enough to stop it from starting?

Here's what I'm planning to try next:

1) Try timing off TDC instead of advance mark.
2) Reinstall the stock timer and rig up a battery and coil to test, just to eliminate the mag as a possible problem.
3) Pull the cam cover and check the breather gear timing,
4) Roll the bike into a lake and buy a bicycle.

I've spent almost a year rebuilding this bike, every nut, bolt, bearing and bushing is rebuilt, new, or hand built by me, with the exception of the bottom end and heads by Head Hog. But it all means nothing if I can't get it to run. If anyone's got any ideas, I'm all ears.

-Kuda
'49 FL (the garage ornament)



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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#2

Post by dereborn » Mon Aug 28, 2006 8:12 pm

Just to eliminate the obvious... You have a visible spark from the spark plugs, right? Also, I have managed to set the timing 180 degrees off once... if you have a single fire system that ain't too good... (/Learning by doing!)
As rev. Cotten so wisely says: "Never does only one thing go wrong at a time."

Good luck!

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#3

Post by panfreak » Mon Aug 28, 2006 10:41 pm

I don't think mistiming the breather will prevent STARTING (never tried it) although I would expect oil to start belching out of all the wrong places shortly thereafter. I agree with Dereborn, look for spark?

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#4

Post by fourthgear » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:15 am

kuda
You should not get any blowing back thru the intake , if thats what its doing. I can't help with the mag. ,but you should check the breather timing for sure . You should adj. lifter with the opposite valve just starting to open, some cams require the valve to be open more for adj. , because of valve over lap , but a stock type FLH cam is not one of them .Once you adj. the lifter do not re-adj. unless you bring it around to the same position to recheck your adj. because you could over adj. it , push rods bend real easy and valve timing is critical for easy starting .

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#5

Post by Kuda » Tue Aug 29, 2006 4:47 am

"Just to eliminate the obvious... You have a visible spark from the spark plugs, right? Also, I have managed to set the timing 180 degrees off once... if you have a single fire system that ain't too good... "
Yep, nice fat spark with plug just laying on the head. I've set the time about 12-14 times so far, so I rather doubt it's off by that much. Procedure was to rotate engine over until front pushrod comes up then starts to go down, then watch for advance timing mark to show up in the window. Then set cam follower to just before it breaks the points on the narrow lobe (clockwise on this mag, left handed points), then static time. Sound about right?
"As rev. Cotten so wisely says: "Never does only one thing go wrong at a time."
Too true. Waaaaay too true...
"You should not get any blowing back thru the intake , if thats what its doing. I can't help with the mag. ,but you should check the breather timing for sure."
OK, that's on the list for this Friday...
"You should adj. lifter with the opposite valve just starting to open, some cams require the valve to be open more for adj. , because of valve over lap , but a stock type FLH cam is not one of them .Once you adj. the lifter do not re-adj. unless you bring it around to the same position to recheck your adj. because you could over adj. it , push rods bend real easy and valve timing is critical for easy starting."
Huh. So let's say I do the adjustment exactly per the manual. If I then rotate the engine another few degrees, the same pushrod I just adjusted is now loose enough to rattle around. Is that normal? Never seen that before in a solid lifter/pushrod motor...

-Kuda

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#6

Post by 57pan » Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:52 am

I don't see how breather timing would cause it blow back thru the carb. Seems to me the only way that can happen is if a piston is coming up while the intake valve is still open.
You can check the breather timing, but while you're in there I would be double checking the cam timing - that sounds more likely to me.
Hope you get to the bottom of it soon.

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#7

Post by Panacea » Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:01 pm

Kuda, if the pushrod loosens up after rotating the engine a few degrees you must not be adjusting when the lifter is all the way down, also, the intake is all wet and the spark plugs are dry? That defies the laws of nature. Hope the harley gods cooperate! LOL...MW

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#8

Post by jellero » Tue Aug 29, 2006 4:56 pm

what about the clutch? are you certain you aren't kicking on a slipping clutch? sloshing gas in carb and dry plugs? sounds like it isn't rolling over. it can feel like it is kicking over but it just builds compression, then slips or may kick back thru carb. crank down the pressure plate and try it. you should have 3-4 threads showing, at least on mine. been there... j

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#9

Post by fourthgear » Tue Aug 29, 2006 5:42 pm

Yep, if your push rod is loose when you rotate the motor over a little more , you are not at the lowest point on the cam lobe. You need to watch them both to determine where the lifter is that you are adj..The only place you should be able to spin it with your finger is at its lowest point , which is a very small window.
On another point , if you can see your lifters going up and down and can feel pressure coming from the spark plug hole properly , I believe you are turning the motor over . Hows your compression? I also believe you are over looking some little thing and you have to be close. Please do not roll Panhead into lake !

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#10

Post by Kuda » Tue Aug 29, 2006 6:13 pm

Didn't have much time last night, but I did run a compression check: after 4-5 kicks, both cylinders got up to 120 psi. And the clutch is not slipping at all.
And yes, after about 10-12 kicks when trying to start it last weekend, I pulled the air cleaner, popped open the butterfly, and shined a flashlight down the throat of the carb. There was about 1/4" of puddled gas in there, just sloshing around. But when I pulled the plugs, still dry as a bone. That's why I thought it was in intake leak, but that's been ruled out now. Weird...
As for the pushrods, I'll try adjusting them yet again. But am I wrong that I should roll it over until I find the most play, and adjust there? Regardless of where the corresponding lifter is? Or is that some indication that cam timing might actually be off? I'm not *quite* ready to roll it into the lake yet, but if I don't get even a backfire soon, some spark of life, it's gonna get ugly...

-Kuda
'49 FL (the Unstartable)

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#11

Post by dereborn » Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:33 pm

Here's how I was taught to do the pushrods: Motor cold. Plugs out. Open pushrod covers. Start with rear exhaust. Turn motor over until you see pushrod go up - and just come down. (Valve open and close.) Do it a cpl of times to be sure you get it when it's at the "lowest" point. That's when you do the tightening "until just spinning with 2 oily fingers".
I just learned that my aluminum rods - as opposed to steel rods - should be even tighter than that. (Just barely spinning with a cpl of clean fingers maybe...)
Again, do you have spark on both plugs at the same time? Otherwise you could well be in the position that the spark is on the exhaust cycle... Took me over a week to realise that one... And it cost me! Changed coil, breakers, plugs etc.
(Yes, I AM kinda stooooopid, but that's how I learn!)
Good luck, keep the pan from the lake!

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#12

Post by Kuda » Tue Aug 29, 2006 11:10 pm

Well, after hauling (nothing sadder than a bike in a truck) it down to SC to visit the magneto god, Buck from Goblin Millworx, and thrashing on it for two days, here's what we found:

1) Camchest had been set up wrong by the shop that assembled the bottom end for me (holding off on naming them until I talk to them). Idler gear is supposed to have .001 to .005 free play, instead it had .017. Since the idler runs the timer gear, the timer was so sloppy there was no way to hold time. Buck machined up a spacer as a temporary measure which got us to .004.
2) Cam freeplay was way off too, but he didn't have any spacers handy and everything was closed, so that's still something I need to fix.
3) Lifters and bores were never touched, bores scarred up pretty bad, lifters too. They were supposed to replace anything that was worn, guess they were too busy or something. Might've had a lifter hanging up, but a quick polish and that removed any doubt of that, still have to replace and hone tho'...

Basically, the shop I paid to go through the bottom end and replace anything worn and reassemble to specs just did a gasoline overhaul: soak everything in gas and toss it back together. Not too happy about that, and I'm going to tell 'em.

So after working for an entire day and a a half, we finally got it fire. Sounded OK, but KB wants me to heat cycle it so I shut if off to let it cool. After cooling off, it wouldn't start again. New plugs, reset timing again, readjust lifters again, etc. Kick, kick, kick, repeat. Finally got it to run again, rode it down the street and back, shut it down to cool. Wouldn't restart. Finally gave up and hauled it back home, with a laundry list of things to replace and check. Tried it again last night and I can get it to pop out the intake and exhaust, which is more than it would, but it still won't start. So that's where it stands. Gotta find a new idler gear spacer and clip (they reused the old spacer that had eaten itself into the clip, trashing both), cam shims, and new lifters. I think I'm also going to trash the Super E and put on a CV that I got cheap, all it needs is a new diaphram and enrichner cable. Any ideas would be really welcome...

-Kuda
'49 FL (with .01 miles on it)

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#13

Post by Panacea » Wed Aug 30, 2006 2:12 am

It's hard to find good help. I did find a great engine assembly shop in Elk River Mn. The guy(Tony) is very picky about doing it right. He builds race motors also....MW

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Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#14

Post by mbskeam » Wed Aug 30, 2006 6:16 am

what cam? what is your compression?
is the gear indexed correctly on the cam?
whats up with the E? does it flood it out? when cold....
can you put a standard ign. on to test.? beg, borrow, steal....

I know how this feels... believe me

mbskeam

pan65

Re: Bike won't start: the long story

#15

Post by pan65 » Wed Aug 30, 2006 11:45 am

If you have trouble getting fuel into the cylinders, one way is to take the aircleaner off and hold a rag to block the air. Than kick it over a few times this will force the fuel to enter the cylinders.

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