We might be slow, but we don’t cut corners…

So most folks know that we’ve had to turn away engine builds, we just have too many to do right now…  That should change this fall/early winter…

But that brings up another valid concern when it comes to our favorite vintage Yamahas…  We have had about 4-5 engines come in that have never been run, previously assembled at other “reputable” shops but they could never get them running.  In desperation, customers have brought us these engines to “get right”…

No, I won’t divulge the shop names, or individuals who have built these engines.  But I will say this, do your homework when you have a shop take in so much of your hard earned money…

This is the latest engine to tear down, from a “Fresh” rebuild from a very prominent XS650 engine builder…  The builder had the engine for 18 months…  After installing the engine, new ignition, etc… the owner and even a few shops could not get it fired.  So we got a look at it, and found the cam 90 degrees off of time.  Simple mistake, could happen to anyone…  But we had to tear it down to fix that, might was well look into the engine more..

It is plainly obvious that someone cut corners here. Look how dirty these pistons are!  A bit of blending on the piston crowns shows that someone has been in this engine, and it hasn’t run since then…

In the above pic, you can see OEM sized pistons…  The customer was told that 750 pistons has been installed.  750’s are usually 80-81mm…

Aside from not getting what the customer wanted, at a very minimum these pistons should have been cleaned….  Caked on carbon, old oily varnish deposits, and other things like this are simply not acceptable when you’ve paid good money for a rebuild.

Just to show you, some of this dirt and grime could have been washed away easily with a bit of spray cleaner, or even a quick bath in the parts cleaner…

The grime on my fingers shows you that just a small amount of effort could have at the very minimum got rid of all the loose dirt/grime…

The one of the piston pins was seized, as it had been installed without cleaning the old varnish off.  If this engine had been run, it would have ruined the crank rod…   I guess a cam being 90 degrees off is a blessing in disguise…

Now, I’m gonna go on a small rant here…  If you are an engine builder with any gumption, you should CLEAN ALL THE PARTS BEFORE REASSEMBLY!

The biggest giveaway to a poorly rebuilt engine in my opinion is a lack of cleanliness…
I know the bottom of these engines cane be pretty nasty, but this sump plate was obviously not cleaned before reinstalling it…

This is a cam cover from the same engine.  Gnarly….

Just to compare, this is what one of ours looks like before being installed.  Details make all the difference in a build, especially engine builds…

Now back to hardware…  I don’t see any reason a good shop would reuse old crusty hardware…  At the very least, send it through the parts washer…

This right behind the sprocket cover.  I little bit of oil from the new chain is still on the sprocket, but none on the engine covers.  Everyone with an XS650 knows this is the nastiest part of your engine, so it’s a dead giveaway that this engine was never run, as it would be gross under here in under 5 miles… But look at that case nut!  The engine cases are nice and clean, why install nasty cruddy hardware back on them?  Gross….

Now, I would assume that even the least vain people in the motorcycle world still like to keep up appearance?  On an XS650 engine, one of the quickest way to ID the engine is the valve covers and cam covers…  They are seen instantly, and that’s usually all it takes to ID one of these critters, even from a distance…  So you’d think the builder would have taken pride in at least the areas people can see easily right?  Wrong…

Ok, enough ranting on that, you folks probably get the point by now….

But what about the insides?  I mean, I judge a book by its cover when it comes to rebuilt engines.  The cleaner the outside, the more likely the inside is good to go…  That’s not a steadfast rule of course, because I’ve seen some NASTY engines running in race bikes…  But they are running, and being abused they way the should be…  On a newly rebuilt engine, that is not the case…

Ok, back to the insides…  XS650 head gaskets are meant to be installed dry…  No need for half a tube of sealer…

Used gasket?  Who knows, I’ve never seen a new gasket come apart like this, but there was a TON of sealer on it. Give the state of the rest of the engine, we’ll just call this another cut corner…

Ok, well the rest of it should be ok right?  Hrmmm….  I mean, how could you really mess up a camchain tensioner??

This is a shot to show you how it was before we removed it…  (PS – Customer was told this was a new part as well…. Sad…)

I know it is common practice to grind this pin, so as to install an “endless chain”, but at the very least it should be rewelded before reinstalling….  (BTW, this is not a practice we make use of, we install quality chains with new links…)

Once I removed the camchain tensioner, it sprung out…  Just another disaster waiting to happen…

It looks as though they used an angry beaver to open this thing up…

I haven’t even torn into the rest of the bottom end yet…  I look forward to it….
So what does all this mean?  Well, I wanted to point out some very obvious, yet common problems with vintage engine rebuilds…  Here at HHB, we do not claim to be perfect…  Far from it, we are still human beings after all, and mistakes happen.  But, when we give timelines for our engine builds, and fall behind, it is for a reason.  Each and every engine that comes out of HHB’s shop has had the utmost in care and assembly.  Each engine is test run before leaving the shop.  All this cleaning, preparation, and attention to detail takes time…

While we will continue to kick out the best work possible, know that we won’t cut corners in any of the work we supply.  We may never be the fastest, we will mostly likely not meet any major deadlines, but it will be done proper.  The engine abovewas in the care of the “builder” for 18 months…  It should have been perfect for that amount of time to be spent on it…

Remember folks, clean is good…  You should expect that much from any engine builder, not just HHB…

Thanks for your continued support folks.

Hugh

1 reply
  1. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    Hi Hugh,
    A future article (if you have not tackled it already) might be your recommendation for Tsubaki or DID and how to properly reinstall the cam chain masterlink. There seems to be a lot of opinions floating around out there and this would be one call everyone wants to get right. Cheers!

    Reply

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