® Due Diligence

Several years ago a customer sent me some vintage Honda carbs from Australia. I rebuilt them. He got them back, and a month or so later, due to his complaint, I paid for him to return them to me. Going over them carefully, I found nothing wrong with them. I then paid to ship them back to him. Subsequently, after almost a year of trying to help him, taking time from other work, to help him diagnose his issue-- in the end, the very end, he finally admitted to me, after nearly a year, that each time when I brought up the subject of ignition timing-- and you can believe I *did* bring it up a few times over the course of that year-- he had not been truthful when he said he had checked the ignition timing. In the end he admitted he had no idea how to adjust or even check his ignition timing and another mechanic on his end had finally made the bike run right by servicing and adjusting the ignition. Well, at least he told me. But that and the fact that the bike was finally right was the only satisfaction that came my way in this deal.

When I began doing "carbs in the mail" some of my coworkers at Kawasaki corporate thought it strange that someone would attempt to do this: "You're kidding. How's that going to work?" I had as much time in shops as they, so I knew very well why they were incredulous; in any pro mechanic's mind doing carbs by mail is akin to doing gall bladder surgery over the phone. I get that. I just had decided it could work. And it *does* work, ninety-nine percent of the time. But if you want to know how intuitively and completely a professional mechanic feels the inherent problems in this; if you want insight into the ingrained understanding of how often-- virtually always-- an engine needs other things at the same time that it needs carb work, just imagine the look on these guys' faces. It was priceless! Spoke volumes. And I am reminded of it every so often.

Back to the Australian carbs. The expensive shipment *times two* more than ate up all my profit; I essentially paid *him* to have his carbs rebuilt. As a sole proprietor I can't afford to do this very often. And while it usually happens only very occasionally, the beginning of this year saw a cluster of three in succession. As it turned out, two of these customers simply failed to test their ignition coils and the third discounted the importance of at-the-scene pilot screw adjustment. These are things I advised they do, and which they for whatever reasons ignored. As with the Australian customer, I held their hands all through the aftermath.

I tell you this for just one reason. Our 40- to 50-year old Hondas were made at a time when it was considered normal to be constantly maintaining them. That's how they're built. They are high-maintenance, very fiddly. I value these machines highly, love 'em in fact. But you have to understand what "high maintenance" means here. Consider that when I get one of these almost 50-year old machines into my shop I find so much needing to be done it invariably costs more than the customer paid for the bike to make it right. And that is when only relatively minor things are needed, on very low mile bikes that actually appear pristine. But they need a lot; it adds up. I'm not talking restoration. I'm talking about simply making up for what in light of these bikes' maintenance needs amounts to abuse and neglect. In fact, all of the very vintage Hondas in my shop getting considerable work have less than 9,000 miles on them. In the course of those 9,000 miles these machines should have received complete, axle-to-axle maintenance services three times, and of course none of them were, not even once. Because of this, one adjustment or procedure on these bikes always turns into ten. Always. That's just the way bikes of this era are.

So a fellow contacts me, asking if I can repair the threads in his carburetors. Of course I can. I buy 4mm Timeserts practically by the pound. Use a ton of them, virtually on every pre-1980 carburetor; they are very susceptible to pulled threads. I give him the price, very reasonable (really, any less and it would hardly be worth my time--in fact I do it for free as part of a carb rebuild). And then this rider, who has spent thousands of dollars on such "important" things as head porting and racing pistons and cam, tells me, "oh, well, I guess I'll just jam bigger screws in there, that ought to do it." Ack! Choke, gag!

What is wrong with people? Now do you see why I despise Facebook? The Internet may not be totally responsible for this mentality (though that's debatable) but it certainly aids and abets it; enables and promotes it. I will never understand the logic of chrome, red spark plug wires and spendy high performance parts on bikes whose steering bearings are loose, brakes, chains and tires are unsafe, and carburetors have been unprofessionally treated. Marketing? Peer pressure? Yearning for significance? What exactly is it that drives this? It mystifies me. It really does.

Another conundrum. I hear back from customers and through the grapevine that my work is good. And yet, maybe twenty percent, though they were satisfied, call me three years later to get their carbs repaired after they have broken them in an attempt to rebuild them themselves. Two things. Why did they not use fuel stabilizer, and why didn't they contact me before destroying their carburetors? It's puzzling. By all appearances folks generally believe having their carbs rebuilt each season makes more sense than taking care of them by the no-brainer expedient of one ounce of Sta-Bil for each 2 1/2 gallons of gas.

Sta-Bil works! Its effectiveness is guaranteed for two years, and I have proven it. On my own bikes, I simply run it full-time so it is always in the carb's circuits, then if I don't ride for three or more weeks, when I want to ride all I do is crack the drain screws and open the petcock to flush out the float bowls and I'm ready to go. Bike starts right up and idles great, this after 18 months sitting. Works like a charm. For planned storage periods, same thing except draining the bowls beforehand eliminates that need on starting. I know of no other product that so completely does what it claims to. And you can get it virtually anywhere; it even has both a Honda and a Kawasaki part number!

Due diligence. I like the phrase --it fits. And if a lawyer hadn't made it up, a mechanic like myself would have. Maintenance is far more than having your carbs rebuilt and really needs to be exhausted before carburetor attention; carburetor work comes *after* cylinder compression, valve adjustment, and ignition system service, not before. Most of the time these things can be more impactive than even the carburetors, often much more. And in all cases, if a customer doesn't make these things right, doesn't follow up with normal maintenance, doesn't do due diligence, he won't be happy if Byron Hines rebuilds his carburetors.

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