There's a seldom talked about, often ignored important ingredient used all over your motorcycle that usually gets under-appreciated until you see or hear a piece of your bike bouncing down the road behind you. Yes, it's another case of 'Road Jewelry'. Those pieces of your bike that end up on the side of the road because you, or your trusted mechanic, were a little insecure while bolting on some prized stuff to your machine. Hopefully that piece you saw fly off your bike didn't hit the guy behind you, or was an integral component you needed to get you home in one piece. I'm going to do my best to give you the low-down on how to make your motorcycle feel more secure. There's a simple magic ingredient called LoctiteŽ, which began its life in the Trinity College basement laboratory of Dr. Vernon Krieble in Hartford, Connecticut, sometime way back half a century ago in 1953.
Back in '53 Dr. Vern developed a "cure inhibition system for a unique liquid bonding resin that hardened in the absence of air - an anaerobic sealant." It wasn't long before Vern took advantage of his brilliant daughter-in-law's sharp linguistic wit by taking her suggestion to call this anaerobic sealant "Loctite". By 1956 they released their patented basement concoction to the world with the promise of solving the age-old problem of loose nuts and bolts. You see, until this time, most folks came to accept that it was natural for stuff to fall off of machines, no matter how tight you torqued the nuts down, even with good ol' fashioned lock washers. Dr. Vern and his family solved a problem that was believed to be unsolvable. So why is stuff still falling off your bike? Read on. All this time you thought that White-Out was the end-all bottled invention of the last century, when Loctite has remained useful right into the new millennium.
First off, there are three standard Loctite grades that most automotive and motorcycle assemblers use. The first grade is coded Blue Removable No.242 which is applied to fasteners that you may want to unscrew with minimal hassle. Most mechanics just call it "Blue" Loctite, and I've had one or two guys who have worked at Steeds, who will remain nameless, call it 'Berry'. The second grade is coded Red High-Strength No.271 which is applied to fasteners that you don't want to take apart for a long time. When you do want to remove a fastener that has been treated with Red, or "Cherry" Loctite, you may have to use heat from a torch or iron to loosen its grip when it's time to remove the fastener. Then we get to the third grade, which is dyed Green and is used on fasteners or studs that you don't want to ever remove, like cylinder studs or exhaust studs. Green is not used commonly on fasteners that the everyday motorcycle technician uses unless they are building motors or transmissions. The average consumer or weekend wrench won't need a tube of Green Loctite in their toolbox. Even the guys around the shop haven't found a goofy name for the green stuff.
American motorcycles are notorious for rattling apart, and there really is no excuse for a bike coming to pieces if the correct anaerobic sealant is used on the appropriate fasteners. Loctite is available at most hardware stores and good bike shops, and is a safety necessity when you are working on your motorcycle. If you have a bike that keeps disassembling itself on the highway, and you are certain that you have been using Loctite properly, you might have other issues with your bike like excessive vibrations.
The most common problem resulting in excessive vibration is loose or worn motor mounts. Your standard V-twin rigid mount motor is mounted in three locations and if any are loose, this causes your whole bike to shake, rattle and roll to the max. Often loose motor mounts are symptomatic of balancing problems with the internal moving components of your engine (pistons, rods and flywheels), or they can be as simple to remedy as a visual inspection and tightening of some loose motor fasteners.
If your bike has the jitters, first check the top motor mount, which is under your fuel tank between the cylinders on the top left side of the motor. Even if the bolts seem tight, look carefully for cracked mounts or mounting brackets. We see quite a few broken top motor mounts especially on custom-built bikes. For some reason a few bikes with lower quality frames have issues with the motor-mounting locations not being level and square with the transmission mounting surfaces. So if the motor mounting locations on the chassis are not 'shimmed' or spaced properly to make-up for the inaccuracies of the chassis mounting bosses, and just forced and bolted in, the mounting brackets may stress fatigue and break. So the message is: if you have broken mounts, take the time to discover why your motor mounts are breaking, or take your bike to a qualified mechanic who understands what needs to be checked to correct the issues. Tight motor mounts will make your bike feel like a new machine and reduce road jewelry. No amount of Loctite will make up for a poorly balanced engine or a loose or improperly shimmed drive train.
Another item that goes along with this topic is 'Anti-Seize' compound. Just like Loctite, anti-seize compounds come in several variations, but the use for anti-seize is almost the opposite of a thread-locking compound like Loctite. Anti-Seize is a nickel or copper and graphite-based paste that prevents galling or binding of a nut onto a bolt, or assists with press fitting bearing races into components. If you've ever assembled a chrome threaded bolt with a chromed nylock nut and all of a sudden you have magically welded the nut to the bolt you know what I'm referring to. Or how about stripping the threads out of your spark plug sockets? That's not the way that you want to spend your afternoon. A seized bolt can wreck your day when you have to cut bolts off of a motorcycle. Anti-seize can save the day. If a bolt, or your spark plug, feels like it is about to bind on you, don't force it, because it will bind on you. Back the bolt out and 'chase' the threads with a tap or thread chaser and clean the bolt with the appropriate die to remove burrs or other contaminates that interfere with getting that gizmo assembled. If you are about to strip out your spark plug threads, STOP, and take your bike to a veteran motorcycle technician before you dig yourself into a deep pocket repair. This may seem like a hassle at the time, but it is far less expensive to have a pro chase your sparkplug holes, than have to pay the big bucks to repair wrecked plug bores, or trashed cylinders from metal debris getting in the pistons. Pulling broken and seized bolts separates the men from the boys, and that's a whole 'nuther tech tip article too.
It takes years of experience to understand when and how to apply Loctite and anti-seize appropriately, and that's why you should do your homework before you grab that wrench. If you are uncertain about what kind of Loctite or anti-seize compound to use, take your machine to a qualified mechanic to service and repair your bike. There are many nuances that dictate the correct application of thread-locking materials. If you are really interested in knowing more about Loctite and Anti-seize and all the different varieties and their uses, check out their web-site www.loctite.com. There is a ton of information at their site for those who are in search of it.
When you only have two wheels, one set of handlebars and pegs between you and the road, it's important to have the confidence that your bike won't rattle apart and leave you stranded or even worse, injured, because of improper installation of components. There's a lot of science holding your bike together, and the guys at Loctite have done a bunch since 1953 to make your ride safer and more reliable when applied with a little knowledge and common sense.
Keep the rubber side down.
- John at Steeds
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