The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dead batteries and KLR's

Well, I went to ride my KLR to work today to keep it charged up and ready to go, and the battery was dead. It shouldn't have been dead -- it's just been two weeks since I last rode it, and I rode it for about 100 miles on several consecutive days then -- so either the voltage regulator has gone kaput and it's not charging, or the battery has an internal short and is dying.

So the first thing I'm going to do is put the battery on my Battery Tender when I get home tonight and let it charge for 24 hours. Then I can unplug the Battery Tender, let the bike sit for a few days, and check the battery charge by plugging the Battery Tender back in. If the Battery Tender does anything other than cut right off after a couple of minutes max, the battery has an internal short and needs replacing. Luckily since I have the Nightstrom, I don't need this bike to commute.

Oh, here's something to remember: When you're pissed because your motorcycle won't start, don't lean it over onto the sidestand without, uhm, putting the sidestand down first :-). The KLR fell over onto the Nightstrom. Luckily the topbag hit the Givi rack and stopped the KLR from falling over all the way, giving me the chance to swing my boot out from the other side of the KLR and push it back upright again. Then I pushed the KLR back to the front of the garage, backed the Nightstrom out of the garage, and rode the Nightstrom to work. Oh well!

-- Badtux the Motorcyclin' Penguin

Postscript: Yeppers, the battery is the problem. I took it off the Battery Tender once it went to maintain, put it back on again a couple of hours later, and it started charging again. The Battery Tender will, with a healthy fully-charged battery, do its red light, then start flashing its green light, then within a minute go to a steady green for "maintenance"... if the battery lost enough charge in two hours to stay in the 80% flashing mode for more than a minute or so, the battery has a short and is losing charge and needs to be replaced.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stone age vs. Digital age and the Nightstrom

Here's what I spent this morning doing: I spent this morning taking the Nightstrom to the Suzuki dealer for its 600 mile service. Yes, I, a motorcycle wrench of long standing, took my motorcycle to (sob) THE DEALER for servicing!

So why did I do this, when my Kawasaki KLR-650 has never darkened the interior of a dealer's door? Well, it's the stone age vs. the digital age. My KLR-650 is defiantly stone-age. It has one cylinder. The ignition has its own coil at the magneto and does not need the battery in any way to operate. It has a stone-age carburetor that is gravity-fed with no pumps or anything involved, as long as the bike is upright enough that the carb is below the gas petcock, the carb gets gas. If you kill the battery somehow, no problem -- just push-start the thing. The downside of course is that it makes about as much power as a riding lawn mower (34hp in actual dyno tests), has a top speed similar to a Ford Pinto, and gets fairly humdrum gas mileage for a 650cc motorcycle (around 40mpg).

But my new DL650 V-Strom is digital age all the way. You can't look up at the clocks and read off the odometer mileage when the bike is off. That's digital. You gotta turn the key on. You have a digital fuel gauge, digital temperature gauge, digital Antilock Braking System. The fuel pump is inside the gas tank and requires up to 40 watts of power to operate, and drives digital fuel injectors on digitally controlled throttle bodies. If you have no battery power you aren't going anywhere -- the injectors won't run, the fuel pump won't run, the stepper motors controlling the idle valves won't run, you're SOL. The upside is that you get 60 horsepower, a smooth power curve from idle to redline thanks to the oxygen sensor allowing the fuel injection to precisely map the fuel-air ratio at all throttle settings and RPM's, clean emissions thanks to the catalytic converter in the tailpipe, and even if you ride it fairly aggressively you still get 50mpg, and can get better if you keep your RPM's below 5,000 RPM (but that's boring!).

Now, for the most part I don't mind the fact that my Nightstrom is completely digital age. The upside is that it has tremendous power, excellent ridability, and gets great gas mileage. But one of the things required at 600 miles for a DL650 V-Strom in California is a throttle valve sync. And because idle is computer-controlled on the Nightstrom, this requires Suzuki's special computer to disable the computer-controlled idle and center the idle stepper motors on that computer-controlled throttle body. Then, and only then, can you adjust the idle air bypass screws so that a) each throttle body has equal vacuum and b) the bike is idling at the specified 1300 rpm when the idle stepper motors are centered. Anything else would be Just Wrong(tm).

See, here's the deal. Idle speed is controlled by the computer on this bike. There is a flap in each throttle body that allows more or less air to pass into the throttle body at idle. This flap is controlled by the idle stepper motor. When the bike is cold, the idle stepper motor will adjust the idle slightly upward at the same time that the injection system enrichens the mixture slightly. When you are at high altitude, again the idle stepper motor will adjust to give you slightly more air while the injectors lean out the mixture slightly (remember, we have an oxygen sensor down by the catalytic converter, so the injection system always knows how much fuel to inject to get ideal combustion).

So anyhow, under normal conditions, you want the idle stepper to be in the middle, so that it can open or close the idle air flaps as needed when conditions are *not* normal. Thus the need to use the special Suzuki computer to lock the idle stepper in the middle. If you try to adjust the idle air bypass screws without first locking the idle stepper in the middle, the computer will notice that you're giving a little more air to cylinder A that was showing more vacuum than cylinder B, and will tick the idle stepper downward to reduce the idle back down (since giving more air raised the idle to above 1300rpm). It is easily possible to get the idle stepper into such a position that it's no longer capable of adjusting idle. You can sorta compensate by giving a little less air to B at the same time as you give a little more air to A, which hopefully would avoid clicking the stepper, and I would do that if I was in the middle of Africa and didn't have Suzuki's special computer available to me, but there's no guarantees that this will keep the idle stepper centered when the bike is idling at 1300 rpm under normal conditions. The only guarantee is to use Suzuki's computer to lock the idle steppers in the center before you start twiddling the air screws.

So anyhow, that's the downside of the digital age: trips to the dealer (or potentially to an independent mechanic who happens to have that digital tool). Sigh. Computers. Talk about your love-hate relationship... I love the benefits of the thingies, but sometimes I do pine for the days of stone-age motorcycles where you didn't need much beyond a screwdriver, a big hammer, and a pair of pliers to fix pretty much anything. Luckily I have my KLR for when I'm pining for those days :-).

-- Badtux the Motorcyclin' Penguin

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Motorcycle Wiring, Part 2

Now, one reason why folks think that electrical wiring is brain surgery is because you need a buncha shit to do it. Tools and connectors and supplies, that is. None of what you need to do electrical wiring is all that hard to figure out, but there's just a lot of it. So let's start with some of the stuff that's going to be needed to add the fuse box to my Weestrom. Okay, here's the key:
  • A - bullet-type crimp-on connectors. Jap bikes love these things. I have more of a 'meh' connection to them. I have two sizes (large/small), male and female here, I get'em from Halted Supply Company here in Sunnyvale. These are used to hook two wires together, generally one from your gizmo and one to the "+" or "-" on your fuse block. Make sure that the female side (the side with the hole, not the side with the penis that sticks into your hole) is on the *battery* half of the wire for the "+" side, and on the *gizmo* half of the wire for the "-" side. That keeps your elves from escaping out the leaky penis on the end of the wire to your frame (a "short circuit") when you unplug the wire, heh!
  • B - Heat-shrink tubing. You slide this over a connection (*before* you crimp on the connector, heh!), then blow hot air on it with the heat gun. It then shrinks to make an airtight/watertight connection. You can also slide the bigger size over a bunch of wires and blow on'em to get'em all nice and tight together and protected from sharp stuff like brackets and such.
  • C - self-sticking electrical tape, sticky electrical tape. This keeps your elves from escaping from the wire (heh!). The self-sticking stuff is neater because you just stretch it over itself and it sticks to itself, but it doesn't leave sticky glue all over. Sometimes you just can't get down there to do it, so the sticky stuff is needed. Mostly you use electrical tape when you have to solder two wires together (no, not slobber, solder, I'll talk about that later). I don't do that soldering shit a whole lot nowdays, soldered connections on a bike tend to break because they're not flexible and the vibration gets'em.
  • D - dielectric silicone grease. This keeps your push-on connectors from arcing or corroding. Just poke a little into the hole to, err, lube, the female part (hmm, where have I done that kinda shit before?), then wipe a thin layer on the male part so it slides in nice and fine, and it'll keep your connector passing electrons just fine and dandy from one half to the other.
  • E - Crimping and wire stripping tool, yet *more* crimp-on connectors. The crimping tool lets you strip the plastic insulation off the end of a wire (the plastic insulation is what keeps your electrons from jumpin' ship, so obviously you gotta have it gone off the end of your wire if you want the electrons to pass thru the connection!) and then you use the tool to crimp the connector onto the bare end of the wire. I won't need this other set of crimp-on connectors for my current project, but this assortment from Radio Shack is a nice assortment to have around. Pretty much any kinda connector you need for any project, you'll find one there. But like I said, Jap bikes love them bullet connectors, so those blue and red bullets over on the left are what I use most.
  • F - the heat gun for the heat-shrink tubing! You can use a hair dryer instead of this thing, but my hair dryer is upstairs, not in my garage, and the heat gun concentrates the heat better, so I finally bought one. Use it on *low*, hi will strip paint off your bike!
  • G - The Volt-ohm meter. This is a cute little one from Radio Shack that lives in my toolbox because it has a nice little lid to keep it safe. Basically, when set to "Volt", it lets you know whether you have some nice little elves ready to do work. Put one lead on the "-" of the battery, put the other where you're supposed to have some "+" juice, and it should read somewhere between 12 and 13 volts. If not, you got somethin' wrong, a broken wire or something where your li'l elven electrons can't get from the "+" pole of the battery to where you're expecting them! When set to Ohms, you hook one lead to one end of a wire and the other lead to the other end of the wire. You ought to get a reading of 0 (zero) ohms or somewhere close to that. Anything higher, you either have a corroded connection somewhere, or a broken wire. More on actual use of this little gadget later.
Now let's look on the right side of my workbench:
  • H - some rubber grommets. I will be passing wires through a hole drilled in a tray to get them to the new fuse box. These grommets will protect the wires from being cut by the sharp plastic of the tray.
  • I - Some zip-ties. For zip-tying wires together or to frame tubes or shit to keep them neat and clean (and keep them from flopping around and rubbing against shit and rubbing through and shorting out or breaking).
  • J - Wire cutters. For cutting wires to the correct length. Duh. Also good for cutting the excess length of zip-ties off.
  • K - A 50 watt soldering iron. M - the solder. The fuse block that I bought has screw-down terminals. To do motorcycle wiring, you use multi-stranded wire, wire that's made of lots of little wires woven together, because solid wire vibrates and flexes and breaks. Multi-stranded wire squishes down in screw-down terminals and tends to pull out easily. So I am going to "tin" the ends of my wires -- I am going to heat up the end of the wire with the soldering iron until it is hot enough to melt solder applied to the top of the wire. This will leave the strands held together by the melted tin-lead mix (the solder) so that they don't squish down and pull out as easily when I screw the terminals down on them. Also protects the wires from corrosion somewhat (but I'll still use the dielectric grease here, yessiree!).
  • L - wire. Wire comes in a lot of sizes, called "gauges". The smaller the wire, the bigger the gauge number. A tiny thread-like wire used inside computers, so tiny it's hard to see, would be 28 gauge wire -- a big number. The big wire coming into your house from the electric meter, the one that's bigger around than your thumb, is so big that it's 00 gauge -- one zero wasn't enough, they had to add another 0 to it to let ya know it was *really* big! Most of what we do in motorcycle wiring is with 16 gauge wire, which will carry 15 amps of current pretty much anywhere on a motorcycle. What you're looking at is three spools of 16 gauge wire and one spool of 14 gauge wire, which is slightly bigger and might be used to carry juice to your headlights or from the battery to your fuse panel. The bigger the wire, the more of your little elven electrons it can carry without heating up and causing energy to get used to heat up your wire rather than to operate your gizmo. But most of the time, 14 gauge on a motorcycle is a waste. More on wire later on.
  • N - Some jumpers to use when testing things with the volt meter. On bikes that have the battery grounded to the frame, you can just touch one lead to the frame and one lead to what you want to test. But with the V-Strom, which has an aluminum frame that is not grounded (i.e. all wires have to go back to the distribution block for their ground), you have to get the "-" lead of your voltmeter back to the "-" on the battery, or else ain't nothin' happenin'. Thus this set of small alligator-clip jumper wires.
Not shown: The drill I'll use to drill a hole in the underseat tray, the screws I'll use to screw the fuse panel into the underseat tray, and the bag full of nuts and bolts that I'll search through to find the ones just the right size to hold the fuse panel to the underseat tray. (Yeah yeah, I know I ought to have those all sorted out according to size and shit, but so it goes).

Now, this all seems sorta overload. But all of these tools and supplies are pretty simple to use, and we're going to use most of them for the next part of the project. I'll show you what's what in actual action when we do that. So next, we get to install the fuse panel and then extend the wiring currently going up to the GPS to go to the fuse panel instead of directly to the battery. We are now entering into the meat of this project... but one where I take a big, BIG short-cut rather than do it all from scratch like I did the previous three times I did this project. You'll just have to wait and see to see what kind of short-cut I take, eh?

-- Badtux the Electrifying Penguin

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Motorcycle wiring, Part 1

In which the penguin talks about wiring up accessories on motorcycles (and which will work on pretty much anything else too)...

Okay, first, why am I talking about wiring stuff up in the first place? Well, here's the deal. I have the following electrical gear that needs juice from my motorcycle:

  1. GPS
  2. Voltmeter/Thermometer/Clock
  3. Air pump
  4. Cruise control
  5. Heated jacket liner
  6. Heated grips
Of all the above, the only thing my bike has a spare connector and fuse set up to drive is the heated grips. Everything else I'm going to have to set up an auxiliary fuse panel wired to my battery and run them off of that.

Now, lots of folks, they get sorta panicky around electricity. They don't understand it, they don't want to understand it, so they won't. But really, it's pretty much bog simple. Your battery in your motorcycle or car has two poles on it, marked "+" and "-". Consider electricity to be a buncha little elves that march around in circles (we'll just call these elves "electrons", okay). You can imagine these elves marching out of the "+" pole on your battery, marching through your gizmo where they then spin the handles to make your air pump pump or whatever, then once they're all tired out they march out the other side of your gizmo to the "-" side of the battery. (Actually the electrons march from the "-" to the "+" but for historical reasons we pretend they march the other way, sorta like we pretend that we're civilized and shit like that).

So anyhow, everything electrical in a car or boat or motorcycle looks like this:

+ ------------GIZMO---------- -

Every gizmo has two wires. You got a wire from the "+" on your battery to the gizmo for your little energized ("voltage") elves to march through, then another wire from the gizmo to the "-" on the battery for the tired out elves, tired out from doing all that work in your gizmo, to march back out of until they can get re-energized in your battery. (Now note that this is not exactly how it works, but this is close 'nuff for your purposes :-).

Now I hear you saying, "but I have this gizmo that has only one wire going into it!" Well, if that's the case, that one wire goes to the "+". Then there's some stud or something which has to be hooked up to the "-" for the electron elves to march back out of. Because see, on older cars and motorcycles, rather than spend money running two wires, they just ran a wire from the "-" on the battery to the steel frame of the car or motorcycle. Then the tired elves just marched out of the tail light or whatever through the mounting bolts that held it to the back of your old Rambler, and marched through the steel frame of your car until they got back to the "-" on the battery. So there was two wires, but one was sorta implied, the second wire was the frame of your car or motorcycle.

But you definitely do not want to do that with any gizmo on a modern motorcycle that has an aluminum frame, because then you set up a galvanic current that causes corrosion where the aluminum hits steel (such as the steel of the bolts holding the engine to your frame, duh!). The result is that your frame rots to death. Instead, you want to run a wire all the way back to the "-" on your battery. So we need a way to distribute both the "+" and "-" to gizmos without having a jillion wires hooked to the battery. Something like, say, this Blue Sea fuse panel: See, you can run the "+" on the bottom to the "+ on the battery, and the "-" on the top to the "-" on the battery, then you can hook your gizmos up to the respective "+" terminals (on the bottom) and "-" terminals (on the top) of this fuse block, and voila! And aside from distribution, you get protection from short circuits also. Which is good. Because short circuits are bad.

So what's a short circuit? Well, remember, we had a wire that went like this:

+ ----------GIZMO--------- -

Our little electron elves marched out of the "+", did some work in the gizmo, then marched out to the "-". But a short circuit is when something melts down or connects so we end up with this instead:

+ ------------------------- -

Now our little electron elves march out of the "+", and lookie! Nothing to do! But they're just so full of energy and just want to work their little elve fingers off, so what do they do? Why, they make heat, that's what, as they march their merry little ways from point A to point B. Enough heat to make the insulation of the wiring melt and make things catch on fire. And remember, the battery of your motorcycle and a lot of its wiring is under your seat. Which, remember, is what your butt is sittin' on. OUCH! So anyhow, short circuits starting a fire is something we want to avoid just to preserve our butts, if ya know what I mean. Toasty buns are good only if yer eatin' hamburgers, not when you're riding your motorcycle!

So anyhow, that's what fuses are there to handle. Our little elves melt the fuse wires before they manage to heat up the rest of the wiring, the fuse wire breaks the circuit, our little electron elves no longer have a path to use to march from "+" to "-", so they don't. They just kinda stand around doing nothing, sorta like the five construction workers you see standin' around the one guy down in the hole diggin' like a mole. Which is fine and dandy, if we can't get any work from them by shippin' them through the GIZMO, they can stand around all they want, dig?

So anyhow, now you have the basics of motorcycle wiring. Yes, you do. It ain't rocket science, no matter what folks tell ya! So tomorrow I'm going to introduce you to the major tools needed for motorcycle electrical work, and then maybe we'll even get to play with some of those new toys I introduce you to. Don't worry, it'll be fun! For some definition of fun. That definition being more like, "damned tedious". It ain't rocket science, but it is a lot of fiddly work with skinny little wires, connectors, scissors, shrink-tubing, cranky crimpers, and so forth, all of which are put to the task at hand, which is getting those electrons to march from the "+" on the battery, through our gizmo, and finally to the "-" of the battery on the other side of the gizmo. So tune in for Motorcycle Wiring, Part 2 tomorrow!

-- Badtux the Electrifying Penguin

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A journey

Yesterday I rode the Wabs (V-Strom 650 ABS) around 180 miles through the heart of the Sierra Diablo. Here is a view from the top, where we are looking down on the Silicon Valley. Or we would be, if it was not covered with a smokey haze drifting in from Big Sur... The road up to Mount Hamilton has a number of hairpin turns, and is done mostly in 2nd gear on the 'Wee, with a few places (the 180 degree switchbacks) needing 1st gear. The road down the other side seems a bit less severe, or maybe it's just that you're going downhill. With the torque and power of a 650cc V-twin fed to pavement through a 150R17 radial rear tire, you rarely need to use any brakes on the downhill, unless you're trying for speed and trail braking. Me, I was enjoying the scenery (such as it was -- is chaparral scrub scenery?). The Weestrom is a predictably-handling bike and had no problem with the curvy road, but I didn't push it either -- pushing a motorcycle you're still learning on an unfamiliar highway is how you die.

Here is the 'Wee in all its glory with its new crash bars and highway pegs. It's wonderful what some rattlecan "satin black" will do, eh? Note how the skid plate reduces the already-limited ground clearance. This just goes to show that the V-Strom is not a dual-sport, no matter how Suzuki classifies it on its web site. Anyhow, I was still in very curvy and steep terrain here, mostly with no shoulder. This was the closest thing to level terrain I could find to stop. Here's another place I stopped: I almost got to test the crash bars here. The sidestand sunk about an inch into the soft tar of the shoulder. It was well over 90F outside, and I was stopping primarily to shove water into me (there was a bottle of water in the tank bag, which is also where the camera lived when I wasn't using it to take pictures of the bike, and there was two more bottles of water in the tailbag).

Somewhere around here, the GPS quit working altogether. I later examined the cable and found that a wire had pulled out of the plug because the screw holding the wire had come loose. A re-insertion of the wire and tightening the screw solved that problem. Here is a closer side view of the bike. You can see the sidestand starting to posthole... The GPS is the silver thing perched on the handlebar on the other side. You can also see the sheepskin on top of the gel seat. This is mostly to keep the sun from turning the seat into a torture instrument ("fried hueves, senor?"). Also note that I've used the aftermarket Madstad bracket to put the windshield down as far as it'll go and tilt back towards me as far as it'll go in an effort to get more air. At the top (Mount Hamilton) I ran into a guy on a Goldwing, he had air deflectors all over the place to try to get some air back into that stable bubble behind a Goldwing's massive windshield. The 'Wee doesn't put as much air on me as the KLR does even with the windshield at its lowest/tilted most position, but it was enough.

After about 60 miles more of curvy road, I arrived at I-5 and headed towards Altamont Pass to get back home on the 'slab. At first I was relaxing, feet on the highway pegs. It was like sitting in an easy chair. The only thing I needed then was a backrest and I would have been completely relaxed. Then the first gust of air from the west hit me -- the winds from Altamont Pass, hitting me from the side. I adjusted the windshield further up and tilted it a little more forward to give me more wind protection, but it didn't help much. Heading crosswise towards the pass, I was getting constantly pounded from the side by the air coming through the pass. It felt like it was gonna rip my helmet off the side of my head! Through it all, the Blackstrom happily chugged straight ahead at 80mph indicated on the speedometer, not breathing hard even on the uphills. Even heading up over the pass straight into the teeth of the gale, the 'strom had no problem maintaining speed without downshifting. 70hp for a 500 pound bike (with 200 pounds of rider and gear on board) simply laughs at such grades and winds.

For the rest... (shrug). I've ridden this route often enough that I don't need the GPS, lucky me because the GPS still wasn't working. I got home, and considered what I'd learned. What I'd learned was this:

  1. The windshield doesn't do a very good job of wind protection when there's a lot of wind blowing. No big deal in the summertime, I'll need a better windshield when winter gets here.
  2. The Suzuki gel seat feels like a friggin' 2x6 under my buns even through the dead sheep pelt covering my seat. The sharp edges between the gel and the foam feel like creases under my buns. Sad to say, I think I'm going to have to invest major bucks into an aftermarket seat.
  3. The highway pegs are very comfortable when buzzing away on the superslab just covering miles. Can't use them in the twisties, of course. But who wants to use them in the twisties?
  4. I need a backrest for best use of the highway pegs.
  5. This is a nice bike for putting a lot of miles on quickly, it is very stable on the highway and has plenty of power to cruise at 80mph all day just as I'd hoped. When I get the automatic chain oiler and the cruise control in place, it'll be perfectly suited for visiting friends in other states.
All in all, it is getting close to exactly what I want it to be. As soon as I get it to that point, then my attention will turn either to the KLR or to the Jeep, and you'll quit seeing so much of the V-strom 650 ABS on these pages.

-- Badtux the Motorin' Penguin

Friday, July 4, 2008

Does this luggage make me look fat?

With and without luggage But that was before I put on the crash bars last night and the highway pegs this morning and the Fenda Extenda this afternoon. I also changed out the oil again to see how breakin was coming along. Apparently quite fine, there was no residue in the oil and very little "fuzz" on the magnetic drain plug. I put Shell Rotella T 15W40 into the crankcase, yes that is an allowed fill according to the owner's manual and I know from experience and other peoples' oil analysis tests that it's a good oil.

Now all that's left is to put on the automatic chain oiler, the electronic cruise control, and the heated grips, and then she's ready for a trans-continental trip. Yes, I have all the parts for this, including a new fusebox and associated relay and plugs and such, but I'm dreading the electrical parts of this project. Not because they're hard, mind you. Rather, because they're tedious. Doing electrical wiring right is a major chore, and if you don't do it right, then Lucas electrics seem reliable...

-- Badtux the (soon to be) Electrifying Penguin

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oops, I did it again!

Everybody who wrenches at some time or another strips out a hole or breaks off a bolt in a hole. What to do next depends on what kinda hole it was and whether you can easily replace the part that is stripped out or has a bolt jammed in it. If it's a $1,000 cylinder head, for example, you ain't gonna replace it -- you're gonna fix it. But how?!

Okay, first a digression: buy a set of torque wrenches, and use them. Don't gimme that crap about how you have been wrenchin' fer forty years and you know the right torque by "feel". It's bullshit. I can "feel" the right torque if I just used a torque wrench on a bolt and torqued it to the exact same torque from the same moment arm, otherwise I'm like every other wrench on this planet -- I overtorque small bolts, and undertorque big'uns. My use of torque wrenches tends to bear that out -- my torque wrench always clicks long before I think the bolt is "tight enough" on small bolts, and on large bolts I'm always sayin', "is this damned torque wrench gonna ever friggin' click? Is it broken or somethin'?" Of course it ain't. I just haven't torqued the big bolt enough yet.

My recommendations for torque wrenches: Sears "click" types. First of all, you can get'em calibrated by Sears Roebuck & Company, though if you properly care for them by putting them away in their cases with the dial set to zero between uses, they generally don't need calibrating more than every five years or so. These make a little "click" noise when you reach the set torque. You may not be able to see a dial or lever when your ass is buried deep under a car hood, but you can damn well hear the "click". Furthermore, get a set. I got a little inch pounds one, a medium-sized one that goes to about 50 foot-pounds, then a big'un that goes all the way to 150 ft/lbs. Deal is that big torque wrenches are no good at the low end of their scale, they're just not very accurate down there, so you need small torque wrenches to handle those. But when you're torquing lug nuts to 100 ft/lbs (gotta do it evenly so that you don't warp the brake rotor)1, you damn well need that big friggin' wrench. And yeah, they're expensive. So what. Don't buy cheap tools, that's how ya get busted knuckles. (Sorry, Ornery Bastard, had to steal yer tag line there).

Anyhow, back to the thread repair. What kind of thread repair you use depends on what you're fixing. Me, I'm going to take that cross-member that I broke a bolt off in the other day, drill that bolt out of there, and then put a thread repair coil in there. If it was a spark plug hole or a brake cylinder bleeder hole I'd use something different -- a Timesert, which is a solid repair that won't leak like a Heli-coil or its clones. But for a general frame tube that's expensive overkill. Anyhow, here's a Heli-coil kit, a Makita drill, a bench vise, and a left-handed drill bit for drilling out a bolt broke off in a hole: Now, one thing you'll find out, pricing thread repair kits, is that they're expensive. The good part is that you can re-use them and just buy coils. That particular Heli-coil kit is so old that the packaging has yellowed, but the tap and insert in it work just fine. As for the Makita drill, a word of advice -- have a second fully-charged battery available if you're using a battery-powered drill. This is my only drill that will hold a 31/64 drill bit (needed for the Heli-coil kit), so that's what I gotta use. Finally, it's a lot easier to work on a piece if you can get it up on your bench. Obviously that won't work if you're working on the frame of a car, but here I took a bit of inner tube and stuck that frame tube on my bench and started drilling, first punching a small indention with a punch then drilling like my life depended on it: Until finally, I drilled all the way through: Once through, I moved up one drill bit size at a time until I was up to the size specified on the Heli-coil packaging, then tapped new threads into it to wind the Heli-coil into. Note: I used the can of cutting oil in the pump can below the bench to lubricate the tap, those things are expensive ($55 for a Helicoil kit nowdays, and most of that is for the tap!). Said cutting oil actually being 80w gear oil :-). Note that I'm using a high-tech tap wrench on this tap, but you'll see a "real" tap wrench later: Once the hole is threaded, then you put the coil on its inserter so that the tang is resting against its end: And then screw it into the hole using the inserter and a tap wrench (from my tap and die set, duh). Until finally it's all the way in! And then you have to break off the tang on the bottom using a punch and a hammer. Luckily I have a punch set from Cheap Chinese Tool Company in the second drawer from the top of my rightmost tool chest-of-drawers (which used to be a bedroom chest-of-drawers before I retired its ugly ass to the garage). One whack with the hammer, and the tang was history. And now the end result: Yay, my (replacement) bolt screws in! And now I'm ready to put this cross-member back on the bike until its replacement gets here. Beats bein' out of commission for a week!

-- Badtux the Wrenchin' Penguin