Saturday, January 31, 2015

Not again!

Went to move the snowmobile trailer so I could plow around it and realized it was frozen to the ground. Similar to when I had the sleds frozen down a couple weeks ago the rain had gotten under the foot on the tongue jack and frozen. Worse the trailer sat all summer with nothing under the jack and the foot on the jack and sunk about an inch into the soft ground. I dug all around it and heated the foot with a torch but my puny propane torch was no match for the cold of the ground.

Today I dug around in the garage and found an old Mercedes screw type jack. This is the kind of jack that fits into a hole in the body and has a big crank to lift the car. I put the jack under the tongue to put some pressure on the foot, then boiled up a gallon of water. I poured the hot hot water on the foot and it popped right out no worries.

As usual I forgot before pictures but here's the rig:

and a close up on the foot:

With that done I fired up the Jag and headed out for a ride. This was a "pirate" run, I hadn't put the registration stickers on yet and went out on trails of dubious provenance. It was a good ride and I did about 15 miles in total before Angie got home.

Once Angie was with me we loaded up the Jag and the Grand Touring and headed to Lake Dennison State Park. We also added our registration stickers and trail passes to make it all nice and legal.

Old junk in the park:

The Jag performed fantastically, on the pirate run it was everything I could have asked for, it busts deep powder with no problem although I might consider putting some studs in it, I did climb a couple hills really slowly slipping and sliding. On the groomed trails Angie kept right up and said it was fun to ride.
As always that stupid Ski-Doo did its job with no real issues. It wouldn't start when I first went out, the battery was flat so I put the charger on and it drank an full 6 amps for awhile. I should probably pull it in the summer and put it on a desulfator, sitting is hard on them. It roars and bucks and darts a little, clearly I need to work on the alignment some more but it goes like stink. There are only two faults, the speedo doesn't work which is probably the drive gear, I need to pull it and see which type so I can order a replacement, and the thumb warmer which I should also take a look at, apparently these are known for wires pulling out...

We did 20 odd miles in the park, rode up and around Birch Hill Dam which was pretty cool. Overall a good day.

Friday, January 30, 2015

You take the good you take the bad

I realize I have been remiss in updating since SNOWMAGEDDON.

You might know that the east coast got hit with the "storm of the century" early this week. We live on what ended up being the western edge of the storm so while we got a good foot of snow it wasn't anything all that exciting. I got outside Tuesday and rode around in it some with my '91 Arctic Cat Jag 440. That thing is a terrific powder sled, its got the power and it floats good. Later that day I wanted to get the '79 Polaris Cobra out, it started up well enough but only went about 10 feet and wouldn't run right, the PTO head was cold. I figured it had lost spark and messed around with it for entirely too long (I actually cleaned the points) before I got my inline spark tester out and found that spark was fine. I messed around with it awhile longer before I gave up in defeat.

Fast forward to today and I got the chance to mess with it again. I pulled the plugs and they were nasty, greasy. I sprayed 'em with carb cleaner and wiped the electrodes and they'd spark again but the sled still didn't run. When I pulled them they were wet again. I dug around in the garage and found a set of new plugs (BR8ES if you'd like to donate some) and stuck them in, same deal although it ran a little on one side. One side firing isn't strong enough to drag the other side along.

Finally I remembered when I first got the machine that it'd flood real easy if I wasn't careful and I used to start it with the gas turned off. So I cleaned the plugs again and heated them with my plumbers torch. Then I rested them on the engine tin and with the plugs hooked up I cranked it a bunch of times with the gas turned off to clear out any flooding. I think the sparking helps clean the plugs too. Put 'em back in, turned on the gas and it fired right up.

Don't it look all smug?

So I ran it around the yard some, it was having a hard time with the powder but not too bad. I took it down to the trails. Google says I did just over 3 miles round trip which matches what the Jag said when I made mostly the same run on Tuesday. The sled ran perfectly, I did take the first bump on the trail too hard which felt like it compressed my spine. Last year Allen dragged a pallet back and forth on that section so it was groomed nice. This year he moved so no pallet and no smooth trail. I think I gotta find a pallet.

By the time I got home I'd figured out my powder snow riding technique. I needed to sit farther back on the seat, I was standing up and putting too much weight on the skis. With me sitting back where the hand strap is the sled goes like stink even in the deep stuff. Of course it makes it hard to use my weight to balance. I need to figure out a combination method where I kneel back on the seat or something...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Finally got the clutch back for the Wankel Panther, the guy did a good job, we needed to get a new stationary sheave of eBay, the one he had wasn't that great and we wanted it to be right but realistically it didn't take all that long. Which reminds me I should send him some more money.

So I headed out to the garage to put it all back together. Sadly when I got the correct size o-ring for the magneto side I'd crammed the crank seal on. This was a big mistake because:
  • I hadn't cleaned the crankshaft on that side yet
  • I hadn't lubricated the shaft although I had lubed the seal itself
  • It was 10 degrees and the seal had shrunk
So what I accomplished was to tear the seal.

I went back and tried cleaning the shaft and lubing it but the damage is already done, the seal had rolled and torn. Its hard to get a picture of but if you look over by where the wires are you might be able to spot it.

That seal MIGHT work okay but I don't want to chance it. So I headed to Dennis Kirk and found they had one of the seals left. Since I ordered it they say "Part unavailable". So I better not screw this one up.

Okay so I'm stuck on that sled, better get the Pantera engine done. I've got 6 or 7 different pullers but none for the magneto on that sled. I'd bought a harmonic balancer puller for the Panther which worked great but the Pantera magneto uses 6mm bolts and the holes are very close together. I bought some 6mm bolts but they're grade 5 and I just managed to pull the threads off them.

This was a stupid kid mistake, I should have known better. The good thing about using grade 5 bolts is I didn't break anything important. It turns out theres a special puller just for this kind of flywheel. Runs almost $30. At least I was already ordering from Dennis Kirk so the shipping won't cost much extra...


Then yesterday with plenty of snow the '79 Polaris Cobra starts running on only the mag side. No power, spits and pops. I automatically figure its spark so I strip it down and clean the points which look clean anyway. Then I test it and it tests fine, spark on both side but now it won't run at all and theres no fuel in the filter.

I dunno on that one, I've got a couple crazy theories but I need time to look at it. Time I should have taken today but I got lazy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Not so bad as all that

Here's the finale from yesterday's debacle:

Its not much but that little charred end is what was holding the piston in place. I tried burning the end off but couldn't get enough heat to soften it enough. In the end I pulled the tinwork and the head. I put a block of wood on top of the piston and whacked it a couple times with a hammer.

I'm not too upset about this whole deal, the engine is filthy, the exhaust gaskets were leaking and I think the head gasket on the PTO side (the one with the rope in it incidentally) was leaking too. I ordered a gasket set this morning which Dennis Kirk claims will be here by Friday. In the mean time I have plenty of cleaning to do.

This is the PTO side head, its not too dirty now but when I started there was a lot of mouse fluff in the fins, there was also a bunch of acorns in the space between the jugs, another good reason to get the engine out.

Thats the tin work from behind the exhaust, you can see its greasy nasty. I think the last person who worked on it (this'd be pre-2001 when Ed bought the sled) put both exhaust gaskets on the same side of the tinwork. Looking at it now I think the gaskets are supposed to sandwich the tinwork. Obviously I'll correct that when I put it back together.

Finally I've taken the topside tin and stripped it for paint. I debated not doing that but figure I ought to do it right while I have the time. Got lucky and the "Arctic Cat Spirit Powered" sticker came off whole so I can reuse it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Laugh at the idiot

As you know I've been fighting the clutch on my '78 Pantera for some time now. I finally got a new spring and pucks (Comet Duster) installed and then the dang engine was sticky, it'd only rock back and forth some. I thought it was maybe just from sitting although it'd only been a year, so I squirted a little oil in each side and worked it back and forth and it free'd up. So I put the plugs back in and tried to fire it up which is when it stuck SOLID.

Uh oh.

Today I finally got the engine out and found:

I'd been using a piece of recoil rope to keep the engine from turning while I worked on the clutch, I guess a piece got cut off on one of the ports and stayed inside. When I rocked it back and forth it must had slid out of the port but when I cranked it over it found the exhaust port. Now the thing is stuck hard so I think the only way to get it out will be to lift the jug. Guess I'll do a full gasket set while I'm there, it probably ought to have crank seals anyway.

The smart folks over at along with the smart guys on the Okiebenz email list suggested I burn out the rope. with the exhaust manifold removed I can get right at the end of the rope. With it burned out I'd be able to crank the engine over and get the other piece out too. I've got a pencil torch so I can be precise about it. We'll see, I will of course take a picture and report.

While I've got the engine out I've got some work to do in the engine bay:

Years of accumulation in there, step one will be the vacuum cleaner. Because the engine sits so low its very hard to clean underneath it...

Also for once I managed to do a pretty good job packaging the pieces I took out:

It'd be all to easy to lose one of the bolts for the recoil or motor mount and then have to scab something in that would never be quite right...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Frozen down!

Its been cold this week, Wednesday night temps hit -11F which is pretty cold for us. Last week it was really warm and even rained so it wasn't a big surprise when I went out yesterday to move the Jag and found it frozen to the ground. The Grand Touring had the same problem. I went through this a couple years ago and screwed up the Pantera clutch getting that sled loose so I didn't want to do that again.

The crowd suggested I pour some boiling water on 'em so I put some pots on the stove:

I swept off the skis as much as possible so I'd melt as little snow as I could get away with.

boiling water right off the stove works great and it wasn't long before the Jag was free.

I heated the pots again and got the Grand Touring free too although I forgot to take pictures. I got lucky and neither the Cobra nor Pantera had frozen down.

After that I got Angie to help me drag the Pantera next to the garage so I can pull the engine out. I forgot to tell you that I finally took some time to get the clutch back together only to find out that the engine has mysteriously gotten stuck. I think its just moisture inside and hopefully bringing it in will clear it up. While I've got it out of the sled I figure I'll put new crank seals in it and maybe repaint the tin, its suffered in the last couple years sitting outside.

Friday, January 9, 2015

First repair of the year

Since the welding on the Ski-Doo was actually done last year (slow reporting I know) this becomes my first repair of 2015. I fired up the Polaris Cobra today to buzz around the yard. We really don't have enough snow to ride but enough to play. I got it going and for some reason looked under the hood and got gas in my eye. Turns out the fuel line to the left carb was leaking at the pump, spraying on the clutch and getting thrown up in the air. SO glad I found it before it sprayed onto the exhaust and caused a fire. I'd like to think I'd have smelled it but who knows?

I cut a piece of hose from my siphon kit and put it on with new zip ties. Its okay but even this one is stretched a little. I need to find a source for some really good gas line, clearly the stuff I used last year sucks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An experiment gone right!

I'm still hampered by the fact that I haven't got any good inside storage for sleds, a plan is in the works for that but in the meantime I'm still limited to tarps in the yard. Sadly during the summer the stress of the tarp and the heat of the sun combine to bend the windshields on sleds where I can't easily remove the windshield. The big Ski-Doo and the Jag both have relatively easy to remove windshields but most vintage machines don't. Since the Cobra was about to get its first summer outside and it had a perfect windshield I wanted to do something to mitigate the damage.

In the end I cut a piece of foam insulation to roughly match the shape of the windshield and braced the other end against the handlebars. As you can see it worked out pretty well, I can detect no damage to the windshield at all.

I'm pleased by this, the wankel Panther and Pantera both have bent windshields that I've never bothered to try to bend back because I figured they'd just get bent again. With this technique I'm confident now that with some heat and time I can bend the other windshields back and have them not bend in again.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Back to the Wankel

With the Ski-Doo mostly straightened out (I still want to figure out why the speedo doesn't work, its not the speedo or the cable) I headed back to the Wankel Panther. The clutch has been sent out for repair so I want to make sure the crank seals are all set before that comes back. The PTO side is done so now its time to dig into the Mag side. I'd previously pulled the recoil, recoil cup and fan housing. With all that removed the engine is really small...

The fan is attached to the magneto. In the past I've had good luck pulling them with a 3 arm puller but this is the WRONG way to do it and can potentially crack the magnets ruining the magneto. So finally I got smart and picked up a harmonic balancer puller:

For $12 I feel like an idiot for not buying one sooner, this makes pulling the magneto almost childishly simple. The force of the pulling is applied so much closer to the shaft that almost none is wasted in the flex of the magneto and since its a straight pull theres little chance of the magneto flexing and binding on the shaft.

With the Magneto removed I'm staring at the stator and it looks like somebody has been here before, theres a nice index mark, you can see it just to the left of the top screw.

The one thing that really aggravates me about this sled is that there are no connectors in the wiring harness to the engine. This means the stator comes off with the plate that lives behind it.

Okay we're getting down to it now, the crank seal lives on that plate which, based on what I found on the other side I'd expect to have an o-ring also, except it doesn't and I can't figure where one would go...

Heres the engine side:

So I'm kind of in pause mode now. I posted on Vintage Sleds and sent a note to member 303Wankel who hopefully has done this before...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

More Ski-Doo welding!

Another day and more welding on the Ski-Doo. When I got it started there was exhaust pouring out all over the place. The pipe and can are really rusty and I'd done some real booger welding on it before so once more into the breach!

Heres some before:

The holes didn't look bad at first, you can see just a couple small holes in the first picture, the second is after I hit those same holes with the wire brush, the metal just evaporates.

Here's the U pipe from the main pipe to the can:

And after some welding effort:

This is actually some of the best welding I've ever done, I finally started to get a real feel for the puddle and how to make it move and get the "stack of nickels" look that is so desirable. You can see I've had to put multiple patches. When welding around a patch often I'll get some blow through. Normally I can rosette weld those spots but with metal this thin I end up welding a larger and larger area so for this work I started just adding more pieces of filler.

Heres a shot of the booger welds I did last time:

Thats also much heavier metal I welded in. The base was really rotted out that time and I had to be very careful to keep the pipe in shape as I built it back up. That metal is from a repair piece for a pickup bed and is I think 16ga steel, the stuff I'm working with now is from a computer case and is probably 18 or 20ga and much easier to form though I have to be a little more careful welding.