In today's fast paced world it sometimes seems easier and cheaper to replace things instead of fixing them. Particularly when there are lots of "easy financing" options. After all, who doesn't like new shiny things, but before you throw your old stuff in the trash; take a moment and consider an alternative. It's true that everything at some point gets to a place where another fix really is a throwing money down a rat hole. But what I have found is that with a little effort many of the things that we think are junk, are really diamonds in the rough. Often some simple maintenance is really all that is needed. Small things like changing the air filter, servicing the transmission or replacing a belt can reinvigorate an old piece of equipment and save you hundreds of dollars. Not to mention much of the equipment from "back in the day" is made with better materials and more care.
With the holidays here there is nothing better than saving a few dollars and buying something really cool like new dirt bike gear or new tires 8-)
Now that it looks like winter is finally showing up, it's important to take a little time to get your equipment ready. Taking a few preventative steps now can save you a big chunk of change in the spring. Here are some simple suggestions that don't take a huge amount of time or cost much money.
Store your equipment somewhere under cover. A shed or garage is best, but a simple tarp will do the trick if it is secured properly. Fitted water-proof covers can be purchased at Bi-Mart or you can order one from eBay or Amazon.
What oil to use in your equipment is one of those questions that is almost as bad to bring up as politics, okay maybe not that bad. But, what oil to use is one of those topics that once you ask you wish you could un-ask because everyone seems to have an opinion and often each opinion is different in some way. With that in mind I am not going to give my opinion on a brand. But what I would like to write about is the types of oils out there and what those funny little numbers mean.
As always the first place you should always start is with the manufactures recommendation. Keep in mind these companies put allot of money into research. But, what you can safely ignore is the companies trying to sell you their particular brand of oil.
The first thing you need to start with is what type of machine is the oil for? A riding lawn mower for example can use oil made for a motorcycle, but not the reverse. Machinery that uses a wet clutch (meaning the clutch plates are in the crankcase and covered in oil) need some additives that are generally not used in your regular automotive type oil. Next you need to make a determination about the conditions and temperature you will be operating your machine. Once you have that little bit of information you are ready to make an informed choice.
Those strange little numbers are important, and like many things in the mechanical world bigger is not always better. There are two general types of oil you will run into. Multi-viscosity and and single viscosity (also known as "straight" oil) Most engine manufactures call for a multi-viscosity oil. Viscosity is one of those fancy terms that simply means a liquids resistance to running. For example water has an extremely low viscosity, where as honey has a very high viscosity. Multi-viscosity oils are designed to have a low rating when cold and get higher as the engine heats up. This helps with cold starting and reduces engine wear. Straight oil does not change viscosity (in theory) which means that when the engine is cold the oil is fairly thick. Which on a lawn mower engine that does not have really tight tolerances it's actually a good thing, but not on a high performance motorcycle engine.
So here is a rule of thumb, if you are operating your machine in cold weather you want lower numbers, for example 10w-30, if you are in a hot climate you may want to run 20w-50. In my own bikes I use a 10w-40 oil year round. In my equipment I use 15w-40. Running 20w-50 oil when it's 20 degrees out will make your machine harder to start, and may even prevent oil getting into those really tight places until the engine warms up. So, if you are running a "heavy" oil in cold weather it is very important that you give your machine time to warm-up before you take off and put a load on it.
Whatever oil you decide on, you should try and stay with the same brand and weight as much as possible and unless your engine is very very very clean inside already avoid using additives that "clean". If there is any built up crud in your engine a cleaning additive can break it loose and that debris can clog an oil passage and lead to catastrophic failure.
Finally, remember to change the oil and filter (if there is one) regularly. Even the best oils will begin to break down over time and become contaminated from the engine with use. The best way to ruin an engine is to ignore the oil.
Riding in the sand can be allot of fun, either going to the Oregon Dunes or just a day at Moses Lake. When riding in the sand there are some things your should keep in mind to keep your ride healthy. Sand has a way of getting into places that it should not be and can cause very serious damage in a short period of time. Here are some tips to keep in mind to get your machine ready for a fun drama-free day.
1) Make sure your air intake system is in good shape and your air filter is well oiled. Sometimes it's easy to ignore those little cracks in your intake tube, a missing hose clamp or small tear in the air filter. It's a good idea to take a very close look at everything from the cylinder head to the air filter. The intake boots are rubber and will get hard and then crack with age and use. Foam air filters are known to start coming apart at the glue seams with age as well. If anything looks suspicious fix it before you go. When I get ready for a sand trip I always clean my air filter and then make sure the sealing ring is either greased or has extra oil.
2) Clean your chain before you go and either leave it dry or use a non-stick lubrication on it. Believe it or not, using a greasy chain lube can cause premature wear. Not that the lube is bad, but the sand will stick to the chain and grind away at your chain and sprockets.
3) Fix any oil leaks you may have. Any place that sand sticks to your machine the more potential there is for a problem.
4) Check the engine breather tube. Just about every engine has some sort of a breather tube coming out of the top of the engine (usually off the valve cover) and runs down to the bottom of the engine. Some are routed into the air box and some are not. If your breather is one that just goes down to the bottom you should really consider re-routing it. If you have to start your bike and the end of that tube is in the sand (or even water) it can literally suck the sand directly into the top of your engine and cause catastrophic damage (I learned this the hard way).
5) Have clean oil in your machine. Riding in the sand is very hard on your engine, transmission and clutch. Having dirty oil in your bike will only make that worse.
Always remember to keep your bike in good shape and it will take care of you. Also, be sure you know the local laws where you are riding. Many areas have additional requirements for things like flags, ATV cards, alcohol and noise.