I _can_ fix my bike
Okay, very long story, but I've been having cam chain problems with my bike for a couple of months now. Took it to the local mechanics, neither really thrilled me: one tried to rip me off, and the other said it wasn't a problem. I tried some tricks posted on the site, and nothing seemed to fix the problem. So, I looked through the Clymer's book, and decided I could do it myself, and it would probably take a week or so.....
Little background on myself. I've got a couple of degrees in engineering, and I'm somewhat mechanically inclined, but I'd never done anything to a car before starting this project. (Actually I changed the oil, which is how I knew the first place was trying to rip me off). My brother's a boat mechanic, but I didn't know anybody locally whom I could call over to look over my shoulder.
I order to fix the cam chain, I had to pull the engine. On a VN750 this means that the following parts must be removed first: fuel tank, radiator, thermostat, front bevel gear, air filters (ears), brake pedal, carberator, gear pedal, the choke, throttle, and clutch cables, and various assorted wires. Once the engine is pulled, it's necessary to remove the left side cover, which includes the rotor and generator. After that the front head must be cracked open, the cams removed, and the chain guides!
It's a big big job, but according to one mechnic Kawasaki specs it out as 4 hours to pull the engine, and an hour and a half to replace the chains. So, I was figuring without knowing what I was doing I could get it in about a week or two. After all it looked easy, there were maybe 13-15 steps to remove the engine, and 8-9 steps to replace the chains. Little did I realize that one step could be something that could easily take several hours because it would be something like "remove the radiator".
Anyway, long story short, it took me about 3 weeks to pull the bike apart. The usual order of work was that I'd start on a part, pull two or three bolts or screws out, and then hit a stuck nut or strip out a screw. At that point I'd head down to the store to buy whatever tool I didn't have to pull the d***ed thing out. I bought two sets of screw pullers, a impact driver, two breaker bars, and a couple of sets of allen wrenchs. I figured I was averaging about $30 and 2 hours per bolt!
Finally the day came to take the engine out of the bike. Since it was a two man job, I called a friend of mine over to help move it. He and I spent over two hours fussing and fretting away at that engine trying to get it out of the bike. No matter how we turned it, the engine just wouldn't come out.... I got so frustrated and fed up I decided to call it a night, and he went home. Honestly at that point I was so fed up with the bike, I would have probably sold it for $50. I was sorely tempted to load all the parts up, and take it to a mechanic, I was beat.
The next day I did some research on the internet, and discovered that the bike frame had a subassembly, and that the entire lower right bar comes completely off. So I called another friend of my over, and he spent a hour watching me attempt to take the bolts off the subframe so we could remove the engine. I had to call it again, since he had some place to be, and I needed to buy some allen wrenches that were worth a darned.
I bought the allen wrenches I needed and loosened the bolts. (One of them required a breaker bar just to loosen it) I call my friend over again, and this time we successfully pulled the engine out of the bike! I was completely overjoyed, I'd gone from abject failure, to success, and I was surprised at how easily the engine came out, once that bar was removed.
Once the engine was out of the bike I quickly set to pulling the head apart. I stripped it down only to run into problems pulling the rotor. The normal two and three claw pullers wouldn't work on the rotor because it had a rounded back, which prevented the claws from finding any sort of purchase. This required a special tool I could only get from Kawasaki, and they had stopped making it! In desperation I turned to the internet, where a quick post on a couple of forums turned up a tool from Motion Pro.
Ordering the tool took a couple of days, but once it arrived I was able to complete the tear down. Comparing the old and the new upper cam chains revealed that the old chain was indeed stretched several millimeters, and probably needed to be replaced. The lower chain was probably fine, but I replaced it as well to be sure.
Putting the bike together again was incredibly easy compared to pulling it apart. I had to be very careful with aligning a couple of marks on the cams and the chains to avoid screwing up the timing, and that was about it. During disassembly I had carefully put the various parts and their screws together, which helped enormously.
Re-assembly took a couple of days, and was incredibly straight forward. I deviated slightly from the instructions when I put the carbs into the bike BEFORE putting the engine back in, it made things much much easier. (For some reason Clymer's recommends removing the carbs before pulling the engine.)
With the bike reassembled, and a friendly neighbor looking on I finished the final adjustments, turned the gas on, and prepared to start the engine. I had no idea if it was going to work on not, and I crossed my fingers, and held my breath. It turned over and over and over again, before I realized I need to close the choke. Turning it over again, this time it started!
I had done it, the bike was running smoothly, the cam chain problem was resolved, and no major leaks from the various hoses, or gaskets I had installed. It was a success!
BTW, I couldn't have done it without some help from the fine folks on this forum, you should all give yourself a pat on the back.