May 7, 2015

Idiot... lights

"Idiot lights" are those little warning lights on your dashboard that tell you when something is either about to go bad (most of them) or has already gone bad (e.g. the "Engine" light in most cars; not the "Check Engine" light). The lights are there mostly for idiots people who forget to check things that can fcuk up a vehicle... like the light that looks like an oil can and tells you when you're engine oil is too low to offer the protection for which it is designed.
I'm having so much fun riding my idiot light-less DR-Z that I DID NOT CHECK THE OIL LEVEL.


Fortunately, almost immediately after moving here, I found wonderful Suzuki repair shop!
Son Tin and Father An—Smart Mechanics
I've been meaning to write about owner An and his wonderful staff—I finally am.

An's shop is at 2/4 Nguyễn Văn Cừ in Đà Lạt. Look for the blue awning across and a couple doors down from the bridge...

I would be LOST without him.

An first worked on motorbikes at 13 and stopped going to school soon after. Today, at 58, he is a true wizard with a wrench. Now is when those of you who noticed that my Honda Steed is in the photo with Tin and An are wondering why it's in a Suzuki repair shop... it's there because An and I hit it off immediately. When I had a problem with the Steed's throttle cables I asked An where I could take it that it would be fixed properly and he said, "Ở đây (Here)!" and he fixed it right with the right parts!!!

Soon after that, when I told him I'd tell everyone who reads my blog to come here for motorcycle repair work, he told me that he only works on Suzukis—he'll work on my non-Suzuki bikes because we're friends. Thank you, An!

If you own a two-wheeled Suzuki and are anywhere near Đà Lạt, stop in and say hello to An; 2/4 Nguyễn Văn Cừ.

The other thing I love about An is that, unlike most Vietnamese wrench-turners I've met who will only work on scooters and bikes 150cc or smaller, he welcomes real motorcycles. Thank you, Universe!

Back to the new Village Idiot...

As a spoiled American (redundant, I know), I have always had cars and motorcycles with idiot lights—including one that, when the oil level is low, a light goes on. Only my Honda Steed has such a light. I was so caught up in living life with few responsibilities that I neglected one that I still have... checking the flipping oil level every 500 km or so on both motorcycles. Now my DR-Z and I will pay for that neglect.

Fortunately, I took my DR-Z yesterday because it sometimes stalled on cold-starting. As they ran the engine a few times, An and his son noticed the faint and always ominous clicking sound. They drained the oil and when  the volume was a LOT less than it should've been, they called me and asked me to come straight back in. Upon my return, they showed me the pitifully small volume in the catch basin and asked why I didn't check the oil.

Ummmmmmmmmm... because I'm an idiot?

They replaced the drain plug, re-filled the tank, and started it up again. Even I could hear the clicking this time. I also heard them again asking me, "Why didn't you check the oil level?"

Because I'm an idiot!

They told me they'd take the engine apart, assess the damage, and let me know...

Today I stopped by and got to see what an insufficient volume of oil does to a 400cc single cylinder engine, and it's NOT pretty!

Here is what the bottom of the camshaft cradle should (and, fortunately, what one of two still does) look like:

Here is what the bottom of the damaged one looks like:
Here is the top:
Keep in mind that these are very hard metal, not flimsy plastic. It takes a LOT to mess them up like this... and only a small amount of oil to prevent it.


Now I get to wait. An already checked, and there is not a single replacement part available in all of Việt Nam. Getting a replacement means waiting weeks for one from either Japan or the U.S., so An is working on rebuilding the damaged one. If anyone can do it, I think he can.

Either way, the bike is down for at least 7-10 days and it's going to cost. If there's any good news out of this, it's that it'll cost a LOT less here than if I'd pulled the same stunt in the U.S.—and I will from here on out check the oil level every other time I fill up with gas.

Yes, I've already checked the oil in the Steed... and it was a bit low so I'm headed out later today to buy some oil. From now on, I will always have a liter or two stashed away.

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