Monday, March 12, 2012

Turn The Gas On, Dummy

If you rode any kind of motorcycle in your younger years, you have undoubtedly heard those words. Don't try to lie. Nowadays, carburetors are found in museums, and even in their golden years, the vacuum petcock was there to keep you from looking dumb. But for almost a century, you had to remember to shut off the gas under the tank when you parked your bike, lest gravity and a weak needle valve make a puddle for you when you get back. But turning it off, of course, was only half of the equation.

If you did remember to turn the gas off, sooner or later you came back to your mount, and, forgetting the other half of the equation, threw a leg over and lit 'er off. At that point, either A) it didn't start at all, or B) it ran just until you got your act together and lurched forward, depending on how big your float bowl was and how long it sat.

"Turn the gas on, dummy!"

I am reminded of this, because I was guilty of the next-stupidest automotive infraction last week, leaving me in the car instead on a freak spring-like afternoon.

The twins (see below), being new additions to the family, were treated to a lot of goodies by Santa and his elves this year. Plenty of winter weekends were spent with the heat on in the garage, both bikes getting lots of winter maintenance and shiny new parts. For Gretchen (my two-tone green machine has been dubbed Gretchen the Grasshopper) one of the upgrades was chromed control switches and housings on the handlebars. This involved re-routing wires and re-packaging switch assemblies. When I put the throttle side back together, I had a problem getting everything to fit. After a couple tries, I finally got it right.

Fast forward to Thursday, when we pushed our bikes out into the warm sun. Boots, chaps, heated jacket liner (hey, I said spring-like, not summer-like) gloves, helmet, key, and...


Gretchen sat there like a stone, the little red key light on in the dash and the clock blinking midnight, while Donna and Apollo patiently idled at the end of the driveway.

I'll save you the pain, but the short story is I spent hours cursing the fact that my $80 service manual is apparently a separate item from the "Electronic Troubleshooting Manual," (also avaialble for purchase at your friendly Harley-Davidson dealer) and trying to figure out why my bike suddenly thought it had a security system. It made sense that one of the brains was at least confused, if not fried, and despite the fact that I had discovered and repaired a minute section of bad insulation on a pinched wire, I had bigger problems.

Upon consulting my third professional, pricing all the suspect modules, and asking how much they would charge me to come with the truck, I was asked a very simple question by the service manager on the other end of the phone:

"You checked all the fuses, right?"

Um, nevermind...

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