Against our better judgment we went on an expedition to find the bike of our youthful dreams last issue; the bike that was plastered across our walls and occupied many a daydream—the 1998 Yamaha R1.
What began as a simple search for hidden treasure quickly came to fruition when we found the proverbial needle in a haystack on Craigslist—a non-running example that was clean, nearly stock and actually affordable.
As soon as the excitement subsided and reality set in there was one lingering question: was it more advantageous to save the cash up front and rebuild it ourselves or should we have bucked up and bought a bike that already ran?
Getting it running
Forget power wheelies, killing canyons and impressing onlookers at the local hangout with our treasured relic. Getting it running was the first priority. Before delving into any project it’s good to remember the basic rules of an internal-combustion engine: fuel, spark and air. If you find yourself knee-deep in a project that just won’t run, remember those three words.
Turning it over
Before the aforementioned trio of internally combusted principals could be addressed, the R1 had to undergo some precautionary procedures since it hadn’t been started in nearly a decade.
Although it was unlikely that a piston ring was stuck and causing a compression loss in one or more cylinders, it’s always a good idea to add penetrating lube to the combustion chambers of an engine that’s been sitting for an extended period.
Simply remove the spark plugs and spray inside the spark-plug hole. Turn the motor over by placing the bike in 6th gear (since it has the least torque multiplication) and spin the rear wheel by hand. This action will coat the cylinder walls/pistons with oil and remove any surface rust that might have accumulated.
The Cen-Tech digital inspection...
The Cen-Tech digital inspection camera has a long bendable extension that can weave and wind its way into corners you’d never be able to see. We used it to help peer into the combustion chambers to check for rust.
After rotating the motor several times, replace the old oil and filter with fresh replacements (we used an OEM filter and Golden Spectro synthetic oil). Although some might deem it excessive, we replaced the oil/filter after the first start-up. It’s anybody’s guess what kind of debris came loose and although the fluid might have still been fresh, we followed the old mantra: oil’s cheap, a motor ain’t.
A digital inspection camera like a Cen-Tech unit from Harbor Freight comes in handy to get a good look inside the combustion chambers. Although the lens didn’t fit inside the spark-plug holes, it still allowed a peek inside for rust and other problem spots. As luck would have it, all was well.
We began the fueling process by removing the internally corroded gas tank (more on that later) to get to the carburetors. Yep—carbs. If you haven’t had the displeasure of learning the dark art of carb tuning, trust us, you’re in for a world of headaches. With the bank of carburetors removed, staying organized is key. Dissembling one carb at a time simplifies the process since tearing into four at once can be daunting. As each one came apart the needles, jets and bowls were cleaned, the gaskets and floats inspected and every nook and cranny was wiped spotless.
As expected, the old gas had long ago turned to varnish, which necessitated a thorough cleaning. Letting the jets and needles sit in a cup of carb cleaner is a good way to remove the hard deposits. We don’t proclaim to be carburetor pros in the slightest, but with some elbow grease the lot was cleaned in a few tedious hours.
After the lube treatment go...
After the lube treatment go ahead and change the oil/filter. The R1 received an OEM Yamaha filter and Golden Spectro Platinum synthetic 10W40 oil.
In order to clean and rebuild...
In order to clean and rebuild the carburetors they must be removed. Don’t forget to stuff rags in the intake ports or an errant bolt or beer cap could find its way down inside the combustion chambers.
Old gas turns to varnish and...
Old gas turns to varnish and gums up the inside of a carb. Brake cleaner and a small pick do wonders for scrubbing your worries away.
A flashlight is helpful for...
A flashlight is helpful for shining through the jets to look for a clear passage.
RUSTECO was the savior for...
RUSTECO was the savior for the R1 since the inside of the tank was badly rusted. Simply mix the formula with water and let it sit in the tank for several days. Then just drain, rinse and enjoy. The hard line is copper—not remnants of rust.
An OEM Yamaha fuel filter...
An OEM Yamaha fuel filter replaced the crusty old unit that had served as home to critters, spiders and mice.
Continuing down the path of fuel, spark and air, the crusty fuel filter was swapped for a stock Yamaha replacement. Fear not, the new version looks different, but it’s a direct replacement.
Syncing the carburetors is...
Syncing the carburetors is an exercise in patience, as the chore requires the mixture screws be turned so vacuum is uniform across all carburetors. Make sure to blip the throttle after each adjustment so it sets. Without syncing the carbs certain cylinders will pull harder than others resulting in a rough-running condition.
With clean carbs back on the bike the task of synching them was next. This insures all carburetors are pulling the same amount of vacuum. If one or two carbs are pulling harder than the rest, the bike won’t idle or run correctly. By leveling the vacuum across all cylinders while the motor is idling, it ensures the old R1 will run as strong as it possibly can.
The inside of the rusted-out tank looked like an underwater shipwreck. In the past the only salvation to a rust-free tank was to boil it out or sit and shake a tank full of etching compound and a bucket of loose bolts for hours. The boiling process was thorough but at the expense of the paint since it would ruin the finish, and the etching compound/bolts trick is never a full fix.
But rust recovery all changed when RUSTECO entered the market. This non-toxic wonder fluid blends with water (yes, the stuff that causes rust) and sits inside your tank for several days. Simply mix it, fill up the tank and let it sit. Drain and rinse the tank; if rust still remains, simply refill the tank with the same concoction and it’ll finish eating the red stuff away.
The thought of a non-toxic formula mixed with water that killed rust was farfetched, but after two multi-day cycles the tank was clean. The stuff does wonders and the fact you can save the formula in a jug only to use it later is added value.
Last on the long list of fueling fixes was to replace the original petcock and clean the fuel level unit. The petcock had fallen victim to corrosion and was too far gone to revive. Again, an OEM replacement unit was used for its quality.