Thursday, July 3, 2008

Restoration 101 (it's all about the process)

I’m not going play it like I am an experienced restorer, because I am not. I don’t know dung compared to many. But I do know a thing or two about mistakes to avoid and “process”. Process is key in a successful restoration. In this post, I will tell you the process I wish I had taken. Please keep in mind that this is written for a newbie restorer, but I really hope that experienced restorers will chime in with comment.

Step 1:
You bought a beat up scoot and believe it is stock. Take a hundred pictures of all the details on the bike. You need to determine if it is worth restoring or it a mechanical rebuild is more appropriate. More often than not, a mechanical rebuild is the answer.

Step 2:
Research the hell out of your bike. Learn every detail you can about it. Collect color pictures, etc. Hang them up in your garage. Download the parts manual for free from Study it. Buy a Haynes manual. Study it. Keep this information in a well-organized binder or Blog it, like I did.

Step 3:
Assuming you are doing a full restoration . . . open up your parts manual and make photocopies of all of the diagram pages. Disassemble the bike according to the diagrams. First photograph the section you are taking apart each and every step of the way. Download these photos and put them in a folder on your computer that is named exactly the same as the diagram page. Then put the parts into a huge Ziploc bag with the extra copy of the parts diagram. With a Sharpie write the number of the parts diagram page on the outside of the Ziploc. Repeat until the entire bike is disassembled. Put all of the parts in huge Rubbermaid bins in numeric order. This process will save you when you create your parts list and when you put your bike back together.

Step 4:
The next is to create your parts list. Start with the first Ziploc bag of parts and determine if anything is damaged. Write the parts that you need on the diagram in the bag. Put together a spreadsheet of parts needed by diagram – this will help the scooter shop find you the correct part, because they use parts books too. Furthermore, make sure to keep all the original parts in the bag and do not remove them. When you get new parts that are not NOS (new old stock) you will want to compare them side-by-side and take detailed pictures of any differences. These photos will help the shop when you need to exchange parts and make sure you get the right parts.

Step 5:
Order your floor rail kit and all chrome accent pieces now if your stock parts are not usable. Once your bike is stripped down research your model and find out all the parts on the bike that will need to be stripped of paint, bodywork done, and then repainted. Count each item and check it off. Don’t strip by hand if you don’t need to. For all threaded part and items/areas you do not want medium blasted cover it in fiberglass tape to protect it and instruct the blaster to go easy around those parts.
While your bike is off at the medium blasters go buy PPG’s cleaner and conditioner for bare metal. This will prevent rust and allow you to work on your frame parts before primer. When you pick up your bike inspect it closely with cotton gloves. Keep your oily hand OFF IT. Rush it home and treat it with PPG. If you store in a dry place you can touch and handle it for 12 months before treating again or painting.

Step 6:
If you are going to have your nuts/bolts plated. Send those out now.

You should also begin cleaning your parts at this point. An inexpensive way is to fill up a 5-gallon bucket with gasoline. Buy the little copper and plastic scrub brushes from Harbor Freight when they are on sale for 51 cents for 3 brushes. Go outside to clean your parts. Run a fan so you are NOT breathing in the vapors. Don't smoke near by. Be safe and smart. You can soak the parts a little if you need to and build a mesh screen to dip or soak the parts in the bucket. Wear nitrile gloves to protect yourself. It may be best for you clean one diagram bag at a time so as not to mix parts up.

Do or have your bodywork done. Identified all holes that must be filled. This is where all your pictures come in to play. Once that is done use nuts/bolts to install your floor rail kit (minus the rubber) and leave it there as long as your can – a month or what have you. This will result in the metal remembering your floor of your scoot better. Also put on all chrome accent pieces temporarily. Does everything line up 100% perfectly? If not, right now is your last chance to fix it. Work with your body shop on this. You must be there and talking with them to inspect it is being done right. Do NOT rely on anyone to just “get it done correctly.” Invest yourself and your time too. Once that’s go ahead and have it sprayed.

Step 7:
While all this is happening you can be rebuilding your engine (and suspension) and you should also place your HUGE order for all of your parts. So they arrive just before you pick up your body of your scoot. Double-check all of your parts against the original ones to ensure they are correct. Some will not be. Put the new parts in the appropriate bags / diagrams and cross out that you have replaced them from on the diagram where you wrote you needed the part. It’s crazy how many parts did not make it to you. You will need to hunt those down now and order those.

Step 8:
Once you have the body parts back, make a super soft protective bed for them. Put your scooter on your workbench and lay it its side wrapped up in a blanket. Use nitrate or cotton gloves so you don’t leave oily hand all over the new paint. Now install:
- all the cables
- wire harness
- floor rail kit
- kick stand
- run everything that goes beneath the gas tank
The reason you install these things without the engine in and while the bike lies on its side is because it gives you easier access and hand ability of the bike. Trust me on this.

Step 9:
Now you can put the bike upright and install the engine and front suspension. Tape everything off with painters tape to protect metal on metal connections. After the tires are on stand the bike on its own two feet using the kick stand.

Step 10:
Go ahead and finish the bike up from here. As you empty each bag of parts use your digital picture file that aligns with it and put it back together just like you took it apart. If the red wire goes behind the blue wire when you took it apart then that is how you need to put it back together. Use your pictures – that’s why you took them. There is no need to spend an hour trying to figure something out when it only takes :30 seconds to take a pictures and :60 seconds to find and open the picture. Trust me there is a better way to spend those 58 minutes and 30 seconds. I wasted too much time!


scootissimo said...

Hi, just wanted to drop you a line and say well done! I have been reading this blog for a long time and it's great to see you have her at the finish line almost.
I have an Asian restored SS180 that I am "rebirthing" and wanted to say how helpful this blog has been for me, as a 'scooterchick' it has given me lots of confidence to keep at it! :)

Scooter Couple said...

I am so glad this blog has been helpful for you. I am hoping more like this will pop up. I believe in sharing!

Keep it up! You can do it!

Honestly, these bikes were designed for people to be able to work on them. You totally can rebirth your bike. Please send a picture and I would love to post it on the blog.

Maybe consider blogging your rebirth process?

Plus, we need more scooterchicks. I am married to one. She just told me about a cool sticker she saw . . . "I don't ride bitch!" . . . from an all girl scooter club in SF. That's awesome.


Scooter Couple said...

By the way. It was my wife who introduced me to the scooter world. I wanted a Ducati. Now I own a Bajaj Chetak and a 1962 Lambretta TV175.

Sam said...

It has been very helpful indeed and I will save some stress for myself by following your advice for some issues. This is not my first 'rebirth', I've been fiddling with Vespas for over 20 years, but this project is the biggest in regards to what it is (a real classic model with hard to find parts) and my desire to save her from the growing pile of asian scooters that have been "restored to death" IMHO. I blogged my last project too, its all there for anyone to read about if interested, all the work done, all the parts bought and all the dramas I had along the way :)
LOVE a challenge..

Watching with interest-Sam