Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Royal Enfield maintenance, good and bad

Royal Enfield motorcycles are peculiar. Not every repair shop will understand their quirks. Even well-meaning mechanics can make absent-minded mistakes.

A year ago I posted the following list of "10 Bad Things People Do To Your Enfield." Reader Bob Slovey just suggested that we come up with a new list, "10 Good Things To Do To Your Bullet." He included three ideas of his own and suggested I ask the rest of you to come up with more.

Do you have a suggestion for "One Good Thing" to do to a Royal Enfield motorcycle? Email me at david@royalenfields.com

But first, here's that list of 10 BAD things to watch out for:

1. No (or very little) oil in the motor after servicing. This may happen because the shop adds enough oil to reach the dip stick but then does not run the engine and re-check the level. Always bring a paper towel in your pocket when you go to pick up the motorcycle and subtly check the oil level yourself after the motor idles for a bit.

2. Missing parts. Shops take off little items and then forget to put them back on. Before you leave with your bike, take a few long moments to admire it. If the shop took off the rear wheel don't be surprised to find the clamshell adjusters or the chain guard gone.

3. They have your Bullet warmed up and even start it for you when you arrive. Great. But will it start with your own starting routine? Shut it off, let it sit a bit and try to restart it your way before you leave the shop. If you can't get going, something's wrong.

4. Tire changers will always firmly tighten the inner tube retaining nuts. Pete Snidal advises leaving them loose, so the first notice you get that the inner tube is slipping is a slanting valve, not an instant flat when the valve rips off.

5. A shop will glue down the value adjuster cover. They just want to make sure it doesn't leak oil, but attaching it permanently is not the right answer. You need to get to the valves, sometimes on the road, to keep them set right. Removing the glued cover probably will destroy the nice rubber gasket (as shown above).

6. Cables re-routed so as to cause problems. I once had my clutch cable re-routed so the metal mid-point adjuster shorted out the contacts on the horn, causing it to sound softly. I rode miles trying to figure out what THAT noise was.

7. Sump plugs re-installed by a mechanic with King Kong muscles so you can't remove them. Again, they are just trying to prevent leaks, but witchy tight plugs are not the solution. Rub the threads across a bar of soap and put the plugs in with normal strength.

8. Oil filter parts re-installed in the wrong order. Yes, it does seem odd that the spring in the cap bears on a fiber washer, but that is the way it's supposed to work. Putting the metal washer between them instead of on the other side of the fiber washer means an oil leak for certain.

9. Broken taillights. The plastic arms that hold the Bullet's taillights are surprisingly delicate and they are attached to the thin metal of the surprisingly delicate taillight assembly. In the shop, these things will be bumped by passing legs and yanked as they catch on clothing. Once snapped, the arms are virtually impossible to repair. They must be replaced.

10. Burnt out pilot lights. Don't ask me why, but I always have to go shopping for new pilot light bulbs after a visit to a shop. Coincidence?


  1. Anonymous9/09/2009

    Those who don't service their own shouldn't buy an RE. And when do, they deserve this kind of poor treatment from "dealers".

    Fifty years ago when I first rode just about all riders did most of their own work. It's different now, perhaps the complexity of modern designs account for the change. HOWEVER, the RE mechanics are old school and anyone who is not totally blind and mentally incompetent should have a go.

    Al in Philadelphia --- feeling especially curmudgeon like today

  2. Anonymous4/03/2012

    Hi, nice read it is. actually i started riding my standard 1986 model bullet a week ago. Now white smoke is coming fr sometime when i start my baby and can feel the change in noise when it goes to 3rd or 4th gear.. Any idea what needs to be done?


Follow royalenfields on Twitter