Friday, June 28, 2019

Avoid buying the wrong Royal Enfield parts on eBay

Two drain plugs with mesh strainers, one longer than the other.
My eBay purchase, top, and what my Royal Enfield needed, bottom.
I got my fingers burned recently purchasing parts for my 1999 Royal Enfield over the Internet from a supplier in India.The parts were cheap and shipping was free.

But I was careless. I ordered the parts impulsively, when I saw the ad on eBay (it was about to expire, so I rushed the purchase).

The dimensions of the parts were described in the ad, but I was traveling and not near my motorcycle. I couldn't compare the measurements in the ad to the stock parts on my Bullet. But they looked so right in the photo. How could they be wrong?

The seller acknowledged my purchase in an email that included this warning:

"Hope you have checked the pictures of the items thoroughly and are sure this will be a usable part for you. If you are unsure about the product, please do contact us within 24 hours of your purchase so that we can make the necessary changes. Different models have different parts compatibility, so please do contact us if you are unsure."

Obviously the seller was suggesting that returns are not welcome. But, again, I had no way to immediately confirm and I easily convinced myself that this part surely would have been unchanged and immutable in design through the life of the iron barrel Bullet.

But when they arrived the new crankcase plugs with strainers were significantly shorter than the ones I later found in my Bullet; only 70mm in overall length, compared to the 80mm ones in my Bullet.

These are part of the oiling system of the motorcycle. I didn't want to risk using the short ones, although I didn't know what difference the length of the strainer could make.

I turned to an expert for advice. Tim, in New Zealand, has generously given of his time and expertise to help me and many others on the Yahoo forums devoted to Royal Enfields. He confirmed my worst fears:

"There are THREE different sump plugs; one metric threaded and metric headed, the other Imperial, the third are after market ones that you have and come from several sources. They vary LOTS!

"The design of the suction strainers is supposed to be of such a length to see the mesh section being slightly compressed upon installation. If not then it is possible for any extraneous matter to be sucked up (carried with oil) into the respective pump disc, damaging surfaces, OR accumulating at cross drillings and blocking of the gallery.

"Mind you, having said that, IF there are such particles in circulation, the motor is not going to last much longer anyway.

"The new short-section strainer mesh drain plugs that you have are at worse (wet sumped situation) a waste of time, and at best (when all is in good condition and operating correctly) ineffective insurance for when any stray particulate from a failing bearing or piston start to manifest themselves."

Tim had other concerns, just looking at the photo of the short strainer plug I got from the seller in comparison to the existing plug from my Bullet.

"The threads are poorly cut," he said of the aftermarket part. "And it only gets worse. Check out the soldering difference of the overlap joint between the two strainers." True. It looks as though the soldering on the new part significantly reduces the area of mesh free to strain oil.

Tim said he has joined the ranks of Royal Enfield owners who have decided to pay more for reliable  results from suppliers like Hitchcocks Motorcycles in the UK.

My unforgivable carelessness might have been curbed if I had at least taken time to look at Hitchcocks website, which offers parts books for Royal Enfields.

In the case of the parts I ordered, I see there that the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Export oil feed and return filter plug was Part Number 140052 up to December, 2001. After December, 2001, we find drain plug and filter Part Number 144944.

The parts look alike in their photos. Maybe the 2001 change only affected the head, which became a metric size. But at least this would have warned me that there were at minimum two varieties out there.

The eBay seller I bought from has a 98.6 positive feedback rating on eBay. I sent messages admitting my failure to check, and asking if I can exchange the parts.

The response was negative, pointing out that their ad described the parts accurately, as 70mm in overall length. So forget about a refund. They don't have the 80mm length I need, their email said. So forget about an exchange, too.

So: anyone out there want some free Bullet crankcase plug/strainers of 70mm overall length? I'd be interested to know what year Bullet, if any, uses that length.


  1. Anonymous6/29/2019

    Your advice applies to ANY vehicle parts, whether 2 wheeled or 4.
    But it seems the seller was going the extra mile to alert you to the fact that there are differences and you needed to do your homework.
    When I sell vintage parts on ebay, I always take clear photos from as many angles as I feel are necessary, describe the part to the best of my ability,and always always admonish any prospective buyer to be sure of their application, and ask any questions beforehand as I do not allow returns.
    Following this selling philosophy has allowed me to maintain a 100% feedback rating for over 15 years.
    In regards to Enfield parts specifically, I agree that Hitchcocks is a premier supplier of parts and accurate knowledge, and they have never steered me wrong. And in the event that a return was warranted, they always graciously allowed it; assuming the part was unused and undamaged of course.

    1. Thank you for a great comment. I hope I have learned my lesson.


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