Monday, November 20, 2017

Some URAL Maintenance notes and thoughts.

Some information that has come my way and been added to the repository in my brain as to the care and feeding of the beast that is the URAL Sidecar Rig.  Your mileage will vary, do your research!  All the below items refer to my 2014 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig.

1.  I've always been taught/reminded to put a bit of anti-seize paste on spark plug threads so they're easy to remove in the future.  Well, because NGK plugs are called for by URAL's owner's manual, I've now quit using anti-seize paste because:

All NGK Spark Plugs are manufactured with a special trivalent Zinc-chromate shell plating that is designed to prevent both corrosion and seizure to the cylinder head; Thus eliminating the need for any thread compounds or lubricants.  Source: LINK.

I believe, it was the previous use of anti-seize that cruded up the threads on one of the spark plug holes on Scarlett's cylinder heads, causing me to have to run a M14 x 1.25 tap to clean out the threads.  Now I can spin on the spark plug with just my fingers, before I had to use a socket wrench.

Make sure you gap them plugs correctly!  Look in the manual, the gap should be .04" for the 2014 model.

By the way, when replacing plugs at the 10k interval, keep the old ones onboard as "get me home" spares.  Those NGK BPR6HS plugs are sometimes not readily available at your nearby auto parts store.  Have I ever needed to use those "spares"?  Nope, more of a reverse-juju thing in my mind.

2.  Oil Fill Level.  I've always tried to keep it right at the midpoint on the dipstick.  I don't recall where exactly but I'd gotten the idea that keeping it near the full mark would cause some of the oil being forced out by way of engine case seals.  Now, not so sure that would really happen because:
  • The engine is not a pressurized in terms of the engine oil.  So, keeping it at near or full level, as indicated by the dipstick, is a good thing.  Per Mickey, the URAL dealer in Alaska and whom I consider a great mechanical guru, when your dipstick shows your engine oil at the midway point, you're really low by about half a quart!  If you're near the ADD mark, you're probably starving the engine of oil.
  • Mickey believes the stock oil pump on these rigs provides an adequate flow of oil from the oil sump to the top of the engine where it then makes its way via channels to the components that need oil.
  • If you're going to go with the deep oil sump sold by URAL, you have to get the extension from Crawford's Technical Sales: LINK to go with the deeper sump otherwise you're just wasting time and money.  Note, a deeper oil sump will not help with heat dissipation, but it will provide more oil for your system.  Crawford also sells an oil pump with higher flow but I've no data on it and since the stock pump provides adequate flow....
  • I can't go with the deep sump as I've installed Mr COB's skid plate and as long as I keep the oil level at or near the full mark, I should be OK per Mickey, and based on an email comment to Mickey by Jason of URAL.
  • Not saying to go above the full mark on the dipstick by the way.
  • Measure the oil level with the dipstick plug sitting atop the threads, not screwed in.
  • My rig's engine does not leak oil, yet, and am approaching the 35k km service interval.  It still uses oil though, some is probably lost through the crankcase vent, some out the exhaust pipe, who knows.  You have to check, and often!
3.  Brake Pads replacement for the pusher brake caliper:  Anecdotally, the OEM brake pads don't last as long as the third party sintered material pads.  The sintered pads are believed, by some, to place more wear on the brake disc rotor.
  • Remember to loosen the adjustment of the hand brake BEFORE trying to compress the pistons back in order to have more room for the thicker new brake pads, you'll save yourself a lot of cussing and effort this way.
  • If you're having trouble pushing in the piston to accommodate the new thicker pads, you may have to remove some brake fluid from the reservoir so the piston can be pushed in easier.
4.  Keeping the drive shaft/hub splines lubed.  In my experience, I find that if I go past 2500 kilometers without exposing drive and hub splines to check for the presence of grease, that I will find that the hub splines on the pusher wheel and the corresponding splines on the final drive, dry and with a light coat of rust even!  

The other drive splines and hubs appear to have some grease when I check so you could go longer on those, just not the pusher wheel splines.  My theory is that the pusher wheel gets hotter than the sidecar wheel, due to periodic friction of the rotor with the brake pads as the wheel flexes during curves.  This heat in effect boiling off the grease over a period of time.  This is only a theory, I do know to not skip this check every 2500 kilometers, or less.

5.   Engine Oil change interval.  For the 2014 and later rigs, the change interval went from every 2500 kilometers to 5000 kilometers.  I still change the engine oil at the 2500 km interval but only replace the oil filter at the 5000 km interval.  I also replace the transmission and final drive oils at the 5000 km intervals.

6.  U-Joint Grease Input.  At the same time I change the engine oil, I also take the opportunity to inject fresh grease into each of the U-Joints on the rig.  I figure it's cheap insurance as replacing U-Joints, while not expensive in terms of parts, can be very time-consuming in terms of labor.  I've done it, not fun.  If you've the right grease gun fitting, you can get at all the u-joint zerks without dismantling anything.


img src = Amazon

7.  Compliance Fitting Replacement.  The manual says to replace these every 10k km.  I thought at first this was a bit overkill when I did the 10k services on Scarlett.  So I left the original compliance fittings in place as they looked fine.  Less than 2000 km later, they developed splits on the inside of the fittings which caused air leaks and issues.  Now I do the recommend replacement interval, and carry the seemingly still OK old fittings as "get me home" items.

8.  Air Filter.  Carry a spare.  On the older rigs I owned, a dirty air filter was cause for bad performance and riding issues, especially in dusty conditions.  Fuel, Spark and Air are the three components to making your engine work!

The air filter I usually use, equivalent to the
one sold by IMWA.  This is the "Get Me Home"
or GMH unit that I carry for long rides.

On the 2014 rigs and newer, the improved/redesigned airbox does a superior job of staying functional in dusty environments.  Having said that, I've personally found that if you ride in snowy conditions and your rig remains outside with freezing temperatures, you could develop issues with air flow. 

Carry a spare that's dry, I had my filter get wet from driving in snowy conditions, it froze overnight, and caused really hard starting issues the next day and bogging down of acceleration even after I got the rig started.  Swapping the filter fixed that particular issue.

9.  Carry a small jump starter battery.  Point #8 highlighted the need to carry one of those nifty small batteries that function as a jump starter for cars and such.   I pretty much drained the stock battery trying to start the rig with a clogged air filter and I'm pretty sure that the battery had suffered as well from sitting out in the cold overnight.

img src = Amazon

If I was doing the Alaska ride again, I'd figure out a way also to easily disconnect the stock battery and take it inside with me overnight, to keep it warm.  Or, do like RichardM in Alaska (he rides in seriously cold temperatures) and uses a car battery located in the sidecar.

10.  Hard starting with EFI Mapping OR1.02.  To me, it seemed easier to crank and start the engine with v1.01 of the Off Road EFI Mapping.  v1.02 has been reported as making engines harder to start for the EFI rigs and I tend to believe this.  However, if you turn on the ignition and flip the Big Red Switch (BRS) to on for a few seconds (I count to ten at least), the engine tends to start a bit easier.  

It's still not as easy to start as with v1.01 of the Off Road mapping however, and I rarely can cold start the engine using the kick-start lever with v1.02, whereas with v1.01 it was actually doable most of the time.

Mileage suffers also with v1.02, before with v1.01 I used to get between 34-38 MPG, now I am happy to get 32 MPG and usually get like 29 MPG in city driving.

The main impetus for getting the v1.02 mapping is that it smoothed out the rig's popping and hesitation when the engine was not warmed up and when moving at parking lot speeds while in first gear.

I am still debating whether to go back to v1.01 both for the MPG increase and easier to start condition.  The slight popping and hesitation of v1.01 though, in slow stop/go traffic can be quite annoying though; still it had been something I'd grown used to until v1.02 came along with its siren song.

11.  Heidenau K37 Knobby Tires.  They seem, in my experience to last longer than the stock DURO 308 tires and have better grip off road of course.  The manual says to keep the pusher tire at 40 PSI but I've found it causes faster wear on the center portion of the thread surface.  I keep mine at 36 PSI cold and when measured after riding a few miles, the PSI increases to about 42 PSI.  This one is definitely a "your mileage may vary" category!  You weigh different than I, drive your rig differently to be sure and you must find what works for you.

12.  Spark plug cables.  There'd been recent times where the rig sputtered and seemed to "miss" when cold and moving at parking lot speeds.  I went through many diagnosis scenarios but it ended up being worn connections at the coil end of the spark plug cable.  Best option is to get the updated spark plug cables that come with a metal connector that slides onto the pin inside the coil connector and grips it nicely.  The early 2014s just pushed the bare end of the spark plug cable onto the pin in the coil connector, and basically friction and the plug were all that ensured a good connection.  Many miles and hours later, things get "loose".

source: Darrell S.
Left side is old cable, right side new cable with connector.

13.  2014 Parking brake.  My rig never did well with the parking brake that came with it that uses the pusher brake caliper to hold the rig in place.  It was, for me, always getting out of adjustment; necessitating tools to get it dialed back into adjustment.   In the long run, it caused me a couple of sets (at least) of brake pads which had word very rapidly.  It even caused the pusher wheel to overheat because the system caused the rear brake to activate.  Ended up removing the brake assembly, and using a hand grip brake lever plastic doodad from Zero Motorcycles.

Disabled Stock Parking Brake, the bolt pushes
on lever to keep piston right snug against the brake pad.


I'll add more to this posting as I think of other things.

Not much going on lately....

A recap of the last few days.....since the last posting.  Not much going on, work and just hanging out at the house mostly.  What snow we got was in miserly amounts, and the will to ride further out to oft-photographed locations wasn't in me...

 Stormy clouds before a meager snow fall

 Meager Snowfall

Missed a killer Sunset on Sunday evening, was out at a friend's home with Martha, socializing with several friends.

Made up for the sunset miss by managing to get out of bed in time to catch today's  sunrise:







Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Maintenance: Scarlett's 50k Km Service Interval

Since the original purpose of blogging was to record maintenance work on my motorcycle (only one back then); figured this post was fitting.

Scarlett, my 2014 Ural Patrol Sidecar Rig, has reached the 50,000 kilometer mark and so it was time to do the 10K service as listed in her owner's manual.  The 10K service is the most complete one so I use that checklist.

Scarlett's reaching 50K km is a milestone for me, as I've not gotten above 40k km on any of my other rigs before they were either sold or traded in.

Of course, her engine's crankshaft was replaced at 41.7K km, and the gearbox was rebuilt by Sergey at IMWA before that so it's not like she made it to 50K km in one piece!

Still, the engine (which was also rebuilt by Sergey under warranty) remains working with no leaks or seepage, the gearbox continues working smoothly so I shouldn't complain.

All oils were swapped, air filter replaced, oil filter replaced, spark plugs replaced though they were working fine.  Also replaced the original spark plug cables that the rig came with, with the improved connection at the coil cables from IMWA. 

Note: if you ever find your rig "missing" at low speeds, and if you've the original stock spark plug cables that you basically press into the pin on the coil side, cut off a bit, press it onto the coil connector pin...do both cables this way.  When you can, get the improved cables with the metal connector on the coil end which ensures a better connection which makes for smoother engine performance.

One of the two compliance fittings, the round black object shown below, was starting to show cracks on the inside.  The checklist says to replace both at 10k km intervals and so they were.


  Note the nice caramel color on the ceramic tip just
under the electrode, it's what you want to see

Hopefully you can see the ragged crack evident
on the inside wall of the port side compliance fitting.
At $30 each from the dealer, I wish they'd last longer
but what are you going to do right?

Nothing major was found, and I also greased all three u-joints on Scarlett, checked the tightness of the spokes on all the wheels and tightened where needed.

Coincidentally, it was also time to replace the gearbox oil on Fiona, my '99 Bural since it had a new input shaft.  The oil came out dirty, after only 200 km since the installation, as expected, and with shiny particles floating in the oil.



The shiny particles are just the "final machining" done by the owner of the gears.  You swap the oil way more often than once the gearbox is broken in, to avoid the accumulation of this swarf in the gearbox bearings and such.  I'll do another oil swap of the gearbox in another 200km.

Both rigs are road-ready.  Stay tuned for more travels.  Though Fiona will be quite limited for a bit as I need to "break in" the new input shaft and so cannot exceed 45 mph until she goes past 1500 km (give or take) from 4257 km mark on the odometer.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Uraling to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Decided to boondock an additional day at the Turtle Rock Campground near Buena Vista, CO.

This allowed me, today, to ride down towards Poncha Pass, located just south of Poncha Springs, CO.  It's a very scenic pass as it gives the rider the first awesome view of the majestic Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range.

 The requisite pass summit sign

 One's initial glimpse of the Sangre de Cristo Range



I meandered about the above area for a bit, doing a bit of reconnaissance for possible future BLM camping sites.  Turns out there's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land on both sides of US285 through to the town of Saguache.

The cellular data signal for Verizon, my provider, was four bars or better and it was very fast!  I see a stay on some BLM land near Poncha Springs in my future!

Scarlett and I then rode towards the distant mountain peaks show in the above pics, and ended up in the small village of Villa Grove where I found a nice spot to capture the mountains again:

 Cottonwood and Electric Peaks

Pano of the peaks of theSangre de Cristo Range
as seen from the small town of Villa Grove
(big file)

Pictures done, I rode back north towards Buena Vista, the weather remained sunny but it was definitely getting cooler.  I got back to the campsite with no issues, put Scarlett on the trailer and secured her for tomorrow's drive back home.

There wasn't much of a sunset tonight, still it was a great afternoon of riding under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to high 50s!  Scarlett did great and surprisingly, her MPG results are in the low 40s!