Maintenance Freak-out

When it comes to working on a motorcycle, I put the K in Quality.

A few weeks ago, Spike was making that kind of dry noise that sounded like he needed oil. So I checked it. No oil! What? Are you kidding me? What happened to it? What do I do now? Who do I call? I know, I'll get on the Internet forum and ask help from a complete stranger so no one I know will know how stupid I am for not checking my oil. (I'm so ashamed.) Of course, they took me seriously and gave me good advice on what to check when there actually is no oil. "Take the air cleaner cover off and check under it…." Okay, there are these weird-looking bolts holding the cover on that I don't have a clue how to get off.

So I go down to a friend at a local dealer and look around for bikes like Spike. Friend says "use your fingernail or pocketknife to get the cap off." Right, easy. Underneath the cap is a screw that needs an allen wrench. Where is that set of allen wrenches?

Take the bolts off the back of the air cleaner box and try to twist it around to see what it is I'm supposed to be looking for. That's not working. I don't want to take something apart that I can't put back together.

So I decide to try changing the oil. Just take the drain plug out, drain it in to a container big enough to hold 3.2 quarts of oil. (Thanks to friend at cycle shop for printing out instructions). Screw off filter and oil O-ring and replace with new filter. Put the drain plug back in and fill up with new oil. Just like a car, right?

I go to get the oil and filter not knowing the place is closed on Monday. Another day wasted.

Somewhere along the process I realized just what a dummy I am. Check the oil while the bike is on the center stand, you fool. I've done it before by myself, but this time I just couldn't. I kept thinking about what I would look like lying on the garage floor with a motorcycle on my leg, wondering if I would still be able to reach my cell phone to call for help. So I asked my neighbor when he was outside a couple days later if he would get Spike up on his center stand for me. Step 1 was done!

I had to leave the house, and it was a few days before I got back in the garage. The oil filter would not budge, and the drain plug was situated so that I needed a kind of wrench I didn't have. Neighbor, bless his heart, stuck his head around the corner to see what I was doing, went back for tools, and in five minutes I was ready to fill up. That part was easy. I already knew it was going to take a little over 3 quarts. So I poured in 3 quarts, didn't spill but a couple drops on the garage floor, replaced the dipstick, and tried to start the engine. Wouldn't you know after all this time sitting there, Spike was deader than a doornail.

Step 12: Take battery out. Take to Halls and order battery. Wait for UPS delivery. Work long days. Go to Halls to pick it up on day off. Install. Crank. We're back on the road.

Spike was down for a month while all this was happening and it probably was a good thing I didn't ride considering my mental state. Next time, I'll practice with my riding buddies putting Spike up on his center stand, I'll have the right tools, know whether or not I'm using oil because I'll check it more often, and I won't freak out over nothing because I know I have backup when I need it.

Yeah, right. Whatever.

Carol Watkins lives in Knoxville's Cedar Bluff area in a condo with a one-car garage—make that one-motorcycle garage. Been married and divorced three times, one son. Had a cat once. He died. If you want to know anything else about her, read it in her column or take her out to dinner. She can be reached at cew(dot)andspike(at)yahoo(dot)com.