Just finished a water pump job. Everything is clean and tight. Got the radiator full, topped up the overflow tank, fired her up, watched for coolant flow when the thermostat opened, put the radiator cap on nice and snug, and…
DANG…there is a leak…one stinking, little, slow drip…on the smallest hose in the system. WTF.
There it is. Right under the hose clamp. How is that possible? Well…here’s how.
The end of the hose is nice and round and thick…like the rest of the hose. But, uh oh, look at where the clamp has been on the hose. Yep…there’s the hole; right under the lead screw housing.
Cutting off the hose end affords an even more telling look. The hose was completely distorted. The flat bottom of the worm drive housing squashed the life out of that poor little hose…squashed a hole right through it.
Oh yea…the smallest hose in the system needed a better small hose clamp; one that does not have a flat spot in the clamping surface like the one on this worm drive hose clamp that had been used on this hose. Here’s one option…a fuel injection hose clamp.
Note how the clamp is designed to deliver clamping force uniformly around a small hose. Make no mistake, even these clamps can be applied in a way that causes a pinch right there under the screw. (Don’t ask me how I know that.) The trick is to get the metal clamp to slide smoothly around the hose as it is being tightened.
How? There is a magic rubber dressing that can be used to gigantic advantage every place rubber comes into contact with metal and needs to move, rather than stick. It is awesome for sliding stubborn hoses onto or off of water pump or radiator fittings, it is the bomb for demounting and mounting tires (that’s right…dump the soapy water…this stuff will change your life), it is the coolest for slipping wires through jackets. What is this magic stuff? It is already on your work bench; plain old WD-40. That’s right. It works miracles on rubber when you need to get it to slide past some metal…and then it evaporates away, leaving newly mounted tires or hoses or hose clamps, clean, dry, and ready to go to work.
So, yea, this is a twofer. First, you learned NOT to use ordinary worm drive hose clamps on any hose where the flat spot in the worm drive mechanism represents a significant portion of the circumferences of the hose to be clamped (i.e. a too small hose). If you do, you risk putting a flat spot in your hose…and causing a leak. Second, you learned that, when it comes to fitting rubber parts, WD-40 is your best friend.
Backwards? Well, yes. Normally it is the front wheel that goes into the wheel vice at the front of the lift. Why not this one? Because this bike needs a new front tire. The front end needs to come up off the ground, not the back tire, to service this bike...but that is not the whole answer.
A bike lift (a.k.a. a lift table) allows a mechanic to work on a bike without crawling around on the floor. If you work on a lot of bikes or are not 20-something anymore, a bike lift is a godsend. But sometimes, the bike needs to be lifted up from the lift table...the wheels need to be in the air, perhaps, as in this case, to remove a wheel and change a tire. What is a mechanic to do? The easy traditional answer is a small scissor jack, like the one shown in these photos:
The scissor jack is the little blue gizmo sitting between these two bikes and the lift table surface. Capable of lifting 1000 lbs., it is very handy item to have. But there is a catch. The bike you want to lift has got to have some solid structure on the bottom for the jack to contact that can bear the weight of the bike as the jack lifts it off one or both of the wheels. In the first photo, the rear wheel of an old Goldwing is being lifted while the front wheel is clamped in the wheel vice. It should be noted that this allows the bike to rotate (however slightly) about the front axle, without stressing any of the frame elements. In the second photo, the front wheel of a VTX is being lifted, while the rear wheel is strapped down to the table with the two orange "Y" straps shown and a matching pair out of view on the other side of the wheel. This allows the bike to rotate around the rear axle, without stressing any frame elements, yet, as in the first photo, the bike is being securely held upright, even as a wheel lifts off the table surface. But I digress. The central story here is the handy little blue scissor jack...and why it couldn't be used this time.
Here's the bottom side of the FZ6. No solid structure down there; nothing but exhaust pipes. Lots of bikes are like this...particularly sport bikes. Do not be the poor fool who lifts his bike by putting a jack under the pipes. You will not like the results.
Sure, if we wanted to lift the rear wheel, we might get a jack to contact something near the back, like the pivots for the center stand...but to lift the front, the lift point needs to be in front of the bike's center of gravity...and that looks like a problem. Fortunately, somebody has solved that problem. We can use a "Head Stand".
Even if you hated High School Geometry, you are going to love a Head Stand. A Head Stand us a wonder of geometry and the power of leverage. The stand has hinged uprights, a lifting pin at one end, the lever end (the hoop handle shown), and wheels that allow the whole affair to pivot as the hoop handle is pressed downwards. As the handle goes down, the wheels roll forward and the pin is lifted upwards as the uprights go from folded, to straight and locked (as shown here). It takes a little effort, but not so much that even a skinny mechanic would find difficult.
The pin, as shown here, goes into the hole found at the bottom of the steering head on almost every bike. Those holes come in a variety of sizes, so if you plan to work on lots of different bikes, you get a bunch of different pins, not a bunch of different stands. The steering head is always located above the bike's center of gravity, so a bike will always hang securely from the lift pin, without any danger of the bike flipping over after it is lifted.
The downsides of using a Head Stand are:
However, since the front wheel will still pivot left to right, obstruction caused by the stand legs can mostly be avoided. Not having the ideal lift height is more problematic, which is to say, can usually be addressed with a little more effort and innovation (e.g. you may need to do a little more disassembly than would have otherwise been required to get additional clearance, or you may need to slip something under the lifted wheel to reduce excessive clearance).
One word of caution: Head Stands should not be used alone...that is without some sort of REAR stand or clamp. You might get away with using only the front stand, but you might not, and having a bike topple over just isn't fun. Use a rear stand or a wheel vice or some other sort of rear wheel tie-down to make sure the bike stays upright while it is being lifted. Yes, I know I said earlier that the bike's center of gravity is below the steering head...but it may not be far below, and if that is the case, removing the front wheel or the bike being jostled side to side might result in a tumble. So...play it safe. Secure the rear wheel before you lift the front.
Bottom line, Head Stands are a very useful and inexpensive tool...and one of very few reasonable ways to lift the front end of some bikes. If you need one, get one. You won't regret it.