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Restoration and cleaning of a 1988 VT250F

Discussion in 'Modifications and Projects' started by Captain115, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. Hi everyone,

    This is my first post on these forums although I have been reading them for a couple of months now, some great information here for a new rider like myself! Thought I'd give something back by doing a little writeup on a bike that my housemates and myself are doing up, hopefully it is entertaining and a little interesting. This is the first time I have ever done anything slightly mechanical so we'll see how it goes.

    The Bike

    After I bought my bike (CBF250), my housemate decided he wanted one too and so found a 1988 Honda VT250F, 61000km, on eBay which he won the bid for ($700 delivered to our door). Seemed to have some dings and had obviously been dropped on the right side due to the right mirror being an aftermarket one which has been clipped to the bars (as opposed to the master cylinder where it is meant to be). Ventura rack was particularly rusty and fairings held on with tape in places.

    I couldn't believe it when I gave it a quick bump start and it straight away came to life. However the rego from the previous owner had lapsed in November 2011 so it needs a roadworthy before if can be registered.

    (Before we got it, had been sitting outside so the plastics were pretty faded and the metal a bit rusty)

    The Specs

    The VT250F is the predessor to the well-loved VTR250 and Spada, utilizing the same 4-stroke, 250cc V-twin engine and a 6-speed gearbox as seen on the Spada. It output a surprising amount of power: 45hp, in it's heyday (as well as 24.5Nm of torque). Odd sized wheels, with a 16" front and a 17" rear, and liquid cooled engine (with the strange description to run the coolant through an engine bar).

    Unlike some of the earlier VT250F's this doesn't have 'inboard' single disc brake at the front, rather a more standard two disc system. Code is a VT250F 'J' if that helps?

    Unlike the VTR250 and Spada, the VT250F was deisgned as a sports tourer and so had wrap around fairings, with the later models (ie ours) having wrap around fairings over the engine as well as a bellypan etc.

    Post-fairing, seat etc removal. Didn't get any photos before the tear down annoyingly.

    The Teardown

    We thought that this could be a chance to have a go at some enjoyable mechanical stuff, a hobby build if you will. So off came the fairings, tank, air filter, carbs, sprockets, chain, both wheels, headlight and instrument cluster, seat, Ventura rack, pillion pegs, all lights, calipers etc.

    Here's what I found:

    1. Phillips head screws make me want to kill that Phillip's guy. Do they have to burr? Every time? Needless to say, I have a very strong appreciation for my impact driver now.

    2. I have to label everything! Rather that putting a screw down and thinking "this goes back in there" as I forget it within a day and end up with random screws, bolts etc everywhere.

    3. Carbs were amazingly clean, no gummed up jets or varnished fuel! Gave them a quick clean and stuck them back on.

    4. Seat is fine, and rear pillion pegs were taken off. Fairings have some damage but is mainly cosmetic (excluding the lack of hooks near the tanks, hence the previous owner's love of duct tape).

    5. Rust was not as bad as first expected, and the frame seemed ok, ditto the tyres (although at 26PSI rather than the recommended 33).

    6. Oil level was good although coolant was a little low.


    The Rebuild

    First point of business was replacing the front and rear sprocket and chain which were quite worn. The old rear was a 41 tooth yet we grabbed the standard 45 tooth as most of the riding will be down around town.Front and rear brakes were checked, both actually seemed ok however new pads for the front will be ordered in soon. Better safe than sorry!

    The exhaust collector box had some dodgy welding on one side where there was some leaks so this was sealed up with Permatex Muffler Putty which should hopefully solve this problem. The front exhaust gasket was also replaced at this time. Killrust was applied liberally to all rusted areas, and the rubber bar grips replaced as the old ones practically melted off.

    Oil filter and old oil were swapped for fresh, new ones, and the coolant drained and replaced. Brake fluid was also bleed and replaced with fresh stuff. Tyres were inspected for cuts etc in the sidewalls and pumped back up to recommended pressure.

    Current Situation and Problems

    Presently, there appears to be a little problem with the rear taillight. Specifically, it works as a brake light fine but does not come on when the rest of the lights are turned on, so the 'tail-light' part of the system is not working. Not entirely sure why and have no idea where to go from here.

    After the calipers and pads were reinstalled, there seems to be a problem with the front brakes being slightly engaged. As in it is more difficult than it used to be to move the bike around in neutral/with clutch in. Any ideas how I've stuffed up?

    Hope you all find this a little informative and interesting, I know I'm enjoying it!

    Thanks all,

  2. Hi John and welcome, your thread went in to auto moderation because it was your first post. I have approved it now, keep up the post on how you are going on your project.

    Generally the netiquette is to go and introduce your self in the Welcome lounge also. :)

    Re your lights problem, usually the rear light has two filaments one for stop and one for tail light. These are separately often fused. Check both filaments are intact and all fuses are Ok.
  3. Last of the steelers! Interesting to see where the Spada (which I own and love) evolved from...
  4. Great project you got there.

    Is this the model with the air adjustable front forks? I ask as I have a pair of air adjustable 35mm front forks and I was told they were off a VT250.
  5. Thanks for the replies and the interest everyone, the whole project seems less daunting when I know other people are watching and waiting for updates!

    Re: the taillight issue. I replaced the bulb and cleaned all contacts but still nothing. So I grabbed the multimeter and tested the contacts. Ground seemed fine, as did the brake and most interesting of all, there was power coming through the taillight contact after all!


    Sadly I don't really know what this means...the contacts aren't touching the bulb? Not enough power is coming through (measured at ~9.80 Volts) to power the bulb? The bulb itself does not seem to be the same spec as given in the UK version of the workshop manual, which says 23W/8W whereas mine is a 21W/5W...does this change anything?

    Yep I believe this has those forks, as I have only just unscrewed the caps to take a peek and there are little valves similar to those on the tyres. Pretty interesting concept if you ask me, I like the idea that it is easily adjustable. What problems does this kind of front forks have though?

    Thanks everyone, I'll keep you all posted.

  6. I don't know if these forks have problems, but if you find that yours are no good I have a spare pair since I bought 35mm Betor's for the CB450.

    I like the idea of the air adjustment, I am guessing it is more for stiffening the ride than for adjusting ride height - but then what do I know?
  7. Voltage is low so it could indicate a high resistance path, the lower wattage globe shouldn't matter. A high resistance path could be a connector, most likely, a high resistance fuse less likely, or a wiring high resistance, least likely. To find it you need to pull some current through the circuit and measure the voltage at the same time. Before you go to that extreme though I would open the connector you have in shot and inspect the contacts and clean them up if necessary.

    Then with your old globe make yourself a test light with two wires soldered to the globe. Connect one to the bike frame and the other to the globe holder contact. Does the globe come on? Then work your way back to the connector, does the globe come on? Work your way gradually back through the circuit until you find the high resistance point.

  8. Ok well I managed to find a test light for a couple of bucks as I don't have access to a soldering iron and gave it a jab around. Light came on when touched to the bulb socket contact for the taillight and also when touched to the taillight wire of the connector.

    I then tried to clean the contacts in the connector as best I could, as suggested by cjvfr, and tried again but no luck. So I tried looking for a high resistance point and noticed that the difference in voltage between the socket wire for taillight and the bulb connector wire was only 0.01 Volt (went from 10.67 to 10.66V). So should I keep looking back for a higher resistance or should this still be high enough voltage to power the bulb?
    Keeping in mind that the battery is flat enough to not start the bike electrically, although all the lights etc still work?

    One other thought I had is: what if the bulb contact is not touching the taillight contact? As if one has worn away and there is no physical touching between them? Could I shove some metal in there too see if I can get a circuit?

    Jeez electricity confuses me!

    EDIT: Ok new tale of woe. When the test light is applied to the brake it is off, when brake is applied the testlight comes on. Sweet. But when applied to the tail light contact in the bulb socket, there were heaps of sparks etc and although the test light lit up, it then blew a fuse. After replacing the fuse, I checked the taillight contact with the multimeter and it is receiving power again, but didnt want to retest with the testlight and keep blowing fuses. Anyone know why this would be happening?

    Thanks for all the help and replies, keep them coming.

  9. Found your original post, it hadn't approved properly sorry.

    Good sign, means the wiring is intact.

    No probably not a high resistance link then based on your first test. I wasn't aware the battery was low.

    Yes this is a good theory, I have seen this before and it can be due to wear. Also there is often a spring that pushes these contacts up against the globe that may have worn. You could try spraying some WD40 in the socket and pushing the contacts up and down with a pen or screwdriver to see if they are both free.

    Disconnect the battery before you do this to stop you blowing fuses in case you short it out.

    You probably shorted the contact to the surround of the globe socket. The surround is at negative battery potential. It is a good sign though and indicates you are getting power to the socket.

    Keep at it :)
  10. Ok good news, I sorted out the tail light issue. The Occam's razor principle certainly applied here.

    After all this time testing voltages and broken circuits etc I decided to take the bulb out of my CBF250 and plug it into the VT250F to see what happened.

    Would you believe it lit up? Turns out the old bulb worked fine, the contacts must have been dirty somewhere along the line. The new bulb which I tried to begin with was actually broken, so even after I had cleaned the contacts the light wouldn't work. All I actually had to do was clean the contacts and put the old bulb back in, but instead I assumed the new bulb wasn't the problem, something else in the system was.

    Oh well, at least I figured it out now. Plus I know a lot more about the lighting system in the bike.

    So Ventura rack, seat and tail are back on. Now to fix the next two problems:

    1). Figure out why the front brakes are still grabbing slightly. I think the pistons are stuck out a bit to be honest.

    2). Check to see if there is any more exhaust smoke leaking from the exhaust header pipes or collector box. Main problem with this is the bike needs to be running, and the flat battery combined with slightly sized brakes means that push starting is quite difficult.

    Thanks for helping and reading everyone.

  11. Hey everyone, here's another update and the problems I have currently run into.

    So first off, I got sick of not having an electric start and due to the lack of a drive chain, push starting was out of the question. Battery was taken to Battery World where they recharged it for a small fee and I reinstalled it, ready to go.

    Moment of truth, turned everything on and cranked the engine.....nothing.

    This was fairly disappointing but not really surprising so I just poured some fuel straight into the carbs and then tried again. Viola, engine turned over and started run which was awesome, however after 20 seconds or so it just died.

    I poured some more fuel into the carbs, and turned it on again. Same thing, it worked for a bit then died.

    So my current problem seems to be a fuel delivery from the tank to the carbs, does this seem correct?

    I had a look and made sure the petcock was at ON and checked to make sure there was fuel in the tank. I also noticed that partway down the fuel line coming out from the tank there is a white section of the fuel line (charcoal filter?) and fuel can be seen sloshing around in there so there doesn't seem to be a problem till after that point.

    I am currently thinking that maybe I have not reconnected the hoses correctly to the carbs after I pulled it all apart? Anyone have any other ideas on how I can solve this problem systematically?


  12. Good project, good to see first timers having a go at it themselves (y)

    It could be a vacuum related issues, if you've had the tank off, this is likely.

    The fuel tap needs vacuum to open, try putting it on the 'prime' setting, if it works there, you've got a vacuum or fuel tap issue.
  13. Thanks MV, I had a look at the petcock and checked the vacuum to see if it was working properly by sucking on the vacuum hose. Found my problem straight away as fuel on dripped and trickled out slowly!

    So apart came the vacuum part of the petcock, and the diaphragms seemed a little old but I washed everything and put it all back together. Tried the same trick by sucking on the vacuum hose and felt incredibly successful as fuel poured out of the fuel valve.

    Seemed like everything was on track, put the tank back on and reconnected all hoses etc and went to start it...nothing.

    I then noticed that the key had been left on in the ignition all night, so goodbye freshly charged battery, hello useless flat battery sigh. Off to get the battery recharged and hopefully the bike will start properly and idle fine now.

    Current Problems

    1 Obviously the fuel delivery to the carbs problem, but as mentioned above I'm hoping that it has been fixed.

    2 The friggin brake lever bolt still won't come out and the cap nut on the bottom has completely burred. Resorted to drilling down the bolt to remove it (rough and dodgy I know), so the new brake lever can be fitted. Of course the cheap drill bits keep braking which doesn't help.

    3 Still need to check if the exhaust leaks were correctly sealed by the muffler putty. Annoyingly this cant be check until the bike is running which brings me back to Problem 1.

    Apart from that it's all going pretty great, I'll update with photos soon.


  14. Amazing news, got the battery back again (thanks Battery World) plugged it all back in and started her up. Boom, she purred to life!

    Sounded pretty good, though I noticed that the idle was really high (~3000rpm, which is not good) and I wound down the idle screw without making a difference to it, which is a little annoying.

    However the real reason I wanted to get it going again was to see if the muffler putty was in the right places and had covered the holes in the collector box. While some seemed better now, there still was copious amount of smoke coming from the exhaust headers, including the front cylinder which is where we replaced the gasket already sigh.

    Still, I'm very very pleased with the progress, mainly that it still works after taking the carbs apart! My father mentioned to me that he had taken apart an XR250 when he was about my age and afterwards it (quote) "had never worked again". So it feels like I'm one up on him at least!

    Here's a quick video of her running. Note this is the second time I ran it, so there is almost no smoke there...whether this is because I didn't run it long enough for it to get hot or it fixed itself I'm not sure.

    Also here is brake lever that we are slowly trying to remove the bolt from, as you can see that cap nut it pretty well gone. Click to enlarge.


    Thanks everyone, pretty happy about all this!.

  15. Hi everyone,

    Thought it might be high time for an update on the project bike. So since last time I posted we've done a lot of work to get her up to roadworthy standards. For example:

    Rear brake shoes were shot and when the rear brakes were applied, the wear indicator moved right over to the 'replace' arrow. So that's what we did, ordered them from USA and got them here for $30AU delivered.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Before and after brake shoe replacement

    While the rear wheel was off for the brake replacement, the owner (my housemate) made the expensive but sensible decision to replace the rear tyre, which near the verge of being unroadworthy. Of course as this bike is from the 80's, the tyre sizes were a bit odd and small (Rear: 17/120/80) so it's not like he had a huge range to choose from but ended up getting the Dunlop GT501 Arrowmax (mainly because it fit and was cheap).Also the rear wheel bearings were pretty stuffed, so replaced them too

    Both the wheels had seen better days, as the white paint was chipped and discoloured. Whilst in Supercheap I saw same white 3M engine enamel paint on special so I decided to have a stab at respraying the rims. I mean it's not like they could look much worse!

    As it happened, the respray made both wheels look great and ended up being quite professional in my opinion. Oh and we had to take the front brake discs off for the respray, so we gave them a polish to remove the rust while we were at it.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Before and after respray and disc clean

    Front brake pads were in a pretty bad shape, and since we found some replacements such for $12 a set, we replaced them too. Better safe than sorry, especially as the old pads were also quite chipped and missing material in some places.

    Old pads

    Oh and I just remembered that in the last post I was complaining about the brake lever bolt. Well it eventually came off (thanks to vise grips) and it was replaced with a nicer-looking and less bent brake lever.

    So here's a picture off her, almost complete. Obviously the rear wheel hasn't been reinstalled but after we get that done I think it might be roadworthy time! Anyone want to suggest anything that might make her fail/we should fix before the roadworthy?


  16. The bike is looking great John, and the paint work on the wheels was well worth it.
  17. Looks good, especially your rim respray. Just curious, how goes the idle problem now?
  18. Good read mate
  19. Thanks for the replies everyone, good to know that people enjoy listening to me ramble on.

    Another entertaining story: replacement of the brake pads. The new pads were wayyyyy thicker than the old pads and so we pushed the pistons back in with a G-clamp. However, in typical fashion one of the pistons got stuck part way which made me mega rage.

    Maybe because I have actually learnt something over the course of working on this bike, but I actually fixed it within the hour. Used the brake lever to pump the piston free of the bore, cleaned the gunk which was around it and then crushed it back home with the G-clamp. Problem solved!

    Hmmm, well it seems to be pretty well sorted. Not sure if this was due to the fresh fuel I put in or possibly the replacement throttle cables (the old one might have been binding slightly). Either way it seems to settle down to ~1700 after it has warmed up.

    Just a side note, there seems to still be some smoke from the exhaust collector/bottom of the sump but it seems to go away when the engine is warm. I also noticed that there was a possibly a slight oil leak around the lefthand crankcase cover which may then burn off resulting in the smoke. This would then explain why the problem goes away when the engine heats up, as the metal expands and seals the crack. Thoughts?

  20. Hey John,

    Amazing that i found your feed on the work you did to the bike before i purchased it off you guys. Wow you put a lot of work into it and I am proud to tell you she is on the road now!!

    Passed RWC first go.

    Fixed up a few things tho. I looked for the minor oil leak that you mentioned in your previous post and noticed that at the bottom of the front block in the front was a small nut that was a little loose and engine oil was dripping from that point. A quick turn with a ring spanner and no leaks (I'm amazed the tester did not pick up on it as an oil leak is a fail)

    The seat was faded as i knew when it changed hands so i picked up some vinyl die spray from super-cheap and it came up like a treat.

    Here are some pics.



    What do you think?