Gl1500 Engine Rebuild Musing - Yea or Nay

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Rednaxs60

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Been thinking about my fascination with older Goldwings. These bikes give me a lot of pleasure, and do exactly what I want. I have moments where I just want to turn the key, start the bike and go without having worked on it or work to do, but then I look at the reality of my situation and it’s not that bad – projects keep the proverbial juices flowing. I know there will come a time when I will hang up the tools and just want a bike to ride. Have put my thoughts to paper so to speak on this infatuation, but now I’m thinking about why I would rebuild an engine on one of these older bikes.

There are many restoration projects being done and have been done to varying degrees. Full restorations that include an engine rebuild are not that common. There is a sentiment that if it ain’t broken don’t fix it, but that implies that there are economical alternatives.

I am presently rebuilding the engine for my ’85 Limited Edition. I took on this project ahead of my estimated schedule primarily due to the C-19 issue. Had to keep busy since travel was off the table. Living in Canada was a serious consideration regarding my decision to rebuild the engine instead of replacing it with another, the cost to import an engine from the US is cost prohibitive, not many here in Canada, and I would be dealing with a 36 year old used engine of an unknown quantity.

The ’85 fuel injected engine has some differences from the carb models, not a lot but enough to make it an unnecessary way forward.

The primary wild card for a rebuild of the Goldwing flat four engines are the crank journal and connecting rod bearings. Availability is quickly going the way of the dodo bird. Honda did an excellent job of designing these engines so that the engine was a balanced entity that contributed to the signature smoothness of the ride. Another aspect of this balancing is that the connecting rods are specifically chosen for a particular engine and are weighted for each application.

Where am I going with this issue you might ask? I have a ’95 GL1500 with 176,000 Kms on it. It smokes on start up when on the side stand too long. Otherwise it operates very well for a 25 year old bike with minimal maintenance. This smoking on start is a bit annoying, there is a smell as well – think the carbs need to be overhauled, but this is the lot in life of a flat six.

I could easily get rid of this smoking by selling the bike, and buying newer. The 1800s, have owned one, may succumb to the same fate, but not too much has been mentioned regarding this and the 1800 engine. Buying a newer 1800, not new, is buying a used bike with all the buyer beware issues of a used bike. You also start a new slate complete with maintenance and upgrades that you want in order to make the bike your own even though you have already done this on the bike you have or are going to sell.

The issue of a carbureted engine comes up continuously. I admit I am partial to fuel injection, one of the reasons I have an ’85 Limited Edition, but carbureted models well maintained and cared for give good service and enjoyment.

Parts will always come to the fore when discussing older used bikes, but the 1800 model is now some 20 years old. With the unveiling of the new 1800, parts may become an issue as well.

Complexity of these newer bikes is mind boggling. I notice this change between the 1200/1500/1800 and as such, shudder at times when I realize that bikes are not getting any easier to work on and the days of the DIY shade tree mechanic may quickly become an endangered specie.

I would be remiss if I left out the 1000/1100 Goldwings. I’m thinking that these Goldwings are more sought after to do a restoration of because of the lack of complexity compared to its later cousins, weight issues and the ability to customize these to what you want.

The rebuild of the engine for my ’85 Limited Edition is a no brainer. This bike is my retirement long term project, and I’ve never rebuilt an engine such as the 1200. Once the engine is done, not much else to do on the old girl.

The 1500 is a different story. Have read quite a few forum threads that question the sanity of rebuilding a 1500 engine when there are suitable engines available as an exchange; however, living in Canada is a different story.

We live in a throw away society where the issue at hand is better taken care of by selling the problem child to another unsuspecting consumer, and buying another or buying up. As I mentioned earlier, you now have a new to you used older bike that needs attention to make it your own. I submit that no one buys a used bike, newer or older, without spending a few sheckles on upgrades, maintenance, and so the wheel of owning a motorcycle continues on.

Keeping the 1500 will entail future maintenance such as suspension replacement. Stiffer springs than OEM, air shocks for the rear – Progressive 416 air shocks for the 1500 are no longer manufactured so an alternative has to be found. Probably other items will test our sleuthing expertise.

Having mentioned the above longish discussion on these older Goldwings, my real question from the above is whether to rebuild the 1500 engine including the carbs, or sell and move on. The 1500 will never be a canyon carver, neither will its newer cousins; however, the 1800s with the right upgrades can be very sporty. The 1500 with all the maintenance done, bearings, brakes and the likes is more than capable of performing well into the future. The key to this in my opinion is a predetermined maintenance schedule, and a realistic ride profile and timeline.

I have done some thinking about what it would cost to do a 1500 engine rebuild, and have concluded that it will be less expensive than replacing the bike, and I will have a known commodity. This is premised on my doing the work. I’m thinking that if rebuilding the engine is not time critical, in that I need the bike to tour and ride, this may be the way to go. The 1500 engine has to be a level of complexity greater than the 1200, but if time is not an issue, it could be a viable alternative to replacing the bike.

My 1500 has been the benefactor of the C-19 issue in that it received a complete repaint. The bike is mechanically sound with a maintenance schedule that will keep it performing well into the foreseeable future. The possible obsolescence issues are being considered and researched.

Do I keep the bike and enjoy the fruit of my labour, or let someone else enjoy what I have done? All too often this is exactly what we do, spend money to make what we own better, then sell it.

I’m a realistic person and try to keep myself in check when it comes to theorizing about my motorcycling way ahead. Would like to have an older vintage car, but have no room for one in the suburbs that we live in, so my motorcycles take up the slack. Easy to strip down, move it out of the way and test my expertise at bringing a tired bike back to life. I do enjoy the challenge.

Having put you, the reader to sleep, comments are greatly appreciated. Yes, I do need to get a life! :music: :music:

Cheers
 

Ohara

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Having more than one motorcycle does allow you the luxury of maintaining one while riding one. Our season of comfortable riding days is short and I do not want to miss a single day due to a mechanical problem. Also I like doing the mechanical work involved in keeping our Classic Bikes on the road...There is also a substantial cost involved in purchasing, personalizing and insuring a new motorcycle. Sounds like I also could use a life... but this one ain’t so bad...
 

julimike54

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Well I didn't see much info on the 1500 parts availability, but if they are available, I'd vote on a rebuild. Course I'm not of the throw away age :smilie_happy: :mrgreen:
 

mcgovern61

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Your synopsis on rebuilding the 1500 engine plus all of the known obsolesence issues really match the same issues we have been working through for years on our 1100's. In the end, the bike you fix for yourself, when completed, has all known issues repaired/replaced/revised. Painted up and repaired? Almost like owning a new bike. I did all of the work on the Slug because, it was not only therapeutic, but in the end I knew I could ride 1000's of miles across country and not be concerned of a breakdown. I also took the time to enjoy the fruits of my labors by doing just that, hitting the road, towing my trailer, camping out, meeting friends and enjoying the wind!

BUT, I am now in a position that the Slug needs a new owner and I am glad I performed all of the upgrades knowing the next owner should be able to check the oil, turn the key and ride across the country!
 

K7TKA

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Even though it's not your style, there is an easy fix for the smoking issue. When you shut down the bike tilt it to the right for a minute or so. the oil in the left cylinders will drain back to the pan. When you put it on the side stand the right side will follow.
 

Rednaxs60

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Thanks for the comment. It's not that it's not my style, it's treating the symptom and not the problem. If I was not going to keep the bike I would not contemplate an engine rebuild, wouldn't have done a repaint either. If the engine is in as good shape as my 1200, a cylinder hone, new rings, journal and crank bearings, new clutch, oil seals etc, and the engine should be good to go.

The bike has had the mechanical aspect renewed/upgraded so it is in good shape. There are some items such as brake rotors that are nearing replacement range, and the suspension is going to be a challenge to renew when needed. It has been mentioned that selling a used bike, then buying another to suit, especially the Goldwing is not an investment opportunity. I have mentioned that a new to me used bike will require maintenance/work and the skeletons in the closet that you don't find on the initial pre-purchase look can be an eye opener.

I have been reading the OEM manual, I have the one for a '99, but it should be extremely close for working on my '95. The 1500 engine is a level of complexity greater than the 1200, and the manual makes it seem to be quite daunting. I'm certain that taking my time, taking pics to augment the manual pics, and having most everything on hand before I start will aid in reducing the stress.

I have been putting together a cost estimate, and as I've always known, most parts/pieces will be coming from the US or Europe, and the exchange makes Canada an expensive place to do work. Thankfully I will be doing all the labour with the exception of the machine shop work - will make a decision on taking the heads in to the machine shop depending on the condition of the exhaust seats. May not take the cylinder cases in - if the cylinders do not have a ridge at the top of each cylinder, a hone is all that will be needed. I'm certain that I have the skill level to do this.

I think about the fellows on this and other forums that restore older bikes, some being quite exotic such as the '82 CX500 turbo, '83 CX650 turbo, and others. The bikes are stripped to the frame, cleaned, painted, modifications done, parts/pieces put back on, and brought back to life. All I want to do is rebuild the carbs and freshen the engine a bit.

The timeline has to be considered because the 1500 is our touring bike of choice, lots of room and the Mrs is a trailer convert. Bought a trailer last year for our trip to Dawson City and back. Her initial response was we didn't need one, bought one anyway. When I received it and she took a good look at it, first response was "I can take some additional items I was going to leave behind". Fortunately this was kept to a minimum. She was very complementary of the trailer after the trip, I knew she would appreciate the extra room - had practically nothing on the bike, and we could easily lock up our belongings when we stopped to sight see and such. Won't be towing a trailer with the 1200 even though it could.

It is a dilemma, one I think we all grapple with at some level. There have been threads of late on other forums regarding this very same issue of should I sell and buy newer, carbs versus fuel injection. I prefer fuel injection, but unfortunately Honda did not do a 1500 FI model. There's always the buyer beware issue associated with this, and this is more prevalent than one might think.

I am always looking for something I know I can fix/repair/maintain such that it becomes a reliable asset. The issue then becomes just how much work am I willing to do each time I buy someone else's used vehicle. I'm of the mindset that my 1500 is at the 85 percent level, and that a rebuild of the engine and carbs will bring it as close to original condition as possible, and I know exactly what I have.

I have to say that to undertake a project such as a 1500 engine rebuild you have to have a certain skill set, and want to do it. If not, I would never recommend it.

Having mentioned the above, situations arise that change the course of one's plans, and could impact on my decision to do a 1500 engine rebuild. Until I start collecting the parts/pieces required, this thread is about the decision process that will lead up to a possible start on a 1500 engine rebuild. Could find one of those diamonds in the rough at a price that I cannot pass up - not going to happen, but dreams never die just the dreamer.

As I investigate further, I have more questions to be answered. The prep work is turning out to be quite an eye opener.

Cheers
 

mcgovern61

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I don't know, after the paint job you did and the other repairs, it would be hard to give up that bike! I am only selling the Slug because my riding days have come to an end (unless someone can figure out how to fix a blown vertebra in the low back).
 

Rednaxs60

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You're correct on this. It is a great bike.

Have been thinking about the suspension and how it is limited, but the newer technologies can make the ride that much better. Installing heavier front fork springs in the 1.1/1.2 kg/mm with valve emulators. The rear is going to be a challenge considering Progressive no longer supports its 416 series air shocks. New rotors all round, found a good price on the three.

My cost estimate is around $2000.00 to $2500.00 CDN for the engine rebuild. Will continue to search for better prices.
 

Rednaxs60

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More thoughts on this issue. Have been perusing the forums for information on rebuilding a 1500 engine, and there is very little to be found.

There are engines available, but with high mileage, and of course, mostly in the US. A good (?) low mileage engine - 50K miles or less - with reverse would probably cost me in excess of $1,000.00 USD (approximately $1350.00 CDN) then add shipping, duty, taxes and such and a rebuild looks pretty good.

A post on one of the threads I read mentioned that you want to find a used engine that was not in a bike that towed a trailer. Yes the GW is used to tow a trailer, I do that now, but there can be issues with this. My trailer weighs in at 80 pounds and has a load capacity of 100 pounds, a lightweight in the trailer department.

I know it is hard on the clutch because I had to replace the clutch in my 1200 in its entirety because the steel plates were blue in colour from an overheated condition. Can be hard on the gearing and bearings. Honda does not recommend towing a trailer. A motorcycle is designed to do everything you can imagine, and do it well. Then we put us on the bike and all bets are off. We come up with ways to use these bikes never envisioned or intended by the manufacturer.

It should be possible to identify most of the parts required for an engine rebuild. I do have a noise in the engine when it is idling, sounds like a gearing issue, could be a worn bearing. Bearings will have to be checked when the engine is apart. Most internal engine bearings should be available without having to go to Honda as Honda did not reinvent the wheel in this aspect.

There are a lot of threads regarding carb rebuilds, and what a person should consider replacing when you can get at the various systems such as all vacuum hoses. If the engine is pulled, look into replacing the brake/clutch lines with SS braided lines. New carb to engine boots called a carburetor insulator - after 25 or so years probably harder than rock.

I have started to identify what I think I will need to rebuild the engine and what would be a good idea when the engine is out and apart. Lots of good information regarding the external components of the engine and other systems that are nice to do when you have the room and the engine out.

Cheers
 
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