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Attention motorcycle mechanics...How did you become a good motorcycle mechanic?

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I've always had an interest in learning the inner workings of small engines. I've had countless conversations with my uncle (who is has always been a motorhead that rebuilt and restored a bunch of old muscle cars) about how engines work.

Half the reason I bought a dirtbike and a quad was so I would have some toys to tinker with. I like doing stuff like changing brakes, oil, cleaning carbs, etc... However, when it comes to engine stuff...well, I'm intimidated to dig in and do stuff myself. For that reason, I made sure to buy vehicles that were in good running condition.

Anyway, for the last few months I've kinda been obsessively reading about and watching videos about engine rebuilds and whatnot. I bought some ebooks as well about 4-stroke complete rebuilds. I also bought the factory service manuals for my quad and dirt bike, and I find myself just reading them for fun 🙂.

I have to admit though, I'm still thoroughly confused; I don't have the balls to ever attempt any type of engine work on my perfectly fine running vehicles...I just stick with stuff that I know I can do myself.

I'd really like to learn these skills though. It's kind of a long term goal of mine to be an "at home mechanic" that fixes people's bikes and atvs for them as a business. Obviously, I need to learn how to do it and get good at it before ever doing that.

I'm going to be getting an entry-level job soon as a diesel mechanic. I'm fortunate enough to be able to get my foot in the door because I have a friend that works there, and told me that they hire people with minimal experience to do oil changes and basic stuff like that.

I also looked into schools like MMI and whatnot, but they would require relocation. I'm not really able to do that right now.

Anyway, this is something I'm really interested in, and I was just wondering how you guys got into it. I figured this was the right place to ask this question.

Thanks!

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It sounds to me like you are on the right path. Your reading and asking questions, now you need to dive in and get some practical experience. All of the reading/teaching in the world cannot replace practical experience.

Start with old blown up lawnmowers or similar if you have any available, short of that simply dive into the next thing you need to do maintenance wise. Use soft hands on nuts and bolts until you get the feel for it as the most common problem with inexperienced wrenchers is stripping bolts and screws.

Once you gain experience, provided you have a good mechanical aptitude, any given task will be no more daunting than another, it just takes time and experience.

Cheers,

Jon

Long time shade tree mechanic.

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Mechanical aptitude is the key.  I can envision in my head the way the parts work together.  I worked as a motorcycle mechanic for a number of years back in the 70s and 80s, I was self taught.  When I was in my late teens and early 20s I used to take apart my bikes and anything else with a small engine just for fun.  Many late nights were spent in the garage just chilling out by dismantling and reassembling engines.

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DIY is the best way to learn.  In my case I am too cheap to take things to the dealer.  I probably couldn't afford to ride if I was paying someone else to do the work.

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Ya I understand that the only way to learn is by doing. But like I said, I'm scared to mess with my vehicles that are working fine (if it's not broke don't fix it).

I'm considering getting a cheap project bike...but then again, I kinda really wanna get a 2T bike that's in good condition that doesn't need any work so I can just ride it. Ahh...if only money was unlimited!

I think if I get this diesel mechanic job that'll definitely give me some hands on experience.

Maybe one day I'll buy a cheap bike that doesn't run, and I'll try and fix er up.

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1:  Started wrenching when I was a kid, still a "backyard mechanic"...but a pretty good one.

2:  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

3:  If it is broke, do fix it.  The service manual was your best move.

4:  Wrenching can be a tough source of income at times.  But nevertheless, go or it.

5:  Find an older beat-up 125 MX bike for cheap and do a total restoration.  A small bore 2-stroke would be a great learning experience.

     Tear the motor down (including the cases), inspect / repair / replace anything that needs.  Rebuilding the shock & forks would be another good accomplishment.

     Just make sure you fully understand what the manual is telling you.  You'll be proud of yourself (& your machine) once you do it !

 

     Good Luck...

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Go on craigslist and find a cheap Chinese Pit bike with a Honda knock off style engine, preferably one that runs, but just barely. You can probably find one for under $250, under $100 is not unheard of. Parts are cheap, interchangeable and available on amazon and eBay. Serious upgrade parts can also be found from specialized suppliers. There is lots of free knowledge on the web about rebuilding those style engines.

Get an engine rebuild kit. Tear it down to the last bolt and put it back together. Even if it never runs again you will have had $250 worth of education and entertainment. Splitting the cases is not all that much different from a 50cc pit bike up to a giant Thumper. 2ts are even easier.

When you're done with the pit bike sell it and move up to something like an XR100 and do it all over again.

Just remember, from a weed wacker to a helicopter, they are all just machines. Take your time, don't be intimidated and don't worry about making mistakes. If it was made by man, and broken by a man, a man should be able to fix it.

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I'm wondering...

Is it possible to restore ANY used 2T no matter how bad it is?

I can probably pick myself up a blown up 2T from a friend for a few hundred bucks. My buddy said he just wants to throw a new motor in there, but I'm wondering why he doesn't just rebuild it?

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You can repair almost anything with enough effort. People still press rods out to replace bearings and weld/machine cases that were blown out. It all depends on how valuable your time is and what your resources are.

 

As for learning, my route was pretty typical for someone without the cash/patience to send everything off for repair. Bought parts and a manual, then went for it and asked questions. Sometimes the learning process was extremely painful and you'll learn more about yourself than just mechanical ability. You'll also find out whether or not you're able to control that 1.2% genetic difference between humans and chimps.

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I started out with a really great experience with the New York public school system in upstate NY (Syracuse).  They had a technical school program (BOCES.) where you could train in a wide array of skills while you were in high school.  I took small engine repair in my junior year and learned all about motorcycle engines, lawn mowers, chain saws, all kinds of small engines.  The shop was fully equipped with lathes, mills, boring machines, and even a dyno.  No CNC stuff but damn it was a fantastic experience!  I got a ton of hands on experience from grinding valves and lapping to boring out cylinders.  While in class I rebuilt the bottom end on my Honda Big Red three wheeler.  There really should be more programs like this around the world.

 

My favorite story:  When I split my three wheeler cases in class I was writing notes down about the transmission.  There were a lot of parts and I didn't want to lose track.  The instructor came over, looked at me, then grabbed the case and dumped the transmission all over the table.  Parts went everywhere.  The instructor looked at me and said 'now put it back together'.  Took me friggin weeks to get it right!  But the instructor was excellent, left me alone, and stopped by occasionally to give me pointers.

 

I never worked as a mechanic but the experience was fantastic and I use those skills almost every weekend.  I perform all of my own maintenance on my bikes except the stuff that requires expensive tooling machines (cylinder boring, crank rebuilding, CNC valve cutting, etc.).

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I'm an automotive mechanic. Studied and worked the field. Dirt bikes are so simple it's not even funny. I guess the skills transfer over quite easily.

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read read read.

 

the hard part is knowing what is where and why it is there and how it comes out and how it goes back in.

 

seems pretty straight forward and no sh#$, but i know a bunch of guys that have no clue what the parts are for or what they really do that just mess things up worse.

 

manuals are your best friend until you know what you are working on inside out.

 

I learned the hard way of taking it apart and usually making it worse, you only do that so many times until you realize what you did wrong.

 

now there is more courses dedicated to anything from bikes to transport trucks so take advantage of any classes you can.

 

diesel engines are a good start, you need to listen to the person teaching you and don't be afraid to ask stupid questions, better to get a answer than assume you know.

 

have fun and good luck.

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Heard good things about this guys book, or books.

https://www.diymotofix.com

I also own this one, good general coverage of dirt bike specific stuff. Bought it after I had already been an auto/moto mechanic for years, but still learned from it.

http://www.amazon.com/Motocross-Off-Road-Performance-Handbook-Motorbooks/dp/0760319758

I would recommend buying a cheap bike to start on. Tear it down by systems and combine knowledge from reading/videos with real world experience. And keep an open mind. I've been at it since 2001 and still read stuff weekly, even if it seems too basic. You can always learn something new, and if you think you know too much to learn anymore, it's time to give it up. Seen lots of older guys get stuck in their ways with a close-minded attitude.

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Thanks for all the replies everyone! I've been reading that guys books on that diymotofix site...awesome stuff, but his books do assume that the reader has a certain level of competency already. It is all great stuff nontheless.

I'm pretty set on buying a used 2T bike. I'm thinking that instead of just getting a complete project bike, I will instead get a decent running bike and just make a commitment to to always do any and all repairs and maintenance myself. I was torn between getting a complete project bike or a used bike that is in good shape...and well, I kinda really wanna ride so I decided to go with the latter.

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Well my ideal career path is and has always been to be self-employed. So I'm not looking to be a diesel mechanic forever. I just wanna learn the skills, then I'm gonna open my own business when I'm ready.

I've been self employed as a full time musician for the last 4 years, so it's gonna be weird having a job again 😉.

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