Bill Hoddinott VA (Enthusiast) View all posts in this topic  
Mon Jul 18, 2005 3:05 pm
100,000 Mile Road Test of a 1988 Kawasaki 250 Ninja - Part Seven        

Let's go over 'Body and Paint' this time. As mentioned, this bike has always been kept indoors. And needless to say, besides making theft of your baby extremely unlikely, this also has a tremendous effect on preserving body and paint, and keeping corrosion away.

As you can see by the snapshots, all the plastic parts on the bike are as good as new, the seat is still flawless(I gave it a smear of Armor-All once a year or so whether it needed it or not) and the tank paint is very close to showroom condition. I'm afraid I'm far too lazy to clean a motorcycle very often, and even then I ignore all the dirty nooks and crannies. But I do clean and wax the tank and the shiny parts of the plastic once or twice a year. When I do, the bike looks very close to original showroom condition(except for the said nooks and crannies). This pony goes out for a canter every nice day year around, and I'm from the old school; we don't care about a bit of dirt and chain lube on a bike.

The bike's present condition speaks volumes about the high quality of the paint, plastic pieces, plating, and all the other materials used in manufacturing. So Kawasaki, take a bow for that!

The wheels are in perfect condition, except for inevitable scratches consequent to tire mounting and dismounting. But if I did scratch 'em, I touched up the scratches.

The functional side of the gas tank has also been totally trouble-free during the first 100,000 miles. The little vacuum-operated fuel cut-off system still works like new, with no attention. But from starting out on Brit bikes, I always make it a practice to turn the fuel valve to "Off" when I leave the bike. Just in case. If you ever had some malfunction that resulted in fuel running from your tank into your carbs, and the latter overflowing, you could drain a couple of gallons of gas into your utility room, or garage, and if you have a source of combustion such as a gas water heater nearby, you can burn your garage or house down pdq. So it pays to be careful.

The tank valve has a filter built into it to catch the large chunks of detritus and keep them out of the carb jets, which is good. One should take care to keep any foreign matter out of the tank when filling it, naturally. And particularly, it seems wise to avoid gassing up at a station which has a big 'ol gas tanker draining fuel into the underground storage tanks; since it seems quite possible that dirt and rust would be stirred up in the said tanks by high-volume fuel dumping out of the truck. If you're gassing up at the very same time, some of the trash may end up in your tank.

Be that as it may, I have never yet had any reason to clean my tank's fuel filter. If I got a symptom of restricted fuel flow such as mis-firing at full throttle, that would be one thing I would investigate. But as said, may as well wait until it's broke before delving into it. If flow is adequate, it is impossible to improve on the situation.

Part of the ancient lore of mc gas tanks is that "they don't rust if you keep gas in them". Well, unfortunately, it seems this no longer is true(if it ever was - but I have seen reports from reliable Brits that they indeed did keep their Vincent tanks rust-free by adding an ounce of engine oil to each fill-up. But the objection to that is the oil stinks in the exhaust when it burns!).

My original '88 tank does show a little bit of surface rust inside it here and there, and I hope that this does not lead eventually to pinhole leaks in the seams. But no leaks have ever appeared yet. I have made it a practice to put an ounce of Marvel Mystery Oil in the tank with each fill-up(no stink with this stuff) but it does not rust-proof the tank. I have some idea that the upper-cylinder lubricant value might be helping minimize engine wear. It couldn't hurt, but neither can I prove that it helps. I don't use it in my cars or truck, and they also seem to last almost forever without it.

I have a theory that the reason I am getting this rust is the effect of the 10% or so of ethanol we have in our pump gas nowadays. It is well known that alcohols are somewhat corrosive. If this is the cause, undoubtedly the same thing is affecting billions of cars and trucks today. And we don't hear of any leak problems.

If I do get a leak in the '88 tank, I will consider what to do then. I might try a sealant. And I do have the '01 tank here for a backup. The green doesn't match the '88 black, but I do what I have to do. "This ain't no fashion show, ya know!" The ride is the thing, not how the bike looks to bystanders, or how I look on it.

Kaw deserves lots of credit for devising a tank-mounting system on rubber, where the front of the tank also supports the front plastic fairing, and the whole thing proves trouble-free for a good long service mileage. In the olden days, on the Brit bikes I grew up with, tank leaks were quite common; even though the gauge of the steel used in the tanks was thicker. All the Brit bikes vibrated more, and that had its effect on the tank. Don't forget, the fuel in a full tank probably weighs 30 lbs or more, so all that weight plus the weight of the tank itself has to be supported by some mounting system. Road bumps also stress the tank.

So between one thing and another, manufacturing mc gas tanks is a sophisticated art.

End of Part Seven.

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