Technical Q and A for classic motorcycle maintenance and repair.
Editor’s note: If you’re having trouble with that old Suzuki, BSA or BMW, Keith Fellenstein is your guy. From motorcycle tuning tips to detailed motorcycle engine repair, he can draw from a wealth of experience to help guide you to success. Send questions to: Keith’s Garage, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609, or send an e-mail with “Keith’s Garage” as the subject.
A stuck clutch
Q: I’ve just come back to using my Triumph Silver Jubilee after several months away and it starts just fine, but the engine lurches and stalls when I pull in the clutch and try to put it in first gear? What’s wrong? — Larry Dodd/via email
A: Your clutch plates are stuck together from sitting, and when you pull in the clutch lever to separate them, they don’t. It’s a common problem with old Triumphs, and it has an easy solution. Pull the clutch lever in and use the kickstarter like you were starting the bike. Do this a few times with the key off and the plates should free up quickly. If they don’t, do the same thing but with the key on, starting the bike with the clutch pulled in. That should break them loose if the first method fails. The long term cure is to ride more. Another thing to check if your bike has been sitting is the oil level. Often the oil will end up in the engine sump, which presents problems of its own. It usually only makes it hard to start the engine due to oil drag on the crankshaft flywheel, but in extreme cases, it can force the primary oil seal out of its seat. That’s not a problem on your bike, as the primary side isn’t a separate oil bath; it shares engine oil and ventilation with the crankcase. Once you have the bike started, it’s a good idea to open the oil filler cap and make sure you have good oil return to the tank. I usually briefly close the return pipe with my fingers to force a little oil into the rocker arms. Don’t rev the engine any more than necessary to keep it running until the return side of the oil pump has had enough time to empty out the sump. This usually takes a couple of minutes, at most. You can ride it, just don’t give it the beans until the sump clears. MC