Sunday, August 13, 2017

Restoring the Truck Headlights with the 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System

      BEFORE                                                               AFTER

The headlights on the truck were just starting to get too scratched/fogged. Besides just looking ugly this greatly reduces the headlight's effectiveness.
So I spent about an hour and a half polishing them. Most of that is just taking my time with the procedure.
I used the 3M 39008 Headlight Lens Restoration System, about $14 bucks on Amazon.

Here are some pictures of the polishing process.

Before. If you enlarge the picture you can see the haze and scratches better. The lens wasn't horrible, but was well worth restoring. Note this lens is fairly flat so it is relatively straightforward to polish. I wouldn't try this on a lens that had bumps, shelves or ridges as that makes the process much harder.

After P500 grit. The first step is the hardest, emotionally, because the headlamp looks much worse before it starts to look better after the following steps.

After P800 grit. Just cut to a finer level:

After the 3000 pad wet sanding. Now it is starting to get clearer!

After the buffing compound and waxing. It looks great!
If you shine a light across it, you can see fine scratches from the polishing, but it is vastly improved from before the process. I've heard that that the lens may now deteriorate more quickly than a new one, as the factory finish has been removed.  We will see how long it holds up. But for $14 bucks and an hour and a half of my time, I think this is a great result. Note that the cheapest replacement headlamps I could find were over $150 a pair and would have taken at least this long to install.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fitting a Ferracci 2 into 2 full exhaust system onto my 2000 Ducati 900S

Here is another old post (from 2004) that I'm moving here from my old website...

So, here is my tale of putting a pipe on my 2000 Monster 900S.

I ordered a Ferracci full system 2 into 2 low pipe in December. But it didn't fit. Ferracci was nice, and would have let me return it, but I said NO WAY, I just want one that fits! They swapped the header for me, but the new one was about the same. Here was the problem: The rear header was too close to the swingarm by the chain, and the chain would hit the header and would eventually cut it. Here is a pic of the lack of clearance for the chain:

Note the melted plastic swingarm protector! This is because because of the angle of the pipe: as the swingarm rises, it gets CLOSER to the pipe. Thats why you see the plastic has melted in an arc matching the shape of the pipe, it hits! If you look very closely, you can see the scratches from the chain on the pipe in this shot:

This is a bigger problem than it looks like, because in not long, the chain WILL cut through that pipe, just like a chain saw. This isn't acceptable. There was also an issue under the swingarm where the crossmember would move up and contact the pipe as the swingarm moved up. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good picture of this. But if you fit a pipe inspect carefully how the swingarm moves upward and check how the clearance closes between the swingarm crossbrace on the engine side and the pipe. (I'll note that these issues may not be a problem for Monsters with the steel swingarm, but 2 separate pipes from Ferracci had this problem on my bike. Also note that Sil is the original manufacturer, so this is probably an issue with their pipe too!) The main problem was that the rear header had much less bend in it that than stock one. See this comparison shot, with the stock pipe on the left:

So how to fix it? First, the pipe needed to be opened a bit: I needed just a little more length between the front header and the rear. I made this rig to stretch the darn thing:

Stainless steel is darn hard to bend. Even heating and then jumping on the 2x4 shown had little effect. It helped some, but not enough. Hmm. Time to cut:

I had the rear header pipe cut at the top and the bottom: Top cut:

Bottom cut:

Note we didn't cut the pipe completely apart. This let it hang together and helped us position it. With the cuts made, it was fairly easy to fit the pipe and then tack weld it in the proper position. Then it was removed and welded solidly back together. With the new bend, the pipe bend looks a lot like the stock pipe, no surprise there! Stock pipe on the right:

Clearance to the chain was solved:

But there still wasn't quite enough clearance underneath the bike, where the inside swingarm crossmember would come up and hit the pipe. The simple answer there was to ding the pipe to provide clearance:

Finally! Done and ridable! Hmm... I think Ferracci should give me a big discount on my next purchase! This was not an easy to fit pipe! But the pipe sounds great! I also put in the airbox kit and power commander. But way back in December, before any modifications, I did a couple 'stock' dyno runs. The "before" run is box stock. The "after" run is with the FbF Full 2 into 2 low system, Airbox cover removed and BMC filter, and power commander. Interestingly, the run showed the power commander map as provided by Ferracci was very good and really didn't need to be tweaked. Actually, the curves are nice and smooth. You can see I gained a nice chunk of torque and power across the rev range. In fact, you can see smack in the mid range at 5000 RPM a 7.8 ft-lb torque gain and a 8.2 hp gain. At that RPM this is a more than an 17% gain in horsepower and torque!

Some of this looks to be due to the really lousy stock air fuel ratio, but regardless, the FbF kit seems to have done a great job.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Setting the Ignition Timing on a Ducati Single

More than 10 years ago I wrote a web page about the now arcane process of setting the ignition timing on a Ducati single. This method is very can also be used with all sorts of other single cylinder bikes that have points.
I have since taken down that old website but I wanted to preserve those instructions. They are now attached to this blog and can he  found with this link:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lithium (LiFePO4) Battery Charger Review and Comparison: OptiMate vs CTEK vs NOCO Genius

A while back I did a review of a lead acid battery chargers that has been one of my most popular posts, so when I needed a new lithium battery charger I decided to do another review and test. Here it is!

Some background on lithium battery chargers

I've been using lithium-ion batteries in my motorcycles lately.  Technically, these are lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries  These are also sometimes called LFP batteries (and sometimes incorrectly called LiPo; this a slightly different technology). For ease, I am going to call them "lithium batteries" in this article.

I have both Shorai and Antigravity brand batteries in my bikes. And as it happens, I had two bikes with lithium batteries in storage for more than a year. Neither bike is in "running condition" so I thought it was time to charge their batteries.

Now most people may never need a special charger for these lithium batteries. If there is no drain on them, they can go a LONG time without charging (probably more than a year). So don't run out and buy one of these special chargers unnecessarily. If you need to leave your vehicle for more than a week or so, just disconnect the battery and don't worry about it, even for months.

Shorai publishes a nice chart of showing how you can use your battery voltage to estimate much charge your battery has left:

And if your battery charge does get low, Shorai explains how you might be able to charge the battery with some "regular" chargers here: Note that you can NOT hook a lithium battery to a just any lead acid battery charger and forget about it! You need the right kind of charger and it is a careful procedure, read and follow the directions.
More detail on the problem using a regular lead acid charger with a lithium battery: Many or most electronic type lead acid battery chargers have a "desulfation mode" which cannot be turned off.  That mode will damage a lithium battery! Also, the final voltage for a lithium battery is different (higher), and a regular battery charger will not handle that.

Now, probably the THE BEST way to charge a lithium battery is to get a special charger with a Balance Management System that can charge the battery through the "Balance Connector", if the battery has one. This allows each individual cell in the battery to be "fully topped off". The Shorai does have a balance connector and Shorai sells a special charger for that port. If you want to buy a specialized charger like that, it's probably the best way to go!

On the other hand, many brands of lithium batteries do not have the special balance connector. Some of the manufacturers claim to have have a built in cell balancing circuit (EarthX is one). Others claim (like Antigravity) that it isn't necessary, and some just don't say anything.

Another feature of some lithium batteries is an "over-discharge protection circuit". If the battery is in danger of being drained too low, it disconnects the actual internal battery from the terminals on the battery's case. If the battery has triggered the protection, it cannot be charged until that protection is reset, this is often called "BMS reset". If the battery is not reset, the charger does not recognize that it can be charged. The manufacturer EarthX describes this well on their website.

What do I want in a lithium battery charger?

Because some of my batteries do not have balance connectors, I wanted a a charger specialized for charging lithium batteries without a Battery Management System that requires the special connector. A lithium battery charger should work using somewhat different charging steps and voltages and should definitely not have a desulfation mode. The charger should also be able to reset any over-discharge protection circuit inside a lithium battery.

The Contenders

A little research showed 4 chargers that interested me in the US$50 to US$100 price range on Amazon. Here is a list with the manufacturer's web page for each and also a link to the manual for each:

Noco genius G3500 3.5 Amp UltraSafe Battery Charger and Maintainer

User Guide
(about $60 on Amazon as of this writing)

Frankly, I wasn't thrilled with the regular lead acid Noco charger I checked out back in 2012. But I thought I should check them out again.The G3500 is a fairly hefty 3.5A charger, so that was good. And it is a multipurpose charger that works for lead acid 12V and 6V batteries as well as 12V lithium batteries. They claim "8 modes" in the manualbut I think this is a bit of over-marketing. For instance, one of the 8 is "Standby" which is essentially "Off".  Regardless, it will work with multiple battery types, and if that is useful to you, that is a good thing.
But I was evaluating how this charger would work for Lithium batteries and I found some things I didn't like. The manual claims an 8 step charging sequence... but it doesn't say anything about how it works differently, if at all, for a lithium battery. Perhaps the charger's lithium mode just skips the desulfation step and ends in a voltage appropriate for lithium batteries? There is no way to know. The manual also doesn't describe any way to reset the BMS on batteries that have that built in.
So... I rejected the NOCO and I did not buy one to try it.

tecMate OptiMate Lithium 4s 0.8A TM-471

User Guide
(about $60 on Amazon as of this writing)

The OptiMate Lithium comes with lots of great recommendations. At least 3 of the battery manufacturers recommend or resell OptiMate chargers: Antigravity, EarthX and Ballistic.
So I ordered one of these up and checked it out.

Sadly, I found the LEDs hard to understand. Even with this key from the manual it isn't perfectly clear:

Here is what the manual says about LED #5 and #6:
VOLTAGE RETENTION TEST: LED #5 flashing Delivery of current to the battery is interrupted for 12 hours* to allow the program to determine the battery's ability to retain charge. For batteries with a good state of health LED #5 (green) should continue to flash for the full 12 hours* period. Read the section NOTES ON TEST RESULTS on reasons for poor test results or how to test a battery that returns a good result but cannot deliver sufficient power once it is returned to service. 
MAINTENANCE CHARGE: LED #5 / 6 steady on For 30 minutes the circuit offers current to the battery within a safe 13,6V voltage limit whilst the result of the voltage retention test is displayed. If LED #6 (red) indicated the VOLTAGE RETENTION TEST will be repeated. A steady LED #5 (green) indicate the 30 minute float charge maintenance periods follow and alternate wih the 30 minute REST (no charging) periods until the battery is disconnected. The battery can draw current as required to support small loads and counter self-discharge.
Is that clear? It means that LED #6 will go solid green when the charging is completely done.
But note what the manual says about the "Voltage Retention Test", LED #5. It says this test lasts for 12 hours! And guess what... it wasn't true; when I charged my Antigravity battery (which wasn't badly discharged at 80%) the "Voltage Retention Test" alone went on for MORE THAN 24 HOURS (this is in addition to the time required to charge the battery before this). And note, this is a relatively low powered charger, at 0.8A, so it isn't particularly fast anyway.
Now, I really like the idea of this test. And obviously, you could just disconnect the charger before this test is completed and use it. But I was annoyed by the strange LEDs. This charger should have the LEDs all in a row like the other brand chargers, and a clear indication when the charging is DONE and then a clear indication the 24 hour charge retention test is happening. 

Also, while some Optimate chargers can reset the "over discharge protection circuit" on some batteries, it is not clear that this charger has that feature. It isn't mentioned in the manual but the website does say it has this feature. It would be nice to mention the feature in the manual if it is included in the device. I think it is probably in there...?

In summary, I wasn't thrilled with the OptiMate charger.


(about $80 on Amazon as of this writing)

Here is what came in the box:

The CTEK is a lithium battery charger only and charging steps are clearly described in the manual. There is also a linear array of LEDs on the charger that clearly show the progress of the charging.
Check out these two pages from the manual:

Perfectly clear and concise! So refreshing after the OptiMate manual. Note how it clearly shows how to reset the "over discharge  protection circuit" in a battery that needs that.

The unit itself is handsome enough. I do wish it was rubberized on the corners to protect it from drops and some rubber feet would be nice too. It does look like it will become scratched and worn over time. But note the nice and simple LEDs, the clear reset button, and the voltage and current rating right on the front.

Here is a closeup of the LEDs:

The manual page above clearly indicates which steps/LEDs indicate the battery is "READY TO USE" (step/LED 3) and "FULLY CHARGED" (step/LED 7). Tip to CTEK: This really should be printed right on the label, there is plenty of room! I may add a sticker to mine as a reminder.

So I tried the CTEK on my Shorai battery, and it worked fine. The battery was at about 85% charge when I started it, and when I went back a later it was fully charged. No problems and easy to understand.


My choice: The CTEK Lithium charger. It has the most clear manual and good LEDs. It clearly states that it can reset an "over-discharge protect circuit" and has a button for that feature. The manual clearly describes how it's steps work on the lithium battery, including the voltages used and how long the steps should take.

Friday, May 19, 2017

New Top Jaws for the Black & Decker Workmate 79-001 Type 2 (WM625)

The new top jaws!

So who's the guy in the Lotus Elan next to the Workmate? That is Ron Hickman, the designer of both the Lotus and the Workmate! You can read more about the history of the workmate here if you are curious.

The Black & Decker Workmate is a portable workbench/vice that has been sold in the millions around the world. If you are interested in these and do a bit of research, you find out the early ones are considered by many to be the best, as they have a pair of cast aluminum H frames that could be folded under the top to allow the workmate to be stored flat. Later models went to steel parts that were somewhat less sturdy, and certainly less cosmetically appealing.

In the USA, one of the more desirable models is the "79-001 Type 2". This model seems to be nearly the same as the WM625 version sold in the UK. (I've been told that the UK WM625 had an additional hole in each top jaw piece and that some of them lacked the "batten" on the bottom of each jaw that doubled the depth of the clamping surfaces.)

The "Bay Area Galoots" have done a type study of the various versions available in the USA.

And here is an early review from Popular Mechanics (Aug 1975):

Here is a picture of the one I purchased recently:

A common thing is to make a plywood top with a 2x4 screwed to the bottom. The 2x4 can be clamped in the Workmate jaws to be particularly sturdy. 

The top isn't in horrible condition for being 40 years old, but I'm considering making a new one.

So I took some time and sketched out the dimensions of the top. I thought these might save others some time, so here they are. Both halves of the top are the same.

Dimensions of the top and hole placements:

Detail of the edge bevels:

I would have loved to make these myself, but I don't have the tools nor the proper skills to do it well. I could just cut some boards, but that would lack things like the nice pipe groove in the jaws and the perfectly placed and sized holes. Having those holes in perfect alignment can really help when using the vice pegs. I looked around and found a Nick from Merlin Joinery in the UK who makes beautiful new jaws for the UK versions and I asked him if he could make me some for the "79-001 Type 2" from these drawings. He agreed! You can reach Nick on ebay here:
Nick can make the jaws with different thickness of plywood, so be sure to discuss what you want with him. The wood he uses appears to have many ply and seems a very high grade. Also, he doesn't bevel the edges nor the lip of the holes (I actually prefer the sharper edge). He left the mounting screw holes undrilled, in case of any variation between mounting.Those were easy to predrill, I used a 7/64" bit with the depth taped on it and was very careful to not drill through the plywood. It's close, use care! He also lightly stained the top for appearances.
Here are some pics of the new and old jaws side by side. Aside from the different thickness and sharper edges, they seem intentionally identical. Construction quality is excellent.

And here are some of the jaws assembled on the workmate.

My thanks to Nick at Merlin Joinery, the new jaws look great! I'm sure I'll scuff them up soon, but I expect they will be more durable than the originals.