MKL’s ’98 1200C – The Messy Details of the Y2K Performance ProjectTPP Web Team
As originally posted to the XL List
Well, it looks as if you’re interested in the messy details, the dirty laundry, the bullshit I had to go through to get this bike in working order after the “professionals” finished with it. Here are my old posts to the XL List, in chronological order.
2/9/00: The First Trip – This story will let some of you down, but there might be a happy ending tomorrow. At 1:45pm today, I arrived at the stealership to pick up my 1200C, which had the Screamin’ Eagle Dual-Plug heads and Dyna 2000i Single-Fire Ignition (with 4-tower DC-6 Coil) installed. The anticipation was huge, because the bike has been there for over 3 weeks as I waited for the weather to clear, and I was dying to pull my front wheel off the ground, a’la Mr. Crim.
The bike was wheeled out and started – the engine had a totally different, smooth idle (due mainly to the single-fire ignition) and a very responsive nature when revved at no load – very similar to a Stage I Sportster Sport, which is what my engine basically is now. The bad news is, the test drive was a disaster. The bike bogged very badly in first gear, and had absolutely no pickup whatsoever. In fact, it was even less responsive than the slowest Harley I’ve ever ridden (a totally stock ’99 Fat Boy). I was crushed, having just paid handsomely for the heads and ignition, and I was afraid they would give me some line about “that’s how it’s supposed to feel.”
I brought it back, and gave it to the service tech to test drive. First, the mechanic came out, and gave me a line about how my Yost Power Tube was responsible, or how I must’ve changed my gearing. I paid no attention to these obviously baseless opinions. Finally, the service tech test drove the bike himself, and agreed that it had pathetic acceleration. I suspected the timing, since it is so variable, and suggested that was the source of the problem. The mechanics and service tech played around with the timing for over 2 hours while I waited, to no avail. Finally, I left because I had to get back to work. Before I left, I suggested again that the static timing be checked carefully, and set in line with “curve 2” (the moderate middle curve) of the ignition module – as per Dyna’s instructions. The tech assured me that they would try again and let me know the results.
When I got back from work today at 9:15, I had a message from the tech (he must have called me from his house, because the message was from 8:30) – he said that, as I suspected, the timing was WAAAY over-advanced, throwing everything else (including the advance curves) off. He said that they had fixed it, and that the bike now runs like a “raped ape.” He invited me back again to try tomorrow.
Either way, we’ll see. I have a feeling all will be alright, since the nature of my mods is proven, and because I trust the service tech (although I don’t trust his mechanics). Of course, once I get some miles on, I will post a full review here and on my website.
2/10/00: The Second Trip – I just returned from a 15 mile test ride on my new and improved scoot. If you remember my post from yesterday, the bike had some initial problems. As I suspected, they were all timing related. The timing was so advanced that the bike in effect ran like shit. This morning, they re-adjusted, and off I went. I didn’t go crazy – there’s still a lot of ice, water, and salt / gravel on the road – and I have brand new tires to boot. However, I did goose it enough to get a feel. Here are the differences I detect so far-
1) The idle is noticeably smoother and steadier – not as lumpy as before. Also, throttle response is much more sensitive than before. It’s almost as if the engine got a jolt of caffeine! I would venture to guess most of this is due to the ignition.
2) Acceleration below 3,000 rpm is very marginally improved, and over 3,000 rpm is significantly improved. I would venture to guess most of this is due to the heads. Vibration at speed is unchanged – I was disappointed, because MCN reported a huge improvement in smoothness when they tested the SE single-plug heads, and I was kind of expecting the same. All in all, it’s about what I expected – similar feel as a Stage 1 Sportster Sport.
3) The bike pings badly under WOT, and there is a strange whistling sound coming from the carburator area under WOT.
Number 3 is due to the fact that the timing is still far from being spot-on perfect, and I haven’t checked the carb area yet for loose fittings or bad seals. Also, the mechanic claims to have changed the clip position on my needle (to a leaner position), which I see no basis for doing. I doubt the mixture is anywhere near perfect. So, all in all, it still needs some tweaking – but we’re getting there! I have a feeling that once everything is adjusted to spec, the bike will truly run like the proverbial “raped ape.” I’ll keep you all posted….
2/24/00: The Final Straw – Tonight, I decided to set the timing on my bike the correct way, i.e., with a timing light, since the dealer admitted to setting it “by the seat of the pants” – which may explain why it was so off to begin with! In disassembling to get my tappet block covers off, I began to notice what kind of a job they did on my bike:
1) The steel notch on the seat was not under the lip on the frame, so it could come off at any time.
2) Three holes were left bare on my carb backing plate, allowing unfiltered air to enter freely. The tape I had placed to block these holes was gone.
3) Of the 3 bolts supposed to hold by backing plate directly to the carb, only two were there. One was loose, potentially causing severe damage (if it fell out and got sucked into the carb).
4) Of the two bolts holding my backing pate to the breather bracket, one was overtightened and the other was missing a washer.
5) The plastic plug on the end of the rear gas tank mounting nut was gone.
6) There was a bolt missing from my rear jug’s tappet block, so the whole block was held on with one bolt.
7) My HD chrome front valve stem cap was conveniently replaced with a stock rubber cap.
8) One of the nuts holding the front jug’s exhaust header on was missing, so there was a massive leak there.
9) Various chrome nut covers were MIA.
10) My chrome pushrod tubes were covered in caked-on black gasket crap that is a BITCH to remove.
That’s only the beginning. Disgusted, I continued disassembling, took out the timing bolt, and put in the clear view bolt. I hooked up the timing light, set the RPM to 1000 per TFM, and started adjusting. In the meantime, oil started spewing out of the base gaskets and running down the side of the cases of the engine – ON BOTH SIDES!!
Needless to say, I am completely PISSED OFF that a so-called “professional factory certified mechanic” would hand me a bike in this shape and expect me to accept it – especially since I was nice enough to take it back with screwed up timing, which I agreed to do myself AFTER I paid them to do it (since I had no confidence in their ability to do it right).
It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again – These bikes are simple and easy to work on – every time you take it to a Harley dealership, you take the chance that some numbnut greaseball cocksucker is going to screw everything up, and you don’t find out until you get home and examine it closely.
The Final Outcome – I took the bike back to them, demanding a complete top end re-assembly per the FM, replacement of all missing hardware, and general correction of all the issues raised above. I picked up the bike a few days later, the timing and carburation still way off, but the top end was apparently assembled satisfactorily. Upon closer examination, I did notice some new scratches in my chrome cam cover and an absence of some previously existing scratches from my rocker box covers, so I took it as a tradeoff and said nothing. From there, I went on to tuning the engine as described on the Y2K Performance Project Page from which you came.