Oooohhhh. Aaahhhhhh.

Chilling at home tonight, sitting on my balcony, having a drink, writing a future blog post, when a lightning storm (ahem) "sparks up."

Many people have a fear of lighting. I understand this. It's several million volts of electricity at an insane amperage it can easily kill a human being, if not sufficiently protected.

But I find it facinating.  This phenomenon happens every day in some part of the world, but only rarely do you get to see it in such frequency from where you sit. About now, the sky is lighting up about four times every second! This is better than any rock concert anyone's ever been to!!

And the best part is I'm watching in complete safety.  I'm not the highest point in the area, so nothing's going to hit me.  Everything strike is from cloud to cloud, at least fifteen miles away (given the lack of thunder), and it isn't raining here, meaning the guardrail I'm resting my feet upon isn't soaked in highly-conductive water.

This is a great show I'm watching, and it's letting me get more done because the TV's not on, distracting me with dialogue.  Fewer people should be afraid of lightning. It is, in fact, beautiful.

But now the wind has picked up, and thunder has reached "Cracka-BOOM!!!" levels, so I have retreated to indoors. It's not as cool in here, despite the presenece of air conditioning.


Keep calm

To sum up, we've got:

  • Russia invading its neighbors
  • A broken health care law
  • The economy is still in the toilet
  • Unemployment still in the stratosphere
  • Welfare fraud up the wazoo
  • An airliner that vanished into thin air
  • Dan Snyder is still the owner of the Washington Redskins
  • And four years after graduating college with special recognition for academic achievement, I still can't get a real job.

But its all gonna be okay, because Obama just filled out his NCAA bracket.


Cheap Chinese Scooter: WHEEEEE!!!!

 Why did nobody tell me how much fun two wheels and a small engine could be?

 To go back a few pages, the day after I had finally gotten self-sustaining combustion from The Little Engine that Didn't Want To, I decided to take it out for a spin.  The weather had finally reached a level of mild (unheard of in this area, for early March) deemed reasonable for a late evening spin.

Retracing my steps for engine start was easy enough (I had blogged about it, after all). Getting the engine going again, however, was another matter.

Turns out that blasting it with name-brand carburetor cleaner was only enough to get it to work for the day. Numerous stomps at the kick-starter got the little mongrel going were more than enough to tell me I had some work to do.

But I did get it going after some furious kicking. And off I would ride! ...sans helmet. (But don't tell my mom!) But I wore a hat, at least!

And boy, what an experience! It would be cliché to say it was like riding a bike, but that's the best aproximation I can give you readers. Because quite honestly, it's probably been over ten years since I rode even a bicycle. (I had a car by then. What did I need a bike for?) Thirty seconds after I set off, I remembered, "Oh yeah, you bank when turning a bike."

My local streets are all but deserted at 2 A.M., a perfect time to test unfamiliar motorized transport. A vast majority of two-wheeled accidents are due to the rider's mistake, and happen in his first year of riding, and the rest are a mistake made by the driver of a nearby car. Given that knowledge, the best time to learn how to ride is at two in the morning in the middle of the week on city streets. The streets are completely empty so you can learn the intricacies of riding without having to dodge traffic. The fact that they're outer-city streets provides benefits as well, since they're very well-lit. This came in handy when I tested the high-beam headlight, which did nothing but illuminate the trees above me.

My conclusions on riding the scooter are thus:


  • There's not a lot of power. Even a slight grade is enough to bog it down. My 6'4" frame may have something to do with it, but there's no getting around the fact that this engine is only 1/44 the size of the one in my car, with three fewer cylinders.
  • There is some suspension. It absorbs some bumps. But you're better off avoiding them if you value having feeling in your rump.
  • The rear brake doesn't do a whole lot. Needs adjusting.
  • A potentially invaluable purchase for further night riding: goggles.
  • It could benefit from a manual clutch. The centrifugal clutch is not ideal when setting off while facing uphill. Stalling was a concern of mine, especially considering the effort it took to get it going in the first place.
  • The horn is useless. I was right next to it and I couldn't hear it.


But these concerns aside, I had the biggest smile on my face. I happened past some coworkers, who attested that I looked on top of the world.


Cheap Chinese Scooter: Rise, Lazarus

Having only ever operated fuel injected cars, I've never even touched a carburetor in my life. Given this, I was in rather a large need of education. Thank heaven for the Internet, or I would have had to go to a library or find a mechanic as he unnecessarily dumbs everything down with a condescending tone. With the Incredible Edible Internet, people who share a common interest, but are scattered across the globe, can finally communicate and share ideas, furthering their pursuit of knowledge. If you've always wanted to recreate Star Wars, Episode 5 on roller skates, you can find the other thirty people who also want to do that.

So of course there are a gaggle of videos, diagrams, and tutorials regarding the assembly, installation, and maintenance of the carburetor on a cheap Chinese scooter from a manufacturer I've never heard of.

A quick trip to the local generic auto-parts chain put me in possession of a can of carburetor cleaner. And some WD-40 (never know, right?). And some bottles of fuel treatment (liquid repair-kit for my car's old injectors). A pair of needle-nose pliers (I broke the ones I had the other day), some wire strippers (never had any before), and you can honestly never have enough screwdrivers. Guess it's a good thing I got out of there when I did. I might have ended up with the wild idea to put a turbo onto this little scoot.

All the guides I saw approaching the carb said, "Open the seat and remove these three screws. Then remove the storage compartment to reveal the engine."

But the compartment is locked. And I don't have the key. Another approach must be found.

From the rear wheel well, I can spy the carburetor, but only just. The gray side trim panels are secured by three screws and a bolt. These were easily taken off to reveal more of the workings, including the tumbler for the seat lock (but another day for that, as it turned out). From the left side, the carb was pretty well blocked by the air intake assembly, but the view from the right was more telling.

The tube from the air filter to the carburetor had come off somwhere. If that had happened when it was previously in service, it would certainly explain the poor carb performance. Regardless, with this nugget I wondered if I would have to remove the carb at all.

Given the partial disassembly, I pulled the whole air filter assembly off the frame. Turns out that using a hose clamp to secure hard plastic to metal (or other hard plastic, for that matter) doesn't work too well. Really more of an application suited to rubber hoses. But some twisting and yanking had me an exposed carburetor.

So now for spraying. Straightforward, really. Instructions on the can. Why can't more things be this simple? Or rather, why don't more people read the instructions on the can?

Liberal applications of spray later, I sat torn with how long to wait. I checked my phone a few times, made a sandwich, paid a bill (highway robbery!), re-read the instructions on the can, and counted my screwdrivers.

Then I got impatient and tried kickstarting. After a few kicks, I was rewarded with the glorious pop-pop-pop of a single cylinder trying to fire! This was more than encouraging. Several more kicks saw no further progress, so I guessed that the cleaner hadn't finished its work. The can did say "highly flamable," so maybe it could help with combustion?

I blasted the carb a few more times, then tried to turn the engine again. I was thinking that the vacuum pressure of the intake stroke could help force the cleaner through the itty-bitty holes for the jets in the carb. Hey, worst-case scenario, it doesn't work and I take the carb apart, right?

But that wasn't necessary. A few more pumps, and the engine coughed into life. I knew what I had to do next.

Yup. I rode it around the parking lot with all that stuff still disassembled. Not the best idea, but worth it.

There's not much gas in the tank, so I'll have to be careful with use until I can get past the locking gas cap. I probably won't detail how to get through that.


Cheap Chinese Scooter: Drill, Baby, Drill!

Having deciphered the wiring and found that there's good compression in the cylinder by way of stomping on the kick start a few dozen times, I start to wonder if the engine is just flooded.

Now, any other time, one could fiddle with the carb and use the starter motor to clear it out. But remember: I don't have a key. And I can't figure out how to trip that particular lead.

So I'm left with an idea I thought I saw while skimming my previous Google searches: using a power drill in lieu of a starter motor.

First, I had to face some facts. There's nothing like passing the point of no return only to find you haven't got a decent set of metric tools to work with when messing around with a Chinese scooter.

$50 later, I have a pretty decent set.

And now to the other fact: I don't own a power drill. Let alone a cordless one.

From my web search endeavors, I gather that an 18 volt drill should be sufficient. But more Googling found 18 volts to be on the high end, and a bit expensive. Time to borrow the one from work. Thank heavens it came with a 3/8" driver.Tools in hand, I pried Google for a few more pages and found the most helpful result so far: a PDF of a repair manual, complete with assembly instructions for the kick starter (which, in reverse, become disassembly instructions).

A few bolts and some prying left me with the crankshaft exposed. But I forgot to bring the wire I was using to hotwire it. Rather than do the sensible thing and go get it, I searched my nearby car for a substitute. The best I found was a cigarette-adapter plug with a USB connection. That would have wires. But, it turns out that those wires are short. So short they were impractical. I found this out only after prying the stubborn thing apart. So I went and got my go-to wire anyway. So much for ingenuity.

Wire in place, 3/8" driver with 17mm socket on drill, hand on left brake and hopeless optimism in play, I put the drill into action.

Several attempts saw me try different ways to hold the drill or adjust the speed. The drill had a feature that released a clutch of sorts when the torque got too high, and there didn't seem to be any way to override this, so I couldn't push it full tilt, because the compression stroke takes some serious effort. At least that means there's good compression in the cylinder. But my continued failure means the problem lies elsewhere.

The likely theory is that because the scooter sat so long, the gas vapors congealed in the carburetor, gumming up the works. And now for a crash course in carburetor repair...