Friday, December 19, 2014

Antique Vespa Maintenance

Anthony Bourdain gets the value of a Vespa, even though I like mine outside the city. 
Aside from its value as an urban assault vehicle a scooter of any make or model can also be a form of relaxation, an easy way to get around that anyone can enjoy. I on the other hand am always pushing to get more and one reason I wanted a properly restored Vespa was because they require almost no maintenance and are easy to use. Mine even carries a spare wheel like a car so a flat tire needn't stop me. The sum total of regular maintenance is here, the tools require to change the gear oil every two thousand miles or so:
Because my 1979 P200E is a two stroke it burns oil with gasoline for lubrication for the piston and related parts. The 8 ounces of oil in the gearbox is simply there to keep the gears turning smoothly. Because the gearbox drives the rear wheel directly there is no chain to maintain. There are no filters for the oil or air. All you do is use an 11mm wrench and remove the drain plug:
It is so obvious you can't miss it. You are supposed to change the washer but I have found that part is kind of optional...
I cast around for a container small enough to catch the oil and a yogurt tub will almost do it so I salvaged two from the recycling. The oil in the gearbox is supposed to be cheap 30 weight non detergent ( so it doesn't foam when crushed by the gears and the clutch) found anywhere from hardware stores to auto parts stores. Cheap is fine. 
On Vespa forums some youngsters recommend going all fancy with the oil but my mechanic said stick to the manual which requires this cheap 30W oil. Good enough for me!
I stashed the oil in a larger container but I have had a brainwave. I am going to use the oil to lubricate the chain drive on my Bonneville, which has a Loobman automatic chain oiler. Excellent re-use I think.
Frequently people think that color indicates the worn state of oil but I was taught years ago to check it by rubbing it between my fingers. If it feels thin its worn out. This lot felt properly viscous but with 500 miles so far I was close to the 600 mile first oil change mark. I decided to do it a little early and its an easy enough operation.
I unscrewed the top screw and let the last of the oil drain out before squeezing in some fresh oil through the hole in the top.
That's it. You put in enough oil to make the hole overflow, wipe up the excess and put the screw back in. Couldn't be simpler. All done, with an 11mm wrench, a flat blade screw driver and 8.5 ounces of oil. 
Other than that there is nothing else to be done when the scooter is set up properly.  I loaded up a fuel jug and rode it over to Cudjoe Marina to get ethanol-free gas. They have a reputation for cleaner gas than that sold, ethanol free, at a nearby gas station. I supposed to use ethanol free for the running in period as the oil blends more easily with this gas. Keeping full jugs at home, ready mixed makes refueling the 1.5 gallon (6 liter) main tank easy. The half gallon (2 liter) reserve tank is good for perhaps thirty miles so running out is easy to do. I also carry a bottle of oil in case I need to get gas on the road.
And how easy it is to carry stuff on the little, old scooter!
Great fun, the Vespa, and easy to live with so far!