Author Topic: 1976 CB500/550 Project "Squirrel"  (Read 113113 times)

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Offline riverfever

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1976 CB500/550 Project "Squirrel"
« on: September 27, 2013, 04:27:03 pm »
Several weeks ago I picked up this bike. I have had 2 Honda XR dirt bikes in the past but I didn't have them for very long (only a few months for both). For all intents and purposes, this is really my first motorcycle. I love tinkering on things and have always wanted a project. I bought this one for $1200. It was advertised as a CB550 but, with the help of some folks here, I now know that it is really a 76 550 frame with a 71 500 motor. I really had no idea what I wanted to do with this bike other than spend the winter getting to know it and then go from there. I decided to start a project thread because I have had to ask for help on several issues now and, instead of having to re-state everything that has been done to the bike, I thought it would be easier for everyone if this was here and I could just seek help here. Mods if this is not ok then please feel free to tell me. Here is the bike the day I got it home.




The PO was a guy that didn't have it all that long and I think he really just buys them and flips them for a few hundred more. He said he bought it in pieces and put it together. The one thing it was missing was any sort of air filter. It had a hanging idle issue that would present itself when coming to a stop (hang about 2500) and then slowly come down maybe 5 seconds later but then I'd have to nurse it along with the throttle to keep it from stalling. PO said he didn't do anything to the carbs because they didn't need anything. I was skeptical on a bike this old. Right away I sourced the parts for the air box from a member here. I wanted to get those on and see if it changed the way it ran before moving on from there. I also spent a lot of time cleaning the bike up and going over every nut and bolt.

I downloaded a manual from here and started in on the 3,000 mile tune up as well. I changed oil, filter and replaced the leaking seals under the left motor cover at that time and did some cleaning there.



I installed new plugs and double checked the gap before installing them. I found the wires that needed to be run to the front brake switch and took care of that. I lubed the tach and speedo cables along with the clutch and throttle cable. I checked the points gap and adjusted the 2-3 set. I checked the timing with a bulb and it was spot on. I tightened the chain and continued to work my around the bike cleaning all the chrome pieces.



I have issues with cleanliness.



The most I have ridden this bike is around the neighborhood a bit and that's fine because I really didn't want to ride it at all until I finished the tune up. I still need to adjust the valves and the cam chain as well and hope to do that this weekend. Last week I noticed that the front brake was making a loud squeal that went away once I pulled the lever in. I got home and found that the piston was not retracting. So I have a seal and master cylinder rebuild kit on the way. I also planned on swapping the brake lines for stainless ones but need to wait a bit so it'll sit until I get those figured out. I also thought this was the perfect time to figure out what to do with the bars. The drag bars were ok but the levers couldn't be rotated down enough for my liking. I ordered some clubman's from CB750 and got those put on last night.



Now the bike is taking a definite turn in the cafe direction. I always thought these bars looked stupid but they seem like they'll be really comfortable. I still need to mount the left grip, clean up/run the cables a little differently and figure out what I'm doing for brake lines. The upper hose is wayyyy too long and I'd like to avoid running a banjo bolt to the master cylinder (I'd rather get lines that will thread directly into the MC and clean that area up) and then do custom length lines to make it look nice.

I did take it for a spin last night but it was running horribly. I initially thought I had installed the throttle tube wrong but I don't think that's possible. Now I still have the same idle issues but when I crack the throttle open, the bike dies or falls right on it's face. I have always suspected that the carbs could benefit from a good cleaning/rebuild but it seems like an intimidating job. I'd still rather not go there before finishing the tune up but that's right around the corner. Late last night I did confirm that the stalling is not related to the throttle tube/cable as it does this when I reach under the tank and manually open the carbs.

So that's where things are right now. I live in Colorado at 9000 feet so a carb rebuild is surely in order as well as different jets but I know nothing about that stuff. Plans as of now include new exhaust (I really like the Carpy 4 into 1), new tires, possibly a solo seat from Benjies, and I'd like to try my hand at making knee dents in the stock tank and doing the body work. I'm also looking at bar end mirrors. My goal is to go through this thing over the winter and get it to a spot where it's reliable for the summer. Part of that eventually will be to pull the carbs and go through them. I appreciate any input/advice you all can give.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2017, 05:48:37 pm by riverfever »
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Online rb550four

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2013, 05:03:59 pm »
So it ran crappy on the last run.... why? Are you sure that all your points and stuff are spot on  still? Did you change both points and condensers or points only? Have you removed the spark advance unit and cleaned it /lubed it, should move freely without the springs on. Maybe re-tightened the points plate and changed the settings? Is this engine firing on all 4 ?
  Clean carbs....usually one of the first things that should happen. Clean the petcock too. Neither one of these items can be too clean. Do you suspect these carbs to be original to this engine? If you suspect not , a carb sync is in order....it's in order anyways but perhaps that is why it has been running weakly. Did this last run include stock air box on? with fresh air filter?
 Have you been fouling those new plugs?
 Need more information.
 Nice project.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2013, 07:32:25 am »
It ran poorly a few nights ago when I installed the new bars. In all honesty, it could have always been that way but I was just feeling sporty with the new bars and noticed it more because I was cracking the throttle open further. I did not change points or condensers. Just set the points. I'm not even sure I know where the spark advancer is. I think it's under the ignition plate. One thing I would like to do is install a more modern ignition but that's down the road a bit. I know the engine is getting spark to all 4 cylinders but I also know that the plugs all looked differently when I swapped them. Some were really sooty. I plan on rebuilding the carbs this winter and cleaning the tank and petcock and also lining the tank. It wouldn't surprise me if these carbs were not original to the motor. I had planned on buying the gauges to sync the carbs after getting them rebuilt. Yes, the stock box and new filter have been on for a while now.

Yesterday I got the valves set and the cam chain adjusted and it runs better but still idles poorly and I can also feel the motor surge when I'm real steady on the throttle (say third gear at about 3000 rpm's).
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2013, 06:35:31 pm »
I got to spend about half the day on the bike today. I pulled the master cylinder, brake joint, both lines and the caliper.

Here's the caliper after cleaning it up.


Piston looked great.


I have everything I need to rebuild the MC and the caliper. The snap ring looks like it will be a real good time to remove. I ordered the snap ring tool from Dime City but, even with that, it looks to be a tight fit. May look at making the arms on the pliers a bit narrower so they fit down in there a bit easier.

I also started looking at the forks while I had everything apart up front. They looked like crap. Had some scratches and ugly primer paint. My original plan was to paint them black and break up the chrome a bit but it's getting a little too cold to paint up here so I'll polish them for now. The right leg needs more love with finer grit paper and then I'll start buffing.



I hope to get the MC and caliper rebuilt and back on this weekend and then I'll measure for custom stainless lines. Should really transform the way the front brake functions. I also discovered more oil leaking under the left side cover. I replaced the counter shaft sprocket seal and shift shaft seal. I cleaned the area up and will run the motor once in a while in the garage and keep an eye on where it's coming from. Right now I think it's still coming from the shift shaft seal but time will tell.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2013, 05:59:29 pm »
Tonight I started it up just to hear the motor. Not sure why but I went to feel the headers and 1-3 were hot almost right away. 4 was cool and remained that way while the motor ran for about 10 minutes.Even after that long I could hold onto the header and it wasn't even warm. I know there is spark there. Could this be a carb issue? This might explain why it runs so poorly. Thoughts?
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Offline streak09

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2013, 07:12:03 pm »
I had a similar situation on mine, 1 was not firing, or very rarely would fire. Could be bad compression caused by bad rings or a valve mis-adjusted. Could also be a carb issue. If you take the plug out and its wet, then its probably bad compression. You could verify by pouring some oil in that cylinder and doing a compression test, if it reads higher with than with no oil, then it points to rings. Im no expert by any means, but this is how I verified that my rings were bad. Ended up finding a good engine for cheap, so I didnt bother replacing the rings.

Online rb550four

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2013, 08:09:35 pm »
you could always do a compression check.  aaaaaand since you haven't cleaned the carbs, you should at least unscrew the drain on the bowl of the non firing cylinder to see if it is getting any fuel to the bowl. That doesn't necessarily mean that if the bowl flows that it is being distributed in the proper amount , but if it's old gas or dry you know it's clogged and those carbs need some attention before winter if you are going to run it.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2013, 08:25:10 pm »
Well there is fuel in the bowl of carb number 4 and it looks fresh. So the next step would be to do a compression check?
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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2013, 08:58:07 pm »
Never hurts to know that you have compression . and it's good to hear that there is clean fuel in it at least but how do you know that it is being delivered in the proper amount with the proper amount of air mixture. If you haven t a clue about what jets to try at high altitude and whatever else you plan on doing to the motor.... I would give Lucky a pm, be sure to have all your info including what  year bike ,engine,, carbs, exhaust, and air cleaners that you will be using, perhaps he would point you in the right direction.
 Carbs man carbs. You say no fire on #4, at least do a carb clean on #4 , and while the rack is off do 1,2,3, just to be sure sync them afterwards.and get new plugs.
  If it still runs crappy after that,then you can obsess about possible worn rings,bent or mis=adjusted valves.
I can't stress the cleaning of carbs enough because until you do there will be no satisfaction,no running baseline for improvement,you need to do this.
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  550 Snowbike -Somebody had to do it.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2013, 06:48:21 am »
You're right...compression is something that I just need to check so I can rule it out. You're also right that I have no clue that the fuel for #4 is being delivered in the right amount or even delivered into the cylinder at all. I've suspected that the carbs needed to be gone through since bringing it home. Right now I want to get the front brakes done and get it all back together and then I'll remove the carbs and get a rebuild kit. Here's a question about carbs...the bike currently has the stock exhaust on it but I'd like to change that to a Carpy 4-1 model at the same time that I rebuild the carbs. Is it smart to do these things at the same time?
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2013, 06:02:37 pm »
Well tonight I figured out that the reason #4 cylinder isn't running is because of no spark. Like I said before, I know for a fact that when I replaced the plugs a few weeks ago, I had spark on all cylinders. I did not check compression yet but I am borrowing a gauge this weekend. This is what #4 plug looks like:



Now I'm wondering if this is in fact a super rich condition from that carb that fouled out the plug? The plug I removed looked just like this one.
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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2013, 06:20:23 pm »
I suppose you could go either way. If it were me, I would want it to run smooth stock first with no problems, once satisfied that it is running at it's best and it is able to, then I would play with aftermarket stuff.
 But that's just me, others might bump up 2 jet sizes during carb rebuild and play with needle heights with the new header on. You may want to only go up one jet size if you are in high altitude, I don't know, like I said once before I would ask a tuner like Lucky for advice on jet size first ,but be sure to give him all your information as to what you'll be running for exhaust , carbs, air cleaner and altitude.
 Just a simple compression check when you get a free moment may put your mind at ease and allow you to redirect your attention on other things....if nothing else you could take that off the list of possible problems if all goes well.
  Seen worse plugs than that before,but you should replace all of them after the carb clean.
When you say you found the reason for no spark...what was the reason, plug cap? or something else?
nasty carbs would still allow fire for the most part, have you put a new plug in it's place to see if there is spark ? just incase there is a different problem that should be addressed down the line to the points, just to cover your bases and remove another possibility from the list.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2013, 06:33:07 pm »
I see. Maybe getting this sorted with the stock exhaust is the right idea?

That plug (and the other 3) have only been in the motor for about 2 weeks now and, at most have been ridden maybe 10 miles around the neighborhood. The reason for the no spark was just that the plug was fouled out. I confirmed this with one of the better old plugs I removed.
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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2013, 08:40:10 pm »
Clean carbs is on the top of the list then. Getting a good idea of what the standard jets for your altitude is next, Sync ,and plugs. Bet your possible problems list will be pretty short after that. That's good news.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2013, 08:45:14 pm by rb550four »
A few Honda 500's, a few Honda 550's, a few Honda 650's, '72 cb 450, a couple 500/550/650 hybrids, and 2001 750. 
  550 Snowbike -Somebody had to do it.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2013, 08:03:50 pm »
I finished the master cylinder rebuild as well as the caliper rebuild and got them back on. New lines showed up today from Carpy. Just finished bleeding the system. Feels awesome. Next up...pulling the carbs.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2013, 08:10:45 pm »
OK so I pulled the carbs tonight and managed to get the #4 carb all apart. Here are some pictures of that one and now I've got a few questions.



Both of these broke off the 3 and 4 carbs. Please tell me I can still get this piece. If so...where?


The top. Does this look bad?


Float bowl removed.


I think this is the valve seat. I didn't realize this just sat in it's place and bent it. Does this come in the rebuild kit? I'm looking at the kit from Dime City Cycles?


And this is the bowl side with everything removed. Do the last 2 brass pieces come out or stay in there?


Lastly, another piece broke and the manual calls it the dust plate B. Can I get this part?

I've read a lot of different methods about how to clean these carb bodies. I've seen things about boiling them in water, boiling them in lemon juice, using Simple Green and letting them soak for days, simple carb cleaner and brushes and compressed air, etc. Based upon what you see in these pics, what method would you recommend? Thanks for any help. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit intimidated with this. 
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2013, 09:19:49 pm »
This is the carb rebuild kit I'm looking at.
http://www.dimecitycycles.com/vintage-cafe-racer-caferacer-bobber-brat-chopper-custom-motorcycle-carburetor-parts-honda-cb550-carburetor-rebuild-kit-18-2423.html

I found a few things about the rubber pieces maybe not being totally necessary. In my head I'm thinking about maybe trying to make something similar out of inner tubes (maybe doubled up) and then covered in duct tape to make them a little stronger. Someone told me that because of this dust shield being broken:


that I would now need to buy new carbs or at least another set to rebuild. I cannot believe this is true. That thing appears (at least to my ignorant self) to be a washer really that keeps both carbs functioning together. I was going to try to make this because I have way more time on my hands than anything else. Is this person full of it or am I really hosed?

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Online rb550four

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2013, 03:37:21 pm »
You know that you don't have to take apart everything ,right? The little rubber pieces can stay on the rail fully assembled unless they are not working and in desperate need of real  cleaning. You already know that those parts work properly on the carbs or the carbs would be like seized, and you would not be able to twist the throttle easily, or a slide would seem stuck....  The carb bodies is what desperately needs cleaning here.
I like a gallon of carb cleaner and a good soaking followed by allot of air pressure always come out clean and pretty.
The rebuild kit looks like any rebuild kit, The picture of fingers and a little bent piece of brass, that piece comes in the kit as does the seat for that piece,so remove that seat too. do not put it in upside down please
 On the top end of the carb , after you opened the cover there are 6mm/8mm?( Forgot which)  bolt  that can be removed and free the bodies , and will free your slides giving access to the needle, from the rail and all the other tiny fragile parts that can be cleaned with solvent and a brush sorry not more detailed right now , IO'm on the way out the door and wife is getting red in the face.....good luck  RB
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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2013, 07:01:34 pm »
Forgot to mention , once those little bolts are removed and you slide the body from the rail, beneath the spring and cover ,there is a little felt ring.....it's unobtainium , do not damage them, loose them, or get it anywheres near the cleaning solution. put them to the side or in a jar, someplace safe.
  The other thing that is don't let your floats sit in solution too long, if the pin area needs extra soaking try to localize it in a bottle cap or something just the brass that the brass hinge can soak in.
  air adjustment screws... be sure they and the spring is out before soaking.
I use crazy glue  setting the O ring around the bottom. 1/2 a dot at each corner, fit it equal tention all the way around
  Tried simple green , cooked carbs in a crock pot,on the stove (don't do that if you're married) and a side burner of the Bar-B- Q er. ( that is only a little better)but, get a big pot from a yard sale ... not what you'll be cooking out of. the results weren't fantastic, there is extra work involved to make them look good on the outside, they get dark and dingy looking. not fresh looking like the soak makes them.
 you should be convinced that they are perfect before assembly, if not do it again, can never be too clean.
Pay attention to your needle heights at disassembly put the new ones on at the same level.
  have fun.
A few Honda 500's, a few Honda 550's, a few Honda 650's, '72 cb 450, a couple 500/550/650 hybrids, and 2001 750. 
  550 Snowbike -Somebody had to do it.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2013, 07:24:24 pm »
I couldn't figure out how to get the carbs apart without removing those rubber pieces. Are they necessary or can I make do with something else? I read one thread where some talked about them not being necessary. Either way, I'l try to come up with something. Thanks for mentioning the felt washer. I had missed it. I will get a bucket and carb cleaner this weekend and start soaking the first carb. I'm going to rebuild it and then do 2 the next time so I still have an untouched one to look to if I need it.

Thanks for your help/advice. I appreciate it. This is the first time I've done anything like this but I'm having fun and I think it's going to be awesome when it's done. If that ever happens.
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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2013, 03:27:21 pm »
Those little bolts that I mentioned that will free the carb body from the rail.... in your first pic when you removed the entire system. those little nuts are on the top , they are the first things you see when you unscrewed the tops off. they are the ones  right next to those yellowish nylon washers, pay particular attention to the order of these things when they are removed. Do not soak the nylon washers either. you will have to fold back the metal stay to get the bolt to turn, only bend as much as you need to get a socket on it, all your mounting screws should already be removed from the engine side of the rail allowing you to manipulate the carbs from the rail , then sliding the carb away from the rod that was connected with that little bolt.
In the center of the outsides of the carbs there is a small spacer between #2 and 3 you will find it under the throttle return spring that should also be taken out manually before doing anything. save these in a safe place too.
  It's all fun and games one you get used to it, really so have fun , get frustrated ,take a break and get back to later.

The semi tricky part is putting the carbs on the rail, they all have to go in together then get screwed on the rail, you'll think you should have 3 hands to do it but, just take it easy and no forcing anything in, it will all fit back together without force and the most frustrating thing will be that little spacer between 2 and 3 when it falls out... so be sure it's back in position when you screw them all back together on the rail. Have needle nose pliers close for reinsertion of that spacer.  It's not that bad, really, you can do it. but mostly have fun with it , even if it seems challenging.
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Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2013, 06:56:09 pm »
Rebuild kits are on the way and today I bought some Berryman's Chem Dip. I soaked the one body in it for 30 minutes but there still seemed to be quite a bit of crusties in the bowl side of the carb. I am soaking them longer now. I know I should blow out the passages with compressed air but is there anything else?
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"You wouldn't think that out here...a man could simply run clear...out of country but oh my...oh my...nothing but the light." -Ben Nichols

Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2013, 08:19:15 pm »
I dipped this body for 2 hours and it appears much cleaner than before but I wanted to ask if the condition of the aluminum inside the bowl area was normal or ok to use?

« Last Edit: November 25, 2016, 10:49:41 am by riverfever »
http://forums.sohc4.net/index.php?topic=127186.0

"You wouldn't think that out here...a man could simply run clear...out of country but oh my...oh my...nothing but the light." -Ben Nichols

Offline riverfever

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2013, 07:05:22 pm »
Here's the latest.

Heres #4 cleaned up and ready to go back together.



This is what I came up with to replace those clapped out dust shields. Think this will work?



This is what I came up with to replace the washer type piece that goes on both of the vacuum adjusters for a pair of carbs.



Still don't really what the hell I'm doing but the idle jet for #4 carb was completely clogged. The o-ring on the main jet was almost gone. The idle jet for #3 was also clogged but not as much. The bowl in #3 was way worse than #4.



http://forums.sohc4.net/index.php?topic=127186.0

"You wouldn't think that out here...a man could simply run clear...out of country but oh my...oh my...nothing but the light." -Ben Nichols

Offline streak09

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Re: 1976 CB500/550 Project
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2013, 08:08:48 pm »

That carb looks like its got some pretty severe corrosion  :-\ . Hopefully someone else can chime in with some guidance on the other stuff. Looks like some good fab work to me though! 

 

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Honda