General reader, look away now: technical diatribe follows.
Back in November, I posted about fitting a Scottoiler to the Bonneville. I ended with
I shall check the state of the chain and the amount of oil flung onto the number plate and rear wheel for the next few days of riding, to make sure the delivery is enough but not excessive.Of course, this remark coincided with the start of one of the coldest spells I can remember, and I hardly used the bike for the next few weeks. Ice is one of the few things that will put me back on four wheels - I don't bounce as well as I used to. So I never checked the installation properly and adjusted the flow rate. When I came to do so, I found that the oiler was not delivering oil at all. Not a drop. There's a fair amount of oil dripping about after you have done the installation, and I had mistaken this for 'almost right' and thought no more about it.
The other day, I took it off to see if I could find the problem and, if I could sort it out, to mount it on the XT, which is what I should have done in the first place with winter approaching.
The Scottoiler principle is very simple: a cylinder full of oil, a valve that is actuated by engine vacuum, and a tube and nozzle to deliver the oil to the chain. The cylinder (hereinafter referred to by its proper title, the Reservoir Metering Valve, or RMV) is a rather sophisticated device, however, as we shall see. I disconnected the delivery tube from the RMV and the oil drained out of the tube, so that ruled out any blockages on the way to the chain. I took the RMV off the bike and disconnected the vacuum pipe. By sucking on the vacuum pipe I could activate the valve (you can see it popping up and down and hear the click) but nothing would come out. Hah. Faulty or blocked RMV.
At this point I phoned the lads in Milngavie for advice. I spoke to Mark, and described what I had done. He suspected that the filter (in the bottom of the RMV, didn't know about that) was blocked, and advised flooding the RMV with a solvent like WD-40 to clear any contamination. Failing that, he said, you can try dismantling it, but very few people get it back together successfully. (He was right.)
I did as instructed, drained the oil out (surprisingly difficult) and half-filled the RMV with WD-40. A lot of sloshing about (for which my early training on the maracas came in very handy) and WD-40 started to appear from the nozzle at the bottom, but only a drop or two. In the end, I felt I was 'getting nowhere', and took the top off the RMV.
Here's the difficulty: the RMV is moulded plastic and not designed to be dismantled. Taking the top off involved prying with a thin screwdriver and a lot of swearing, and inevitably damaged the little pips and plastic flanges that hold it all together. However, it came apart and I found the filter. Taking the filter out meant destroying the plastic bit that held it, but by now I didn't care. The filter is a little cylinder of porous plastic, and it seemed to be fine. But I put it all back together without the filter, and - SHAZZAM - it worked. Half-filled with oil and with a good suck on the vacuum tube, and a steady drip-drip of oil came out of the nozzle. Then it started to rain and it got dark, so I retreated to the house.
Yesterday I fitted it to the XT. I had enough bits left over in my 'Scottoiler Box' to get it on there without purchasing anything extra (they give you enough in the kit to mount the device to almost any bike in the known universe, so there are a lot of redundant parts in the box). I filled it with oil and gave the vacuum pipe a suck to do one final check that it was working and - nothing. Try as I might, I could not get the valve to actuate. I was sucking fresh air and could not get a vacuum in the tube. Something I had done (a bit of rough handling, perhaps) between taking it out of the box and getting it mounted had shifted something inside, and the valve no longer worked. I fitted the vacuum tube to the carb stub and started the engine. The valve at the top was fluttering up and down, showing that the intake vacuum was getting to the RMV, but not enough to open the valve. A final check by lifting the valve with a thin screwdriver showed that it was working fine otherwise, but I can't see myself riding along holding a screwdriver down below my left leg for long.
I took the top off (rather more easily now!) and tried to re-seat it, but it didn't improve things, so I admitted defeat. I called Mark again, and we agreed that it was probably dead.
Some good news, however: for existing customers, Scottoil will supply a new RMV at a greatly reduced price, post free and guaranteed for two years. So I decided to bit the bullet and get a new one. In fact, I persuaded Mark that I ought to have two. After all, I have all the kit already installed on the Bonnie, and an extra RMV will mean that I have one on each bike for no extra effort. In effect, for less than the price of a new Scottoiler kit from a shop, I will have two working oilers, one for each bike.
This wasn't the wonderful freebie that it looked when I first got it*, but in the end I will have the result I wanted - fully automatic chain lubrication for both bikes. In a place as wet as Wales, and without a centre stand between them, that's highly desirable.
I have to say that I am very pleased with the support offered by Scottoiler. There's a phone number on the website, and it takes you straight through to the people who know the product, and who seem genuinely to want to help.
Scottoiler join Orange in my list of Companies Whose Customer Service Treats You Like A Human Being.
* Richard's First Law of Anything: if a thing looks too good to be true, it probably is**.
** Richard's Corollary to the First Law: There Is Always A Catch.