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    Royal Enfield maintenance made simple

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    The single most common maintenance chore unique to the Royal Enfield motorcycle is adjusting the valves. Not for nothing do they make t-shirts joking that "Loud Valves Save Lives." The clatter of valves isn't really loud enough to warn the world you're coming (as loud pipes famously do). There is nothing good about loose valves. Valves that are too loose, or too tight, can be damaged.

    Setting them is a chore that is often described. The more it is described, the more daunting it can seem. Let's make it as simple as it can possibly be. First:

    1. If the valves clatter more than seems reasonable, they are too loose. If you try to start the motorcycle cold and discover that the kicker just goes down without encountering very hard compression, they may be too tight.

    2. Set the piston at Top Dead Center just as you do to start the motorcycle. Watching for the instant the amp meter flicks back to center is a good way to do this (remember, the kill switch has to be "on" for the amp meter to work).

    3. Open the tappet cover and remove the spindle that holds it. That will give you more room to swing wrenches. Try rotating each push rod with your thumb. You should be able to just make them turn. When cold, it is OK for the exhaust valve (it's on the right) to be slightly easier to spin.

    4. Once you determine which three wrenches you'll be using, file down their outside edges so they get into the tight space more easily. The filed ends will also mark which end of the wrench to use as you set them down and pick them up repeatedly.

    5. Back off the lock nut on the valve you want to adjust. You have to hold the top adjustment nut while you do this (as illustrated above). Now, here is the BIG CLUE NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU: to loosen the valve, turn the bottom adjustment nut counter-clockwise as viewed from above (naturally you have to continue holding the top adjustment nut stationary). To tighten the valve, turn the bottom adjustment nut clockwise. Simple. When satisfied, tighten the lock nut.

    6. Start the motorcycle and go for a test ride if you can. More than once I've found that I've made things worse and need to adjust again. This is a matter of error and trial. Don't set the valves the night before and wait to test them until your mates arrive for the big ride the next morning!

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