The fixing of objects and systems can be therapeutic, but only if the repair perform is the one that was needed. Spend a day “fixing” something just to have to take it apart again and you will understand the importance of good diagnostic skills. Some diagnostic skills come from experience, but with the proper approach just about anyone can be success in finding the problem they are having the first time. Here are my four tips to diagnosis your broken stuff.

Start with the obvious

Before you go straight to the toolbox to begin ripping parts off, slow down and look around. The crankshaft on my Honda XR250R was not able to make a full rotation, so I started with looking for anything obvious. Think a bulge in the case, oil level being low or speckled with metal particles. This first check should involve no tools at all other than your eyes.

Do what’s easy

Now the tools come out, but don’t get carried away right off the bat. Inspection covers are named the way they are for a reason, so use them. On automotive engines, easy items to pull like the valve covers and throttle body or carburetor can give you a good glimpse into the innards with minimal hardware removed. This is handy in two ways: You don’t have as much work to do just to look around, and there is less likelihood of breaking a bolt or otherwise going from bad to worse.

Look where you can, to see what you can’t

This sounds little funny, but the concept is simple. By understanding the systems you are inspecting you are able to look at the function of one parts and gain insight into the condition of another. In the case of this XR250, I suspected the cam chain had broken and was wedging against the crank as it rotated, however by looking at the rocker arms while rotating the crank I could see they were moving and thus the cam chain was intact.

Take a methodical approach

Think of how each system you are looking at works and how various breaks or failures in the system would affect function. One quick test or look can then tell you a lot of information if you approach the system with a strong understanding of how each part functions and interacts with the others.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis of this Honda was not good. One of the intake valves broke and wedged itself into the crown of the piston. No simple fix here. Saving the cylinder head will likely require some serious repair, and if it gets that repair you’ll probably see how it’s done on a later episode of Kyle’s Garage.

 

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Every project should contain a certain element of fun, but some are all about fun. That happens to be the case this week in the garage, as I tackled building up a mini-bike with my friend Kyle (a different Kyle). He travels to events at racetracks regularly and wanted a vehicle for riding around easily and quickly but without breaking the bank. We searched for bargain pit bike,s but the cash outlay for a Honda CRF50, Yamaha TTR90, or other centrifugal-clutch thumper just didn’t make sense to us. So we decided to build something to fit the bill.

That meant going old school and picking up a mini bike frame to build our own machine. He elected to buy a brand-new frame, but there are any number of used mini bikes for sale if that is more your speed. With no suspension, the large loop frame is a blank canvas for creating an extension of your personality. The actual assembly goes quickly, as the wheels just bolt right in along with the Kawasaki 3-hp engine we got from a friend, who found it on the side of the road.

The seat is where we chose to focus our energy and produce something custom. The base was trimmed from a scrap chunk of plywood, and then we shaped the foam to the profile we wanted with a serrated bread knife. The key to working with foam like this is to not compress the foam while cutting it. If you do, it will make for odd and jagged edges that will show through a thin material.

With the foam shaped, the time came to make a template. Upholstery work is one of those jobs in which even if you wanted to build by measurements, doing so is incredibly tough. We stretched a cheap cotton fabric over the foam and taped it in place, then marked where we wanted our seams to be and cut the template apart on those lines. Using chalk to transfer the pattern to the final material ensured no ink would damage the fabric.

Then, off to the sewing machine. It’s a skill that take a bit of practice, but the learning curve is both approachable and affordable. Used sewing machines pop up for sale online quite regularly, and just about any home machine can do at least some automotive upholstery projects. Trim work is also safe and chemical-free, so it can be a really fun project to do with the grandkids.

The end result is less than perfection, but it look pretty good. I’ll probably take another shot at it during the long Michigan winter that is starting to set in. No matter, it was only a few dollars in fabric and the challenge is perfect for a Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee. I can’t say that about all the projects on my winter to-do list and if you want to see what those projects might be, subscribe to the Hagerty YouTube channel to stay up to date with the latest Hagerty video projects.

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The Elation Freedom aims to be the first EV hypercar built in America, the Lamborghini Huracan STO is even more track-inspired than the Huracan Performante, and Mercedes earns another record title at the Green Hell with the AMG-GT Black Series. Plus, Throwback Thursday.

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The Subaru BRZ is all new with more power and tech, Mini introduces the Vision Urbanaut self-driving EV concept, and Honda drops the coupe model from the Civic lineup. Plus, You Paid What.

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The Jeep Wrangler welcomes back the V8, Audi-Bentley-Porsche to get a Landjet EV, and Honda brings back a Legend. Plus, Total Recall Tuesday.

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Ferrari unveils the 211MPH SF90 Spider, Callaway celebrates 25 years of racing with a 757HP C7, and Porsche shows off previously-unseen Safari concept from 2012. Plus, Did You Know Porsche made a 919 Street concept?

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This week has been a strange one for us residents of northern latitudes. The sun has burned bright all day, and the temperature has remained a positively balmy 75 degrees most days, all of which makes it easy to believe winter is never happening. But I’ve lived here in Northern Michigan long enough to know that winter comes sooner or later. Rather than stick my head in the sand, I am taking the time to move the Model A to storage while I can do it without the worry of coating the car in road salt while on the open trailer.

It’s the usual spring and fall dance with at least one of my cars. Load the trailer, drive to a friend’s barn, unload the car, run the engine up to temp, fogging oil, disconnect the battery, and tuck it away. While it was still in my garage I checked that the coolant was still good to below zero degrees, though the coupe likely not encounter temps that cold in its winter storage spot. Better safe than sorry.

The one thing I am neglecting this time around? Tires. These 40-year-old rubber bands are rock-hard and really not safe to be driving on currently, so I’ve already allocated budget for a fresh set of treads. Leaving this car sitting directly on the cold concrete is not something over which I am going to lose sleep. If I had a nice set of rubber on there, I would insulate them with some foam or carpet to prevent the concrete from pulling the oil and moisture out of the rubber.

With the Model A out, I have what could be considered “bonus space.” to work on other projects. The temporary herd thinning lets me narrow my focus a bit, and that means it is time to start chipping away at the Corvair again. The header fitment is one item that is best taken care of before the floor is a freezing cold area, so that is where I started. The exhaust on this car has been two different styles, and now I am switching to a third.

The IECO headers I am installing were ceramic coated by West Michigan Cerakote and are ready to install. The only problem is that I have never run them before, and thus need to fabricate the rest of the system. This is just a test fit to get an idea of what the bends will look like or if the piping will even work at all. Luckily, the confines under the car look to be space that will fit what I have planned in my head. To see what that looks like, you’ll have to tune in to a future episode of Kyle’s Garage. Be sure to subscribe to Hagerty’s YouTube channel and then go forth and work on your projects.

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Audi’s RS 6 GTO concept is a 600HP tribute, the iX is BMW’s EV future, and someone built a Ford Ranger Raptor out of wood. Plus, Throwback Thursday.

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The Mercedes AMG GT 63 S 4-Matic beats the Porsche Panamera Turbo’s Nurburgring record, Rezvani shows off its 1,300HP 6-wheeled Jeep Gladiator, and Ford Mustang signed by Richard Petty heads to the MECUM Auction. Plus, You Paid What?

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A European market BMW M3 goes on sale in the U.S., Gordon Murray Automotive shows off its lightweight carbon tub, and Subaru announces they won’t sell the 2022 BRZ in Europe. Plus, Total Recall Tuesday.

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