Under Pressure

I’m still super busy, but I was able to steal a few minutes to check in on Betty today. I went out and bought a compression tester to test the compression in the cylinder. The way it works is you screw one end of a hose in to where the spark plug goes, and the other end has the gauge (is it “gauge” or “gage”? Cause I feel like I’ve seen it both ways). Then you kick the kickstarter a few times and ta-da, your pressure reading. I was actually pretty surprised to get a reading of over 95 psi! I looked up what it should be and found on a forum that it probably should be around 120-150 psi, but I’m actually not too upset about the 95+ reading. It likely means I need new piston rings (not surprising considering the ones in there are probably little rings of dust at this point), but I don’t really want to go exploring in the cylinder until I’ve got everything else sorted out. I figure at 90 psi I probably won’t be entering any drag races, but I can at least get the engine started with that and then I can go fine-tune.IMG_5056

I also decided to take the cover off the flywheel because I read somewhere to check if the flywheel is demagnetized. I got the cover off and with it came a lot of sand, but when I got to the rotor/fan part, I was at a loss of how to get under there because it’s riveted on. I’ll have to look into it, but for now I just took out all the sand and put the cover back on; A task for another day.

Finally, I decided to try to take the wheels off. They’ll have to be replaced at some point and it’ll make it easier to move Betty around, plus that’ll be an easy task that I can surely complete! Right? Wrong. Holy moly those bolts are stuck on there. I used WD-40 and got one bolt to move, but the rest really didn’t want to budge. Decided to wait until the muscle got home (aka husband) to see if he could help. Kind of a bummer to have to walk away from a seemingly easy task, but I’ve got other stuff to do and don’t want to waste time yanking on a bunch of bolts when Brendan can probably do it in a quarter of the time.

So in the end, not a very exciting update, but c’est la vie. Finals start next week and I’ve got a group project due tomorrow so it was nice just to spend a few minutes with Betty anyway. Testing the compression was also kind of exciting and a bit relieving to find something in there that remotely resembles a functioning machine. Still working on how to get a spark. I got the suggestion to change the wires, which is a good idea, but I’m not sure how to do that…I’ll let you know when I figure it out.


Quick Update 1

Just in case anyone has been checking in on this blog and noticed there hasn’t been much activity and wondering if I’ve given up yet…the answer is no, life is just getting in the way. I’m about 3 weeks away from finals, and since I’m taking 15 credits in mechanical engineering, I’m a bit busy. But fear not, Betty is still always on my mind and I’m hoping to make some progress soon. I did finally make Brendan take care of the spiders, his weapon of choice was the vacuum cleaner. Thanks, Brendan!IMG_4863

Square One and a Half

I have progress to report! It may not seem like a lot, but at least I feel like I have a little bit of an idea of what’s going on, and to me that’s a lot.

For starters, I made my first mistake. Betty is not a Vespa Sprint Veloce…Betty is a Vespa 90. You know how I know that? She has a tag on the back that says “Vespa 90” that’s been there the whole time. So yeah, I’m an idiot, but hey I know that’s a model now! And that’s what I own!


So now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to the actual progress. First, I got my Haynes manual in the mail. Very shiny and tangible and exciting. Next, I stopped by Vespa Motorsport here in San Diego to chat with someone who knows a thing or two about Vespas and possibly buy the whole store out. These guys (I’d love to be able to say “and girls” but I didn’t see one girl in there) are the real deal. I’m so lucky this shop is in San Diego because I think they’re known nationally and they are 15 minutes from my house. Super cool space, I wish I could just move in for a few months. Kevin was the unlucky fellow who happened to be at the counter when I walked in because I asked him a million questions when I’m sure he had a million and one other things he could be doing instead. He was super nice and supportive in my endeavor and got me on the right track. (You have not seen the last of me, Kevin). I walked out of there with a spark tester, a spark plug wrench, a spare parts book, and a whole-lotta questions. “What is a spark tester?” “Why do I even need it?” “What am I doing with my life?” Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to figure it out.

So even with these tangible things I was still scratching my head about what to do next. I finally settled on walking myself through the spare parts book and marking off what I saw and circling what I noticed was missing. That sounds a lot easier than it is. For starters, most of the parts in there are tiny bolts and nuts and washers that are either there or aren’t, but don’t really matter for my purposes right now. Secondly, it is very empty and dark inside of Betty except for the spiders that live in there (and if you know me, you know how I feel about that…). So I did what I could and at least got some idea of what I was working with (or without).

After that I looked up videos of how to use a spark tester. I never actually found a video of what I was looking for, but instead stumbled on a goldmine. This guy restores all kinds of stuff and takes videos of it and guess what his most recent purchase is…A Vespa!!! Jackpot. He bought it after it was living in a barn for 30 years and used as a parts scooter and he’s going to try to make it run. He’s only three videos in (spoiler alert, it can run) and mentioned if it gets too expensive then he will stop (noooo, please don’t!), but for now his first few videos are just what I need to get started. If you’re curious, here is his channel: Restoration Youtube Channel

So in general he starts by kicking the kick-starter a few times to check the compression (you can actually get something to quantitatively check this, which I likely will in the future, but eyeballing it is a start I guess) and then moves on to checking if he can get a spark. In his case he actually had to change out something behind the flywheel before all this, but I skipped this step since I’m running on the assumption that mine is in working order. So with my newfound sense of purpose, I went to Betty and pressed the kick starter a few times and got a similar resistance and sound that he did and felt like that probably was a good thing so decided to move on to check for a spark. I read the directions for the tester and felt pretty sure that I set it up all right and…………………no spark. Dang. But that’s alright, it just means I know what I need to focus in on. So for now my next goal is to get a spark. There are lots of reasons why I may not be getting one, and the first thing I’m going to check is to make sure I did the actual test right, because at this rate, it’s very likely that this is user error…ha.

So in the past few days, I feel like I’m starting to wrap my head around all of this and at least have my wits about me a bit. I have a goal in mind and some manuals in hand and videos on Youtube to help me get there. In the process, I also got to remove a spark plug and inspect it, which is small but something that I’ve never done before so that’s cool, I guess. Looks like this one either had a rich mixture or the wrong heating value and I actually do know what those things mean because I took a class about engines last semester! Hurray!

So instead of being at Square One now, I’m at about Square One and a Half. But it feels big! And most importantly I have a goal which will keep me moving forward.

It feels like I’m moving slowly but I do have to remind myself that I bought Betty just over a week ago and already I feel like I’ve learned a some things, which is the whole point. Next task: Have Brendan get the spiders out of Betty. 🙂

Baby Steps

Today I removed my first bolt from the scooter! It feels like a big step, but before I get too excited, let me back up.

So far the biggest hurdle to overcome with this project is where to begin. For starters, I’ve named the scooter “Betty”. I’m not one for naming my vehicles, but she seemed like she needed a name and I prefer calling her Betty instead of referring to her as “the scooter”. We’ll see how it goes.

Secondly, I’ve been doing some researching, reading, and prepping. I ordered a manual and a restoration guide that are coming in the next few weeks, which I’m hoping will really get me started. I also read through an owners manual that I found online. Most importantly, though, I saw this video and felt inspired all over again: Full Restoration of 1964 Vespa

They start by completely gutting the thing so I figured that’s what I should do first. First I took a trip to Walmart and got some bins, gloves, cloths, soap, etc. for cleaning and organizing. Then I started pulling off whatever I could. I took off the seat, then the fuel tank, and then a plastic bin that I’m not even sure what it’s for, but it’s so old that the plastic was breaking apart as I touched it. Hurray, three things! Then I looked at it and realized, now what? I took off three very removable pieces; they’re meant to come off. I started pulling and twisting and tugging on a few things here and there, but nothing really wanted to budge and I really wasn’t even sure what to focus on. I ended up throwing in the towel when my husband invited me to meet him and friends for tacos.

So in the grand scheme of things, I really haven’t done much. But the important thing here is that I did something because I think getting started is the hardest part. I’ve done some prep work, I have some books coming in the mail, and most importantly, I now know some of the hurdles I will have to overcome. Things like, “How in the world am I supposed to get to that bolt?” or “What am I going to rest Betty on when I take her wheels off?”. I think scratching your head is an important part of the process, and so far I’ve been doing a lot of that. So for now I will wait for my manual and guide, continue watching Youtube videos, and keep scratching my head until I get somewhere, because not being sure of where to go next is not an excuse for not moving forward.


Vespa Project Day 1: I Know Nothing

I bought a scooter today. The Vespa-kind, not the Razor-kind. And the vintage-kind, not the running-kind. It’s a 1974 Vespa Sprint Veloce, all original parts (or at least the parts that are there), and I bought it off Craigstlist from a guy who bought it in 1990 and never got around to restoring it himself. My husband was kind enough to join me on the 2.5 hour drive (each way) out to the desert in a rented pickup to get it. Now it’s sitting in my garage and I’m torn between, “Hurray I’m so excited!” to “Oh God, what have I done?”.

I’ll cut to the chase – I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure I know where the engine is and where I’m supposed to sit, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I’ve never even been on a scooter. I’m about to finish my first full year in school for Mechanical Engineering. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Physics already, but so far I’ve found that Mech. Eng. is my true calling. I love the classes and the people and the applications. Mechanical Engineering is what I should have studied all along. So as I look into wrapping up my first full year, I think I’ve learned the most valuable lesson of all: I know absolutely nothing.

I’m doing well in my classes and I enjoy learning the content and even taking the tests, but I’ve realized what I really need is to get my hands dirty, literally. So I’m starting a project. I see the cost as an investment in my education since I plan on doing a lot of learning through the process. What I like about this project is that I have all the time in the world to finish it and I only have myself to answer to. When (notice I say “when”, not “if”) I make a mistake, I don’t have to apologize to anyone; instead I can say, “well hey, at least I learned something and that was the point” and then move on with my life. I guess I may have to answer to my husband at some point when he gets sick of me taking up space in the garage, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

This would usually be the time when I would mention that I’m nervous and excited to work on this myself since there are not many female mechanics, but this time I think I’m going to skip it. I don’t think it’s worth talking about because I don’t think my gender has any bearing on my ability to do this project. Instead I’m just someone who is brand new at it, but curious and motivated and most of all, excited to learn. I’ve seen all these videos and posts of people who are like, “I didn’t know a thing and I watched Youtube videos and built my own house!” and I thought to myself, “well hey, if they can do it what’s stopping me?”.

So there it is: I bought a Vespa that I’m going to try to restore myself and I know nothing, but I think that’s okay. I anticipate a lot of failure along the way, but sometimes failure is our greatest teacher. My hope is that I will be diligent enough to use this blog to record my progress and maybe others can learn from my work. For now I have to figure out where to even begin…I’m thinking new tires so I can actually move her around without the help of my husband and a skateboard…I’ll keep you posted!

*Special thanks to Jim who sold me the Vespa even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to let her go, and my husband, Brendan, who has been incredibly supportive but just enough so that he’s not actually all that interested in helping me with the project, just enough that he’ll help me do individual tasks and use the garage :).