Cleaning Pt. 1

Did some initial “gunk scraping” (that’s the technical term) today and it was very satisfying.



AAAaaaaahhhh. So good. Still more cleaning to do, but man that was satisfying. For those curious, I used a flat head screwdriver and a plastic paint scraper to scrape the gunk away. Still looking for recommendations on cleaning solutions to use to get the last layer off. Once I clean off the rest of the cobwebs (literally) then the real work can be done.

Finally, a Milestone.

Oh happy days, the engine is out! I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it took a lot of wrestling to get this engine out and I feel like my life is about to get a lot easier after having made this decision. I figured out how to get the brake and clutch cables out, but the brake cable was so frayed and gunked up and I decided to clip the end of it. I looked it up online and the cables seem pretty cheap and available so hopefully I won’t regret that decision later. Now I have my work cut out ahead of me…lots of cleaning. Suggestions on what tools/solutions to use are highly appreciated.


From Crawling to Walking

MAJOR progress today, guys. I’m about 98% ready to remove the engine from the frame. I’ll get to that 2% in a minute, but first let me tell you about the 98% part.

First of all, huge shout out to my husband for being so helpful today, and to Randy, my father’s mechanic and friend up in San Francisco, who is so kind and knowledgeable and let me call him this evening to talk through my problems. Only my scooter problems, though, not all the other problems I have ;). THANK YOU!!!

Okay, so my major accomplishment today was getting the carburetor out. I literally took every screw out of it trying to figure out how to remove it from the intake tube (which apparently I shouldn’t have done…Oh well…) and I STILL couldn’t figure out how to remove it. After some online research, light pulling and tugging, and maybe a little pleading with some higher powers, I decided to email Randy. He had offered his help a while ago and I figured I would use one of my lifelines and take him up on that offer. He emailed back almost immediately and told me we could talk on the phone if I prefer, which I also took him up on. Basically he told me that he wasn’t really sure how the carb was being held on to the intake tube, but based on pictures and descriptions, he thinks it might be a rubber sleeve. He gave me permission to put a little WD-40 on it, and just pull and twist until it came off. I said, “say no more” and got in there and gave it a good tug and, “POP”, it’s off. Hallelujah. I proudly walked into the house with carburetor in hand to show Brendan.

There it is in all of its dusty glory. I have some serious cleaning to do in my future.

Another very satisfying task that happened today was removing the biggest bolt I’ve ever seen that holds the engine on the frame (Brendan helped me out with this one). I know they make bigger bolts out there, but this is the biggest one I’ve seen and I felt very excited about it. I took about 100 excited selfies with it and then deleted pretty much all of them. Here’s one for you to enjoy, as well as the bolt in my hand:

Lastly, I undid the junction box and it was much less intimidating than I originally thought it was. For those who also didn’t know what it was, the screw just holds together the wires and the wires have little metal loops at the end that the screw goes in to in order to make the wires meet. I took pictures of it to record which wire goes where when it’s time to put it back together:


For some reason there are also lots of dead spiders in there. I’m not sure why spiders would go in a tiny dark closed box, but I try not to spend a lot of time thinking about spiders so I’ll leave that question for someone else. I don’t need the answer.

Okay now we get to the reason why I’m not showing you a picture of the engine detached yet. It’s not a good reason, I just got too excited and didn’t think everything through. Oh well, made another mistake. I thought I had removed everything and unhooked all the cables, but turns out I hadn’t unhooked all the cables. We found that out in a very dramatic fashion when Brendan was trying to help me lift the frame while I held the engine then I realized what had happened. Also hadn’t thought through the kickstand coming undone and the scooter falling over. High drama. Everyone is fine, though. The engine is now resting on Brendan’s car jack because he doesn’t have to drive anytime soon.


So now I have to figure out how to get these cables out. They are VERY stuck and I’m considering clipping them since I will likely be replacing them anyway. I’m dealing with the brakes and clutch. If you think clipping these would be a very bad idea, please let me know ASAP because it is extremely tempting.

It feels good to be making real progress! With everything that I do I feel like I’m moving in the right direction and it becomes more clear what I need to do next. I’m starting to feel like I can really get this thing running! Thanks to everyone who has given advice and support!

Mistakes Encouraged

Today was a great day with Betty. Today I really feel like I decided to let myself fail a little. When I started this project, I was hoping to learn about machines. Now that I’m doing this project, I think it’s about learning so much more than that. For me it’s about learning to try something even if you’re not sure where it’s going to go, and to take risks with the option of failing. It’s a lesson I desperately need, and today was the first day I allowed myself to try that… “Okay, Kaitlin, enough with the mushy stuff, let’s get to the mechanics!”:

So if you’ve been keeping up, right now I’m trying to remove the engine from the frame. At this point I think there are 4 connection points that I need to address: 2 of them being symmetrical and the “easiest” (I put that in quotes because nothing is easy with Betty) and those will likely be the last to come off, 1 of them being at the rear shock, and 1 of them being a mystery object that I will get to later.

First up is the rear shock. The bolt seemed easy enough and after some WD-40 and a little elbow grease, I got it off! I had even asked Brendan to come get it for me because it was really stuck, but he was taking too long so I ended up getting it myself! Felt good, man. When I pulled the bolt out, the engine did a really satisfying drop, which means I’m correct that this was one of my connection points (not a surprise, but satisfying nonetheless). Since I’m working on this myself, I’m not sure what is the best thing to put under the engine since it’s bound to fall when I remove the last connection point. I ended up shoving a bunch of towels under the engine so that it could have a little support now that it’s not longer connected to the shock, and so that hopefully it would just sink in when it falls. I’m open to other suggestions, but keep in mind that I am lazy and would prefer something I already have in my house.

After the bolt was removed:


Next up was this mystery item. There is no mystery that it is the piece that feeds fuel into the engine. It’s where the fuel line and choke connect to, and some other pieces that were once there and are now not. It is inside the frame under the fuel tank. My first guess was the carburetor, but I don’t think that’s it (especially because I don’t think I have a carburetor). See below (the black line is the fuel line and the short cable in the middle is the choke. The engine is in the top portion of the picture, for reference):

The problem is, I’m not sure how to properly remove this thing. I asked Brendan’s opinion and he wasn’t sure, so I turned to Youtube hoping for answers. There are so many wonderful videos on Youtube and I’m sure there was one that would have helped me, but I didn’t really find it in my initial search. The closest thing I found was someone with a vintage small frame Vespa like Betty, but the video was spoken in German with no subtitles and he was going too fast and it was too dark so not really helpful. I’d love to learn German, but right now I’ve got too many hobbies going on so it’ll have to wait.

I went back to Betty to have a look myself and see if anything changed and decided, “you know what? Fuck it. I bought this thing to learn on, and learn I will”, so I just started taking screws out. These screws were gloriously easy to turn as they are inside the frame and are a lot less weathered. There was also an assortment of them and I took out a few that I had never seen before, which is great. It’s great because that’s the point of all this! I can read about screws in a textbook (reading about screws in textbooks is very boring, believe it or not) and hear people talk about them, but until I really pull one out and/or put it back in, I’m not really going to know what it’s like. So now I know.

This is also really exciting because I allowed myself to make a mistake. With every step of this project I’ve been so worried I’m going to do something wrong. I feel like I’ll make an irreversible mistake and I’ll……I’ll what? What will happen? I’ll have learned something. I’ll have to go back and fix it. I’ll make a mistake. Big deal. The only irreversible mistakes are those that have to do with living beings and while Betty may have a name, she is not a living being. So I’m allowed to make mistakes with her. And I’m supposed to. That’s the point. If I take a bunch of screws out and can’t remember where they go, I’ll just have to figure it out. I took on this project by myself specifically for this reason – so that I could make mistakes and fix them and learn. “Kaitlin, enough with the touchy-feely stuff again, show us the scooter!”. Fine, fine.

Okay, here are the goods I took out:

The spring and black piece (bottom right picture) I didn’t mean to take out but obviously it was spring loaded so…I didn’t have much of a choice. Didn’t even get a chance to look at it first. The two screws I’m holding were both kind of unique and I had never seen them before, which was exciting. I’m especially interested in why the second one is gold and why it has a hole at the bottom. After the spring loaded thing opened, here is what was underneath:


The extended rods face away from the engine, for reference. I’m still not sure how to remove this so that I can remove the engine, but my internship requires me to be in the office at 6 am so bedtime is kind of a priority these days, therefore that question will have to be answered at a later date. Suggestions obviously welcome.

If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me; Through this super long post and also just my molasses-like progress in general. It feels great to learn and writing these posts help me document my learning and organize my thoughts. I appreciate those who follow along and are rooting for me. Hope to be back with more progress soon!

Back At It

I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting Betty. I’m sorry. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But today I had some free time and decided to sit with her for a bit and actually left feeling pretty positive! Some highlights:

I opened [what I think is] the junction box. I’m kind of intimidated by wiring stuff (hence studying mechanical engineering, not electrical), so I’m hoping this piece can be replaced as a whole. If not then I will just have to figure it out.

I also decided to take the engine out of the frame to work on it. I know right now my goal is to get a spark, and that still is my goal, but I’m finding I have to complete sub-goals before I can reach that one. This model of Vespa (the Vespa 90) has to be one of the worst models to work on. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was designed by an intern and then after making like 10 of them they decided to put everyone out of their misery and redesign it. Basically it’s very difficult to access parts of the scooter while it’s together so taking the engine out will allow me to work on what I want to work on, and clean and replace other parts that I was trying to avoid. I also think it’s a very doable task — famous last words, right?

Today I got the kickstarter off, the bolt on the exhaust that mounts it to the frame (actually Brendan had to help me with this one), and WD-40’d (that’s definitely a verb) some of the bolts that I know I will have to take off. I’m feeling pretty positive about what I have to do so hopefully that will be a motivator to visit Betty more frequently. Also I feel like I will really learn the ins and outs of a scooter while I do this, which was the whole point. Now putting this all back together so that it works again…? No promises.


Lastly, I’ve been working on getting over my fear of the spiders who reside in Betty. I feel really proud of myself for really getting in there today and I’m such a dork that I made Brendan take a picture of me doing just that. He didn’t even make fun of me at all, what a guy. (Ps. Happy 1 year anniversary to us yesterday)


Anyway, hopefully I will have a detached engine to share with you soon. Don’t hold your breath though, I’m a busy girl!


It’s the little things

This won’t mean much to anyone else, but it means a lot to me – I got the oil to drain! And I got a part [partially] off that I need to replace! Neither are very big feats, but remember that I’m keeping the dreams small these days.

I’m going out of town this weekend (Conn reunion!) and was feeling majorly bummed to have to leave Betty on such a low note. So I went in the garage and just looked at her, and then figured I might as well try to remove the oil plug. Yesterday I couldn’t find a wrench that fit so today I grabbed a pair of pliers and whaddya know, it moves! And there’s oil in there! Just to have some tiny reminder that this could potentially be a functioning machine was such a relief. The bolt is marked “olio”. Cute.

Next I noticed that there were two screws holding on this piece where some wires go that I want to replace, so after some maneuvering to remove them (there’s a nut wedged in a small space on the back and I only have 2 hands!), I got the piece off! The wire is still attached on the other side and I’m not sure how to remove that yet, but for now I’ll bask in the small amount of glory that this gave me.


Lastly, I thought maybe I’d be able to get that cylinder cover off too. I  was on a roll and thought, maybe this is my day. But the Vespa gods reminded me that greed is a sin and that I would not be getting that cover off today. You win this time, Vespa gods. I was able to twist it around a lot and get a feel for how it’s in there. Here’s an image from the top of how much it will twist, even though it won’t come out:


So overall not the most exciting things to get done, but to me they felt like great victories. Obviously a Vespa veteran would have gotten this done months ago, but I’m not a veteran and that’s okay. For starters, today was a reminder never to give up, but it’s okay to step away and come back. Also, I’ve never drained the oil out of a vehicle before, so that was actually a little exciting. Now I guess I have to go dispose of that properly…

Thanks for all the encouragement and sticking with me, folks. Will be back next week after I relive my college days at my reunion this weekend.

Zero Steps Forward, Zero Steps Back

I made another mistake today: I thought ahead. I looked at all the pieces that need to be replaced and all the holes where pieces are missing and felt really discouraged. I started feeling like, is this even possible? Did I bite off more than I can chew? Honestly, I think the answer is maybe I did, but I think the biggest lesson that Betty is teaching me is how to stick with something, even when it’s tough.

So let me back up. One good thing did happen today. I tried to get the last screw out of the cylinder cover and it’s really difficult to access with a standard sized screwdriver (again, stupid design) so I called Brendan in to help me or at least so I could complain to someone. He got in there and played with it and was able to release it, hurray! He’s the best. But of course with every potential step forward with this project, there is always a roadblock. I go to pull the cover off and I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get it off! Brendan was twisting and pulling at it too and we can’t figure out how to maneuver it out from underneath the lip that goes over the engine. (In the picture below you can see the cover lifted up, but it won’t come out). It almost seems like it’s not supposed to come out of there and instead it’s just supposed to twist out of the way? But that still makes it really difficult to access the cylinder head, which is ultimately what I’m trying to get at so I can replace a gasket. Very frustrating/discouraging. Eventually I just decided to walk away because no good work ever gets done when you’re feeling defeated (plus I was really hungry and no good work gets done when you’re hungry either).

So I guess the next step is to figure out how to get the cylinder head off. Also I plan on ordering a gasket (with the hopes that I will be able to replace it one day) and a flywheel holder tool so that I can remove the flywheel and decide if I need to replace the magneto under it.

And that’s it. I think I need to remember to take one step at a time and don’t look up from the task I’m working on. Overall this is a massive project that is giving me a problem every tiny step of the way, but if I can keep my head down and do one thing at a time, maybe I can get somewhere. Or maybe not. But the point of all this was to learn a few things and I am definitely learning. Most importantly I’m learning not to give up and how to approach a large, daunting problem without getting overwhelmed. I’ve been having these grand dreams of riding Betty around town and maybe instead I need to start dreaming about the smaller tasks, like replacing a gasket or just getting a spark.

Words of encouragement are appreciated, or even a reality check if needed (eg. “Kaitlin this is not gonna happen, it’s probably best you give up now”). Anyway, hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to report back soon. Ps. We were watching this dog, Keara, this weekend who is awesome and was hanging out with me today. She makes for a great shop dog.


Sometimes You Just Need a Little Teamwork

Shout out to the husband aka Spider-Killer aka Brendan! I’ve been casually asking him to get the wheels off Betty for a while because they’re very stuck and he is much stronger than me, and today I saw my window and was like, “can you take the wheels off NOW?”. Sometimes you have to stop being vague to get what you want. So we worked together to get the wheels off and were met with great success! FINALLY!! I sat on Betty to keep the wheel from spinning and Brendan acted as the muscle. IMG_5862IMG_5864IMG_5865

(Ps. Shout out to The San Diego Lions, the Australian Football Team Brendan plays with! Great group of people and apparently lots of fun, but I wouldn’t know because I refuse to go to the “co-ed kicks” because I am not sporty. At all. Their Facebook page, if you’re interested.)

So with the wheels off came finally a feeling of accomplishment, however small it may be. Also, I found out that I was right that there is another bolt holding on that cover over the cylinder, which you can only access with the back wheel off. So basically you have to take the wheel off to work on the engine. Cause that totally makes sense? Imagine if that were the case with your car… Anyway, here are the goodies that were revealed with the back wheel gone:


Obviously much work to do in there, but I will keep chugging along however slowly and continue to learn each step of the way. For now I have other obligations this evening so more work will have to wait, but feeling optimistic that I got one more baby step there! Thanks again to the hubs! Always nice to feel supported by your significant other, he’s the best. 🙂

Sending out an S.O.S.

With my schedule a little more freed up this summer, I’ve been looking forward to jumping back into the project. After having to take a bit of a hiatus to finish up my semester, I’ve been looking forward to making some real progress. Hey, maybe I’ll even be riding Betty to school next semester. So yesterday I sat down with her and reevaluated what needed to get done. After some twisting and pulling and scratching my head, I realized I’m stuck. Maybe this is why it felt pretty easy to take a break. So I’m asking for help. Basically there are 3 tasks that I would like to try to get done, and I have questions on each. I’ll break up the tasks into separate sections and attach photos of each. If anyone out there is reading this who knows how to help, please leave a comment below. Sending out an S.O.S to the internet – Please help!


  1. Replace wiring

If you’ve been following my very slow progress, I mentioned that my first step is I’d like to try to get a spark. Someone suggested I replace the wiring, which sounds good, but I’m really not sure how to do that. In this picture, you can see the wires that I want to replace, with the cap that goes on the spark plug on the right end:



The problem is where the connection points are on either end. How do I remove the existing wires and how do I put in new ones? It doesn’t help that it’s extremely difficult to get to these points. I tried to take pictures but it’s a little hard to see what you’re looking at:

In the top picture, the place where the wire connects is on the bottom left of the picture. This is the left side of the wire (opposite the end where the spark plug is). There is a cap on it that slides off. In the bottom left picture, this is a side view of the same thing from the top picture. I considered taking the whole piece off, but those small circles are either tiny screws or rivets and I’m not sure how to remove them either way. The bottom right picture is on the other side of the wire (same side as the spark plug). Looking for ideas on how to remove and replace all of that wiring.

2. Replace head gasket

Okay, this one I actually do have an idea of what to do, but mostly wanted to complain. So there is a cover over the cylinder that’s held in with a few screws. It’s the black plastic cover seen here:


I took out the screws and went to lift the cover off but it seems like it’s screwed in on the other side. So I felt around back there (very cautiously, as that seems like a very desirable home to a spider) and it seems the cover goes beyond just the cylinder and I think I need to access it from the other side. But in order to do that it seems that I need to take the tire off. Basically a huge pain in the butt just to get this stupid cover off. Maybe I’m missing something, if so let me know. As an engineering student I do think this is a good lesson in, “Don’t make things more difficult than it has to be for people doing maintenance work”.

3. Drain oil

I guess the first question here is, is there any oil to drain? But I figured I’d check since it’s going to have to be replaced anyway and that seemed like an easy enough task. Wrong. Kaitlin, haven’t you learned yet that nothing is an easy task with Betty? Ugh. So basically this is another question where I mostly wanted to complain. I look around for the screw that will let me drain the oil and guess what I find…


That gunky screw is the one that needs to come out. Not the one on the right, oh yeah, the one on the left. Now, admittedly I haven’t even tried to release it yet, but I saw that and was like, “of course.” and walked away.

So in conclusion, I still have close to no idea what I’m doing, everything is more difficult than it seems when it comes to Betty, and I need help. Any suggestions or general moral support would be helpful here. Thanks, folks.

Quick Update 2

Hi all, just wanted to say I have emerged from the darkness that is finals and completed my semester and started my internship! That means my schedule is much more predictable and I can get back to work on Betty! Woohoo! The spiders have gotten comfortable again so I’m going to need to send exterminator-Brendan in once more before I really get back in there.

Today I went out and bought a jack stand (actually I bought 2 because they come in a pack of 2) so I can get in there a little easier. The Vespa 90 has to be one of the more annoying models of the Vespa to work on because there is a lip over the engine that you can’t remove. I can’t confirm it is the most annoying model to work on for sure, but based on my observations thus far, it is.


Anyway, looking forward to getting back to work. I will keep you posted!