Making Progress

Got a couple of small items done over the past few days and wanted to share to keep the momentum going on my posts.

First, I replaced the manifold on the engine. Originally I was unsure of how to remove the old one so I went with ol’ faithful and started just pulling on it, but then took a closer look and realized there is actually a mechanism in place to hold it on.

The manifold slides over those two things sticking out from the intake (bottom two pictures), and there is a ring that fits over the manifold to hold it in place. I reused the ring on my new manifold, and found the easiest way to remove and replace the ring was to stretch it over the groove and then slide it down the manifold towards the narrowest part (which would be the front) and then reverse that to replace it on the new one.

Ta-da! The bottom left image should tell you why I needed to replace it…Also, there was absolutely no way I could have done this without the engine out, as was originally suggested to me. Maybe on most models, but definitely not with the body style that Betty is. I also replaced the rubber sleeve that goes over the manifold. Kind of interesting – The old one was actually two pieces and the replacement is one piece.

Pictures of the old pieces and one picture of the new one. There is a possibility the old one was at some point one piece, but that certainly is not the case now. Notice how much dirt came out of the round piece after I took it off. Here is what the carb looks like next to the new manifold:

Obviously I can’t put that on yet since I need to get the engine back in the frame first. I was told to resist the urge to twist it in, and instead to push it straight back on. I was also told by someone else that putting it on would be tricky and would require pushing the engine down to lift the manifold up and allow me to attach the carb. Sounds fun (not).

The other thing I did recently was start taking the back brake pedal apart. I’ve been putting off the cables since I am so intimidated by them, so last night I decided I would start with the back brake cable since it is the shortest and likely the simplest. I know the pedal on the frame is what engages the back brake, so I envisioned the cable just sort of snapping on the peddle and running underneath the frame? I was wrong, surprise surprise. So I started by looking up videos and found this one, and then started taking the pedal off the frame. The great news is the bolts holding it on were NOT STUCK! It was amazing. I’m not sure what I did to deserve that, but it was a very pleasant discovery. I also found out the pedal is much more complex than I thought, and it turns out the cable is sort of within the pedal (which makes a lot more sense, now that I think about it).

Here is the pedal hanging from the frame, which is where I left it last night (sorry for the dark pictures, my phone was nearly out of battery so it wouldn’t use flash). The pin in the bottom right picture is what holds the pedal on. The hole on the right of it is where a cotter pin goes. (Side note: Does anyone else feel like, fuck cotter pins? Maybe I’m just used to working with extremely old and crusty ones, but it feels like there must be a better way. Sure, putting them in is great, but removing them is such a pain in the ass.) Anyway, if you look at the picture of the pedal, the cable is on the left. I still think my decision to start with this cable was a good one because it is short and I can get my technique down a little before trying to run a cable through the whole frame.

I ended up stopping there because it was getting late and frankly my body was aching from crouching to get underneath the frame for so long. I guess this is what getting old feels like :/ .The good news is I was feeling really pleased with my progress with these two items. I have noticed a major change in myself and my willingness to approach an unknown problem. In both of these cases I thought it was going to look one way and it ended up looking very different, but I problem solved until I figured out what was going on. I never got frustrated or overwhelmed, and I have a relatively clear idea of what is ahead. Hopefully I can use that momentum to tackle the cables soon.


Working Smarter

This weekend ended up being spent on more “behind the scenes” things than specifically scooter things, but it was so so worth it.

I’ve had my eye out for another tool box to expand my Vespa (or general automotive) tools into, and long story short, found a massive triple toolbox for a great price and we bought it. This prompted completely reorganizing the garage and doing a little spring cleaning and voila, I have a new work space:


There’s me demonstrating how the toolbox is bigger than me. I like buying toolboxes used because a) The new ones are very expensive, and b) The old ones are really high quality and last forever. I really don’t care about cosmetic issues so it makes it an easy choice. My favorite drawer I have so far is what I call my “working drawer” which has parts that I have temporarily removed or are about to go in like the carb or new manifold. Sigh, it’s so beautiful. (Special thanks to the Mr. for helping me out with this. Literally could not have done it without him).

But wait, there’s more! This weekend I also finished putting together my little stand for the engine to drop in to. I said I would only share it if it was a success and drum roll please…….it’s a success!

It’s very simple, but I love it for 2 reasons:

1) It was MAJORLY helpful in removing the engine. It’s still absolutely a two person job, but the stand acts a little bit like a third set of hands. It’s also really easy to move the engine around now that it’s out.

2) It is a really good feeling to have an idea in your head, draw it out, build it, and see it work. This is why I love engineering.

I haven’t seen a lot of people build their own stands, and I’m guessing it’s because the design on Betty is very unusual (read: stupid) with the lip over the engine so most people don’t need a lot of help removing the engine. Clearly someone came to their senses and realized it was the worst design ever and did away with it, which is why I haven’t seen a ton like it. Anyway, turns out I didn’t need that front piece on the stand since the whole thing is supported in the middle, but the front isn’t really getting in the way so I may just leave it.

Having the engine in the stand just makes the whole garage look so clean and put together. It’s so much nicer to work in a clean, comfortable space where everything has a place (including our Costco overstock in the middle, haha). Now that the engine is out, I can replace the manifold, put the engine back in, replace the exhaust, and start working on replacing cables. Certainly there will be bumps along the way, but I’m ready(ish) for them. For now I will be enjoying my new garage :).


Slowly, but Surely

First of all, I wanted to say that my issue from my last post has been resolved in the best way possible. I was able to remove the gate valve (thanks for the vocab word, Randy!) very easily with a simple pair of tweezers…which came from my makeup kit. There was something especially satisfying about working on a carburetor with my “Too Faced”-labeled tweezers.




Who says girls can’t like makeup and carburetors? Hey, if Too Faced wants to sponsor me in some girls in engineering thing or whatever, you know where to reach me ;). OK, enough on that. Anyway the old valve was just really stuck in there cause everything is stuck on Betty, so the new one slides in and out very easily. Only took a gentle tug with the tweezers to get it to slip out. I replaced the choke cable:

There is a lot of play in the cable housing, which I tried to demonstrate in the bottom two pictures (see how much it can slide up and down on the cable?). Once I’m able to fit the carb back in and reattach the choke cable, I think I’ll be able to tell if it’s the right fit or not.

The next thing I accomplished today (that’s right, I actually accomplishing more than 1 thing today!) was putting the seat cover on the frame! I know I said I should wait to get foam for it, but I was impatient and wanted to try to get it on and I did and it looks great!

Bonus picture of Betsy modeling how good the seat looks. (Yes, I know she is in desperate need of a haircut, one thing at a time.) I’ll eventually want to put foam in there, but it wasn’t actually that hard to get on so for now I get to admire it while I work on other stuff.

Speaking of working on other stuff, I also started sorting through cables tonight. One of my favorite sites has a section on cables and I found this very helpful diagram there:

Cable Lengths

Betty is a small frame Vespa, hence the highlight. So I measured all my cables, wrote down the housing length and the cable length, and then tried to match up the cable with the description.

I still have a few I’m unsure about, but I’m not gonna sweat it for now and I think I’ll figure it out as I go along. I think the cables are just going to be a “one step at a time” type of deal, so for now I feel pretty good about starting to get organized.

Lastly I continued to try to remove the fuel tap from the fuel tank, but it should come as no surprise that it is very stuck. Like everything. Always. I’m just going to keep trying and ask Brendan to help when he can and I know eventually I will get it. If I’ve learned anything from taking Betty apart, it’s that when something seems completely stuck or totally impossible, it isn’t and I just have to keep trying. Which honestly is a pretty big lesson to learn, I guess. Thanks, Betty.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I will get some more work done next weekend. 🙂


Good News and Bad News

Like any other day with Betty, today I overcame one obstacle only to be met with another immediately after. At this point I’m pretty used to it. Sigh. Calling my mechanically inclined friends for some help/ideas.

Obstacle I overcame: Removing the choke cable off my old carburetor. I couldn’t figure out how to actually remove the cable because it seemed to be stuck, so to make a medium-length story short, I basically watched this video (both parts, fair warning: the dude talks a lot. I watched on 1.5 speed) looked around for other material online, found nothing helpful, then just started pulling really hard on the cable, saw it was moving, and kept doing that till it popped out. The mechanism turned out to be pretty cool:

The cable in question is the one seen in the right photo. The left photo is after it was removed.

This is the cable after I removed it. The spring slides over the cable, and the tip of the cable slides into that bronze piece (that may be the starter valve if I’m reading my parts diagram correctly?). To remove it, I ended pulling it really hard which slid the whole thing out, including the bronze piece. It’s a very tight fit and not lubricated, so it took a lot of pulling. When that piece is in the carb, you cannot remove the tip of the cable. This is important for the upcoming problem.

The problem: Well I was feeling really good about myself for figuring out a problem, and then I go to put the cable back into the carb and you guessed it…


That piece is already in there! How am I supposed to get that out?? Here is another picture with my finger as a size reference (I have small hands), and another view where I can see that piece from the side (of course turned so the slot is not visible):

All ideas welcome. I may end up going to the scooter store for help, cause I really don’t want to mess up my brand new carburetor.

Side note and also kind of neat, this is the old spring (left) vs. the new spring (right). Notice the difference in length. Plastic deformation at work. Neat!


So I got a win and a loss today, feeling pretty neutral about it, as I should. Thanks for reading :).

Mail Day!

Wanted to write a quick update that I got some goodies in the mail today! I figure I’m not sure when I’ll get around to actually using them, so posting pictures of them here is at least half the fun.

Top Left: If you read the end of my last post, I mentioned having difficulty wheeling the scooter forward. Well, I had Brendan do it so I could investigate, and I found an issue that I knew about earlier and forgot about; A piece on the exhaust that holds it up to the frame snapped off, so the exhaust was rubbing against the back tire. So I caved and bought a new one. I figure the exhaust is pretty important so trying to jerry-rig the old one back on the frame might not really be worth it in the end anyway. This was the priciest item on my shopping list, but it still ended up being less than I thought it would be.

Bottom Left: That is a fuel tap tool. It cost me $18 and I will literally never use it again. The joys of working on a Vespa. Hey, if anyone needs a fuel tap removed, I’m your gal. I fiddled with it already and it is a very strange tool. Basically it fits into the fuel tank to unscrew the nut that holds the fuel tap on, but the weird part is it’s basically a blind operation since it’s small and dark in the tank. I was able to spin it around, I just need a way to hold on to the other side of the tap so I can actually unscrew the nut.

Top Middle: That’s the fuel rod. It’s the part that sticks out between your legs when sitting on the scooter where you turn the fuel on or off (or reserve) when you’re starting up. There is an “American” version with a plastic piece on the end instead of all aluminum, but I spent an extra $5 to make it the original style cause I’m fancy. Or stupid. Whatever, it’s my project, you can buy the plastic one when you restore your own Vespa.

Middle Middle: Fuel line. My old one is the style with a clip on the end to hold it on, and this one does not need that. It looks like a total pain in the ass to get on, but worth it in the end…I guess.

Bottom Middle: New fuel tap! The one in there is missing the filter and long copper breather tube.

Right: New seat cover! I’m praying this is the right size because it looks like a tight fit (which I think it’s supposed to be). I also think there’s typically a piece of foam between the seat and cover, so maybe I should get some of that before trying to squeeze that seat into there. It’ll be just like when I wear my tight jeans and then stuff my face with tacos. 😉 At least for now it’s pretty cool to see what it will look like when/if I do get it on.

Looking forward to putting this all together! Bonus pic, my shop dog aka my shadow aka Betsy! (Not to be confused with Betty, that was an accident, ha). She follows me everywhere and hangs out with me in the garage and is just the cutest.



Looking Ahead

Finally had a low-key day to hang out with Betty today. I didn’t do anything particularly ground-breaking, but wanted to run a few things by some of you to get some advice. Also I wanted a place to organize my thoughts moving forward, so I figured why not share my thoughts publicly? What could go wrong?

First of all, I got some materials to make a little stand to drop the engine on to. Brendan is going to help me with this one, so I will share the finished product when it has come to fruition. Unless it doesn’t work out, then ya’ll don’t get to see it.

Secondly, I got the cotter pin I needed for the front wheel and put that all back together. It’s not exciting, so there are no photos or anything else to say on it, but recording any kind of progress makes me feel nice.

Next I got to the fuel tank. This is where I need opinions. I asked for help in my last post, and also ran it by a few friends in person, and I heard that I should first start by just washing it out with soap and water to clean out some of the rust. I also heard that I should do the “screw-driver test” to see if the rust is so bad I can poke a hole in it. Here are all my findings today with the tank:

  1. Screw-driver test: Pass. The rust is not bad enough to poke a hole through it with a screw driver.
  2. Visual inspection: The tank body on the outside actually looks pretty great. The top is the worst of it, which seems like not a huge deal since nothing really touches the top. The interior has minor rust. It looks like a thin layer in some spots. Obviously it’s hard to take a good picture of it. Here are way more images of my fuel tank than you ever asked for:
  3. Washing it out: After washing the tank with some soapy water and rinsing with clean water a few times, I’m having a hard time getting all the water out. It’s pretty warm out today (love San Diego), so I’m letting it sit outside for now waiting for it to evaporate, but I don’t know how big of a deal it is to leave some water in there until that happens.

So I’m not sure what to do next. I’m leaning towards keeping this tank and using it as is, but not sure if it’ll cause problems down the line (literally, down the fuel line). The other option is the scrap it and buy a new one. I don’t love that option for two reasons:

1-I love that this one is orange and I won’t be able to get an orange one again.

2-It’ll cost me about $100-$150; Enough said.

The in-between option would be to do a liner on this one, but I’d likely pay someone to do that and I think it’ll cost slightly less than a new one (~$70-$90?), which doesn’t seem worth it. Opinions welcome.

Moving forward, here are my thoughts on what needs to happen next (which will of course take months when I randomly have a day here and there to work on it):

  1. Build engine stand, drop engine, replace sleeve and manifold for carburetor, remount engine into frame. Attach new carburetor and air filter.
  2. (Assuming I keep the fuel tank) Purchase missing pieces for fuel system (like the fuel cock lever) and possibly replace old parts (fuel line has seen better days).
  3. Cables. I’m dreading this one, it is an intimidating task. I already have the new cable set, but it’s a lot to keep track of and seems like it could get messy fast. Also need to learn how to attach the new cables. Note: I may actually want to do this before I replace the carburetor, so there’s less in the way.
  4. Replace oil in engine. I’m writing that down so that I don’t forget to do it. That would suck.
  5. Electrical. This is a big task that I’m not ready to break down yet. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

In theory that’s kind of an overview of what needs to get done, but in reality there are probably 50 other things that will come up and I’ll be busy so it’ll happen very slowly. I’m also coming up with a list of items I know I will need to purchase, I’m sure this is not comprehensive:

  1. Seat (I have the seat frame, but obviously need a cover) IMG_0435
  2. Fuel cock lever
  3. Battery
  4. Key
  5. Lights
  6. Horn
  7. Tool box (I had one but it fell apart when I took it out)
  8. Speedometer
  9. Lights
  10. Mirror (This is an optional item, but I can’t imagine I’d like to ride without one)

There are more, but that’s the list I’ve got started for now. It feels good to be able to look ahead and not feel crippling anxiety about it. One of my very first posts was about thinking ahead and feeling completely overwhelmed. I still have a lot to do and most of it intimidates me, but it’s nice to have a stronger handle on it and more confidence about approaching the unknown.

By the way, Betty and my 1 year anniversary is coming up, I better start planning something special.

Ps. I almost forgot to mention that I tried to move Betty today! With both wheels replaced, I finally have the chance to roll her from her spot of nearly a year! Well when I went to throw her off her kickstand, she was much heavier than I was expecting and sort of fell over. Not hard, I let her down gently. Oops. Anyway I got her back up, but couldn’t roll her for some reason. I’m wondering if a break is engaged or I’m just not familiar with how to move her and it was just harder than I was expecting. I’ll keep you posted.

Facing my Fears

I wanted to title this post, “Sometimes the things that seem scariest are actually the easiest”, but that was way too long and not catchy, so I’ll just start with that statement instead. I FINALLY had some time to work on Betty today. I’m still technically on Winter Break, but I’ve been in the lab and also getting my life back together after being on vacation for 2 weeks, so Betty continued to be neglected in the garage. Well, I did a few things in the lab this morning and then had some time so I was like, “you know what, I’m gonna go buy some carburetor parts and finally face that effing carburetor”. The reason I was so ready to finally face my fears was thanks to this anonymous person’s beautiful article on rebuilding a carburetor. (Maybe they’re not anonymous, but I can’t find their name anywhere). If you have any interest in the workings of a carburetor or how to rebuild one, that article saved my life (okay, I’m being dramatic, but you get my point). It turns out rebuilding a carburetor is not hard at all and totally not scary. Although I guess I haven’t tried to run it yet, so maybe I’m full of shit, I guess only time will tell.

So here’s what I did today! First I went to Vespa Motorsport to pick up some small parts that I knew I wanted to replace:


Old parts on the left, new ones on the right. That black aluminum (I originally thought it was plastic) piece in the middle does not have that groove in it, we’ll see how it goes. It might just be for ease, but maybe I’ll need to return it or just use the old one. Then I basically read that article and put it all back together and actually felt pretty solid about it!

New gasket, new fuel filter, and float chamber put back together.

I also realized I’m missing the throttle plate and the cover for the fuel filter, so I will need to go back to the store, but at least I know what I’m missing now. I also tried fitting the air filter on, but I did not have any nuts to secure it, so I will need to get some of those. This is what that looks like, can someone tell me if I’m missing anything here? It looks a little too simple:

And that’s pretty much it for the carb! The throttle assembly goes on top, but since I’m missing the plate, which is like the whole point, I did not put it back on yet. I’m dreading putting the carb back on the bike because you may remember that I got it off by just yanking on it, so I’m not sure what the reverse of that is. I’m assuming I will need some kind of sleeve to go over it. Advice welcome.

So next up, I wanted to do the front brake shoes, since I was dreading those too but at least know how to do them. Turns out that’s only half true because I don’t know how to get to them! Apparently I am supposed to pop off this cap to access the brake shoes, but that is waaaay easier said than done.


The silver dome in the center is the cap in question. I tried taking a knife around the edge to clear any crud out, and then used a tool (name and purpose unknown) to pry it off, but it’s impossible to get anything under there and I’m really not sure how to get it off. I even tried twisting it in case this model had one that screws on, but that didn’t do it either. Thoughts? I ended up stopping before it got too frustrating because I wanted to celebrate getting some good work done instead. I did take off the old wheel and man that thing is nasty:


Good riddance.

I’ll leave you with an anecdote: When I told people I was going to rebuild a carburetor, many of them replied with, “Really?! YOU?!” (Shout out to those who told me I could do it! Thanks guys!). If you feel sad or surprised by that reaction, I want you to know that I (and likely many other women in the field) have faced much of that in my life. It used to get to me and maybe it still does, but as I have been working on Betty I have been learning to let it go and believe in myself more. The carb is a perfect example of something being so hyped up, and it turns out it was like the easiest part of the whole thing (assuming I did it right). That article I found made it so approachable and it really does not matter who you are or what you look like, a carburetor is a carburetor and anyone can work on one. I try to leave the gender thing out of my blog for the most part, but every now and again I think it’s important to let everyone in on my complete experience of working on this project. I have enjoyed it so much thus far and learned a ton and feel so grateful for those of you who have supported me. And honestly I think the people who act surprised when they hear about me working on it are not trying to be discouraging, they seem genuinely surprised and then usually come around to support me after the shock. Please keep in mind, though, that young girls have a hard time understanding this, so the initial support is very important.

Thanks for sticking with me and hopefully I won’t keep you waiting too long for the next update! 😀

The Carburetor

Guys, I’m here. Betty is still in my garage and I still intend to fix her up, I just got really busy. School started and we went to a wedding in New York and then Brendan left for 2 weeks (still in the middle of that), so Betty had to go on the back burner. Believe me when I say, I think of her everyday. Well today I was feeling pretty bleh and in the middle of my class this evening I made the decision to reward myself tonight with some Betty time. The other stuff can wait.

So I title this post “The Carburetor” because this is the part that deserves a post all on it’s own. For the most part I’ve heard people telling me rebuilding a carb is a big deal and frankly they didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in me. I’ve also heard one person say that rebuilding the carb is no big deal and I can totally do it. So I am reaching out to the world to ask, what do you think? Here’s where I’m at so far:

  • I started taking apart the carburetor with no idea what it was or what I was doing while I was trying to figure out how to remove it from the frame.
  • Recently I gave the outside a good cleaning, and then tonight I completed removing all parts from it.
  • I also bought an inexpensive rebuild kit that includes a few gaskets and what not. Here are pictures from after cleaning the exterior and then removing the rest of the pieces:

So my question is, should I try to clean this and put it back together, or should I just buy a new one? Honestly I feel like I’m missing parts and definitely would need to replace a few small things, so it may be more of a hassle to buy the pieces than to just buy a new one. I think I can find one relatively cheap on ebay or from India. On the other hand, if the general consensus is that this one looks to be in pretty good shape and it’s not that bad to put back together, then maybe I should do that. Let me know what you think, please! (Can you tell I’m leaning towards just buying a new one?)

And if you saw my last post about potentially finding a new shop dog, I’m happy to let you know that I did – we adopted Betsy and she’ll be helping me see the rest of the Betty project through.


Ugh she’s so cute omg.

Meeting a Goal

I did it guys! I got a spark!! I set a goal and I met it and it feels so great!!!

I thought I was going to write a quick update today and apologize for being so absent lately (new semester started, still working part time at my internship, got a foster dog, and watching another dog….busy), but instead I get to write about how I did something I said I’d do! This feels like the day I’ve been waiting for. Here’s how it went:

I decided I’d try to rewire the junction box today so I could finally test for a spark. I first started by vacuuming out all the dead spiders out of there because there were so many for some reason, ew. Next I sat down with my picture and looked at the wires in front of me and started scratching my head. Here is the picture to jog your memory:


The reason I was scratching my head was because I couldn’t find where the wire from the HT coil went. I took out the old one and it was a straight, red wire and I could not find that in the original picture. I also counted up the wires still on the bike and they were all there, it seemed like the HT coil wire was never in there in the first place. But looking at this picture, it seems like it was:


See how the wire goes into the junction box on the right of the picture? So at this point I was downright confused, and feeling pretty hopeless since I had a bunch of old faded wires in front of me with no clue what they did. I looked up wiring diagrams online but those didn’t help either, so I decided to solve this experimentally instead of theoretically; I put all 5 of the wires that feed through the top of the junction box in, and then I took my wire from my new HT coil and screwed it into one spot at a time. Then I’d kick the kick starter and see if I got a spark. I wasn’t even sure if I would get a spark even if it was in the right spot, since it could have been something other than the HT coil. The first two gave me nothing, which I was pretty prepared for. So when I got to the 3rd one I was again expecting nothing, but instead got a loud, bright, satisfying spark!!!! Hurray! If Brendan were home I would have run into the house waving my hands in the air, but he wasn’t so instead I said “AAHH I got a spark!!!” to myself. Then of course I took a few videos of it and when I tried to take a slow-mo video I had gotten so excited that I forgot where I put my hand and ended up shocking myself. Ha! So now I have a slow-mo video of me kicking the kick starter and then dramatically dropping the spark tester.

I’m still not sure what this means for how it was wired before. Perhaps it was wired incorrectly? Now I have an extra wire that I will need to figure out what happened there, since the HT coil wire is occupying a space that was previously occupied. I guess I may have to do trial and error a few more times to wire it up.

Overall I am mostly feeling proud of myself for reaching a goal. It may seem small, but it has been a ton of learning and problem solving for me to get here, and it feels nice to set a milestone. I also feel proud of myself once again for facing a challenge and figuring out a way to solve it. On my way to becoming an engineer!

Ps. May have found myself a new shop dog. She doesn’t look like a good shop dog at first glance, but she’s pretty fearless and enjoys hanging out with me. Plus her name is Betsy which sort of works with the “Betty” thing.


How to Overcome a Challenge: Persistence, the Right Tools, and Asking for Help

BIG day in the garage yesterday. I’d like to start by saying, yesterday was a reminder that it’s nearly impossible to do this project 100% by yourself (without the right tools). Mounting the engine back in the frame is a 2 person job, and requires one of those people to be very strong. Balancing the bike while trying to mount the wheel on it is also impossible by yourself. I’m sure there are tools that would allow me to do this, but unfortunately those are likely very costly so I had to go without. SO…Shout out to Brendan, who got called away from his video gaming many times to come get me out of a sticky situation and help me, even though he really really didn’t want to. I would either be crying by myself in the garage or in the emergency room after having gotten hurt trying to do it myself without him. THANK YOU BRENDAN!! You’re the best.

Okay moving on. Yesterday started with Christmas (or Hanukkah or whatever gift-giving holiday you celebrate) in August. I stopped by Vespa Motorsport and redeemed my birthday gift from my dad, new tires. Kevin wasn’t there, but Robot (that’s his nickname) helped me out and he was super nice. There was also a nice guy in there (didn’t catch his name) working on a scooter who chatted with me about my project. He’s selling his 1980 Vespa and I want it so if anyone wants to get it for me, just send $3000 my way. So I walked out with new Michelin tires, inner tubes, and rims. When I got home, I also got my package I ordered from Scooter Mercato to add to my booty. I was so giddy I wasn’t even sure what to do with myself.


I bought the carb cleaner and compressed air a little while ago at Home Depot. Ps. the carb cleaner has a warning on it that says, “Not suggested for fuel injected vehicles”….If you’re not familiar, a fuel injector replaces a carburetor, so this warning makes no sense.

Anyway, first up: Back brakes. Brakes SUCK to replace on these things. Is this how they are regularly serviced? Omg, I hate it. Basically these two horseshoe type things are held together with a very stiff spring, and you have to pull them apart and put them in place in order to get them on. I struggled with this and finally got the stupid things apart, but I couldn’t get it all the way on the shaft it needs to sit on. I had to get Brendan to help me hammer it in to place, after struggling with it for a while myself. Here they are:


The little orange spot on the top right is from the towel I used to cover it with while hammering it in. I’m never taking those out again. Really dreading doing the front ones.

Next I put the cover back on and when it was time to put the pin in, it was all bent out of shape and nearly impossible to get back in. I ended up kind of jerry-rigging it by cutting it in half and bending it. It’s ugly, but it works, I guess.


Next was the piece de resistance: Remounting the engine. The Vespa 90 is a stupidly designed scooter (sorry, Betty, love you anyway), where the engine is so difficult to access while mounted, making it really hard to put it back in. Basically, thank goodness I am married to someone who is strong with long arms. So long story short, Brendan held the engine in while I slipped the bolts in. That’s the short, pretty version of what it actually was like. I won’t get into the long ugly version, but I’m sure Brendan had a few moments of questioning if divorce was a good option at this point. Here she is, back in place:


I’ve been really looking forward to this moment, but I gotta tell you, I’m really afraid that I did something wrong and will have to go back in there again. Fingers crossed that I don’t have to, because I’d like to stay married and I think Brendan is pretty done with taking that thing in and out at this point.

Next up: tires. The way you do this, is you first put the inner tube in (which comes flattened out), inflate it just a little, then put the rims on, then finish inflating it. Sounds easy, right? It’s not. Putting the rims on is really difficult and my tiny, un-calloused hands were not up for the task. To test Brendan’s love for me some more, I asked him for help. He did a great job, but I guess at some point decided he’d like to stay married to me and had to throw in the towel. At this point it was 6:30 pm on a Saturday evening and I was determined to get these tires on, so I started frantically calling tire shops that were still open to see if anyone could help. The guys over at Los Reyes Tire Shop told me they’d wait for me so I ran out the door and made it there 15 minutes before they closed. I figured they’d have some machine that could do this for them, but they didn’t, they’re just awesome and do it with their hands. They were asking what these were for and I showed them a picture of Betty. They asked who was working on that and I said, “me!”. They were like, “yeah, but who else?” and I was like, “just me!” (well, plus when Brendan helps me with little tasks, but I spared them the gory details). The guy asked how I knew what to do and I said just Youtube and manuals and his face seemed to change from confused to impressed and he said, “you’re very smart”. Thanks, man! Anyway, Alvaro was the one to help me with my tires (I just learned his name because his picture was on Yelp) and we got it done together. Super nice guys over there, hopefully I made some new friends.

Almost done here, people, stay with me. Lastly I wanted to put the back tire on so I could but Betty back on her kickstand. I tried doing this myself, but the engine was really weighing one side down and the jack was not stable enough to support me trying to put the tire on, so once again I had to call Brendan in to help me hold Betty steady while I put the tire on. I’m sure when he was done there he went to call a few divorce lawyers in town. Ultimately I got it on and voila, Betty is back on her kickstand with a brand new back tire!


(I have to finish putting a few bolts on, Brendan was running out of patience so I said I’d just do it later). Note that the exhaust has a piece broken off (not from me) that holds it to the frame, away from the tire. Currently it is rubbing on the tire, so I will have to figure out how to attach it to the frame. Right now I’m thinking zip ties, but if you have a less ghetto suggestion, let me know.

If you’re still here, now comes the slightly disappointing part. I went to test the compression, the thing I’ve been waiting for. After replacing the piston, rings, gasket, etc. I figured I had to get great compression. The disappointment is….it’s the same. I’m not sure if I’m missing something here, but that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I’m just grateful it wasn’t 0, but I was still a little bummed. Oh well. As for the spark, I can’t test for that yet because I have to put the junction box back together, but I’m not feeling particularly hopeful about that for some reason. I will keep you posted.

Overall, yesterday I faced a lot of challenges one after another, and I feel really proud of myself that I overcame all of them. In that sense, I feel that is what I have learned the most from doing this project. My attitude on challenges has changed from “I can’t do this” to “There is a way to get this done, and I will find it”. Sometimes the answer is persistence, sometimes it’s getting the right tool, and sometimes it’s asking for help. To me, this is the greatest lesson I could have learned on my journey to becoming an engineer. I can truly see the change in my thinking, and I feel really proud of myself for how far I have come.

Thanks for reading! 🙂