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  1. #1

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    Default 88 Evo Sportster Help

    Hi All,

    My engine blew out on my way to Born Free this year. I am on a 1988 Sportster. I have a few questions for the community for I am overwhelmed on this one. Here is the sequence of events:

    - Traveling 80mph on the freeway I hear a "click" then a high winding noise. I immediately pull over and the winding slows to a gallop relative the engine speed, not the ground speed. It immediately died once I got to a stop. I knew it was bad news so I called in a tow.

    - I tow it to the nearest city which had an HD service department that ran a diagnostic test and said:
    A) the valve guide was damaged
    B) spark plug was smashed in
    C) the piston head was dented

    - I called a specialist in Lancaster, CA and relayed that info to them. They seem to believe the lower rod bearings went out.


    So here are some of my questions in no particular order:

    - Is the rod bearing the culprit? Is there anything else that could have cause the piston to smash the spark plug?
    - How much SHOULD this cost me to fix the rod bearings myself? To have a shop do it? Is the difference in cost worth the effort, time, necessary tools, etc?
    - Any recommendations on engine shops in central or southern California that does quality work for a fair price?
    - If I decide to swap out the engine, what other model years can I look for as well? Anything other than 88 Evo going to fit? Anyone have recommendations on where to start looking?


    Right now that is all I have. I am sure there will be more along the way but for now, any help is appreciated greatly. Thank you in advance.

  2. #2
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    Sure sounds like the rod bearing went south ....
    Problem there is all the cutting that use to be bearings went though the oiling system..
    Most likely the oil pump, lifters, cam bushings, cylinder bores, ect took a licking too....

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    DS is correct about the debris,, and thats often the case regardless if it was a timing side issue, top end issue or a bottom end issue.
    But its impossible to speculate.
    What I do when an engine has an issue is the MOST important job I was taught was a forensic analysis during tear down and inspection. An experienced mechanic can look and SEE what caused it and whats fixable and what just needs replacing. But if you dont track down why, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

    A) Metal fatigue ?
    B) Abuse or lack of Maintenance or service? (Beat it to death)
    C) Fuel related problem?
    D) Ignition related problem?
    E) FOD-Foreign Object Damage? IE: screw came loose and fell into intake, Sucked up a rock, small child, or flock of geese?

    A FAIR mechanic will do this tear down, and ONLY way to find out is a tear down of at LEAST the top end, then take notes, measurements, and then lay out all the parts and call in the Loved ones/family/parents and ID the body,,,,,,, errrr.. explain the autopsy.
    It could be a chunk of piston broke off or you holed a piston and debris took out a valve or head, A valve could have dropped or snapped off (Often top end problems or lube issues) Bottom end COULD be okay. Timing cover has to come off and all parts inside inspected as well as oil pump. Then tally it all up and see what the math says. As Farmall says....."Math is brutal"

    If the top end is off you can tell if the bottom end let go.

    2 choices, fix it (Expensive and you can buy a cheap 883 whole bike for probably less,, ) Or swap parts.

    There ARE Sporties with tranny problems and good engines,, and vice versa. Cheap generally but have to know your stuff to do it.

    Or, B, Swap another motor. In theory ANY 1986 to 2003 motor will fit your frame but there is a whole list of small details and big ones. For example 1992 or 93 they went 5 speed, and then somewhere in there a belt final drive. I have/had an 86 daily rider I flogged for years,, still have it but got hit by a speeding drunk driver. Bought it back from Insurance company for $800. Motor is still good and a LOT of good parts on it. Will see the road again as a stripped down chopper.

    Personally,, My favorite Evo Sporties are 1998 to 2003, Winter time and post XMas is the time to buy a lifestyle bike taking up garage space and needs service and remove all the Live to Ride bling and leather tassles. But until you know a EXACT summary of whats wrong with yours,,, its useless to speculate.

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    Really hate the ones that Ray Charles can see ...


  5. #5

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    Ewww.... alright. Thank you guys for the insight. I did not consider the debris damage to the oil system. I would like to keep the motor and rebuild but if I can find a new power plant or a used bike in decent shape, that may be the most economic move.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghbloom View Post
    Ewww.... alright. Thank you guys for the insight. I did not consider the debris damage to the oil system. I would like to keep the motor and rebuild but if I can find a new power plant or a used bike in decent shape, that may be the most economic move.
    It might be the cheapest and easiest move, but nobody can say until you actually KNOW what the problems are with your motor. Have you physically seen what damage there is? I dont have a lot of faith in shops that say "This is what it is" with out walking you thru and showing you in person.

    While oil pump and debris CAN occur, its not a given.

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    Fuck rebuilding an engine with the alternator mounted on the clutch basket if the bike is a keeper (because WHEN that alternator fails as all do eventually, they ain't cheap and the later engines have five speed trannies) and for that matter fuck tossing more than another used Sporty would cost into a complete rebuild. I'd either stash the original engine for parts or part it out on Ebay then roll the money back into the project. Part of smart wrenching is knowing what NOT to repair! Let the money numbers and hassle level determine the wise choice.

    All ya need to do is move the sidestand and you can install a complete, later "alternator on crankshaft" engine for less $$ than a rebuild. If you buy an 883 to save money then install a 1200 kit (which can wait if bucks are tight, it's easy work with an installed engine) later you can come in around the cost of a typical used 1200 and have a fresh top end. Engines are available from volume salvagers with good feedback via Ebay if there's nothing local to you.

    This has good pics of such a transplant. If you don't weld you can cut your old mount off with a cutting disc on an angle grinder (6" angle grinder greatly preferred for cutting disc usage, you want one if you don't have one as they are insanely handy) then bring the rolling chassis to the person doing the weld which will take only a few minutes to perform.

    https://www.baggersmag.com/sportster...esume?image=22

    Coincidentally, I just modded a free Chevy truck pantograph jack for lifting Sporties because my lifts are full. Upward-facing angle ensures the bike won't slide sideways. I snag all the free truck jacks I can because they are stoopidly handy for many jobs.

    Pic was taken before I remembered to weld an old 3/8" drive socket to the "crank end" of the screw. I did so and my DeWalt cordless drill easily raised my bros F150 for a brake job. No more dragging floor jacks to my driveway for simple truck work, and perfect for a sidestand mount swap because you can place it out of your way and leave plenty of room for whoever does the welding. I have a backburner Sporty project/parts pile to assemble with a 1980something frame and 1997 883 engine. I'll be using the old sidestand mount I sliced off a 1997 scrap frame because I have the stand to go with it. Otherwise I'd use a kit.

    If OPs bike were mine I'd snatch the engine then throw it on a cheap Harbor Freight engine stand for comfortable teardown. OP gets disassembly training on an engine he doesn't need to put back together and parts to sell so it's all win, plus he can hang his replacement engine on the stand for inspection and detailing. You can even run engines on such stands if you hang an oil tank from an upright and use a dummy fuel tank.

    Thanks to Punkrod, his link with engine stand pics is in this post:

    http://www.chopcult.com/forum/showth...l=1#post778269

    Jack mod pick with chunk of scrap frame:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails sporty jack3.jpg  
    Last edited by farmall; 06-29-2018 at 1:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghbloom View Post
    Ewww.... alright. Thank you guys for the insight. I did not consider the debris damage to the oil system. I would like to keep the motor and rebuild but if I can find a new power plant or a used bike in decent shape, that may be the most economic move.
    id rather get a new bike than rebuild that, Its going to need a complete rebuild in my eyes.
    if you like sportys or can only afford 3 grand then get another one.
    Or you couldsell that off and find a bigtwinn , Just saying aint nothin wrong with sportys.

    sorry ya trip got fucked

    OH YA Doug and Farm Have awsome advice and info...

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    Engine swap is way less than three grand. More like 1500-1700 including sidestand with an Ebay engine.

    A late model running wreck could be a good donor. OTOH decent used Sporties for 2000-2500 are fairly common and you could keep your dead one (titled rollers are a good thing) for a future project or sell it off.

    https://bakersfield.craigslist.org/m...615889139.html might be worth a look. Dunno if Stallion Springs is nearby, I just googled quickly.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    Engine swap is way less than three grand. More like 1500-1700 including sidestand with an Ebay engine.

    A late model running wreck could be a good donor. OTOH decent used Sporties for 2000-2500 are fairly common and you could keep your dead one (titled rollers are a good thing) for a future project or sell it off.

    https://bakersfield.craigslist.org/m...615889139.html might be worth a look. Dunno if Stallion Springs is nearby, I just googled quickly.
    Farmall, I live in stallion Springs. This craigslist ad you posted is for Ridgecrest, CA. Can you confirm that is the post you were referring to?

    Also I am in love with this machine. It doesn't make sense from a resale stand point but I have bled my heart into it the past 3 years. Wired it with an m-unit blue (if you are unaware, google it), all the badass visual chrome, and literally replaced the clutch with a barnett scorpion 80 miles ago.... yes 80 miles.... so I guess what I am saying is that I am not looking to upgrade to a new bike. I'm looking to get this machine back on the road. Keep the insight coming, I appreciate it all. Thanks!

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    ...."They" meaning "Fond Memories" ....

  12. #12
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    That ad was deleted so someone snapped it up. There will be more. Since CA prices are on the high side I'd look for Sporties with ~3K asking prices and offer ~2500 or so if ya want a whole one.

    I'd bring a compression tester and spark plug socket (assume owners have nothing and know nothing). I do when buying used and insist on the bike being cold when I come to inspect it to see if it'll smoke on startup. Comp testing is also time to eyeball the spark plugs.

    The math can favor that vs. ~1500 for a used engine you can't test ride. You get all the little shit, you'd have a titled roller for sale or mixing later parts with your main ride then offing or keeping the leftovers.
    Last edited by farmall; 07-01-2018 at 5:16 PM.

  13. #13

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    Farm, I ended up buying the bike you posted yesterday. It is an 1999 883 with 17k. Other than pipes, bars, and a shot rattle can paint job, the thing appears stock. Guy didn't know dick about it but I couldnt pass on the price. Rode it out his driveway for 1800. I had a dealership run the VIN and it was purchased locally, not sure how many owners it had but the bike runs strong. The dealership, my buddies, and the internet community all seem to be hinting that a lot of parts will be compatible and got a great deal for the $$.

    I looked into that remount tutorial for the old sporty frame. I am intrigued. I may end up doing that. But before I start dissecting, chopping and swapping, I would like to verify what is compatible and what isn't. Other than decades of experience, where can a young gun like myself find good reference tools for compatibility? Or am I looking at good old fashioned garage sleuthing through spec sheet after spec sheet? I have my clymer and hanes mostly memorized for the 88 sporty by now lol. But there is no substitute for experience. Thanks.

  14. #14

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    Both horses back in their stable.

  15. #15

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    Main mechanical differences I am wondering about are:
    Old bike (1988) converted to 1200 engine vs. New bike (1999) stock 883 engine. Trying decide which one to focus on restoring/upgrading first.

    Old bike, 4 speed tranny with new stator and barnett scorpion clutch vs new bike with 5 speed tranny, likely stock. Which one is better long term?

    Old bike chain drive vs new bike belt drive. Any reason personal preferences on the two?
    Last edited by ghbloom; 07-02-2018 at 10:11 AM.

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    Glad ya got a good price. Of course the engine will swap, but unless there is some special reason to do that like other accessories on the 1988 the smart choice is ride what ya just bought after detailed visual inspection, fork oil change (because nobody fucking changes fork oil), brake fluid bleed with fresh fluid (because brake fluid is cheaper than parts, you can suck the old goo out of the master cylinders with a cheap turkey baster), and changing oil and filter. Inspect battery cables and wiring and so forth. Check swingarm side play and belt adjustment.

    Get the factory service manual and part book for new Sporty ASAP. If you have those for the old Sporty comparison is interesting, and if saving old Sporty you'll want the books for it. You can also swap parts from old to newer like seat and bitch bar. Moving the custom parts you like is the smart choice vs. an engine swap.

    I'd sort out your new Sporty and go ride it.
    There's no functional gain from stuffing the newer engine into your old Sporty with its old wiring etc right now. You have a newer Sportster to ride and an old one to play with at leisure. I would not break down the runner since it's a younger motorcycle with low miles. My personal rule is keep at least one reliable runner.

    He who makes his project his daily ride is often a pedestrian.

    There aren't a lot of reference tools because most people look up their specific issue instead. There's also not a lot to swaping most parts. 39mm front ends interchange as a unit with no fuss. Spend some study time on xlforum.

    Now ya have a runner so you have plenty of time for study. There are plenty more donors and engines out there if you decide ya want two Sporties. They don't get jealous of each other.

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    Nice score for $1800. I agree with Farmall you should check out XLforum if you arent on there already, lots of good info and its all sporty specific, and definitely keep the 5-speed, maybe you can sell the barnett clutch and put that $$ towards a 1250 kit or new clutch for the new bike.

    I've had the alternator magnets come unglued and it even though we caught it before it rattled around and damaged everything it was still expensive getting a new clutch basket and alternator, so I'd move on up to the 99.

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    I like the 91-up 5-speeds...
    The alt. in the clutch basket was problematic ...
    If you wanted a bit more ponys from your 883 can always bore the jugs out to 3-1/2" making it 1200cc.
    Those jugs have a full half inch of meat that can be bored out..

    The draw-back is the 883 heads having super small valves ... For a bigger bang, 1200cc heads will bolt right down..
    Just food for thought at a later date ...

    .../// http://www.chopcult.com/forum/showthread.php?t=22895 \\\...

  19. #19

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    You guys are rad. Thanks for your input. I will spend some time searching the xl forums and grab a factory service manual. I am leaning towards focusing my efforts on my new machine.... as hard as it is to part with the old. My clymer and hanes cover both model years. I will update once the parts start moving.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ghbloom View Post
    My clymer and hanes cover both model years. I will update once the parts start moving.

    Clymer and Hanes manuals cover very little compared to a factory Harley..... Buy or down load one....

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