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Classic Scooter Maintenance Guide

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Classic Scooter Maintenance Guide

All classic scooters need to be looked after and require regular services and cleaning for them to run reliably and efficiently.

So how thoroughly did you actually service your scooter…?

If you find yourself with some extra time on your hands  now is the ideal time to give your scooter that extra care and attention it deserves. After all, it looks after you, mile after mile after mile on the road…

Cleaning your scooter

The first thing on your list of scooter care is to give it a thorough clean. Not just a quick splash over with some washing-up liquid and a sponge, but a full-on valeting type of job. Not only will the result be a clean scooter you’re proud of, but the process of cleaning it will involve you going all over the scooter and at the same time checking it out intimately for any wear and tear that may otherwise have gone unobserved.

With time on your hands, do a thorough job, by hand. Avoid a powerful jet wash if you can, as there is the risk that such devices could do more harm than good, potentially powering jets of water into the engine through the carburettor bellmouth for example, or damaging electrical wiring.

If the engine and running gear is very dirty, use a degreaser and brush to clean that first. You want to avoid getting road grit on to your sponge, which in turn could damage your bodywork.

For the same reason, be careful to use a soap that doesn’t have added particles. Some experts suggest that the detergents that form part of the ingredients of washing-up liquid can damage the finish of car paint and wax, so for that reason the recommendation is to use a quality car shampoo. When it’s all cleaned and dried, consider finishing it off with a layer of car wax if such a thing is up your street. It will add protection and to potentially also longevity to the sparkling finish you’ve spent time giving to your scooter, not to mention extra shine.

General maintenance checks

As you’re washing your scooter and engine, pay attention to all areas and components as you go and parts you’d maybe sometimes overlook. Check that cables are not only correctly adjusted, but also not frayed. Give moving parts a tug/shake/wobble to make sure hub bearings are not wearing for example, and turn the steering to check that it is ok as well. Grab hold of solid parts like exhaust and mudguard to make sure they’re still firmly attached, and consider checking over the whole scooter from nose to tail with your tool kit to make sure every nut, bolt and screw are still secure. Remember, it may have been quite a few miles since they were last checked.

At this stage, those of you who are not so confident with a spanner in their hand might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you, but it does. Simply checking to see if parts are loose or not with your hands requires no more than a good grip. At the very least, you should make a note of any concerns you may have and check with your  local scooter shop to see you can arrange something.

At home service basics

For those who have a socket set they’ve always wanted to use but never knew how to, why not get yourself a workshop manual for your scooter? Scooter Products sell a range for both classic Lambretta and Vespa scooters, along with DVDs to help you along the way (as well as a few manuals for some more modern scooters too). All can be purchased online for home delivery from www.scooterproducts.com.

Of course no one is expecting you to dive in at the deep end, but approach it with a sensible head on and you may surprise yourself. Have a read through the workshop manual, starting at the ‘service’ and ‘maintenance’ sections, and judge for yourself what you feel confident with. Changing the engine oil is a good place to start, presuming it’s due of course. As part of a basic service the engine should be warm, you should have a container you can safely drain the old oil into and a suitable amount of the correct grade of new oil to refill it with. All the information required should be in your scooter’s owner handbook or the workshop manual.

Tyres & wheels

While checking your scooter over, two of the most important components are the tyres. It is these that are the only point of contact between the scooter and the road. Checking that your wheel nuts are tight should be a regular occurrence, So of course you all do that on a weekly basis, right?

Tyre pressures also need checking as both deflated or over-inflated tyres will accelerate wear while also affecting the scooter’s handling in a negative way. The tread also needs to be examined, with most quality tyres these days having a Tread Wear Indicator (TWI) of sorts to help us all easily identify when the tyre needs replacing.

If you have a classic Lambretta or Vespa with interchangeable wheels, then changing a wheel isn’t too tricky. If the wheel has original type split rims then once you have removed it from the scooter and deflated it, splitting the rims to change the tyre isn’t too difficult. The hardest part might be to remove the tyre from the rim if it has been on a long time and become stuck. If this is the case, tyre levers can be used, or even cutting the tyre off is an option. If the rims are subsequently examined and discovered to be rusty then these should be cleaned and repainted before new tyres and inner tubes are fitted to prevent flakes of rust potentially puncturing the wheel from the inside. By the way, it should go without saying that if you are in any way unsure about reusing the inner tube then replace it. And don’t even think of repairing a puncture!

When reassembling the wheel make sure you don’t trap the inner tube between the two rim halves. Using new nuts and washers when fixing the rims to the wheels is never a bad idea, and make sure they are securely tightened. 

Changing spark plugs

Cleaning the spark plug is another task that requires just a minimum of knowledge and tools; a spark plug socket/spanner being the main one here of course.  Again, read the specific workshop manual or owner’s handbook for your particular scooter to learn how to access the plug.

Greasing & lubricating

Other basic maintenance includes the greasing of moving parts. On older scooters up until the late 1950s, manufacturers were quite keen at fitting grease nipples to their vehicles. However, lack of use by owners together with advancing development saw them give up on this during the 1960s. If your scooter has grease nipples then get yourself a grease gun and get lubing. Even those scooters that don’t have grease nipples still need a little lubrication. Brake and clutch levers, brake pedal and stand spring are all areas often neglected until it is too late. Those on the underside of the scooter are especially susceptible to dirt, grit and salt from the road, which will eventually affect their performance. So before your brake pedal starts to stick, or the stand begins to squeak, get cleaning and grease them up!

By the way, exhausts are particularly susceptible to rust so consider cleaning yours with a wire brush and coating it with some heat resistant paint if it needs it. Better to do this now than have to fork out for a replacement later.

Finally, once everything has been cleaned, tightened, checked, lubricated and the lights all tested too, make a note of the date and mileage so you know when to schedule the next service!

Take care and stay safe.

Andy Gillard

ScooterNova magazine

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