SF Garage: Inspecting the Elite 250

The official ScooterFile scooter has gotten some serious love since bringing it home to SF HQ last month. With any used scooter, there’s a short list of things that should be checked and inspected simply to make sure everything is road worthy. Our 1986 Honda Elite 250 is no exception. Sure, it rides and runs great, but keeping it that way means starting now.

On paper, front and rear drum brakes seem second rate, yet the Elite 250 stops really well. That is, once the brakes engage. There was more than a little slop in the hand brake lever for the front and foot pedal for the rear. Fortunately though, the brakes on the Elite 250 can be adjusted by hand. Just a couple turns of the adjuster nut and everything was, well, tight as a drum again. Stopping power was also greatly increased with both stoppers correctly adjusted. Wear indicators look good, so this Elite shouldn’t need shoes anytime soon.

The Elite 250 has the normal compliment of fluids: crankcase oil, gear oil, and coolant. Each got checked in turn and all three are in good shape for now. In its next maintenance cycle, I’ll swap out all three, but for now, confirming correct levels will keep us moving down the road. In general, I’d do an oil change for good measure on a bike I don’t have any history with, but they crankcase oil on the dipstick is still really light in color — meaning that it must have been changed recently. Once it turns black, then I’ll go ahead and change it for good measure.

Air Filter
With the rest of this scooter in such great shape, I was surprised to find the air filter in this bike was positively filthy. It’s an easy thing to check and replace, so it’s a bit of a shame that it was allowed to get to the level of grime that it had. However, better crud in the filter than crud in the engine. Fresh lungs had the Elite running stronger and sounding much better.

The rubber front and back on our Elite 250 is in really good shape. While mismatched, both tires still have lots of tread left on them and are free of cracks and gouges. Both are holding air no problem and the rear should last me a season or two before new rubber is called for. Then again, there’s nothing to keep me from rotating the tires front-to-back, since the Elite is a true scooter in that sense. Not knowing the history on the front tire, however, I’ll likely just hold off until the rear wears down, then replace them both with a front/rear tire than can be swapped back and forth.

Valve lash
While perhaps not as familiar to most scooter owners as oil and tires, setting the valve lash is a critical piece of maintenance that all engines must have done at certain intervals. It can mean the difference between a healthy engine that runs tens of thousands of miles, and one that craps out on you well before its time. Proper valve adjustment also helps the engine run more smoothly and efficiently. On the Elite 250, Honda uses a dead simple external adjustment mechanism. By removing a sighting plug and then turning the motor over by hand, you align a timing mark to find top-dead-center (TDC) on the engine. Then you simply loosen the adjustors, push them back until you feel resistance, rock them forward one notch, and then your valve lash is supposedly correct. Once I learned which mark on the camshaft was the correct one, the adjustment was really easy. And while I had the transmission cover off, I took the opportunity to inspect the drive belt.

Peace of mind
Doing these initial inspections and adjustments wasn’t that hard. Sure, it took a few hours of time, but what I get in return is the peace of mind of knowing that this Elite 250 should be reliable for the foreseeable future. Now I also have a maintenance baseline that can inform the work done on this scooter in the future. Bottom line, however, I’ve got something I can get on and ride.

With the basics taken care of, now I can move on to chasing down the ringing noise in the clutch. And while I’m in there, how about we make some upgrades to rollers, clutch compression springs and shoes? Stay tuned.

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