Shopping On A Budget — Acquiring Parts

Trying to find some classic parts that are no longer in production? Looking for the best deal on the market? Here are three ways to keep your hard earned money in your wallet!

When you get new parts for your car/bike, it’s always like Christmas arriving early!

So you have some shopping to do; parts will cost you, but there are always methods to keep the cost down: finding it new, finding it used, and finding alternatives (#3 being the biggest money saver). In my build, I used these approaches to obtain parts for a 31-year-old motorcycle.

Patience is a virtue! I cannot stress this enough! I have often been an impulse buyer so while I am on a budget, I always think it through and ask myself: “do I really need to pay for a new one?” If it is something essential or something safety related (ie. drive chain or brake pads), then the answer is “a definite yes!” If I am looking for something cosmetic, there are many alternatives available. More on that below.

Before shopping, you should acquire the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part diagrams for your specific model. They provide all the part numbers, specifications, and sometimes even prices. For my motorcycle, Parts Fish has been one of the many websites I used. Research is very important!

Finding New Parts

So you’ve decided to buy some parts: let’s say you need a speedometer cable, a set of brake pads, and a drive chain. Where should you get them from? You have the dealership, local motorcycle shops, and online parts dealers for new parts. In addition, there are eBay, Kijiji/Craigslist, and junkyards for used parts. Here is where more of the research comes into play.

Start a spreadsheet (or a whiteboard, or a piece of paper), and make a table with all the parts you need and where you can get them from. Be sure to include taxes, postage, exchange rates, and whatever other surcharge applicable.

In the case of the speedo cable, brake pads, and drive chain, it’s best to get them new. I opted to get them all from an online store called Canada’s Motorcycle. Although the brake pads may be cheaper when purchased separately from Amazon, getting all three at one place allows for combined shipping cost. The spreadsheet allows me to tally up all the costs and find the most economic option.

Finding Used Parts

A carburetor that has not been produced for the past quarter of a century!

While I was looking for a replacement carburetor, I discovered that they have not been produced for the last 25 years or so! I ended up scouring eBay, Kijiji, Craigslist, and upwards of 30 junkyards across North America. With a lot of patience and research, I made a whole list of motorcycles with compatible carbs using OEM parts diagrams. The carburetor I ended up purchasing was from 721 km away and from a different model of motorcycle. Thank you Mike for the carb and Jon for relaying it to me!

Patience is a virtue!

Finding Alternatives

There are also many alternatives to buying products that are pre-made for you (I believe here is a suitable place to insert the disclaimer blurb of: use your best judgement and do what I do at your own risk!). For example, you can repair the old broken parts, make new parts with 3D printing technologies, or find parts with similar functionalities.

Blinker relay repaired by replacing a capacitor (left, done by MrRobot), fuel tap gasket made usable after swelling (centre), and joining broken plastic body panels (right).

From the pictures above, the blinker relay only needed a new capacitor. The cost of the capacitor would be in the range of a few cents to a few dollars whereas a new relay could cost up to $20 or more! The gasket for the fuel tap/petcock was hard as rock after being dry for a decade or so, so I soaked it in motor oil and gasoline (cost: a few cents) to allow it to swell up and function once more. The body panel I found was broken so it only cost me a few dollars, and gluing it back together cost me less than $2 in supplies (shown in week 6). In addition, I will also use 3D printing to replace the missing parts on those body panels.

Computer design of a connector to be 3D printed. Don’t be intimidated as they are not hard to learn, it took me a few tries but I drew this on the first day of learning how to 3D print!

On the topic of finding products with similar/same functionalities, I must stress the importance of safety: use your best judgement, and do it at your own risk! The most simple example I will use here is to find an alternative to commercial fuel line antifreeze. These days, there are all sorts of “homemade alternatives” on the internet. They may or may not be suitable, functional, or even safe for your particular use. The best solution is to find the actual ingredient used by a manufacturer; luckily I am a chemist and I shall present you my solutions!

Most of the ingredients (other than “trade secret”) are required by law to be listed in a material safety data sheet (MSDS) which can be found on the internet. After reading a few MSDS, the main ingredient for fuel line antifreeze is usually 99%-100% methanol. Even without a chemistry degree, you can find more information about methanol on the internet, namely alternative names: methyl alcohol, wood spirits, methyl hydrate… (don’t even get me started on the non-standardized naming). After some searching, I found some high purity methanol in hardware store paint departments: Methyl hydrate, paint thinner, 99.9% (The high purity is key since you don’t want to risk dumping in solvents that can harm your fuel system — in this case, water). Bingo! The average price for 1L of commercial fuel line antifreeze is usually around $10, alternatives with the same chemical composition (methyl hydrate) are usually less than $4/L!

Once again: do at your own risk! There are risks of fire, carcinogens, and other general fear of chemicals! There are other examples that require dilutions and mixing. Be sure to stay in your comfort zone or consult professionals. The commercially available products are usually your safe bet. To restate the most important lesson I learned in university: take it all with a grain of salt!

Hopefully this article can help you save a few bucks (safely!), check back for more periodic updates on Orwell’s Restoration.