n Wednesday I decided to start a project I have put off for months. My 1978 BMW R80/7 had been leaking oil, and I suspected the rear main seal to be the cause. At first the leak was barely noticeable, but grew worse as the months progressed. I called several different shops to find out how much it would cost to replace the seal, and was quoted on average three-hundred and fifty dollars. I had worked as an apprentice mechanic at a motorcycle repair shop in Santa Barbara, CA., under the expert tutelage of master mechanic John Ireland, but I had never tackled anything so extensive on my own. I realized, though, that if I did not deal with the oil leak soon, the clutch could be ruined.
I did not want to pay for a new clutch as well as a new oil seal, so with tremendous amounts of anxiety and trepidation, I began the project by reading about the procedure in my Haynes workshop manual. I concentrated on the parts that did I did not understand, and attempted to visualize the sequence from beginning to end. Next I cleaned the garage and made sure all of my tools were in proper order. I found lots of newspaper, rags, and some cardboard boxes for parts storage. All of this preparation was crucial, since I had recently moved, and was not used to my new garage.
I missed the workshop I had built at my old house, where I had the luxury of space and light. Now I was in a cramped garage with poor lighting, so I would have to adapt. I discovered that I would have to disassemble many of the major components of the bike, as well as buy or fabricate some of the special tools that would be necessary for the job. This seemed daunting, especially since I do not have a compressor, a grinder, or a bench on which to work on the bike. Nonetheless, I started with the basics. I knew that if I kept focused, patient, and creative, the job could be successful.