Only the day before my mom & aunt left, I had planned to give my mom ‘un petite tour,’ a little ride, on Vespa.
To my dismay, upon starting Vespa, she sprang a leak! With the fuel tap on, petrol dripped alarmingly from a pair of holes in the frame below what I now know to be the carburettor.
This was on the morning of the last day my mom was visiting, the day we planned to visit Eze and Monaco, so I wheeled Vespa back into the garage, put a pan beneath, and decided I would work it out later.
Dani, ever the curious problem-solver, noticed the pan beneath Vespa when he went into the garage’s extra refrigerator for beers when Iain was with us. After some negotiation (Dani is very, very clever, but has never dealt with a Vespa, or any scooter,) we got out the manual and opened her up on New Year’s morning, when Iain and Shelley were still asleep – though it wasn’t long before Iain arrived with his camera!
My ultimatum was that Dani was not allowed to take apart anything which he didn’t know how to put back together. I had visions of my carburettor in pieces and them leaving on their flight.
We figured out that the fuel hose wasn’t leaking, and I finally felt the leak coming right from a tiny hole below the fuel hose, on a small part of the carburettor. Dani managed to wedge my compact mirror and a torch/flashlight into the space in such a way that he could see the hole was a deliberately drilled hole.
We were stuck as to what to do next..
It would be Scooterworks to the rescue: I told Dani I would call Neil, (whom I would recommend to any Vespa or scooter fan in London in need of repairs, or who wants to purchase a scooter, etc,) when Scooterworks re-opened after the holidays. He would be able to tell me what was wrong; my only hope was that it wouldn’t require major replacing of parts, or the major taking-apart, of much of Vespa.
Here might be a good chance to explain how, and when, Vespa is returning North with me.
Much to my mother’s relief, I decided immediately upon arriving safely at Verity’s – way back on 11th November 2011 – that I would not be riding Vespa back in January. I’d survived one North-of-France ‘Arctic’ journey, and I was not about to subject myself to another. Verity very kindly said that it was a very good idea for me to leave Vespa in her garage and collect it in the warmer months.
There happens to be twelve days in May between my sister-in-law’s wedding in New York State and the start of my commitment to model at the Flemish Classical Atelier in Bruges, Belgium.
There happens to be ONE luxury auto-and-passenger-train from Alessandria, Italy, to Den Bosch, in the Netherlands, smack in the middle of those twelve days: on 26 May.
My intention is to be on that train, with Vespa. I will ride Vespa along the Cote D’Azur from Nice to Genoa, and then North to Alessandria. Then I will ride from Den Bosch in Holland to Bruges.
None of this was going to work if Vespa was broken!
I phoned Neil a few days after Boxing Day, and explained the leak. He told me that there is apparently a pin-hole valve (that small hole where we pinpointed the leak,) which allows in more fuel as needed when accelerating. Sometimes the valve can get stuck open with a tiny bit of grit or debris. One must tap the aluminium pan at the base of the carburettor with the butt of a screwdriver or something similar (on a newer Vespa the pan would be plastic,) in the hopes of loosening the grit. One must also run the engine hard with the fuel tap off until the carburettor runs dry (& the engine stalls) which may also blast out the grit.
If this doesn’t work, the carburettor must be removed and taken apart.
Dani and I had tried the ‘run it dry’ technique, even though we didn’t really know what the problem was, and it hadn’t worked. I mucked around and tapped the carburettor and ran the engine hard a few times, turning the fuel tap off, and marvelling at how long it took to stall after the tap was off.
I made sure Vespa really wasn’t leaking anymore, and then put her away, ready to ride to l’Eglise on Sunday. Whew!