POOF! No Eyebrows… How I Learned that Gas Vapors are not a Good Thing

It started out as a simple project… I knew I had a lifter making a little noise in the Sportster, so I figured I might fool around with it a little and fix it.  Since it’s hydraulic, I knew it didn’t need any adjustment, so why not take a Saturday afternoon and get it right?

Harley Davidson Sportster Motor

While I was in there, why not just disconnect a few pieces, get them cleaned up, adjusted, and reinstalled?  No biggie, right?

Four hours later, with parts scattered around on the floor of the shop, the workbench, the seat, and some fasteners in my pocket, I lit up a smoke, peaked down into the bowels of my old friend the Evolution motor, and …

A tiny piece of chafed wiring rubbed against the frame (bear in mind that I am the guy that upgraded all the wiring on this ’92 to a largely custom but post ’94 harness), a spark arc’ed out and lit some tiny bit of vapor from the Mikuni or gas line or something and I had my head in what was a small but vigorous little fireball.

Poof!  No Eyebrows.

Thank God I had on glasses (although they were not safety glasses).

I lost a little hair off the top, singed my eyebrows, and cussed for about ten minutes, but I was not hurt.  I decided I’d had enough for the day so I shut it down and finished my work on the bike the next morning.

When I went to light a new cigarette (in all the excitement, I had dropped mine), I noticed my hands were a little shaky.

Now, I know some of you guys are going to say that the cherry on that butt lit off the vapors, but I have the piece of wire that arced – it’s sitting right here on my desk.

So to all you guys that love to get out and wrench on your rides, I can’t stress it enough… wear your safety gear.  We get all caught up in leather, helmets, gloves, etc for the ride … but we forget that accidents are just that – unplanned events … and can happen in the shop just as easily as on the road.  I’m just glad it didn’t get the beard.   If I inspected my bike a little better each month while cleaning it, I may have caught this short before I looked like some weird gang member.

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