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DIY : Yamaha SR400 Tank Swap

Yamaha, Motorcycle, SR400, DIY Garage, Motorcycle Garage, Gear, Motorcycle Shop, DUNN LEWIS, Washington DC, The Litas

Have you ever made a mistake? The kind that you know is a mistake while you’re making it and there’s nothing you can do to stop it from playing out to its final, tragic conclusion?

I have. One of them involved my motorcycle.

It was the summer of 2017 and I’d just bought my first bike—a 2015 Yamaha SR400. It was garage stored and in pristine condition, except for a much-needed chain clean.

So, to be a good motorcycle owner, I decided to give the chain a good scrub. I asked a friend for help putting my bike on its center stand. He agreed to help, we got the bike on the center stand, and he left me to clean the chain on my own.

Everything was going great, until I finished lubing the chain and decided I could take the bike off the center stand without help. This was my mistake.

I wasn’t prepared for how heavy the bike would be when I pushed forward to shift it off the stand. It lurched to the side, I lost my balance, the bike slipped out of my hands, and fell into a pole in the garage before slowly sliding down onto the floor.

The fuel tank now had a four-inch dent and a chip in the paint. It was all my fault because I—being the independent and stubborn person that I am—had refused to ask for help. And to truly drive that lesson home, the slick floor of the garage prevented me from picking the bike up by myself.

DUNN LEWIS, DIY, Motorcycle Garage, Washington DC, Motorcycle Shop, Yamaha, SR400

So, after a good cry—for myself and my wallet—I called a friend. He came and helped me pick the bike back up, looked it over, and reassured me that the damage was just cosmetic. The bike would run fine, it would just have a solid love tap on its tank.

I’d sport that dent in my tank for more than a year while I saved up for a new, symmetrical fuel tank from Yamaha. While it was a bit of an eye sore, it was also a reminder to know my limits—to acknowledge that even the strongest and most capable people need help sometimes, and that I needed to learn how to ask for it.

I started by getting involved in the DC MotoScene. I went to events, became active on social media, and signed up for maintenance classes.

I joined the Facebook group Two for the Soul and asked this experienced group of wrenchers: what the options were to fix my tank, where they shop for new parts, what Yamaha dealers in the area they’d recommend, and where to find a new fuel tank.

DUNN LEWIS, DIY, Motorcycle Garage, Washington DC, Motorcycle Shop, Yamaha, SR400

They were encouraging and gave me great advice, including calling around to area dealers to see if I could strike a deal, looking on eBay in Europe, and contacting a specific Yamaha dealer that they had worked with in the past.

I also signed up for the Intro to Maintenance class at DUNN LEWIS to learn about the basics of taking care of my bike. I was looking to meet other people at the same skill level so we could help each other. Through that class, and several others that followed, I made friends that I could reach out to with questions and cries for help.

One year after dropping my bike in that garage, I ordered a new black fuel tank from Fredericktown Yamaha Triumph. I scheduled time at DUNN LEWIS to install it and I reached out to my friends Steve and Lexi for help.

DUNN LEWIS, DIY, Motorcycle Garage, Makerspace, Washington DC, Motorcycle Shop, Yamaha, SR400, Motorcycle

Taking the damaged tank off was relatively easy—remove the seat, unscrew the bolt attaching the tank to the bike’s frame, drain the gas in the tank, disconnect the hoses, detach the petcock and fuel-level indicator. These were all tasks I could have done myself.

But putting the new tank on was much more challenging. And I needed help from Lexi and Steve to do it.

DUNN LEWIS, DIY, Motorcycle Garage, Washington DC, Motorcycle Shop, Yamaha, SR400

I needed them to help hold the new tank in place while reattaching the hoses; to offer advice on what to do when I realized the hoses had less slack in them than originally anticipated. I needed them when after getting everything on the bike, doing a test ride around the block, and realizing that gas was drizzling out the bottom of the tank, to remind me not to panic; that it was fixable if we took our time and worked together.

And it was.

Five hours later, my new tank was no longer leaking gas and I couldn’t stop smiling. Not just because I loved the look of the black tank, but because during the past year I’d learned how to fix my mistake—like most mistakes—by asking people I trust for help and accepting it graciously.

Words : Megan Gates

Photos : Isaac Whalen

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