Growing up I had an ATV that was as much a part of my life as a beloved pet. After many years of service the engine gave up. But we still had it in our barn. So I decided to tear it down and rebuild it.

I was going to technical school at the time, so I had lots of secondary information sources as needed. On a weekend trip, I loaded the old tired machine into a truck and drove it 4 hours up to my school area. Now this was not being done at the school. I had a shop with 2 other guys at an unused garage at the local lumber yard. So over the course of a few days the machine got torn down to stacks of parts and bolts.

I cleaned, painted, and refurbished everything that ATV needed. During the course of the tear down, I discovered the problem with the engine. The timing chain tensioner had collapsed, causing the chain to jump a tooth. But there was no damage to the piston or valves. New timing chain, tensioner, and piston rings would bring it back good as new. I was psyched. With just $100-ish in parts and a lot of elbow grease my old quad would be good as new. And this thing was damn versatile.

Until it happened...

One night I needed to hook up the battery for some stupid but important reason. I can’t even remember what that reason was. But it was halfway reassembled at this point. The most important thing to remember was the cylinder jug was off the engine/transaxle assembly. So the connecting rod was still attached to the crank but just hanging freely out the top of the case. Also time to note was the was a short in the starter switch. You had to move the handlebars all the way to the right to start it and then turn it back quickly as it would stick, continually powering the solenoid making it run all the time.

Well when I went to hook up the battery, I had forgotten to take the cable off the starter beforehand. The second I powered the bike the starter motor took off. The crank spun and the connecting rod went down into the crankcase, but with no jug on top to center it, the rod decided to come up in a different location. Through the front of the aluminum crankcase, making a spectacular hole in the process. Now on the engine/transaxle assemblies of ATVs if something happens to that case you have to buy a whole new assembly which is often more than some new machines. Needless to say, my restoration project was over.

This was 17 years ago before widespread computers selling everything. And because my ATV was exceptionally rare I could not find anything secondhand in 6 states. No engine, no crankcase, nothing. It was personally heartbreaking as I treasured that machine dearly. But I made a stupid mistake and paid dearly.

I learned dearly from that. And the lesson learned was now hard-wired into my brain. From that moment on as a professional technician I always triple checked my work for anything like that. I never made a mistake like that again, something easy to overlook that could have major implications. I pretty much disconnected the starter on any job where entry into the engine bay was warranted.