The Letter Writer's Guide

Tech Tip

For the most part I have a lot of fun answering your technical questions, and for the most part your questions are straightforward, intelligent and easy to understand. But every so often someone toss me a real ringer that makes it almost impossible to provide a coherent reply. Understand that I'm not talking about technical challenges here, those are welcome and in fact encouraged. If the solution were simple I'd expect you'd have figured it out long before you contacted me. What I'm talking about are e-mails that are so vague, so lacking in detail that I'm left wondering if you're even know what kind of bike you own. Because I feel duty bound to answer every question, whether it's published or not, I try to puzzle out some kind of reply, but frankly, the less information I get from you the less information you'll get from me, like they say garbage in, garbage out. In an attempt to make all our lives easier, and so I can provide as accurate an answer as possible here's a few simple tips should you find yourself in need of a little technical help.

1 Try to provide as much information as possible about your bike as possible. At very least I need to know the year, make and model, especially if there's some variation in the models. For instance telling me you own an 02 Kawasaki Vulcan isn't the same thing as telling me you have a 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 L3 Nomad Fi. And while that may seem like an extreme example, you should see how many letters I get that start off with something like "my Sportster..."

2 Try to describe the problem as accurately as you can, and this is especially true if it's starting or running problem. A bike that won't start because it doesn't turn over has different problems than one that turns over but won't start. Likewise trying to diagnose carburetor or EFI problem that occurs at 3,000 rpm, is practically impossible. Trying to diagnose one that occurs at 1/4 throttle in every gear is a lot easier.

3 Let me know what modifications you've made. If it's a charging problem it might be handy to know that it started after you added the driving lights, and heated grips. Likewise a new battery is one that's a few weeks old, once they're more than a year or two old, they're old period, not "recently purchased." And please let me know that you've drilled all the baffles out of the exhaust if you're writing about backfires.

4 If it's an ongoing problem please try to provide as much history as possible, including when the problem occurred, what previous steps were taken to rectify the problem, what parts were changed.

5 Please understand that while I'll do everything in my power to help you, there are practical limitations, especially when it comes to interceding with an OEM manufacturer on your behalf. Much as I'd like to think people pay attention to me, I'm pretty low on the food chain in that regard.

6 Please don' t send me e-mails written in capital letters, it makes them hard to read and means a lot more work for me if I choose to run the letter. Besides it makes me feel like you're shouting at me, and there's plenty of people that do that on a daily basis.

7 If I don't solve your problem on the first go round by all means keep writing. Eventually we'll get it fixed, and I Don't care how many e-mails it takes.

8 Lastly I don't mind snail mail, however if you do write me please include a self addressed stamped envelope and realize that because your mail will be going to our office and I work off-site it may be weeks or even months before it gets to me.