The Thousand-Dollar Dipstick

by Bill Hufnagle
aka Biker Billy

What is the world coming to? Three, four, soon maybe even five dollars for a gallon of gas? Some folks ride custom bikes costing upwards of 50,000 dollars. Even customizing a factory bike has gone sky high. Seems I can remember when, if you spent a few hundred dollars on a single part or adornment for your bike, it was a lot of dough, and accorded some level of bragging rights. Nowadays expensive custom parts are commonplace, one might say a dime a dozen, (solid gold dimes that is.) So how do we regular folks impress our riding buddies?

I have discovered the formula. It is sure to impress all your riding buddies. It may even make you the talk of the town and the rube in P. T. Barnum’s famous quote. Take your bike to the shop for new tires, brake pads and a complete fluid change, six hundred dollars. Add a thousand dollar chrome plated transmission dipstick and voila! A sixteen hundred dollar service ticket. Impress your friends, priceless. Not!

Sad to say I got one of those on my bike but at least I didn’t ask for it. I got mine since it was the only one in stock at the time and my bike needed a new transmission dipstick; that is if I intended to ride it home that day. Funny thing is I never use the transmission dipstick. I don’t ever bother to check the fluid level in the transmission. I have my bike serviced regularly and all the fluids changed. While I check the engine oil frequently, my reason for not fooling around with the transmission oil level is simple. The technician puts in the prescribed amount, it is not exposed to direct combustion so it doesn’t burn away, and if it leaks you sure will see it. After all, transmission oil is very different than engine or primary oil, and any oil leak on a bike will get your attention very fast. Really neat thing about oil leaks on bikes is you can’t miss them if you look. Really trust me on this one, if it leaks you will know it, cause if it ain’t on the garage floor it is because it is either soaking your jeans leg or all over the bike.

Ok, so you gotta know there is a good story here if a guy who never uses his transmission dipstick gets a thousand dollar chrome plated one. For the record, the new dipstick did not itself cost one thousand dollars. It was actually the one it replaced that did. Let me explain. While my bike was getting the requested fluid change, the mechanic called to tell me that my transmission was bone dry. Seeing that I never check the fluid, I couldn’t very well dispute that, so I rode over to the shop to have a look-see. Well when I arrived he told me he found the fluid after all. I knew it was there. The bike ran great and shifted very smoothly, and I know from experience what a dry tranny feels like, (don’t ask, it’s a long story) so I never doubted it was full of oil.

How he had found it was by poking up into the drain hole until he broke through the layer of metal shards that had formed an ersatz seal just above where the drain plug magnet resides. It seems something in the box had broken and got eaten to shreds. You don’t want to know the sick feeling one gets in their stomach at the prospect of a trashed tranny. Transmissions have always been pricey enough items to make most chrome doodads look cheap. After an examination via removing all the covers, it looked like the gears and shifting mechanisms were fine, but with all that metal floating around for a few thousand miles, it was a sure bet that the bearings were compromised. So it had to come completely apart to replace all the bearings and discover the source of the errant metal flakes.

We had a theory about the source, but it seemed just about impossible. Yet it turned out to be true. The dipstick is a small stub of metal that extends from the inside bottom of the transmission oil filler plug. The old one was missing the stub used to measure the oil level. Now understand that the dipstick doesn’t protrude into the gear case proper, rather it is in an outboard cover where the clutch cable enters. The fluid passes between that area and the gear case via a few very small orifices, just large enough to provide lubrication for the cutch actuator and to read the level. It is almost impossible that the stub, once detached, could get through those holes and into the gears where loose metal parts will wreak havoc, but it did. Who knows how it broke off? It really shouldn’t have but it did, with costly results. Moral of the story, check your transmission oil level, if not to see how much oil is there but to see if the dipstick is still there!

Diabolic Eggs

Ordinary deviled eggs just don’t do it for me, kinda like riding a bicycle. So I took this tired old appetizer and did a rebuild on it. Just like an old Harley fresh from the restorer’s shop, these eggs will take your breath away and give you new ride–a fast ride, that is, to get a cold drink of milk.

6 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shelled
1 scallion, ends trimmed and minced
1 teaspoon dried cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 canned chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce, minced

1. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, place the yolks in a small mixing bowl, and set the whites aside. Add the scallion, cilantro, cumin, parsley, black pepper, ranch dressing, mustard, and chipotle to the egg yolks and mix well with a fork until smooth. Season with salt to taste.

2. Spoon the yolk mixture into the hollow part of each egg white; there should be enough yolk filling to form a small dome on top of each egg white. Serve cool, not cold, for the most flavorful presentation.

Makes 12 Diabolic Eggs


Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2006. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.