has been written about how to buy a good used car or motorcycle. Surfing the net
will give you lots of tips and sites for that. A few basic things to
remember---Shop around for the scooter you want and don't buy the first one you
see. The best time to buy a scooter is in the fall or early winter. Always
inspect your perspective scooter in the day time-never at night. Check to be
sure the mileage matches the condition of the scooter.
Always test ride before buying if possible. Check prices for what good clean low
mileage scoots go for and keep within your budget. Specifications for the Honda
CH250 vary little between 1985-1988. Buying a vintage Honda CH250 is not all
that different than buying any other vehicle but there are some key differences
unique to these special years and models to consider.
The Condition of the Plastic:
For appearance, the condition of the exterior plastic fairings is crucial. The
moulds to make this style are long gone. There is a limited supply of N.O.S. OEM
replacement Honda parts available at a steep cost. Once gone, they're gone.
Unless you're the Honda Helix with its schizophrenic "Now-I'm-here,
No-I'm-not, Now-I'm-back" history, I don't see the CH250s re-appearing.
Examine all fairings closely for fit and finish. Look for broken tabs and
fasteners. Stress fractures will show up unknown to the naked eye. Today's
plastic bonding repair can fix most cracks but the integrity of the piece has
been compromised. Check the front bumper fastener screws in the radiator air
flow area. A broken or cracked bumper may indicate a front end collision. Be
wary of repainted scoots without the factory pin striping or emblems. If
repainted--ask why. Plenty of bikes get scuffed or knocked over, but this
doesn't mean they are ready to be thrown away. Fairings, levers and mirror
scuffs are OK and likely to help you get the price down. More serious damage may
indicate a crash. Check for non-cosmetic damage like cracks and damage to
mechanical or structural parts.
The Condition of the Drive Train:
Place the scooter on its center stand and spin the rear wheel with your hand.
Excessive noise may indicate a wheel bearing, clutch bearing or final drive
bearing problem. In general, the Honda CH250 engine takes .8/U.S. Qt. of oil.
There is no oil filter.
Regular oil changes is a must on these scoots. Oils in themid-80s needed
frequent changing. Today's synthetic oils provide much more protection and
longer change intervals but that doesn't help you for past neglected service.
The transmission final drive takes about $.25 of oil and its oil drain plug is
behind the left side engine cover. As a result, it almost is never serviced.
Contrary to the Honda service manual, consider
changing the engine oil every 1000 miles and final drive oil every 5000 miles.
Buying a scooter with a documented service history is a good idea especially if
its been serviced regularly at a Honda dealer.
Arrange a Viewing:
Always arrange to see the scooter at the seller's home, and don't agree to meet
in a parking lot, as you'll have no idea if the seller is genuine. Before the
viewing, ask about mileage, number of owners, any damage, rust, service history
and who performed it
as this may save you a wasted journey. Upon first inspection, does the scooter
appear to be well taken cared of? What is the condition of the
plastic/seat/tires/battery? Ask the owner what the proper tire inflation
pressure should be to see if he knows. It gives you some idea if the owner is
knowledgeable about his scooter. Check the engine oil. Is it clean/dirty? Is the
oil level proper?
The Visual Inspection Check for:
Handlebars: These are easy to bend and can be costly to replace. Are both
bars even and straight? Make sure the dash cluster points straight when the bike
is ridden straight ahead.
Bent Fork & Fork Play: Look up the front plastic fairing and check the fork
for any bends which may have been caused by a collision. Hold the front wheel
between your feet and twist the handlebars - Is there any play?
Levers and pedals: Check all the levers and pedals to ensure that they are all
firmly attached. Look for excessive wear which may indicate high mileage
(compare with recorded mileage).
Steering Race: Lift the front wheel by getting someone to push down on the seat
(on center stand) gently turn the bars from the left to right and back. If
it feels notchy when it passes center, then the headrace needs replacing.
If it's stiff it may just need adjusting.
Exhaust & Mountings: On a CH250, the entire engine is supported by a hanger
and the rear shocks. There is no alignment of the rear wheel. In a crash the
exhaust and entire
engine can sometimes get pushed left or right. Check that the rear wheel is
straightly aligned with the front wheel and not "dog tracking."
Wheels & Brakes: Lift the front wheel and make sure it spins freely.
Apply the front brake, release and re-check the brakes (a few times). Do
the same to the rear. Do the wheels bind? If so you could be looking
at replacement pads or wheel bearings. Also Look for dents in the rim which may
have been caused from curbing at speed.
Starting and Idling: Take off the gas cap and check the inside of the tank for
rust. Always start a cold engine. The electric choke should assist starting. The
scooter should idle at approximately 2100 rpm then idle itself down to 1100 rpm
within a minute or two. Blue smoke coming from the exhaust at start-up indicates
worn piston rings. Listen for excessive noise coming from the engine. Also check
for fluid leaks like anti-freeze.
Shocks and Suspension: Push down while holding the front handlebars to check the
resiliency of the front shocks. Do the same with the rear shocks by pushing down
on the rear carrier. Look for a rebound that's quick and comes to a firm rest
Electrics & Unusual Wiring: Check all the lights and switches work properly,
don't forget to give them a tap with your hand to check there are no loose
wires. Extra switches or fans, can sometime point to electrical or cooling
problems. As a minimum check the reason behind any unusual switches or
Frame Rust: If the bike's been outside exposed to the elements, then rust is a
possibility. Get on your back and look underneath the front and rear fairings
for rust. Some surface rust is OK, but serious structural rust is something
different. If it can be rubbed off with a wet finger then a good cleaner should
remove most of it. If it crumbles when you poke it - walk away.
Test Ride: Start the scooter and listen carefully for any abnormal noises. Take
it for a spin to check out the brakes/clutch operation/operation of all
electrical components. From a stop, a twist of the throttle hand grip should
smoothly accelerate you without hesitation or jerkiness. Briefly remove your
hands from the handlebars as you ride. Does the scooter go in a straight line?
If not, something (frame/fork/wheel) is bent.
Randy Pozzi (12/03) (Jack Stanley also contributed to this piece)