ATV Story Time: The Case of the Missing Honda Foreman
One evening during the heat of the summer I was approached by a gentleman in my driveway who had a very sad looking 2006 Honda Foreman ES on a trailer behind his truck. Upon my inspection this machine looked to have been severely neglected and I began to gently ask why such a nice ATV would get such poor respect. It was right then that the guy cleared his throat and started to tell me a very detailed story on the sudden demise of his quad. This story is too good not to share, so here is what I heard…
It seems this man was at the time a very upstanding member of a hunting club located on property near a 20-acre lake. The camper he was staying in at the hunting property was also surrounded by other campers filled by friends and members of the same club. This club had regular members that camped and along the upper hillside of the lake near the dam yet about twenty yards from the water.
This is where the same guy cleared his throat again and stated he was embarrassed to admit the rest of the story. He said that he and several other members had been at the property for a weekend in February and had been riding the trails during the day setting out gear and socializing. He claimed he and the other members pulled their ATVs up close to their campers and wandered off to a fire pit for the night. After a good night of drinking and then waddling back to his camper he dozed off to sleep. When he woke up the next morning his buddies had already left with their trailers and ATVs. Thinking he had been the subject of a prank, he searched for this Honda Foreman but could not find it anywhere. He called his friends and all denied any knowledge of his machine’s whereabouts.
Fast-forward about four months and this guy returns to the hunting camp to begin some work on his camper. As he crosses the edge of dam on the lake he notices something eerily familiar at one end of the lake. The water in the lake had not only gone down a few feet, but the water was now very clear. Almost directly below the camper and about 20 feet off the bank was the rear end of his Honda Foreman. It turns out that he had not engaged the parking brake and the machine simply rolled into the lake on its own. So this is where I take over in the story.
If you look closely, you can see the water and oil mix in the air box. Thankfully the filter prevented trash from entering the engine, but water did manage to sneak by.
He had heard I might be able to save his machine and asked if I could look into it sometime before hunting season started up again. I agreed, but cautioned the hunter that he may have to simply buy a new machine or at least an engine. After lifting the seat and pulling the air box lid I knew things could be terribly bad in the engine. I drained the oil and water mix out of the engine and threw the air filter in the trash. I removed the carb and took the float bowl off only to find a really bad situation. But this was the least of my concerns at the time. Water had been deep inside the bowels of this Honda engine and I needed to flush as much of the slime out of the motor as possible. I did not want to break the engine open just yet, so I tried a trick or two first.
After removing the air filter it was clear that the engine was full of water and the oil had risen to the top.
This ATV was not running when it went into the lake, so it did not pull in much trash as the engine filled with water. A waterlogged engine (water only) can theoretically be flushed with diesel fuel because water would be pushed to the lowest point in the engine and then flushed out when I drained the fuel. Water is more dense than fuel so it will always settle at the bottom and diesel has an oily base so in my mind it would possibly act as a lubricant as well. I pulled the oil filler plug, removed the oil filter and replaced the cap, then filled the engine with as much diesel as it would hold to be sure all of the surfaces would at least be covered somewhat in diesel. I finally began to get decently clear diesel fuel out of the engine on about the eighth or ninth fill up and drain process. I also cleaned out a very full fuel tank mixture of water and gas.
After draining the initial load of water-logged oil from the Honda engine it was time to begin flushing this motor with pure Diesel fuel.
It was at this point that I decided it was time to install a new oil filter and refill the engine with oil. I then installed all new jets in the carb and gave the body of the carburetor a good chemical bath to ensure all of the trash as well as rusty gunk had been cleaned out.
The carburetor sustained moderate damage during the Honda’s dive into the murky water, but was easily restored with a little chemical bath.
After putting a brand new battery in the old Honda, it was the moment of truth. With a slight flip of the switch and a few rotations of the engine, the Foreman miraculously sparked to life.
Being very cautious of the engine’s internal condition, I decided to just allow the motor to warm up and then I drained the oil again. I did this about four times; even though the oil from the third change was clear, I just wanted to be sure. Needless to say the owner of this Honda Foreman ES was extremely happy and the ATV has been ridden very regular for many months with no issues at all. I was happy it worked out for him and his Honda and I found a few new tricks for the bag myself!