Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Maple Grove, MN
The problem is that any irregularity on the surface of the fork slider/leg is going to cause the fork seals to leak. The larger the irregularity, the sooner the seals will quit working. A small amount of rust can be dealt with by honing the chrome portion of the leg with a small stone or very high (non-abrasive) grit sandpaper. Anything that leaves a pit means the leg will damage the seals. If you can feel it with your fingernail, then it's going to butch up the seals. If you can find a fork leg from a salvage bike that isn't bent or rusted, that's your best option. Otherwise, you're looking at getting the fork leg re-chromed ($$$) or dealing with a leaking for seal. And fork oil on tires or brake pads can be...very stimulating (boom, crash, bang).
Most 'discount' bikes often end up costing as much or more than a newer bike to bring up to snuff. It's just a fact of life that you have to be aware of. Stuff like fork seals, switches, tires, and often more expensive things like water pumps and engine internals are all things the used bike buyer should be aware of. You an arm yourself with all the knowledge in the world, but at the end of the day you want to own a bike that you're willing to spend a bit of cash on to maintain. Replacing a fork tube might be expensive, but it shouldn't cost more than buying a new bike.
It's an old joke that a 'free' motorcycle is usually far from free. Ditto 'basket case' bikes that are disassembled. Once you've paid for the missing parts and replaced the broken ones, the cost in time and hassle is equal to or greater than a newer running bike. Which is why I have an impulse to strangle anyone whose ad says "Ran when parked".