GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??


Information and questions on GL1200 Goldwings (1984-1987)
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kimopushee
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GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby kimopushee » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:01 pm



I'm a somewhat new owner, and mechanically challenged, but looking for ideas and advice. I purchased a used '84 Aspencade with the 1200 engine about three years ago, at a local church benefit auction. It had only one owner previous to that. Runs fine, etc., and I've only put about 1500-2000 miles a year since I've had it. Showing 78K on the odometer right now.

About three weeks ago during a ride I noted an occasional "burp" of the engine, often when starting from a stop. I figured it was bad gas or something, but when I came to a full stop in town, the entire electrical system shut down as I went to pull away.

After pulling the side cover off, I found what at the time I believed was just a loose connector on the relay switch that is located directly beside the battery. I reconnected it and the bike started back up, running perfectly.

Last week I dropped the bike off at a local shop for an oil change and to have the brakes checked and bled. When I went to pick it up, upon trying to start it, it showed the same symptoms of a short in the electrical system. The bike would hit the starter, then the entire electrical system would shut off.

Checking the relay again, we discovered that instead of being just a "loose" connection, the relay itself was beginning to melt because of a short. The mechanic ordered a new "universal starter relay" from Parts Unlimited and installed this, including pulling the harness back about 4 inches and reinsulating/shrink tubing the wires into this relay where we had found some bare wires.

He called today and is stuck, because apparently the starter itself now will not turn. He has tested all the electrical connections and they all test out, and he tried "jumping" 12 volts directly to the starter, but apparently it will not engage. He says the starter is getting the electrical feed it needs, but just isn't engaging.

He is a fairly small local shop, and looking it over, says it appears the headers have to come off to get at the starter itself, and that it appears some special tools come in to play, so he thinks replacing the starter is beyond him and that I should take it to a dealer or a bigger shop, because they will be able to more quickly drop the pipes and headers, etc. and get the starter replaced.

Before I make that jump to schedule the bike for what could turn into a $500 or higher job (a generic starter from parts unlimited is MSRP at over $200 for the part itself, and he figures they will need 3-4 hours labor???), are there any other suggestions for why the starter will not kick in, because I've never had any problems with it before this.

Thanks for any ideas or suggestions.

-James Pushee
Hillsborough, NH



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WingAdmin
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Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:36 pm

The very first thing I would do is check your main fuse, otherwise known as the "dogbone" fuse (because of its shape). It's located near the solenoid relay, next to the battery, and it's just a little piece of metal screwed on with two screws. When they get old, they tend to fracture, and the cracks cause intermittent failures like you are describing.

Most owners will discard that unreliable fuse altogether, and replace it with a "pigtail" fuse holder like this one. You screw the ends of the wires onto the screws that used to hold the ends of the original fuse, and insert a 30 amp automotive-style fuse into the holder. You can easily tape a spare fuse to the outside of the holder, and if you need one, you can find them at any gas station, unlike the original Honda-only fuse.

In any case, that's the first thing I would check - it's a simple and cheap fix.

If the starter is bad, I can't see it killing the entire electrical system like you describe - that would only happen when you press the starter button. If it does need to be replaced, it is a reasonably simple thing to do - you drop the exhaust headers like you describe (a fairly simple procedure), put the bike on the side stand, unbolt the starter, and pull it out. Leaving the bike on the side stand makes the starter chain hang correctly, so it is easy to get it back in and get the chain over the sprocket.

kimopushee
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Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby kimopushee » Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:58 am

Probably the way I described it, but the "starter" didn't kill the electrical system, the bad (overheated) short going through the starter/ignition relay (located next to the battery) caused the total electrical failure. That was fixed by replacing the relay with a new universal starter relay from parts unlimited and re-insulating the bare wires coming in to it.

AFTER that was done, so the electrical system should have been "good to go" again, the starter itself stopped working, even on a direct battery feed by jumping directly to the starter.

-Kimo Pushee
Hillsborough, NH

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1998 XV250 Virago (sold)
2007 Aspen Sentry Trailer

Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby WingAdmin » Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:34 am

So it sounds like you have two problems - the short/electrical failure, and the starter failure. I'm trying to think of a failure mode that could explain both problems, and the only thing I can think of is a hung starter solenoid (relay). If the relay stuck on, causing a massive amount of current to flow through both the starter and the relay for an extended amount of time, it could cook both of them. Of course, normally the starter would be turning if this were to happen.

So perhaps the relay failed partially, allowing SOME current through - not enough to turn the starter, but enough to allow the starter windings and the relay to heat up to the point where they failed? Or perhaps it failed while you were riding, allowing the starter to engage (or partially engage) while the engine was already running

I'm just guessing here - without being able to do some diagnostic testing using a meter, I couldn't say for sure.

ekcyclerepair
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Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby ekcyclerepair » Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:54 pm

James,

When you state that the starter isn't "engaging", do you mean that the starter spins but is not engaging the engine, or that the starter doesn't do anything at all? Can you give a detailed description of what it does when power is jumped directly to the starter? This info will help pinpoint the problem.

The Honda manual says that the engine has to be removed to replace the starter, but as stated in the previous post, it can be replaced without removing the engine. An experienced Gold Wing tech will be familiar with the procedure.

Ernie

kimopushee
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Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby kimopushee » Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:53 am

To both Ernie and WingAdmn,

I think it is very probably one issue causing the other. The starter/ignition relay seems to have failed "first" because I had an electrical failure during a ride several weeks ago, and found what I thought was a loose connection coming into this relay (four wires that come in from above, along with the positive pigtail from the battery itself, into a "bowl" shaped relay located directly next to (behind) the battery). Once I "replugged" the wire I thought had just been loose, the bike started and ran fine again.

Due to out nasty New England June weather (rain almost every day) I didn't ride again until I took it to the shop for its oil change and to have the brake calipers checked. It started and ran fine at that point too. It was when I went to pick it up that it started experiencing the SAME electrical failure, that being when I hit the starter button, you would hear the starter engage, then the entire electrical system would short out. We pulled the side cover and at that point found that the relay in question (as described above) was toasted, so that we could see melted plastic and the plug in posts pretty much broke apart in our hands.

Obviously I left the bike at the shop and the mechanic ordered the universal starter relay as described in the other posts. After he got this in and reinsulated the wires coming into the relay, he then found the starter would not "engage." He says he can tell through diagnostics that the current is flowing properly TO the starter, but it won't engage, even when he tried jumping current directly to it.

So, from what you guys have said if I understand correctly, it sounds very possible that when the relay fried itself, it probably fed too much current through to the starter, which then in some way caused the starter to freeze up??? Which, long story short, sounds like I will end up having to spend big money at a dealer shop to get replaced, unless I can take the starter rebuild manual from this site and convince my local guy that the job doesn't actually require and "special" tools and isn't really that hard if you remember to do it with the bike on the sidestand??

Sincerely,
Kimo Pushee
Hillsborough, NH

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WingAdmin
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Posts: 17050
Joined: Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:16 pm
Location: Strongsville, OH
Motorcycle: 2000 GL1500 SE
1982 GL1100A Aspencade (sold)
1989 PC800 (wife's!)
1998 XV250 Virago (sold)
2007 Aspen Sentry Trailer

Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Jul 23, 2009 7:25 am

You can't "feed too much current" to the starter - the starter will only draw as much current as it requires. You can feed too much voltage to something, but in this case we're limited to the 12 volts the battery can supply.

I think you may be on the right track, but in the reverse order - I suspect perhaps the starter was on its way to failing, and was DRAWING too much current, which caused the relay to overheat and cook.

But yes, the starter can be taken out without removing the engine as I described.

kimopushee
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Re: GL1200 Aspencade starter issue??

Postby kimopushee » Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:12 am

Okay, so hopefully I found an end to the saga yesterday. My conversations with the mechanic over the starter issue had all been on the phone, because I was working and couldn't get to his shop. So I actually stopped by the mechanic's in person after I filled my cruiser up with fuel and was headed back into town. He started showing me the voltage meter, etc. and showed me how the battery was good, but the starter was getting less than 6 volts, etc. etc.

Well, with 4 hands on the bike, he was double-checking with the voltmeter doohickie, and checking the new relay, and also looking for the "dogbone" fuse you had talked about (which we determined was actually part of the relay he had replaced), when he moved the relay wiring while I had my thumb on the starter button. Suddenly the starter turned, but the electrical began fluttering in and out again.

Playing with the wire positions we could actually hear the short occuring, but holding the wires a certain way we were in fact able to get a full and good start on the bike and fire it right up. The mechanic is now pulling the seat off to get further into the wiring harness inside the chassis behind the battery. SO, we know the starter is actually fine, which is a good thing since I really was enthused about spending the money on a dealer shop for 4+ hours labor and parts. All it really took was having an extra set of hands so the tests could be run and wires rubbed just the right way to confirm we had another short and not a true parts or starter problem. Hopefully I'll have the bike back this weekend.

-KimoPushee
Hillsborough, NH




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