tech tips

-  by Suds

Contents :  
Jan 03   Finding Top Center on No 1 Cylinder (Changing Cams)
Sept 03  Stripped Adjustment Screw to Clutch
Oct 03, Primary Chain Adjustment/Replacement
Nov 03, Starter Bendix Clearance
Dec 03, Master Cylinders
Jan 04, High Pressure Car Wash Dangers
Feb 04, Backfire Blues (part 1)
Mar 04, Backfire Blues (part 2)
Apr 04 , Keepin' Yer Spark in Time (Magneto Ignition)
May 04, Chrome Don’t Get Ya Home
Jun 04, Bad Bearing Boogie
Jul 04,  Keepin Yer Spokes In Tune
Aug 04,  Getting Mixed Signals
Sep 04, Keep'n An Even Head
Oct 04  The Trouble With Tappets
Nov 04  Bad Battery Blues
Primary Chain Adjustment/Replacement... 
from Tony:
I'm having problems with my primary, loose everytime I go for service, and they claim (the dealer) that to adjust it they have 
to remove the cover and that operation cost 80.00 each time. My manual is not specific on adjustment and I need to know the procedure to avoid costly repairs at the dealership. Can you tell me the simple technique? And why do they feel the need to take the whole cover off each time? 
Suds sez: 
Tony, Need to know the make & model of your bike. Sportsters are different than Big Twins and there's 2 styles of Big Twins.  There is only an inspection cover to remove for adjustment. The whole cover has to be removed for replacement. 
Let me know the specifics on your bike and I can help you. 
from Tony:
03' 1200C.  It just finished a trip from Huntsville Alabama to Wichita Falls Texas and the dealer serviced my bike before I left and when I told them I was about due for my next service the service manager told me, "With that kinda miles the primary chain will have to be serviced again" and I asked him if everybodys bike was like this or just mine he said everybody gets theirs done at every 3000 miles. I just don't think I want to pay him $80.00 for something I can do myself. I am a CAT tech, but I just don't want to screw the goose. 
Suds sez:
Tony... ok, got it now.. assuming it is a 1200 CC Sporty, then there should be a round plug in the upper center of your primary cover. With a Chevrolet bow-tie lookin emblem in the middle of it.  This is your inspection plug. You will have to use a 1/2 inch drive rachet and maybe a short extension and insert it into the square part of that emblem. Break it loose and rotate it counter-clockwise to remove it. This will allow you to stick your finger in the hole and feel your primary chain. You should have approximately 1/4 inch free travel in your chain tension. Just stick your finger under it and wiggle it up and down to determine this. (engine not running of course).
If you have more slack than that look directly underneath, on the bottom side of your primary (not the cover). You should see 
a hex-head lock-nut with an allen-head set screw in the middle of it. This is your primary chain adjuster. If you have this set up, then you need to break loose the lock-nut and turn the allen set-screw clockwise while feeling the tension of your chain. The chain will get less slack in it the more you turn the set-screw. The way this works is that set-screw pushes on the bottom 
of an anvil shaped part that's on a hinge with a spring tension and it has a teflon block on top of it that puts pressure against your primary chain.  It's really a simple procedure, but caution yourself not to over-tighten the chain. This will cause 
premature wear of the chain, sprockets and/or bearings. Especially the transmission input shaft bearing. Hope this helps. 
Let me know either way.  Also, if your chain keeps stretching sooner than it should then chances are your sprockets are mis-aligned, provided you operate your machine under normal operating conditions (i.e. not drag racing light to light, etc). 
from Tony:
I got my chain adjusted,it took 4 complete rounds. If it loosens up again I'm gonna take it to the shop and tell them to replace the chain and tensioner because theres no reason for it to loosen up. I ride it like it was a baby. I do have another problem the guy at the dealership says the only fix is to do the Stage 2 kit. My bike backfires through the carb everytime I stop, sometimes quits and I have to restart, you got any ideas? Thanks for your help. B.F.C  Tony
Suds sez:
Tony... the number one reason for a primary chain to wear prematurely (providing of course there is plenty of oil in the primary case) is for the engine sprocket and clutch sprocket to be mis-aligned. 
If this is the case, then the engine sprocket needs to be shimmed out to meet the plane of the clutch sprocket. This is usually done with the primary chain off, using a straight edge until you add enough shims behind the engine sprocket to evenly touch off on the straight edge as it is touching the outer edge of the clutch sprocket. 
   Now for problem number two... if your baffles in your mufflers are worn or punched out, or if you went to drag pipes, you changed the back pressure your engine was tuned to. This creates an extremely lean condition for your carburator. If you 
have a CV Carb.... to my knowledge there is no mixture adjustment on the idle circuit. Therefore, the stage 2 kit may be necessary to correct the problem. This should be larger jet and should richen up your idle and low speed. The only other solution is to get a totally tunable carburator such as an S and S Super E Series Carb or a Bendix Adjustable Main Jet Carb. The S and S still seems to have a spit problem on 9 out of 10 bikes. 
The Bendix is not known for gas mileage or high performance but it is damn dependable. 
Just some thoughts.  Ride Free  ~Suds                 back to top of page...
Starter Bendix Clearance...
  A bro of mine was having trouble with his bike making a terrible grinding noise like his tranny was trying to go into gear by itself when the engine was running. It even sounded worse when he was going down the road. I found that the noise was coming from inside his primary case. He has recently taken his bike into a so called reputable bike shop to have his clutch basket replaced. It seems that his starter ring gear had shattered into about five pieces. 
  The bike is an '87 FXR with a 5 speed. this meant that he had a diaphram spring type clutch. With the oil drained, we 
removed the outer primary cover. The first thing I noticed, is that the last mechanic to be in this cover had omitted the starter shaft thrust washer. This alone could be enough to let the starter bendix travel over enough to try and engage the starter ring gear while the engine is running. Any Harley mechanic worth his salt would not leave this part out even if it came in his shop without one. 
  We checked the clearance between the bendix and the ring gear with the starter jackshaft all the way over wher it should 
be with the thrust washer in place. There still wasn't enough clearance. the next step would be to remove the clutch basket 
and compensator sprocket along with the primary chain and adjuster. It all comes off together or it don't come off. Once this was out of the way we could get at the starter bendix/jackshaft assembly. 
  On these models, there is a 1/4"NPT allen head pipe plug in the top of the inner primary case, that holds the solenoid yoke 
pin in place. To remove the yoke (this one's aluminum), the solenoid  pushrod had to be disconnected. This is done by pushing in the spring and the cupped retainer washer until a small rollpin is exposed, and at this point should fall out if it is virticle. At any rate, it is easily removed. Then the yoke pivot pin can be removed by sliding it upward out of the hole using a narrow pair of needle nosed pliers and some careful finiggling (is that a word?) by holding your progress and getting another hold with the pliers. Then the starter bendix/jackshaft assembly should pull right out of it's hole. 
  Once out, it was time to disassemble it. there is a nut on the outer end of it with two flats milled off of opposite sides to fit 
a wrench on it. this nut has a left hand thread. After disassembly, we found out that the spacer that is supposed to be there, wasn't. This meant that we would have to grind some off of the back of the bendix instead. There is a groove ring that is held on the back of the bendix via an external snapring. This meant that we couldn't grind off too much, for fear of not leaving enough meat for the snapring to hold properly.
  We ground off as much as we felt comfortable with and slid it back on the starter jackshaft. The temporary assembly was then seated back in the hole and just the clutch basket & ring gear was put back on the tranny input shaft. Nothing was tightened down, but we could get an idea using guesstimation of where everything wouuld be when it was seated and 
tightened down. 
  Still not satisfied with the clearance, this meant only one thing. The differenc would have to be taken off of the face of 
the starter bendix gear. Using a bench grinder, the gear was carefully spun by hand and ground on the teeth area only. 
Enough of the face had to remain in order that the gear would not travel too far over and totally pass the starter ring gear. 
  One more false assembly, and we dicide that we had enough clearance. Then everything was reassembled and properly torqued. Since the clutch adjustment screw was never loosened and ther was nothing wrong with the adjustment prior to teardown. it was not necessary to do any adjustment on it during reassembly. With a new thrust washer installed and new primary chaincase oil added, we were now ready to test our work. It operated smoothly with no hangups and no unsettling noises coming from the primary case anymore. Problem solved.. the proof was in the smile on my bro's face when he pulled 
up from the test ride.  
Stay Safe and Ride Trouble-Free....  ~Suds        back to top of page
Master Cylinders...
  Lately I've been running into a rash of problems with master cylinders not wanting to pump fluid down to the brake calipers correctly. some of the symptoms include a spongy brake that won't quite pump up, and when you try to bleed the air out of the line, the problem gets worse. This problem can be frustrating even to a longtime pro. 
  The problem I have been mainly seeing is with the 1980's HD models. Disc brakes use DOT 5 brake fluid which is silicone based. This stuff breaks down over a period of time when it gets rubber particles mixed with it from normal seal wear. If you pop the cover off the top of the master cylinder and see a dark murky looking substance at the bottom, while the rest of the fluid looks fairly normal, then this is a sign of fluid breakdown.
  When the fluid breaks down, it seems to coagulate (stick together) with the solid particles from the worn seals. It can and will plug or severely restrict the inlet port for the piston chamber. 
What this means is, that no matter how frantically you pump the brake, only a minimal amount of fluid comes out of the port that the brake line hooks up to. It also means it's time to disassemble the master cylinder.
  This is a fairly easy task. Precautions must be taken to protect your paint from any brake fluid that might be spilled. Brake fluid will eat paint. After the master cylinder is removed, dump any fluid out in a drain pan. Look inside of the end where the lever/pushrod assembly goes in and remove the snap-ring. Once this is done, then you should be able to pop the plunger and spring out by pushing it inward against the spring pressure by using a Phillips head screwdriver inserted in the pushrod hole, and then rapidly releasing it. You may have to repeat this process a few times before it actually comes out. Pay attention as to what order the components come out, as it will have to be reassembled in the same order. 
  Now that it is apart, clean out all chambers with carburetor cleaner. Then shine a light down inside the piston chamber and look through the reservoir chamber at the small ports in the bottom of it. You should be able to see the light through all of 
them. If not, then the carburetor cleaner did not remove all of the debris. 
  If this is the case, then try using compressed air through the end where the piston assembly while blocking the outlet port with your thumb. This should dislodge the debris. Now repeat the process with the flashlight. 
  If the port still isn't clear, then use a "torch tip cleaner", starting with the smallest bit, and rod out the port. A stiff piece 
of guitar string (fourth and fifth strings) works really well for this also. Once again, repeat the flashlight trick. Now your 
port should be clear. 
  Just for the sake of insurance, blow carburetor cleaner through the ports using the little straw that comes with it. Let the carb cleaner completely evaporate. Inspect your piston seals and look for cracks, splits or rough edges. Also check the flexibility of the cup seal. If it seems hard, then it's time to replace your seals. 
  If you're ready to reassemble your master cylinder, It goes like this: First the spring goes in. Then the cup seal goes in. Put 
a light coat of DOT 5 brake fluid on it and make sure the cup part faces inward, because as your brake pressure builds, the sides of the cup flare out against the cylinder wall to get a tighter seal. Next is the spool that pushes against the backside of the cup seal. The O-ring on the spool should be flexible also, and it should also recieve a light coat of brake fluid prior to insertion. Now the dust seal with the lip facing inward, and finally the snapring. 
  While the master cylinder is still off of the bike, fill the reservoir about 1/4 full. Hold your thumb over the outlet port, and work the piston in and out with a Phillips head screwdriver. You should feel a suction as you let the spring return. You should also start seeing the fluid lever getting lower, and then brake fluid should start pushing your thumb away.
  If the pressure is strong and it seems to be moving a substantial amount of fluid (use good judgment) is being moved, then your master cylinder should be ready for installation. 
Once the master cylinder is back on the bike with the brake line reconnected, fill the reservoir with fresh DOT 5 brake fluid. put the cover back on and start the bleeding process.  
Bleeding brakes is done by cracking open the bleeder valve on the caliper or wheel cylinder (drum brake models), while depressing the brake lever or pedal. Be sure and hold it in until the bleeder valve is closed. Then release the lever (pedal) and depress it again repeating the afore mentioned process. 
  Do this until all of the air bubbles are gone and fresh fluid is coming out of the bleeder valve. Be sure and keep an eye on 
the fluid level in your reservoir. If it falls below the inlet ports, you will have air in your brake system again and it will have 
to be bled out. Once all of the air is out and new fluid is coming out, you are ready to pump up your brakes. Leave the bleeder valve closed and rapidly pump the brake lever or pedal. Each time you depress the lever, you should notice the resistance increase and your pedal/lever gets higher so to speak. Double check to make sure there is no fluid leaking out of the back side of the master cylinder where the piston assembly goes. If it is, then the O-ring on the spool was cut or was bad on the spool and will need replaced. Hope this helps anyone with brake troubles.
  DO NOT mix DOT 3 with DOT 5 Brake Fluid ! DOT 3 can cause DOT 5 to break down and gel. I've seen little BBs throughout the brake system as a result of mixing these two fluids. 
Ride Trouble Free...~Suds                                  back to top of page...
High Pressure Car Wash Dangers...
  I have run across more than a few problems that are a direct result from frequent use of high-pressure car washes. There are a few parts on Harley's and other makes that those little jet-streams of water can wreak havoc on. 
  Take for instance wheel bearings. While the wheel bearing seals do a wonderful job of keeping grease in the wheel bearing where it is needed, they were not designed to keep high pressure water out. Most wheel bearing grease is lithium-based, which is a type of soap base. Over time, water can and will mix with it, thus causing the grease compound to break down. I don't 
have to tell you that this is not good. 
  While we're talking about wheels, ever notice how the inside center of spoke rims start rusting underneath the rubber band? It's the same thing. The rubber band does it's job by protecting the inner-tube from the spokes, but a water seal it ain't. Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel and aluminum will corrode too. The only thing I've seen do worse things to the inside of a rim is the use of a soap/water solution to mount a tire. This is not limited to spoke rims.
  The other thing I've seen greatly affected by car wash usage is on 4-speed and early 5-speed trannys. These models have a long arm bolted onto a shaft that goes thru the right outer tranny cover. This acuates your clutch mechanisms. Soap and water can and will get down into where this shaft rides inside a bushing and wash out/dilute any lubrication this mechanism needs to operate smoothly. I have seen a few of these get unneccesarily stiff in operation and even be sluggish in releasing.
One case where the clutch stuck in and wouldn't engage. We thought the clutch cable had broken at first. 
  If you are a regular car wash user, these few tips of maintenance could save you a few bucks, or even some road rash. 
  Every time a tire is changed, the wheel bearings should be checked for evidence of water mixing with the wheel bearing grease. This is usually indicated by a milky coloration of the grease. Wheel bearing seals are cheap and easy enough to 
change, and so is the wheel bearing grease. I have a bro who procrastinated in this and one sunny day he was cruisin thru 
town when his front wheel locked up and down he went at 30mph. Lots of road rash on him and his scoot. He also had to replace his axle. Fortunately we were able to salvage his hub. 
  This is also a good time to check under the rubber band on spoke rims (while the tires off) for any rusting/corrosion. 
Nothing like the spoke heads pulling thru their holes one day while on a cross-country tour. I will caution you not to use anything petroleum based to try and protect the metal. Petroleum will break down and rot rubber compounds. Use a silicon-based lubricant. 
  While it may seem a little far-fetched that your inner tube will rot and one day start leaking or worse, it can cause the rubber band to rot and break. Then the spoke heads may be exposed enough to wear into your inner-tube.
  The clutch arm shaft can be a trick. A little monthly maintenance of a few drops of good machine oil should do the trick. 
It does take a little time to let gravity do it's thing, and you may have to wipe off the excess a few times. For more extreme cases of negligence, it will require taking the cover and arm assembly off for a thorough disassembly, cleaning and lubing. 
  Also, don't forget to lube your clutch and throttle cables. I always say that if you take care of your machine, your machine will take care of you. ~Suds                               back to top of page...
Backfire Blues (part 1)
  Nothing sounds better than a well tuned Harley goin down the road, except maybe a whole bunch of well tuned Harleys. We who ride all know that those sweet exhaust notes are subject to change at any given moment. Nobody likes to be jammin' down the road and your engine suddenly starts cuttin out and backfirin' out of the exhaust pipes. Experienced riders immediately start rackin' their brains for possible causes of the sour notes they're now hearing. Un-experienced riders on the other hand usually don't have the basic knowledge for this and start thinking about who they can call or how much towing is gonna cost since their HOG membership just ran out. This usually happens out in the middle of nowhere and not a gas station in sight. Anybody remember the pre-cellphone era?
  Backfiring can be caused by one or more of several malfunctions. It's not always true, but the rule of thumb usually is that 
if it's backfiring outta the pipes, it's electrical. If it's backfiring outta the carb, it's generally a fuel problem. The most common culprit is usually something wrong with the ignition system. That being said, there are two main types of ignition systems; electronic and breaker-points. Another type is magneto, but I won't touch too much on this one.
  Starting with one common denominator, Harleys vibrate. Vibration means things will eventually work loose. I've seen it many times over on both types of ignition systems. Usually the problem here will be a wire terminal that has vibrated loose due to a loose screw on the ignition switch or loose nut on the coil, or in some cases, make that coils. In any case, they have to have electricity to function. Older ignition switches that mount on the dash between the tanks are notorious for vibrating the rivets that hold the contacts in place loose. The first time I encountered this problem was on my old shovelhead. I was at my ropes end and had checked every electrical connection between the battery and the coil. 
  The way I finally found it was waiting till dark, then starting my bike with all the covers (including the dash) removed and revving up the engine. When the engine started cutting out, I noticed that sparks were coming out from under the ignition switch. After I started wiggling wires, I found the terminal that feeds power to the coil was loose and losing contact at a certain rpm range (vibration). I was able to repair the switch by disassembling it and peening the rivet with a center punch. 
  Unless you have enough experience to have a good idea what to check, then the first thing to check is how much voltage your battery is emitting. On most 12 volt ignition systems, it takes a minimum of 9 volts for your coil to fire. Any thing drawing energy away from this base voltage can greatly effect how your coil operates. You need to check your connections to make sure they are tight and corrosion free. Always check the ground cable where it bolts onto your frame or engine. A short in 
your lighting system can also draw away from your voltage supply. 
  Next in line is where you pick up voltage from the positive side of the battery to the hot side of your ignition switch. Later models usually pick up the hot wire at the connection where your battery cable bolts on to your starter solenoid. Older models had the main breaker coming straight off of the positive terminal on your battery. In either case, there will be a main breaker or fuse. If you have a test light or a voltmeter, you should read the same voltage from both terminals to ground as across the battery terminals. The hot wire generally goes from there to the input terminal on your ignition switch. After the ignition switch, the hot wire will either go to the kill switch and then to the coil, or it will go straight to the coil. 
  On breaker points ignition systems, the wire coming off of the other side of the coil will go down to the points. The condition and operation of the breaker points is critical. The gap should be checked on the small lobe of the point cam and should be set at 0.018 thousands of an inch. If you don't have a feeler gauge, then tear a piece of notebook paper and fold it twice. this should be close enough to get you home. The other sometimes troublesome component found in this same area is called the condenser. 
  The condenser is actually a capacitor that stores the excess energy backed up after the points have opened. It keeps the spark from trying to jump the point gap to the grounded side of the contacts. Ever water yer yard with one of them squeeze nozzles? Notice the way your hose jumps if you let your fingers slip off of the trigger? It's because the flow was abruptly shut off and all them molecules travelin at high velocity had trouble stoppin' in time and rear-ended all of the molecules in front that did stop. (sound like rush hour?) All of that energy has to go somewhere, so yer garden hose absorbed and 
contained all of that energy. 
  A condenser absorbs electrical energy in much the same way. You see, if the condenser doesn't do it's job, and the spark does jump across the point gap, then your coil has lost it's charge it built up. In short, ya want the coil to fire outta the spark plug wires instead of across the points gap. Condensers can go out all at once or be intermittent. When in doubt, try a new one. You may have to try two, because you can easily get a bad one right outta the box. Your condenser also has to be grounded good via the mounting screw. If all of this checks out and the points are opening and closing properly, then you should be getting a nice blue spark to ground outta both posts of your coil when the points open. 
  If the spark is reddish out of one of the posts, then you may have a weak coil. If the spark is reddish out of both posts, you may have a weak coil or low voltage. If you only get a spark of one post, then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you have a bad coil. Keep in mind that we are talking about a stock 3ohm dual post ignition coil. Single fire ignition is a horse of another color, which I will cover under electronic ignitions in the next issue.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, just email me. Always glad to help out a bro or sister stay in the wind. Till next issue, y'all keep the rubber side down...~Suds 
(TO BE CONTINUED - see PART II )                 back to top of page...
Backfire Blues (part 2)
  Last issue we discussed at great length the way breaker point ignition works and malfunctions that can cause backfires/misfires. This issue, we'll be talking about various types of electronic ignition systems. 
  The first style of electronic ignition system on a Harley I ever laid eyes on was a '79 Shovelhead. It was basic and had the trigger & "brain" both down where the points used to be. In fact' it used the same flyweight type mechanical advance mechanism as points did. It was fairly reliable and just as easy to set the timing. Since there were no points to wear down, the engine staid in time. The only thing was, the flyweights would wear down the tits that move what used to be the point cam.
  When this happens, your timing becomes retarded and can cause sluggish acceleration, slower idle speed, and even a spit-back through the carb. The coil on this system has the same Ohm rating as the one for points. Just as with points it should emit a nice blue spark to ground when the engine is spun over with the ignition switch in the on position.
  It is wired the same way as the breaker point ignition all the way down to the coil. From there, it picks up voltage from the 
hot wire feeding the coil. This wire then goes down to the micro-module on what used to be the "breaker plate". This powers 
a coil called an "exciter coil". 
 This coil is magnetized by the voltage, and when the tit on the "rotor" (what used to be the point cam) passes by this coil's core, it excites the magnetic field. The voltage variation causes a transistor in the module to work like a switch opening up, thus taking place of points opening up. The wire on going back to the other terminal of your coil operates the same way as the one that used to connect on the points and condenser.  
  Electronic ignition has made a few changes over the years. It basically operates on the same principles, it's just designed differently. The point is to eliminate as many mechanically moving parts as possible. In theory, it's supposed to be more reliable and maintenance free. 
  The next type of ignition HD started using had a larger module that had several features. It was programmed to advance the timing according to engine rpm (no flyweights), the engine made 2 full revolutions before it allowed the coil to fire (this was supposed to eliminate starter kickback and save your starter components), and had a rev limiter that started shutting off the spark at intervals so that it would go unnoticed as a misfire. This feature is supposed to eliminate the possibility of over-revving the engine and throwing a rod through the bottom of the cases. 
  Now there are many aftermarket manufacturers that have totally tunable modules. These enable one to set the advance rates to get the spark to the combustion chamber  when the piston is at it's peak power point. They generally come from the factory with a good ballpark setting, but the only way it will be totally efficient for your engine will be to tune it on a Dyno machine. 
  The Dyno machine puts the engine under a load at a given rpm range. It is best to tune these with the grade of fuel you will 
be running most of the time. The thing to remember about fuel grade, is that the higher the octane rating, the slower it burns. If you set the timing while running the highest octane available at the pumps, then your engine could ping and knock (sounds like a bag of marbles has been turned loose in your engine) during heavy acceleration if you switch to the lower octane. 
  The next ignition system to hit the scene was Single Fire Ignition. The title alone is self- descriptive. In all of the previously mentioned systems, both spark plugs fired at the same time, just on different piston strokes, i.e. one spark is emitted on the power stroke, and the other on the exhaust stroke. Single fire emits a spark to each cylinder only on the power stroke. 
  It is a popular belief that one spark will always be hotter than the other with the old style 2 post coils, and to a degree this will be true as electricity always takes the path of least resistance. The same thing could be true with Single fire if one of 
the coils is weaker than the other. Either condition could result in inter-mitten misfiring.  
  SingleFire ignition has 2 separate ignition coils and 2 separate exciter coils. The module controls the timing advance rate on both of them. These have been fairly reliable systems in the past. At first there were problems with the coil shorting out internally, but the manufacturer got that straightened out. 
  The only other problems that I have experience with these systems has been vibration related, i.e. nuts loosening at the coil connections. Oh yeah, once a bro of mine rode his bike about 80 miles and when he got to where he was going he laid his bike down on the right side in a gravel parking lot. He couldn't get his bike started again, and sometimes it would backfire. After a lot of cussing and some troubleshooting, we discovered that the rotor retainer bolt had worked loose, and when he laid the bike down on it's right side, the rotor fell out of the keyed cam that it bolts into.
  He said that his bike felt like it was cutting out every now and then during the trip, but since it wasn't backfiring, he thought he had gotten some bad gas. Apparently what had been happening was that the rotor had been free-floating between the exciter coils but managed to stay in the keyway that keeps it in time. Since the rotor was made out of high carbon plastic, it 
did not damage the exciter coils or the rotor. 
  After talking with him he said that since the rotor was made out of plastic, he was afraid to tighten it too tight for fear of breaking the rotor. No problem. A couple of drops of blue Lock-tite did the trick, and as far as I know, he hasn't had any more problems with his ignition. 
In any case, the majority of problems with either points or electronic ignition will be loose connections. In case I forgot to mention it, don't overlook the possibility of the kill switch connections. 
Keep the rubber side down, and yer motor runnin.   ~Suds         back to top of page...
Keepin' Yer Spark In Time (Magneto Ignition)
  The last 2 issues, we've been covering variouse types of ignition systems and what could go wrong with them to cause your engine to misfire. The one type of electronic ignition system I didn't cover is the new style that herley is using on the twin cam models. This system uses a proximity switch more commonly known as a "crank trigger". The flywheel is notched so as the flywheel spins, the prox switch senses these notches and sends pulses back to the module. The module counts these pulses, and tells the coil when to fire your sparkplugs. Modern automobiles are set up the same way. So far they seem quite reliable, but time and miles will tell. 
  Perhaps the oldest type of ingnition system used on production motorcycles is the magneto ignition. Many people still prefer this type of ignition system for the simple fact that it generates it's own electricity and will provide a fat blue spark even if your battery is stone dead, provided you have some way to spin your engine over. Magnetos have a permanent magnets imbeded in a rotor that spins past a coil that breaks up the magnetic feild. This induces a voltage that builds up in the primary windings of the coil. This "stored" voltage is also induced into the secondary winding and the energy is released when the points open up, simply because it has no place else to go. This is what fires your spark plugs. Oh yeah, the voltage is also magnified while it is storing in the secondary winding. 
  Yeah, magnetos have points and a condenser, and therefore require maintenance. Another drawback for the riders who don't like to tinker is the fact that most magnetos don't have an auto advance mechanism. Some of them do. Most of the magnetos on the market were designed to run at a constant speed above 1500 rpm's, at which your ignition timing should be fully advanced anyway. However, leaving it at this setting would shatter your ankle (kickstarting) or destroy your starter bendix because of the kickback this would cause. So, the manufacturers have provided a "retard mechanism", so that starting your machine is easier. 
  If you've watched someone start their machine who runs a mag, you've probably seen the little ritual they go through everytime they start their bike. There is a spring that works on a fulcrum  point to hold it either in the advanced or retarded position according to whichever direction the operator flips it. So the operator will flip it to the retard position to start the machine, and once it is running, will flip it to the advance position.
  I had a friend that used to have an old Panhead chopper that was running a Morris mag. One wintery Saturday nite we were partying into the wee hours of the morning (where does the time go?) when he starts bragging on how reliable his old pan is. 
As time goes by the brag gets bigger and he has everybody going on how his old pan will fire on the first kick every time. By this time, it had been sleeting off and on outside for about 6 hrs, and we had all been there for about nine. So we immeadiately start tellin him how full of it we think he really is when he invites us all outside to prove it. Naturaly we took him up on it so we could watch him break a sweat jumpin' up and down on the kickstarter. 
  We all get outside and it's colder'n a witches tit in a brass bra. There's ice on top of the gas tank an seat. We're all starting to snicker already when ol' Sam breaks the throttle loose from the ice and turns on the gas. Then he sticks this little key in the side of his magneto and turns it on, then flips it into the retard position. He gave the throttle about 3 twists and set the choke on full. He flipped the kickstart pedal out and spun the engine over till he brought one of the cylinders up on the compression stroke. He paused just long enough to grin at us, and jumped down on the kicker. We were all set to start laughin'and givin him hard time, but that old panhead roared to life. Our chins dropped down to about knee level, and if Sam's grin hadda got any bigger, I think the top of his head woulda fell off. After much crow eating by the rest of us, Sam said he attributed it mostly to the magneto. Made a believer out of us.  
  There are 2 main brand names of magnetos that have been popular with Harley riders for a long time. They would be Joe Hunt and Morris magnetos. Both now offer an auto advance mechanism. How about that. No more reaching down to retard yer timing so ya can kickstart the bike with out going over the handlebars. Both manufacturers have been around for a long time. The Joe Hunt name is well known on the racetracks for both cars and bikes. Morris is known mostly among motorcycle riders/racers. Morris mags have a spring that winds up under the drive to set the fixed permanent magnet generator that lets the rotor spin faster to deliver the spark no matter how slow yer engine spins. Both would seemingly guarantee that you get spark to your combustion chamber on demand.
  If you choose to get a magneto, installation can be very tricky. Unless you're having it installed professionally, it is 
imperative that you follow instructions to a tee. Once your timing is set then it's only a matter of regular maintenance with keeping the point gap set and regular tuneups. If I ever get a Twin Cam 88, I'l probably run a morris mag, simply because I 
like to keep things basic. I do not like the idea of having a machine that can (and probably will) break down and I can't repair it on the side of the road. That's it for now, and as always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions. In the meantime,     
Y'all ride free....~Suds                                       back to top of page
Chrome Don’t Get Ya Home
  I met this guy named “ Chrome Whore”. His bike has just about everything imaginable chromed except for his engine. Don’t 
get me wrong, he does have a dam good looking ride and she sounds as good as she looks. One night he couldn’t get her started because of a bad battery, and me being the smart-ass that I am, I couldn’t resist quoting that old adage, “chrome don’t get ya home” bro. To which he retorted, “Yeah, but it will get ya laid”.
  Personally I’ve never needed chrome to get laid, but that brings me to some trial and error experiences I’ve seen with fancy chrome bolt on goodies. Nowadays you can get just about anything chromed ya want off the shelf for yer bike. Take for instance them cool looking coil covers. 
  Even the stock rectangular one will give ya problems sooner or later. After a few times of not mattering how many times I repositioned it and retightened the bolts, it always wound up back to where it was shorting out my ignition wires at a certain RPM range where the most vibration occurred (Usually, during heavy acceleration).  I even tried lining the dam thing with everything with everything from a cut up piece of inner tube to several layers of electrical tape. Frustrated to no end, I 
finally made a dam fine ash tray outta mine. 
  Guess I’m more into “Go” than “show”, because I like to ride my bike more than 80 miles away from home, and I like to have easy access to essential components that make my engine fire correctly. 
  There are a lot of chrome goodies that look good and won’t effect the possibilities of a breakdown or misfire, so if you’re into that scene, don’t let me discourage you. There may even be a chrome coil cover out there that won’t cause ya any grief, 
but I’ve never found one, especially if ya ride frequently in the rain. If ya live in Texas and ride every day, that is inevitable (Which reminds me, Anybody got any pontoons for sale?).
  The most recent go-around I’ve had with chrome gadget was on a bro of mines scoot. He had one of them chromed billet aluminum stator wire retainers on his FXR. It seems that the bolt-hole had wallowed out over time, and while the bolt seemed tight (it was actually bottomed out in the hole), it just sat there on top of the connector and looked good. 
  He was on his way back to Dallas from Austin, when his headlight went dim and his engine started blappin’ out. He thought 
his stator was out, so he found a shop that replaced his old one. This got him back home, but a couple of days later, the same thing started happening. I guess this was enough time for the new plug to wallow out and start losin’ contact. 
  He brought the bike to me, and after reading his voltage output with a meter, experience taught me to take nothing for granted even if it was new. After some tinkering and wiggling of wires my voltmeter suddenly jumped in the output reading 
and I realized that it was a bad connection.
  Further inspection revealed the problem with the loose retainer. The bike shop mechanic should have found this problem, but could have been fooled by the bolt appearing to be tight because it bottomed out in the hole. We wound up making one out of 
a chrome (yes, I said chrome) wire fuel line guide. It worked just dandy, along with a good coat of Dielectric grease on the terminals.  I highly recommend this silicone based substance on any electrical connection that is prone to moisture. It may take a couple of times plugging and unplugging, but when it does make contact, you can rest assured that it will keep on making contact. 
See y’all in the wind, and keep the rubber side down…~Suds              back to top of page
Bad Bearing Boogie
Nothing like a tranny bearing siezing up to ruin a good ride, not to mention a good pair of jeans. Fortunately for my bro Phil, the bad tranny bearing was discovered before any dammage was done to body or bike. 
  Phil was riding '85 Softail custom a couple of days ago when he started hearing a whining noise that wasn't normal. He says he thought it was his rear belt drive whistling. He stoped to check his belt tension, and when he pushed in on his rear belt, he heard a clunk and had way too much slack. This indicated that his output shaft bearings had gone south.
   Phil is a fair wrench himself, but he only has one arm left (Had a head on while riding his old pan). He doesn't like to ask 
for help, but when he needs a hand, he means just that, so let the games begin. 
  Lots of stuff had to come off. Exhaust system, inner and outter primary covers, oil tank, starter, etc.... before we could even get to the tranny. All work on it was performed with the tranny case still bolted to the bike.
  Once the drive pulley was removed, it was fairly simple to tear down (especially compared to an old ratchet top). The top cover had to come off first, then the grooved drum assembly. It was only 4 bolts. then all we did was take the side trap door loose. Then we were able to tap on the main shaft to drive it through the main output shaft. 
  There is a race that rides inside of the bearing that is mounted inside the inner primary cover. This one was as stubborn as 
a mule. we used a propane torch to warm it up just enough to swell slightly. even so, I had to get a bigger hammer to drive the maim shaft out. 
  The gear cluster and shaft came out as an assembly attached to the drap door. Then we were able to remove the main output shaft. Then we found the problem. The main bearing that the output shaft rides in had a plastic retainer that keeps all of those ball bearings spaced evenly apart. 
  This had backed out of the bearing, which allowed all of the ball bearings to fall over to one side of the race. Since this caused a loose-tight-loose-tight operation, it also caused the inner needle roller bearings inside of the output shaft to wear 
out prematurely.  
  New bearings were installed, and the reassembly was just pretty much the same as disassmbly, only reversed. There is a massive intermal snap-ring that holds the main bearing in place that will add a few choice words to your vocabulary after 
about the 3rd attempt to put it back in ti's place. 
  Careful attention must be placed as to the position of the race that rides inside the carrier bearing for the mainshaft. It's easy to bottom it out, but there is supposed to be a gap of approxamately 0.099" between it and the main output shaft. These two shafts rotate at divverent speeds, and if the race touches it there will be heat causing friction. Also, it will not ride 
inside the carrier bearing correctly. 
  If you bottom it out, don't freak out. All that needs to be done is to loosen the trap door screws and drive the main shaft through, just like you did when you were tearing the tranny down. Pay attention, and only move it just enough to place it where it belongs. 
  While everything was apart, it was an opportune time to take care of a few other maintenance problems that were put off because of having to remove the oil tank to get at. Phil now has a neutral light again.
  After the bike was completely reassembled and adjusted, it was time for a test ride. The grin that phill came back with waid it all. No more noises, and it even shifted smoother. 
  If This collumn helps someone to tackle a problem they're experiencing with their own bike, or If you just enjoy reading it, we'd love to hear about it. I can be reached via e-mail at or Skunk can relay the message. In the meantime, Keep the rubber side down...~Suds      back to top of page
Keepin Yer Spokes In Tune
  If you’ve ever heard the term “ Tuning Spokes”, it’s no myth. It’s as simple as tapping a wrench on each individual spoke and listening to the tone it emits. They all should be fairly close, so it you should happen across one that sounds dead, it’s too loose. If one sounds too much higher than the others, it’s too tight. It left unattended, this could cause your rim to warp. 
I usually check mine after I’ve been on a long haul down some less than desirable roadways that lurk in most every state. I actually like these type of highways because they usually offer the best scenery. If I’ve just been doing everyday riding, I usually check them monthly or right before a weekend run. Word of warning, If you live in the city and like to do heavy acceleration after the light turns green, then you need to pay closer attention to your rear wheel. Heavy acceleration on a regular basis puts a pretty good strain on your spokes and could loosen because of stretching. People who run mags don’t have this problem. 
The other day a friend of mine sent me an article and asked me to share it with y’all. It’s pretty important safety-wise, so please read it and share it. Chances are, even if you don’t run spoke wheels, chances are, you know someone who does.
From Big Kid
October 7, 2003
"SuperSpoke" Trade-Up Program 
In September of 2002, American Wire Wheel, Inc out of Denton, TX sold off its assets and we purchased some of those assets. The new motorcycle wheel line now goes by the name American Wire Wheel, LLC of Dayton, OH and we are currently in production of 80 and 100 spoke custom spoke laced motorcycle wheels.
The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) began a preliminary investigation into the "SuperSpoke" wheel design (built by American Wire Wheel, Inc of Denton, TX) in October of 2002. The case has now been closed with no official declaration of defect, or mandated recall by the actual manufacturer.
Although we are very concerned about this issue, please note that we did not build the "SuperSpoke" wheels, we did not sell the "SuperSpoke" wheels, and we will not be building wheels using this design in the future. Furthermore, we will not perform repair services on "SuperSpoke" wheels.
Please e-mail inquiries to regarding orders and questions.
Ride Free   ~Suds                                               back to top of page
Getting Mixed Signals
  I’ve been working on a bros scooter for the last few weeks. It’s coming along great. Lots of hand-made custom parts. Had to do alot of re-wiring and such. Anyways, we’ve been hearin’ about how much more durable LED lights are as compared to standard incandescent bulbs. 
Once I tried one of them dual stage LED bulbs that fit into the stock taillight socket. I immediately removed it because it wasn’t bright at all. I had mixed feelings about them every since, because I’d seen some of the LED taillights that were LED all the way across the taillight and it seemed plenty bright.
To get more to the point, my bro, “Guardrail” decides to score some of them billet mirrors with the LED running/turn signal built right in. Good looking too. Seemed simple enough to wire. Three wires coming from each of them. The ground wire was obvious, so it was just a matter of hookin’ up the other 2 one at a time to see which one was brighter than the other. Simple… The white one was the running light (dimmer), and the red one was the signal (brighter). 
Solderin’ iron in hand, I went to work. The stock wire cable sheath is a gray color, and didn’t go with the theme, since everything else was black. Thanks to a little invention called shrink tubing, that situation was quickly remedied. 
Soon, everything was soldered in place and a new light duty flasher was installed. Test time. The key on and turn signal button pushed, the rear one lit up. The front one however, disappeared. After lots of head scratchin, I busted out the trusted voltmeter and started tracing wires. Got juice all the way to the LED lights. Ground wires checked good too. More head scratchin.
Next thing I tried was a last resort. Since this is a ’84 Ironhead Sporty, the stock wiring system allows both turn signals to be activated at the same time. ( WARNING: If ya have a weak flasher with the stock turn signals, you could blow the little contacts inside of it). There you have it, the flasher started makin all 4 lights flash. Simple, (we thought) we need a lighter duty flasher. 
Research…Well whadayaknow…we already got the lightest duty flasher made. More research, more head scratchin’, a few choice words…Aha..
Jira Parts catalog to the rescue…It seems that there is this little electronic device that’s called a voltage equalizer. Time to call it a night.
Next day, Guardrail comes up with one of these little devices, included was a wiring diagram that anyone could understand. Apparently this device increases the load by creating enough resistance to ground to fool the flasher into thinking it’s still got regular bulbs wired into it’s system. Worked like a charm.
This one had 3 wires. The black one was to be connected to ground. The brown one was for the right turn signal, and the purple (violet) wire was for the left turn signal. It came with the necessary terminals to wire it in, so a crimp tool was needed to finalize the installation. The diagram showed to connect the black wire to the negative battery post, but I just hooked it up to the nearest ¼” bolt anchored to the frame. Next, I used the little splice connectors to connect to the wires feeding the rear turn signals. 
Hope this helps anybody that was planning on switchin over to LED turn signals. 
Keep the rubber side down…. ~Suds                    back to top of page
Keep'n An Even Head
  I had a bro e-mail me last week looking for a set of Shovelheads, or a rear one for a ’79 80 incher. Curiosity got the better 
of me as I used to own a ’79 FLH. Mine dropped a valve in the rear cylinder one evening on the way home from an ABATE meeting. Trashed the piston and trashed the head, not to mention scatterin aluminum pieces throughout my lower case and 
timed breather. Naturally I assumed that he’d done the same, so I e-mailed him to see if this was indeed the case. I wasn’t 
even in the ballpark. 
  It turns out that he was experiencing a common problem that pretty much all aluminum heads with the 5-bolt pattern are susceptible to. This would be where the combusted gasses eat away at a weak spot in the castings. This could start with a low spot where the head was dropped or something dropped on it causing a ding. It doesn’t look like it’ll hurt anything, so most people will slap the head on anyway with new gaskets. 
  New gaskets will seal and your bike will run, but someday you’ll be riding along and all of a sudden lose power in a cylinder. Ya think, “Oh well, gotta go buy some new gaskets. Time to fix that oil leak anyways”. Then when ya get her torn down and inspect yer heads, ya notice there’s a little trail of missing metal.
  Another baffling symptom (experience talkin’here) is after doin’ a top end on yer Shovel and everything is running like clockwork when all of a sudden ya start losing power like somebody just shoved a potato up each drag pipe. Ya pull over and she’s idling great. Ya check her out, rev the engine a couple of times and get back on the road. The power band seems all right until ya just get into top gear, then she starts bogging down again. No misfire, no backfire, just power loss. 
  By this time, yer brain is really puzzled. Ya start thinking ya ain’t got no oil pressure, or ya must be running outta fuel in the carbs bowl. Maybe yer tranny’s got a bearing getting hot and trying to seize up. Ya check all of this stuff out after pulling 
over a few more times, and ya just keep coming up even more befuddled than before. 
  The culprit, as it turns out is a pathway eaten out of yer head and gasket over to the oil drain passage. What happens is the combusted gasses bleed over and down yer oil drain passage and into the crankcase, thus creating more pressure than your timed breather can deal with. This means that even though ya got an explosion pushin’ yer piston down, ya also got pressure on the bottom side that is being compressed at the same time. Kinda like yer engine is working against itself. 
  Preventive measures to take are to always look at your heads on a flat surface such as a piece of glass windowpane or a mirror. With a light on the other side you need to rotate the head around and look for gaps where the light is shining through. If it is, then you have an uneven head on yer hands. 
  IF this is indeed the case, some machining is required to make the head surface flat again. Since Shovels and Pans have a lip where the cylinder wall sticks up, then the recess in the head needs to be deepened too. This will ensure a good seal when the head is installed and properly torqued.
  Now, back to the other problem. If the erosion is too deep to mill out within just a few thousands of an inch, then it will probably need built up via welding., then machined back down. A lot of people are scared of aluminum, but anybody with a 
wire welder that has a spool gun attachment and a bottle of pure Argon gas should be able to weld it back up with ease. 
  One of the main tricks is to have some clean aluminum for the new aluminum to stick to. The best way I’ve found to do this is to use a high-speed air tool called a Die-grinder. Use a good carbide burr in it and whittle away at the corroded aluminum 
until shiny comes up. Then it’s good to weld. This can also be done with a TIG welder, but a spool gun is a little more forgiving, as it’s feeding new metal in as it melts into the clean metal. 
  Aluminum is only compatible with aluminum unless it’s in an alloy. Therefore, all ya have to do is thread in an old head-bolt, and the aluminum won’t stick to it, nor will any misguided beads fall down in yer threads. Once this is done, then it’s pretty much the same machining procedure as was mentioned earlier. 
  The final topic of this article is the head gaskets. First off while I’m thinking about it, you need to consider all of the things involved in getting a good seal. There is also the lip on the cylinder wall I mentioned earlier. If there is a good portion of this missing also, there could be a problem. The best solution I’ve found is to use head gaskets with a “fire ring”. 
  This is a gasket with a metal band outlining the inside hole. This acts as an extra barrier to stop gasses from eating away at the sealing surface of yer head. The head must be torqued evenly using the star pattern, and torqued to specs. DO NOT forget to re-torque after the initial warm-up on a fresh top end job any time.
  The bonus side to shaving yer heads is that it boosts yer compression ratio slightly. The downside is that you may have to increase the octane of yer fuel grade. Another possible is that you may have to worry about valve/piston clearance if you have a high lift cam or a progressive rocker arm ratio. 
  Hope this helps somebody save some of them old heads, not to mention a few bucks down the road. If ya have any questions about what’s ailin yer scoot, feel free to contact Skunk at Skunk Dots to get a message to me, or ya can e-mail me direct at .   Keep the rubber side down…~Suds                     back to top of page
The Trouble With Tappets
  To start off with, the word “tappets” is an old automotive term that refers to the rocker arms and lifters. I can only speculate, but perhaps it has to do with the tapping sound they make when your engine is running.  At any rate, if ya have solid lifters, they have to be adjusted every so often. I’m gonna pick mainly on Iron Head Sporty’s this time around mainly because my youngest brother rides one.  
The other day I was working on another bros Sporty when my brother dropped by on his ’76 Iron Head. Normally his bike sounds pretty sweet with the fishtails he runs over drag pipes, but this time it sounded like a Briggs & Stratton with a piece of ¾” pipe in place of the muffler. Not good. 
He said that he wanted me to look at his points and set them and dial in his carb. No prob, I told him to pop off the cover while I finished up something I was doin’ on the other bike. When I got a look at them, I could see there was quite a bit of metal transfer on his contacts. “Metal transfer” is what occurs over a period of use when your points arc as they open, meaning that some of the metal from one side of the contacts breaks loose from one side and welds to the other side. That’s how you end up with a pit on one contact and a small mountain on the other. 
They were still sparking, so I tried to open up the gap to see if I could get his front cylinder hitting again. They were adjusted all the way, and were barely opening. I told him to get down to Auto Zone immediately and ask for a set of points for a ’66 Chevy Nova with a 235 6 cylinder, and to make sure the points had the little grease pill in the box. 
Points installed and carb adjusted, it still wouldn’t hit on the front cylinder at idle. I asked him when was the last time he’d adjusted his valves, and he shrugged his shoulders saying, “I haven’t touched them for a long time, ‘cause they’ve been quiet. 
I told him to go home and put the back wheel in the air and check them valves. About an hour later, he came puttin’ up the drive way soundin’ like he was on different bike than the one he left on.  I readjusted the carb and she was thumpin out that sweet rhythm again. 
The thing about early Iron Heads is that they weren’t designed for unleaded fuel. Back in their day, they relied on the lead film to provide a cushion film on the valves and seats. Since the heads are made out of cast iron, there are no hardened seats for the valves to seal against. So, that being said, If ya figure that every valve in yer engine opens and shuts once for every 2 revolutions, well, ya don’t have to be a Rocket scientist to figure that them babies open and slam shut a helluva lot of times in 
a single minute at highway speeds.
The valve to literally beat itself in deeper. That is until all of the available slack is gone in the valve train (cams, lifters, pushrods, rocker arms, valves stem). This will allow the valve to remain open slightly instead of seating off and sealing the combustion chamber on the compression stroke. Why it will fire at a higher rpm than idle is because the compression doesn’t have time to escape. If left unattended, the valve seat will start to pit and burn (otherwise known as a burned valve). 
Keeping your valves adjusted (solid lifters) is a fairly simple task. I usually have two ½” open-end wrenches and a 7/16” open-end wrench to do the adjustment. The easiest way is to remove the spark plugs, jack the back wheel off the ground, and put 
the tranny in high gear. This way you can spin the engine over by turning the back wheel. The next step is to pop the keepers off of the pushrod tubes. Slide the bottom upwards toward the head and clip a clothes hanger on the pushrod under the tube. This will hold it up so you can watch the pushrod action. 
It doesn’t matter whether you start with the intakes or the exhausts, but do both of each before you go to the other. Just for the sake of argument, I’m gonna tell ya about the exhaust valves first. 
For you beginners out there, the exhaust valves on a Harley V-twin are the outer most valves (closest to the exhaust pipes). 
The intakes are the inner most two (closest to the carburetor). Anyways, back to the task at hand. 
Rotate the rear wheel and make the engine spin in the same direction as it would if you were out riding her. Watch both pushrods and pay attention to whichever one goes up. When it seems like it’s all the way up, stop. Then grab the opposite pushrod and try to spin it with your thumb and forefinger. It should spin free with no up and down movement. If it doesn’t, loosen the locknut and adjust the stem accordingly. Then repeat the process for the other valves. 
The reason for adjusting valves in this manner, is that if one valve is all the way open (pushrod up), then the other should be 
all the way closed. At the very least, your valve adjustment should be checked every time you do a tune-up. By the way, use the same procedure on big twins with solid lifters. Hydraulic lifter adjustment is a whole ‘nuther cam of worms. Hope this helps keep yer hawg makin’ that sweet music. 
Keep the Rubber side Down…~Suds                      back to top of page
Bad Battery Blues
 There’s nothing like jumping on yer scoot ready for a day of fun and riding and yer starter solenoid starts rattling like one of them wind-up monkeys with a snare drum. Yup, battery’s dead. It could just be a loose connection, but more’n likely it’s a bad battery. 
Now, even though I’ve never gotten more’n a couple of years of service out of a Lead/Acid battery, like they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That being said, the first thing that is imperative to a healthy battery is having enough electrolyte acid  to cover the top of the plates. Electrolite Acid is cheap enough, and you can pick a small container up at yer local Auto-Zone or O’rileys  parts store.  If  ya ain’t got the money for acid, at least add distilled water. DO NOT use tap water. Tap water is full of minerals which are conductors of electricity. This could cause your battery to short out internally between cells.
I was recently talking with a friend of mine that thought he had charging system problems. At low rpm his charging system was putting out 13-14 volts, but as soon as the rpm went above 1500, the voltage output would drop below 11 volts. He replaced everything from stator to regulator a couple of times , and even bought a complete kit from Spyke. Same story. It was by accident, or lack of anything else to do, that he changed the battery, and it solved his problem. As it turns out, this was a 
freak thing that was causing a short between 2 cells when the charge rate was more constant with the higher rpm. Go figure.
Back in the Day, there was only the lead/acid type of battery, of course there was also 6volt and 12volt. Nowadays, everything is pretty much 12volt. Modern batteries range from Sealed Lead/Acid, Sealed Gel, and even Dry Cell. I guess if they can do that with coffee (Latte??), Why not batteries. If you happen to have one of these types of batteries, then ya just have to replace the battery when it goes bad. Oh yeah, these also have designer type price tags to go with them. 
Personally I like things I can keep an eye on and cheap, just not cheaply made. Some of the better brand names I have had good luck with is Yuasa, Interstate, and Sears Die Hard. Interstate used to be made by Yuasa, but it just didn’t have as much lead on the plates as the one that carried their name. Still a good battery though.  I like the Sears Die Hard, because the warranty is good at any Sears store in the continental U.S. 
Once I was on my way back from CA and battery decided to develop a dead cell in AZ. I stopped off at the Sears store in Flagstaff and showed them my warranty papers. They didn’t have one in stock, and said it would be there the next day. I 
asked the guy where it was being shipped from, and he said Albuquerque, NM. I told him to get back on that phone and tell the guy to acid it up and put it on charge, that I’d bee there around noon the next day. The guy confirmed that it would be done, and the next day I rolled into the Sears store of Albuquerque and got my new battery. Because of the fact that I had saved them a shipping charge, they pro-rated it 100% (free). 
Anyways, I prefer a battery that has been stored dry and isn’t filled and charged till the day I’m gonna install it. Lead/Acid batteries seem to lose some of their life if they’ve been sitting on the shelf for awhile after being filled and charged.
Charging a battery, new or old should never be done at a rate of over 2 amps, or this will also shorten the life. While a newly filled battery will appear fully charged and usually will start your bike, it isn’t. Running a battery in this condition will shorten the life also. While your bike’s charging system is designed to run all of your electrical goodies and maintain the battery, it isn’t like a car alternator and will not do a good job of fully charging a new battery. 
Like I said earlier, the most important thing is the acid level to be maintained. There are a few other important things to keep on top of also. Connections at the battery and cable ends must be kept clean and tight. It also helps to keep your bike well tuned and capable of quick starts. Good connections are also important inside yer starter solenoid. Bad contacts can cause a high amperage draw. Ever spin yer engine over a bunch of times and it won’t fire, then when ya give up and let off of the button and she roars to life? That’s because it takes a minimum of 9Volts to fire the ignition coil, and the starter is drawing 
too much voltage away to fire the coil. Then when you let off of the button the voltage is restored to the coil and the engine 
is spinning fast enough to fire. This also will occur if your starter brushes are too worn down. 
Now I’m gonna turn ya on to one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s a little booster pack I bought at one of them auto parts stores. It has a battery-pack that puts out a lot of cranking amps and all ya have to do is plug it into an extension cord and a wall outlet to keep it charged. It’s got short jumper cables and a cigarette lighter socket so ya can charge yer cell phone or run something else that requires 12 volts DC power. Most of the time, The seat doesn’t have to be removed, you just need to have access to the battery side of your starter solenoid, then ground the other cable to the passenger peg or something.  
Y’all keep it running, stay safe and ride free…~Suds           back to top of page
Keepin' Yer Cables Able
There ain’t nothing like getting all set to ride to work and some malfunction prevents you from getting to do just that. Then it’s #@*%$#. Now I gotta go see if the cage is gonna start. Then ya realize yer overdressed for drivin’ a cage. So it’s off with 
the leathers (heater works in the cage).  All day long, yer mind keeps wandering to the problem with yer scoot. Especially when every time ya poke yer head outside, there ain’t nothing but sunshine. 
This scenario happened to me just the other day. In my case, I fired the scoot up to warm up and my throttle hung ½ way open. The engine was screaming bloody murder, and even though I shut her down quick, my neighbors don’t share the same affection for straight fishtails as I do. The moral of this story is if ya wanna ride, ya gotta keep yer cables able to perform their job. 
In my case, the cable broke inside and unraveled. Then when cracked the throttle open it wadded up inside the sheath and stuck. Unlike most newer Harleys, I don’t have one of them fancy RETURN cables. I had a spare on the garage wall, so I 
didn’t have to worry about getting offa work in time to go get another. It pays to keep spares. When I got the old one off, 
I also noticed that in the bend of the steel elbow, the cable was starting to wear through the top of it too. I’m just glad it happened in my garage instead of out on the road. It can get pretty hairy hangin on in one of them cloverleaf turns to get on the freeway with yer throttle stuck wide open (that’s another story). 
Now cables is cables in the sense of they’re made of braided steel wire and slide in and out through an outer sheath which comes in a variety of construction.(with the exception of speedo and tach cables). Motorcycles in general have two basic functioning cables, being the throttle cable/s and the clutch cable. A lot of carbureted models have a choke cable, and some bikes (usually older models) have at least one brake cable. 
At any rate, most cables (even speedo & tach cables) don’t have a vinyl or Teflon liner, so they require periodic lubrication 
for ease of function and longevity. A lot of people are under the illusion that WD-40 is good for any application. Not so. It 
has its purpose, but it doesn’t stay in place on cables for very long. Especially if you frequent high pressure carwashes and spray your entire engine with that degreaser. 
The best cable lube that I’ve found is one with a dry molly based chain/cable lube. Bardahls is the brand I use. There are special adapters that can be purchased to force the lube down the cable, but good ol’ gravity works just fine for me.  All ya gotta do is unfasten the high end and hole it with a grease rag wrapped around it and start squirting the lube into the hole around the inner cable. Then when that disappears, repeat the process a few times until ya think you have enough in there to have bled down to the low point. 
Now the newer Harley clutch cables have a Teflon liner and don’t have much of a problem with needing frequent lubrication. However, the part that is exposed to the elements which is between the sheath and the clutch lever does need something to keep it preserved (if you will). This will help keep it from fraying prematurely up at that end. Another tip is to make sure that the Teflon bushings for the pivot cable end is in good shape, and that the cable end rotates freely inside it. If it doesn’t, you will probably hear it “popping” as you squeeze in the clutch. This little impact will cause the cable to fray up there faster than anything I can think of (not including hacksaws etc…for some of y’all smart-asses out there).  
For all you classic Triumph riders on them beautiful vertical twins (not pre-units), I’m gonna share a little trick I discovered. 
In case ya haven’t gotten curious on your own and already figured it out, a late style Harley 5-speed clutch cable will screw right into the top of the tranny cover and the little ball will work in the fork of the clutch arm. The only thing is, ya have to 
run a Harley clutch lever, which was cool with me, ‘cause I run one-inch instead of seven-eighths handlebars on mine. 
I hope y’all have lots of trouble free ridin’, and you usually will with a little maintenance. Till next time…~Suds
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Time To Loosen Your Belt
Nothing will ruin a good time like you’re rubber band breaking half way through your ride. Here are a few tips on maintenance for belts and pulleys. 
First off, the rear belt isn’t actually a belt as in fan belt. It is a poly-chain; therefore you tighten it like a chain and not like a fan belt. The specification book calls for about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch travel with about 10 ft-lbs of upward pressure from the bottom side of the belt. The ft-lb tensioning device also has to be fairly centralized between the front and rear pulleys. I noticed that the new twin-cam FL models have a little gauged window in the bottom belt guard that has notches to make this easy. Each notch is a 1/8-inch increment. 
Things that can cause premature wear on belts are over tightening, sand, dirt, rocks etc. You guys that think it looks cool running an open rear belt are in for more headaches down the road, because that guard does a pretty good job of keeping 
most of the trash out from between the belt and rear pulley. We’ve had a pretty wet year in North Central Texas, and it kind 
of puts me in mind of a farmhouse I lived in during the early 90’s. It was a very monsoon season and the driveway was dirt. 
The bike was my only transportation so I rode to work and back in all kinds of weather. I would mud-dog that bike out of the driveway (about the length of 2 football fields) at 5:30 in the morning to head to work. 
The point is, that even that stock bottom belt guard would only peel off only so much of that gumbo mud. Some of it got lodged it between my belt and pulleys. At first the mud would mash out evenly so I didn’t notice what was happening, but after the 
mud got hard-packed in the pulley teeth, some of it flew out, and some of it didn’t. It kind of felt like the tranny was stripping a gear with the back and forth jerking. You get the same sensation when some of the teeth start peeling loose from the inside of the belt, except that is more intermittent. 
It was raining hard, so I rode it like that for the 48 miles to work. After work, I spent about 2hrs with a screwdriver digging out hard-packed mud from the teeth of both pulleys. After that, the belt only lasted a few more weeks.  Changing the belt involves a helluva lot of work. Ya have to remove the inner and outer primary and either a shock on the drive side, of the centerpiece of the swing arm on softail models. I have it down to just around 4hrs on my ’88 Softail. Eventually I learned that the trick is to keep the back wheel spinning fast enough to keep the mud slung off of the rear wheel. 
Another thing poly-chains don’t like is extreme cold weather. Like I said, I had to ride to work in all kinds of weather. 
It seems the when the temperature reached below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the belt teeth would tend to get brittle. Then 
comes that intermittent jerking sensation that I spoke of earlier. 
Running your belt too loose will also cause the pulley teeth to wear faster. Most aftermarket pulleys have hard chrome plating over the aluminum, and once that wears off, the softer aluminum wears even faster. All it takes is on piece of gravel getting embedded in the pulley to chip out some of the chrome, and from there, it’s going to progress faster. 
Every time you change out your rear tire, you should always inspect the pulleys for wear, along with checking the brake pads and repacking the wheel bearings. Checking the pulleys is easy. First, visually inspect the pulley for anything obvious. Then 
feel the inside valleys of the teeth to see if a ridge is starting to form on the side where the belt is putting the most pressure on when your riding. If you can feel that it’s starting to wallow out a little, you can either change it out, or keep this in mind and keep a closer eye on it. 
Inspect the belt to make sure there isn’t any debris embedded in the belt teeth. This will turn the belt into a kind of grindstone that will wear out the pulleys faster too.  The front pulley is a little more difficult (ok, a lot more difficult) to inspect, but however you can get to it, the same procedure goes for it. Use the belt to rotate it. 
When you get the rear tire mounted, it is imperative that the pulleys be aligned with each other. There is a margin of error, but if it isn’t relatively close, one side of the pulley will wear faster than the other. By the same token, you don’t want to sacrifice the tracking of your rear tire in relation to the front, because that is definitely more important. 
By comparison, a rear belt drive is more vibration free and less maintenance than a chain. That being said, I feel it is 
important to say that chains stretch unevenly, and sprockets wear. The teeth will slope over like a circular saw blade, and 
wear down to a nub. I’ve seen people get all they could get out of them. Chains have the same enemies as a belt drive, but the one the chain has that a belt doesn’t, is a master link. Make sure that the open end of the clip on the master link is facing opposite of the direction of rotation. Nothing like flying down the freeway and your chain comes apart because the clip 
popped off after hitting the chain guard or something.
All for now, Stay safe and keep the rubber side down..   ~Suds                back to top of page
Smokin' Ain't Cool
There’s nothing like rolling down the street with the wind in yer hair, listenin to the rumble of yer engine, but one look in yer rearview tells ya that you could contract with the city authorities to be a mosquito fogger. Since you don’t have wings, skywriting is out. Well now… so much for looking cool. 
Let’s get to some causes and cures of these symptoms. First off, Let’s define the color of the smoke coming out of your exhaust pipes. If it’s black smoke, then yer problem is with your carburetor dumping more fuel in the engine than it can burn. Blue or white smoke indicates that your engine is burning oil. This can be due to several things. 
Number one, you just may have too many miles on yer engine, but I can tell ya first hand that time takes more of a toll than miles do. A complete top end rebuild should cure the problem if this is the case, but be sure to check yer lower end out good before just doing a top end. If your bottom end is worn out too and you get the top end and compression back to where they belong, it could be too much stress on the bottom end. I don’t have to tell ya that the worse case scenario of this isn’t a pretty picture.
Number two; you may do a lot of bumper to fender traffic jams commuting back and forth to work. This is the biggest cause of premature engine wear. Air-cooled engines were just not designed to idle for prolonged periods of time without overheating. I’ve been in a few traffic jams, a couple of toy runs, and a parade that was stop-go-stop-go. 
During the parade, I thought my engine was going into nuclear meltdown. I could smell the gaskets cooking and every time I accelerated, it was pinging and knocking so bad, it sounded like somebody dropped a dime bag of marbles down my carb. 
Replacing the valve guide seals and the top end gaskets can usually cure this. Since you have to remove the valve springs and keepers to replace the valve guide seals, you should always check the valve guides for wear and look at the valve stems for scoring or rough areas that could damage the valve guide or new seal. If excessive wear or scoring is present, this needs to be corrected before reassembly.
A friend of mine has an Iron Head Sporty and had the top end done by a shop. They had put Shovelhead valve guide seals over the valve guides. This caused no lubrication to get to his valve stems, and when his engine warmed up to operating temperature, the valves would stick open resulting in a loss of compression. When the engine cooled back down, it would run fine until it warmed up again. Tight valve guide tolerances on Iron Heads should be sufficient without seals. 
Shovels and Evos however require seals. What happens is - if there is too much space between the valve stem and the valve guide and the seal… then when the cylinder is on the intake stroke, oil is sucked into the combustion chamber along with the fuel/air mixture. It takes a lot more heat to ignite oil than it does gasoline, but when it does ignite, it also burns hotter. This in itself could theoretically cause higher engine temperatures and piston meltdown. Therefore, I do NOT recommend using “anti-foul” adapters on yer sparkplugs. 
Add this one to yer list of “don’ts” too…
I had a ’79 FLH that I did one of my first top ends on. I was tired of the oil leaks and decided I’d stop them good. I spread RTV black silicone on all of the gaskets from the cylinder base up. It stopped all the oil leaks all right, including the oil return passages in the cylinder. All the oil would pump up to the top in the rocker boxes and had no place else to go. Needless to say, I looked like that proverbial mosquito fogger I mentioned earlier. That crap also ended up in the filter screen for the lifters too. It was a mess that had to be completely taken back down to repair. Another lesson learned. 
Last on the list is worn or broken rings, but that would cause enough other problems with the engine’s ability to run that smoking would merely be a side effect. 
Till next time, Y’all be safe and keep the rubber side down.    ~Suds          back to top of page

Dec 04  Keepin' Yer Cables Able
Jan 05  Time To Loosen Your Belt
Mar 05  Smokin' Ain't Cool
June 06  Alternator Putting OutToo Much Voltage
Aug 06   Excess Oil in Crankcase Vent Holes
Aug 06   Shovel Starter Problems
Mar 09  Bendix Trouble
Mar 09  Starter Problem / Solonoid Won't Release
Apr  09  Spark Plugs Keep Fouling (black/sooty)
Aug 09   Solenoid Stuck / Melted Battery Post
Jan 2010  Shovelhead Starter Trouble
Feb 2010  Ignition Switch
Apr 2010  Swing Arm
Jun 2011  Crank Case
Jun 2012  Kill Switch
Dec 2014  Starters
Finding Top Center on No.1 Cylinder (Changing Cams)
How do you know where top dead center on no. 1 cyclinder is when changing cams on a shovel head.
Suds sez: 
Remove the timing plug from the drive (left) side of the case. 
Remove spark plugs (if not already removed). Rotate crank shaft slowly until slash mark on flywheel is centered in the timing plug hole. If the old cam shaft is still in, then you will also need to remove the push rod clips and if both intake and exhaust push rods are down... then it is on the compression stroke.  If the exhaust push rod is coming up and intake push rod is going up, then you are at the beginning of the intake stroke and will need to go around one more revolution. Then check where your timing marks in you timing case are aligned with each other. There should be 2 marks on the cam shaft ... one aligns with the crank shaft pinion gear & the other aligns with the timed breather. All you have to do is get the new cam shaft to align with these marks at this point. 
Evo motors... you only have to worry about aligning the timing marks in the timing case.  That oughta be it.  If this doesn't help ya out then email me back and we'll go from there.  
Ride Free  ~Suds                                                back to top of page...
Stripped Adjustment Screw to Clutch...
from Tony:
adjustment screw to clutch is messed up, keeps coming loose, wont lock
Suds sez: 
your bikes 4-speed right? is the lock nut stripped ? is it a ratchet top tranny ? or a turtle top
from Tony: 
yea sure is, ratchet top
Suds sez:
if it's stripped then you can grind off the old nut and weld a new one on... or replace that pressure plate
from Tony: 
the end of it is rounded out cant put a screwdriver on it, will have replace it
Suds sez:
yep, will have to replace it.. if you have a dremmel tool with a small cut-off wheel you can use it to grind a new slot in it to use a screwdriver
if you do replace it.. try using an Allen set screw, then find a socket to fit the locknut and weld a handle on it. That way you can insert the Allen wrench thru the square hole in the socket and hold the set screw in place while you tighten the locknut. Makes things simpler that way.  hope this helps... Ride Free  ~Suds                    back to top of page...
Alternator Putting Out Too Much Voltage...
from Yolanda:
Hi suds, I have an 03 electric glide with lots of electrical add ons  my voltage is running about 15+ when I am running down the road.  I had a new stater put in it and its still doing it.  Do you think I might have a short or just too much electrical stuff on  it ????????????  thanks for your help.
Suds sez:
Hey Yolanda, Being an '03, you have the 32amp alternator. If you are putting out 15 Volts DC at your battery, then your alternator is working good, but your regulator is not. This is too much voltage and will cause the water (acid) to boil out of your battery. Your average voltage out-put should be around 13.5v and no more than 14v dc. The amperage draw will increase or decrease wih the load demand. I would say that your regulator is bad. If you need anything explained in greater detail or have more questions, feel free to reply. 
Ride free..    ~Suds                                                   back to top of page
Excess Oil in Crankcase Vent Holes...
from Johnny:
Got a 1993 Fat boy. In Jan. had upper reworked and a Crane 300 cam installed. The oil spray going into carb.from crankcase vent was a little excess. Went back to shop installed a new set of butterfly valves. This helped but oil starts running out of carb. filter after about 600 miles. I then run hose from vents to ground not through carb . Is this ok? Also is it uncommon for this much oil to go through crankcase vent?   -Johnny
Suds sez:
Johnny, No it's not common for excess oil coming through the vent hole. If you didn't have this problem before the cam was installed, I would make sure that the timed breather was timed right. There are a few other cures that I haven't done much research on. One of them is this ugly setup that has tubes running out and down the side of the engine. Another remote possibility is that the scavenger side of your oil pump isn't pulling it out of your crankcase fast enough. If putting new umbrellas in seemed to help for a time, then I would investigate in some of the high performance venting kits available. If the problem did not exist before the new cam, then I would as I said earlier, go back over what was done and see what changed besides the cam. Hope this helps...~Suds 
Suds sez:
After I reread your email I see that you had a top end done. Is it possible that one of your ring sets turned so that the gaps are aligned instead of staggered? This would cause what is known as crankcase blow-by. Combustion gasses would be bypassing the piston and rings, thereby creating excess crankcase pressure. Chances are that if this were a bad problem, you would be blowing cylinder base gaskets too. Something to think about. L8r..~Suds
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Shovel Starter Problems...
from Ken:
Hi, I ride a 1981 electraglide shovel. $4000.00 dollars later on a rebuild by a not no reputable cycle shop, I am having starter problems. When I push the starter button, the starter drags and will not stop trying to turn over even after I release the starter button. It will keep going until it either starts, or I pull the battery wire off. I have replaced the starter relay, the starter solenoid, and even the starter (with a used one). I shimmed the shaft, and it will drag until the solenoid gets hot and the battery gets hot. The shop that rebuild my bike did not change the connecting rod bushings, and It was ruining my pistons. Three sets of pistons later I found the problem myself and now do all the work on it myself.  My pistons are now 40 thousandths over, and I wondered it this could lead to too much compression  for the starter? I can hardly kick the bike over, but when it starts, it runs great. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you in advance for any advice you may have.  -Ken 
Suds sez:
Ken, I used to have the same problem with a '79 shovel I used to have. The problem turned out to be a series of things. One was a poor ground connection. Two was the starter needed brushes. Both of these problems together caused a high amp draw which would weld the contacts together inside the solenoid. I had to replace the solenoid also at that point. More than likely, you have a presto-lite make starter motor, and most starter-alternator shops can get brushes and turn down the commutator on your starter if needed. I have had real good luck with the guys at my local shop, and they were a lot cheaper than a new starter. If you have the old style relay that bolts underneath the battery box instead of the little black square one, I would recomend switching over to the little black relay, as it also tends to stick less that the old monstrosity. Anything yu can do to cut down the drag will cut down on amperage draw too. Make sure that the needle bearings in the starter where the output shaft goes through the gear are in good shape and the shaft rotates freely in there. Check the roller bearing in your inner primary and also the needle bearing in the outter primary. It should be flush with the cover. The copper shim acts as a cushion for over travel shock and should spin easily by reachin in through the derby cover after the outter primary is installed and tight. This should give you some idea and hopefully named something you haven't already thought of. If you wouldn't mind, when you do get it fixed, please let me know what the cure was for my own mental library. Keep them wrenches turning...~Suds
from Ken:
Well, I found my problem. You were right.  I took the starter off, and in the starter housing is a set of needle bearings. Some of these were broke, causing the starter/jackshaft to get in a bind. Since it wasnt allowing the bendix (solenoid) to disengage it was trying to keep starting the bike, but it was dragging because of the bearings being caught in it. Now if only I had the bearings.:)  Wont be able to order any until after the holiday weekend. So this weekend is shot.  Hey thanks for all your advice and helpful ideas. Have a good weekend.  -Ken 
Suds sez:
You're welcome Ken. If there is a bearing supply house near you and you can read a number off of the old race, they should be able to cross reference one for you, and many times will be cheaper than going through a bike shop. If not, then when your new ones do come in, get the number and see if they can cross reference it. I take it by your statement that you don't have a kickstart on the ol' shovel. They may be obsolete, but they're great standbys. 
Keep the rubber side down..~Suds
from Ken:
Hi, not to keep bugging you, but the bearing on my bike is sealed on one end so dirt doesnt get in the starter housing. I wonder if a regular bearing would work? I have a kick start on my bike, but it kicks my butt. Me and the old girl have had our differences. thanks again  -ken 
Suds sez:
Ken, A regular bearing Is sealed off on the cap end, but an open bearing wont work. It does need to be sealed. It seems to me that it is a pretty common needle bearing, so any industrial bearing supply house should be able to obtain it. If your kickstart is kicking back on you all the time, your base timing is too far advanced, or your advance mechanism may be sticking in the advance position instead of returning to zero. You shouldn't have to do massive kicks to get them started. I tune them to where I can start them with my arm. Another indication of this happening is if your starter kicks hard while starting, especially while the engine is warm.  Ride Free  ~Suds
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Bendix Trouble...
from CCRider79:
Hey Suds, I have a 79' low rider and have replaced my bendix several times. The problem I have is when starting the bike the bendix gets hug up on the ring gear. Almost like there's a delay before this bendix is brought back into position. So you hear this winding sound, drives you crazy. Trying to pin point this problem.
Any suggestions on this?  -CCrider79
Suds sez:
Usually this is an indication tht the contacts are sticking in the solenoid, or the armature is cocking inside the solenoid and the engine vibration finally breaks it loose. The more common one is the first reason, but there are usually causes for this condition. The main cause is that for some reason your starter motor is drawing too many amps. The most common cause of this condition is a bad ground connection, or your ignition timing is too far advanced causing kickback while trying to start. This makes the starter motor work a lot harder while trying to overcome engine pre-ignition. The next probable cause would be that the starter motor is just worn out and needs the commutator cleaned and new brushes installed. The least likely cause would be the teeth in the ring gear are worn at an angle causing the ring gear to want to hang onto the bendix gear while the return spring is trying to pull it back to home position. Hope this helps you out.   ~Suds                                                         back to top of page
Starter Problem / Solenoid Won't Release...
from Tony D:
Hi Suds, I have had a standing starting issue with my 1988 FLHTC and although I can eliminate the symptom, I don't understand the root cause. I replaced the solenoid and nothing else years ago and the starter would engage but continue to run after releasing the starter switch (I had to move quickly to disconnect the battery cable!). I looked through the repair manual and could find nothing wrong. I compared the solenoid to the one I replaced by depressing the shaft and comparing the point at which the solenoid terminals would have continuity. I eventually tried grinding down the solenoid shaft about 1/16" and it worked fine for years.
I recently replaced the solenoid again and, no surprise, the starter will continue running after releasing the starter switch. I don't bolt down the battery cable, I just hold it on the battery terminal so I won't burn up my
starter. Once the starter button is released and the starter continues to run I take the cable off. When I touch the cable to the battery the starter does not run unless the started button is pressed again, so it doesn't look
like a binding problem. I know I can grind the shaft down again but I would love to find the core
reason for the failure and fix it that way. Can you help?  Thanks,  Tony D.
Suds sez:
Have you looked real close at your starter ring gear on the clutch hub to make sure it hasn't walked away from it's seat on the clutch hub? I say this because you mentioned something about grinding a shaft. Also look at the teeth to make sure they are not sloped to where they are grabbing. It stands to reason that it is not an electric problem, because if the contacts on either the solenoid or the relay were welded together, that you would still have the same problem when you retouched the cable to the solenoid. Another thing to look at would be the armatureand return spring. You might try stretching the return spring which is the one that goes inside the armature to give it more push. If it has never been replaced, it might be fatigued. The only electric aspect I can think of is the need for starter brushes which if badly worn could be causing an excessive amperage draw which would cause the solenoid contacts to temporarily weld themselves together and when there is no more current being drawn, then they cool and engine vibration will break them loose. Another thing to try would be taking off the little pigtail wire on the solenoid to see 
if it drops out. If it does, then the starter relay is sticking and sending voltage to the solenoid telling it to stay pulled in. This is a rare condition, but still a possibility. Perhapse if you can elsborate a little more on what you ground on the shaft and why. Let me know.. ~Suds
from Tony D:
Thanks for your quick reply, I really appreciate it. Regarding the ring gear, I replaced it and it is secure. I also installed a new return spring. The pinion gear is also new.
If I push the starter button the starter cranks the engine. If I then release the starter button the starter continues to crank the engine. I then disconnect the battery cable (I just use a gloved hand so I can hold the cable on the battery terminal and pull it off quickly) and the starter stops. if I reattach the cable, the solenoid is not stuck 
and the starter is not turning. 
I had this problem a few years back and I discovered that if I grind down the end of the solenoid shaft (that goes into the plunger and surrounded by the return spring)  by 1/16" it works fine.
I wanted to replace the solenoid and that is when the problem surfaced again (the problem is consistent). I'm confident that if I grind down the end of the new solenoid  I can get it to work, but I can't understand WHY it's happening. If I put the old solenoid back in it works (the only difference being the solenoid shaft length - 1/16"). Should I stretch the new return spring to see if that also cures the problem? If so, what could the root cause be?
Thanks, Tony D.
Suds sez:
OK, so am I to understand that the shaft you are refering to is the one on the inside of the armature (plunger) that depreddes the contact pushrod in the bottom of the solenoid  (if you are looking down the hole)? If memory serves me correctly, on the inside of the solenoid there is a wire that runs from the starter side of the solenoid (contact on the inside) to the solenoid coil side, and if the current draw makes the contacts stick, it would also be feeding voltage back to the coil. The only reason I can think of for why grinding the shaft works, is that maybe you don't have that spacer between the case where it mounts and the solenoid. At anyrate, the method you are describing to me suggests that grinding the pushrod, actually puts less pressure on the contacts when the armature is pulled in, possibly making it easier for the spring to overcome the magnetic pull. 
My friend, you have a very puzzling problem. Let me know about the spacer.   ~Suds
from Tony D:
Hi Suds, Got home early from work, took the new return spring and expanded it about 3/8" (just for the hell of it). 
No change. 
Yes, you understand the situation completely. There is no spacer. I looked in the repair manual and parts catalogue and didn't find any spacer for my model , 88 FLHTC. If there is a spacer, it would have to fit in such a way to keep the gasket (part of the rubber boot) tight against the wall so I don't loose primary fluid.  -Tony
Suds sez:
Yep, the same way an early to mid 80's Iron Head sportster is set up. The same spacer for the Sportster and shovel head solenoids work. The rubber boot is to be inserted through the hole with the solenoid to seat against the outer surface of the inner primary chain case. I will have to remember the grinding trick if no spacer is to be had. I have an '88 FXSTC with over 380,000 miles on her. We've tangled with 3 cars, both have new hardware and still run. It's been a love affair. Find one of those spacers and it should take care of the problem.  
One other thing - there is supposed to be a foam rubber ring with adheisive that sticks on the mating surface of the solenoid to put additional pressure against the rubber boot. ~Suds
from Tony D:
Thanks for all of your effort & help.  -Tony D.
Suds sez:
Your very welcome. Respect..  ~Suds                       back to top of page
Spark Plugs Keep Fouling (black/sooty)...
from Johnny utah:
Hey Suds, I keep foulin spark plugs on my 94 soft tail I can't seem to get more than 1 day of ride time until they go out. Any  advice?  -Jonny utah
Suds sez:
Johnny, What do they look like when you remove them. Are the wet, dry, black, sooty, etc.?   ~Suds
from Johnny utah:
Suds, My plugs look sooty however I found a bigger problem. my rear rocker box was cracked. I bought a new set but 
I am having a hard time getting the new bottom rocker box peice to slip in over the spring on the rear head. do you 
have any insight on this ?
Suds sez:
I have always had to finigle a corner over the rear exhaust valve spring and then work the rest into place. 
Sooty (assuming it's black soot) means you are running too rich. If you are carbureted, I would check the choke circuit to make sure it was seating off all the way, or your float level is too high, or the needle and seat need replaced, or your jets are too big, or your air filter is WAY too dirty, or any combination of the above. If you are carbureted, it would help to know what type of carb you have. If you are fuel injected, your throttle positioning sensor probably either needs replaced or calibrated.    ~Suds                back to top of page
Solenoid Stuck / Melted Battery Post...
from Art:
Suds, The solenoid stuck while starting my Shovel melting the negative post off my battery. This is the 2nd time in about 4 months. 1st time I replaced the solenoid and redrilled the battery post, things seemed to be fine until a couple of days ago. By the way, shutting off the key and hitting the kill switch did not help. Any idea of what the problem may be? On a different note, my Harley dealer gave me an O-ring for my solenoid instead of a felt or foam gasket (foam melted during last episode) I'm kinda leery about using it as it may be too hard to seal properly. What's your opinion? Any advise is greatly appreciated. Thanks, Art  
Suds sez:
Shovels are notorious for this, but usually don't melt the battery post. Time to rebuild your starter motor, as it is drawing way too many amps. This excessive amperage draw causes the contacts in your solenoid to weld themselves together and stick. With all that positive DC current flowing through one lil' ol' ground post is what causes the excessive heat that melted yer post. Sometimes ya can bang on the solenoid hard enough with a buck knife handle to get them contacts to seperate, but not always. Any good starter/alternator shop whould be able to rebuild your starter motor at less of a cost than a bike shop, and it's definately cheaper than a new one. More thatn likely you have a Hitachi starter motor given the year model you quoted. Hope this helps ya out. Respect..~Suds
from Art:
Thanks, Suds. It all makes sense. Any thoughts about the solenoid O-ring? Art
Suds sez:
Art, the o-ring should work fine as long as the mating surface is clean and pit free. If not, then I'd get the gasket. Respect... ~Suds                                                       back to top of page
Shovelhead Starter Trouble...
from Parker:
Hello I have read your tech page and was really impressed with your tech tips.
I have a question that I am looking for input on. I have a brother that has a newly acquired 1970  shovel head fl. He brought it to a couple shops after getting it to have work done that he won a voucher for at a local mma meeting.
The major problem is when the bike is cold the starter will either drag very slow or not engage at all.
The shop said he had a problem with the inner and outer primary, after spending 700.00 the problem is the exact 
same thing.  I then got the bike in hopes of helping him find the problem.
1.       I checked the battery and starter both checked out good with load test amp draw etc.
2.       I checked a voltage drop on all the cables and starter draw in the bike cables are good amp draw is high…
           really high.
3.       Installed a sarter from my bike with no problems and still hard or no start.
4.       As the bike gets hot the problem goes away.( Should be easy to start cold and get harder normally)
5.       I think that maybe the shim for the starter might be bad but cannot find any where in my manual or on the 
         net that shows how to check it.
6.       I have a old outer primary that is scratched up so I am also looking for a templet to make a cut away if you 
         know where I can get on.
Any ideas? It is hard starting or no starting whenit is cold, after the bike warms up it seems to be ok. Do you think that maybe the shim on the starter shaft is to think causing drag and when it gets hot the metal expands allowing more free  space? What do you think? Thank you for your time  -Parker
Suds sez:
It soulds to me like it could very well be the weight of engine oil you are using. The old cast iron cyclinder models requires a 50-70 wt oil. When the engine is cold, the oil of that viscosity is like molasses. When it warms up it flows freely. Find out what weight of oil is in it and get back to me. In the winter months I would run the lighter of the range, as long as it isn't running out of the tailpipes. 
Respect... ~Suds
from Parker:
It was changed to a 10- 30 becouse I was doing a leak down and looking for consumption problems…no oil burn it was running way way to rich,  owner saw black smoke and thought it was oil. So it has a s and s carb on it now running good, starting bad. But oil is 10-30
Suds sez:
OK, the oil viscosity being eliminated, I'm going to run through a series of possible causes.
Assuming we are talking about a stock 74 ci shovelhead with the stock compression ratio, the first thing I would check is the base ignition timing. If it is too far advanced, this will cause a kickback effect compounding the normal cold engine drag. This can be tested by spinning the engine over a few rounds with the sparkplug wires disconnected, then reconnected to see if you can hear a difference. If it slows it down some with the spark plug wires connected, then the base timing needs retarded a few degrees. Word of caution. Before moving the timing base plate, the fly weights need inspected for wear, because the holes that fit over the pivot pins could be wallowed out and causing the timing problem. 
If the timing issue is not the problem, then we need to move on to the possibility that the Battery doesn't have the proper cold cranking amps to power the starter. The battery can be tested at your local Auto Zone with a load tester. The older shovel heads and even the older sportsters had these humongous batteries that should provide plenty of juice, but even the modern YB16B batteries that are smaller. put out plenty of cranking amps as long as the battery is good. 
If the battery is not the problem, then we have to look at the starting components themselves. 
There are contacts in the starter solenoid, and this can be tested with a jumper cable from the positive side of the battery directly to the terminal on the starter motor while the start button is being pushed. If the starter motor picks up rpm then the contacts in the solenoid are not relaying the power properly and should be replaced, assuming of course that your battery cables are not frayed and in good condition. 
Next are the starter brushes , but I remember you saying that you switched starter motors with a known good one and still had the same problem. 
The makeup of the starting mechanisms themselves could be the problem, because in your outer primary there is a needle bearing that the starter jackshaft rides in. Nobody remembers to coat these bearings with a light grease, because they assume that it gets plenty of oil from the primary chain. Nothing could be further from the truth. The older shovelheads had a recovery system which pulled the oil back out of the primary and back into the engine oil, and along with it any clutch dust. This was one of Harleys engineering bloopers, because these clutch particles are an abrasive. This is off subject, but I reccomend your seal off the primary and run a seperate oil bath from the engine if you have not done so already, just don't forgeth to turn the engine seal around to where the lip faces toward the engine.
Anyways, the starter bearing gear, or bendix as some refer to it as, should mesh with the starter ring gear with some backlash. Too snug a fit and it causes friction due to side pressure on bearings and gears. Then there is a bearing on the inside of the inner primary housing that should be sealed, but should spin freely and packed with good light grease also. Old grease tends to be like parafin wax, and gummy. Inside the reduction housing is a gear that needs to be in good shape and inspected periodically to ensure the teeth are still in good shape. Also there is another needle bearing that the starter jackshaft rides in that is also the most neglected in the lubrication department. 
The only other component I haven't mentioned yet is the ground cable. All connections shoudl be clean and tight. 
Hopes this helps you in resolving the problem. Let me know what you find. I had a '79 80 incher that was sometimes easier to kickstart in the winter than to use the electric starter, because even with 60 wt  oil in her the starter draw took so much juice that the factory (first year) electronic ignition sent too weak of a spark. 
Ride free...   ~Suds
from Parker:
Thank you I will check theses out, as far as  sealing the primary off for the oil system is there any articles with pictures on this that you know of? It seems to be a good idea and I would like to take care of it while I am in the primary etc.
Suds sez:
None that I know of, but it's fairly simple. The inner primary housing has to be removed. On the back of it about the lower center region is a hose barb that can be removed and is a standart pipe thread. You replace it with a pipe plug that can be purchased at any US hardware store. Wrap it with teflon tape or use a good grade of pipe thread sealant (dope). 
Folo the rubber hose over to to the tee in the breather tube hose and replace the tube with a straight splice or cut it short and plug it with a bolt and tighten the hose clamp around it. 
Then remove your alternator rotor. You may have to improvise using a slidehammer dent puller and an ice pick to remove the engine seal. This is done by using the ice pick and a hammer to puncture two to three evenly spaced holes in the metal part of the engine seal. If you have to use a drill bit, be sure to coat the bit with grease to collect any metal shavings. You do not want any shavings to end up inside your engine main bearings. Then you use the dent puller by screwing in the sheet metal screw end into one of the holes and tapping outward with the slide hammer to get the seal to move. Do this consecutively and remove the seal evenly. Pay attention to how it comes out, or better yet, compare the new seal to the old one and you will see that the rubber lip is facing toward you instead of the engine. You want to make sure that the rubber lip is turned toward the engine when installing the new one. 
As far as lubrication, I always use a good grade of Automatic Transmission fluid (Dextron III or better). This provides plenty of lubrication and doesn't gum up your clutch plates, thus reducing redlight creep. It also helps identify engine oil vs primary oil leaks. What also helps this is geting rid of the smaller multiple roller bearing cluth bearing and installing the aftermarket one with the long roller bearings that span all the way across. 
Good luck and keep me posted. Holler if you need anything.  Respect..   ~Suds             back to top of page
Ignition Switch...
from Garyl
Have 09 ultra. Installed new bars. Have somehow gotten ignition switch out of sync. Upon install, have no power and the fork lock doesn’t work. Is there a way to align the switch upon install that I have missed? Have the manuel, but it only addresses removal and install, not when something is out of sync. I did install the collar and sleeve, and went by the photo in the manual, but also I turned the ignition when I had it all apart, and that is where I think that I screwed things. Help? -Garyl
Suds sez:
Gary, Sounds like you hit the nail on the head. I would take it back down and move the ignition switch to a known position and align the key tumbler to the same position upon reassembly. That should do it.
Let me know if I can be of further assistance.   ~Suds                 back to top of page
Swing Arm...
from Steve
I have a 1999 FLHR with a broken swing arm. They are scarce. Do you know where I should start looking?
Suds sez:
I didn't realize they were rare. I assume that you've already tried ebay and craigs list. I am not sure what range of years will interchange, but Harley usually doesn't retool until after they have used prefabricated parts for a few years in a row. Short of getting lucky at a swapmeet, you might try
or check every backwood shop, because they are usually the ones who snap up the good used parts at the swapmeets. Sorry I'm not much help.   Respect...    ~Suds  
Note: These swing arms are made with square tubing. Any qualified welder should be able to repair these with a gas shielded mig welder.                                       back to top of page
Crank Case...
from JJ
I have a 1980 sporty good top end  crank case cam side front and rear cam bearings loose. Can’t see any case damage cover bushings for those cams grooved could the crank case holes be egg shaped wich cased the needle bearing to became misshaped and can the holes be repaired. Thanks JJ Siskar, Graham Texas 
Suds sez:
If the cams didn't eat through the bearing races, then I doubt the bearing holes are egg shaped. The same goes for the cam cover brass bushings. If you can find a small enough ID tools and a 1" micrometer, you can take several measurements of the holes accross the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions and the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions. This should tell you what you need to know. The same goes for the cam cover holes. If your cam journals are scored, you'll need new cams, and your new cam bushings will have to be line honed to get the proper running clearance for your new cams. Now the only way to do this is to split the cases and take the cam side and cover to a reliable machine shop. Preferably one who knows their way around Iron Head Sportsters. The machine shop will have to press in the new cam bushings, and align the hone up through the flywheel side of the engine cases in order to get a true axis for the cams to turn in. 
What I have done in a hurry to get back on the road, was freeze the new cam bushings and knock them in with a mallet, then use a piece of emory cloth wrapped around a piece of round stock chucked up in a high speed drill. Kept going in and out till the cam felt like it would not bind up and seize, then reassembled it and ran it for years with no problems. 
Another thing you need to figure out is why this happened in the first place. Did somebody beef up the valve springs, or is your oil pump weak. If the oil pump is not weak, then how about the oil passages. Are they clear? You get the picture.
Hope this helps you out.   Respect,   ~Suds 
from JJ
Thanks bro , good info. appreciate you.                                           back to top of page
Kill Switch...
from Pins
Suds, I have a 1975 FXE, it’s my 5th shovel, also had two pans, so I’m quite familiar with old Harleys. My FXE has been switched over to a Dyna s ignition, and 32 amp charging system. It has run great on this setup for over a year. All of a sudden it has started to shut down at highway speed. Usually when I’m going about 65 mph and just let off a slight bit. The engine just stops without a sputter. The lights etc. stay on. I turn the switch off and on while coasting, let the clutch out, but not a sputter, but if I hit the starter button, it fires back up. I’ve checked gas tank vent, breakers (they don’t click off and on) but I changed them anyway. I’ve changed the starter relay, but nothing. Also new coil. It will do this almost every time within the first 10 miles, then may be ok for 60 miles, or may do it 5 times in the next two miles. I run a Super B carb. I’ve always liked them, did a rebuild, with no resulting change. I haven’t replaced the regulator, but I don’t think that would cause that problem. Charging system works great. It’s got a bunch of old saddle tramps scratching their heads; any suggestions would be very much appreciated.  Thanks, Pins
Suds sez:
Pins, If I am understanding you correctly, you have converted your shovel to a late model electronic ignition instead of points. Is this correct? and if so, do you have a vacuum switch going to your module? 
Electronic Ignition is notorious for the module flaking out like somebody just shut off the key without any popping or banging out like a loose wire. 
There is a seperate circuitry in the module that allows for voltage to bypass in off of the start circuit in order to maintain voltage while the starter motor is drawing a lot of amps from the battery. This could explain why it fires back up when the starter motor is activated. 
On the other hand, the hot wire that feeds your ignition through your kill switch is jumpered over to your starter button, and in some cases, visa-versa. Hopefully, this will give you some good places to check, but I would be leaning toward the module, especially if all the connections from the module to the exciter coil in the nose cone are solid. Let me know how things roll.
One last thing. Double check your ground cable for tightness and corrosion free.
Respect, ~Suds
from Pins
Suds, Thanks for the quick response. I was up early checking all my kill switch and starter connections. Everything looked good. Took the old girl out for a spin to see if I may have moved something. It cut out after about 6 miles, banged on the switch housing, turned it off and on, tried to refire while still coasting, and nothing. I hit the start button, and was running without ever having to stop. I went back home, went through all my connection, including starter relay, coil, battery etc. all were tight and clean. I took it back out and drove for an hour and a half without any trouble.?!?! Anyway it’s done that to me before. As for the VOES switch, I never installed one when I set up the Dyna s. My engine is a stock 7.5:1 compression and was told it should run fine with  out it, and it has for a year or more. I may have to try that next. I thought the vacuum switch was just to retard the spark for start up. I was thinking of switching to an S&S E anyway. I would get a new manifold with the vacuum at the same time. Well thanks a bunch for your help. I’m going to take it back out for another run later, and see if I accidently fixed it . (God I hate it when that happens). 
Enjoy the wind,    Pins                                          back to top of page
from George:
I need help with a starter .Can you tell me witch starter is the smallest in size but has most torque . It's for a 96 inch S&S but I have limited room because of oil tank .I'm useing closed primary ,belt to chain final with a 5 ina 4 box.  Thanks  
Suds sez:
They're pretty much all wired the same way. Where you get the torque is through the gear reduction. Most are made 
by Hitachi for Harley Davidson, and it will probably work well with the S&S. I believe  the S&S should be the same dinmensions as the stock harley starter, and they should have one geared for the 96 incher. Sorry I don't seem to be much help. As long as you have your base timing set right, it shouldn't kick back on your starter gear. If it was me, I would try the factory starter motor if you have one before I spent the money on a high performance one. IF you are 
using the late model style instead of the earlier shovel head style with the solenoid on the primary, they are easier to work with. That's about all I have  on the subject. With the 5 in a four box, you can always have the kicker as backup, and again, if you have the base timing set right, it should fire with no problem on a kicker.  Sounds like your're building 
a nice setup.  Respect, ~Suds
from George:
Thanks for that info .Since I wrote you I have been searching the internet and found that the jap starter is smaller then the prestolight ,witch was my main concern ,oil tank clearance .As for the kicker ,,No can do I went hydrolic ,I'm old &brocken I need the button to push and easy lever to pull . But thank you for your time and knowledge.  -George 
Suds sez:
George... glad to help. Since it sounds like you'r going with the later model starter and primary setup, might I also suggest an external push button kit as a backup in case your starter relay or solenoid ever goes out.  Respect,  Suds
from George:
I was thinking of trying one of those lever style .eliminate some wires  -George            back to top of page