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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I've gleaned a lot of useful information off of this site over the two months or so I've been riding, so I figured you folks might be able to help me again. I'm not good at point-to-point writing, so please bear with me.

I noticed my bike would stall during rain riding, for some reason it would randomly not be able to sustain idle. gave me a bit of trouble at stop lights, but it usually worked just fine on my return trips, so I didnt bother really worrying about it. a little while later, rain riding would cut my engine while idling, but i noticed whatever was happening was sucking power from throttle as well; my bike would have weakened power accelerating and maintaining speeds. my RPM's would fluctuate a bit when it happened, but always return to normal after a few seconds. I attributed it to water cooling the engine, getting in the air intake, perhaps bad gaskets, and later, maybe water in something electrical. The bike rode perfectly in warm weather, with none of these problems...and wasn't on fire, so I didnt worry too much about it.

Additionally, I changed the oil in the bike after i got it from a guy that used it for his commutes - 2 months after i got it. I did put a "sealer" type oil additive in it, just for kicks, so not sure how much it would contribute to the color of the oil when i changed it and replaced the filter, but the oil was pretty much black. slightly metallic, but no big particles in it. I ended up screwing that up having never done mechanic work, and ran the engine with essentially no oil in it - when replacing the filter gasket, it folded over and got cut when replacing the cap, so all the oil leaked out. however, the bike never made an off noise or gave me any problems during or immediately after the ride that werent already there. after the one ride, I replaced the gasket properly, added more oil, and the engine started up with no problems.

So, i went out for a ride one day, and it wouldnt start. lights come on, but not a sound when i hit the starter. it wont even try to turn over; although the lights dim/go out when i hit the button. it has been stored away from the rain for a week, and still refuses to start.

I started with the battery. Charged it for a few hours, and tried it again. No change.

Next was basic IT stuff, make sure everything is connected/ that there wasnt water or oil somewhere it shouldnt be. Couldnt find anything, although i am a super beginner and dont even know with how to start checking the electrical.

After that, I bought a spark plug maintenance kit; removed spark plugs. checked sparking distance, cleaned them, and put them back in.
Due to an improperly sized tester the kit came with, I was unable to see if the Spark plugs do in fact spark (which also would have told me if it was an electrical problem with the plugs, instead of something with the plugs themselves). So, i'm going to try and rig it tomorrow to see if they're sparking, or even getting power. They were a bit black, though i have no idea how long they have been in use.

to my limited knowledge, that means its either got something to do with the starter, the electrical system in general, some sort of gasket problem to do with no pressure, since im currently unable to test that, or....probably other things i don't know about.

so that brings you up to speed.

what should my next diagnostic step be? any ideas what the problem could be? I'm very new to mechanic work, so any images you can link would be very appreciated, since im fairly unfamiliar with motorcycle anatomy.

Thank you!

Edit: Okay, so far I've tested the solenoid, which clicked the first time i connected it directly to the battery....but not audibly afterwards, despite my multimeter telling me there was power flowing through it. I've gone ahead and ordered a new one, just because I hope that's the issue and its a scant $30.

I've also removed and tested the starter motor itself...and it works! huzzah!

Which narrows (hah!) it down to (to my knowledge):
-Bad grounding
-Bad connections
-The cutoff switch
-The Ignition switch
-the starter coil or the CDI box
-Bad wiring (it IS an old bike)
-The battery (I checked, and it gives out about 13.36 V, so im doubting it's that, but still...)

So I'm going to continue to sand and dielectric grease the connections as I go, I intend to go through all the grounds i can find and hit them with some sanding and d grease, I'll probably hit the ignition and cutoff switches after that, then move on to the solenoid which i hope will arrive soon. and once i get that out of the way, if it still wont show signs of life at all, I'll keep going from there.

Once i get it starting and running again, I intend to procure some sealant and get around the wire seals to prevent them from grounding out in the rain... After i clean the bike, of course. poor things covered in a ton of dirt and grease and old crappy paint.
 

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Welcome to the group.

Your running in the rain problems are separate from your starter problems as they are 2 independent systems. I'd start that one by inspecting your spark plug wires and caps.

When you push the start button it is supposed to remove power from the headlight (which it seems to be doing) and connect power to the starter relay (also called the solenoid). You will need a test light or a voltmeter/multimeter to determine if power is in fact getting to the relay. If it is not you may have a bad start button or there may be some other wiring problem between the button and the relay. If power is getting to the relay and it is not "clicking" you probably need a new relay.

Got pictures?:p
 

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Welcome to the forum. Great to see another 400 series here. Got any pics of it to share?
Sounds like your coil is getting wet for the erratic running in the rain.
As J-T said, you need a voltmeter to test your electrical system.
 

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The cutting out, loss of power when riding in the rain means the coil and plug wires are getting wet and shorting to ground. Can't fix the wet but by trimming the ends of the plug wires and adding dielectric grease to the plug end caps that will help. Carry a small can of WD40 with you. When this happens turn the engine off and spray down the coil and wires, wait a couple of minutes and fire it up. If you spray while running you'll find out just how flammable WD40 is.
The no crank is likely to be the starter solenoid, found under the right side cover. Need to test it.
Do you have the FSM?
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
thanks! just thought to check back here as I've actually gotten around to pulling the bike apart and starting diagnostics; A few days ago i went through and hit the wire harness with some dielectric grease.

Okay; I wasn't sure about the relation between the two issues; just wanted to make sure it wasn't a case of something (the rain problems) wearing down and transforming into or causing another problem. (not starting) so, it's good to have clarification. I'll respond to things in order as best as I can, please keep in mind I'm as new as it gets to this. I do possess the diagrams and factory manuals and such, although i sometimes have troubles picturing things in my head. ...anyway, on to business.

- I'll check my spark plug wires; the caps dont seem to have any issues and there's no corrosion present. The spark plugs themselves also seem to be fine (no excessive buildup or discoloration) is there anything else that could be causing the rain problems? its only ever in the rain, and it seems to manifest randomly with a sudden drop in RPM's. When i come to a stop, the engine stalls. all that being said, I should probably focus more on the ignition system first.

-I do have access to a multimeter, and have triple checked the battery (it currently outputs 13.36 volts at full charge) but i have no idea how to check the solenoid.

- Is there a video or diagram you can direct me to that would visually explain how to check the solenoid? There's a fair bit of written diagnostics that dont really mean anything to me, since I'm not used to the language, parts, or other terms. (example, i had no idea the solenoid was also called the starter relay. clears up a few things)

Also, there is the distinct possibility i killed or damaged the ignition - One day i was riding home and the bike stalled on me, and having dealt with the rain problems, i feared the worst. so i tried the ignition button, three or four times at intervals of 5 or 6 seconds. It had turned out I forgot to turn the gas back ON, and like a moron, immediately jumped to the worst solution. So if it is a problem with having burned something out, I imagine I'll find out as i go about diagnosing the individual parts. before it always roared to life after the first button press, but afterwards it always took two or three. really hoping my idiocy didn't screw me over.

What would you like pictures of specifically?
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
greetings! thanks for the welcome; i tell you, the nod or wave i get from other bikers on the road really makes it feel like a family i never knew i had.

I do have some general pictures of when i got it, and after a bad paint job i did on it. once i get all the problems worked out, i plan to do a much better job on making it look pretty. I'll get around to uploading them probably by this weekend.

My coil? Do you mean the ignition coil or another coil? as far as ive learned for the ignition system, ive got the solenoid, ignition coil, CDI, and starter motor. oh, and the ignition button and 3 way power cutoff switch. Would a part of the ignition system affect normal running operations of the bike, being two separate systems?

I have a multimeter, which is how i got the voltage off the battery. I'm sort of at a loss for how I would go about testing the electrical system exactly, as per what i would need to stick where, if i need to take it off the bike first, etc. I cant even find the starter motor on this thing. ...i just browsed through the manual and apparently it's inside the engine casing. this'll be fun if it comes to diagnosing that. im gonna need to do some serious manual reading....

Anyway, what should my order of testing be, and how would i go about testing each point? i.e. "solenoid, disconnect from bike and run battery current through proper terminals; test using multimeter set to ____ and look for _____" and so on. at least, if you would, or J-T doesnt beat you to it. I intend to peruse the manual for this stuff too, but i imagine you guys will have alternative, better, or easier to understand ways of doing such things.

Also, there is the distinct possibility i killed or damaged the ignition - One day i was riding home and the bike stalled on me, and having dealt with the rain problems, i feared the worst. so i tried the ignition button, three or four times at intervals of 5 or 6 seconds. It had turned out I forgot to turn the gas back ON, and like a moron, immediately jumped to the worst solution. So if it is a problem with having burned something out, I imagine I'll find out as i go about diagnosing the individual parts. before it always roared to life after the first button press, but afterwards it always took two or three. really hoping my idiocy didn't screw me over.

Thank you for your help!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
trimming the ends of the plug wires; you mean the spark plug wires going out of the ignition coil? I do have the FSM, but it doesnt tell me how to test/troubleshoot the solenoid. all the videos i can find are for car solenoids, which seem to be a different sort of set up. If water is getting into and shorting the coil, i imagine that could also be a possible culprit of the starter woes? it's been very cold, so I dont imagine the water would have evaporated out of the coil.

Also, there is the distinct possibility i killed or damaged the ignition - One day i was riding home and the bike stalled on me, and having dealt with the rain problems, i feared the worst. so i tried the ignition button, three or four times at intervals of 5 or 6 seconds. It had turned out I forgot to turn the gas back ON, and like a moron, immediately jumped to the worst solution. So if it is a problem with having burned something out, I imagine I'll find out as i go about diagnosing the individual parts. before it always roared to life after the first button press, but afterwards it always took two or three. really hoping my idiocy didn't screw me over.

Thank you for your help!
 

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To test your solenoid, just hook it up direct to your battery. You should hear it click.
If you hear the click, then you should be able to test voltage flow with a multimeter.

You can also test your starter motor by hooking it up directly to the battery.
 

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For the plug wires...unscrew the caps off the wires, trim that end of the plug wire 1/4" , apply dialectric grease on the outer casing of the wire, then screw the plug cap back on.
For the solenoid, ... take the negative (-) probe of your multimeter and put it on the ground (-) terminal of your battery. Put your positive lead of your multimeter (+) on the stud of the solenoid (that round thing with tow large studs ahead of your battery on the right side behind your right cover) and place that lead on the large stud closest to the front of the bike. Your multimeter should read (0) and then when you press the starter button with the iginition switch in the on position, your multimeter should show battery voltage. If it does not, your solenoid is bad. If it does show battery voltage there, your starter motor is bad.
 

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Once you're back up running use a spray bottle full of water and soak down the coil, wires and plug end caps while running. If there's a voltage leak then you'll find exactly where it is.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'll certainly give all these things a try. I connected my solenoid to the battery, and it did click. but only the first time; afterwards i heard no clicking for repeat testing. So i ordered a new one; for $30 i cant really complain. I'll get back to you folks with results hopefully in a few days.
 

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It should click only once each time power applied to it. You have to remove the power, and reapply it for additional clicking.
The click is only half of it. Once it clicks, you should keep the battery connected and be able to test the third connector to verify voltage output
 
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