Question about 1981 Honda GL 1100 Gold Wing

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How do I change the starter. I was told I had to have the engine pulled. it labors to start and has a brand new battery. The meter on the charger pegs when I start the machine. it does start.

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Starter removal from a Wing is pretty straightforward: Before you remove the starter, however, make sure it needs to be removed. I say this because Honda starter relays are notorious for getting old and rusting up over time. They may look good on the outside, but the solenoid inside the case starts to stick. If you think the starter solenoid may be bad and want to check the relay first, do the following:

  1. Carefully check the positive and negative connections to the battery. The positive or hot wire connects to the solenoid itself. The negative or ground wire usually is connected to the back side of the rear engine mount. The rear engine mount is the triangular shaped doo-hickey with two bolts at the top and one at the bottom. It connects the engine to the frame via a long bolt running clear through to the other side. (Another common problem is that over time the nut holding the mounting bolt works loose which lessens the contact of the ground wire to the frame. This is exhibited by a dragging starter or no starter at all.) Also, there is a spade fuse located in the starter solenoid housing. If this spade fuse fails, you will not have a starter. (You can pick up a new one at any Honda dealer for about 3 bux and can rig it should you ever blow one by wiring a thin strand of wire between the poles where the fuse normally sits. Make sure to find out why the fuse blew in the first place.)
  2. To check the starter solenoid, without a tester, turn on the bike and hit the start button. You should hear an audible CLICK from the solenoid. If you do not, tap it with something heavy and do it again. Sometimes, if it is sticking, a nice little tap will unstick it. If it still does not click, remove the solenoid and check it with a multi-meter.
  3. To check it with a multi-meter, set the meter to 12 volt, and connect the two leads to each pole of the solenoid. It should read as closed in a normal position. Next, make a jumper wire out of a piece of wire and connect it to the positive side of the battery. Run the multi-meter leads, ground to ground and hot to the opposite lead on the solenoid. Touch the first pole on the solenoid with the jumper wire. You should hear a click and see the voltage register on the meter. When the bike is not running, look for a voltage reading of 11volts or so (at least). If you don't hear a click and nothing registers on the meter, it's a pretty good bet the solenoid is dead.
  4. IF the battery is good, the battery connections to the frame, starter solenoid AND starter are tight and corrosion free, AND the solenoid checks out, you can safely move to the starter itself.
  5. The Honda service manual says you have to remove the engine to replace the starter. Other folks say you have to drop the exhaust to get the starter off and on. I've gotten 'em off without dropping the exhaust before, but it takes patience and time and I have NEVER removed an engine to replace a starter...SHEESH!
    This process will be a little different if your motorcycle has running boards or other �goodies� attached to it. (you�ll need to get those goodies out of your way first).
    NOW, the starter can usually be removed without dropping the exhaust IF you have the following: Skinny fingers, lots of patience and a � drive ratchet, deep well 8 mm socket and a swivel extension. (I�m a pretty big dude, but I have gotten the �art� down to being able to remove a starter without goofing with the exhaust in about 10 minutes).
    If you CANNOT remove the starter without dropping the exhaust (it gets in the way of the front bottom starter bolt), do the following:
    1. Motorcycle on center stand.
    2. Disconnect starter cable from starter AND positive/ negative wires from battery (Just to be certain) =)
    3. Key off and make sure the bike is sitting firmly on the center stand (Don�t wanna� be a Goldwing waffle if the thing decides to fall over on ya�)
    4. Remove ALL four exhaust bolts from the bottom of the head. Shoot them with WD 40 or some other penetrant before trying to get �em off, because they will pretty much be �welded� in place if they haven�t been removed in awhile. The bolts are 11mm.
    5. Once all four bolts are off, take something long and pry down on the exhaust. You are trying to move the exhaust down about two-three inches to get it out of the way of the front, bottom starter bolt. If the exhaust is stubborn, loosen the muffler mounting bolt holding the muffler onto the bike (located near the rear of the bike).
    6. Using an 8mm socket and ratchet, remove the top and bottom starter bolts. (Remember, �Lefty loosey---Righty tighty�� I�m not being a smart ***� I STILL get turned around when I am laying under a bike) =)
    7. NOW, the starter will probably be �stuck� into the engine at this point. It won�t want to wiggle much� To remove it from the engine itself, I use a short spade screwdriver and gently pry back on the starter where it enters the block. Sometimes, a couple of gentle whacks with a rubber hammer will help loosen it.
    8. Once loosened, the starter will pull out of the engine block. It�s a little tricky, but move it around until it drops free from the engine block and falls down between the block and exhaust pipes.
    9. Once the starter is out of the block, gently reach into the block with your index finger. You will feel a chain and a COG. Make sure the cog is sitting IN the chain. I�ve never had it happen, but I guess the starter cog COULD somehow fall into the engine block if you�re not careful (NOT a good thing!)
    10. When you go to replace the starter, reverse the procedure. Be AWARE, however, that the shaft of the starter has to fit INTO the starter cog which is sitting in the drive chain. The cog only goes onto the starter shaft a couple of ways so be patient. You will know when the starter is correctly seated against the engine block when the starter bolt holes line up. If ya� have it, rub a small dab of anti-seize compound on the starter bolts before inserting.
    11. Reverse the procedure, making sure everything is tightened.
    12. You can usually successfully �rebuild� a Honda starter two or three times before it is beyond saving. If you�re not gonna� rebuild the starter DON�T throw it away. Those critters still have value even if they are �dead�. (Worth about 10- 20 bux on Ebay even if they�re dead)=)

Posted on Nov 19, 2009

  • Kevin Halbert May 12, 2011

    I have done this also. But left the bike on the side stand to make sure the chain and cog dosnt swing toward the center of the engine. (Keeping it on the side stand holds it where it needs to stay)

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