Workbench December 2014

stu and bike

Technical Questions and Answers

Quirky Voltage


I have a 1977 Honda Gold Wing. The voltage regulator seems to be switching from 7 to 12v. It’s pegging the needles. Is there something I can substitute?

Ron North
via email


This is a fairly common issue on the older Wings. The instrument regulator has been discontinued by Honda for quite a while. Your best bet here is a solid state, plug-and-play replacement sold by ( for $39.95.

You can also find the originals from time to time at vintage parts suppliers, but they’re quite expensive. CMSNL has four left at a price of 159 euros (

Other than that, you could try a salvage yard replacement, but it would likely be a temporary fix, assuming it worked at all.


’85 Aspencade Laundry List


After an almost 40-year hiatus from riding on two wheels, the bug bit again. I took a 20-hour motorcycle training course for newbies, passed it and renewed my cycle endorsement. The “plan” was to purchase a 2008 or newer Wing, and then it dawned on me: maybe I couldn’t handle a heavy bike anymore. I found a nice running ‘85 Aspencade, and I’ll keep it until Honda pulls their heads out and comes into the 21st century with a six-speed, with 6th as a tall overdrive to turn the engine at 2400-2600 rpm at 70 mph.

The Aspencade runs out of petrol with two bars showing on the dash display. Barely made it home. On the center stand, I dipsticked the tank and there was one half inch of fuel left in the center of the tank, measured vertically from the rear of the filler opening. Can the LCD head be recalibrated via an internal pot (potentiometer), or do I dig out my Fluke VOM and add a resistor of the correct OHMs value to correct the reading?

It’s a similar situation with the speedometer: it’s 5 mph fast. I’ve had three different GPS’ indicate 60 mph and the digital display indicates 65. I’ve installed new tires of the correct size and speed rating, so it’s not a tire problem. Do I change the wheels, gearbox or is there an adjustment pot in the digital display? The pulse generator either needs to be turned slower or, if my Mack truck speedometer replacement memory serves me right, the new replacement speedo heads had a long-series DIP switch on the rear case and an instruction manual to set the switches depending on which model and series truck you were installing it in to make the reading accurate.

Lastly, would you please tell me where the headset connector(s) are hidden? I’ve got the Panasonic Series III radio with the channel change and mute on the left handlebar and the AVC and tone control panel below the left soft-cover storage compartment. A couple of GW riders have told me they thought there were two comm ports (one for the rider and one for the passenger) built into the bike’s wiring, but I haven’t found either yet. I pulled the left soft-cover compartment and, after a lot of digging, found a 1/4-inch diameter black, multi-strand cable with a black, five-pin male connector plug covered with a factory cap plug. Do I need to get an interface cable from J&M, and if that’s the case, where does the connector mount on the machine?

via email


Let’s address the fuel gauge first. On top of the fuel tank, you’ll find the retaining ring holding the fuel sender into the tank. Before removing it, order a replacement rubber gasket to seal it — Honda part No. 37801-689-000. After removing the sending unit from the tank, hook the wiring to it, turn on the key and move the float from full up to full down. The gauge reading should show full and empty at the correct float positions. Disconnect the wires again, and measure the resistance between the yellow/white and green wire terminals on top of the sender at full, midway and empty. The readings should be 0-10 ohms with the float full up, 43-52 ohms at center, and 101-102 ohms with the float hanging all the way down. The last reading is the most critical and it can be adjusted if necessary using a flat-blade screwdriver in the pry points on the sender body, which adjust the internal angle of the wiper arm. Do not attempt adjustment by bending the float arm. By the way, your bike has a low fuel indicator on the dash. To test it, remove the white/blue wire from the sender, ground it and turn on the key switch. The low fuel light should come on within 30 seconds. If it doesn’t, the bulb is burned out. If the light works in that test but doesn’t function with an empty tank and all wires connected, the thermistor in the sending unit has gone bad.

The speedometer display is fed five-volt pulses from the speedometer sensor (pulse generator) mounted to the gearbox at the front axle. It sends eight pulses per revolution of the unit’s drive. This can’t be altered, so welcome back from that long hiatus to the world of motorcycles. Virtually all of them have “optimistic” speedometers and yours is typical. There are devices available to alter signals to the speedo and calibrate it to a GPS, but I don’t believe any will work with your Aspencade’s system.

Your ‘85 Aspencade likely has the basic radio, which didn’t come with a headset junction box or headset leads — only a radio, amplifier, two fairing speakers and an auto volume control mounted on the left lower fairing cover. Headset leads and the junction box were optional. Open the left fairing pocket and see if you can find a vacant five-pin plug; it may have a black rubber cap on it. That would be the place to connect the junction box. J&M used to sell its version of these after Honda discontinued them, but I doubt you’d find one now other than in a salvage yard or on eBay. If you manage to find the parts you need and begin using headsets, be prepared to replace the regulator/rectifier. Using the headsets, you’ll likely hear annoying buzzing that disappears when the brakes are applied. This was caused by the switching circuitry in the regulators. The R/R units currently available from Honda eliminate this issue.

Finally, I’d like to address your comment regarding a tall 6th overdrive gear on the GL1800. I get this comment a lot. As with any engine design, the GL1800 engine needs to turn at a high enough rpm, through proper matching of gearing to road speed, to remain in the meaty portion of its power band. That rpm for the 1800 engine is quite different from a Harley Big Twin. I catch enough grief as it is from GL1800 owners who cruise in 5th gear at 70 mph and “don’t feel comfortable,” as they put it, with the engine turning 3,000 rpm or higher. And because many don’t down shift when encountering a steep grade, they suffer poor fuel mileage, overheating, clutch chatter and other problems. I shudder to think about the complaints I’d hear if these Wings could be cruised at 70 mph while turning only 2,400 rpm. The engine wouldn’t be able to pull its way out of a wet paper bag (without downshifting) if the throttle were twisted open to pass on the highway or if a steep grade were encountered. And added weight to the crank would make it even more of a slug. Fuel mileage a heck of a lot better? Maybe in windless conditions, on level ground, with minimum payload and riding in the slipstream of an 18-wheeler. Otherwise, fuel mileage would suffer horribly. No, I believe Honda has its corporate head pulled completely out on this issue, as the bike’s continued popularity indicates. Six gears is not necessarily a badge of honor or indicative of having entered the new millennium. By the way, thanks for your service. Next time you’re in Phoenix, the coffee is on me.


Master Cyliner Woes


In the September 2014 and previous issues of Wing World, you addressed the problem of the rear suspension mechanism of GL1800 models losing some of its capability due to issues with expansion of the hoses. Is there any reason not to try this procedure (courtesy of Rocky in the forum) to correct the problem? Some photos here:
To refill the actuator:

1) Place the bike on center stand.
2) Turn the ignition key to Accessory and lower your presets to 0.
3) Remove the seat and side covers.
4) Remove the rear fender.
5) Remove the three bolts inside the right saddlebag.
6) Remove the bolt on the outside upper right of the saddlebag to the frame.
7) Now tilt out the bottom of the saddlebag and let it rest there — you do not have to disconnect anything further!
8) Now remove the two 12-mm and one 10-mm bolts from the actuator securing it to the frame.
9) With a pair of needle-nose pliers, squeeze the push-in cable holder for the gray connector.
10) Now you can remove the other connector from the actuator.
11) Using brake cleaner, spray the area at the banjo bolt/hose so it is clean; you’ll be making marks on it there.
12) With a permanent marker, make a dot on the top of the banjo fitting so you’ll know which end is up later on.
13) Make a small line right under the dot you just made to the actuator body. What you are doing here is marking the orientation of the banjo fitting to the actuator body, making sure that you put it back in the same place. This is important so that the hose doesn’t get kinked when the actuator is bolted back on the frame later.
14) Remove the 10-mm banjo bolt from the hose.
15) Either with a helper or duct/masking tape, try and keep that end of the hose as high as you can so fluid doesn’t drain out of it while you continue to the next step.
16) With a thin screwdriver, insert it into the banjo bolt hole in the actuator and push the seal piston down with a little pressure until it bottoms out. If you feel or hear it move, try to push it down again until it stays down. You’re trying to fill as much of the actuator reservoir as possible here.
17) Now you are ready to refill the actuator. It only takes a couple of ounces to do so.
18) Once you have it topped off, replace the hose according to the marks you made earlier.
19) Now before you bolt it back on, test it first.
20) Plug both connectors back in the actuator and start the bike.
21) Listen for a pitch change in the sound as you add presets. Once you hear it change sounds, let the button go and look at the dash. If it’s at 0, then you are done; if it’s at 1 or more, repeat the last steps to add a tad more fluid.

Your goal is to hear a sound change at 0-1. 

Denny Cunningham
via email


Because I’ve found air (and dirt) in the hose and master cylinder as well as the slave cylinder of most I’ve repaired, I remove the entire assembly from the bike, disassemble and clean all components and inspect the seals for damage, then install a new hose during reassembly. I fill all three of those components with the slave cylinder extended. Then, with the system assembled and under spring pressure, I crack loose the banjo fitting at the slave cylinder until all of the air has escaped. Then the process is repeated at the master cylinder until the slave cylinder piston bottoms out, which completely fills the hose and forces all remaining air and excess fluid from the system. I then energize the system in up mode until it stops of its own accord, and measure the distance between the white plastic spring seat and the slave cylinder body. A distance between 13.5 and 14 mm is good. But if you can get the actuator to begin compressing the spring at No. 0 or 1 using the method you’ve described, then who am I to argue? There’s more than one way to skin this cat and yours requires less effort. My main concern here is that the original hose hasn’t been replaced in the process. It’s already swollen. Who’s to say it wouldn’t continue swelling or even rupture? Just food for thought …


ABS Lights


I have an ’05 GL1800A with 115,000 miles. I’m the original owner and the bike has been meticulously maintained. I’m very happy with it. Over the last year, I’ve started getting a flashing ABS light when I ride into a rainstorm or if the bike has spent the night in a motel parking lot in the rain. Either way, the alarm continues until I ride it dry or it has a chance to dry out in a covered environment. Braking action seems to be normal at all times, although I’m guessing that the ABS system is disabled during the alarm condition. I’ve checked the front and rear ABS wheels and pickups visually, and can find no contamination, dirt or loose parts. Any idea what the cause might be, Stu?
Dennis B.
Blairsville, Ga.


You’re correct; the brake system will function normally when the ABS alert is present, but the ABS function will be disabled. Because this is water-related and intermittent, it’s going to be harder to find than if you actually had a failed component. The first thing I’d try is to pull the stored ABS fault code or codes to isolate the fault to a particular section of the ABS wiring. Then you can inspect that section or even spray water on it to reproduce the symptom and locate the wiring fault, which may simply be a loose connector that admits water.

To do this, open the fuse box, and with the ignition switch off, remove fuses 3 and 4 — lower left corner of the fuse box. They’re both 30-amp fuses. Make sure both are good. If there’s any question, use new ones. Now turn on the ignition switch and note the ABS light should come on for five seconds. Immediately after it goes out (within three seconds), install one of those two fuses, it doesn’t matter which one. Now the problem code will be indicated by the number of times the ABS light blinks. You may need to repeat this until you get the hang of it, because the blinks that matter are only a quarter second in duration. Immediately after inserting either fuse 3 or 4, the ABS light should come on for a second, then off for a second, then starts the short blinks. Count ‘em. When you see the light come on again for a second, the first code is complete and the second (if more than one exists) will begin displaying. When no other codes are present, the sequence will just repeat. To erase stored ABS codes, simply install the remaining fuse while the ABS light is blinking and the light will stay on when erasure is complete. The complete list of codes (2 through 14) are discussed at length in your Genuine Honda Service Manual – chapter 16. Good luck.


Cold Starter


I have a 2013 Gold Wing, and when it is cold and I start out in the morning, it hesitates before it runs smoothly. After that start it runs great.
John Oberholser
Narvon, Pa.


On a bike so new, I wouldn’t suggest to you that the bike has any particular flaws, though that’s not impossible. My suggestion is to let the bike warm up for a few minutes before riding off. If that doesn’t improve matters, get back to me.


Stop, Lock and (Don’t) Roll


I recently went on a 4,400-mile road trip, where I learned the joys of an overnight lock on my 2010 Gold Wing front wheel brake disc. I forgot.

More than $900 later I continued my travels. Interstate Honda in Fort Collins, Colo., was very helpful and expedited the repairs, however one of the guys there asked the question, ”Why didn’t you lock the bike electrically?” That was new to me.

With the bike running in neutral, engage the reverse feature and turn the ignition off. Yep, the puppy doesn’t move.

Is this something that is OK to do to lock the bike when one travels? Or should I have read the owner’s manual? Thanks for any information.
Larry Langenberg
Wadsworth, Ill.


I can’t find this particular subject covered in the owner’s manual, but it’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever heard a Honda Service associate give to a Gold Wing owner. Firstly, reverse is not a transmission gear. It engages the starter motor with the output shaft using a series of shafts, gears, sensors and pulleys. The transmission itself will actually be in neutral, and any significant force acting fore or aft on the bike such as parking on a steep grade or a theft attempt could damage components in the system. If the bike is on a steep grade when shut off in reverse, it may not disengage without first relieving the force by pushing the bike upslope slightly. Secondly (as you know), unlike on the GL1500, the GL1800 reverse mechanism will not operate without electrical power. Yes, this makes it impossible to get the bike out of reverse without the key. But what happens if the owner returns to the bike and finds the battery dead or for some reason the reverse button doesn’t work? If you’re out somewhere in the boondocks, you could be boarding the Shoe Leather Express. Both of these scenarios have been reported to me numerous times, and I’ve even responded to several urgent pleas for help when the owner had simply forgotten he’d turned the bike off in reverse and his engine now won’t start. So do as you like, but at least you know the possible unintended consequences. Regarding the damage caused by the disc lock, this can easily be avoided by placing a red ribbon somewhere in your line of sight when seated on the bike as a reminder to remove the lock — or, for that matter, as a reminder that you left the bike in reverse.


GL1800 Brakes 101

Mr. Oltman,

I am trying to wrap my head around how the brake system works on the GL1800. Specifically, I am trying to determine the function of the delay valve and the proportional control valve.

My guess is that the delay valve does exactly what its name suggests: it delays the application of the front brakes when you apply the rear pedal. After the pedal is applied and the delay valve activates the front calipers, the torque on the left side activates the secondary master cylinder, which then sends pressure to the PCV. What does the PCV do?
John Hall
Borden, Ontario


The PCV ensures that braking force is balanced between front and rear. Note that operation of only the front brake lever will activate the center piston of the front left caliper, which will activate the secondary master cylinder and PCV, though not to the extent as if both front and rear lever/pedal were applied. So for best braking performance, use both the lever and pedal when braking.


Windshield Troubles


I have a couple of scratches on/in the windscreen of my 2006 GL1800. Somewhere in my memory, I recall that the windscreen has a coating and therefore cannot/should not be rubbed out. I had planned on using Novus to power buff it. There is huge difference between $40 for buffing supplies vs. $400 for an installed replacement. What is your advice?

Jay Hubelbank
Bluffton, S.C.


The windscreen retails for around $175 and installation really isn’t difficult. If you don’t feel comfortable with the task, one of your Chapter Members probably can help. A lot of folks install aftermarket screens, so you might be able to find a used OEM screen in nice shape locally or on eBay. As for rubbing out scratches from the OEM screen, I’ve never had much luck with anything more than fine, shallow scratches. The coating will be severely damaged by power buffing, and once it starts coming off, there’s no stopping it. Aside from this, Novus is a very fine polish intended to remove contaminants and fine spider webbing-type defects. It works great for that, but I suspect you’d be buffing until the cows come home to remove deep scratches.


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3 Responses to “Workbench December 2014”

  1. David Cox

    Have enjoyed the tech workbench for years. Have issue with 2010 gl1800. Cold start issue recently occuring. Hit starter button, engine cranks fast, bike starts, tach to 1400 then tach drops and stalls. Second attempt, tach to 1400, stays there then slowly drops as warm up, which is normal. The first attempt at starting should be like the second attempt. Any ideas as to what may be causing this. Bike always runs great, no hesitation, idles great, just the initial first start attempt. Could it be ecm, or some pressure or sensor , injector issue.Purchased new, 39000 miles, Tnx in advance, Dave in Colorado

  2. Robert L. Farmer

    Stu; We bought a 2006 GL1800, with heated grips, seats, & Navigation, in 2010, 4000 miles. We had it triked in 2011 by Champions.
    The problem occurred recently when leaving a Kick tire after dark, I notice my gauges were not working, no power. I still had headlights, thought it was a fuse, but shortly hit a bump while turning a corner and gauges came back on. So my thinking is not fuse but possibly a short. A time after getting home a fellow Chapter member called and said I didn’t have tail lights.
    Next day went to my Mechanic and explained the problem. He started checking, his thought was possibly the bike computer. But in removing the seat he found the wiring from the conversion to be less than satisfactory. He clean, checked, and sealed all the wiring, and the problem seem to have been corrected. Extensive road test, bumpy, curves, emergency stops, seem to be okay. This took a week and a lot of work, but worth it.
    We took several rides in the next 8 to 10 days, then it happened again, it was the beginning of the weekend no mechanic.
    Several times during the weekend the F1 light came on, and I had read in your column about the DOT DASH code sequence, tried this it didn’t flash. I returned to my Mechanic, told him the F1 light had come on but did not flash. He said if it comes on again have a mechanic do a diagnostic check, they should be able to pull the error code at that time, but it hasn’t repeated its self. I did notice and told my mechanic that when the gauges go out, the Navigation screen stays on, but the odometer, trip meters do not function. All the other programs on the screen work, Radio, CB, GPS. Hopefully this may mean something to you.
    I appreciate any help
    Robert GWRRA Member #335180 06/11/2015


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