Workbench January 2015

Technical Questions and Answers

Confused in Texas

Well Stan,

My speedo sensor finally gave up the ghost. Thought I was going to get lucky when I took the black box apart and found fork oil inside. Cleaned it out and it’s still inoperable. About the time when the speedo was starting to fail with intermittent readings on the display screen, my turn signals would not cancel automatically and the radio volume dropped 10-20 decibels. You think this is all related? I have yet to dig inside the bike to check my connections. I also read that certain years of Valkyrie use a similar sensor and will bolt up directly to my ’86 Aspencade. Any info on that? As you know, these sensors are hard to find and expensive if you do find one. Thanks.

Donald Yandell
Fort Worth, Texas

P.S. Tech Talk is my favorite section of the magazine.

Hi there, DP. Are you sure it’s Wing World that you’re reading? The reason I ask is because my name is Stu and my column is named Workbench.

Regardless, let’s answer your concerns. That sensor is supposed to produce eight five-volt pulses for every revolution of the front wheel. If not, the speedo will read erratically or not at all. Automatic turn signal canceling and the radio’s auto volume control will both be disabled without reliable input from the front wheel speed sensor. The sensor is discontinued, as you know. No Valk I’m aware of was equipped with anything similar, though I could be wrong. My hunch is your only recourse is to troll eBay for part No. 37700-MG9-951. I’ve checked all of my sources for vintage Honda parts and have come up empty. You’re welcome.


Braking Up is Hard to Do


After 20 years and 200,000 miles on three Gold Wings, this month my 2006 GL1800 brakes locked up during a routine stop, leaving a 22-foot skid mark. Weather and road conditions were perfect. My wife and I were ejected and rolled down the highway. Fortunately, we will recover from our injuries. I believe the problem is related to the brake “recall/safety notice.” My question is, why are 2013 and 2014 Gold Wings not subject to this notice? What is different about the brakes on these years?

Harry F. Koester, Jr.
Lake Jackson, Texas

I frankly have no idea why the 2013 and 2014 models aren’t subject to the recall. It may be only that those year models weren’t represented in complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). I realize you’d like to believe that your brake failure was directly related to the recall notice, but even American Honda couldn’t tell you that definitively, because, as of this writing, the exact cause of the failures is not understood. Stay tuned. In the meantime, consider having someone qualified and credible perform a “forensic analysis” on that brake system. Dragging brakes can be caused by a number of things directly attributable to neglected maintenance. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. But if you’re planning litigation, I believe the onus will be on you to prove that the brake system was in sound condition, with the exception of whatever defective component the recall eventually points to. By the way, we’re all glad to hear that neither of you was seriously hurt.


GL1500 Surging


I find myself chasing an engine surging issue on a ‘90 GL1500. I’ve dealt with this many times before and normally find it to be anything from dirty jets to bad slide diaphragms to deteriorated vacuum hoses, but I find myself with this one that I can’t totally eliminate the surge. I’ve rebuilt the carbs with a Randakk master kit (and boiled the bodies), replaced both slide assemblies and replaced the typical bad vacuum hoses. It will fluctuate between 400-500 rpm at idle and upon deceleration, the rpm will tend to hang at around 1,500 rpm then gradually drop to 800-900 rpm. It acts like it still has a vacuum leak, so I’m going to double check my work.

Tim Bush
Saginaw, Mich.

I want to congratulate you on puzzling this out rather than throwing parts at it like so many others would. But just because this was the root of the symptom on a couple of bikes, that’s not reason to forgo visual inspection of all the hoses and other items you previously addressed when dealing with future GL1500s. A good visual inspection is always the best place to start, because the old rubber hoses and carb isolators are a lot more prone to failure than the sensors. I’ve come across this problem twice and a defective intake air sensor once. Both of these sensors are NTC devices, which change resistance based on temperature. The voltage return to the ECU is an analog signal, not a digital one, and they can both be tested with hot water as per the service manual.


Oil Consumption and Redemption


In 2003 I purchased an 1800, which made it the seventh Gold Wing I’ve owned. From the very first oil change, I’ve used only Honda synthetic oil, thinking I’m doing the best for the bike. Around 125,000 miles, it started to use oil. I currently have more than 182,000 miles on it. I never had any oil problem with the other six, and for that matter, never heard of an oil problem with any Gold Wing. In the past I had used oil from all over: Walmart, Kmart, auto supply stores, etc. I had purchased an ’88 Gold Wing as a leftover in ’89; I sold it 14 years ago with 225,000 miles on it with no oil problems. I currently have between 500,000 and 600,000 just on Gold Wings.

I went back to Honda of Winston- Salem, N.C., and talked to the owners who put me in touch with a Honda motorcycle representative named Mark Jennings. He asked me how many miles I had on it and I said 125,000. His comment was, “You have a high-mileage Wing, you should not be using synthetic oil. I told him that I lead a lot of Chapter rides and if I was blowing blue smoke, someone would have told me. It was not leaking anywhere and it was not mixing with the antifreeze. I asked him where was it going and he said that I was vaporizing the oil. I asked how could that be when my temperature gauge does not even get up to halfway. He assured me that it could still vaporize the oil.

He sponsored two oil changes with the Honda basic GN4 and the problem basically went away, only to come back sometime later. For some reason it now seems to have stopped using oil again — I’ve been nearly a thousand miles without using any oil. Have you ever heard of such a problem?

Bob Remillard
Winston-Salem, N.C.

I haven’t heard of an engine that uses oil, then stops, then repeats the cycle. Then again, what exactly does “using oil” mean? A quart every 1,000 miles? A pint? Three ounces? Vaporizing the oil? That’s a stretch, for sure. If anything, the GN4 would be more likely to vaporize than the full synthetic. Regardless, with 182,000 miles on the engine, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it uses a quart between change intervals. Some Wing engines will run a quartermillion miles with no issues. Others, not. Stuff happens.

At the risk of being called a shaman by our more tech-savvy members, I’ll nonetheless recommend draining a half quart of oil from the crankcase and replacing it with a half quart of — you guessed it — Marvel Mystery Oil. Do not overfill the crankcase. Ride the bike modestly for around 500 miles, then change the oil and filter. My thinking here is the possibility that the engine’s oil rings are clogged with carbon or other combustion byproducts, which the MMO may dissolve, hopefully resolving the oil consumption.


Tire Confusion


I bought a used 2008 GL1800 that now has 22,000 miles on it. I’m not sure how long the tires have been on the bike. I was planning to change out the tires this winter. When I read the article in this month’s Red Page on tires, I was a little confused. Both tires are Dunlops. My rear tire is 180/60 R16 M/C 80H 75R-0004908, which may be original to the bike. The front tire is a concern: 130/70 R18 M/C 18 75-0003782. Now after reading the article, that would mean that the front tire was from 1982 (0003782). This number does not correspond with the article.

I know this is not possible, as the tires are both E3, which I don’t believe were being made back then. I’ve looked at the tire three times to make sure I was reading it correctly. Thanks.

Everett Swank
Alvin, Texas

The tire date code usually isn’t in the same location as the size and speed rating. Look for the letters DOT embossed on the tire. Following those letters, there should be an oval with the date code inside. The actual four-digit code is often preceded by letters which indicate proprietary manufacturer information. Aside from there not being any E3 tires in 1982, the date code back then was only three digits, not four.


Breaker, Broken


I often ride with a group of retired friends and we use our CB radios to communicate. During a ride last fall, I lost all communications (radio and CB) on my 2005 Gold Wing. After stopping I found that the spring on my CB transmit lever broke, leaving the lever in the down (transmit) position. This, of course, caused the FM radio to cut out. After pushing the lever up everything was fine with the radio and CB, as long as I held the lever in the up position. I dug out a rubber band and used it to keep the lever up. I have been using the rubber band method ever since, but now want to fix the problem.

I found out that Honda does not offer a replacement spring and that the part is not serviceable. I have obtained a complete left side cluster and have been waiting for the end of the riding season to make the switch.

My question: do I have to remove the shelter and the fairing to complete this repair or can I get by with just the shelter removal? I cannot tell where the plug is located for the control wiring harness. I have had the shelter off several times and I am comfortable with doing that, but I have never had the fairing off. I am hoping I can get this done with the shelter removal only.

Brett Beyer
Bloomington, Ill.

Top shelter removal is required, but not the main
fairing. Dismount the cluster, undo all wire clamps
and follow the wires down to their connection
with the harness.


Temperature Rising


I have a 1984 GL1200 Aspencade. It has been running well over the past two years that I have owned it, however, about a month ago I needed to replace the starter relay and at about that time I had a day when the engine temp spiked well above normal. I did shut it off to let the engine cool down as soon as the temp gauge hit the last bar (it’s a digital instrument cluster). When I returned home, I discovered that the reserve tank was empty, which I then filled. The following day, and up until a few days ago, the temp ran normally. This past week the engine temp seems to remain in normal range while I am on the highway, but as soon as I get on other roads, the temp rises. I have been checking the coolant, and have had to add most days. I know that when the engine cools it creates a vacuum, drawing coolant from the reserve tank into the system, and to be honest, I don’t know that the system was actually properly filled as the opaqueness of the reserve tank and the location under the false tank makes it difficult to check the level.

I was replacing the left valve cover gasket last weekend (two days after the sudden rise in temp) and did find some white material under the cover in the oil. I have not seen any emulsification under the oil filler cap. I did just perform an oil change a few weeks ago, but I do not know how long it would take to accumulate under the filler cap.

To make things more interesting, I discovered when checking the connections to the starter relay after the engine would not start, I had a loose positive battery connection. Once I tightened the connection, my temp returned to normal range and would drop when I began moving after idling at traffic lights. I was thinking the problem may have been solved, however, the oil light now flickers when idling. Finally, when I recently added coolant, I did find oil in the coolant.

Because I only purchased the Gold Wing two years ago, I do not know the complete history of the motor and its maintenance. I cannot say if there was a head gasket issue in the past and the oil in the coolant has been there for some period of time, or if this is new. Based on the oil in the coolant, the oil light flickering at idle (oil is right at level) and the temp issues, do I need a new head gasket or do I have multiple problems happening simultaneously?

Neil Lambert
North Attleborough, Mass.

If there’s oil in your coolant, that’s a sure sign of a defective head gasket and possibly a warped head. Further, it’s almost guaranteed that you have coolant in the oil. Coolant and plain bearings don’t get along very well. If contamination of the oil has existed for some time, bearing wear could be responsible for the flickering oil light at idle. If that’s the cause of the oil light, the only cure for that engine is strip down and repair. It would be more cost-effective to replace the engine. I suggest that you replace both head gaskets, replace the oil and filter, and have the radiator boiled out to remove the oily slime that’s no doubt reducing your cooling system’s efficiency. If the oil light flickering continues, the engine bearings are likely worn. Check the oil pressure with a gauge to eliminate the possibility of a defective oil pressure switch.


Fuel Injection Issue


On a return trip from Arkansas, my F-1 light came on while I was slowing down to pull into a gas station. The light stayed on until I turned the key off. When I cranked up and resumed my trip, the F-1 light returned after about five to 10 minutes. It stayed on for the rest of the tank of gas. The problem returned on the next tank of gas. On the third tank the F-1 light never came on. Do I have a problem or did I get some bad gas? Can you advise me of my next move?

John Sinclair
Ackerman, Miss.

Just to be clear, the light is an FI (fuel injection) light, not an F-1 light. It’s also referred to in the service manual as the MIL (malfunction indicator light). Bad gas will not cause the diagnostic system to illuminate the MIL, and if the light is not on, then no fault is currently detected by the system. The bike’s diagnostic system will illuminate the light if it detects a fault and the light normally stays on until the key is switched off. On restart, the light will not be illuminated unless the fault is still present. So you apparently had a fault that cropped up within a few minutes after each engine start, but is now not an issue. That doesn’t indicate that it won’t happen again. To discover what is/was causing the MIL to illuminate, you have two methods. The first is to bring the bike to a dealership and ask them to read the fault codes stored in memory. The second is one you can do yourself. The next time the light comes on, do not turn off the engine. Bring the bike to a safe stop, lower the side stand and observe the MIL flashing as the engine idles. Flashes could be either long or short; the short ones indicating a value of one and the longer flashes indicating a value of 10. After the full code is displayed, there will be a longer pause, then any additional codes present will display, or the sequence will repeat. So for instance, if you see two long flashes followed by three short ones, that would indicate code 23. Once you have the fault code, either look it up in your service manual for repair information or have your dealer investigate.


Foggy Wiring


I have a 2004 Gold Wing. My problem is that the fog lights on the bike have stopped working. I had the yearly service done on the bike in early spring and everything was working fine. Then, about two weeks later, the fog lights would not illuminate. I have checked all the fuses, replaced both bulbs and even replaced the switch, even though it was still illuminated. Nothing helped. Any insight on your part would be greatly appreciated. Thank You.

Albert Sbarro
Trenton, N.J.

Your bike may be equipped with aftermarket fog lights. If so, while it probably uses the OEM switch, the wiring may involve a separate fuse and relay, either of which could be defective.


Start, No Start


We ride very week and have enjoyed more than 50,000 relatively troublefree miles on our 2005 GL1800. Last Saturday morning, the starter turned over quite well, however, it just would not start. This was my first starting attempt for that day. I did everything I could think of to no avail. A few hours later it fired up as if nothing was wrong and I was able to ride it to my favorite mechanic.

He put it on the computer but found nothing. He checked the kickstand, kill switch and all connecting plugs that are in a circuit that lead to the fuel pump. He did not find anything, but cleaned the connecting plugs and applied dielectric grease as a protection against corrosion. He also found no water in the gas. He road tested it and there had been no other problems, so at that point we assumed (and hoped) that cleaning up the connecting plugs had taken care of the problem. Unfortunately, it turned off suddenly while I was riding it home, but I was able to restart it after a few minutes.

I took it back to him and he still could not find anything to account for the two intermittent problems — not starting one time and cutting off while riding another. He replaced the relay that leads to the fuel pump and then rode it extensively for several days with no problems, so at that point, we again assumed (and hoped) replacing that relay had fixed the problem. Unfortunately, it again turned off suddenly while I was driving it home, however, this time it simply restarted after a few seconds without any action on my part before I got stopped.

I rode it right back to him with no problem, however, it cut off just as I pulled onto his drive and would not restart for some time. Later, it could then be restarted with no problem.

The F1 light is not on when there is a problem.

I would really appreciate your help in finding the problem.

Bill Tulluck
North Charleston, S.C.

Tell your mechanic to check the bank angle sensor for correct and secure attachment. Several years ago, a service bulletin described conditions where the angle sensor attachment screws could come loose and permit the sensor to wobble around, which would cause the bike to shut down (or not start). If restarting requires cycling the ignition switch, then this may well be your issue.


Stuck Center Stand


I have a 1996 Gold Wing SE that I bought new and recently hit 99,000 miles. I just installed a drive off center stand. I’ve only tried to use it two times. On both occasions the bike would not pull off the stand. I released the clutch and it just slipped, so I didn’t try any farther. I’ve been using Shell Rotella synthetic oil in the bike for several years. I wonder if this could be causing my problem? Could or should I go back to what Honda recommends for the bike? This center stand was on my son’s ’96 Wing that he traded for a new model. He had no problems with it. Is something else going on? Thanks!

J.R. Robinson
Florence, Ky.

Simply installing a rideoff stand could not cause your clutch to slip. More likely, the rear tire wasn’t making f irm enough contact with the surface, so it was just spinning while scraping the ground. Your oil has nothing to do with this. The floor may have been higher under the center of the bike than at the wheels, which would elevate the rear wheel more than if the surface had been completely flat. A nose-down parking attitude will also cause this. Conversely, if the floor were lower under the stand legs than at the wheels, or if the bike were parked on a slight upslope, the rear wheel would be in firm contact with the ground and relieving pressure at the stand legs, making it more likely that the bike could fall over after being parked. As you’ve probably noticed, there are far more uneven or sloping parking areas than flat ones. If you’ve owned the bike all this time and ridden it 99,000 miles, I have to believe you’re proficient at using the original center stand and I recommend that you reinstall it.


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