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P.J., Technician
Category: Motorcycle
Satisfied Customers: 750
Experience:  10 years as a mechanic and fabricator in a privately owned, local, custom bike shop.
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I have a 1998 Springer Softail. After about 60,000 miles (now

Customer Question

I have a 1998 Springer Softail. After about 60,000 miles (now have 94,000). I have had constant starter problems. I have replaced the starter 4 times and it seems it's going bad again. The timing is OK. Any idea why I'm having this problem?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Motorcycle
Expert:  P.J. replied 2 years ago.
A little more information may be helpful. What part of the starter goes bad? Does is just lose the ability to turn the engine over, does the gear get damaged and start grinding, does the starter seem to turn strong but just makes a whining sound, or do you hear a very rapid and fairly loud clicking sound? These are the 4 common problems with a starter. Lifter issues, causing the valves to open slightly late, can cause an engine to be difficult to turn over and can cause excess amperage draw and will kill a starter electrically. Back in the era of your bike HD had electrical troubles. The grounds were terrible and caused all kinds of issues. This can limit the amount of battery power that can make it to (and through) the starter. This will also cause starting issues just because there isn't enough power available to the starter. The charging system was also very limited and took a very long time to recharge the battery between starts. Also, the starting system itself had a pretty high gear ratio making it difficult to turn the engine even under the best of circumstances. The aftermarket industry solved this problem by make a lower ratio ring gear and starter gear that can be retrofitted and solve many issues. If your starter gear seems to get damaged it can be caused by an outer primary bushing issue which allows the starter jackshaft to lift away from the ring gear under load. This can lead to chipped or marred gear teeth which makes engagement difficult. The clicking solenoid problem was caused by two problems. The start relay circuit breaks down over time which limits the amperage that can pass through it. It gets to the point that there is barely enough amperage to pull in the solenoid and it begins to chatter which burns the high amperage contacts inside eventually becoming unable to make any contact to pass the high amperage. Also, poorly connected battery cables, too small a battery, or other issue limiting the amount of amperage to the starter will lead to a dead starter pretty quickly. I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. Thanks, P.J.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I've had it act differently in the past, but this time, it was just one reasonably audible "click" every time I engaged the starter button. I was able to push start it , but then when I got home and turned it off, it still wouldn't start, doing the same one "click". I then put the battery on a trickle charger over night and the next morning it started right up. Very frustrating and expensive. Looking for ideas for a permanent fix. It's costing me about $500.00 per year just because of this problem.
Expert:  P.J. replied 2 years ago.
That is the sound of bad solenoid contacts. The click or clunk you hear is the power being supplied by the start button circuit to pull in the solenoid but then the solenoid high amperage contacts are not allowing power to pass from the battery to the starter motor. The contacts may be burned or the motor itself may have an issue. They do make replacement contacts but it takes some time and patience to install them and align them properly. You may want to remove the three small bolts holding on the end cover of the solenoid and take a look at those contacts to see if you notice burned spots. Battery, cable, or connection problems are the most common reason for that particular problem. Thanks, P.J.