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RSRBOB, Technician
Category: Motorcycle
Satisfied Customers: 1078
Experience:  Former Factory Service Rep, Dlr Line Tech, Service Manager, General Manager, Store Owner
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1981 virago 750cc I am unable to start bike from the start

Customer Question

1981 virago 750cc I am unable to start bike from the start button, when I turn key to "on" and jump the solenoid post I get really weak cranking. However, when I jump the starter directly with jumper cables on frame and starter terminal I get full cranking.
1. Is my solenoid bad? Can I use this one to replace: 2. Is it possible to clean the original solenoid? I am in a hurry to sell it 3. Is
there a cheap fix for the "box of rocks" starter issues this bike is known for? (starter gear disengaging) I would appreciate advice on all aspects of the question..
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Motorcycle
Expert:  RSRBOB replied 1 year ago.

Hi again.

The most likely problem to the starter button not activating the starter is one of the safety circuits is being engaged and preventing it. That is going to have to be systematically tested and repaired. At this point, it is highly unlikely it is the actual solenoid has failed. Not impossible, but improbable. Improbable enough that I would not spend money buying a new one just to test the system.

If the neutral light is not on and the clutch switch is not working, the starter won't work. The easiest way to test that is to remove the side stand relay from the system and re=test. That relay should be under the seat and have a blue/yellow wire, a red/white wire and a black/white wire coming out of it. Find that and just unplug it and try the starter. If the bike cranks then either the neutral switch has failed, the clutch switch has or the relay. You can check the clutch switch for continuity and the same for the neutral switch. The clutch switch is just wire to wire, and the neutral switch (with the transmission in neutral) from the center of the switch to ground. If those two switches check out ok, then the side stand relay has failed.

There is another remote possibility that the starter button contacts are not making contact too. Again, a quick continuity check can reveal that.

As far as the box of rocks, there is no quick easy solution without know what is wrong. There are a number of symptoms that produce the same sounds. State of tune, IE valve adjustment, carb sync, idle speed, idle mixture can all affect that. The easier the bike starts, the less obvious that problem is. Also, depending on how long it was abused by being started with other problems, it could damage various gears in the starter system too. You need to get the bike running first before you can sort some of those things out. The valve adjustment can be done before it starts, which it should be since the engine has to be cold but all carb tuning requires the bike to be running to make final adjustments.

I saw your other post on the 2 batteries, and my question is why? What are you trying to accomplish by using 2 batteries and why do you think you need them? as far as connecting them, if you connect them in series you will get 24V at the same amp hours. If you connect them in parallel you will get 12v @ double the amphour rating. If you try them in series, you are likely going to start burning up the 12v components on your bike.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.


Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The reason for battr im trying to sell bike with as little money into it as I can.
The bike started from switch at one point, is there a easy way to check for continuity or power to the start switch?
The bike actually runs well, the box of rocks starter issue is known on this bike to be from bad factory design of the starter gear to fly wear, I hear alot of people shim it or something on the cheap, just wondering how.....
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I was thinking the solenoid was bad or rusted inside, it did "click" before I cleaned it but didn't get 12v to bottom terminal going to starter. After I cleaned the solenoid, now I do not get any noise at all, I am thinking the rust cleaner flooded out the solenoid internally so will not function. Thoughts on why after messing with solenoid it wont respond at all, it was really rusted inside.....
Expert:  RSRBOB replied 1 year ago.

The batteries you are using are not designed to provide the sudden amp draw needed to start a bike consistently. Those are deep cycle batteries for a home alarm system. The other problem with these batteries is the terminals are not designed to handle the amp flow required to start a motorcycle. It takes well over 100 amps to start a bike, and those terminals are a big bottle neck to amp flow. I knew you were cutting every corner you could, that wasn't hard to figure out.

I am well aware of the reputation of the Virago starters. I was working at a Yamaha dealer when they came out. I stand by my statements. Other than damage to starter parts caused by lack of maintenance, they can and will function quite normally. BTW, marginal amps available from your battery will exasperate that problem even more.

If you cleaned the solenoid and it no longer works, did you happen to reverse the starter cable and the battery cable? I am not buying the flooded out solenoid theory.


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