Video: It’s Alive!

After six months spent rebuilding the electrical system, the 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C bobber project is finally running. It took a few shots of ether to wake it up, but it’s rumbling along. I’ve removed the baffles and replace the air box with higher air flow cone filters, so it runs a lean. Next week, I’ll try rejetting with a Stage 1 and Stage 3 jet kit. And then, maybe, I’ll start cutting.

Sparky, You’re Grounded!

I finally managed to find a new (or new to me) pair of pulse generators to replace the bad pair on the 1984 Honda VT 700C I’m currently resurrecting to a new life as a rat bike bobber.

Replacing the pulse generators required me to disassemble the right sight of the bike, including brake and floor boards, right side exhaust, a piece of the frame, the right side of the crankcase, the clutch inner and outer, and, finally, the pulse generators.

Never, never, never by a bike that won’t start.

These electrical issues have required me to really step up my game, and I’m actually glad I had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of motorcycle electrical systems. It’s not so intimidating any more. But it still is a pain in the ass.

So, six months after picking up the bike, I finally have spark on the spark plug.

When I firsts buttoned everything up and cranked the engine over with a spark plug out if the cylinder, I experienced a huge sinking feeling when the plug didn’t spark. After scratching my head for half an hour, I went back to the VT700 shop manual and read the troubleshooting procedure again.

I realized that I’d laid the spark plug on a non-grounded surface. Without being grounded (like it is when it’s actually in the engine), the spark plug won’t spark. This is basic motorcycle mechanics and basic physics.

After extracting my head from my rear, I placed the spark on the cylinder head, and watched it spark away.

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Pulse Generator Transplant

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After troubleshooting every other electrical component on my 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C, I determined I’m not getting spark because I have a bad pulse generator. Later model bikes use a single pulse, but the ’84 VT700C has two pulse generators, one for each cylinder. This equates to double the possibility of failure and headache cubed when one or the other it actually does fail, since they have to be replaced together as an assembly.

Testing the pulse generators is a pretty simple process of disconnecting the pulse generator assembly from the rest of the electrical system and taking an OHM reading on the leads for each pulse generator. The connector is easily assessable, tucked away on the right side of the crankcase by the fuel filter.

One of the pulse generators tested at 440 OHMs, well within tolerances. The other pegged out my multimeter, indicating a bad pulse generator.

Finding a “new” OEM replacement proved to be impossible. At least three websites claimed to have the part, but when I spoke to a live salesperson, in each case I was told the part was discontinued and no one manufactures a replacement.

I tracked down a used pulse generator assembly on eBay. It’s amazing that idiots like me desperate enough to spend $100 for a $10 part. Since the one I picked up was the lowest priced on eBay, and since the VT700 is scrap metal without one, I considered myself lucky.

While testing the pulse generators is easy, replacing them is a pain. I had to remove the right foot controls, the right-side exhaust, part of the frame, the right crank case cover, and both the clutch inner and outer.

Before installing the “new” pulse generator assembly and putting the bike back together, I decided to test it. Just like the original, it had one good pulse generator and one failed pulse generator.

In the spirit of Dr. Frankenstein, I began hacking at the two assemblies, tossing the bad generators in the junk bin and cobbling the two good generators into a single pulse generator assembly.

When I began routing the pulse generator wiring back through the crankcase, I discovered I had shorted one cable by half an inch. Clearances are tight in the crank case, with the wiring routed around several moving parts, so that half inch may as well have been a mile.

I set my Frankenstein’s monster of a pulse generator assembly to the side, and decided to take a break to check my email and check the status of some other parts on order from eBay. On a whim, I checked to see if anyone had posted another pulse generator assembly.

And there it was: a pulse generator off of a 1983 Honda Shadow VT750, for $15, plus $5 shipping. What did I have to lose?

This assembly arrived two days later. Both pulse generators tested within specifications, and it routed perfectly into the crankcase.

Now it’s time to button this thing up and see if we have spark.

Bad Ticker

I can’t say I’m surprised that my aging VT700 project bike has a bad ticker. Specifically, one if the two pulse generators it’s testing bad. The pulse generators are basically the pace maker of the bike. As the pistons move up and down, they turn a sprocket with an arrow-shaped piece of metal on. As the sprocket rotates, the tip of the arrow passes two magnets, each positioned I about 70 degrees apart.

As the arrow passes the magnet, the magnet zaps an electrical signal up to the ignition computer, which then zaps a signal to the ignition coils, which causes the spark plugs to spark, which if nights the air and fuel mixture, which moves the cylinder, which pushes the pistons, which turns the sprocket, which moves the arrow. The circle of life is complete.

Each pulse generator signals one cylinder to fire, and they are positioned so that each signal fires in the optimum sequence for power (and Federal emissions standards). When on pulse generator fails, only one cylinder works, and the other is just dead weight.

So, the the Honda shop manual says that the pulse generators should have a continuity between leads of 480 OHMs, plus or minus ten percent.

One of my pulse generators tests at 430, which is close enough. The other doesn’t read at all.

The connectors and wiring are good on the failed pulse generator, so the problem is likely a break in the mile or so of thin copper wire wrapped up around a magnetic post inside the pulse generator.

Like everything else in this bike the pulse generator assembly is discontinued at Honda, and there us no aftermarket option. After a week of hunting online, I purchased a used replacement assembly off of eBay, but it’s fails exactly the sameway. My theory is that the lower pulse generator, because it is immersed in oil all the time, is exposed to greater heating and cooling variations compared to the top pulse generator, which does not always sit in an oil bath.

So now my plan is to scavenge the good pulse generators from the two bad ones and try to makes a working assembly.

I have had to remove the clutch assembly to get to where I can work on the pulse generator, so it looks like I’m rebuilding the clutch, too.

The excitement never stops!

 

SOLD: 1985 Honda VT700C Project Bike

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SOLD

Oden Motor Shop has 1985 Honda Shadow VT700C for Sale! This is a great project bike with 32,000 miles on engine. It’s running and has good compression, but needs new head gaskets, carbs cleaned, fluids changed, and some TLC.

It has a minor dent in the tank, which is repairable, and the tank is free of rust. The are other minor cosmetic issues, but it is a complete, working bike. Used parts are readily available via eBay, and Oden Motor Shop has a small inventory of parts for this model as well.

The tires still have at least 10,000 miles left in them, and the bike is still a smooth ride. It comes with a clean title and Honda Service Manual. The price is $899.00, or Best Offer.

All sales are final, but as with all Project Bikes supplied by Oden Moto Shop, it comes with 90 days of email shop support.

For more information, please email curtis@OdenMotorShop.com.

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1984 Honda Shadow VT700C Brain Transplant

The electrical system on my project bike, a ratted-out 1984 Honda VT700C, is giving me nightmares. I’m in the process of replacing nearly every electrical component on this bike, including the wiring harness.

Between eBay and OEM replacements on Amazon, I’ve pretty much managed to get everything I need, except for one major component: the ignition control system.

In fact, on the 1984 VT700C has three separate boxes controlling ignition. I’m not really sure what each box does, but here’s what I need:

2 x IC Ignitor (red label) TID12-11 A ME9, mfg. Hitachi, Ltd.

1 x ICU-06 ME9, mfg. Hitachi, Ltd.

I have no clue what those numbers and letters mean, only that the replacements I can find are just as suspect as the boxes I gave on hand.

In researching this problem on HondaShadow.net, I came across a reference to a Czech company that has some experience making replacements for these old black boxes.

The company is Ignitech, and they have a wide range of programmable ignitions. Of course, getting the right ignition means emailing photos of your existing mess of wires and parts. But these guys have a reputation for getting it right, so I’m going to give it a shot and have them build me a new ignition system.

Stay tuned!

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Melting the Parts-cycle

I knew rebuilding a 1984 Honda VT700C was going to challenge my meager skills, but I didn’t expect to be stopped in my tracks by a bad stator that refused to separate from the clutch cover.

At first I thought it was just an issue of leverage: it’s hard to get a solid grip the stator in one hand and the clutch cover in the other. I did manage to get what I felt was a good grip, and proceeded to twist and tug and turn and tap (and maybe bang a little), but that stator didn’t budge.

I got online and surfed the forums for a clue as to where I was going wrong. Did Ibmiss a hidden bolt? Did it pull straight off or thread onto the case (the new stator seemed to be finely threaded). My usual go-to site for the VT700C, HondaShadow.net, was silent on the issue.

I was tired, frustrated, and seriously considering parting the rest of the bike out on eBay. Then I did what I should have done five minutes after figuring out the stator was stuck: I called Big Daddy for advice.

He took time out of his shop renovation project (new drywall, new shelves, and an actual ceiling instead of bare beams) to listen to my problem. I texted over a few photos of the stator and clutch case so he could see the fresh batch of heartache I’d managed to find.

But, of course, Big Daddy had the answer.

He told me to head down to Autozone and pick up a can of CRC Freeze-Off, which is designed to dissolve rust and other muck that can cause bolts, screws and parts to bind together.

I picked up a $5 can of CRC Freez-Off (and another $50 worth of tools I don’t really need but probably will some day).

Back in the garage, I used the Freeze-Off ti liberally soaked the rim of clutch cover where the stator attached. I could see the grime dissolving and rinsing away at the edge, but I was skeptical about it actually penetrating deep enough to unlock the part. I started tugging and twisting and pulling again, but nothing happened.

I read the back of the Freez-Off can again, but paid attention to the instructions to “wait two minutes’. So I sprayed again and waited.

After two minutes, I got my grip on the clutch cover and stator, and I started twisting and wiggling. After a few seconds, I felt the stator shift a quarter of an inch on the clutch cover. I started pulling and wiggling some more, and with surprisingly little muscle, the stator popped right off.

CRC Freez-Off delivered on its promise once, but I had another test for it to prove if this was just luck, or if it actually works.

The clutch bolt where it attaches to the clutch slave cylinder was so stuck I was worried bout stripping the bolt if I put any more muscle (or body weight) into it. So I used the CRC Freeze-Off again.

It took a couple of applications, several minutes of waiting, and a little more muscle than the stator, but I managed to loosen the bolt from the clutch slave cylinder without stripping it or hurting myself.

So, CRC’s Freeze-Off gets top accolades from Oden Motor Shop.

I Brake for Working Brake Lights

100_0114I was first alerted to a problem with the brakes on my bike when I started slowing down to make the left turn into my neighborhood and was suddenly assaulted by a blaring horn an obscenities from behind me. The guy driving the express delivery truck must have been pretty mad, because I could hear him clearly over the rumpling of my Screamin’ Eagle, and inside my half-face helmet. I made a quick check of my turn signals (I new I hadn’t forgotten to press the left turn button), and everything checked out.

A few minutes later, when I was back at home, I ran through a quick check:

  • Did something fall off my bike and hit the other car? — No. Everything was where it should be.
  • Did I have anything offensive written on my clothing?— Nothing that would elicit more than a disapproving glare from my grandmother (then again, she was very open minded and tolerant).
  • Were my tail lights out? No. When I pressed the footbrake, it all lit up.

But…

I check the brake again, using only the handbrake, and tail brake light stayed dark.

When I took off the break lever, the pressure-pin on the brake switch (which the brake releases when depressed) was stuck in its housing. No amount of coaxing could get it out.

So I headed down to Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA, and picked up a replacement switch for about $30.00 USD.

I was a bit nervous about replacing the switch myself: I can turn a wrench and change oil, but electrical troubleshooting is a bit beyond me. But the replacement switch came with good instructions with lots of drawings, so I decided to go for it.

Removing the brake lever was a simple task, since I’d already done it to check out the problem. Removing the electical switch housing and getting in to the bad switch proved challenging because my wiring is run inside the handlebars, and there really was no slack.

The brake switch was completely burnt out and had melted itself in a locked position. I had to gently muscle it out of the housing.

When I go the new switch in, I found that the release button (the part the brake pushes in and lets out to trigger the brake signal) was jamming. I loosed the screw holding the switch in to give it a little play, and jamming ceased to be an issue. I suspect this is what cause the earlier brake switch to burn out.

After some close wiring work (at least it was close to me), I got the new switch in and screwed and bolted everything back together.

When I tested the brakes using the hand lever, the brake light lit up instantly.

Hopefully the express delivery guy appreciates my effort and won’t drop my packages in the mud.

This Bolt’s Driving Me Nuts

I have an embarrassing problem. My bars just won’t stay erect. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is when I have to come to a sudden stop, and my handlebars flop down onto my knees.

Oddly enough, the first person I go see whenever I have a mechanical problem is my Big Daddy (who in real life is my daddy, and still pretty big, but not nearly as big as me). Big Daddy also built my bike, so he already knows the peculiarities of this particular situation.

As it turns out, the original handle bars were not knurled, so Big Daddy set a screw in the bar so it would catch on the inside of the riser bracket before dropping all the way down.

On one hand, this was a brilliant idea: adjustable height handle bars. On the other hand, it didn’t work out so well for me. After the set screw mod, the bars would still clear Big Daddy’s short little legs, even at their lowest point, but my long, lean, muscular, sexy … OK … My big fat legs were tall enough that the bar would knock my knees when my feet were flat on the foot boards.

We just couldn’t figure out why the bar was still dropping. After some deep discussion and clearing of cobwebs, Big Daddy recalled that there was always something odd about the top bolt on the right hand riser. The bolts seemed to go in fine, but even after torquing them down, the bar could slip under pressure.

In a moment of genius (and because he was supposed to already be on the road to Daytona at the time), Big Daddy had inserted a zip tie into the bolt hole and torqued it down. The bars were tight as can be, and the temporary nature if the fix slipped Big Daddy’s mind (likely with the help of several gallons of beer and tequila during bike week).

Now, a few years later, when the bike is handed over to a gentleman of even greater stature (myself), that poor little nylon strip couldn’t handle it any more.

So, let’s get back to the real problem: factory bolts, after market bolts, bolts found in an oily bucket in the corner of my garage would not seat properly in the riser. The threads didn’t appear to be stripped in the riser, and the bolts (especially the chromied ones) are pristine. And since the bolts all fit fine in other riser bolt holes, the only conclusion we can come to is ….

Factory defect.

That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.

So, I went to the local hardware store and purchased a nice course thread Grade 8 bolt and nylon lock nut. everything righted down beautifully, and my handlebars are stable.

It’s not particularly pretty with one odd nut hanging off the bottom of the riser mount, but if will do fine for the next week while I wait for my new risers to arrive.

 

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