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  #1  
Old 23rd October 2008
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DogBunny DogBunny is offline
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Default Solenoid Sticks? Quick Fix w/ Pics (DIY Starter push-Button)

This is my home-made solenoid starter push button. It took less than $4 and 10 minutes to make. I’ll show how, but first, a little info about diagnosing and repairing starter solenoid problems. This is a little long, but it might save you $350 in parts alone.

If you own your bike long enough, and never replace the solenoid, eventually it will begin to stick. The bike won’t start -- when you turn the key, all you will get is a “click” from the start relay. If you try turning the key a second or third time, the bike will start. This will begin occasionally, but will get worse and worse until the bike won’t start at all. If you take a hammer, and tap on the solenoid housing, the bike will then start. You have a sticky solenoid – the plunger is getting stuck in its tube OR the pull-in coil is failing. Eventually, even the hammer won’t help.
Every time you start your bike a big spark is created inside the solenoid which creates very fine particles of grit (copper oxide?). This, I believe, gets in between the plunger and its tube, gums it up, and causes the plunger to stick.
You can’t buy just a new solenoid, you have to buy a whole new starter motor and solenoid, and it costs about $350. So, you’re going to want to try and fix your existing solenoid.
Both of my manuals give rather involved instructions for removing the starter-solenoid assembly. What the manuals don’t tell you is that you can very easily remove and inspect the solenoid plunger and tube without removing the starter and solenoid from the bike.

In this picture I have already removed the end housing and the plunger from the solenoid (red arrow). All I had to do to get to it was to loosen and swing my front exhaust pipe down a little, and to loosen and drop my sprocket cover a little. I didn’t even have to remove the rear brake master cylinder from the sprocket cover. On your bike, it may be harder or easier to get your solenoid end plate off. Oh, by the way, disconnect your battery negative cable before you mess with any of this.

Solenoid tube.

Solenoid end plate and plunger. Also shown is the rubber grommet that I used to make my push button.
Thoroughly clean the plunger tube, the plunger and the spring. In particular, get rid of the caked-on fine grit inside the solenoid housing using rags, dusting brushes and/or compressed air. The plunger is coated with grease. Completely wipe it off. If everything looks okay, lightly coat the spring and plunger with clean axle grease, and reassemble everything. THERE IS A GOOD CHANCE THAT YOU HAVE JUST FIXED YOUR STICKY SOLENOID.

If you want to install an after-market solenoid push button, or if you want to make your own, read on. It is very easy to do, and you will never have to worry about a sticky solenoid again. Or, maybe you want to clean up your handlebars, or simplify your wiring. This will eliminate the need for your run/off button and/or your ignition key switch if that’s what you want to do (you can install a solenoid push button as an emergency back-up and keep those things too).

If you are simplifying your wiring, and if your solenoid start button is going to be your sole means of starting your bike, then you want to buy an aftermarket button. NRHS and the catalogs sell them ranging from $30 to $70. For some reason my catalog says they fit 1991 to 2006 models. Other catalogs say they are for big twins. The fact is, they will work on earlier models, and they will work on Sportsters. I’m pretty sure that you want one for a 1.2/1.4 KW starter, but be sure to ask. I’ll bet NRHS can help make sure you get the right one.

If your solenoid start button is going to be an emergency back-up, you can make your own in less than 10 minutes and for less than $4.
PARTS NEEDED:

1" aluminum post with screw, Lowe's, SKU 008236713749
7/16 O.D. x 1/4" I.D. rubber grommet, Lowe's, P/N #881252
spring, Home Depot. Mine is about 1” long by about 5/16” diameter. You need a fairly stiff spring. I couldn’t find a suitable one at Lowe’s. The ones at auto stores were too big. I know that specialty stores, such as nut and bolt supply houses have them, but there may be a minimum order amount – you may have to buy a tool or something in order to meet the minimum.

Drill a 5/16” hole in the center of the endplate, and insert the rubber grommet into it. My end plate was a mess, so I used paint stripper to get it down to bare metal. When I began messing with mine, I didn’t think to disconnect the negative battery terminal first. While removing the plunger, I got a huge arc, and the plunger spring melted into two pieces right at the end of the plunger spindle (dotted line). Did I mention to DISSCONNECT YOUR NEGATIVE BATTERY CABLE BEFORE MESSING WITH THIS?

The finished push button. Also shown is how I “fixed” my broken spring. I just put the small piece of the spring onto the plunger spindle first.

Inside view of the finished push button. Also shown is the “fixed” spring installed on the plunger spindle. TEST YOUR PUSH BUTTON. Mine didn’t return very well until I realized that I needed to GREASE THE 1” ALUMINUM POST where it fits into the grommet.

All done. As you can see, I had very little clearance between my rear exhaust pipe and my solenoid housing. If there had been more room, I would have attached a nice, big knob to the end of the aluminum post – I would have used a big dice, and I would have used epoxy resin to glue it on.
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  #2  
Old 23rd October 2008
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Awesome write up. You just saved me a lot of searching and a lot of dough. Thanks man.
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  #3  
Old 29th October 2008
Deimus Deimus is offline
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Great writeup. Looking carefully at the photo of the broken spring, I think that if/when you open it back up to clean it again that you should turn that little broken part of the spring over. The way you have it in the photo it looks possible for the two parts of the spring to thread together under vibration. This would in effect shorten the spring yielding a weakened effect. By turning over the little part of the spring, you will have the closed (finished) end of the spring in contact with the open (broken) part of the long piece. I think this would prevent the two parts from threading together. An alternate solution would be to seperate the two parts with a little washer if there is room.

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Old 29th October 2008
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Sportster/Buell Model: XLH883-1200 Ol Black Mare
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Update: Cleaning and re-greasing the plunger and its cylinder seems to have completely solved my sticky solenoid.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deimus View Post
Great writeup. Looking carefully at the photo of the broken spring, I think that if/when you open it back up to clean it again that you should turn that little broken part of the spring over. The way you have it in the photo it looks possible for the two parts of the spring to thread together under vibration. This would in effect shorten the spring yielding a weakened effect. By turning over the little part of the spring, you will have the closed (finished) end of the spring in contact with the open (broken) part of the long piece. I think this would prevent the two parts from threading together. An alternate solution would be to seperate the two parts with a little washer if there is room.
I thought of the possibility of the two spring halves threading together myself. It seems unlikely, so I will deal with it when and if it comes up. Both of your suggestions are good. I wasn't paying attention to the closed ends when I did the final assembly, maybe I got lucky and did it like you said. If I did the washer idea, it would be a little nylon washer that wouldn't scratch and catch on the little spindle or its cylinder.
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  #5  
Old 30th October 2008
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Excellent.
Great pics.
Complete and detailed description.

Good job.



John
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  #6  
Old 31st October 2008
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Thank you! I've been thinking about how to make a starter button like this for a while, and couldn't think of one. I do have a simple variation for you. As an alternate to the screw you got at lowes, any skate shop will sell you a rollerblade axle for pennies, and they have a nice black anodized finish and an allen head. Either way, I guess i know what I'm making in the morning.
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  #7  
Old 31st October 2008
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DogBunny DogBunny is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinnyc View Post
Thank you! I've been thinking about how to make a starter button like this for a while, and couldn't think of one. I do have a simple variation for you. As an alternate to the screw you got at lowes, any skate shop will sell you a rollerblade axle for pennies, and they have a nice black anodized finish and an allen head. Either way, I guess i know what I'm making in the morning.
I took a quick look at the rollerblade axles, they do look sturdier than the aluminum posts. They might require a different size rubber grommet, but that shouldn't be a problem.

About my design or your variation:
The advantages are that it is quick, easy and waterproof. The disadvantage is that it is a bit flimsy. That's why I suggest it as an emergency back-up. If your solenoid push-button is going to be the sole means of starting your bike, you should look into either buying a ready-made unit, or coming up with an alternate design, one in which the shaft slides in a rigid sleeve, rather than through the grommet which can flex sideways.
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Old 7th December 2008
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Okay great easy to follow article.

Has anyone done this modification as the sole means have pics? Can i do this on a 74 xlch that i'm trying to convert to electric start.
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  #9  
Old 12th April 2009
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Default Update

Update: There is a Sportster solenoid repair kit! It contains a new plunger, spring and contact assemblies. (no gasket)

The Part Number is DS-196230
VN-P# 550000
SOLENOID REPAIR 91-04 B/T
$30

I think it is either a V-Twin or Custom Chrome part. Don't let the B/T in the name scare you -- the kit comes with contacts for either Sportsters or big twins.

The section on starters in both the H-D and Clymer manuals are the worst that I have come across. The manuals make no mention of rebuild kits, and instead, they imply that you need to buy a whole new starter for $300-plus bucks. Also, regardless of what the manuals say, it is not necessary to remove the starter when servicing the plunger or tube!!! Nor is it necessary to remove the starter when installing the rebuild kit.

I got 6 months of daily riding out of the solenoid cleaning and re-greasing that I described in my OP. However, one of the contacts was almost completely gone -- it was paper-thin, which prompted the rebuild.
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Old 18th April 2009
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thx dogbunny I've had the clunky starter for years, took your advice with the store bought switch today,,,,so far 4 starts no clunk
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