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Ironhead Sportster Motorcycle Talk (1957-1985) For all those that wanna talk about Ironhead Sportster Motorcycles

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ironhead, solenoid, starter

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  #1  
Old 6th May 2020
MotoSteward MotoSteward is offline
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Exclamation Starter not turning engine over

'76 electric start

Ive been chasing this problem for a week or so. I turn the key and my starter motor will spin like crazy without turning over the engine. Everything is new--the starter motor, the starter relay, the solenoid, the battery, and all the wires.
Ive bench tested the starter assembly. The solenoid fully engaged and sent the bendix out. When in the bike, and when i test it with the primary open (keeping in mind to support the bendx shaft and not to damage it) the solenoid does not pull in enough for the bendix to engage the ring gear.

When I push the lever with my finger, the bendix will line up with the ring gear perfectly and moves smoothly. The shitty thing, is it doesn't work when all the wires are hooked up and I go to crank it over.

What should I look for? Why isn't the solenoid fully engaged? What sort of electrical test would be useful?

I need help.
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Old 6th May 2020
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From the Sticky Ironhead Charging System Checkout...

2B. Load test battery.

Disconnect both spark plugs; if you have electronic ignition put another set of plugs into the wires and firmly ground them, usually on the cylinder heads. Attach voltmeter leads to the battery terminals. Crank the engine for 10 seconds [no more!]. Observe the meter WHILE cranking. If it goes below 10 volts then the battery is no good. Alternatively you can buy a battery load tester - these are available at Princess Auto or Harbor freight, not too expensive especially when on sale.

Bring the battery up to full charge again before proceeding.
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  #3  
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Do you believe that the battery is the culprit?

Where else should I look? I just replaced the battery, I hope its not bad directly off the shelf.
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Old 6th May 2020
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Fully charge the battery, then let it sit for a couple of hours, then load test it as above. Then we all know and can have confidence that the battery is [hopefully] good
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Old 6th May 2020
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Needs a Starter drive (bendix) probably.
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Old 6th May 2020
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I had a similar problem and had the starter in and out so many times I replaced the bolts with zippers. A new Bendix (Starter Drive Gear) solved the problem even though it all tested out OK 'on the bench'. If you go that route, do yourself a favor and buy US made.
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Did replacing the starter bendix on your bike allow the solenoid to fully engage the armature?

My issue is the solenoid is creating enough pull. My bendix only turns one way, as it should. Is there something else I should look for?
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Old 6th May 2020
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As a matter of course, I checked and made sure I had the right amount of travel. If the fork between solenoid and Bendix is worn or bent it may be hanging up.
Correct engagement of the Bendix to ring gear is controlled by the thrust washer (the one everybody warns you not to drop into the primary) on the end of the Bendix shaft.
This clearance is a pain to check 'cause here's no easy way in with the starter in and the primary cover on.
New or old, a solenoid with a bad ground, high resistance or weak coils won't pull in as much as it should.
A jumper wire to go straight to the solenoid will bypass the starter button, in effect testing that circuit.
If you can move the solenoid and shift fork that throws the Bendix in by hand but the solenoid won't, then that's a likely part of your problem.

Trying to turn the Bendix by hand isn't a good indicator because cranking the motor takes a lot more torque than you can create by hand.
With it on the bench, hold the starter drive gear with a pair of pliers and stick something in the gear train between motor and Bendix to keep it from turning. If you can turn the Bendix with the shaft locked up, it's bad and needs to be replaced.
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