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  #1  
Old 22nd August 2016
chasecmiller chasecmiller is offline
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Exclamation Starter not engaging. Any tips?

Hey guys!

I have a 78 XLH, electric only.

When I hit the starter button, I hear the solenoid click and the starter spins like crazy. It sounds like the starter is not engaging the gear inside of the primary. The engine is not rotating according to the timing hole.

If I sit on it for 10 seconds ( yeah, I know. ) then it will slow down and sounds like the bendix finally engages because the engine turns over.

I pulled the starter for a visual, everything looks good. Teeth are looking good. Bench test shows that the starter, which is about 12 months old, spins.

Solenoid pulls when bench tested. Not really sure how to test it other than that. It was replaced at the same time as the starter, but is one from eBay.

I pulled off the primary side to see it move and it seems to move on actuation, but appears to run into the gear it connects to more often than not. Does this mean that the solenoid is shot? Or is there something else that I should be troubleshooting before I throw 20 at this and 30 at that until the misses gets vocal.


The battery is sitting at 14.7 right now. Not seeing any resistance fade between the battery and starter solenoid.

And a little more. It does seem to engage when the spin gets a little slower. It kicks out some oil mist out of the vent tube on the cam side. Can it possibly be something as f'ed in the a. as a timing issue or pushrod adjustment?

Thanks for any tips. New to having an ironhead and trying to get a little more time in on her this year.
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  #2  
Old 22nd August 2016
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I know you said you removed the primary to see what's happening. The bendix gear should be meshing with the ring gear (almost) every time you hit the starter button. It sounds like yours isn't meshing until it spins for 10 seconds or so and slows down?

I would disconnect the battery cables from the battery first, remove the primary cover, then push on the pivot arm so the solenoid plunger gets pushed into the solenoid, and watch what happens to the bendix gear as it gets pushed out toward the ring gear. The bendix gear should rotate as it comes out toward the ring gear, which is supposed to help it mesh with the ring gear easier. The solenoid pulls the plunger in pretty hard, so I'd push it in pretty hard and fast to try to duplicate what happens during normal operation. You don't want the battery hooked up while you're doing this.

The only other thing I can think of is to make sure everything's installed correctly on the plunger shaft and pivot arm. Pins, springs, washers, etc.

You shouldn't try to run the starter motor with the primary cover off, as the starter motor torque can be strong enough to break things without the end of the bendix shaft being supported and held in place.

The timing and pushrod adjustment won't have any bearing on this. The bendix should engage and the motor should spin regardless of those two adjustments.
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  #3  
Old 22nd August 2016
chasecmiller chasecmiller is offline
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Thanks YK,

I'll follow your instructions and report back tonight. I've never taken the bendix gear apart. Is there anything that I should be looking for that might have failed? I don't see anything in the manual about needing to do a bendix gear adjustment or anything off hand.
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  #4  
Old 22nd August 2016
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ezmerf ezmerf is offline
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Scroll down to starter solenoid http://xlforum.net/forums/s...d.php?t=465866 this if from the red stickies at the top of the page.
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  #5  
Old 28th August 2016
chasecmiller chasecmiller is offline
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Ah man, had ironed it down to the eBay solenoid being garbage. More or less, I jumped to that conclusion. On a bench test, it wouldn't pull the starter gear in. But, if it was helped by bringing the Y in maybe 1/8th of an inch, it would fully engage. I threw $80 at a new solenoid thanks to the local dealer. Same damn thing. Long story short, I'm an asshole with a grounding issue. Can't be mad when the dealership takes you for $80 when you didn't troubleshoot the problem properly.

Thanks guys!
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  #6  
Old 28th August 2016
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You're not the first guy that's been led down the wrong path by a bad ground, and you won't be the last. Bad grounds cause all kinds of crazy symptoms and weird things.

On the bright side, now you've got a good spare solenoid!
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  #7  
Old 28th August 2016
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Starter bendix drive is borked. When you hold the button on and it slips it makes a bunch of heat and will finally grab when it starts spin welding itself together.

They go bad often when debris from the trans or primary gets trapped inside them.

There is a new brand called ZEN made in Brazil that gets the nod from me for these units, the offshore ones don't seem to hold up as well.
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  #8  
Old 10th September 2016
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I've tried the pinion drive from the ironhead shop, Accel maybe, but this time I spent 85 on a Spyke and I'm doing the work myself
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  #9  
Old 18th September 2016
chasecmiller chasecmiller is offline
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Well, it ended up being two parts. Yes, the ground needed a larger gauge. But, Ryder was right too. The bendix was spinning every time it was on the bench, but about 2/3 of the time it had the resistance of the engine against it, it would spin freely. Going to pick one up on Tuesday.

Thanks guys.
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  #10  
Old 26th August 2019
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Default bendix kind of spins both ways....

I had similar symptoms in my 78 Electric Start. Tried to start it for Spring after sitting through Winter, and fired right up. Went out a few weeks later to start it, it was trying, had a loud clunk, then a spinning sound.

Chatting with local mechanic (VT) and on this forum, we zeroed in on the Bendix being busted, and not catching the flywheel, but just spinning counterclockwise as it should not.

I just took the starter off instead of going through the primary. The gold washer stayed on, which was sweet so now I don't need to funk with the primary. Once I was holding the starter housing - I showed my buddy and said "look, the Bendix should not spin this way" as I spun it left/counterclockwise like it should not.

But then - I stopped and started to spin it right/clockwise like it should and it was fine. However, now it WILL NOT turn counterclockwise.

QUESTION: is it better? can the bendix just be knocked off alignment and by fiddling with it, I got it back to how it should be? Or, am I just not really as strong as my flywheel and it will spin counter again if reinstalled? Is it likely to just bust again in the future and should be replaced?

Any thoughts?
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