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

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  #1  
Old 14th October 2006
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IronMick IronMick is offline
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Lightbulb Setting The Ignition Timing on Your IronHead

Setting The Ignition Timing on Your IronHead

EDIT: See post number 73 and following posts of this thread for "setting static timing with points ... the procedure ... put together from both the sticky and the factory manual" by Chris Shadowdog500.

EDIT: See post number 79 and following posts of this thread for question and discussion of setting timing to eliminate pinging.

EDIT: See posts 91 thru 96 for the procedure to center the points cam, by Chris Shadowdog500.

EDIT: See posts 115 and 116 for info on using a dial back timing light with dual fire ignition.

EDIT: If you are running a VOES then ground the VOES wire that comes from the ignition module while doing the ignition timing procedure. I have a bullet connector in mine for this purpose.

EDIT: Wrap the induction clip in a shop towel or whatever to insulate it from the engine heat. On many units, including my Innova, once it heats up it will no longer flash the light. Mine heats up quickly if not wrapped.

1. Checking vs Setting the Ignition Timing

You can check the timing without changing anything. Changing the timing can be done by one person but is easier with two. The ignition module or points is on the right side of the bike, the timing hole is on the left side. Easier with one person on each side than to go back and forth. Standard advance for the 1980 XL is 40`. I have mine set at about 35`. At 38` i get pinging.

2. Equipment That You Need

You need an induction timing light which you can buy at any auto supply store. Best to get the "dial back" type. These allow you to set a number [like 35`] into the timing light and then adjust the ignition module/points backplate until you are there.

If you have very well insulated spark plug wires the timing light may not sense the signal thru the wire. If this is the case then open the gap on the spark plug to 050 or more. Reset it to your normal gap [030 points or 040 electronic] when done with this procedure.

If the inductive pickup clip gets hot it may not work. I wrap mine in a shop towel while it is attached to the spark plug wire.

My INNOVA timing light has an arrow indicating which way the inductive clip should be connected. The arrow is not necessarily correct.

It also helps to have a throttle lock as the timing should be checked/set with the engine at 2400 to 2500 RPM.

You will need a piece of rubber oil line hose about 1 inch long. Press one end up against the side of a stone grinding wheel [or whatever] to make sure it is perfectly flat.

3. Front Cylinder: TDC Mark vs Advance Timing Mark

The TDC [Top Dead Center] mark is used with a dial back timing light to check the timing, or to set the timing at a specific degree, such as 37`. The advance timing mark is used to set the timing to the factory setting, such as 40`. Best is to use a dial back timing light to check or set timing.

4. To Identify Your Front Cylinder TDC Timing Mark

Remove spark plugs. Rear wheel off the ground, shift to 2nd gear, rotate wheel until it clicks, repeat until you get to top gear. Now by rotating the rear wheel you are rotating the engine. Almost impossible with the plugs in; very difficult in lower gears.

You want the front cyl to be at TDC. You can see in thru the spark plug hole, especially with a flash light; .... Helps to have a good wingspan, or an extra person.

With the piston at precisely TDC look in thru the timing hole. You should see a drilled dot or a line. That is your front cylinder TDC mark. Once you know for certain what the TDC mark looks like you can check the timing.

5. Procedure, Checking The Timing

Begin with the engine at operating temperature. Remove the timing plug from the left side of the engine. Insert the 1" hose smooth end first, right tight up against the flywheel. I use a needle nose plier and twist it in there as firmly as i can. If it is not smooth and tight against the flywheel oil will spray out while you are working.

Start the engine, have it at about 2400 to 2500 RPM [it will be extra noisy with the timing plug out], set the timing light at 40`, aim it into the timing hole thru the hose. Click it down one degree at a time while you look for the timing mark. If you don't find it you may have to work up from 40`.

If it is in the 35` to 40` range and there is no pinging then you may wish to leave it as is. With pinging on acceleration you may want to retard it by about 1/16 of an inch or less [see Math below].

6. Procedure, Setting the Timing

Remove the points cover from the right side. You will be rotating the back plate so first mark it so you can get back to the current position if needed. Make a scratch mark, use a permanent magic marker; or perhaps a dot of red Tremclad paint [which is what i use].

To change the timing loosen the two standoffs holding the points/ignition module and rotate the backplate. Clockwise advances [larger degree number] counter-clockwise retards [smaller degree number].

7. Some Math, How Much to Rotate

The backplate has a 3" diameter = 1.5" radius.
The circumference = 2 * pi * radius = 2 * 3.14 * 1.5 inches = 9.42 inches
The circumference = 9.42 * 16 ~= 151 sixteenths of an inch.

One rotation of the backplate corresponds to two rotations of the engine, so it is like a circle that has 2 * 360 = 720 degrees. 720 / 151 ~= 5

Therefore a rotation of the backplate by about 1/16 of an inch results in a timing change of almost 5 degrees!

Last edited by IronMick; 7th February 2013 at 01:32..
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  #2  
Old 14th October 2006
ironhead7544 ironhead7544 is offline
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Thanks for the great info. Have you ever used a dwell meter to set the points gap? Id like to try it but cant find any info.
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  #3  
Old 15th October 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ironhead7544
... Have you ever used a dwell meter to set the points gap? ...
I have CraneCams Hi-4 electronic ignition on mine. No experience with points stuff at all. Sorry.
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Old 21st October 2006
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Default timing of the ironhead

thanks for the great info the rubber tube is a great idea,,but can the timing be set by the us of a mutimetre ,,,,note was able to do this on the kawi 750 twin
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  #5  
Old 21st October 2006
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IronMick IronMick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lonerider1985
... can the timing be set by the use of a mutimetre ...
I believe there may be a way. I do not know it myself; there was a recent post that referred to it. I think it involves connecting the multimeter to an output from the points or electronic ignition, and determining when the ignition signal is sent, and using that information to set the timing.
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  #6  
Old 21st October 2006
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I have "staticly" checked timing with a test light.
Bring the timing mark around to the hole on TDC.
Turn the ignition on.
Hook a test light between your points and ground.
With your fingers or bent needle nose pliers advance your points cam.
The light will go out when the points open. So if you are at the end of the "swing" and your light goes out, you are "very close".
You can do the same with an induction pickup from the 80's except for the light comes on instead of going out.
It will get you close enough to start your bike.
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Old 31st October 2006
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Thanks mick, great info as usual.
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  #8  
Old 6th January 2007
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Default magneto woe's

does anyone know of a way to "re-charge" magneto batteries ? they just cost so darn much to buy new any rebuild options ? any info is very very welcome
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Old 6th January 2007
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Hi Anvil96,

No battery in your magneto... Just a rotor that is magnetized. The magnetizing rarely goes off, except if you have had the rotor off the mag body for YEARS. Old car electrical repair shops will sometimes have a magnetizer if needed.

Next is the coil, I suppose that's what you refer as the expensive bit... No way round it, if it's dead, it's dead and you'll need a new one...

Way to check your coil:

Between the earth bar than runs across it and the red wire that goes to the points: low voltage circuit, low resistance, a few fractions of an ohm only.

Between the 2 springs, high tension circuit, a few thousand ohms (my various Fairbanks Morse coils vary from 9000 ohms to 13 000 ohms)...

If any of these 2 circuits is open, read "infinity" on your voltmeter set in ohms, the coil's dead.

Hope this helps

Patrick
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  #10  
Old 8th January 2007
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thx boss, i've been trying for a cpl months the bikes a gift and i wanna get it running by spring ,i'm into anything that is almost as old as me anyway lol thx again
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