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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a 1979 custom 12k miles runs great. Its cold now. I've been getting weird sound from my starter. The sound comes and goes. It usually comes on after like a minute of trying to start. A hard start. I got the bike this fall. Never made the sound. Once it got below freezing and I didn't ride it for weeks at a time, it would make the sound during the longer times it took to start. Once it started, the sound would go away on warm restarts. But when cold some machinery definitely changes, and there's a very different bad sort of sound after a minute or so.

[REVISING TO ADD INFO ON THE HARD START: Whew, it took like 5 minutes of cranking to start this last time. I vary all the options. Is there a standard way to hard start in the cold? I try choke out, choke in, throttled a bit, twisted a couple times, no throttle. Sometimes it starts turning over with starter still engaged then it quits when I release the button. In the warm weather it often only takes like a 1/2 second to start -- touch the button, bang. So nice.]

Can you tell me what's happening with this sound? Here's a link to the Youtube....

 

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Mine also does that, and has done it for years, and not every time I expect it to.... It's not the starter motor, and it only does it when it's being turned over for more than a few seconds on a cold start or a 'wake up' after a layover, and obviously not when hot, same as yours. I can only assume it's the starter clutch rollers slipping, but I've not yet taken the motor apart to investigate.
 

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'84 CX650E that is evolving into a GL500
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What I hear sounds more like running the starter with the spark plugs out and I can't imagine what could make it sound like that with the plugs in.
It certainly doesn't sound like a bad starter clutch and nothing like what mine sounds like when I start it after it has been sitting for a few days in the winter.
 

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What I hear sounds more like running the starter with the spark plugs out and I can't imagine what could make it sound like that with the plugs in.
It certainly doesn't sound like a bad starter clutch and nothing like what mine sounds like when I start it after it has been sitting for a few days in the winter.
The plugs are most definitely in! It always starts even if it makes that noise or not.
 

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The odd sound does not start immediately with the starter motor turning which is interesting. It almost sounds like you're holding the throttle open. Any chance this could be a sticking valve? The loss of compression would make it hard to start.

I take this back ^ It sounds different on my laptop, it does sound more like an electrical motor sound.
 

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The odd sound does not start immediately with the starter motor turning which is interesting. It almost sounds like you're holding the throttle open. Any chance this could be a sticking valve? The loss of compression would make it hard to start.

I take this back ^ It sounds different on my laptop, it does sound more like an electrical motor sound.
In the past, I took the starter motor out and bench tested it - all it did was just whirr without any screeching sounds at all, even when left running for quite a good many seconds. Admittedly it wasn't under any load at all, but when it is refitted, it doesn't do it every cold and/or wake-up start up after a long idle period. I will replace the starter clutch components when I have the motor out to replace the camchain, when that is required, but whether that will cure it, it will just have to wait until then...
 

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In the past, I took the starter motor out and bench tested it - all it did was just whirr without any screeching sounds at all, even when left running for quite a good many seconds. Admittedly it wasn't under any load at all, but when it is refitted, it doesn't do it every cold and/or wake-up start up after a long idle period. I will replace the starter clutch components when I have the motor out to replace the camchain, when that is required, but whether that will cure it, it will just have to wait until then...
I had hastily replied last night (terrible habit). I would add that it sounds like an electrical motor whining, not defectively but like the starter clutch parts are slipping and the starter is turning differently.

It was super hard to tell in video if your engine is maintaining the RPMs over the starter noise and the lack of light on the gauge...and then I realized your lights are dimming when it starts making the weird noise. Is there anyway this is a weak battery/bad connection thing? As in the starter is actually not turning fast enough and the starter is making a strained noise or not putting enough torque into the starter clutch?

I can see your oil light went out as the engine turns over and that's normal, but what's the purple-ish light and should it be going out? I have a CX650c so my dash is setup differently but I think that's your hi-beam? Do these bikes cut the head light off on the start cycle? That bottom light goes out the second that weird sound starts, but so does your oil light.

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I don't know if you can see on the RPM gauge any change in RPMs as the starter is turning, but a drop in RPMs would definitely indicate slippage. A ninja 250 I just went through and fixed made -almost- a similar sound and the roller bearings on the starter clutch were all sorts of beat up, springs were toast, etc. It would mostly make the 'box of rocks' noise but there was also a slight whir-whine-howl thing as it started to catch and slip.

I've let your video play 100 times on loop and I'm pretty sure it's maintaining the normal starter noise/speed/turn over rate through-out the video and through the weird noise meaning it's not the starter clutch slipping.

I would make a note of what RPMs it turns when it does and does not make that weird noise.

I hopped around different forums trying to find a video of failing starter clutches and it's almost maddening that I couldn't find another audio clip like yours. I did find on the Honda Rebel forums someone claiming the sort of sound you have and it being the starter clutch.

You are right though, just bench testing the starter wouldn't tell you much because it's under no load. I couldn't imagine something slipping internally.

As a weird side note; it'd be great to leave your youtube video up for posterity with a description of a solution if one is found.
 

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Mine is doing the same... for long now and doing it with no issue at all.
 

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Am I the only one who'd be driven crazy by not knowing what an intermittent sound is >.<
 

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REVISING TO ADD INFO ON THE HARD START: Whew, it took like 5 minutes of cranking to start this last time. I vary all the options. Is there a standard way to hard start in the cold? I try choke out, choke in, throttled a bit, twisted a couple times, no throttle. Sometimes it starts turning over with starter still engaged then it quits when I release the button. In the warm weather it often only takes like a 1/2 second to start -- touch the button, bang. So nice.
Sound aside, I think the actual hard starting is mostly related to not starting it for weeks at a time. If you had a newer model with a vacuum petcock and an accelerator pump on the carbs I'd be able to tell you what to do to get it to start more easily (mine will have been sitting for 4 days when I go out tomorrow so I will whack the throttle open quickly 5 or 6 times so that the accelerator pump will squirt raw fuel into the carb throats before I touch the Start button and there are other procedures for bikes with vacuum petcocks) but I don't know anything that will help on a bike without the accelerator pump other than maybe lifting the seat and squirting some starting fluid into the air intake before cranking (I used to carry a can of that in the pocket of my snowmobile jacket when I used bikes without accelerator pumps in the winter).

I think the best advice for you would be to put it into storage until spring.
  • Some say to fill the tank and add stabilizer to but if you drain the tank (turn the petcock Off, disconnect the fuel line from the tank and add a foot or so of hose, turn the petcock to Reserve and let the fuel run out to a gas can and put it in your car) the water in the bottom of the tank will have a chance to evaporate before it eats its way through the steel.
  • It is best to start the engine and run the carbs dry, then put a container below the bottom ends of the carb drain hoses and open each drain screw for a few seconds to let the last few drops out but if you can't get it started at least drain the carbs so that there is no fuel in them to evaporate and lave behind "varnish" that will block passages.
  • Disconnect the battery (ALWAYS negative first and then positive) and if your storage place isn't heated remove it from the bike and put it somewhere where you can get at it. Make sure the fluid in the cells is at the upper mark (if it is below that top it up with water - distilled is best but tap water is better than nothing)(you really should check the levels and top it up occasionally when the bike is in use). If you have a battery maintainer (Battery Tender is a popular brand) connect that and leave it alone until spring. If you don't have a maintainer connect your battery charger until it shows fully charged, disconnect it and repeat every month until you are getting the bike ready for regular use in the spring.
NOTE: Chargers made for car batteries are not suitable for powersport batteries because they produce enough current to damage the smaller battery. Everyone who owns any machine that uses a powersport type battery (motorcycle, snowmobile, riding mower &c) should also have a battery charger that is suitable for charging that battery.
- If you must store it outdoors cover it up but if you use a tarp make sure you set it up so that it can breathe to let the moisture out (remember the condition of your first CX after being wrapped up in a tarp for so long).
If you are storing it inside a garage or shed just cover it with old bed sheets to keep the dust &c off.
- Once it is stored leave it alone until you are ready to start using it regularly again.

FWIW, my summer machine has been in a shed with the battery removed and the bike's tank and the carbs drained and covered with sheets for about 7 weeks now.
(It has a second fuel tank on the sidecar that is plastic so I leave it full and stabilized because any water in it it won't cause rust and if something happens to prevent me from taking it out of storage for a few years and the fuel goes bad in that tank it would be a lot easier to replace).
 

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When the Grub ('78 CX500) has been sitting, I'll fully open the throttle, start cranking, and immediately slam it closed. These don't like starting on WOT, but they do need a little gas in the carbs. If the ambient temp is low, I'll give it some choke.
It will normally start easily after a couple attempts.
 
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