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Discussion Starter #1
:mad: My pops has an '89 Ultra Classic that has a huge starter problem. The issue's have varied. In the past, sometimes you could go out there and crank it right up on first try. But sometimes (most of the time) it will only make a click when you hit the start switch. You can hear the power is definitely getting to the starter - that click is strong. It seems as if something inside the starter or somewhere has it locked up. But when we get inside the bike you can turn the shaft by hand with no problem. If you keep hitting the start button the starter will eventually try to "spin" but it just pushes the jack shaft out but will not spin the gears to start the motor. We changed the starter completely and the bike started up just fine for a while but now we are back to the same ol' clicking. It's as if the bike is killing starter's?!?! We've had a couple of technician's look at it and they cannot get it fixed. What in the hell is wrong with this thing??? :mad:
 

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Discussion Starter #2
So, this is the most baffling Harley problem in world then, huh?
 

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Haloo, mtnLeo. Not the most baffling problem in the world, just nobody has gotten around to reading/answering your post yet, I'd say. Sounds like you might have an electrical ground problem. If you haven't already, I would double-check that the main battery ground is in good shape and that there is a GOOD ground from starter-to-tranny-to-battery. Swapping out the starter may have helped it get a "momentary" good ground, then it went back all to futz. If that doesn't help, come back...there are much better experts on these forums than I.

C........
 

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You'll need to do some testing to find the issue.

What is the battery voltage at rest? Under load?

What is the voltage at the starter end of the battery cable? And while trying to crank.

Any voltage drops would be bad cables/connections. And a big drop under load means you'll need to take a look at the battery.


If all is good so far with no big drops at the starter or under load, then you'll need to probe the lead between the starter and solenoid.
If that shows battery voltage when trying to crank, then it's the motor. If there is little or no voltage then its the contact inside the solenoid.

What you are probably hearing is the solenoid kicking the starter clutch in. A loud audible clack. That really only means that there is some (?) voltage at the starter.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Rite on. You guy's have touched on things we have looked at.

One thing I recently discovered was one of the threaded holes for the starter to attach to the primary is stripped. Argh!!! So, I imagine the starter was probably getting caught in a binde.

We are gonna replace the inner primary and make sure everything bolts up to torque properly and see what happens.

I will post an update.
 

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Halloo, mtnLeo. Looks like you have probably found the problem. Ya know, when you look at the teeny tiny threads HD used for the starter mounting you wonder if maybe, just maybe, they could have gone up one size or two.

C.......
 

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Have ran into this issue in the past as well. Never had a real answer. Still have one bike that has a very intermittent issue. I installed the button on the solenoid as a safety.
 

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Usually the starter relay, but i also put on the manual button on the starter solenoid, just in case. I also went to Napa and matched up a waterproof relay.
 

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Is your bike running the 5 wires from the relay or just the 4 wires?
If you have the 5 wires then you will have a voltage drop by the time the power gets to the starter.I have fixxed a few bikes like this.If you only use the 4 wires then I would start checking for a voltage drop.A 12 volt system needs a minimum of 9.6 volts at the item being run,anything lower and it will not work.
 

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89 was the first year big twins used the direct drive starter. The jackshaft assy. was know to bind. Every spring I would take it apart and clean all the parts. The splined coupling would get a coat of antiseize. When you tighten the center bolt, just snug it and bend the lock tab. A spot of thread locker is a good idea also. This allows the parts to have some wiggle room. The 1990 jackshaft can be retrofited as a complete assy. I also drilled a hole in the solenoid cover, so I could give it a bump with a screwdriver if it hung up. All the grounds and power cables must be up to snuff. Also the best battery you can get, like a AGM will help. Hope this gives you something else to check.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Got everything bolted back in nicely and noooowwww... it won't even get the clank in the starter. Seems like all this has possibly killed the relay. So we are gonna replace that later today.

Battery is good along with all the connections.

I heard that this period was known for electrical problems on this bike. Pops has already removed all the wiring for the radio and extras hoping to eliminate extra drain on the system. We have chased around all the wiring on the bike and it all seems to be clean and making good contact. It's at the point to where we would almost rather roll this thing off a cliff. The issue is getting beyond aggravating.

Superdave, it is the 5 wire version. How did you go about fixing it?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The results:

First, the "Dinosaur" is alive and running well. All your help and some trial-and-error has paid off.

We got plenty of wiring out of the way and some really clean connections going that seems to have made a world of difference.

The new inner primary helped keep the starter snug in its place too. You can tell when you hit the start button now - it really wants to fire that thing up.

Thank you all so much for your help.

Cheers!
 
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