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Old 06-12-2011, 03:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Starter Problems

Harley Davidson Electra-Glide 1985 FLHT start clutch drive problem.
Symptoms: When starter button is pressed there is a click and nothing happens or the starter drive tries to engage and then does not stay engaged. There is a lot of racket and noise like gears grinding. After several tries it sometimes stays engaged with the flywheel long enough to turn the engine over but jumps out and spins before the engine can to start.
Is this a starter drive problem? What else could cause this problem and what is the fix? Could the solenoid be part of the problem? If you press the start button and it just clicks and sounds like the starter drive gear does not align with the flywheel and does nothing, I cross the lugs at the starter relay and it throws the starter clutch drive gear into the flywheel and tries to start but will not stay engaged to turn the engine or just spins.
I found a heavy duty big twin Accel Starter Drive OEM number 31443-65A in JP Cycles catalog. Is there an upgrade for this to eliminate the problem? Is there a later model upgrade that would bolt on that would eliminate the problem as well? Any help would be appreciated, thank you.
I have a video on “YouTube” showing the problem with the primary cover removed. The link is;
YouTube - ‪MichaelCoyMusic's Channel‬‏
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Old 06-12-2011, 11:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Looks like the drive is worn out way to much slop in there!
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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First off, it's easy enough to pop off the starter and verify that electrically and mechanically it is OK. One thing to try considering that this seems to be an intermittent problem: IF the starter seems to be working OK (or at times OK) but won't engage the flywheel, when that happens, place the transmission in gear and roll the bike a couple of inches and try again.

It can be that you can break or wear a tooth on the flywheel and, if that broken tooth area is what presents when you engage the starter, the starter gear will find nothing to grab and will just spin or rattle if the gear teeth are only partially chipped or worn. By rolling the bike a bit in gear, you change the position of the flywheel and, perhaps, rotate it to an area where the teeth are OK.

If the starter engages then seems to let go before the engine starts, I would wonder about a starter mechanical or electrical issue - including battery.

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Old 06-13-2011, 07:55 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Starter Problem

Yes I thought the chain was way too loose and the slop in the drive I attributed to not being in the bearing on the primary cover, but I agree, seems like a lot of slop. The teeth looks a little chipped to me and there was some chips on the magnetic plug when I drained the oil, but I have seen car starters and flywheels missing whole teeth and still work. Is that starter drive that sensitive? When it happened intermittently I did try rolling it thinking that would help but it never worked. I don't ride it now because it is so undependable. I have not ruled out starter, solenoid, or the starter relay and the battery. The starter seems to run fine once it engages, it just won't stay engaged. Thanks for the help!
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Old 06-13-2011, 08:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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New starter !!!

Hi , I've been rebuilding starters for 50 years ! My dad's family were poor southerners ! I learned to recycle everything from birth & I still do this today . If your not a good mechanic you should probally just buy a new starter & solenoid & cables an maybe battery ? Your starter drive is gone ! I am sure your bushings are worn out ! Your solenoid is shot ! Your starting system needed attension years ago as sounds like your ring gear is badly damaged from a worn out starter . If I were you an wanted to ride with pride an security I would replace the whole thing to have starter vendication ! If you were close by I would rebuild the starter for you with new reliable parts . Hey , Just My Thoughts good luck Bud
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Old 06-14-2011, 01:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Starter Problems

Ring gear surprisingly does not show a lot of wear. I have been thinking the same thing...replace everything. The mechanic in me is fighting with that concept. Thanks
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Old 06-14-2011, 07:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Replace the starter drive unit, as well as the plunger unit. Clean and tighten all solenoid, starter and battery connections. Make sure the primary starter bushing isn't work as well.
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:31 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Just did this on my '08 Ultra. With the SE compensator, and AllBalls starter drive, it fires up better then it did when brand new! FYI on the '08 you dont need to open the primary! Damnit! I found this out after I had it all taken apart because I read some here someplace you needed to rather than just referencing my owners man. Oh well! The hardest part was the exhaust! I can't wait to go to true duels, but that will be after I pay it off! I am so pissed that Harley knows they have weak parts, yet refuses to issue recalls. The dealerships are at fault as well, because they think that a bike that kicksback is normal.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:25 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I have changet 2 in the last ten years on my '86.. the drive gear.. I think it is because the bushing inside is worn.. the gears always looked good..
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Old 07-11-2013, 06:07 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Im new to this website and wonder if others are having stater problems like i have had. I have replaced my stater "twice" now since owning my 2000 ultra. Do you know if this is a common problem?
The bike only has 40,000 miles
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