The Harley Odyssey

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So the bike won’t start.harley 1

More accurately, the starter won’t spin the engine – which is why the bike won’t start.

But the starter spins. It just doesn’t spin anything else.

So, I know the breaker for the circuit is good; the wiring (especially the ground) is good. The solenoid is good.

This leaves the starter – which I think is good (it spins, after all) or some issue with the mechanism that engages the pinion gear on the end of the starter shaft with the gear on the back of the clutch hub.

I suspect the latter.

I’ve removed the primary case cover to have a look at the guts. If I use my finger to manually push in the plunger that would otherwise be engaged electrically by the solenoid when the starter button is depressed, the shaft with the little gear that is supposed to move out to engage with the big gear on the back of the clutch basket tries to do this. But the shaft’s alignment/position relative to the clutch basket gear seems off and the thing only meshes on its own (without my finger giving it a “jiggle assist) every third time.

I also did a little experiment and found something else that doesn’t seem right. If I use my finger to “help” engage the little gear with the big gear, then try to turn the engine over using the starter, it still spins but does not turn. So, the gears are meshed but the starter seems to be freewheeling.


Any Harley People out there have any ideas?

This bike is my white whale. It tasks me…







      • I know, I’m just a volatile weirdo…

        Is this website some kind of machine, which must kibosh all “unfavorable” variable behaviors such as spambots, shitposters, trolls, personal attacks, and thread disruptors.

        Or might it be more like the human body, where the more things the more kinds of human actors you throw at it, the stronger, more capable, and more resilient it becomes.

        Dead Or Alive. Oingo Boingo.

        There in the shadows, looks like a hand
        Without its owner to give it a command
        It’s got a purpose but I don’t know what it is
        I’m in trouble

        There in the streets looks like a man
        But something’s wrong that I don’t understand
        His eyes are open but he don’t see a thing
        His skin is peeling off, his bones are sticking out, I’m getting scared

        Hiding in the cupboards like little mice
        Hiding in the refrigerator, that isn’t nice
        Now it’s not an animal, it don’t have legs
        No one else can see it

        It moves so fast, corner of my eye
        Look again it’s gone, it’s hiding
        Won’t somebody help me, doesn’t anybody care?
        It waits so patiently for me to lose my guard, I’m getting scared

        I remember there was a time
        When dead and buried meant just that
        Underneath the cold dark ground
        Things stay put

        Oh, them bones
        They make them bodies walk
        Them bones, them bones
        If they could only talk

  1. eric, I agree with Dave. I have seen drives that wouldn’t engage because of being dry and just cleaning and lube would fix it. That wouldn’t seem to be the case here.

  2. Never owned or worked on a Harley…but the pinion gear on many, if not all, starter motors has an over running clutch built into the starter pinion. This clutch allows the starter motor to crank the engine, but prevents the engine from driving the starter motor as the engine starts to run on its own, preventing over speeding the starter motor to destruction. To test it, remove the starter and hold the armature so that it can not rotate. Now try to rotate the pinion gear. It should turn freely one way and lock up the other. They can become damaged or weak if the engine kicks back while cranking. Not the problem it was now that EFI has replaced carbs and points distributors. Hope this helps.

    • That reminds me of something. On my now oldest car when I got it the starter would occasionally just spin and not turn the engine. The starter would then clunk and on the next turn it would start the engine. Short story the nose casting was cracked at one of the screw bosses and the pinion clutch was bad. The former I replaced with a casting from a junkyard starter and the later I bought a new part.


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