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  1. #1

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    Jun 2015
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    Default Bike Dies during Winter Storage.

    What was sold to me last Spring as a "virtually new bike" due to the frame on out build done by the seller, and the trouble free summer I had with it, I am at wits end to understand why this Spring there is no spark at the plugs, the lights don't light, the engine turns over with or without the key in the ignition, even if the key is in the on or off position, and oil belches out of a breather tube coming from the crankcase. I have spent several days searching for shorts, disconnects, un-grounded stuff, strip searched the kill switch, gas is getting to the carb, but the plugs stay dry.
    The engine is an '86 Shovel, with Evo digital ignition. Mikuni carb, Twin Fire II coil. The more I dive into this the more I can see this is not as new as claimed and it would have taken a strip search to see most of this stuff, which I assumed, like and idiot, the dealer had done their job and confirmed the sellers story.
    Any suggestions? PS Check the Intro Sticky to get the story on "Mr. Digs". My name is John.

  2. #2
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    Dude this is all normal.
    Sounds like you did not winterize your machine properly.

    One, charge the battery. Load test it. Hopefully you don't need to buy a new one
    Two, check for fuel flow from the petcock to the fuel bowl.
    Next drop the float bowl and clean your jets.
    Then put a clean catch can under the end of the breather tube, When the bike starts it will puke clean oil. Use your judgment on wether or not to pour it back into the oil tank once the sumped oil has cleared out.
    Don't forget to put air in your tires and check brake operation before leaving the driveway.

  3. #3
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    What he said...^^^^^^^^^^ Man you have a 1986 Shovel????? Now that's a rare bird you have there..... I don't think it's as bad as you think.... Would you happen to have a manual???

  4. #4

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    Thanks for the replies....winterize? I took the battery out and kept it on a minder charge. For it's size it may not have much reserve power but it is a sealed gel maintenance free type and seems to be in good shape. I got a lot of short cranks out of it before I charged it again during the search-and-try-again routine. I didn't wait for it to even sound weak before plugging it in. Done the fuel flow checks and it is getting to the carb. The next step offered, sounds like a good one I have not done yet. "Sumped oil"? do you mean that a long sit has allowed too much oil to drop from the reserve into the crank? I'm new with the HD twins. What's up with the electrical? I know the lights would go on without running the engine. I killed the battery once leaving a switch on. Now all I get is starter power. I'm thinking primary, secondary circuit here. Seems like I only have one of them. About the "rare bird" comment....I know Shovels didn't go much past the mid 80's, so I may have miss-quoted the year. There was some confusion over that with the previous owner.

  5. #5
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    I have a couple of questions.... What year is it titled as????? I know it goes with the frame but??? Also do you have a manual???? If so for what year bike???

    Keeping a charger on a battery all winter is a very bad idea..... What I have found..... I bet your battery is weak.... Yea summping is when your oil leaks past your check ball and goes in to your bottom end...... That's common in older motors.....

  6. #6

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    I'm going to look into the matching of numbers, which few if any will. The title is on the frame number which is '94. I know the engine is from the early '80's. a lot of other stuff on the bike is multi-year as well. The dealer has a complete list which he still hasn't forwarded. I have no manual. Having left batteries in stored vehicles and come back to batteries so dead I need a new one far too many times, it seemed like a good idea to me. What is the alternative? Never stop riding! Of course..LOL.

  7. #7

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    Please post a pic of it as I'm interested to see what you have - if it's the bike in your profile pic its not '92 OEM frame and it sure isnt an 86 motor or if it is its stupidly rare ( V Unlikely) - how is it titled? I love 4 speed shovel heads so all good though

    As Tattoo and others have said dont stress about it puking oil - kinda normal (to a point) on older engines that have sat for a long time and not unexpected - oil has just entered the sump (its a dry sump remote oil tank design) and will be blown out your breather pipe - put a catch tray there and just top up your tank - shouldn't happen with regular riding and a search will pull up how to fix it

    Even though you have a bitsa the service manuals and parts books are a must have - hard copies are best but you can down load pdf versions in the interim

    If you left the ignition on for an extended period (you state long enough to kill the battery) you may have fried your coil - If i have electrical issues I just grab a multimeter and follow the power from the battery checking where it stops - might be a great place to start - are you getting power to the coil?

    If I'm struggling to get a bike going I normally order up a new battery and go from there - Im not familar with electronic ignitions - do they need a certain vloltage to fire?

    FWIW over winter I just disconnect my batteries and dont trickle charge them - leave them in the bike and then give them an overnight charge before trying to start the bike

    Normally HDs do NOT need the key in them to start if you have a dash mounted switch - the key just locks the switch

    If its turning over using the starter button with the ignition switch in the off position (if I read your initial post correctly) then take off the dash and have a look at how the switch is wired up vs a typical diagram - if need be post a clear pic preferably with the wiring labeld or at least described - maybe the starter is getting power but your ignition circuit isnt? Mutli meter will help you here - follow the power
    Last edited by panheadpete; 05-29-2016 at 11:49 PM.

  8. #8

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    Thanks panhead... I understand the oil thing is no biggy.. now I know my guess about it leaking in from the res was right. it's the electrics that have me stumped. It was a light switch left on, with the ignition off, that drained the battery last year some time. I'm thinking auto electrics here with primary and secondary circuits. The ignition has to be separate from the starting. So lights left on shouldn't include the coil. Right? Can coils be tested for health? Electronic ignitions needing a certain voltage sound logical. Correct voltage to accomplish any task must be a given I would think. I have a decent tester and I can see I need to get systematic here.
    I really appreciate having some good heads to bounce this off. Thanks everyone.
    I'm not surprised there is some question about the year of this machine. Here is a better photo angle on the bike.Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by MrDigs; 05-30-2016 at 12:35 AM.

  9. #9

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    Im unsure about your bike as all my bikes are old but all three of my current ones have a 3 way switch which is Off/On/On with lights - the newest bike I've ever owned was a 99 and it was the same - very standard way of HD but your's may be different

    Have you left it in the wrong position? Possibly using a kill button and turning it the wrong way off? Of is normally 6 O'Clock on a dash switch or is your's mounted to the frame low? If you've left it on (normally the only way your lights can be on) your ignition/coil may be fried - did you get it started after you flattened the battery this way?

    On every HD I've owned FWIW in the Off mode there is no power to anything - lights can not work - if lights are on it means my starting circuit is also energised (my terminology may be out here) including the ignition ready to start when I hit the starter or on my pan kick it - I killed a coil this way myself once (leaving ignition on when I got distracted and went inside for a smoke and beers and the next morning staggered out to find my fuck up when it was time to go to work)

    Pics will help us here a great deal - particularly all your switches and with the dash off or your ignistion switch if on the frame

    They are easy to load

    Join photobucket (computer or phone)
    Upload pics
    Copy the IMG line under the pic
    Paste it in a response here
    Done

    Its not an oil reserve - its the oil tank and holds all the oil for your engine and possibly your primary chain depending on how your bike is set up - the correct terminology helps us help you - Please go download pdfs of the parts book and service manual for a 1983 FXWG as it appears that will be closest to what you have based on the profile pic

    Now back to basics before going further - have you checked for spark properly - if so how? Tried both plugs? Checked plugs arent fouled? Sometimes very simple things stop a very simple engine from starting
    Last edited by panheadpete; 05-30-2016 at 12:53 AM.

  10. #10

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    I'll get some pics in the morning.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrDigs View Post
    What is the alternative? Never stop riding!
    LOL Well it depends on where you live I'm sure......

    What I do is once a month I put the trickle charger on each of my battery's even the lawn mowers..... Once the charged light comes..... Take it off and go to the next one.... It might be 2 hours it might be 4 but come spring all my battery's are ready to go....... Now if the battery is real old.... Well you know?????

  12. #12
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    You really need to figure out what years your bike is and buy a manual accordingly........... I'm really glad your responding to the post of people trying to help.... So few do....... Thanks

  13. #13
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    Nice cone Shovel with a 1980s style 5-speed. Not the ideal starter, but much better than what came on earlier Shovels.

    Get factory Shovel manual and factory parts book and download any literature on important aftermarket parts. Buy new books if needed. Totally worth the money. Check Ebay first. I'd get a Softail manual and parts book to cover the transmission, starter and primary drive.

    A 1985-1990 Softail service manual (there are others but I'm looking at mine) should cover the driveline. There are lots of cone Shovel service manuals to cover the engine.

    As to wet sumping, I pull the timing plug, push bike outdoors then blow that shit on the ground. No strain on the starter or your leg that way.

    An incandescent test light (cheap is fine, they get stepped on etc) and a meter are good for finding loads.

    When you own a custom you must become your own mechanic or you are fucked. Time for homework including making your own accurate wiring diagram (use proper symbols and work neatly) of what you own.

    I remove batteries when storing and they go indoors in a plastic tub. I periodically check charge and charge if needed. I do this with all vehicles and it's well worth it. Get a new battery and throw away the dead one. Expect to go through a battery every year or two. You can buy a cheap battery load tester useful for all your batteries.

    "Gas getting to the carb but plugs stay dry" suggests its time for the yearly carb cleaning ritual. Pull the carb, pull the float bowl and inspect. Low speed jets typically varnish shut if all fuel isn't drained for storage. You must remove the jets and emulsion tube to inspect them under bright light. USE A SCREWDRIVER WHICH FITS. Hollow-ground screwdrivers or bits preferred.
    Last edited by farmall; 05-30-2016 at 8:44 AM.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    As to wet sumping, I pull the timing plug, push bike outdoors then blow that shit on the ground. No strain on the starter or your leg that way.
    Thanks Farmall not thought to do that before - excellent tip!

  15. #15

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    Jun 2015
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    Sorry for the absence.....sprained my ankle badly, mucho other crap...
    OK..a tip from a local bike shop on the starting issue...Low voltage high amps have caused the solenoid to weld in position giving power to turn over but not to allow power to the plugs or lights etc. Says its a design flaw he has had to alter on many Harley's. Any thoughts here?
    As for the manuals, this being a Franken-Harley (sorry for that!) I will need almost every one ever printed. I have downloaded the FLH books that land in reasonable year ranges and things like the digital ignition I will have to go to that maker for theirs, etc. The year...it's an 82 shovel case with total EVO insides, crank, bearings, rods, pistons, ignition. It just looks like a shovel??
    Yup, I might have bit more than I expected to chew with a custom. As a first heavy twin I might have stuck with a factory bike for an easier learning curve if I had understood what custom really meant. It's my bike and I'll do what I have to.
    It's stored at a friends garage, I'm headed there now so I may nto answer for a few hours. Thanks again everyone.
    Last edited by MrDigs; 06-04-2016 at 1:11 PM.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    You really need to figure out what years your bike is and buy a manual accordingly........... I'm really glad your responding to the post of people trying to help.... So few do....... Thanks
    So few do???? Why are they asking for help? Hit and run? Shoplifter syndrome?

  17. #17

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    Checked and cleaned both plugs....just bought a proper plug tester, can't wait to try it...it's a two way switch just on and off mounted on the tank dash...That's on book I did not get, will do so...

  18. #18
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    You can test plugs on any single-fire Harley by rubber-banding them together since single coils with two poles fire pole to pole. I use plug testers too but make sure the second plug wire is grounded. (You don't want to leave the plug installed and fire the engine on one cylinder when testing.) You can of course substitute the plug checker for the nastier looking of the two plugs and rubberband them together.)

    Buy a couple of sets of spare plugs. They are handy and I don't buy asswipe by the sheet either.

    A Shovel manual will cover the engine until rebuild time comes. It was common in the 1980s for dealer mechs to put Evo guts into old Shovels since they work fine and the price was right.

    Take a clear pic of the carb from the side. I can't make it out.

  19. #19

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    Of course the plug tester recommended to me did not come with instructions...and according to your "do-don't" guide, the "plug tester" I have is not what you have. Mine has a brass pin the size and shape of a plug end that inserts into the plug cap coming from the coil. There is a ground lead with alligator clip. It has an adjustable gap that goes from .ooo all the way to ridiculous, like, 1.500! The plugs are in the engine. This is a coil tester, it seems to me, and there was zero spark. Following power trails with a multimeter will have to wait until I replace the one I just fried. How do you mean...rubber band them together" for the plug checker?
    I am going shopping for the manuals and aftermarket parts stuff.

  20. #20
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    I rubber band the two plugs together "shell to shell" and they hang from the plug wires. This permits testing by electric and kick start without having to hold anything to ground manually. "Ground" on a single-fire coil merely connects the spark plug bases together.

    Pic is two plugs I tack welded together (any leftover plug will do) but with a rubber band as an example. A worm drive hose clamp would work but isn't compact. Touch the shells together and the arc won't care.

    Thing hanging off the side is an old peizo gas grill igniter stuffed into a spark plug boot and with (visible on left plug) solid copper wire making the ground connection from the outside of the igniter to the plug base. Need not actually touch plug base because the arc will jump the gap. (If anyone here makes potato guns this works for them and you can run any length of wire you like.)

    Igniter only tests one plug at a time but I store them together as shown. You could of course run the "ground" wire to the pole of the opposite plug to fire the pair but there is no logical reason to do that.

    I work on lots of engines and the igniter tool is a fast way to check spark plugs without connecting them to an engine They are cheap new at any hardware store if you don't salvage one. You could use a hunk of straight hose instead of the angled boot but it was handy. You don't need one right now but they are very nice to have.

    Your tester appears to be an automotive coil tester. Using it in one pole of your coil without offering the other coil pole either a direct or "gapped" (via the other spark plug) shot to ground won't give you a spark.

    Use the band method with your existing plugs to check your system. Observe location of both sparks. They should be fat, bluish and jump across the electrodes.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails test plugs w piezo.JPG  
    Last edited by farmall; 06-05-2016 at 9:49 AM.

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