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  1. #1
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    Default 1984 FXE Shovelhead..Teach Me!

    I got a call last thursday from my wife that she had divorce papers being delivered to our house at 2pm. Needless to say it was a complete surprise so I bailed out of work and headed home. When I got to our house, I found my wife was sitting in my garage on a 1984 FXE Shovelhead! She was fucking with me the whole time! Well, now I have my dream bike and I've got some questions;
    I'm currently waiting on the previous (only) owner to send me the information on it ( yes I do have the title) but there has been some work done on it. Here's my problem, I took the bike for a spin two days ago and it took forever to get it started..then last night I tried to go for a ride and It won't turn over. I pulled the battery and had it on charge all night. I put it in this morning and it began to crank over and then nothing. Where do I go from here?
    I've had multiple Honda CB750s that I've rebuild so I'm not a beginner when it comes to mechanical work on bikes however, this is my first shovel and I'm new to Harley's. I'm thinking maybe the solenoid is bad?....so chopper prophets, school me

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    This first thing has been said repeatedly, but first and foremost, get a service manual of some kind. Next, start with the simple things. Make sure your battery teminals are tight, if check for spark, as far as the solenoid, if you think it's the solenoid, you can most likely bypass it with a jumper wire or screwdriver (just go from the battery terminal to the terminal for the starter wire. Let us know what you find.

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    First thing I would check is see if the battery is a good one..... Just because it charges means nothing..... Then you will need to rebuild the carb.........
    Last edited by Tattooo; 11-20-2016 at 3:20 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WillSCB View Post
    This first thing has been said repeatedly, but first and foremost, get a service manual of some kind. Next, start with the simple things. Make sure your battery teminals are tight, if check for spark, as far as the solenoid, if you think it's the solenoid, you can most likely bypass it with a jumper wire or screwdriver (just go from the battery terminal to the terminal for the starter wire. Let us know what you find.
    Manual is ordered and on its way. Battery terminals are tight, plugs are good and I'm getting a solid spark from them. What is the process for bypassing the solinoid? If I'm bypassing the solinoid, do I need to have the bar switches to start or won't bypassing the solinoid bypass the switches as well?

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    How is your battery???????

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    If the service manual that is "on it's way" isn't an HD factory manual, then burn it upon arrival and save yourself a lot of problems. Burning it will save the next poor schmuck a lot of problems as well. In addition to a factory service manual, purchase a factory parts catalog. It will be a treasure trove of information.

    An 84 FXE will have a 4 speed rotary top transmission. If it has a kick starter, then use it. The procedure is fairly simple and once learned, will make your Harley experience much more rewarding. If it doesn't have a kicker, then purchase a used one in serviceable condition and install it. Use genuine HD parts when possible and avoid using imported parts completely. Any genuine HD kicker made from 1965 forward will work. Earlier 4 speed kickers may also work, but I don't know that for certain.

    The advice to rebuild the carburetor is sound counsel. If it is the factory original Kehin, then replacing it with an S&S E will a wise move. I did this on my 84 and the only regret that I had was that I didn't do it much sooner.

    I have an 84 Softail and I can state that the electric starter components from that era ,with the exception of the starter itself, are not reliable.
    If it has a factory ignition, then it will be electronic and 32 years old. My 84 ignition lasted about 9 years and then gave up the ghost without warning. I converted to points ignition and have never once regretted that decision. I recently purchased a 1999 Softail and the electronic pick up failed. I converted to points and like my 84 Softail, it now runs well and I have no doubt about it continuing to do so. Any Big Twin or Sportster points ignition from 1970- 1978 will work fine. I prefer HD parts but Blue Streak components are acceptable.

    You can't bypass the solenoid unless you have a kick starter. You can bypass the starter switch and engage the solenoid directly. This is a useful skill if you intend to continue using the electric starter as the starter buttons and starter relays from that era fail frequently.
    Last edited by BuxBitza; 11-20-2016 at 3:40 PM.

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    It does have a kickstart however I can't get it to turn over after a number of kicks. Previous owner told me it had high compression pistons installed which is why it's a bitch to kick...not sure if that's true but god damn.

    Checked the ground and battery and both are good. Just tried to fire it up and it seems like the battery is draining and doesn't have the power to kick it over. Went to advanced and they double checked battery and it's good..where do I go from here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheney1 View Post

    Where do I go from here?
    This might be a good place......

    .../// http://techcycle.com/tornado-high-to...tion-starters/ \\\...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheney1 View Post
    It does have a kickstart however I can't get it to turn over after a number of kicks. Previous owner told me it had high compression pistons installed which is why it's a bitch to kick...not sure if that's true but god damn.

    Checked the ground and battery and both are good. Just tried to fire it up and it seems like the battery is draining and doesn't have the power to kick it over. Went to advanced and they double checked battery and it's good..where do I go from here?
    When my 84 was new, I had to use both electric and kick to get it to turn over. That lasted about 10,000 miles. I don't remember if I ever replaced the starter motor. It seems as if I did. I went to kick start only on my 84 about 25 years ago.

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    Previous owner told me it had high compression pistons installed which is why it's a bitch to kick...not sure if that's true but god damn
    That's why I never build kicker engines with high static compression. I put low compression slugs in antiques for the street. It's kinder to the old engine and they came with low static compression in the 1950s for good reasons, like easy starting and fuel tolerance. I run moderate cams for better cylinder filling at speed, and really like tall final drive gearing to drop revs.

    You may want to get rid of the high compression pistons. I would. They don't make enough power difference to matter much.

    Shovelhead electric starter systems suck leper anus by design. You can carefully go through all the parts to ensure no burrs or other mechanical issues, and there are things like lever-action solenoid replacements which work well.Clean every ground and if in the slightest doubt I replace my cables with new light gauge welding cable from my local welding supply since welding cable is completely superior to stock cables and most aftermarket. It will still be a Shovelhead starter system. That's not the engine's fault. Take time to tune the engine for ease of starting. I'd keep the electric start because old age and injury don't care how kool kickers are, or keep the parts in a box for the future. Don't lose the box. The future moves quickly...

    Tune the thing right and most problems are solved. If previous owner built it to have cool high perf specs that often makes for a shitty result, so figure out what you have then set it up for YOU.

    All the theory you learned on Hondas applies. Motors is motors and wires is wires. Get a FACTORY PARTS BOOK. The download thread has links.

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    I really appreciate the help just so you know. Anyways, I just got a new battery just for fucks sake and replaced the spark plugs with .040 spacing. I turned they key and it winded over twice and it seemed like the battery was dying again..the lights started to dim after maybe 45 seconds of trying to turn it over..
    I know eventually I will need to dive into the wiring and replace the old cables but still..


    On a side note, I finally got in touch with the previous owner who told me he hat 60weight oil in the bike, I'm used to running 50weight in my hondas, not that should matter. 60weight a bit much? What are the chances the bike being sumpted? I know I'm jumping all over the place, just really ADD
    Last edited by Cheney1; 11-20-2016 at 5:16 PM.

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    To me it sounds like your starter motor is giving up the ghost.....

    .../// https://youtu.be/O29WvCcp7zY \\\...
    Last edited by Dragstews; 11-20-2016 at 5:45 PM.

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    So, I'm gonna Start with rebuilding the starter and replace the solinoid. I just want to Get it started again

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    Sounds like your problem is more high compression than anything. You could go the route suggested and replace the pistons with lower compression units, or you could lower the dynamic compression by getting a cam designed for mid to top end. A good top end cam will close later on the intake, thereby lowering your dynamic compression. This makes it a hell of a lot easier to kick over. Can you find out from the previous owner what cam he put in? This might be the least labor intensive way to improve starting. You won't have as much grunt off the line as it has now, but should be fine if it is that hard to start because of the compression. I personally like Leinweber for the cams, because when you call them, you talk to Jim Leinweber himself, and he walks you through exactly what grind cam you need for your specific needs.

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    The VERY FIRST thing you should do is kiss the little lady right on the ass and thank her profusely. Congrats on picking a good one.

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    Thanks guys for the help. Im gonna look into changing the cam. However, im kinda leaning towards changing the pistons back out. Winters here so riding wont be happening any time soon. I also took the SS filter off and found the filter was old and soaked with gas. Time to make a list and start knocking them off. And as for my wife, I sent her and the kids to Disney for two weeks, I'll kiss that ass when she gets home

  17. #17

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    my bike had much the same symptoms when i got it.

    pulled the starter and the insides were just full of oil and grease from years of a tiny crack in the oil tank leaking down on it. starter button on bars also kinda semi toasted.

    i pulled the entire system out of the bike and went over it piece by peice inspecting,cleaning and replacing worn parts.

    somehow i scored a ALL BALLS new starter on ebay for 200 buks. DAMN what a difference! it turns over like a evo now.evem with a smaller fxe size batt.

    be sure and check the needle bearing in the starter drive housing,clean and lube with a dab of fresh grease as thats all the lube your ever gonna get on it.

    also check the needle bearing in the outer primary. you want the least friction you can get overall.

    make or get new cables if yours are not in excellent shape and make sure they are big enuf or even a bit oversize.

    a shovel can be made to spin well off the electrics but it does take a bit of attention to detail.

  18. #18

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    if you do get it running and like the way the motor pulls with present cam and compression, you could look into installing manual compression releases.



    it could very well be a cheaper route than replacing both cam and pistons. and less work.

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    I would slow down and not change pistons or cam until you figure out why it doesn't start easily.

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