(With apologies to John Henry Hopkins, Jr.)
It is rather common for me to field questions concerning the function of the electric starter on the 250-305cc twins, especially from new owners.
Common problems which prevent reliable electric-starting include:
*Low/dying battery… You need a nice hot fully-charged, load-tested 12v battery to kick the starter system over. Symptoms include: “It just goes ‘click’ when I push the button and that’s all!”
*Corroded starter solenoid plunger contacts (inside the unit). If you put 12v directly to the starter motor and it works, then the starter solenoid is the issue. With care, they can be disassembled and cleaned.
*When the battery is fresh and a known good starter solenoid is in place, but nothing happens when the starter button on the handlebar switch is pressed, then the problem is generally with the button and/or wiring. Remove the headlight and check the yellow/red stripe wire connection that goes from the starter button switch to the harness connectors. If you turn the ignition switch to ON and the starter motor engages instantly before you hit the button, then the wire is shorted to ground (usually at the starter button contact/wire joint). This can happen if the starter switch wiring is pinched at the handlebars where the wire runs through the inside wiring, often after a crash. The starter button has a return spring which can collapse and fail, allowing the button to flop around inside the switch, engaging the contact at random.
*When all of the parts checked above are known good and the starter motor turns but the engine does not spin, then the starter clutch roller springs have collapsed/failed. Often this is accompanied by a sharp squealing sound, either momentarily or all the time the engine is running. Removal of the rotor with the correct 16x1.0mm special tool is recommended, so you can access the springs/caps/rollers which attach to the back side of the rotor. Observe the three retainer screws to ensure that they are tightened securely to the back side of the rotor. If they loosen up, the heads can eventually contact the engine case and cause the engine to seize up and stop.
Generally, the springs have collapsed to half of the original length and are not keeping contact force to the rollers via the spring caps. The springs have the tension of an old ball-point pen spring and do have a long service life. The springs/caps/rollers are all still available from Honda and/or aftermarket sellers.
For novices, the best way to do the starter clutch is to remove the kickstarter cover and stator winding assembly. For “expert” wrenches using the OEM Honda rotor tool the rotor can be removed and replaced without removal of the cover, but air tools might be needed to remove the central rotor bolt before the rotor tool can be used to pull the rotor from the end of the crankshaft.
These simple tests can pinpoint the cause of electric-starting issues easily and quickly, in most cases. When properly maintained, the starter system works very well as long as the charging system is fully functioning to replenish the battery after each starter use.
Bill “MrHonda” Silver