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Discussion Starter #1
I don't have much of a problem starting the bike when the engine is cold. Full choke, give it a little throttle, then a little throttle again with the starter, and it usually doesn't give me any trouble. I also posted last week about having adjusted the idle knob, and feeling a lot better about the mixture and the way the bike runs since then.

This afternoon I took a nice little afternoon ride. I was probably out about 20 minutes, and then I came back to my neighborhood. I was talking to a neighbor about my bike earlier today, and he was a long-time rider, so I stopped by his house to show it to him. He wasn't home, and I was concerned on my way back to the bike whether it would start up easily or not. I had a feeling that it wouldn't, and I was right.

It's one thing to have this problem in your own driveway or garage. It's another to be out on the street trying to start your bike. And thank goodness I didn't stall at a traffic light or something, and have a hard time getting the bike started again.

Anyway, I tried to crank it several times, and pretty soon felt like I was going to have to leave it parked outside his house, and come back later when the engine has cooled down. Like everybody does (I guess), I start adjusting things when it doesn't want to start. But I'm just guessing. More choke? Less choke? Should I adjust the idle knob? Heck, I'll even try the key and engine cutoff switch a couple of times, just to feel like I'm doing something.

The worst part was that it backfired again, while I was trying to start it. This is a very loud exhaust backfire (well I guess it's the exhaust. That's what it sounds like, but I can't be positive it's not a cylinder, I guess). Eventually I tried just the start button without the throttle, and it coughed to life. I quickly gave it some gas to keep it from dying, and then I checked my mirror and pulled immediately.

In second gear, it stalled out, and I tried to start it again while coasting. Eventually it came to a stop, and I tried to start it again, surviving one more backfire before getting it fired up enough to get around the corner to my house.

So it was a great ride, but I don't at all like the idea that I can't shut off my bike, or else I won't be able to get it started again. The troubleshooting starting points seem endless as this point, though, so I'm not sure what to check first.
 

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I've found that using full choke after a brief stop is usually what mine needs. If it doesn't fire first try, I choke it until it fires. I always leave the throttle closed.

Much of the backfire can be from lower than optimum cranking volts. Long cranking drops the voltage quite a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, I really do need to get an AGM battery and an on-board voltmeter. Both of these are on the "first things you oughta do" list, and I need to do them. I do have a trickle charger, which is nice. It came with the bike. But like many things, I think it's controversial, because some say it's better to take the bike through it's normal charging and expending cycles, rather than to keep it topped off all the time.

A new battery probably couldn't hurt, and some sort of on-board voltmeter (whether the installation is as fancy as I want) would help me to at least have more information when I have trouble starting it.

You never use the throttle to start, eh? I just took the advice of the previous owner, when he told me how he starts it. When I got back, I noticed the idle was a little low, so I adjusted the knob a bit more. It's supposed to rain here tomorrow, so I'll probably take another ride later in the evening. We'll see how it goes.
 

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I'm a rider
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Clean your RR plug and it'll quit doing that if your battery has proper voltage.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I just went on that late-night ride. First I made sure the battery was fully charged with my trickle charger. I've decided that I probably need to suck it up and stop looking for the world's greatest deal on an AGM battery, and I need to just go to the store tomorrow and buy one. So I'll do that. Meantime, though, I needed to ride with the battery I have, so I wanted to make sure it was fully charged (that's usually what I do, though).

Speaking of purchasing decisions, my multimeter also broke recently, and I've been trying to decide whether to invest in a really nice one or buy a cheap one to get me by. That could tell me what my cranking voltage is, but at the moment I'm in the dark. I can also get that checked at the battery store tomorrow, on the old one.

Anyway, I tried to start it with no throttle this time, and it started right up at the house. As I said, the cold start has not given me any trouble. Full choke, that is. I went out and had a good ride, and didn't have any trouble with stalling, or near stalls, or anything.

Anyway, I wanted to stop for gas, for two reasons: First, I'm getting low on gas :) Second, I knew I needed to test the shut down and restart. I made a decent entrance into the gas station and got my gas. Gas stops on the bike are so short that you could _actually_ do it without shutting down. I do that with my car sometimes. I don't know if it's any more risky with a bike than with a car, but I've pretty much decided that, most of the time, in a car, shutting off the engine isn't all that important (I feel the same about shutting off a cell phone on an airplane. I figure if either of them were as dangerous as they make it sound, they would simply make it impossible to do either).

But I digress. I did shut it down, and then I tried to start it the same way I had before. Full choke, and just the starter button. Cranking, cranking, but definitely not starting. OK, now time to give is some throttle (that little starter button and throttle dance that I do, to feel like I actually have any idea what I'm doing. Essentially the same way I would start a car that doesn't want to start).

Pretty quickly, I got a backfire. I'm really trying to tune out the rest of the world and not pay much attention to what I think they might think of me (an important thing to do when riding a motorcycle, especially if you're naturally a little too in tune with what other people think of you), but I'm gonna have to do something about the backfires. They didn't start until about a week ago, and it's pretty a pretty reliable occurence when starting the bike after I've been riding it.

Fortunately, Spockster has suggested low cranking volts as a potential cause, so the battery replacement that I've now decided will happen tomorrow will hopefully solve that problem. That idea is also consistent with the idea that it just started recently.

I will update the thread after I've made that swap.
 

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Yes it sounds like an AGM battery would solve the problem. Your battery doesn't need to be placed on a trickle charger if you ride it often, and I'm not aware of any controversy about using one. As a matter of fact the AGM battery should be able to start up your bike even if it has sat for 4 weeks. (Provided the bikes charging system had sufficient time to charge the battery....a two minute ride up the block isn't sufficient)
I found that installing iridium plugs helps too. Backfires when starting are usually a sign of a weak battery.
 

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NewB to Vulcans
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For Multimeters I have a pile of Harbor Freight cheapies, sometimes they are free if you buy something else. Work well enough for most tasks.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I have two updates. The first is about multimeters. I love watching the videos of this guy called AvE, and he published this video just yesterday, in which he compared a really cheap fork meter (by Ames) from Harbor Freight with his Fluke meter (which he loves). The end result was not what you would expect. Yes, you get what you pay for, and he certainly made no claims that the Ames would last as long or be as good as the Fluke. But depending on who you are and what you need, he was reasonably impressed with the accuracy of the Ames, and certain features of it. And the price, at $59, is incredible.


So I took myself out to Harbor Freight this afternoon, and they had a ton of Ames models on the shelf, with the little tickets that you can take to the cashier, so the meters don't get stolen. My cashier looked and looked, and eventually told me they were out of that model (never mind the number of tickets they had on the shelf).

But I had a backup plan. Yesterday I searched Craigslist for Fluke meters (because why not), and there was a guy selling a new one, still in the box, for $80. That model runs about $120 and up. Yes, of course I could have bought a super cheap multimeter, but something about watching this guy's videos has steered me in the general direction of quality, and "you get what you pay for." Obviously I have more uses of a multimeter than just the motorcycle. I keep 4 cars operational for my family, and do various things around the house. So I needed a new one anyway, and getting a quality instrument for at least 30% off... I'm in.

OK, so now to the battery adventure. I went to Batteries Plus (seems like a reasonable choice). It turned out they didn't have the AGM battery that fits the VN750. But before he told me that, he did test my old battery, and told me it had a "dead cell" and needed to be replaced (that's important. We'll come back to that). So I left there, having gotten a free battery test, and knowing that I was lucky my battery was working at all. Right? We'll see.

Next step: Walmart. Mostly because I had been wanting to check their prices and availability anyway (I have not found a way to filter out online-only products on walmart.com, so if I really want to know what they have in the store, I have to go to the store). This lady in the Auto department looked at my battery, I told her I wanted the AGM replacement, and she went and picked it right off the shelf. I left her my old battery (to save the core charge) in a shopping cart that was collecting them for the day, paid for it, and left.

Got home, and immediately saw the problem: It was the right size, but the positive and negative terminals were reversed.

So, back to Walmart. First, I used their battery finder online, to make sure it found the right battery for the VN750. They pointed only to a conventional battery. At this point, I was almost willing to settle for conventional, if that was all I could find, just to solve my immediate problem and get rolling again (yeah, that's a dumb way of looking at the world, but there I was anyway). There happened to be another motorcyclist at the counter this time, who also works at Walmart, and he reminded me that an AGM battery is "plug and play," while a conventional battery has to be charged before use. So he got me out of my conventional trance, and I decided to go elsewhere to find the battery.

I finally found one at AutoZone. It was $81 plus the $10 core fee, plus tax. I decided to pay the core fee, and keep the old battery, because I wanted to see the problem for myself. Now that I had spent the $80 on the multimeter, I wanted to see the cranking volts lower than they need to be. If not on the first start, then on subsequent starts.

So, once home, with the multimeter and the two batteries, I did a little testing. And I was unable to see a difference between the voltage of the two batteries. I started the bike numerous times with the old battery, and it never gave me any trouble.

So... what's up with this "dead cell" nonsense? Was that guy just taking me for a ride? He knew I didn't know any better, so he decided to sell me a battery instead of sending me on my way with my old one?

Edit: One Google search later, and I was armed with the knowledge of how to test each cell. There are six cells, and each one needs to show 2 volts. I watched a very short, very simple video that demonstrates how to test each cell. I have now done so, and of course, every cell checks out (why would they not, since the whole battery was reporting a full charge (over 13, actually). That burns me up that the guy would tell me it has a dead cell when it doesn't.

I know that putting an AGM battery into the bike is the right thing to do, long term, and I hate this backfiring problem that I've been having so much that I'm happy to do it, if it will really solve the problem. But at the moment, I'm not entirely sure I didn't buy a new battery that I don't really need quite yet.

I guess the proof will be in the pudding, so I need to ride the bike. What I really ought to do is ride with the old battery, see if I have the restarting problem, and then ride with the new battery, to see if that fixes it, but I don't really want to put myself through the restarting problem and backfiring and all that if I don't have to. So what I'll probably do is go for my ride with the new battery, and then just make sure the problem is fixed -- though I'm not completely confident it will be.

I did just run it for a couple of minutes. Is there something about an actual ride that is hard on a battery, particularly if it's near the end of its life? I would think that riding the bike would bring the battery back up to its full charge (the reported VN750 problems with the electrical system notwithstanding).

The truth is... if this problem goes away, then I don't care if I needed a new battery or not. But if the thing starts giving me trouble in the same way, then I'll be annoyed, even though I obviously have a better battery than I had before.
 

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I'll say this one time for you. Have been on this forum for 14 years. Was on the Yahoo Group one for over 2 years. It's been the overwhelming concensus of everyone who owns or owned a Vulcan 750 that a wet cell battery is crap for the bike, regardless of how well "it tests" and that the bike absolutely works better with an AGM battery. That is why it's at the top of the list on what to do when you buy one of these bikes.
So you can experiment all you want with your two batteries, but you're never going to convince anyone here a regular wet cell battery is "fine" for this bike.
There's a reason why an AGM is recommended here. Installing one in my less than a year old 2002 completely solved any hot start problems I had. This has been echoed here for almost 2 decades.
That's why this forum is here, so you can get useful information on improvements for your bike without wasting time and money trying out stuff on your own. ;)
If you don't want to pay attention to what we tell you, that's too bad...
 

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I've seen car batteries that wouldn't show a short until they were load tested. Was the Battery Mart guy using a load tester? Could be analog or digital, but to test it he would've pushed a button and held it for several seconds.

I'm curious about the single cell test. Was that done with a hydrometer?

Riding the bike makes things a bit hotter than idling in neutral.

Lowe's has a selection of meters in the $20-30 range.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Knifemaker: Thanks for that response, but please don't misunderstand me. I value the forum as a whole, and that short list of must-haves in particular. Nothing that I said about today's battery experience should be interpreted as me saying that I don't think AGM is the way to go. Not just for the VN750, but it's obviously a superior battery technology is general. I was mostly talking (a lot... I do tell long stories) about the experience of finding a battery today, and mostly how pissed off I was that Batteries Plus told me my existing battery has a bad cell, when that is plainly false. Whether it's good for the VN750 or not wasn't the point. And my weakest moment today was when I almost traded in my conventional battery for another conventional. That was a really dumb idea, and I'm glad I didn't do it. But I was getting tired of running around town and, believing I had a dead cell, I just wanted something fresh that would get me going again.

As far as me keeping the old battery to do some testing on it, that was just for educational value. I have this new tester, and I wanted to see, with my own eyes, the low cranking voltage on the old battery, and see the improved voltage on the new battery. I'm curious and I want to learn as I go. Please don't interpret that as me not valuing the lessons that have already been learned.

Spockster: Yes, the guy at the battery place uses a little tester. He held a button for several seconds, and then he just told me a cell was dead. He didn't show me his results, or show me which cell was dead, so that I could confirm it myself. He just said it, and I believed it.

The single cell test was just done with my multimeter. You just open up the cells stick some conductive material down into the acid. The guy in the video that I saw used pieces of coat hangers. I used nails.

I'll post that video down below.

Oh, you mentioned that there are cheaper multimeter options. Yeah, I was tempted to just buy a cheap one, which is what I usually do with multimeters, but there's something about this Fluke meter. Maybe I'll regret it, but I like it so far. I haven't used it for anything that a cheaper meter couldn't do, I guess.

I still haven't taken a ride since I replaced the battery. I'm going to do it sometime in the next couple of hours. I'll be sure to take the same length of ride I took yesterday, and then I'll try to fire up the bike when I get back home. I'll also take the multimeter with me, in case the bike shuts off for any reason. I'll want to measure its voltage while I'm trying to crank it.

Anyway, here's that cell testing video:
 

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Thanks for the video, never saw that test before, very good.

Could leave the right side cover off to read voltage on the battery side of the start solenoid. Or just use a quarter to remove it each time.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have a little plug sticking out from under my seat, for the trickle charger, so I don't have to remove the seat to do the trickle charge. I think my leads will go into that fine, though it might require a gator clip. I'll figure that out before the ride (which I don't think is going to be tonight, actually).
 

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I have a little plug sticking out from under my seat, for the trickle charger, so I don't have to remove the seat to do the trickle charge. I think my leads will go into that fine, though it might require a gator clip. I'll figure that out before the ride (which I don't think is going to be tonight, actually).
Should be fine, been checking mine that way since I got the tender.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
OK, good news, and I guess I can finally summarize this thread -- at least from my perspective as a new guy, and you guys are welcome to correct any assumptions I've made. I went on a ride this morning. Two thirds of the way through it, I made a stop and shut the bike off. It was off for a few minutes and, before starting it again, I checked the voltage. It was a little over 13. That sounds fine, obviously. I started the thing up with no trouble. Hooray. Then I got home, shut it down, measured it again (still over 13), and started it up again. No trouble. Hooray.

I initially reported this as a problem starting my engine when it's warm. That was what it seemed like, because I assumed my battery was fine (mistake one), I hadn't replaced it yet with an AGM (mistake two, though I had been meaning to), and I also didn't really understand basic motorcycle mechanics well enough to interpret it as a battery issue. Just because you eventually get it started doesn't mean you don't have a battery issue. Just because your lights work fine doesn't mean you don't have a battery issue.

So, thanks to some helpful feedback from Spockster, Knifemaker and others, it seemed pretty clear that I should get a new battery, so I did. Along the way, I still think I got lied to by the guy at BatteriesPlus, and the wet battery that I just replaced doesn't really need to be condemned. But it's not going to be useful in a VN750 anymore. It might be useful for somebody, somewhere, but not to me. I might as well take it to AutoZone and get my $10 for the core.

I also learned a little bit more about batteries. I got a nice new multimeter (maybe a little too nice, but it will probably pay dividends, given how much electrical troubleshooting goes on with these bikes). I even dipped my toe into the stator threads again last night, fearing that this new battery might not solve the problem (just assuming the worst, for no particular reason). The one repair the previous owner specifically mentioned, though, was the stator, so I might call him up and ask him to remind me what he said. I'm pretty sure he said that the original owner (who had it until about two years ago) already replaced the stator. Perhaps I'll be looking soon for evidence of that replacement, but I will definitely confirm soon that the stator is putting out the AC volts that it should be.

So, this is great news. I was actually nervous about going out this morning, and was already having bad feelings about having to do a stator replacement -- just based on the fact that the cranking voltage of the AGM and the wet battery were about the same, at least in my garage (for what it's worth. Not much). I'm a tiny bit curious what the wet battery would look like in the middle of a comparable ride, but I don't care enough about that to risk struggling to get it to start (and at this point, I'm pretty sure that's what would happen). But that's just my normal excessive curiosity.

Thanks again for the help. I think I'm out of the woods for now.
 

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Your ride this morning was with the wet cell or the AGM?

Well, I picked up a new test in this thread.

In the early 80s, before battery prices dropped and core prices rose, I reconditioned and sold car batteries, that test wasn't around then.

One of the signs of a shorted cell, during the load test, the shorted cell produces smoke.
 

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Thanks again for the help. I think I'm out of the woods for now.
That LITERALLY happened to me on an aging AGM that I wanted to believe wasn't going bad... Left me damn near stranded in the forest until I managed to push-start it.

Even AGM's do go bad eventually, just like my Deka did (included with the bike, was 4.5-5 years old when it was unable to start the bike anymore despite sitting on the tender rather often.) It started with the occasional slow start where the starter motor would hang, eventually got to the point it would barely do the job, until one morning it didn't fire up in the garage.

I still have that old one after replacing it with a Yuasa that I filled & charged myself and now I use it to power 12v electronics projects and toss it on my battery tender every now and then to make sure it doesn't die. It still holds 12v+, but just doesn't have the juice to get the motorcycle running.

You should be good on that battery for at least 5 years, more if you keep it well tended in the winter and ride it often in the summer. I'm like you with all the testing you did, though. I can hear the advice, but I want to KNOW from my own testing that it's definitely the problem. Glad you figured out the issue!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Your ride this morning was with the wet cell or the AGM?
The AGM. As I said, I still have some remaining curiosity about what the volt meter would show on the wet cell during a real ride, but I'm not so curious that I'm going to try it. The bike started up better with the AGM, and there is very strong advice in the community about not running a wet battery. So I'll keep what I've got.

I'm probably going to not even use the trickle charger, just to make sure I can maintain a good charge by riding the bike regularly, as I do. I've been riding for 30-45 minutes per day. The previous owner did mention that the trickle charger was necessary if you went a few days without riding it, which is indicative of the problem that I was having. He also mentioned that he had trouble starting the bike after a stall. I asked him what advice he had about it, and his advice was "don't stall the bike." Well that's all fine and good, but it's good to have a bike you can start away from home, if you ask me :)
 

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I'll say this one time for you. Have been on this forum for 14 years. Was on the Yahoo Group one for over 2 years. It's been the overwhelming concensus of everyone who owns or owned a Vulcan 750 that a wet cell battery is crap for the bike, regardless of how well "it tests" and that the bike absolutely works better with an AGM battery. That is why it's at the top of the list on what to do when you buy one of these bikes.
So you can experiment all you want with your two batteries, but you're never going to convince anyone here a regular wet cell battery is "fine" for this bike.
There's a reason why an AGM is recommended here. Installing one in my less than a year old 2002 completely solved any hot start problems I had. This has been echoed here for almost 2 decades.
That's why this forum is here, so you can get useful information on improvements for your bike without wasting time and money trying out stuff on your own. ;)
If you don't want to pay attention to what we tell you, that's too bad...
Knifemaker is exactly right. I followed his, and others, advice when I bought by '03 VN750 a couple years ago. There's a gas station literally 6 blocks from my house, and that was a long enough ride to have the "warm" starting issues. I spent the money on an AGM with 220 CCA, installed the iridium plugs, and I've not had a single hot or cold starting problem since.

Much respect for these men. They KNOW what they're talking about. From troubleshooting, repairs, or mods it can probably be found in this forum in the wealth of knowledge they've contributed over the years and thousands of threads.

So, Knifemaker, Spockster, OleDirtyDoc, and everyone else who've chosen to share your knowledge here.....HAT TIP AND THANK YOU! You've saved me many headaches! :beerchug:

JimmyMac
 
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