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Discussion Starter #1
Hey, I'm still pretty new at this, but you all have come through for me before, so here goes: I'm a new owner of an '86 since last fall and I've been trying to get out every couple weeks over the winter. Everything's been working fine. Went out today to start her up (COLD!), but it was taking some work. It coughed and sputtered a bit, but wouldn't turn over. I tried it about 3-4 times, waiting about 10 seconds in between cranks. Then it simply quit trying. When I turn the key to on, the electrical stuff works fine, but when I hit the starter button, I get nothing--no sound of a relay switch, no plunger, no cranking. Did I kill my starter? Any ideas?
 

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Hoser
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118 Posts
Charge your battery, check your connections. Lots of things it could be. Best place to start is the electrical diagnostics section of the service manual.

I have had a few bikes that simply wont start at all during winter storage. Thats why I have like three backups.

86's are the best year
 

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Linkmeister Supreme
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7,960 Posts
Welcome to the Vulcan madness. See link below and pay particular attention to the MF-AGM battery and NGK Iridium spark plugs.
 

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Having resuscitated two old '86s, I'd agree with the others.

First, check your battery power. Use a multimeter. You need about 11.7 DCV to start the bike? 12.4 is optimal, but once you drop below the mid 11s, you might get enough power for your lights, but not enough to crank the bike.

I also use a no-maintenance battery and iridium plugs. I remember the difference was huge when I put them in, as far as ease of starting.

Second, check all your electrical connections.

If you have an assistant, (and if your battery is good) use a multimeter to make sure your starter is getting 12 volts when you press the button. If not, trace backwards from there. If it is, and the starter isn't turning over, it's a simple matter to take off the starter motor and clean it out. Use the on-line manual or a clymers.

One way or the other, I'd recommend taking apart all your electrical connections and tightening and cleaning them.

As far as gummed up electrical connections, I'd guess the most overlooked part on the bike is the ignition switch (the black hockey puck like thing under the headlight bucket). Remove the two screws, gently(!) pry off the cover, sand the contacts down, and you could get a noticeable improvement in electrical power and ease of starting. (The copper was green in there on one of my old bikes).

The second most overlooked thing is the starter button itself.

Cleaning these two things can make a difference. However, neither will help you if you don't have a good battery. It all starts with the battery.

Good luck and keep us posted. When you fix it let us know!
 

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Premium Member
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You'll definitely have to start with your battery before going forward. Is it an MF? If not, I'd plan on getting one ASAP. If you have a tender, I'd use it every time you park the bike for anymore than a couple days (on a wet cell battery, assuming you have one).
Have you been using Seafoam in your tank? If not, you need to start doing that routinely. Especially if you park the bike for extended periods during this time of year. The rise and fall of temps outside will eventually cause condensation build up in your tank, and eventually cause rust, which is really no fun at all. Did you fill your tank on the last ride when it ran OK? Could have gotten some bad gas...
When you start the bike are you using the choke? Just a few, maybe obvious questions, but more info will help us diagnose with you. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Got it going

Thanks for the tips--I figured if the battery was dead, I wouldn't be getting the lights at all. A jump took care of it. I am using Seafoam--that was one of my first purchases after the bike. I'll need to look into a new battery and plugs just so I'll know where I stand next winter. I appreciate the "obvious" questions, they're the only kind I understand so far! Thanks again.
 

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That's very similar to the problems I had. If jumping it is OK (that was the only way I could get mine to start without a fully charged battery) then it certainly points to the battery as the culprit. There's enough current to power all the lights, etc. but not enough to crank the engine and supply the spark.

I purchased a sealed battery from Sears. Search the site for alternatives and specifics on the battery type/model numbers.
 

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CWO3 Navy (Retired)
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722 Posts
Get an AGM type battery not a wet cell and you won't have this problem again. Made all the difference in the world on my 93 and was worth the money. I bought a Sears Die Hard but any brand will do as long as it's AGM chemistry and not the old fashioned acid type.
 
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