Honda Express, going totally mental.

I've already spent a bunch of time and money on this problem. I'm wondering if it's possible that the motor is the problem. Maybe it's just not kicking over fast enough to create spark? Have replaced: stator/generator, coil twice, condenser x3, wires, spark plug wire and cap, spark plug, ignition switch. Have checked the ground and point gap multiple times, including today. The coil and the condenser are properly grounded, I am sure of that. Good connections.

What I can tell you is, a test light attached to the black and white wire, right before the coil, lights up real bright when I kick the bike over. Should I be getting 6 volts at this spot? The point gap is correct. I do own a multimeter, but am pretty ignorant about how to use it. Did the tests on page 20-2 of the manual on my three coils and they are all good, according to the illustrations. Just about to go totally "mental." P.S. anybody had bad luck with aftermarket coils? Are they total garbage, or what?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

I have never used an aftermarket coil, but I can try to help. Are you getting power to your tail light? If all your tests for power are positive, then your coil might be good. When did the bike run last? How many miles are on it? Have you tried anything besides the wiring/coil?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Hi Brandon, Lights all work. Tail light comes on with the key. I've replaced everything: generator (aka stator), condenser, coil, points, plug, plug wire and boot, ignition switch. Have checked connections and ground numerous times, and have even tried using an additional ground just to be sure it was grounded. Battery is also new, although that shouldn't matter. I am wondering if the polarity of the coil is reversed? Went over the wiring diagram again very carefully this morning, and I do have it wire properly. I had the bike running last summer, and at that time was working out jetting issue with new Mikuni VM16 carb. Today or tomorrow I will try a test I read about where you use a battery to make the coil take and expend a charge (spark). Seems stupid to buy another coil for this thing.... I have the original stock coil, and two aftermarket coils for it that are supposed to work for non-cdi 6 volt systems. All of which could be garbage.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

I don't know anything about aftermarket coils or your carb, but if all your tests are positive then it probably isn't your electrical system. You have replaced a lot of parts so it should be fine. Does it try to start? Have you tried starting it without the muffler?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Well Brandon, the sad thing is I don't have spark, so there would not be any point in taking off the muffler. Last summer, last time I had it running, the compression and exhaust seemed fine. Like I said, I think I got the jetting issue worked out. Might need to adjust the needle after I get it running again. Thanks for responding!

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Is your woodruff key in good shape? IE: not sheared

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Gruff "(OFMC)" - /

this is stupid i know .... fuse?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Downhill Harvey (OFMC) /

I had to Google Christmas Valley, never heard of it. You are out there. The only time I was ever scared driving was on 395, between Lakeview and Burns. I was paranoid because it was 30 miles at a stretch, of nothingness. Seemed like every 30 miles, there was a gas station, and nothing else. No houses, no telephone lines, no driveways, no power poles. I thought if I broke down, I'd have at least a 10 mile walk to help.

In that stretch, I saw a road sign, "Beware low flying aircraft". I thought how low could they be flying, and chuckled. Then, out of the blue, all Top Gun like, two FA-18's fly right over me.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

You mentioned that you replaced the ignition coil (I am guessing once) and then the condenser itself 3 times. The condenser is built onto the ignition coil, did you buy the right ignition coil? Try reverting back to the old one. Did you do the test in the manual on page 8-4 for your timing? Definitely check the woodruff key too.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Also did you mess with the kill switch wiring at all?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Michael Thomas /

What about the spark plug wire? Are the ends attached tightly? If I remember, the plug end screws on. My friend just had this problem with his Derbi and he snipped off about 1/2 inch from the ends of the plug wire, re-attached them and got spark. Is this an Urban Express?

Also try a new plug, I took half my Express motor apart only to find out the plug was bad.

I also agree with checking the kill switch, maybe it got bumped or is bad.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Gruff "(OFMC)" - /

on an urban the blk/wht wire is for your coil if it is grounded it kills the spark. just sayin since you changed all components maybe the wireing is the issue

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Are you referring to the key that is underneath the stator plate? If you are, then yes, it is. I got a good look at it when I replaced the stator/generator last week.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

It's not stupid. I checked the fuse a couple of days ago, and I routinely check it whenever I 'have another go' at the problem. Thnx!

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Man, I think you walk would have been more like 40 miles to Christmas Valley from the Hwy 395 turnoff. What's really funny is some of the online maps of this area have Great Sandy Desert printed across them diagonally. That is a leftover from an 1881 surveyor's map, back when this area was basically 'uncharted.' I guess most people still think of it that way. I call it The Other Oregon because it's the Oregon that nobody knows about.

Anyway, how about my bike? I am ordering a used (hopefully good) coil for it today. Should I have 6 volts at the black/white wire right before the coil?

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

I suspected the coil at first, so I bought an aftermarket coil. When that didn't work, I bought another aftermarket coil. Still no luck. I have tried both of these new coils, which are supposed to work with non-cdi 6 volt bikes, with condensers I bought from Treats. The condensers have been bolted onto the bar that goes around the coil (similar to the stock setup), and then that bar is grounded to the frame.

Thanks for the suggestion on the page 8-4 test. I will definitely print that page out and do that, either today or tomorrow. I can tell you that the points are gapped correctly, and I used a timing light on the bike last summer, and I didn't see any problem when I did that.

Not sure what the Woodruff key is. Is that the key underneath the stator plate? I got a good look at that last week when I replaced the stator, and it was fine. Thanks for your help and advice!

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

I have not messed with the kill switch wiring. I believe that the kill switch is fine because, unless I am reading the diagram wrong, current goes through the kill switch and then goes back to the coil. Like I said in my original post, I do have current right before the coil where the black and white wire goes into the coil. It lights up a test light real bright when I kick the bike over. I don't think I would have current there if the kill switch was funky. Thanks, though. Nice try!

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Michael, it's a 78 Express, but has some 1980 parts. The wiring is setup more like a 1980 because it has front and rear turn signals. I put in a stator off of a 1980 bike last week, and it is good and putting out power. I have tried a variety of spark plug wires and a brand new spark plug. When I worked on it a couple of days ago, I clipped both ends of the plug wire. So, sadly, no I don't think it's the wire.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Gruff "(OFMC)" - /

kill switches do get grounded out like the control switchs do, if old. might be something to look at.

I really dont know much about these bikes Im more of an urban guy but they are similar in some ways and wiring is wiring. below is wiring on an urban. i dont know if the part Im pointing out is like yours or not, and maybe I should stay out of this but Im just trying to help, If these blk/red wires arent looped at the ignition switch and right before it goes to the battery it will not spark either

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Hi Gruff, Yep. The B/W wire supplies power to the coil on the 78 Express as well. I have good current there, because when I connect a test light to the B/W wire right before the coil and kick the bike over, it lights up real bright. Not sure about the strength or voltage, however. I have also tried running a different wire up to the coil from the generator, and have an extra ground wire on the coil to make sure it is 'good and grounded.' No luck.

Here's what I am going to try next: The timing test on page 8-4 of the manual. A bench test on the coil whereby you try to get it to spark by hooking it up to a battery (this would also re-polarize the coil, just in case the polarity is out of whack). Ordering a new/used stock coil today, and will try it as soon as it gets here.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Okay, I bet all you guys were out riding over the holiday weekend, while I was stuck at home trying to figure out why I have no spark. All I can say is, the weather was here--wish you were lovely! Ha! Here's a little update:

I tried the test on page 8-4 of the manual. That's the one where you line up the F mark with the index mark, then put current through the circuit using a battery and try to light up a light bulb. We passed this test. The only thing that seemed a little odd was that the flywheel did not want to stay in place with the F on the index mark. If I took my hand off of it, it turned about an inch counterclockwise to about the T mark. I just held it in place on the F to do the test. If anybody sees this as a symptom of a larger problem, please let me know.

Also did a test on two of the members of my 'coil collection' that is a little complicated to explain. It's not done on the bike. You run a ground wire from the coil and the condenser to the - side of your bike battery. Then you connect the coil and condenser to the + side of the battery, and run a jumper wire from the coil and condenser and tap it on the negative battery terminal. This is supposed to mimic the alternating current coming off the generator. Next you are supposed to touch the spark plug wire from the coil to the ground, and it is supposed to produce a big spark. Could not get it to spark at all, and I tried this test on both coils. This could mean that either (A) Both coils are bad, or (B) I am a dumbass and don't know what I'm doing. Read about this test on a Harley discussion board.

I also tried connecting my multimeter to the black and white wire that comes off the generator and kicked the motor over to check the voltage coming off the generator. I got so many different readings that I think this test was inconclusive. It is putting out current, like I said, and it will light up a test light at this point. I have a digital multimeter, and I know one time it read 1.3v, another it read 4.5v, and a couple of readings in between. I don't know if this means anything, because it's such a short little burst of electricity, I don't know if this is a good way of measuring it. The guy I got the new generator from said it was functioning AND bench tested as good.

Anyway, still no spark. Ho-hum. Waiting for a used, stock coil which shipped out today. Hope to have it by the end of the week.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Downhill Harvey (OFMC) /

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Hi Harvey, My bike does not have CDI. I think I read in some other posts that some a couple of Express guys have switched to CDI ignition. Don't know if that would fix my problem. I'll read up on it again. Thanks for the tip, though. It's always nice to find cheep parts!

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Gruff "(OFMC)" - /

I wouldnt think that your whole coil collection is bad but who knows, I guess you'll find out when the new one arrives. I hope it works out for you, this is getting past my knowledge, good luck with it.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Downhill Harvey (OFMC) /

D'oh, never mind. Got my Express threads mixed up.

Re: Honda Express, going totally mental.

Okay, here's the answer. In the end, it was a bad coil. My old stock coil was no longer any good, and the two aftermarket coils I got were garbage. Don't know what the problem was with them exactly, although they were supposed to be good for a 6 volt, non-cdi system. Put on a used stock coil I got on Ebay, and BAM! Blue spark. Went for a ride around the block. Wheeeeeeeeee! My suggestion to anyone with an Express who suspects their coil or condenser is to buy stock parts and not waste your time on aftermarket parts. Thanks to everybody who helped me and gave advice! I was about to throw in the towel.

Now I just have a few minor things to do. Replace a spoke. Replace the rear brake shoes, and maybe the wheel bearings if they are bad. And, I need to tune my new Mikuni VM16.

« Go to Topics — end of thread

Want to post in this forum? We'd love to have you join the discussion, but first:

Login or Create Account