Buying a used GL1800

By Steve Saunders


Honda's GL1500 Goldwing enjoyed a very long reign as King of touring motorcycles. From 1988 right into the 21st. Century, this machine was the unmistakeable flagship of the Honda stable. Even people who had no interest in motorcycles couldn't mistake the GL1500 as it wafted by with it's distinctive exhaust note.
The GL1800 was formally announced in late 2000 and to those who had become accustomed to the well covered bodywork on the previous model, the initial reactions were mixed. The body panels were less integrated than the GL1500 and held less luggage because the machine was slimmer, but the real changes were under the skin. Honda made full use of modern technology and employed an all alloy frame which was comprised of only 31 parts, compared to the 131 of the GL1500. This was welcome news for the Goldwing faithful, less welcome was the fact that the new 1832cc engine didn't have hydraulic valve adjusters and instead had a shim & bucket setup. Timing chains rather than belts seemed another step backward, but then again most racing engine designers use this setup on bike engines and they can't all be wrong. Long overdue fuel injection and ABS brakes (on the ABS model) that worked really well made the new Goldwing a machine that Honda must have hoped would appeal to younger riders as well as the older rider that was perceived as the "typical" Goldwing type. Rear wheel removal was a lot easier now with a single side swingarm. The performance from the new GL1800 amazed all who were lucky enough to get a test ride on one and this more than made up for any initial views based solely on how the thing looked. Though the timing chains and skimpier fairing panels made the engine emit more noise than the GL1500, most of us could live with this and the cure was to just turn up the radio!



1. Radiators on the GL1800 are now mounted one each side and above the engine. While this (among other improvements) helps with the forward space (also makes the bike slimmer), the effectiveness of the radiators at cooling the engine has been questioned by more than a few owners and during 2001 there were cases of overheating. The cooling fans blow the hot air forward and away from the rider and while this is welcome in Summer, it means no warm air wafting towards you from the vents in Winter. The temperature gauge on my own GL1800 always read higher than I thought normal, but I have to admit that the bike never actually overheated or spewed out coolant. During 2002 and 2003 there were more reports of overheating. It seems that on the boilers, it's trundling along at between 15 and 25mph in first or second gear that is the problem. The fans switch off at 15mph so trundling along in rush hour can see the temperature gauge needle red-line. The bike can sit still at idling speed forever and never overheat.
The US Honda Service Bulletin number 13 aims to fix this problem.
You can download the service bulletin further down this page.

2. Engines on this monster have so far upheld the Goldwing reputation for reliability. Engine noise is more than on the earlier models, but this is only to be expected with an engine that uses camchains and shim & bucket valve adjustment. The GL1500 had cambelts and hydraulic valve clearances which all made for a quieter engine. I suppose the GL1800 engine is in keeping with the more sporty image and lets face it, if camchains and shim & buckets are good enough for sportsbikes then they are good enough for the Wing. Exhaust sensors gave some trouble on the 2001 models. This usually results in erratic idling and a bigger thirst than usual for petrol. Probably sorted under warranty on most machines by now.

3. Tyres  have proved to be a headache for GL1800 owners. All of the previous Wings had Dunlops fitted when leaving the factory, but the GL1800 had Bridgestones and much hype accompanied this development. The problems with these new tyres were not exactly announced as loudly some time later when owners discovered that cupping of the Bridgestones at mileages as low as 3000 miles was not uncommon and many owners had tyres that were under the legal tread limit by 5000 miles at most. Needless to say, the Internet newsgroups spread the word about these issues and GL1800 owners all over the world voiced their dissatisfaction with the tyres. My own experience with these tyres was that they are fine on dry roads, but in the wet can cause more than their fair share of heartstopping moments. The ABS brakes work so well that the rider is no longer afraid to stomp on them hard and of course when doing this in the wet, the tyres just don't do the business as well as expected. The 2003 GL1800 made a welcome return to Dunlops and here's hoping that Dunlop did their research as good as they did on previous Goldwings.

4. Plastics on the GL1800 are noticeably skimpier than on the GL1500. This is no bad thing as I always found that no matter how big the trunk and panniers, I always wanted more space and there has to be a limit. The front fairing doesn't rattle as much as previously, even going over bad surfaces the fairing seems very solid. This goes some way to compensate for the noisier engine. The trunk on most early GL1800's isn't the best of a fit and the lid ends up touching the base at the closing point, resulting in worn paint. The trunk has slightly less room than before and cramming two lids into the smaller area may be a struggle for those fathead helmets. The sidepanel rubbers tend to fall into the bike when fitting the panel, particularly the small top rubber ring. Care is needed when fitting the panel. Many owners grumble about the quality control of the body panels are not up to the standard of previous Goldwings, but Honda tend to refine and improve these things as time passes. Pity they couldn't get it right after years of research and before we bought the machines, just how much time is needed to get something right for the market?

5. Exhausts are really nice to look at. Stainless pipes add to long life and sound great. The trim piece at the front of the silencers (just under the passenger footboards) sometimes breaks away at the mounting points.

Frames are very sturdy looking on the GL1800's, although during late 2002 and early 2003 there were a small number of known cases of frames failing. Out of thousands of models in service this might be considered a small percentage, unless of course you happen to be one of the affected owners! In September 2003, Honda recalled some GL1800's in the US and Europe for a frame inspection and welding. Only one Irish GL1800 was affected by the frame recall. The VIN numbers for affected UK and Irish machines are GL1800A2 (2002) model from 1HFSC47A72A101111 up to and including 1HFSC47A12A101170. GL1800A3 (2003 model), from 1HFSC47A43A200051 to 1HFSC47A53A200110. These are all ABS models, the non-ABS model is not officially imported into the UK or Ireland. Service Bulletin 14 covers this area and can be downloaded from further down the page.
Update on the frame recall. Early 2005 saw many more GL1800's being recalled for frame inspection and welding. This time, models from 2002-2004 were affected. Details can be had from Service Bulletins 17 & 18, which can be downloaded from further down the page.

Kill Switches on some of the early GL1800's had to have modifications. Dealers had to replace some of the parts in the switch under warranty, due to the fact that faulty switches could cause the engine to cut out at inconvenient moments (usually when riding the bike, which would be most inconvenient). This was first announced in April 2001 and 6,662 units were affected.

Pulse Rotors on some early examples had to be replaced as well. Just in case the kill switch didn't catch us out, the pulse rotors got a chance to do so by causing the engine to cut out. Dealers fitted modified rotors to many machines. 8,107 units were affected.

Driveshaft Rubber Boot failure was common on early examples. A redesigned boot was made available which seems to be more robust than before, although owners of some `03 models still say their boots failed. Most owners probably don't even realize this problem as it's not easy to see unless the side cover is removed when cleaning the bike (I wonder how many of you actually clean these hidden areas), so anyone checking out an 1800 should examine the boot before buying the bike.

Rear Brake Squeaking was a problem on some early models. It was caused by brake discs that were too soft! A recall wasn't issued for this, but dealers will have replaced the discs under warranty anyway. Doesn't seem to affect models after 2002.

Hondaline CD Players for the GL1800 gave lots of grief on early units. CD's stuck in the changer was just the start of owners problems and many units had to be replaced. Hondaline CB Radios just don't seem to have a decent range on the GL1800 and this may be down to the alloy frame and the lack of decent grounding. Owners complained that the CD units were a poor fit in the space allocated for them and that the lid wouldn't close flush, the later type was even worse but was easier to operate.

Speedometer needles on early GL1800's have been known to stick. A tap on the clock face usually sees it moving again, until the next time anyway or until the speedo is replaced under warranty.

Steering Head Bearings on the GL1800 will need adjusting as often as the GL1500 did. Reports from many owners suggest initial adjustment at 8-10,000 miles and then around 30k. Why Honda went back to ball bearings in the GL1800 steering head (instead of tapered bearings which were introduced in later model GL1000's) is anybody's guess.

Wheels tend to lose their thin coating of lacquer (those that even have it) very quickly, compared to older Goldwings. Many reports of pitting at as low as 3,000 miles. Either be prepared to polish the wheels often, or remove them and get them re-lacquered before they get too badly pitted and corroded.

Saddlebag Latches can tend to stick when the release lever is pulled on some machines. Plenty of DIY fixes available on the web, but in May 2004 Honda released Service Bulletin 15 and a replacement lock mechanism is available under warranty.



Honda Recalls & Service Bulletins for the GL1800.

These are all Adobe .pdf files. Right-click and select "Save As" to save them to your hard drive.


Service Bulletin 1, December 2000.  2001 GL1800 Coolant Temperature Gauge Improvement. 1.14Mb.

Service Bulletin 2, May 2001. GL1800/A Engine Stop Switch. 636Kbs

Service Bulletin 3, May 2001. GL1800/A Crankshaft Pulse Rotor. 361Kbs

Service Bulletin 4, June 2001. GL1800/A Radio Muting Improvement. 858Kbs

Service Bulletin 5, September 2001. 2002 GL1800 Reverse Cable Inspection/Adjustment. 100Kbs

Service Bulletin 6, October 2001. 2001-2002 GL1800/A Rear Tyre Inspection. 160Kbs

Service Bulletin 7, October 2001. 2001 GL1800 Oxygen Sensor Replacement. 136Kbs

Service Bulletin 8, December 2001. 2001 GL1800/A Speedometer Replacement. 192Kbs

Service Bulletin 9, December 2001. 2001-2002 GL1800/A ABS Speed Sensor Wire Clamp Location. 75Kbs

Service Bulletin 10, January 2002. 2001-2002 GL1800/A CB Radio Replacement. 972Kbs

Service Bulletin 11, August 2002. 2001-2002 GL1800/A CD Changer Replacement. 160Kbs

Service Bulletin 12, 2002-2003 GL1800 Bank Angle Sensor Mounting Screws. 76Kbs

Service Bulletin 13, June 2003. 2001-2003 GL1800/A ECM Replacement/Cooling System Product Improvement Campaign. 425Kbs

Service Bulletin 14, September 2003. 2002-2003 GL1800/A Frame Weld. 211Kbs

Service Bulletin 15 (revised), October 2007. 2001-2008 GL1800/A Trunk Opener Unit. 147Kbs

Service Bulletin 16, February 2005. 2002-2004 GL1800/A Linked Braking System (LBS) Proportional Control Valve (PCV) Leakage. 307 Kbs

Service Bulletin 17, February 2005. 2001-2002 GL1800/A Frame Weld Inspection. 398 Kbs

Service Bulletin 18, February 2005. 2003-2004 GL1800/A Frame Weld Inspection. 117kbs

Service Bulletin 19, December 2006. 2006 Airbag CB Radio Squeal. 243kbs



What to pay for a used GL1800 in Ireland.

This is intended as a guide only and will be suitable for Irish Goldwing sellers and seekers. The wide variation in new prices around the world has a major bearing on used prices and makes it impossible for me to accurately place a tag on Goldwings outside of my own country. Some examples will be worth more or less than my estimates and such things as a machines condition, mileage, history, location, how it has been stored etc. will have a bearing on it's value. Quite often a potential buyer will fall for a machine on looks alone and common sense then usually goes out of the window when negotiating. Goldwings have never been cheap to buy in Ireland, whether new or used and real bargains are quite rare. Compared to other countries, there are relatively small numbers of Goldwings in Ireland (several hundred here as opposed to several thousand just across the water in the UK), so this means less choice and more cost for a decent machine here. Bear in mind that buying a Goldwing from a motorcycle shop in Ireland will usually cost substantially (25-30%) more than buying privately and generally shops tend to put a large price tag on the machine and hope for the best. They usually get it too because of the small numbers around, and the increased and continuing interest in Goldwings from around 1992 has kept values of used machines quite high. The prices below are private, not shop or trade. Please feel free to use or ignore the valuations below, but please do not ask me for valuations on individual machines.

The exchange rate in 2001 saw the entry price for a GL1800A (ABS model, the non-ABS GL1800 isn't available here) in Ireland pegged at IR£23,500 (€29,840). In 2002 the price was a few cents under €29,000. Late in the year saw the Euro gain very strongly against the dollar and the 2003 price for a new GL1800 was now officially set by Ireland's Honda distributor at €27,850. The price reduction didn't really reflect the big difference between the Euro and Dollar at that time, but you didn't really expect the whole benefit to be passed on, did you? Anyway, some independent Honda dealers in the country were this year selling new UK spec Goldwings for a meagre €25,500 cash. Late in 2004, some shops started selling new UK spec GL1800's for €22,500 and an extra thousand Euros would get you a US model and this was still the case in January 2005.
The lower price of the GL1800 two years after it's release did of course affect the used values of the early machines. In 2003, a 2002 ABS model could be had privately for around €21,000. You could expect to pay €1,500 - €2,000 more from a bike shop during that year. A 2001 machine could be had for €19,500 private or €21,500 in your friendly bike shop. During 2004, used prices stayed about the same with 2003 models going for about €23,000 private (€24,500 in the shop). With the big price drop of a new machine in late 2004 (down to €22,500), this has had an effect on used prices and as we entered 2005 you could expect to buy a used '04 model for €21,000. An '03 will cost around €20,000 and a 2002 or 2001 model between €18,000 and €19,000. €18,000 seems to be the bottom price at the moment, unless the new price drops further during 2005. All this assumed of course that you could actually find one used. Most folks with a one or two year old GL1800 are quite content to hold on to them and when a used example pops up in the classifieds, it doesn't stay there very long. US spec machines are always more desirable, as usual. A US GL1800A will have the interface and wiring in place for the Hondaline CB radio to plug into, also the wiring and relays are there for the Hondaline fog lights (though this is less of an issue and easily wired anyway) and for the trunk combined running/brake lighted spoiler. On the downside, US machines don't have the Honda HSS immobilizer that UK machines do. But then again, does anyone actually steal Goldwings?
If your local bike shop is willing to get you a new US Goldwing, expect to wait a month or two longer and also to pay €1,000 more for it than you would for a UK machine. Of course when the time comes to sell, your US machine will easily fetch that extra money back and will sell faster too. The savvy Goldwing owner looking to upgrade will always prefer a US spec machine and won't mind paying a bit extra for the privilege. It's worth noting that the overheating and frame problems of the GL1800 did not affect the resale value at all. Prices stayed up all through 2003 as these problems came to a head and the retail price of new machines was several hundred Dollars more out of the factory in 2004. The same applied for 2005. Many owners are now clued-up on the big price difference between a new Goldwing in the USA and Ireland. Even at €22,500, this is still over $31,000 (as of January 2005), or $12,000 more expensive than the USA. Many folks have bought new GL1800's in the USA, had them crated and flown over for a couple of grand, paid the customs duty and VAT and still saved around €4,000. When the new price in Ireland was €26,000, the savings made by importing was around €8,000. Of course if the dollar and the price of a new Goldwing in Ireland continues to drop during 2005, there will be less incentive to go to all the hassle of importing yourself.






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