Bikers Workshop Series

Part 28; Goldwing Starter Motor Refresh.

By Tim Wentzell, Mr. Magic Fingers on the forum.


I decided to do a “refresh” of a really sluggish starter motor on my 1982 Aspencade. It was sluggish at times (more times then not) and would sound like the battery was going dead. The starter motor would draw so much current that I lost my radio presets a few times. My battery is in good shape and seems to test fine on a stress test. This was on the starter motor of my GL1100, the procedure is similar on the other four-cylinder Goldwings. I had a golden opportunity to do this starter motor refresh as I was doing other work to the bike and the exhaust was off. I was staring right at it. It’s done and WOW! What a difference!! Not a hard job, no money involved for me, just my time. Here’s what I did.

First thing to note is that the bike was on the center stand. Some people say yes to this and others say no. My recommendation would be to have the bike on the center stand. This can be done with the exhaust system on but I am glad mine was off. I don’t think there would have been an issue with it on, just a bit more wrangling to get your hands in there.

VERY IMPORTANT – Remove the battery from your bike or at the very least disconnect the positive (RED) lead from the battery and TAPE it back so it can’t spring back to the battery post. No one wants a lead acid battery exploding in their face from a dead short! Safety comes first.


Click the thumbnails for a bigger image.


Here we go…Remove the power cable that goes to the starter motor. VERY IMPORTANT - Make sure you use a thin end wrench to back up the lug when removing the nut from the positive lead. If that bolt starts to turn it may sever the connection internally and the starter motor may have to be replaced. Remove the two bolts that mount the starter to the engine. Pull back the freed starter while wiggling it. When it is free from the engine, tilt it out and up until the starter shaft clears the engine and remove the starter. You may have to push down on the gear shift to gain a bit more room.

This is the mounting hole once the starter motor is removed. Clean the mating surfaces where the starter will go back in. Put a very thin film of grease here. Note how the cog and starter motor chain looks just for a mental reference during the re-mounting of the starter.

Remove the 3 long screws and tap off the back end of the starter motor first and then the front end. It will be messy with carbon on one end and grease on the other.

This is the front end of the starter motor. This is where the reduction gears are and is packed with messy stale grease. We will come back to this part later. Set the front end aside for now.

This is the back end of the starter motor. This is the business side of the starter that most of your problems will be coming from. Note the amount of loose carbon just floating around in there.  Also note the condition of the commutator on the end of the armature. All that old carbon and the debris piled up here is where the majority of you starting amps go. It has to fight through the conductive crud to make good contact to start the motor moving. Remove the thin, delicate rubber gasket and clean it. Set it aside as you will not need it until the end.

This is the End Cap after cleaning. It was cleaned in Mineral Spirits, washed in hot soapy water and then blown dry. Make sure you get the crud packed in behind the brass bushing. You don’t remove the bushing and the bushing does not seat all the way down the bottom of the flange.

Next the Brush Cover has to be removed. VERY IMPORTANTRemove the screw from the + side of the brushes as shown in the picture. Hold the screw mount with your fingers as the torque from the screwdriver may break the insulator below. If this screw is not removed you will break the insulator and have to buy this whole Brush Cover assembly. The + side has the insulation on the actual brush wires and is connected to the wire that goes down into the starter housing.

Remove the Armature from the starter motor housing by gently pulling it out. You may have to gently move the wire to the side to pull the Armature out. Be careful not to damage the insulation on the wire.

There are a total 6 washers on the Armature. If they are not there or some are missing, check the End Cap (which you should have found some if you cleaned it already) and check the inside of the Starter housing. They go in this order: “ thick – thin – thin – ARMATURE – thin – thin – thick “
Remove the washers, clean them and set them and the Armature aside for now.


We’re going to cleaning the Brush Plate now. This is somewhat delicate work. Use Isopropyl Alcohol to clean this item. Don’t use any solvents. You don’t want anything soaking into the Brushes. They are porous material. Use the alcohol and a tooth brush to clean it with. Blow dry it gently. Measure the Brushes. If they are below 5.5 mm in length then they need to be replaced. Check the insulating plate for damage.

Clean the starter housing with alcohol and a tooth brush. Make sure all the grease is off the front end. Make sure you rinse it well and blow dry it well. Set it aside. These are nice and clean.

Cleaning the Armature is easy but a very important step. Clean everything off with Mineral Spirits and a toothbrush making sure you get into the groves between the commutator conductors. Dry everything off with a clean cloth. Take 000 steel wool and dip it into clean mineral spirits and then start to clean the commutator conductors. Clean it in the direction of the spin of the Armature. You want to go with the “grain” of the rotational marks on the commutator “fingers” not against them. Do this light enough to remove the carbon build up and no more. Just get it clean. You are not trying to resurface it!!! Also, clean the armature winding itself with the steel wool especially if there is rust on it. Remember, gentle is the word of the day here.
When done, dry it off and then clean the whole thing again with Alcohol and pay extra attention to the commutator conductors, cleaning well in between them with a clean toothbrush. Make sure there is no steel wool strands left over stuck to something.

Put a very small amount of grease on the inside surface of the brass bushing in the starter housing… just a film of it. Reassemble the Armature into the starter housing and don’t forget the washers and their proper sequence. Carefully install the Brush Cover making sure the brushes move in and out freely. Gently spin the Armature. It will probably spin only one way due to the direction of the ware on the brushes. Screw down the + wire that comes up from the starter housing. Again, make sure you hold it with your fingers so your torque does not break the insulator below. Tighten it well.
Set this clean assemble off to the side. It’s time to get messy!

Cleaning the reduction gear head assembly is messy with all the grease involved but not hard. Remove the circlip and push the shaft through the “head”. The bearing that is left in the head does not have to be removed. The head can be cleaned with this in place.

Clean the inside of the head with mineral spirits and then hot soapy water. Blow dry it when it is completely clean.

Clean the “neck” of the head well. Remove the “O” ring and clean the grove.

Remove the 2 gears from the shaft and clean with mineral spirits. Set them off to the side. Remove all the grease from the face and clean well. Don’t use mineral sprites unless you plan to repack the second non-sealed bearing that is still on the shaft. I planed to do this so I used the mineral spirits. Blow dry this extremely well. You want the bearing super clean.

Now comes the grease! First, repack the bearings if you cleaned them with solvents. Make sure they are packed well. When done, insert the shaft back into the head and install the circlip. Put a little grease on each of the 2 shafts that the gears go on and then mount the two gears. Using copious amounts of grease, almost fill up the gear cavity and make sure there is grease in every nook-and-cranny. Add a thin layer of grease to the face of the starter housing.

Add your clean rubber gasket to the end cap. Carefully install the end cap after adding a film of grease to the brass bushing inside the end cap. Stand the starter up on its end and install the head. It may take a few tries to get this lined up due to the gears but it will go in place.
MAKE SURE the case marks line up during the reassembly. This picture shows the line-up-marks while the starter was still on the bike. (I forgot to take a picture while it was out.) Look for theses marks. Install the 3 long screws. Put a thin layer of grease on the neck of the starter where the “O” ring is. This will make the install very easy.

Install the starter motor back onto the engine opposite to the way you took it off. Be careful in mating it with the cog and chain in the engine. I did it on the first attempt. It’s very easy when the surfaces are cleaned and lubed. Bolt the starter down.
Make sure the power cable has a very clean connection and use a bit of dielectric grease here. Make sure there is no corrosion in/on the connector. Make sure the rubber boot fits properly over the lip of the insulator.