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4 Common Failures Of The Honda VT800: Problems And Disadvantages

The 1988 Honda VT800C Shadow is the dream of a collector of vintage Japanese motorcycles, that is why we bring you this post where we will talk about the most common failures of the Honda VT800 , so stay with us and keep reading.

We’re talking about a one-year Shadow model with an 800cc version of the now-classic Shadow Aero with a 750 V-twin, which was drilled for an extra 50cc stroke. If you are interested in this motorcycle, this post is made for you.

Common failures of the Honda VT800

With a six-speed transmission and a liquid-cooled V-twin far ahead of its time, the VT800 is a dependable classic; Even the most reliable vintage bikes need work, but what are the common Honda VT800C Shadow problems? Next, we will tell you what they are:

1. Carburetor may need to be rebuilt

A misfiring carburetor is the most common problem on a vintage cruiser like the Honda VT800. The chance that you will have to disassemble, rebuild and reinstall the carburetor on your VT800 is quite reasonable.

  • Unless you are the original owner and have had your 800 Shadow for many years, it is likely that you bought your VT800 second hand.
  • If your bike is as lucky as it is noble, the previous owner may have rebuilt the carb before trying to sell it.
  • If you’re in the market for a VT800 and you’re reading this in preparation, be sure to ask the seller about the condition of the carburetor.
  • Ask him how long it’s been since the carb was rebuilt.

Be sure to examine the motorcycle’s maintenance history and regularity of riding before purchasing a used cruiser. For an 800C, this question should include information about the date the carb was rebuilt, as all older carbs need to be rebuilt.

Rebuilding the Shadow carburetor yourself is a precise and simple task, but it’s a necessary step that you can’t skip. Carburetor cleanliness is crucial to the reliability, longevity and overall performance of your classic Honda VT800.

  • Fuel lines clog in any carburetor over time as the engine runs.
  • Riding your VT800 with a clogged carburetor will break down Honda carburetors just as quickly as any other bike’s carburetor, despite the VT800’s legendary reliability.

You have to be exceptionally keen on carburetor condition if the VT800 you’re looking at sat idle for a few decades before you got your hands on it. To test for a bad carb on a VT800:

  1. You should be aware of any changes in the operation of the 800C.
  2. Check under the VT800 for any fuel leaks while parked.
  3. Inspect for fuel in the air intake.

So what to do if there is oil leaking from the carburetor of a Honda VT800? If you think the carb is a problem, the quickest fix is ​​to just hit the road and rebuild it.

2. The starter relay needs to be replaced

Starting relay replacement is one of the most common problems discussed by lucky owners of what might be the rarest model in the history of the Honda Shadow line, the VT800C.

The Shadow’s pilots flip the starter switch, and the starter relay clicks, but instead of the 800C starting, the headlight and instrument array lights flicker and die.

Once dead, Honda VT800 riders notice that the lights refuse to come back on. The first step in troubleshooting is to make sure the Shadow 800 boots in the correct sequence.

The correct sequence to start a Honda VT800 is:

  • turn the key
  • Make sure the bike is in neutral
  • Make sure the fuel is open
  • Make sure the kill switch is not on
  • pull the clutch lever
  • Raise the side stand
  • Press the start switch

While some VT800 owners say the bike starts and then dies, others point out that if they separate and reseat the battery terminals, the 800C starts immediately. Handling battery terminals on the road is not a long-term solution.

Many romantic motorcyclists do not take into account the intricate process that takes place when they push the start button. To fully diagnose the problem, we must first consider what happens when you start this rare and classic cruiser.

  • Your VT800’s wiring system sends out an impulse to initiate the spark that gets your bike going.
  • This electronic deployment takes place through multiple parts of the engine.
  • Each of these electrical components performs a distinctive and essential role in starting your VT800.
  • The origin of this common failure on the Honda Shadow 800C is the component known as the starter relay.

Two common symptoms mean that your VT800’s starter relay could be wearing out.

Your VT800C does not turn

To get a clear idea of ​​how the relay fails, let’s consider how it works:

  • The starter relay transmits a signal to the battery when the starter command is pressed.
  • That signal activates the battery to give a boost of electricity.
  • The impulse transmitted by the battery hits the starter motor, activating the spark that should start your VT800.
  • The electrical signal that starts the operation cannot contact the starter without returning through the starter relay.
  • The starter relay provides current from the battery to achieve the electrical course necessary to start the motorcycle.
  • If the starter relay on your VT800 wears out, the electrical impulse will not return to the starter and your bike will not start.

The starter motor of your VT800C works after starting the bike

This starter relay death symptom is the exact opposite and less common on the VT800 than the above mentioned no start symptoms which eventually become common on any older bike if the relay has not been replaced.

Instead of failing to connect the VT800’s electrical circuit, a faulty starter relay could also fail to close the electrical circuit. Therefore, the relay motor starts after the motorcycle has already started running.

In severe circumstances, a worn starter can even run fine after you’ve removed the keys from your 800C’s ignition. Although rare, it does happen. This type of fault in the relay can kill the starter itself. Left unchecked, it will wear out your bike’s flywheel.

Solution: Replace your Honda VT800’s worn starter relay and damaged wires

You or a vintage Honda mechanic should test the starter relay on your VT800C; to be sure it’s a problem, of course.

The good news is that replacing a failing starter relay is a fairly easy task for a decent screwdriver. Your mechanic might even find out that the relay is fine; it could just be the old and frayed cables that are causing the problem.

Damaged relay wiring forces the starter relay to acquire an electrical ground even when the key is not in the ignition.

Cleaning or repairing your VT800’s wiring harness of any deterioration could be a simple fix. With that being said, we suggest replacing the faulty cables with new ones to close the case for good.

3. Clogged or corroded fuel tank

Another of the most common faults that the owners of an original Honda VT800C end up developing is corrosion in the fuel tank.

If a vintage bike like the VT800 isn’t used for a long time, old fuel deteriorates and clogs the lines, and evaporating moisture gets stuck in the tank, causing rust and corrosion.

If rust breaks off the inside walls of your 800C’s tank and through the fuel lines, it will find its way into the carburetor and damage other components in your VT800’s engine.

These splinters can also choke fuel lines.

  1. Examine your VT800’s fuel tank by using a flashlight to inspect the inside walls of the fuel tank for rust or any other signs of deterioration.
  2. If your Honda’s tank is indeed corroded, you should replace it immediately before riding your Shadow 800C.
  3. Use products recommended by Honda to make rust removal easier.
  4. You will have to use a coarse scrub to clean the rust, even if you use a special product.
  5. Minimizes the entry of metal shavings into the fuel system.
  6. Be sure to wash, rinse, and dry the inside of your Honda’s tank before starting it up.

If your tank is past the point of no return, or you doubt you’ll be able to scrape off all that rust without stripping the metal, there are numerous aftermarket tanks available to fit the VT800 Shadow.

NOTE: This problem is not due to a defect caused by Honda. If the previous owner kept the VT800 properly stored and maintained the bike’s fuel and fluid levels, the tank should be rust free. Unfortunately, many of the older VT800s on the market have been neglected, which is why this common problem occurs.

4. The fork loses oil

All classic collectible cruisers break the fork seal, eventually. Once again, if your Honda VT800C is leaking oil from the fork, it is not indicative of a fault with the motorcycle.

That being said, if left untreated, the fork oil in your VT800 can soak through to the bike’s brake pad and interfere with the braking process on your rare Honda.

If your front brake pads get soggy with oil, needless to mention the greatly increased risk of a collision affecting your VT.

In drastic cases, a Honda 800C that is losing oil from the fork can damage the front suspension as well.

If your VT800 is leaking oil from the fork:

  1. Upgrade fork bushings
  2. Upgrade fork seals
  3. Replace the fork oil with new fluid

The good and the bad of the Honda VT800

Now that you know the most common failures of the Honda VT800, the causes and how to solve these problems, it is time for you to know some positive aspects of this motorcycle:

  • Parts are easy to get
  • Reliable
  • fun to drive
  • Low maintenance
  • Classic/Historical Shadow VT Series
  • The VT700’s engine will run forever once you clean it
  • The carburettor may need to be rebuilt.
  • Starter relay needs to be replaced
  • Clogged or corroded fuel tank
  • The fork loses oil

What do the reviews say?

In 1988, the displacement of the original 750 was increased by 50cc, with Honda optimistically claiming 74bhp at 7,500rpm. Power was certainly calculated at the top of the pistons, and anything over 5,000 revs was a bit wobbly, in the literal sense. This was definitely seen as an urban machine.

There was quite a bit more chrome, and 40 more pounds of curb weight…must have been heavy chrome. The side panels, which cover the battery on the left, and the pipes on the right, were very shiny. The overall wheelbase was now 63.5 inches, and the seat had been lowered to 27.5 inches, meaning even the most wheelbase-challenged could put their foot down. However, riders with jeans larger than 32 inches weren’t too happy. The 800 had a bit more suspension travel, both in the fork and shocks, the only adjustment being shock preload, but the rider still preferred to run on smooth roads.

The 800 featured new spoked wheels that required tubes in the tires, unlike the tubeless Comcast rims of the 700/750. Tire sizes remained at 100/90 inches at the front and 140/80 inches at the rear, and stopping power remained a drum at the rear and a single disc at the front.

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