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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all!

I am new to the website, but have been reading this forum for the last six months (since I started riding) and am constantly blown away about how amazing this forum is. Everyone is so knowledgable and helpful. I'm brand new to motorcycling, but I love it already and I love the enthusiasm and generosity that everyone shows -- something that is unfortunately rare these days. I decided to join because I have a technical problem and I need help.

I bought my 86 VT700 about five months ago for pretty cheap ($1350), and was told that the bike was in fine working condition. Being a newbie, I took the seller's word and bought it, and started driving, and learned that it needed a lot of work. The main problem was shifting from 1st into 2nd gear, ESPECIALLY when the engine gets warm (when it is cold, it would work fine), where it gets stuck in neutral and won't shift up. There were also electrical problems (light bulbs out, etc.). Once the engine warms up, it is nearly impossible to shift it from 1st to second. I took it to a pretty reputable shop here in Los Angeles, and got a lot of things fixed for a pretty hefty price, but it drove a lot better (I got all the fluids changed, new brakes, new clutch gaskets, a ton of electrical work). The shifting problem seemed to clear up for my short trip from my apartment to school since the engine doesn't warm up too much.

Then yesterday I have some free time, so I decided to drive it from my place up to Oxnard and back along the PCH (a good 3 hour ride). It was a disaster. I had to pull over four times in order to get it to shift from first into second properly in the shoulder, and then slowly weave myself back onto the road. A few times it wouldn't shift at all when there was no shoulder, causing a traffic jam behind me, blaring horns, and people dangerously weaving around me, all while I was revving the engine in neutral and trying somehow to get the bike into second. No fun. I have read a few posts about this same problem, and trust me, I have tried EVERYTHING (shifting slowly, making sure my foot is applying some pressure/a lot of pressure upwards during the shift on the gear lever before I let go of the clutch, you name it). Nothing works -- it stays in neutral, and revs, making the engine even warmer, and making the problem worse. The ONLY way to get it to shift when it is warm is if I drive it 5 feet in first, immediately shift into second (where the rpms are something like 2000), and then sometimes it happens. But if I have to go up even a slight hill and need to get a little bit more momentum in first gear before I shift into second? Forget it. I've also noticed that when the rpms are higher and I try to shift into second, there is a noticeable noise from the engine like pebbles into a metal container being thrashed around -- obviously not a good noise. But when it DOES shift properly, there is a nice Honda "clunk" to it, but when it doesn't shift properly and goes into neutral, that clunk is there as well.

Like I said before, I read about other people having this same problem with their 80s Hondas, but it seems to happen to them once in a while, and it can be shelved as an idiosyncratic problem that becomes endearing over a while. But mine seems serious. Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I have tried everything, including all the little tips on shifting that I have read on these forums.

Unfortunately I live in an apartment without a garage, so I can't tackle this one myself. Does anyone know what parts to fix/change or any information I can give the mechanic to work this out? My friend and I are planning on going on a cross country trip this summer, but if I am having this much trouble shifting at every single red light, it might be wayyyy too dangerous.

Any help is much appreciated.

- Christopher
 

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hey, have you downloaded the service manual yet? Thanks to KathyM, it's on a sticky at the top of the general discussion page. Other than that, I aint much help....just got my 83.
 

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I have the same bike and have pretty much had the whole thing in pieces.

I've experienced your problem as well.

First, look at all the shift linkage from the shifter to the shift rod that goes into the engine. Lube each piece of that linkage with some motor oil.

Second, change the oil. You probably don't want to know what the previous owner put in it knowing that he was going to sell it. Put in a good quality 10W-40 of your choice. DO NOT put in 10W-30. 10W-30 is energy conserving oil and it will wreck havoc with your clutch.

Shift deliberately. Your shifts won't sound like they do on TV for some time, so take your time. An extra half second per shift isn't going to hurt anything. Going from 1st to 2nd has to skip over neutral, so it's the toughest shift you have. Think "let off throttle, pull in clutch, shift, give it throttle, let out clutch." Say it as you do it. It will slow the motion down enough that it will work. Once you get it down pat, your speed will improve.

Check your coolant. A hot engine has thinner oil and my bike shifts poorly when it's too hot. Make sure your bike is cooling properly. Does your temp gauge work? Where does it read when it's not shifting well?

Hope this helps!

--Justin
 

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Pebbles bouncing around in a metal container sounds like pinging from the gasoline detonating before it is supposed to, you should be fine with 87 octane, pull all the plugs and do a compression test on it and see if the compression is higher than it should be.
 

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Pebbles bouncing around in a metal container sounds like pinging from the gasoline detonating before it is supposed to, you should be fine with 87 octane, pull all the plugs and do a compression test on it and see if the compression is higher than it should be.
This may also suggest that the engine is running too hot. Pinging and poor shifting at the same time may be a sign of overheating.

--Justin
 

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about the oil...my service manual says to use 20w50
What manual is this? Mine says 10W-40 in all but the hottest of climates.

Unless you're riding around at 120 degrees, 10W-40 is the oil to use.

--Justin
 

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There's a reason most of us don't trust the Clyer manuals for these bikes. Too many errors, and sometimes dangerous ones.

The actual Honda manual states 10W-40 for all but the most extreme temperatures.

--Justin
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for all the great information everyone.

I have downloaded the Honda manual for 83-85 VT500 (and I think 700s?), so I assume a lot of the basic things are still okay for the 1986, but of course I'm not sure. I can't remember where I downloaded it, but if I find it I'll post it.

Justin -- I was hoping you would reply! I have seen your other posts and remembered that we have the same bike. I did just get the oil changed at the shop, but I'm not sure what oil they put in. I should probably get my hands dirty and change it, to figure it out for myself.
The engine, as far as I know, runs reeeally hot. Being this is my first motorcycle, I'm not sure, but for example, on the drive back this weekend, I was riding on Sunset Blvd (which is pretty windy, some stop lights here and there, but there was traffic), and it was approximately 70 degrees or so out, and the temp gauge was almost at the red. Granted, I had been riding for 2 hours, but still, it was very hot (while being reasonably cool and breezy outside). Also, when I'm in traffic, it frequently runs very hot. I will check the coolant -- is there a specific type I should use, and can I add more to the already existing coolant, or do I need to drain it all out and pour in new fresh stuff? And somehow I assumed that this bike was aircooled?
To give you an example about when the problems occur, let me set up this chart as the temp. gauge:
C 1 2 3 4 5 H
At "C" and about up to 1.5ish, it is okay. Once it hits 2, then it starts missing a shift here and there. 3 gets worse, and 4-5 is the disaster zone, where it WILL NOT shift at all.

I'll certainly lube the shifting rod as well, and work on my basic shifting technique too.

Also, about gasoline -- what should I use on this bike? I am currently running premium, but maybe that is a bad choice? Is regular fine, or does it matter?

Thanks for everyone's help, I'm obviously a bit wet behind the ears still.

- Christopher
 

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Okay, we're getting somewhere.

A few things to keep in mind before you worry too much: Honda designed this bike conservatively. The beginning of the "red" zone on the temp gauge is still safe for the engine. Your electric cooling fan (mounted on the radiator) should click on and start running just as the needle touches the red zone, or slightly before then.

The cooling system on this bike is not as well regulated (by design) as it is on a car. On a car, you see the temp gauge wander very little. This bike's gauge will wander all over, depending on what you're doing. If you're out riding at 60MPH with no stops at 75 degrees, you'll see it sit around 1/3 of the white zone. Traffic will get it up to about half to 3/4. Heavy traffic, or sitting in traffic for a while, will get you up to the red zone and you'll start to hear the fan cycle on and off. All of this is exactly the way the bike is supposed to work.

It sounds like your bike is doing what it should be.

Your bike is liquid cooled (one of the major advantages of a Shadow!) and so you'll want to change your coolant since most people forget about it. When I first got my 1986 back in 2006, the coolant was the original and looked almost black. Yuck!

The engine has cooling fins, and they work well, but it's really designed for the radiator to do most of the cooling.

The procedure for changing the coolant is not different than the other 1980s models, so your manual will work fine. You have to use coolant that is silicate and phosphate free. The Prestone "Mix with any color" stuff is good. You get get it either as pre-mixed or concentrate. If you choose to add water yourself, add only distilled water. The water pump will get killed if you don't, and that's a bear to replace. You can also just go to the Honda car dealership and get a jug of Honda coolant at a slightly inflated price.

As for your shifting problem, it certainly sounds heat and oil related. I had all kinds of clanky transmission problems on my bike. I ended up trying a few different brands of oil until I found one that my bike liked. I run Amsoil 10W-40. Others have said that their bikes hate it. You may want to pick up a few different kinds of oil and a few filters and see what your bike likes. It will tell you.

That being said, a word about oil: Synthetic is not better for your bike than regular oil is. I run synthetic because I'm lazy, not because my bike will last longer. I can get twice the miles between changes using synthetic, so that's why I do it. I change my oil every 5-6,000 miles. With regular oil, you should change it every 3,000, or even 2,500 if your transmission starts to get noisy again.

(As an aside, the advantage of synthetics is in engines that run much, much hotter than your bike ever could. Air cooled engines in extreme service, for example. Synthetics are wonderful lubricants, but your Shadow will not benefit from their advantages, aside from the extended drain interval.)

Synthetic oil has powerful detergents in it that will clean years of accumulated crud out of your engine. The catch is that this crud is often what's holding the oil in. This is why some people see leaks develop after switching to synthetic. Beware that you may see some of these leaks of you switch to synthetic. I did. I had to replace a few seals.

A lot of people have wonderful results with Shell Rotella 15W-40 diesel truck oil. It's perfectly safe for your engine and has some amazing properties that prevent it from being used in automobile engines, but make it great for older motorcycles. It's also about $15/gallon at Walmart, so the price is right!

As for fuel, run straight 87. Your bike isn't fuel injected and doesn't have knock sensors. It's adjusted to run on 87. More advanced engines can perform better on higher octane because the computer in them will advance the timing and fuel ratios for it. Your bike can't do that, so running anything more expensive than 87 octane is a waste of your money.

Hope this helps!

--Justin
 

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Justin is right, clymer manual's suck out loud. Get the original Honda one.... The sticky I mentioned is for 83-85 VT700 & VT750. I bet it would be close enough for the 86 model.
 

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wow, not to hijack this thread, but i guess i will replace my oil this spring with 10w40, the clymer even shows a pic of a can of honda 20w50 oil. wish i woulda found this site b4 i bought the manual
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Ok, I will try everything you said, and try to do most of it on my own (it sounds as though a lot of it just takes common tools and a parking spot? this is where owning a garage would come in handy....). I have a question about the oil filter -- I JUST got my oil changed, maybe a month ago. I haven't put many miles on the bike since then at all. If I change the oil to a good 10-40, is it necessary to change the oil filter as well, even though it has barely been used? When I took it to the shop, I don't think they changed the coolant, so I'll make sure to do that.

Here's the real question: let's say I do everything (change the oil, coolant, work on shifting, etc.), how much will it truly affect the end product? Will I be stuck in traffic on a hot day and STILL have major/minor problems with shifting from first into second, even after all the work on the bike and my own shifting? I assume the problem will not be as bad once the changes are made, but is it always there? Do you (Justin, or mr hammond, or anyone else reading) have these problems on a day-to-day basis? I'm assuming you don't, because it seems that these 80s Shadows seem to exponentially increase in popularity on this forum, and it would be a real pain not to be able to shift at will at all times. Do the 90s Shadows have this problem, or even recent Shadows?

Thank you all for your help!

- Christopher
 

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Well, now that is the $64,000 question, isn't it! if there is something worn in your tranny, or even broken, no oil change can fix that.

That being said, Hondas have a traditionally loud, clanky, rough and amazingly rugged transmission. Even the 2011s rolling off the line can be loud and rough.

No sequential-shift motorcycle transmission (which accounts for 99.9% of them) will shift when the bike isn't rolling, so as you've probably learned, plan your shifts in advance.

As for doing the oil changes, a 17mm socket, a ratchet and an oil filter wrench are all you need. (As well as somewhere responsible to put the used oil!)

There's going to be what people say you should do when testing out different kinds of oil, and then there's what *I* would do...

An oil filter is good for 8,000 miles or so. It would be a waste to put a new one on each time. I would drain the oil and remove the filter. I would put a funnel into the top of my disposal jug and leave the oil filter upside-down in it while I went and grabbed lunch. Then i'd come back out, wipe the filter clean, re-oil the gasket and put it back on. Then I'd refill the bike's oil and hit the road. Give each oil at least a hundred miles before you make up your mind about it. It has to flush the old oil out of the clutch and things.

Quick question: how does your clutch feel? Good and solid, or kind of spongy. I realize that's not easy top answer if this is your first bike and have nothing to compare to.

The reason I ask is that if your clutch is dragging at all your shifts will be awful. Finding neutral will be tough when you're sitting still and finding anything else will be tough too.

After a good ride, and with the engine still hot, put your bike up on the center-stand and start it up. Put it in 1st gear and pull the clutch in. The rear wheel will turn a bit. Apply the rear brake very gently. The rear wheel should stop. If it seems like it takes a bit of force to make it stop, your clutch is the source of your shifting problems. There's ways to fix it, so don't despair!

--Justin
 

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if u just got the oil chnged at a shop i wouldnt worry bout changin it already, maybe ask them what viscosity they used. mine hasnt had any shifting proplems yet, it seems like ur bike is running too hot tho, i dont remember mine ever gettin that hot? im no mechanic tho, so i dont know....
 

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I'm wondering if your fan is kicking on when it is supposed to. I put in a manual swith on my 84 so I don't have to wonder if the fan is going to start when it's 100 outside and I'm in start and go traffic. Keeps my the needle out of the red on the temp guage as well. It was cheap and easy to do.
 

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As long as you have a good quality oil filter (no FRAM filters) on there, I would re use it if you plan on changing the oil now. Follow Justin's advice and hopefully you can narrow down to the cause of your issue :)

FWIW, neither of my bikes had/have shifting issues. My VLX did well unless I was being really aggressive with the throttle and shifting from first to second sometimes only got me as far as neutral. I always wrote it off as being operator error though; me not pulling up on the shifter firmly enough. Sometimes when I got it up high in the RPM range, shift, and get on it hard again, the clutch would not engage immediately (slip for a few seconds) even though I had fully released the clutch. But in any other situations, it shifted great. As for the VT1100, I have not ridden it enough to learn all of its idiosyncrasies.
 
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