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Old 02-24-2014, 01:28 AM   #1
ezrydr OP
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Honda Magna: Those Damn Little Springs

Yes. If you own, or have owned, or have ever had any long-term dealings with a Magna - or, I understand, a Sabre, though I've never had one - you already know where I'm going with this.

That infamous starter clutch, and in particular those three God-damned little springs that make it work. Or sometimes don't, ay, there's the rub...if you've put in a couple K or so on a Magna, odds are you've run into the problem. (Or else you're about to, or else you've been incredibly lucky.) It's one of those things, like the notorious weak-sister charging system on the old GS Suzukis, which build up their own body of legend.

The first Magnas had a lot of problems, but over the years Honda contrived to fix most of them. A couple of times the fixes and updates added up to what could almost be called a new bike; but the fixes never caught up to the initial bad rep, and by the time the superb late models came out, the make was already dead in the water.

Unfortunately one of the problems Honda DIDN'T address - even though it would have been a very cheap and simple fix - was that of the chronic starter-clutch failure. As already noted, the operation of the starter clutch depends on the action of three little pissant springs, which, as so many have noted, closely resemble the coil spring you find in a ballpoint pen. The resemblance isn't just one of appearance; given their usual service record, they seem to be made of just about the same grade of spring steel, too. When the springs are new, the starter works just fine. After long enough - usually around 20 thousand miles - they start to sack out. Then, especially on cold mornings, you get this sequence:

(thumbs starter button)
whzeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
"Shit!"
whzeeeeeRNHMN
"Ah!"
whzeeeeeeeeeeeee
"Son of a bitch!"

At this point the rider, if experienced and still at home, gets off and pushes the bike into the garage, saying shit repeatedly. If the rider doesn't know what's going on, or is far from home and desperate, he gets a gradual slowing down, mirroring the feelings in his heart by now:

whzee...eee...eee....eeee.....ee

With perhaps a final muffled KLUNK that tells him, if he hadn't already figured it out, that now he's also managed to run his battery down. Klunk.

Wrenching time. No, it's not going to get better or go away; but if you continue to run it in this condition, some other, more expensive parts are going to get damaged.

Now repairing a Magna starter clutch is not bomb disposal. You just have to take off the right side cover and pull the starter clutch unit - neither is much of a job, nor requires fancy tools - and carefully dismantle the clutch and replace the little springs. Replacement springs can be obtained via a Honda dealer (though he probably won't have them in stock) for a very cheap price; the only other thing you have to buy is the side cover gasket. So it's not a disaster, provided you have any mechanical skills at all and will pay close attention to the manual. I just replaced the springs in mine and I'm not exactly a mechanical genius.

But still. But STILL.

Here you've got this beautiful, wonderfully fast machine, a triumph of modern motorcycle technology when it was new and still a marvel of its breed; one that the manufacturer thought enough of to put it through three different major versions, not to mention oddball displacements and the like.

And suddenly you've become the owner of a very heavy bicycle with no pedals. Grounded, until you replace a set of three little PIECE OF SHIT COIL SPRINGS BECAUSE THE MANUFACTURER WAS TOO GOD DAMNED CHEAP TO USE DECENT QUALITY MATERIALS IN THIS VERY IMPORTANT COMPONENT GROUP.

GRRR. MOOMPH. FAZZ BAZZ ROWBAZZLE.

Now I return you to your unstructured play; with my apologies for taking up all this space with a petty personal gripe. Except to add that I still love Maggie May and wouldn't want to trade her for anything else; so don't get the wrong idea. My love for her merely makes me hate Honda all the more for failing to give her the quality parts she deserves.

Nasgi nusdi.
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Old 02-24-2014, 06:38 AM   #2
H96669
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I didn't keep my Sabre long enough back then to experience that. But sure looks like some have upgraded them springs with success:

http://users.metro2000.net/~cdc/magn...r%20clutch.htm

If you want to go back & forth in there, use the right gasket dressing, that can make the gasket removeable and reusable.

Old Sabre in my friend's shop sure was showing the weak springs signs when we attempted to start it a couple years ago.Then we got it running...poorly at that, carbs need cleaning. Been sitting there for quite a while with carbs full of Seafoam.
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Old 02-24-2014, 12:56 PM   #3
MacMcMacmac
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Just be grateful it wasn't an XJ Yamaha. It's complete teardown time when it happens.
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Old 02-24-2014, 04:03 PM   #4
Jedi Apprentice
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Had a sabre- I remember things were screwy with cam journals or something. Anyways, the carbs were a pain to get at with thirty year old carb boots so I got rid of it
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Old 02-24-2014, 05:01 PM   #5
k-moe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ezrydr View Post
As already noted, the operation of the starter clutch depends on the action of three little pissant springs, which, as so many have noted, closely resemble the coil spring you find in a ballpoint pen.
Strangely, those same sort of springs were in the starter clutch on my Yamaha Zuma 125. It started slipping after having put only 400 miles on the scooter, so I pulled the clutch, cleaned out the belt dust that was keeping the rollers from moving freely, and promptly lost all three springs
Three ball point pens sacrificed themselves to the cause, and I put another 2.5K miles on the scooter without a single starter clutch problem.
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Old 02-24-2014, 08:31 PM   #6
ezrydr OP
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Yeah, I've heard that about the XJ. Why do they do these things to us? Like the lovely old CBX, that I pined after for years - any outfit that can produce a bike that brilliantly engineered (for its time, anyway) could surely have designed it so you didn't have to drop the engine out of the frame in order to get at the carbs.

But usually the Jap manufacturers just throw a new bike out on the market, and if it sells enough to turn a profit, banzai! Or if not, then they'll just drop it from their line. They might make some small improvements (likely as not cosmetic ones) but nothing requiring serious re-engineering with consequent expense.

(Sounds like I'm talking about Microsoft, doesn't it?)

With the Magna, though, Honda made an unusual long-term commitment. They knew they had something there, if they could just get it right, and they stayed with that goal through three different versions. (True, they inflicted a serious case of the uglies on #2; but they had sense enough to go back to a much better-looking design for #3.)

And by then they surely knew about those Chef Boyardee springs...but somehow they just couldn't be bothered to spend a few nickels and dimes on better ones.

I think a lot of the problem is that the makers assume - not without considerable evidence - that the average new-bike buyer isn't going to be riding it that long; for most it's basically a look-me-macho fad, and they'll ride it around town to impress people for a summer or two and then they'll find something else to fuck with, or they'll have a little pissant crash that barely scratches the paint but scares them shitless, or they'll meet some bimbo who agrees to marry them but makes it clear that motorcycle has to go.... If we had some way to get accurate numbers, I'll bet we'd find that of all the hundreds and thousands of perfectly valid bikes sitting around garages slowly moldering away, or standing in front yards wearing FOR SALE signs, only a ridiculously small fraction have any serious numbers on the clock. I can't imagine that there are any solid statistics, but I've looked at enough of those FOR SALE lawn jockeys, and answered enough classified ads, that I think I've got a pretty good idea. And I wouldn't even hold it against the makers, except that now and then their little cheapskate shortcuts inconvenience ME, and that's when I go postal.
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Old 03-07-2014, 08:19 PM   #7
PalePhase
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I should go ahead and order a set of those springs to throw into the side cases along with the tools to change them out. That should ensure near eternal longevity out the set already installed.
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Old 03-08-2014, 06:37 AM   #8
kraven
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PalePhase View Post
I should go ahead and order a set of those springs to throw into the side cases along with the tools to change them out. That should ensure near eternal longevity out the set already installed.
You, sir, have it figured out.
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