1989 FLTC Not Starting Intermittent Problem

Discussion in 'Electrical' started by Magister, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. Magister

    Magister Member


    I've found some very helpful information on this forum in the past, so I thought I might reach out to all of you to see if anyone has any suggestions I might try. Thank you in advance for any help you might be able to give.

    I know this is long, and I apologize. I'd just like to make sure you have all the information upfront.

    The Problem:

    My 1989 FLTC (Tour Glide) is experiencing intermittent starting problems. Occasionally (more often than not right now) the bike will not start when I press the start button. All the power drains from the system, the starter clicks, but the bike does not turn over. Sometimes the bike will start from a jump, but not all of the time. All of the electrical works when the switch is in the "Ignition" and "Lights" positions: radio, turn signals, head lights, brake lights, etc.

    What I've Tried So Far:

    Thanks to several very helpful write-ups on this site (and elsewhere) I've worked my way through some troubleshooting.

    1. I've replaced the starter relay with a brand new Harley part.

    2. I've tested the battery (~12.75v reading), and even replaced it with a brand new one (reads about the same) "just in case".

    3. Bike DOES start when I connect from the positive battery terminal to the starter bypassing the wiring.

    4. I read a voltage increase when monitoring the battery and roll a little on the throttle. That signals to me that the recharging system is functioning, I believe.

    5. I've tightened down, and cleaned the battery cables and connections.

    6. When I attempted to "short" from the orange wire that provides input to the starter relay (unplugged from the relay) to the starter directly it DOES NOT start, acting exactly like when I press the start button. A click at the starter, but no turn over. There IS an ~12v reading coming from the orange wire however.

    7. With all the wires hooked-up through the starter relay like normal, I unplug the wire from the starter and test the voltage. It reads ~12v as well when the start button is pressed.

    8. If I leave the wire that plugs in to the starter plugged in (green wire), but disconnect it from the starter relay, I CAN get the bike to turn over when I short from the battery positive to the end that would normally be plugged in to the relay.

    Where I'm Leaning

    Because I was able to duplicate the exact same outcome when I shorted from the orange wire (voltage input to the starter relay, plugs on to pin 30 I believe) directly to the starter, I am starting to think there is something wrong with that wire (which runs from the ignition switch to the starter relay, I think) - or possibly the ignition switch itself.

    I'm hesitant to start replacing wires (let alone completely disassembling the console) without being a little more certain.


    What do you all think? Is there a fuse on the orange wire that might be tripping somewhere I can check? Is there something else I should try?

    Thanks again for any help - it's appreciated.
  2. CatWoman

    CatWoman Active Member

    Welcome Magister!!

    I'm sorry you are having such trouble with your 1989 FLTC - I have an 1989 FLHTCU!!

    It sure sounds like an electrical (read that as 'a wire') causing the problem. Do you have a manual, more specifically, a wiring diagram? You probably want to check the gound wires from the Starter Relay and Starter motor.

    I'm sure you will get several other suggestions, however, while you are in a 'search to fix mode' I may have a good 'fix in the mean time'. I have added a Remote Starter Button to my ride, just incase the electrical stuff goes arye, here's a link for more info about it:
    Remote starter button

    I hope it help!!!

    CatWoman :rider
  3. TQuentin1

    TQuentin1 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    I had similar problems with my '91 Dyna. In my case, it turned out to be the contactors in the Start button and Kill switch. With your bike being two years older, I would be suspicious here. You might try taking the right side controls off the bars, disassembling the switches, cleaning away any green corrosion by products, cleaning with contact cleaner and lubing with a spray lubricant. Reassemble and see if that helps.

  4. 2000classic

    2000classic Active Member

    I would take a good look at battery cables. Might find corrosion inside the cable giving you a poor connection. This would explain lights and the rest going out when the problem occurs.
  5. TQuentin1

    TQuentin1 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    Excellent point about the cables. Even though you may have removed and cleaned both mating surfaces at both ends of each cable, the cable may be corroded at the connector. Try pealing back or removing some of the insulation at each end to see if the cable is corroded. If so, replace both.

    While you are doing all this, it doesn't hurt to clean up all the rest of the grounds to make sure they are all making good contact also. A small wire brush or emery cloth works well there.

  6. Magister

    Magister Member


    Thank you! I've been ghosting the site for awhile, but have never posted. I like all the "self help" articles and trying to take in all the suggestions you guys make when someone posts a problem.

    Nice to see I'm not the only one who rides a "classic" like this. They really are good bikes, when they are behaving.

    I will look in to a remote starter, it might be a worthwhile investment.

    To answer your questions, I will have a diagram - hopefully today when the mail delivers the Clymer manual I had overnighted from Amazon.

    I checked all the wires from the starter relay, which is when I figured out that if I short from the orange wire that feeds power to the relay and the green wire that carries to the starter (essentially bypassing the relay) I can duplicate the problem - a loud click in the starter, but no turn over. I haven't tested the battery cables or grounds. I'm going to try that today I think.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! If you think of anything else keep them coming.

    @TQuentin1 and 2000classic

    Both very good suggestions guys.

    TQuentin1, I'd have never thought to look in to the switch contacts in the start and kill switch buttons. The kill switch seems to work every time and the start button has never failed to make the starter "click". It's a fairly easy thing to look in to in comparison so I'll take a look at it today. Thanks.

    You know, to be honest after I cleaned and reseated both the ends of the battery cables I didn't think much more about them.

    However, after I posted last night (err this morning) I went and read some more of the "self help" articles on the forum here and saw one for "testing" to see if the battery cables are a problem. I think it was posted by glider. It suggested you short around the battery cables by using jumper cables to connect to the positive on the battery to the positive on the starter, giving the electricity another path to travel. Then try it with the negative.

    I think that is the first thing I'm going to try this morning.

    Man I hope it's just a battery cable. In the scope of things to go wrong, it's much better than a wire going out in the harness.

    Thanks for the suggestions guys. If you come up with anything else, keep them coming. I could use all the help I can get.

    BOBFLHTC Active Member

    Several years ago I was stranded in a small town in the Catskills of New York. My 85 had about 70,000 miles at the time and the local HD shop cleaned up my starter which had accumulated some grime internally. I was able to finish the trip and had a guy who is on Ebay and rebuilds starters for Harley's go over it. It cost $125 and he did a great job. Here is the link and he has some trouble shooting tips on there too


    Good luck - Bob
  8. Magister

    Magister Member


    Yes, I did. Thanks, though. They've been helpful so far in trying to track down the problem. The "Engine Won't Start" thread by glider in Self Help also was very helpful. I've followed it completely (you'll notice my first post lists the things he suggested checking). Unfortunately, I ended up in "in your wiring", so things have gotten a little ambiguous.

    Thanks again!


    Thanks, I'll keep them in mind. I am not sure the problem is actually the starter itself. When I short from the battery POS to the starter (where the green wire plugs in from the relay) the bike starts up every time. That is telling me (if I'm not mistaken) the problem is somewhere in the wiring that would normally feed the power to relay and on to the starter.

    Is that not what that is telling me? If not, then I might need to rethink where I'm at in troubleshooting.

    Thanks for the suggestion!
  9. fin_676

    fin_676 Experienced Member Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    If its as you have stated that when you press the start button you get a click from the starter motor but egine does not turn over that would indicate that the start button is ok and the wiring to the solenoid is working
    once the solenoid engages then current is drawn directly from the battery which turns the starter/engine over
    in a case like yours id be suspecting the cables from the battery could be either or both even if you have a good positive connection if your earth isnt good then you dont get a good circuit
    id start by ensuring both big fat cables to the battery have good clean connections at both ends and if still having problems replace both of them

  10. 2000classic

    2000classic Active Member

    I'd try the jumper cable idea first thing. Should be a quick easy way to see if the main cables are the problem or not. If not, then dig deeper.