Rudy's GL1500 Procedure Pages             Main Guides Page

1500 Timing Belts and/or Tensioner changeout and adjustment               last revised September 17, 2008
(Thel belt change and adjustments are common for all pre-GL1800s)

Difficulty:  Medium

When should you change the belts?
People have different ideas about when this should be done.  I have heard anywhere from every two
years all the way to as many as 200,000 miles.  Both are equally ridiculous
.
I have also had dealers quote 10 years or 100,000 miles.  That's getting on in age to my liking.
The dealer isn't the one losing the engine if one of them breaks!  In fact he profits from it.

I recommend changing both belts and checking the tensioners every 8 years or 80,000 miles
 whichever
comes first with this additional caveat;
if you can't show documentation as to when
 it was actually done, do it now.
This is a good safe comprimise between waiting too long and doing it way early, thereby risking a
procedural mistake more often than needed.


TAKE NOTE:
ALL Honda Goldwing engines are interference type engines.  This means if you lose the timing

relationship between your cams and the crank shaft by even a few teeth of the gear, your valves
could easily be impacted by one or more pistons.  This will require (at minimum) a head pull and a valve job
and may require a major engine tear down if one of the pistons are damaged.
You cannot tell by looking at a timing belt if it is about to break because it is a vulcanized rubber product
(and a damned thin one too) and you get no idea visual about the state of the weave portion inside that actually
gives the rubber its resistance to stretching and tearing.

Where do you get good belts?
The Honda dealer of course but they don't make their own belts and they will cost the most. 
Gates makes Honda belts under contract and they make NAPA belts as well.
Goodyear is also another good brand.  I would avoid any no-name or odd name, or unmarked or made in China belts for the time being.
I would also never personally order from some of the eBay suppliers.  One in particular.
I use the NAPA 250275, on my GL1500 (for any year model), personally.  Remember you need two per engine.


The following is the way I change my belts, you may have a better way.  I'm open to other opinions, corrections and improvements.
I make no warranties, nor can I account for any misinterpretation or deviations from these steps anyone may make.
None of these tasks are difficult but they are IMPORTANT to get right.  So...Get it right.  I don't want to hear you damaged your engine.

Dont' be afraid to change your own belts unless you are a total screwup and can't follow directions.  It's not that bad.
Other than ignoring instructions or not reading, most anyone can do this.  A common statement made
after completing this task is... "It was really easy!"  It really is.

Before you start... pay attention to the important items, below.

Refer to your manual to get the proper torques for tightening your bolts again.

There are a lot of non-critical steps to changing timing belts so plan on taking your time, no matter how long it takes.
Your engine is an important item to your  motorcycle and wallet and this is one of those things that need to be done correctly.  Correctly isn't hard to do.

Start our by referring to the Jacking Instructions unless you plan to spend a lot of time on the shop floor.
Next, you must Remove the Lower Fariring parts to get at the timing belt housing (1500 specific).

One thing to think about is what you are going to need and what else you should do while you are in there, changing the belts.

When you change the belts you are also going to be removing the spark plugs (so you can rotate the engine by hand.  I use NGK original sparkplugs but the Iridium versions are good too. Since they will be out, it's a good time to consider putting some new ones in.  Another thing to consider is that you may want to change the two tensioning idlers that tension the  timing belts.  When those fail you can have the same damage as when a belt breaks.  They are expensive however (about $70 each) and usually give you some audible warning long in advance so that is your call.

I like to have the radiator hose off to gain access to the timing belt covers so it might be a good time to change the antifreeze as well. 

It's a good thing to have the Clymers manual and the Honda sevice manual.  Using a bike jack really helps get the bike up where you can work on it.  If you do that, make sure you remove the seat and side panels so you can strap it down to the jack.  Also I recommend that you get it centered well for weight balance and then I put wood under the front and rear tire so that it wont rock back and forth while you are working on it.  I use a car jack stand under the towing hitch for rear stablilty.

Here is a list of things I use. 

Parts and supplies:

2 timing belts (available at Napa Auto Parts) # Gates: T275  NAPA: 250275  Should be about $27 each
2 tensioners, if needed. (honda only) available thru some of the honda parts folks online. About $70 each.
4 Quarts Honda non-silicate antifreeze (I don't substitute) Around $5 per quart.
6 NGK original spark plugs from the Honda Dealer (I don't substitute except for Iridium type).

You might also need:

Silicon Adhesive to stick the rubber cover gasket back on.
Silicone lubricant.
Anti-seize compound (Any auto parts store)
A small dry paintbrush to clean the dust like stuff out of the timing housing.
A black permanent marker to mark the cams BEFORE you take off the old belts.
A bucket to catch the antifreeze when drain at the water pump.
Rags

Tools:

Motorcycle Lift ($60 at Harbor Freight)
Tie down Straps ($12 Harbor Freight)
3/8 Torque Wrench ($20 Harbor Freight)
3/8 socket wrench
3/8 3" extension
4mm, 7mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 17mm sockets, Spark Plug socket
Wouldn't hurt to have those sizes in open end and box wrenches either.
6" #2 Phillips Screwdriver
Stubby #2 Phillips Screwdriver
3/8" blade screwdriver
Awl

I also like to have handy a mirror and long flexshaft magnetic pickup tool (I seem to use that a lot).

Getting Started:

As mentioned above, Jacking Instructions.

Disassembly:

You must remove the lower fairings to gain access to the belt areas.  Refer to the Lower Fairing instructions here.


First, remove the battery NEGATIVE  terminal connections. (I also do the POSITIVE side)  Under the right side panel. 

(I originally suggested this to prevent accidental sparking or ignition when hand turning the engine but
recently, one fellow actually caused valve damage by skipping this step.  He turned the handlebars while the belts were
off and 'something' bumped the starter button and that turned the crank enough to impact the valves on the pistons, so be warned.)

   


Be sure to take steps to insulate the leads from the battery.
   


Remove the right and left engine covers.  They are held with one post and rubber grommet.  So
they just pop loose as you lift them away at the rear portion, then slide the whole panel up and out.
   


Here is the left side of the bike with the engine cover off.  Mine has the CompuFire alternator.
   


Pull off the spark plug wires inline with the plugs.  Make absolutely sure the sockets are clean.
   


Using the Honda toolkit sparkplug wrench and a 17mm deepwell to remove the sparkplugs.
Lay them aside if you will be reusing them.  Decide if you want a spare to carry even if you plan to
replace them.  Do not replace them yet.  Leave the holes open.  You will need them to breathe later
when you rotate the engine by hand without the resistance of compression.
   


Stuff clean shop rags in the spark plug holes to keep debris out of the engine cylinders.
   

Many of the next steps must be performed to make room to allow the timing belt covers to come out.
That ribbed condom looking hose between the frame and the radiator hose is the heater hose.
You will be pulling that out from between the frame and the engine at the bottom after you unplug it.
Note: Some gurus I know prefer to leave this hose plugged in and just pull some slack up from the
bottom enough to allow the timing belt cover to be removed.  Either way, it's your call.
   


Unplug the heater hose under the bike frame from the exhaust manifold header.  It just pulls off
by pulling it toward the front wheel.  It's a little tight because you are compressing the hose and
the bend is fairly close by.  But it will just unplug before you run out of room.
   


Here it is off with the manifold connection just behind it.  Slide it up through the frame to get it to
hang free.  You can move the radiator hose to help make room to get it out.  It needs to go back in
the same place so take note of it.
   

This is a crappy picture but you can see the small black wire going down the center of the picture
and behind the frame.  If this were a little bit longer, you could leave it on, but alas, it isn't.
   


Under the bottom frame that wire attaches to the oil sensor mounting screw under the rubber boot
shown here.  Take your tougher fingernails and force the large part of the bottom of the rubber boot
to the left toward the wire.  It's tough but it will come off.   It's not glued or anyting.  Once you get the
boot back enough to expose the wire terminal, unscrew the phillips/hex head wire terminal screw.
With the terminal removed, slide the wire and boot up above the lower frame and let it hang in front
of the frame and timing cover.
   


Before you do the next section, be aware that I have heard that you don't need to drain the coolant
and remove the radiator hoses in front of the timing belt cover to get them off.  That would save
some time, hassle and several steps.  However the radiator hoses would still be in your working area
 and if it were time to change the coolant anyway I wouldn't think anyting about the extra steps. 
Also note that when I was doing mine the first time, I found it difficult to remove the covers with the
hoses in place.  Since then, when I go back into that area I  just do the coolant drain anyway.
Again, your call.  Nice to know anyway.  Assuming you want to proceed with the coolant drain
approach...
Now we need to drain the radiators because the radiator hoses are in the way (of course).  To
remove the radiator hoses you will need to drain the radiators.  To allow air flow from the top inside
the radiators, you need to remove the radiator cap.  It is located under the right cover in the steering
area.  To remove that cover, start at the forward end and pull the assembly back to release a slide-in
tab.  Then work your way down the side, pulling the second tab out by pulling toward the center console.
After that, move the handlebars all the way to the left so that the lower panel section is available.
Finish the side tabs and finally pull the inner wall toward the outside of the bike to release the last tab.
Slide the cover out.
   


Here it is removed.  You can see the tabs.
   


Finally, the radiator cap.  Remove it by turning it counter clockwise hard and lifting it straight up.
   


This is a good time to service the radiator or change the antifreeze if you need to.
Look inside the radiator to make sure there is not a problem like cottage cheese or worse.
If you have cottage cheese, email me and I'll tell you about a solution another goldwinger in the
radiator business told me to do to eliminate it.  Since I can't verify it yet, I don't want to say what
he recommended here.  Leave the hole open for now.
   


Set up some buckets for a gallon of antifreeze and remove the coolant drain bolt under the water
pump with a 10mm box wrench.
   


Let it drain good.  You can re-use the coolant if it is in good shape and if you keep it clean.  Honda
coolant is very dark green and looks dirty except when you can see through it.  If this is a new bike
to you, or the coolant is over a year old, I would change it (like all unknown fluids).  You can get 4
quarts of Honda premixed coolant for less than $20 at the dealer.  Others may use other things, but
this is one of the things I stick to Honda on.  Either way it must be silicate free for aluminum engines.
   


Once the coolant is drained and set aside, you can remove both radiator hose clamps and hoses with
a 3/8 inch blade screwdriver or a hex nut driver, I don't know which size (sorry).  I like the screwdriver
because I constantly over-torque and break the bands when I tighten them with a hex nut driver.
Let the loosend clamp bands slide down the hoses and sit there.
   


Removing the hoses is just pulling on them downward while rocking them side to side.   Don't bust
a knuckle when they finally come off.

   


You are finally ready to start removing the 3 center timing cover bolts and the 11 (each)  10mm
bolts from the main covers.  I like to use a 1/4 inch drive socket for this.  I like to feel smaller
bolts with smaller tools.  These bolts are staggered top and bottom all the way across the two peices.
Remove them all and the center cover.  The belt cover will not slide out with the timing cover still on.
There will be 3 very short bolts (center cover) plus 8 medium and 3 long bolts (timing belt covers).
   


Here are where the three long bolts go back in.  On the main cover only... 1. bottom left, 2. bottom
center just left of the timing cover, 3. Top just right of the timing cover.  All the rest are mediums.
   


There are the 11 timing cover bolts not counting the three shorter timing cover bolts. 
Note the anti-sieze compound on the threads.  Honda calls for a locking compound.  I don't, but
you might want to consider it since it's ' Honda official'.
   


Once you slide both cover halves out each side, you will be rewarded with the mother lode.
Note: The rubber grommet material lining the covers may come loose.  It is reusable unless damaged.
Just clean it up with soap and water and let dry, then glue it into it's channel with a light bead of
silicone seal adhesive and press the grommet into the channel trying to make sure it is flat and the
same height everywhere.  Just before putting the cover back on, I like to put a film of silicone
lubricant on the mating edge with my finger.  The covers slide in easier, seal better and may come off
easier next time.
   


You may notice some redish dust near the tensioners.  This is a sign to me that the tensioner bearing
seals if not the bearings themselves are getting in a worrysome state.  I would change them with the
belts despite the noticable extra costs because belt loss will cause engine damage and tensioner failure
can cause belt loss, and this much work is not practical on the road in the middle of nowhere, if you have
an engine worth repairing in the field, left at all.
   


Before removing ANYTHING, set the existing timing points and mark them with a felt pen so you
won't get things out of alignment later.  You must realize that the center crank gear turns twice for
each single rotation of the outer cam gears.  So it's REALLY easy to screw yourself 180 degrees off. 
ALIGN AND FELT PEN
ALIGN AND FELT PEN!
Set the crank gear with your 17mm ratchet first to the alignment mark by turning the ratchet
counter clockwise.  The timing mark is at 3 oclock, embossed in the aluminum chassis and the
marker you want to align it with is stamped 1.2 F-T  The line between the F and the T is the alignment
mark.  It's hard to get your head in there with the wheel on so use a straight edge to get it right.
   


Now check the cam marks.  All cam face plates should read "UP" at 9 oclock and 3 oclock.
The chassis alignment marks are shown in the Honda manual as being on the inside of the cams.
I prefer to align on the marks on the outsides of the housings, since alignment is alignment.
Remember all cam pulleys MUST show the words "TOP" right-side-up or your crank pulley needs
another 360 degree rotation because you are 180 degrees off of alignment.
   


Once you know what that all looks like, you can begin to remove the tensioners.  If you ONLY intend
to change the tensioners, you can use my little trick.  Verify the alignment as we have just done and then
tie a velcro strap around the belts on each side so the alignment can't change while the tensioners
are off.  Tensioners come out and back in...no problem.  If you are changing the belts too you can skip
the trick because the belts have to come off anyway.
   


Notice that the tensioners have a washer on the side that slides and not on the side that pivots.
Also note that when tightening the tensioners, you will put in both bolts just less than tight so the tensioner
can slide with little freeplay and when you finally torque the bolts down, the washer bolt goes first.
The spring hooks from the back to the front in the hole in the tensioner bracket.  The other end of
the spring hooks onto a brass pin behind the belt path.
   



Tensioner and spring removed.  Now remove the two black pickup sensors that bolt near the center
crank pulley.  They are mounted with two bolts.  You can see one of them in the top left of the next picture.
These don't adjust, when you put them back just bolt em in.  They have to be off to get the belts off and on.
Just let the sensors hang by their wires for now.  Also remove any rust and debris from the sensor faces.

Note: Be sure to keep track of which sensor is which and how each faces the timing disk.
Several people have reported a problem with starting or running incorrectly after belt changes.
They found they had either swapped the sensors or put at least one of them back in facing away from the disk.
Also make sure you note how the wire holder went on so you can get that back right again.  Two have reported
pinched or crushed wires and one had the belt wear through a wire that had not been secured properly.
None of this caused any engine damage but they had to tear down to go back in to find it and fix it.

Go ahead and change the belts now.  Be careful to keep the new belts clean and oil free. 
Wash your hands first.  Remember which belt came off first so you can put it back on last.

A side note, if you were going to change your timing trigger wheel, it is that toothy thing in the middle
of the crank pulley stack, you would change that now (88-90 year only on those) and use an air impact wrench to do it with.
Otherwise you may put a lot of strain on the drive line. One guy busted a belt and bent some valves trying to block the cam
to stop the crank shaft while wrenching without an impact wrench.
 

Anyway, get both belts back on loosely. 
There is no direction for the belts to run from.  They can go on either way.
Put the timing sensors back in and bolt them down.  Be careful to get the wire retainer back on for the upper sensor.
You want the timing belts to be on the cam gears with one tooth worth of slack on the straight
side and the cam gear rotated back one tooth shy of being aligned.  This is because when you add the
tensioner, it will pull the belt in and cause the cam to rotate by that amount.  If you did it right,
the tensioner will leave the cam in the right positon with the belt sitting on the right cam gear tooth. 
If not, slacken the tensioner and repeat till you get it right.  Do it for both sides.
Check the alignments and
DO NOT GO ON UNTIL THIS IS RIGHT!

A trick to help get the tensioner springs back on easily, is to do so at both ends with no bolts in the tensioner. 
Allow the spring side of the tensioner bracket to rotate uptoward the other end of the spring until it hooks. 
Then pull that side back down enough to get the washer bolt in finger tight. 
Finally force the bracket enough to get the pivot bolt in and pull them down until they would just start
to tighten, allowing slippage. 
   


Once the timing marks are exactly right with the tensioners sitting on the belts, it's time to make
the belt slack adjustments.  This is the artsy/science part of the program.
I ignore the Honda 4.4 lb tensioner measurement because it is useless and unnecessary. 

Let the tensioner spring put the tension on the belts from the tensioner roller. 
Verify that the tensioner springs have left the belts in the correct alignment. 
If not, go back one tooth on the cam gear and start again and again until it is right.
You may have to repeat the following steps a couple of times for each side:
1. Tighten the tensioner adjuster bolt just slightly snug.
2. Rotate the crank shaft 1/4 turn clockwise and then 1/4 turn counter-clockwise to set the belt.
3. Loosen the tensioner adjuster bolt and allow the tensioner to move toward the belt to take up any slack.
4. Now just barely snug the tensioner adjuster bolt so you could force it to move outward if you put pressure
on the belt from the other side of the pulley (the non-pulley straight side)  and the tensioner would remain
in the forced position when you stopped forcing the belt.
You will be adjusting the belt tension by moving the tensioner from the other side of the belt path this way.
Ok now you know how to do it, now let's describe HOW MUCH to do it.
5. Feel how much side play (up and down) the belt has in the middle of the longest straight part. 
Initially, there will be no freeplay.  The belt will be tight. (see crappy picture, below).
6. You want about 1/4 inch of freeplay in each direction so to get it by pushing the belt toward the tensioner until
you just feel it move something.  Then feel the freeplay again.  It is not ultra critical.  If you over shot it,
and there is too much play just go back to step one and repeat.  If you under shot it, just push the belt
again to get a little more movement from the tensioner side.

Here is the idea.  The belt want's to be tight but having it tight would not allow the belt teeth to freely leave
the gear teeth it mates with.   This would cause singing of the belt as the teeth moved at high speed, and
would cause premature wear of the rubber teeth on the belt and the belt would have no room to expand
or contract as it heated and cooled, making the problem worse. 
The belt wants enough room to easily leave the pulleys without so much room that they are flapping
around and hitting things.  Oh, one other thing, the springs on the tensioners are only there for this belt
tensioning adjustment purpose.  They are not used at all when the tensioners are tightened down because at that
point they are just idlers. 
7.  When you have the right freeplay and the belt can easily move up and down a total of just under 1/2 inch (about 10mm),
use a torque wrench to set the adjuster bolt to 19 ft/lbs.  Tighten the pivot bolt side only after torquing the
adjuster side.  Both sides are 19 ft/lbs.
8.  Recheck the freeplay and alignments. Tightening the tensioner bolts often pulls the belt tighter.
If ok, go on to the other side and repeat the process.

FREEPLAY DEFINED:  The sense that the movement you feel is slack and not caused by fighting
the elastic attributes of the belt itself.

Note: Some guides recommend letting the springs on the tensioners set the belt pressure.  I believe that is a flawed method.
Here's why:  The tensioner springs cannot take into account the differences in resistance of any of the pulleys in the path and the
friction of the tensioner plates or the tighness of the loosened tensioner plate bolts.  Nor can the tensioner spring compensate for
differences in stiffness of the belt bends that were formed in the package.  There are way too many variables at play to reliably
deliver the accurate amount of freeplay needed to set a belt.  In the common case the belt ends up too tight this way and the belts
end up singing when the engine heats up and expands, thereby stretching the belt and causing premature wear on the belts and the
rubber teeth of the belt.  So follow those guides advice if you wish but I can't recommend it.  It is likely you will be back in doing the
tensioning again to stop the singing noise at speed.

   

Do the same thing to the other side and when done:
1.  CHECK YOUR TIMING MARKS EVERYWHERE AGAIN!!!

2. YOU MUST ROTATE THE CRANK SHAFT AT LEAST TWO FULL REVOLUTIONS SLOWLY
WHILE FEELING FOR ANY RESISTANCE AND LISTENING FOR ANY SOUND THAT MIGHT
INDICATE INTERFERENCE OF ANY OF THE PISTONS TO THE VALVES.

3. If you feel ANY sudden resistance as you turn the crank, STOP IMMEDIATELY!!  Don't force
ANYTHING.... you have a timing position problem!  Repeat step one and contact the forum before
proceeding. 
It's one of the saddest things I know of to hear a winger ruined his engine unnecessarily. 
This is caused 100% of the time by not following these steps carefully and completely.
   


A few points on reassembly...
It is not hard to strip out aluminum threads with steel bolts and spark plugs. 
Be careful and don't over-torque things.
You won't believe how easily spark plugs and small bolts strip out.
Use a torque wrench where applicable.
The Honda Manual calls for thread locker on bolts used for the tensioners and the front cover bolts.
I can only tell you that in the case of the cover bolts, I use anti-sieze compound instead of thread locker.  My choice, my risk.
I also use a small amount of anti-sieze compound on a few threads of the sparkplugs.
When you use anything on bolt threads, you need to reduce the torque settings on your torque wrench by about 5-10%.
Take your time putting things back together.  Don't get anxious and in a hurry
Do not run the engine without coolant.  Don't run the engine on the jack stand unless you lined the rubber arms with wood shims.
When you fill the coolant back up, there will be air pockets that prevent putting all the coolant in initially.  Just put
the radiator cap back on but don't button it up yet.  Later when you get the nerve to start the bike, let it run about a minute, then
shut it off and add the rest of the coolant.  You may have to repeat that process again later.  The coolant should be full up before
riding.  I do the second  fill if needed after the bike is back on the ground.  I don't need to cook my rubber jack arms with the engine
exhaust headers that are sitting on it.

If you do a lot of small bolts and spark plugs that should just need to be snug and a torque wrench is unavailable ot impractical,  one thing I do
is to use a small wratchet, like a 1/4 inch wrench, and hold the wrench at the wratcheting end with one hand only.  Then I tighten the bolt
just snug and then tighten it just a little more with the one hand only, never touching the handle end of the wratchet wrench.  NO LEVERAGE!
This will tighten the bolts without excessive torque and with your hand at the wratchet head, you will easily be able to feel if the bolt has
had enough and not too much turning.  It helps to have some experience with this. 
On aluminum, you still need to be careful not to strip even though using this reduced torque method. 

To play it safe, get the proper torque wrench and set it properly.


To reassemble, reverse the take apart instructions.

Reattach the oil pressure sensor wire and put the boot back on
Reattach the radiator/waterpump hoses and fill the antifreeze.
Gap new sparkplugs and add anti-sieze on their lower threads.
Re-connect the battery.
Be careful with the tupperware.

Email me if you have problems or questions.
 



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