Timing Belts and/or Tensioner changeout and adjustment
last revised September 17, 2008
(Thel belt change and adjustments are common for all pre-GL1800s)
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
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.
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
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
(and a damned thin one too) and
you get no idea visual about the state of the weave portion inside that
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
corrections and improvements.
make no warranties, nor can I
account for any misinterpretation or deviations from these steps anyone
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
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
Before you start... pay attention to
the important items, below.
Refer to your manual to get the proper torques for tightening your
mark the aligned cam and crank pulleys and frame with a felt pen BEFORE
removing the belts.
turn any pulley while ANY of the belts are removed.
hand turn the crank shaft at least two full
the plugs out and the new belts back on after the tensioners are set.
The crank pulley turns TWO full revolutions for each ONE revolution of
the cam pulleys. Make sure you don't have it 180 out.
make sure both belts have just under one half inch (about 10mm)
freeplay in the middle of the long straight side once the tensioners are
and pulleys rotated top cause slack in that side.
Check the timing marks one more time (a half tooth off is ok).
- Use anti-seize compound (sparingly)
on all bolts during reassembly.
- Spark plugs strip out surprisingly
easy. You will think they are going to come loose when torqued
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
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
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
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
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
250275 Should be about $27 each
2 tensioners, if needed. (honda only) available thru some of the honda
online. About $70 each.
4 Quarts Honda non-silicate antifreeze (I don't substitute) Around $5
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.
Anti-seize compound (Any auto parts store)
A small dry paintbrush to clean the dust like stuff out of the timing
A black permanent marker to mark the cams BEFORE you take off the old
A bucket to catch the antifreeze when drain at the water pump.
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
I also like to have handy a mirror and long flexshaft magnetic pickup
tool (I seem to use that a lot).
As mentioned above, Jacking
You must remove
the lower fairings to gain access to the belt areas. Refer
to the Lower Fairing
the battery NEGATIVE terminal connections. (I also do the
POSITIVE side) Under the right side
(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
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
Stuff clean shop rags in the spark plug holes to keep debris out of the
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
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.
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
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
Note the anti-sieze compound on the threads. Honda calls for a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
both belts back on loosely.
There is no direction for the belts to run from. They can go on
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
Then pull that side back down enough to get the washer bolt in finger
Finally force the
bracket enough to get the pivot bolt in and pull them down until they
would just start
to tighten, allowing
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
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
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
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.
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
It's one of the saddest things I
know of to hear a winger ruined his
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
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
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
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
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
oil pressure sensor wire and put the boot back on
radiator/waterpump hoses and fill the antifreeze.
sparkplugs and add anti-sieze on their lower threads.
Be careful with
have problems or questions.
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