VT1100 Engine Noises 

From forum research I've found that the 97-2004 VT1100 Shadow's, both the Spirits and the Sabre's, tend to have a common problem with engine noises. There are two different noises that I've found and I have personally dealt with both in my own 97 1100 Spirit. 

The first is an upper engine tick, this noise is most often heard when the engine is fully heated up and mainly at idle. The noise will resonate from the top of the engine around the area of the heads. The sound is usually a light sounding tic...tic.tic....tic. It will be just above, in volume, what some call normal mechanical noise. The noise may drift in and out and it may also move from one cylinder head to the other. Its believed that this noise has something to do with the Non Adjustable hydraulic lifters used in the 1100's. One common theory, for the cause of the noise, is a high oil level in the engine. The thinking behind this is that when the oil is at its highest the crankshaft and the connecting rods beat or whip air into the oil creating a foam in the oil and then when the foam inters the lifters the air in the foam allows the lifter to tap or click. I'm really not big on this conclusion but when I was dealing with this noise in my bike I did reduce the oil level in my engine a little. The people that live by this theory keep their oil level just below what some people call the "Full Mark" on the dipstick, or maybe upper middle between the add and full marks. I feel this is safe because the two marks on the dipstick are really a max  and a minimum  that means that anything between the two marks Honda deems as safe. Lowering the oil level in my bike didn't seem to help my noise any but others make pretty strong claims to it. For me, it was changing to a different oil that did the trick.


I bought my bike used and it had 13,000 miles on it. The short test ride I took on the bike the day I picked it up didn't fully heat the engine up enough for the valves to tick. The bike was a one owner, adult owned. I didn't have the bike long before I heard the dreaded ticks! The previous owner had always used Honda GN4 10W-40 oil and Honda OEM oil filters. The big thing on the internet at the time was by using Mobil 1 15W-50 Red Cap that it would just about cure any engine problem. I didn't want to switch to a full synthetic oil in my used Shadow at that time but the thoughts of trying another oil was very interesting. My first change was to the Honda HP4 10W-40. This is a synthetic blended oil and it didn't take long before I could tell that changing to this oil was a bad idea. With the GN4 the engine had to be really heated up well before you could hear the valve noise but with the HP4 the valve noise was just another indicator that the engine was running. Not knowing what to do, I went back to the GN4 and all was back to normal and my research went on. 


The next idea I came up with was a bit odd, I guess, but I used be a Yamaha person and I used YamaLube in them, Yep! I switched to the YamaLube 20W-40 and with that, the valve noise left. Sense then I've tried a lot of different oils in my bike like the list below.


Honda GN4 10W-40 (Valve ticks)

Honda HP4 10W-40 (Worse valve ticks)

Shell Rotella-T 15W-40 (No valve ticks)

Mobil Delvac 15W-40 (No valve ticks)

Chevron Delo 15W-40 (No valve ticks) This one might be one to stay away from because it has a pretty high content of Moly in it and could lead to clutch slippage.

Mobil Extended Performance 15W-50 Gold Cap (No valve ticks)

Shell Rotella-T 5W-40 (Valve ticks were back

Amsoil 10W-40 (The valves didn't tick with this oil)


What I've found was anytime I used an oil that the low viscosity number was below 15W I would get the valve noise, except with the Amsoil  10W-40.

If your Shadow has the upper engine valve ticks there is a chance you may not find a magical cure for the noise. I've read a lot of posts where people were asking about the upper valve noise in their Shadow's. Of coarse, along with those posts came the replies: some found that lowering the engine oil helped the noise, some said they had the noise but it went away on its own, and some claimed that they just took the bike out and ran the RPM's up enough to hit the rev-limiter in a couple of the lower gears and that fixed it. I've not read any reports where anybody has had to or felt the need to take the wrenches to it for a cure. One general consensus among the Honda VT1100 Shadow owners is that unless this noise is really loud, like a loud tapping noise, that it shouldn't damage the engine. Many have stated that they had taken their bike to the dealer to have this noise checked out and was only told that the noise was normal for some of these bikes.


I said that these bikes have two different noise problems. I covered one, the other is a lower engine noise. This noise will resonate from the lower right side of the engine from behind the clutch cover and towards the front of it. Of the cases I've read about, the noise is due to a problem with the primary drive gear. I have had to deal with this noise in my bike also. Many people that have had this noise thought it was the more common upper valve noise to only later find out differently. The lower engine noise will start out much like the valve noise, meaning that you will usually hear it only after the engine becomes fully heated up and only at idle. This noise will have a little more of a rolling rattle rather than the rhythmical tick...tic..tic...tic like the valves. The lower engine noise will collate with the rotation of the crankshaft, also this noise will not move around in the engine. It may not always be heard but it will always be in the same location. A mechanics stethoscope is the best way to determine where the sound is coming from .


The primary drive gear is the first gear coming off the crankshaft and its mate is a larger gear that is mounted to the back of the outer clutch housing. This gear is sometimes referred to as the 'Driven gear'. Both these gears use straight cut teeth which is very strong by design but can be a bit noisy. For the noise problem, Honda came up with an extra gear plate for the primary drive gear. This plate is called the "Sub-gear". The primary drive gear and the sub-gear and a few little springs make up what is called 'The Primary Drive Gear Set'. The springs are compressed by some tabs that are on the back of the sub-gear. When the set is all together and installed the gear sets teeth become a spring loaded scissor set of gears. The springs keep constant pressure between the teeth of the two main drive gears and the purpose is to take up any slack that might be between the gears (a lash adjuster). Honda does not sell any of the 'Gear Set' parts separately; you have to buy the whole set.  From replacing the primary drive gear set in my bike the only thing I could find that would cause it to rattle was more due to the sub-gear rather than the main gear itself. The below picture links is of the new primary gear set for by bike.


Here is the whole gear set. Notice how the teeth on the sub-gear are lined up in between the teeth on the main gear. Look at the ten o'clock mark of the gear. When you put the gear in you use a screwdriver to align the teeth and 'Load' the springs. It would seem that if the springs collapse even a little it could make it rattle.

Now here is the main gear without the sub-gear.

Here is a side view of the main gear. It looks to be a pretty healthily gear.

Here is a view of the front of the sub-gear.

Here is the view of the rear of the sub-gear. Notice the tabs coming off from the back of the gear? These rest on one end of the springs that are in the side of the main gear.

Here is a view of the side of the sub-gear. Notice how thin it is.


Before I replaced the primary drive gear set in my bike I tried different oils and even an oil additive to try to get rid of this problem like I did with the valve noise. At first it seemed like it was going to work because the lighter weight oils left the lower engine noise worse and when I upped the viscosity the noise was better. But unlike the valves, the primary drive gear was a wear problem with its sub-gear, so the problem got worse, and when it did, the oil couldn't take care of the noise. So I replaced the primary drive gear set and so far that noise has been eliminated.



  Home Page

If You Found This Page Surfing The Web You Can Click Below To Go To My Main Web Page!

Main Honda Shadow VT1100 Web Page