Solenoid swap w/pics 

Description Riding mower solenoid instead of Ford
Author eddiethetech Date Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:48 am Type Tech Article
Category Tech Tips
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Matthew suggested using a lawn mower solenoid instead of the Ford one that's been mentioned before, so I decided it was worth a shot. There were several advantages. First was big to me; I was able to use the stock rubber mount and avoid zipping it to the bike, resulting in a close to stock look. The posts both stick out the top, so the part is smaller overall. I got the part for less than $10. And minor point, I didn't have to drill out the lugs on the cables, as the posts are smaller than on the Ford's.
I would change the order of two steps, but the pics were taken as I went along. I cut of the mounting tabs after I soldered on the ground lead; if I had it to do over it would be easier to cut them off first. I drilled 2 X 5/64" holes as close together as possible in the mounting plate and as close to the body of the solenoid as I could get. Using 16 gauge wire I looped it through both holes, for added strength, and soldered both sides. The first pic is after the ground lead is attached. For the hot lead I used the bayonet connector that came with the part, and again drilled 2 holes, looped & soldered. In order to avoid connecting the leads wrong in the future, I crimped a female connector to the ground lead and a male to the hot lead. I also used electrical tape to completely cover the base. The middle pic shows the solenoid with both leads attached, the mounting flange cut off and the stock rubber mount slipped on. I used a little grease inside to help it slip on, as it was a pretty snug fit and I didn't want to tear the 27 year old rubber. The last pic shows it on the bike and it looks pretty stock. After I took that picture I covered the blue connectors with electrical tape so they didn't scream out DIY.
Now that I have that done I can go back to diagnosing the safety switches and relays. Button works with the relays jumped, so I'm making progress.

(Links to album added to see detail.)

Link to pic 1
Link to pic 2
Link to pic 3

What follows is for those who are unfamiliar with the way the Virago solenoid operates. Veterans will probably find it repetitive.
I started this entire gig when I installed the starter button from Radio Shack. Unfortunately, while it needed to be replaced, it didn't solve my problem. I had been messing with the relays and decided to hold off on them and verify the solenoid. To diagnose the original as defective, and to rule out safety switches and the rest of the starting circuit, I pulled the relays and used a couple jumpers between the red leads on both the cut-off and cut-out relay plugs. I finally got the solenoid to click, but still didn't crank. So I disconnected the bottom lead (to the starter) and with a multi meter set to ohms across both big posts, I hit the button. If it's good it should read zero resistance. Instead mine stayed open, i.e. no reading.
The Virago starter button works by completing a ground to close the solenoid and allow the battery to supply current between the large posts to the starter. The replacement solenoid, either the kind I used or the Fords, are by design grounded to the frame/fender with the mounting flange. When installing this type you must connect the lead from the starter button to the flange, but also be careful that it doesn't touch any metal, as it would then create a closed circuit and attempt to run the starter motor.

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