In this Issue

Mike Ibbotson: His Story
by: Mike Ibbotson


Safe Group Riding
by: Ben Harper


Tire Pressure
by: John Bolegoh


Humor Me
Watch Out for the Bears


Products and Services
Cruiser Kick-Out Pegs
by: Brad Connatser


Recalls/Known Problems
V-Star 1100 Starter 101
by: Gary Van Buskirk, Michelle Mack


Star of the Month
2002 V-Star Classic 650
by: Brian Kim


Editor: Brad Connatser

Submission Guidelines


Untitled Document
August 2004 - Vol 6, No. 4

Recalls/Known Problems

V-Star 1100 Starter 101

By Gary Van Buskirk, ISRA #8627
Michelle Mack, ISRA #8627

This article is for those concerned about their starter motor and starter clutch on their V-Star 1100 scoots. We welcome any comments or corrections to keep this article accurate and timely.


The V-Star 1100's motor is a time-tested highly dependable mill, derived from Yamaha's venerable Virago line of bikes (the Virago 1100 to be exact). The Virago was Japan's first attempt to answer Harley Davidson in creating a custom/chopper look in a V-twin power plant. For a brief history of the Virago, go to:

Today, only the Virago 250 is made. In 1998, Yamaha began to phase out the Viragos and launched the V-Star line with the Virago 535 engine being bored out to 650 and the Virago 1100 providing the motor for the larger V-Star. For some early reviews of the (then) new V-stars, go to:

Incidentally, this is why you have an oil filter relocation issue on the 1100 V-Stars and not the 650s. This is a design issue that is driven by the two different Virago engines, placement of the exhaust, and placement of the floorboards to that low fatboy look we all love in the V-Stars.

Finally, while Viragos did have various starter issues over the years, most related to separation within the starter motor itself.

The V-Star 1100 Motor/Starter Clutch Issue

We have not been on the ISRA forum since the beginning, so We can't tell you the date that the starter issue first surfaced, but it must have been in 2000. By 2001, folks were documenting and suggesting possible fixes. Joe Conway's early diagnosis is still perfectly valid today:

We think what happened initially is some folks got confused as to what the real culprit was in regards to the bent starter bolts. The reason they bend is from the motor kicking back. When is does kick back all that force goes directly back to the starter motor spinning it backwards. That's what is twisting the bolts. We could take the starter and put in a stronger pin to hold the casing straight, but then we think we'll see more of the gear shearing off the starter motor. We think there is absolutely nothing wrong with the starter motor itself, just the fact that it is gettinng tourqed bacwards with a good amount of force that it wasn't intended to take. This timing kick back issue is also what is ruining the the oneway starter clucth. At least thats the way we see it.:)
Posted 12/11/2002 8:22 am

Joe and others spent a lot of time dealing with the cam timing chain being several teeth off in some bikes. Some adjusted their chain in hopes of preventing the kickback that was causing "twisted starter bolt" disease. Meanwhile, Dave Benson was busy at work dissecting starters!!! (See Dave's work at Additionally, a poll was started to try to assess the extent of the problem.

Reaction and Yamaha's Position

As folks noticed their front starter motor bolts twisting, some devised ways to lock in the internal starter plate, treating the symptom rather than the disease. Others replaced the starter motor, only to have it fail again. Yamaha did redesign the starter motor to include a "torque limiter" to accept the kickback and not develop damage, at least to the starter motor. This new starter motor was standard for 2003 and superceded the old starter motor for all retrofits on earlier motors. Yamaha put out a technical update in 2003. It is important to read and follow the starting procedure contained in it.

The line from MamaYama was (and is) that the new starter design was for "customer convenience" and that customers were causing the damage by improper starting, settings, or even buying "bad" gas. Meanwhile, starter motors and starter clutches continued to fail and more work was done to see what could be done to fix them and prevent the failure.
Starter Motor and Starter Clutch Repair

Replacing the starter motor (the can-looking thing hanging off the lower front of your engine) is easy (aside from the cost!!!).

  • Disconnect your battery.
  • Disconnect the connecting wire from the starter motor.
  • Unbolt the two small bolts holding it on your engine case.
  • Pull the starter end out of the inside of the left side crankcase.
Putting on a new one is just as easy. However, there is no guarantee that replacing an older starter motor with a new one will prevent further kickback from eventually destroying the starter clutch (which is located inside your left side crankcase cover). Joe Conway (again) and Texas Sage have done superb write-ups that show the damage and how to replace the starter clutch parts:

Current Research

Lately, the electronically inclined have been checking and adjusting their TPS (throttle position sensor) located on the carburetor, and some say this has improved startup and shutdown, eliminating the dreaded "clunk" that is the sound of kickback.

This, as well as further starter research and possible fixes, continues to be of high priority as we now have first reports of 2003 and 2004 starter motors and clutches beginning to fail.

Final Thoughts

We hope this gives you a good grounding in the issue of the V-Star starter motor and starter clutch. From what we can tell, this is the only true mechanical defect of this bike. It is a pain, but also from what we can tell it has affected no more than 15 percent of the V-Star 1100s produced.

There are many, many folks who have contributed to the understanding of this issue through literally thousands of posts, and there is no way to thank everyone individually. In addition to the ISRA forum, we highly recommend Mark Garetz's site as a good place to get assistance on your V-Star. But speaking for ourselves, if it wasn't for the advice and knowledge of our forum friends, we could not lay down the thousands of miles of rubber we do each year in safety and in understanding our scoots.

Ride Safely and Ride it Hard!!!!!!


Big Boo (Gary Van Buskirk) and Boo (Michelle Mack)






Last Updated: 07/03/2009

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