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Thread: R1100RT starts on 4th try each time!?

  1. #1
    wnelms
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    R1100RT starts on 4th try each time!?

    Hi everyone I just joined BMWOA and this is my first post.
    Mid summer I purchased a 1997 R1100RT with 54K mi but no know service history.
    Former owner mentioned that it would only start after 3 trys. I've ridden it several months now and absolutely love her (nicknamed her "Katerina") but I need help sorting out this starting issue as it seems to be getting worse. Now only starts after the 4th try and I'm concerned about running down the battery during starting and getting stranded somewhere.

    So far I have changed the spark plugs (old spark plugs looked fine, dry, no deposits, and normal color) and used fuel injector cleaner in the gas tank; both without any improvement in starting. Once she starts she runs a little rough for a few seconds then smooths out. On the road the engine runs well with good power and acceleration. To clarify ... the starting issue occurs when the cycle is cold. After riding and warm it starts immediately on touch of the starter button.
    With a cold start: First push of starter it turns over but no combustion sound,
    2nd try same thing or only a little pop. 3rd try a few more pops, 4th push of the starter and she starts, needs a bit of throttle to continue to run, then smooths out and off I go. Rides well at town and interstate highway speeds or more.

    So ... how do I cure the starting issue?

  2. #2
    Republic of Texas
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    Are you opening the "Choke" lever when you start the bike cold?
    Mike White
    MOA Life Time Member #57882
    '13 K1300S "30 Years", '95 R1100RS, '88 K75S, '97 Ducati 916, '95 Ducati 900SS CR. Gone, but not forgotten, '75 R90S

  3. #3
    wnelms
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    Yes. I always open the "chock lever/fast idle switch" prior to trying to start it and I leave the lever in that position for few minutes of riding until it is warmed up.
    It surprises me how consistent "Katarina" is in always starting on the 4th try.
    Ridability is very good. Engine runs smooth and strong with a trace of the
    "surging" I read about on other posts. I have no prior experience with BMW motorcycles so am not sure if this starting problem is typical or common. I rode a Honda 90 in high school for transportation. After decades of non-riding last year moved up to a 650cc Kawasaki Versys with purpose of going to touring sized bike for longer trips. After those smaller bikes the R1100RT fits me like a glove (6'3" tall) and has performance that makes me wonder where she has been all my life; I'm in love with this German gal. I am fairly mechanically inclined and intend to do most of the maintenance and repairs myself.

    Appreciate any guidance BMWOA members can provide in sorting out this starting issue and perhaps whatever else I should immediately look into on this very nice bike with an undocumented service history. Thanks in advance.

  4. #4
    http://www.rd400racer.com rd400racer's Avatar
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    I have a 94 RS with close to the exact same miles that I have owned since June (had an RT before that).

    Mine does almost the exact same thing!

    It had an almost new battery when I bought it. Procedure was hit the choke (call it what you want..it's a choke!) Crank twice for a short burst...bike fires up 3rd crank. I tried holding the first or second crank longer but no difference.

    Since then I have changed oil, adjusted valves and put in new plugs. Starts the exact same as before. I even trickle charge it every couple of days.

    I have finallly written it off as a quirk to the bike.
    http://www.rd400racer.com/

    2001 Ducati Monster; 1996 R1100GS; 1985 RZ350; 1977 RD400

  5. #5
    Registered User rxcrider's Avatar
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    Skip the first three and go straight to the fourth?

    Mine sometimes takes two tries when it is cool and cranking slowly. The act of turning the motor over gets the oil moving and makes subsequent start attempts easier. If you can find someone local with a similar bike, it would be interesting to compare cranking speed (even just audibly) too see if their bike (assuming it starts on the first try) seems to be turning over faster than yours. If so, starter, battery, wiring, cable connections (including grounds) are all suspect.

    Questions:
    Once the bike is warmed up* (3 to 5 bars on the RID) and in neutral with the "choke" lever pushed in,
    - what speed (RPM) does it idle at?
    - Is it the same RPM at idle with the clutch lever released and pulled?
    - If you pull the "choke" lever out to the detent, what does the RPM increase to?

    * Make sure you ride the bike to warm it up, never just let it sit there running.
    Last edited by rxcrider; 10-17-2012 at 08:52 PM.

  6. #6
    wnelms
    Guest
    Idle speed has seemed fine, very close to specification, and would increase as it should when the "choke" was engaged.

    (rxcrider ... To aid diagnosis I will check the exact idle speeds as you suggest but it will need to wait a few days as the clutch cable just snapped. Thankfully this happened just as I was turning into my drive way and not far from home. A new clutch cable is enroute from Beemer Boneyard to arrive later this week and I have the fairings off).

  7. #7
    Registered User rxcrider's Avatar
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    Apparently she wanted some more attention.

    Other thoughts...

    Do you pull the clutch lever in when starting?
    - If not, when was the gearbox lube last changed? What weight oil went in it?
    - If you haven't changed it, have you verified the level?

    Do you push the "choke" lever into the detent when you start it or do you push it past the detent and then let it return back to the detent after a few seconds once the idle smooths out?

  8. #8
    Registered User Bmandiego's Avatar
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    Have you replaced the air filter and checked or replaced the fuel filter and lines? I'm wondering what the fuel pressure is....
    2000 R1100RT-P

  9. #9
    Nickname: Droid
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    If you mean the engine fires on the 4th "crank cycle", then its entirely normal. My 94 RS has done exactly that for all the 18 years I've enjoyed it.

    If you mean that you have to go through four individual starting cycles, meaning you have to do four individual cycles of pressing the start button, then something is wrong. My first guess would then be the starter. High starter draw, due to loose magnets, cause the cranking voltage to drop significantly.

    But, you also don't mention any ABS low voltage start faults. So given that I'd assume your bike is cranking over normally for an older Oilhead. Part of its charm.

  10. #10
    wnelms
    Guest
    For further clarification of the starting problem ....The starter button has to be pressed 4 separate times. Each time I hold the button in for roughly 3 to 4 seconds. So before actually starting it has gone through a mutitude of "crank cycles."

    No low voltage warning light illuminated. The ABS flashing light goes out after riding about 10 feet.

    I am not sure it this next item is a clue or a common qwirk of the R1100RT...
    The green neutral light has a delay of about 3 seconds before coming on after shifting into neutral. Again, the prior owner said, "I don't know why. It just does that." The digital display gear indictor though instantly displays numeral "0" when upon shifting into neutral.

  11. #11
    Registered User roger 04 rt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wnelms View Post
    For further clarification of the starting problem ....The starter button has to be pressed 4 separate times. Each time I hold the button in for roughly 3 to 4 seconds. So before actually starting it has gone through a mutitude of "crank cycles."

    No low voltage warning light illuminated. The ABS flashing light goes out after riding about 10 feet.

    I am not sure it this next item is a clue or a common qwirk of the R1100RT...
    The green neutral light has a delay of about 3 seconds before coming on after shifting into neutral. Again, the prior owner said, "I don't know why. It just does that." The digital display gear indictor though instantly displays numeral "0" when upon shifting into neutral.
    Interesting problem. Either you're not getting a reliable spark (plugs/wires or electronics) or you're not getting the right mix of fuel to start.

    The neutral light and ability to start could be linked. Also, there is a neutral switch which is different from the gear indicator switch. Sounds like there is a delay through your neutral switch. Have you tried your start routine with the clutch lever pulled in?

    It is possible that your fuel pump or your Motronic relay is intermittent and that jostling the start button is somehow affecting one set of contacts, but that doesn't seem very likely.

    From my work on the 1150 Motronic, each start cycle squirts some extra fuel so perhaps after four tries it is rich enough to start. What if you spray some starter fluid in the intake on the first try?

  12. #12
    Registered User Olsensan's Avatar
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    Sounds like it may be fuel starved when first trying to start, ie. fuel filter maybe clogged some or not enough fuel pressure from the pump, or fuel injectors. Check the fuel system. You could pull the injectors and see if equal fuel is flowing from them when starting. I just sent mine out to Marren fuel injector for cleaning and balancing. Also, spark plugs and wires.

  13. #13
    Registered User
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    Hi,

    I had a BMW F650CS which was hard to start too, to the point where it was embarrassing, even when the bike was brand new.

    My suggestions are:

    1. Make sure that the battery is fully charged and in tip top shape. (The dealer, now defunct, didn't, I don't think, charge the battery properly (if at all) before they delivered the bike to me, and, since it was sitting for quite a while on their storage floor before I bought it, I wouldn't be surprised if the battery on my brand new bike was sulfated to some degree when I took delivery of it).

    2. Also, on my bike, the dealer (now defunct) eventually downloaded an updated fuel mapping from BMW that helped.

  14. #14
    RK Ryder
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    My '98 R1100RT cranks over on one push of the starter button about 95%. Maybe when cold it requires two starter button pushes, but very, very seldom. I do hold the choke button past the natural position and then release it when the engine fires. Do let us know what finally solves your starting problem.

    (My K always require two attempts to start it; part of its charm.)
    Paul
    Retired and riding my RTs, the '87 K100 & the '98 R1100 !
    Treasurer of the Forest City Motorrad Club #159
    Knights of the Roundel #333

  15. #15
    Registered User m_stock10506's Avatar
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    Valves adjusted to spec? Tight valves are often a cause of hard starting.
    Michael Stock, Trinity, NC
    R1100RT, R100, R60/6

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