The Honda Shadow VT600C, or the Shadow VLX, was a groundbreaking icon of a mid-sized cruiser.
Manufactured from 1998 to 2008, the VT600 rocked a 583cc liquid-cooled V-Twin motor, a four-speed transmission, and an “American” style chain drive on a Softail-inspired mono-shock rear suspension.
Honda took the VT600 motor straight off the Transalp, and while neither bike is unreliable, the VT600 inherited some of the common problems. We discuss common problems with the VT600 in this article.
Table of Contents
1. Faulty Fuel Control Valve Diaphragm
During our research into the common problems as expressed by VT600 owners, the first issue we encountered resulted in a recall of the 2007-2008 year models.
During the final stretch of VT600 production, the VT600 got popped for having a faulty fuel control valve diaphragm.
In some cases, the failing diaphragm was causing leaks that could have resulted in a fire.
Here’s a quote from Honda’s official recall document:
Build Years / Make / Models
2007-2008 HONDA / VT6002007-2008 HONDA / VT7502007-2008 HONDA / VTX1300
Recall Number: 08V141000
HONDA RECALLS 38,934 MY 2006-2007 VT600 AND MY 2007-2008 VT750 AND VTX1300 MOTORCYCLES. THE MOTORCYCLES MAY HAVE AN IMPROPERLY MANUFACTURED FUEL CONTROL VALVE DIAPHRAGM, AND THE FUEL VALVE MAY DRIP FUEL.
IN THE PRESENCE OF AN IGNITION SOURCE, DRIPPING FUEL POSES THE RISK OF FIRE.
DEALERS WILL REPLACE THE FUEL CONTROL VALVE DIAPHRAGM ASSEMBLY FREE OF CHARGE. THE RECALL IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN ON OR ABOUT APRIL 10, 2008. OWNERS MAY CONTACT HONDA AT 1-866-784-1870.
HONDA RECALL NO. Q75. CUSTOMERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION’S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153)
2. Rattling Sound from Engine
One of the recurring criticisms we’ve encountered circulating online is regarding rattling sounds made by the VT600’s head unit.
Some riders say they only catch it after riding in dirty or windy conditions.
Their theory is that the squeaking results from dust or dirt rubbing between the hard plastic in the head unit.
Other Shadow VLX owners notice the sound when they tug in the clutch lever, disengaging their clutch.
The claim is that the rattle comes from the crankcase. VT600 owners say that regardless of how soft they make their clutch lever’s action by adding free play, the sound continues.
Here’s the good news: this engine noise isn’t a problem, just a quality of the VT600’s engine.
- I encountered one Shadow VLX rider who claimed that they had their VT600 for 15 years, putting more than 72,000 miles on the clock and counting, engine rattling the whole time. To this day, their VT600 motor performs reliably.
- That said, the squeaking issue is such an annoyance for some riders that they don’t care if it’s “no big deal.” To them, it’s an issue.
Our verdict? Motorcycles are clangorous machines—it’s part of the fun. The subtle differences between the sound of each motor make our bikes a gem.
3. Coolant Leak (Radiator)
This is a less recurring situation than some of the other items in the article. That said, we uncovered numerous subjects who experienced it—it’s worth noting that this is mainly on the earlier year models.
The radiator on a few of the vintage Honda VT600s has developed fluid leaks, particularly from the lower radiator crew head.
The few cases we found all said that the leak began after they clocked at least 15,000 miles on the VT600’s odometer.
In all applicable cases, Honda replaced the leaking part with an upgraded radiator under warranty.
- The only real fix is to replace the radiator. The issue is mainly derived from the sheer age of the VT600’s in question.
- Many of these old cruisers sat unused for long periods before they got to where they’re at now.
- That said, the good news is that you get to slap one of Honda’s upgraded radiators into your VT600—the upgrades don’t leak.
4. Starter Relay Wears Early
One of the most typical problems examined in the VT600 forums involves the bike’s starter relay.
A classic case looks like this:
- Shadow VLX riders hit the ignition switch.
- The starter relay clicks; the VT600 doesn’t start.
- The headlight and indicator display lights all die.
Once the VT600 is lifeless, Shadow owners note the lights never come back on.
These troubled VLX rippers claim it has nothing to do with going through the proper process of starting the VT600.
For the sake of starting with the basics, let’s go over the proper ignition process for a Honda VT600 Shadow VLX:
- Pivot the Key
- Be Certain the Bike Is in Neutral
- Be Certain the Fuel Is Switched On
- Be Certain the Kill Switch Is in the Off Position
- Tug in the Clutch
- Raise the Side Stand
- Push the Starter Switch
For the agitated VLX riders, however, they push the switch, and nothing happens.
Some claim the Shadow VLX will fire up and then die.
Other VT600 owners write that if they mess with the battery terminals, unhooking and rehooking them, the Shadow VLX won’t miss a beat.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a sustainable solution, so let’s look at the offender and how to repair one of the typical problems with the Honda VT600 Shadow VLX.
The first indication comes from riders who’ve purchased a new battery. Sometimes, this improves the situation temporarily, but nothing changes-VT600 won’t start in other cases, and if it starts, it dies.
Some riders are puzzled, while others examine their Shadow’s relay connections.
To understand the culprit, here’s how the VT600’s starter relay works:
- Your Shadow’s electronic system signals to activate the spark that ignites your engine.
- This electronic sequence chain uses several parts. Each one of these electrical parts plays a distinctive and essential role in starting the engine of your Honda VT600 Shadow VLX.
The origin of this somewhat familiar problem with the Honda VT600 is a part we call the starter relay.
There are two primary ways your Shadow VLX’s Starter Relay can die. Let’s examine the procedure.
i. Honda VT750 Shadow Won’t Start
The most prominent sign of a failing starter relay in a Honda VT600 is the most obvious one—the motorcycle won’t start.
While various problems can hinder your VT600 from starting, failed batteries and charging system parts are straightforward to test with a voltmeter.
If you’ve eradicated the possibility of rudimentary battery issues, your VLX’s starter relay could be the culprit, especially considering the frequency of this issue on Shadows from the early 2000s.
To get a clear picture of how the relay fails, let’s consider how it functions:
- Your starter relay transmits a surge to your battery as you push your starter switch.
- That surge activates your battery to blast a jolt of electricity.
- The power your battery discharges surges your starter motor, activating the spark that turns over your bike’s motor.
- The electrical surge that kindles the operation can’t contact the starter motor without traveling via the starter relay.
- The starter relay facilitates the VT600’s battery charge to complete the electrical circuit needed to start the motorcycle.
If your VT600’s starter relay dies, the energy surge won’t make it from the battery to the starter motor; your Shadow’s engine won’t start.
You might hear a noticeable clicking noise while trying to start your bike. That clicking is the sound of a failing starter relay.
ii. Your Honda VT750’s Starter Motor Runs After the Bike Has Started
Instead of failing to engage the bike’s electrical circuit, a faulty starter relay on a VT600 may bypass closing the signal. This less-common delinquency can cause your VT600’s starter motor to run even after your engine is idling.
In extreme cases of this kind of starter relay loss, your starter motor may continue to crank long after you’ve removed the keys from your Shadow’s ignition.
This type of relay failure results in two perpetual conditions of failure:
- Extreme starter damage.
- Wear and tear on the transmission’s flywheel.
Solution: Replace Your Honda VT600’s Broken Starter Relay and Any Corroded Wires
You or a Honda literate technician should test your VT600’s starter relay to confirm the offender is causing this case. If it is, it’s as straightforward as changing out the aged for a new starter relay.
Shadow VLX owners realize the relay isn’t flawed in some cases, but the problem is corrosion in the wiring.
Defective relay wiring forces the starter relay to acquire an electrical ground even when the key isn’t inserted.
Cleaning the corrosion off of your VLX’s wires could settle the issue, but we suggest just replacing the defective wires with new ones to fix the problem entirely.
General Pros and Cons of Honda VT600 Shadow VLX
Here are some pros and cons of the Honda VT600 Shadow VLX:
- Collector’s Item
- Fun To Ride
- Lasts a Long Time
- Reliable Engine When Kept Up With
- Faulty Fuel Control Valve Diaphragm
- Rattling Sound From Engine
- Coolant Leak (Radiator)
- Starter Relay Fails Early
What Do the Reviews Say?
if you look at which imported cruiser has sold the best over the last decade, this is the one: Honda’s 600cc Shadow VLX V-twin offers the perfect balance that keeps it moving out of showrooms year in and year out. It’s big enough to rely on for highway transportation, small enough to not intimidate short or inexperienced riders, stylish enough to provide pride of ownership, and affordable enough that almost anyone can afford it or buy one as a second bike for a spouse.
The big news for ’99 is a rearranged chassis which drops the seat height to a mere 25.6 inches off the road—a 1.6-inch drop. This was achieved with a shorter, more-progressive rear shock and a wider, lower seat coupled with frame changes. The steering head was moved back and down, and this—combined with a flattrack-style handlebar bend—offered the greatest improvement for our testers who found the position more comfortable, particularly at high speeds. The handlebar bend and riding position create a riding position that both places reduced wind force on the rider at 70 mph and make it more comfortable to hold yourself against the wind pressure. The bar also provides light, precise steering control at both high and low speeds. Short riders also liked the shortened reach to earth.
The suspension does a good job of softening bumps, and vibration from the 52-degree V-twin is muted (at least below 70 mph, at 70-plus it becomes annoying). The seat is acceptable for short rides but rapidly becomes a sore spot if you’re on a long trek. The V-Star Classic we rode with the VLX was substantially more comfortable. It would make a much better choice for a rider who plans to travel or even has a long ride to work.https://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/retro-review-1999-honda-shadow-vlx-deluxe/
What’s the Resale Value of a Honda VT 600 Shadow VLX
ⓘ The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.