The Honda CBR500R is a mid-weight sportbike with a 6-speed transmission and a 471cc, straight-twin motor.
With 32 foot-pounds of torque pushing 47 horsepower at 8,500 RPMs, the CBR500R’s power is consistent but manageable.
It’s widely considered one of the premier beginner sportbikes available on today’s moto market, but what are the common problems with the Honda CBR500R?
Read on to find out!
1. Dim Reflectors/Poor Nighttime Visibility (Solved Via Recall)
Earlier in 2021, Honda issued a recall on multiple motorcycle models, including the Honda CBR500R, due to myriad complaints about dim lighting and low visibility in the rear of the motorcycles.
What was the culprit?
An inadequate rear reflector lens.
The rear reflector lens on some of the 2020 and 2021 Honda CBR500R’s wasn’t reflecting brightly enough. Not only is this dangerous for nighttime riding, but CBR500R owners were frustrated to find out that their reflectors were so dim that, in some cases, their bikes couldn’t pass inspection.
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, also referred to as the FMVSS, lists federally agreed-upon requirements a motor vehicle, including sportbikes like the Honda CBR500R, must meet to be sold.
States use similar standards in their own list of qualifications a motorcycle has to pass state inspection.
FMVSS 108 specifically reads that a vehicle has to have a certain number of “Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment” to be considered legal. The faulty reflectors on specific 2020-2021 Honda CBR500Rs weren’t checking that box.
Honda issued a recall notice for dealerships to replace the rear reflector on any applicable Honda CBR500R on the host at no cost to rectify this problem.
If you’re the owner of a 2020 or 2021 Honda CBR500R, swing by your local Honda dealership and run your VIN to see if your reflector may have come from the barrel of bad apples and get a nice and new replacement free.
2. Deforming Fuel Level Sensor (Solved Via Recall)
In 2015, Honda issued a recall on 14,575 motorcycles in the 500 families, including a significant number of 2013-2015 Honda CBR500Rs. The reason for the recall was categorized as a fueling-system issue.
Honda announced that on Honda CBR500Rs manufactured from January 24, 2013, to May 14, 2015, the fuel level sensor float arm had a bad habit of deforming with use, most likely due to exposure to environmental conditions and road debris.
Once the deformation occurs, the float arm developed the potential to separate from the fuel level sensor body.
Once separated, its deformity could cause the fuel level sensor’s float arm to break off from the sensor body assembly.
Regardless of the more severe consequences, a detached fuel sensor float arm on a CBR500R will give its riders an inaccurate reading.
In worst-case scenarios, though, the broken-off arm could contact the positive and negative terminals at the bottom of the fuel pump, shorting out, blowing a motorcycle fuse, and stalling the engine of your CBR500R.
At the very least, this would cause an inaccurate fuel meter, but there is also a risk that the arm may contact both the positive and negative terminals at the base of the fuel pump, causing a short that could blow a fuse resulting in an engine stall.
Even the less-dreaded inaccurate fuel reading has the potential to stall your motorcycle out. So in 2015 Honda took action.
They issued a recall that notified Honda owners of the potential risk. They also instructed dealerships to replace the entire fuel level sensor assembly free, upgrading it with a more resilient sensor.
As we insinuated earlier, this common problem only applies to Honda CBR500Rs manufactured between 2013 and 2015, and all affected models should have been upgraded.
If you’re the owner of a used CBR500R and bought your little ripper post-recall, the previous owner may not have taken your bike in for the free upgrade.
Here are the symptoms of a faulty fuel level sensor on a Honda CBR500R:
- Inaccurate fuel readings
- Blown fuses
- Frequent stall outs
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms on a Honda CBR500R manufactured between 2013 and 2015, visit your local Honda dealership and pop your VIN into the system to make sure your fuel level sensor assembly has been upgraded.
3. Rocker Arm Bolts Loosen During Operation (Solved Via Recall)
In 2014, Honda recalled 6,954 motorcycles in the U.S., Australia, and Japan, a third of which were CBR500Rs, because of the possibility of an engine oil leak and the associated risks involved.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documented the incident, specifying that the retaining bolts in the rocker arm shaft of some 2013 Honda CBR500R hadn’t received the proper anti-corrosion treatments Honda intended to apply during factory production.
We want to reiterate that this section only applies to particular first-generation units sold in 2013; Honda rectified the issue as soon as they discovered it. Honda fitted all subsequent models following 2013 with bolts that were properly treated by Honda’s anti-corrosion application.
But in 2013, that wasn’t the case, and Honda fitted the rocker arm shaft of some of the CBR500R’s manufactured that year with bolts that had been treated with a non-approved coating. This faulty coating wasn’t resistant to corrosion the way it needed to be, and it caused bolts to loosen during vibrations standard to the CBR500R’s operation.
Once the retaining bolts were loose, a slow-drip of oil would leak out around it. And, in some more severe cases, the bolts would loosen and pop entirely out of the cylinder head, dislodging the rocker arm and reducing the 500R’s motor power, sometimes to the point of causing the engine to stall out.
American Honda noticed the problem promptly in July 2013 after dealerships notified them of three separate customers’ complaint with oil leaks in the same place.
Honda is one of the more proactive motorcycle brands out there when it comes to warranty problem solving. Their Thailand factory caught the problem red-handed—improper anti-corrosion coating on the rocker arm shaft’s fastening bolts.
Having heard from a fourth CBR500R owner about the slow-drip oil leak coming from the loosening bolts, American Honda reviewed their whole assembly line for that faulty batch of bolts. Their first inkling was to inspect the torque used during the bolt installation, but they found the torque adequate.
Then they figured it out.
The factory spent September 2013 to January 2014 reviewing its in-house records and the records of their third-party bolt suppliers to track down the inadequately treated bolts.
No injuries were reported due to these faulty bolts, but Honda prides themselves on their reliability.
In early 2014, Honda recalled all CBR500Rs they thought might have these faulty bolts in their rocker arm shafts, instructing dealerships worldwide to replace them with upgraded retaining bolts, adding two washers and a 45mm o-ring for added security.
4. Vapor Lock—Motorcycle Won’t Start (Solved)
Unlike the other three sections of this article, this complaint isn’t due to a design flaw or oversight. Vapor lock can happen on any motorcycle; we’ve found multiple complaints of Honda 500R riders claiming their bike wouldn’t start.
After a long day, or in some cases, a week of troubleshooting, the culprit ended up being simple, the solution straightforward.
It turns out that the allusive vapor lock had plagued these 500R rippers.
Now, once again, this isn’t caused by design flaws, and it’s in no way an issue exclusive to the Honda 500R, but if you’re here because of these same symptoms various other owners of the 500R experienced, we thought we’d shed some light on how to fix vapor lock on a Honda CBR500R.
First things first; what is vapor lock?
Vapor lock occurs on a Honda CBR500R when fuel boils in the fuel lines to the point that it vaporizes. Vaporized fuel causes pressure to build until it backs up your fuel system. Once your fuel system is vapor-locked, gas can’t get to your engine, and your CBR500R won’t start.
Vapor lock happens if you’ve left your CBR500R idling for too long. Idling for an extended period causes the fuel in your lines to boil before it gets where it’s going. If you kill your CBR after leaving it idling for an unhealthy amount of time, then try to start it up without letting the fuel cool down first; your 500R won’t start.
If you idle your Honda to the point of boiling the fuel in its lines and let it sit for a while, you might not even notice you’ve caused a problem.
It might take an hour or two, but once it sits for a while, your CBR500R will start right up as if nothing happened. If you try to start it right away, though, nothing will happen. If you let the bike idle past a certain point, it might even die while it’s idling.
That said, if vapor lock is indeed the reason your Honda CBR500R won’t start, you don’t have to wait two hours to get back in the saddle.
So, how do you fix vapor lock on a Honda CBR500R?
Open up the gas cap. If you let your 500R idle for an extended period, vapor lock might be the reason your Honda CBR500R won’t start. Open the gas cap to let the vapor escape your fuel lines, and your Honda should start right back up.
General Pros and Cons for Honda CBR500R
Here are some pros and cons of the Honda CBR500R:
- Industry-leading suspension/fork package
- Easy and agile handling
- Upgraded valve timing, larger airbox, and razor-straight inlet tracts
- High reliability per user ratings
- Widespread power delivery and tight throttle response
- Slipper clutch makes for smooth gearbox and shifting action
Dim Reflectors and Lights (Solved Via Recall)
Deforming Fuel Level Sensor (Solved Via Recall)
Rocker Arm Bolts Loosen During Operation (Solved Via Recall)
- Vapor Lock—Motorcycle Won’t Start (Solved)
What Do the Reviews Say?
The latest Honda CBR500R is refined, well balanced, beautifully built and peppy. First introduced in 2014, it’s a stalwart of the A2 genre and is now in its third iteration.
It offers credible performance alongside aspirational styling, complete with MotoGP-inspired wings. Finished in a delicious glossy red and black and complete with a chunky 17.1-litre fuel tank between your legs, it offers a ‘big-bike’ feel.
You can’t help but steal glances at yourself in shop windows as you cruise through town and could easily mistake it for a Fireblade. It feels far more special than a simple stepping-stone between licences and at a fraction over six grand, is stonking value for money.
This is complemented by the LED headlights and all-new LCD dash, which features a similar layout to the larger capacity, four-cylinder CBR650R. An adjustable brake lever, blue anodised fork tops and well-finished, logically-placed switchgear seal the deal.
What’s the Resale Value on a Honda CBR500R?