When Honda introduced the world to the VTX V-Twin, it was the biggest production V-Twin in moto-history.
1800 was a robust cruiser that redefined the phrase “big-twin,” and Honda knew that the logical next step was to elaborate on this new VTX—Honda gave birth to the VTX1300.
Honda was so serious about the VTX that in 2002 they released the VTX1300, launching the VTX family, but what are the common problems with the VTX1300 and the VTX1800?
Kick your side stand down, and hang out; we’ll tell you!
1. Rattling Headlight Buzz
The headlight on the VTX1300 and 1800 have a bad habit of buzzing once the motorcycle starts.
It’s a dangerous feat, to be sure, but riders were able to isolate the origin of the buzz by placing their fingers on the headlight while riding, noting that when they applied pressure, the rattle would stop.
In some cases, the headlight’s wiring would loosen, vibrating against the light bucket at high speeds, causing a rattling headlight buzz sound.
For riders who encountered this issue, simply wrapping the loose wires in electrical tape would keep them from rattling against the bucket while roasting the highway at high speeds.
To find out if loose wires are the culprit behind your VTX’s headlight vibration:
Pop out the two Philips head screws and remove your headlight. The light’s going to tilt forward and down once you do.
You can either let the headlight hang forward or remove it all the way.
You’ll encounter a bunch of wires in the headlight bucket. Gently tape the wires together with electrical tape to keep them away from the bucket. An alternative to electrical tape is a velcro strap. You can use a velcro strap to keep the mess of wires together.
For extra vibration resistance, some VTX riders will glue some foam to the bottom of the headlight housing to absorb the wire’s rattle. Other riders cut themselves a one and a half-inch piece of double-sided tape and stick it to the bottom of the shell—where the headlight sits (after cutting a slit in the tape so the headlight can still slide into its slot).
Jump in the saddle of the VTX and enjoy a less rattling ride.
2. Speedometer and Odometer Fail to Read
We’ve encountered multiple VTX1300 owners who’ve had issues with their speedometers and odometers failing to give them readings.
The VTX1300’s displays will have power, but there won’t be any readings on either the speedometer or the odometer and they won’t register any speed or mileage.
If this happens, the first thing to check is the two green connectors under the front of the fuel tank that run to the speedometer.
Note: It’s suggested that you be gentle when handling these green connectors; they’re fragile.
A loose connection in these green connector plugs, in some cases, just zeros out the trip mileage. In others, though, it’ll kill the display of both the speedometer and the odometer.
More than a few riders spoke about strapping a zip tie around the center of each plug to hold their wires in place. I’m told by some Honda enthusiasts that if you turn the handlebars of the VTX1300 all the way to the left, you can zip tie these plugs without removing your tank or anything else.
If you go the zip tie route and decide to remove your fuel tank in the future, be careful not to unhook the green connectors or startle the zipped wires.
Just unbolt the bottom three screws on the console, lift your dash, and strap it to your bars so you can pop off your tank without tampering with your zipped-up clips.
If you inspect your green connectors and their wiring and deduce that they’re not the culprit, look at your speed sensor.
There are steps for troubleshooting the VLX1300 speed sensor in the bike’s service manual. There’s a special tool required to follow these instructions and troubleshoot properly; many riders opt to skip that step and replace the sensor, as a new one will only run you around $50.
If your Honda VTX1300 is still under warranty, your local Honda dealership will troubleshoot your speed sensor for you at no cost, and if it’s responsible for instrument failure, they’ll replace it for free, too.
If your warranty’s up and your connectors are good, I’d recommend just replacing the sensor—install a new sensor, and you’ll find out pretty quickly if the old sensor was the issue.
3. Battery Terminals Vibrate Loose
Another common complaint amongst the Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800 users is that the battery terminals tend to vibrate loose.
To be clear, this is a problem on myriad motorcycle models because of the vibration inherent in a large v-twin motor.
Poor battery terminal contact leaves your VTX’s starter solenoid unable to hold a charge as the starter motor draws its power load from said loose terminals. The result is a clicking starter that won’t start the motorcycle.
Here are a few other common symptoms of loose battery terminals on a Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800:
- Light brightness dipping during use, or lights turning off during startup
- Clock resets
- Odometer/display readings are dimmer than usual
- Power dipping during operation
- Power loss
- The motorcycle won’t start
- Heat emanating from terminal contacts while the battery is under load
- Smoke, burning, or “heat” smell wafting up from the battery
When experiencing power loss symptoms like, but not limited to, the ones listed above on any motorcycle, the first things I inspect are my battery terminals. You’d be surprised how many rugged riders I’ve come across who start tearing stuff off their bike on the side of the road only to find that the terminals are the problem.
So, how do you fix loose battery terminals on a Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800?
Detach and clean the terminal contact area until it’s free of corrosion, then reattach the loosened terminals, ensuring they’re torqued to your VTX’s battery to spec, without free play. Battery terminals need to be bright and tight.
4. Water Pump Failure
The VTX1800 packs a large-displacement liquid-cooled v-twin that uses coolant to keep the motor below dangerous temperatures.
We’ve heard VTX1800 owners air a common problem: the water pump fails, and the bike starts to leak coolant.
How to prevent a Honda VTX1800 from leaking coolant
More than a few of these claims were the result of poor owner maintenance. In the owner’s manual for the VTX1800, Honda specifies which coolant should be used. Many cases of water pump failure on a Honda VTX1800 were due to the use of car coolant in the bike.
Car coolant contains silicates, while the coolant Honda suggests using in the VTX1800 doesn’t.
Also, if you cut or dilute your coolant mixture with water, be sure you’re using distilled water, as the minerals inherent in tap water will damage the aluminum motor parts.
Now, not all cases of water pump failure on a Honda VTX1800 resulted from poorly planned maintenance. In many cases, the culprit behind a coolant leak on a VTX1800 was related to a failing thermostat.
It might be as simple as the thermostat being stuck in the closed position. You’ll know if this is your situation from the gurgling noise made by the hot water as it attempts to pass through a closed thermostat.
If the thermostat on a Honda VTX1800 fails, it will force the coolant to leak out.
If this is the case with your VTX, you’ll have to replace your failing thermostat, preferably before it damages the water pump.
Replace the thermostat housing, hose, clamps, and o-rings to be sure you’re getting a fresh start and rid of the leak.
Symptoms of a broken water pump on a Honda VTX1800
If the water pump is already bad, you’ll know by the trail of dripping coolant on the ground, under the rear engine cover on the left side of the motorcycle.
5. Wheel Bearing Wear Early
One of the common issues that might sprout up on a VTX1800 is the early wear of the bike’s wheel bearings.
Inspecting your wheel bearings and maintaining them per the instructions outlined in the owner’s manual is part of the routine maintenance of any motorcycle.
Symptoms of failing wheel bearings on a Honda VTX1800 include:
- A rumbling feeling, like a humming vibration, traveling up through the Honda’s handlebars.
- A buzzing or violent humming sound while riding, resonating from the VTX’s wheelbase.
- Damage to your VTX1800’s wheel hubs and axels.
- An abnormal whirring sensation coming from the wheels
If you experience any of the above symptoms, promptly inspect the wheel bearings on your Honda VTX1800, as damaged wheel bearing can lead to serious bike damage or even a crash.
If you find that worn wheel bearings are indeed the problem, replace them immediately.
Replacing the wheel bearings on a Honda VTX1800 and VTX1300 is a relatively straightforward process that a proficient home mechanic can complete in an hour or two.
That said, if you’re not confident, or if you don’t have a viable moto-repair workspace that’s stocked with the necessary tools to take your Honda’s wheels off, it might be a safer bet to swing your steed by the local Honda-literate mechanic.
If you do decide to take the wrench into your own hands on this job, there are myriad online resources available that offer step-by-step instructions. We suggest taking pictures as you uninstall your worn bearings to help ensure that you install the new parts in the proper order.
You’ll need a wheel puller at the very least to get the old bearings off, though, but you can find some decent DIY puller builds online that you can make yourself for cheap, should you decide to rip down that route with your VTX1800.
What Are the Pros and Cons of a Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800?
Here are some pros and cons of the Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800:
- Easy heel-and-toe shifting
- Immediately accessible power upon clutch release
- Monstrous torque
- Single-pin crankshaft builds palpitating revs
- Dual-axis primary counterbalance makes for a smooth ride
- Rattling Headlight Buzz
- Displays fail to Read
- Battery Terminals Vibrate Loose
- Water Pump Failure
- Wheel Bearings Wear Early
What Do the Reviews Say About the Honda VTX1300?
Overall the [VTX1300] is nicely styled with a retro look, delivers good torquey performance and we found it a comfortable ride. Through the suspension the rider feels connected with the road, and the mild throbbing of the engine is soothing rather than bothersome. Its voluminous fenders, big handlebar and that old-fashioned dished seat deliver classic style with real comfort. Honda’s VTX1300T offers a visceral rider experience with enough protection from the elements to make certain you continue to enjoy the ride.
What’s the Resale Value on a Honda VTX1300 and VTX1800?