Honda Hornet Problems: 6 Known Issues (Explained)

Honda introduced the CB600F Hornet to Europe in 1998; it didn’t hit the States and Canada until 2004, where Honda released it as the Honda 599.

The Hornet was wildly revised in 2007, packing the motor of the Honda CBR600RR sportbike, the output of which Honda tuned down to 102 bhp.   

Being a middle-weight naked bike made the Hornet a popular choice among new riders until the CB650F replaced it in 2014.

That said, the Honda Hornet is still available on the used market, often for a reasonable price, but what are the common problems with the Honda 599 Hornet CB600F?

If you’re interested in the biker buzz behind the Honda Hornet, read on!

1. Metallic Ticking or Rattling Noises

One of the most common complaints among owners of the Honda Hornet is that the motorcycle makes a metallic rattling or clanking noise. 

The noise could mean a few different things, depending on:

  • Which part of the motorcycle the noise is coming from
  • At a point during riding, the noise is the loudest
  • Whether it’s a grinding, slapping, or vibrating sound

If we went through the list of problems that cause an abrasive metal noise, we’d be here all day going through many things that are more indicative of owner neglection and less about factory failures. Let’s look at the two most probable causes of the metal rattle, still in the categories of common problems.

Failing Exhaust Gaskets

If the noise is a metallic ticking rattle, the exhaust gaskets are an excellent place to start. 

If you’re familiar with an exhaust gasket and its function, you’d be forgiven for assuming that a failing exhaust gasket would sound more like an industrial blow dryer, with all that escaping air.

The fact is that failing exhaust gaskets generate a rattling or a metallic ticking noise similar to that of a hot bike cooling; on a bike with faulty exhaust gaskets, the bike makes that ticking sound all the time.  

To confirm that the exhaust gaskets are indeed your problem, start the bike idle and hover your ear around your exhaust headers. See if your metallic ticking is coming from that area.

If you do, you might be able to get rid of the sound with a complete oil change.

Besides the standard oil change procedure suggested in your Honda Hornet’s owner’s manual, conducting this thorough oil change to get rid of the metallic clicking on a Honda Hornet includes:

  1. Ride the bike for 10 minutes to get the motor nice and hot before you drain the oil.
  2. Sit on the bike and keep it upright while draining, ensuring you let it drain for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Alter the bike’s angle from side to side, letting the oil drain for an additional 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Start the bike to push through any old oil that might be in the motor, then let it drain for an additional five minutes. 

If you perform a thorough oil change like this, you’re letting the oil flush out the engine without using engine-flushing chemicals.

If you perform a complete oil change and the exhaust headers are still making a metallic ticking sound, you’ll have to change your exhaust gaskets and see if that works.

If you do change the gaskets, a few tips:

  • Soak the old studs with penetrating oil for a few days before attempting the job.
  • When you remove the old gaskets, detail clean the area in which they rest—you may scrape some of the build-ups out.
  • Detail clean the area on the front of the head that they bolt to.
  • Have some new, mild steel (not stainless) studs ready before you do the job. Genuine Honda is always recommended, but you can buy some cheap soft steel studs online that are honestly just as good. Either way, have some replacements handy. 
  • While assembling the new gaskets, reinstall them with fresh brass nuts. Brass nuts won’t rust in place, nor will they put enough torque on old studs to snap them during inspections. 
  • Apply some general-purpose grease on the gaskets to help them stay in place while you reinstall your exhaust.

Related: How Long Do Honda Hornets Last? 4 Examples

2. Cam Chain Tensioner Wears Early 

If the metallic rattling noise sounds like a chain slapping, a worn cam chain tensioner could cause the problem. 

A failing cam chain tensioner will make a chain-slapping rattle at idle. This “chain slap” will be more noticeable when the engine is cold.

That said, if a faulty cam chain tensioner is the culprit, the chain slap sound won’t ever go away, no matter how hot the motor gets.

In the 90s and early 2000s, Honda cam chain tensioners were notorious for stretching so much that the adjuster ran out of adjustment. This causes the cam chain to slack. 

The Honda Hornet is on the list of Hondas that they may have fit with a faulty cam chain tensioner, and if your Hornet’s chain is slacked, it makes a metallic rating noise while the engine is running.

Symptoms of a failing Cam Chain Tensioner on a Honda Hornet:

  • Constant clanking chain sound.
  • When revved above 5,500 RPMs, the sound gets louder and more dramatic, sounding like chains dragging across a metal surface. 
  • The sound gets even more dramatic when you are in high RPMs and are decelerating down to 5,000. 

If you suspect that your Honda Hornet has a failing cam chain tensioner, don’t ride it without replacing the cam chain tensioner and, if it’s over-slacked, the cam chain itself. 

A slapping cam chain can damage your Hornet’s valves.

Hornet riders suggest using aftermarket cam chain tensioners to replace the Honda ones, as the OEM replacement can be just as unreliable as the factory one that failed you.

If doing the replacement yourself, be sure the timing is to spec before you start the bike; improper timing can cause the chain of your Hornet to jump its sprocket teeth. 

Related: 4 Most-Common Problems With Honda CBR500R

3. Charging System Parts Overheat or Burn Out Early

This is a problem for many motorcycles Honda manufactured in the early 2000s, including the Honda Hornet.

Honda Hornets manufactured in the early 2000s had stators and regulator/rectifiers that were prone to premature failure. 

Like a car uses an alternator to charge its battery, motorcycles, like the Honda 599 Hornet CB600F, use a system of smaller parts that work together to achieve the same function.

One of those components is the stator. Simply put, the stator converts engine RPMs into electricity while the bike is running. The regulator/rectifier pulls that energy from the stator, converts the voltage from AC to DC, and directs it to the battery, regulating it so it doesn’t overcharge or explode.

Sometimes, stators and regulator/rectifiers on Honda Hornets manufactured in the early 2000s couldn’t take the engine heat.

If the charging system’s critical components burn out early, a Honda Hornet’s battery will either not hold a charge or explode from overcharging. 

If you’re experiencing a failing charging system on a Honda Hornet:

  • Use a voltmeter or a multimeter to check the battery, stator, and regulator/rectifier and see if that’s the culprit.
  • Remember that, because they work so closely together, if one of the three parts mentioned above is faulty, it can damage the other two electronic components as well—you may have to replace all three. 
  • If you’re not a decent home mechanic who’s comfortable with electrical works, there’s no shame in taking your Hornet to a Honda-literate mechanic. 
  • Tampering with any part of your bike’s wiring harness requires skill, as you can cause other significant damage while trying to fix things.

Common Problems With the Honda Hornet CB160R

All the information in the previous sections pertained to the Honda Hornet. They are also referred to as the Honda 599, or the CB600F. In recent years, a new bike hit the streets under the Hornet moniker, the Honda Hornet CB160R.

Here are a few common problems with the Honda Hornet CB160R:

High Revving Engine

Honda stacked this mini buzzer with a high-revving engine, which for the most part, is a good thing. The common problem with the Honda Hornet CB160R’s high revving engine is its restless power delivery on the top of the rev band.

The machine doesn’t like being up high in the band, and it will scream real loud to let you know it. When you try to extract the maximum out of an engine this small, though, this is a pretty typical reaction among small-displacement minis like the Hornet.

Still, people complain about hovering above an engine that’s screaming and feels like it’s thrashing around.

No Rear Fender

A rear tire fender has an efficient use, especially on a Hornet on which you plan on carrying a passenger. A rear fender keeps things from hitting the rear tire while it’s in motion, things like hands.

While this is an extreme example of something that can go wrong without a rear fender, there are more common problems, like your rear tire slinging dirty water and wet mud all over your back while you’re riding.   

No Engine Kill Switch

Unlike its older siblings, the little CB160R Hornet doesn’t have an engine kill switch. Some riders consider this to be a safety risk.

An engine kill switch is a safety feature allowing a motorcycle rider to turn off their machine in the case of an accident or emergency. Without one, riders of a Honda Hornet CB160R don’t have the option to kill the engine in a crisis.

Related: 3 Most-Common Problems With Honda VT 1100 Spirit Shadow

What Do the Reviews Say?

Honda has done its best over the years to address the shortcomings, and the Hornet is still an attractive, simple machine to ride.

And that’s precisely where and how the Hornet has scored over the years. The standard bike is a blank (and pretty cheap) canvas for those who liked to concoct something a little more unique for their two-wheeled kicks. That makes it not only the newbie’s favourite, and a great city bike, but also a favourite for the motorcycle modifiers out there.

Honda’s Hornet has always been a handsome machine, but despite being up against some tough competition it’s attracted a cult following.

It began in 1998, when Honda (and Yamaha with the Fazer) decided they’d had enough of Suzuki topping the sales charts with their Bandit 600, and wanted to get a slice of the action. The CB600F featured a detuned CBR600F motor, slung beneath a box-spine frame. Brakes were also from the CBR, but also ‘detuned’ with less fancy pads. Running gear was spartan and simplistic, but the whole plot had clean lines and pleasant looks.

The Hornet was originally blessed (or cursed) with the same size boots as the original FireBlade, chosen (said Honda) for control and agility, but many felt it was for the sort of looks that only fat rubber can provide. Eventually the machine swopped to more ‘normal’ 17-inchers in 2000.

What’s the Resale Value on a Honda Hornet?

Year Mileage Price
2004 5,022 $3,999
2004 17,460 $3,995
2004 22,343 $3,990
2006 20,710 $3,099
2006 19,993 $3,999
All Hornet’s referenced were the CB600F model.



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ⓘ  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.