3 Most-Common Problems With Honda VT 1100 Spirit Shadow

The Honda VT 1100 is a bike motor used most famously in the Honda Shadow 1100 from 1985 to 2007.

By 1994, Honda had dubbed it the Spirit Shadow, as its spirited performance and charmingly simple aesthetic made riders squirm with excitement.

With a 1,099cc, liquid-cooled v-twin, a shaft-powered drive, and hydraulically activated valves, the Spirit Shadow VT 1100 was one of the most popular mid-weight cruiser choices for all 22 years of the bike’s production.

Still, no bike is perfect, and whether you’re in the market for a used VT 1100, or the already proud owner of one, you’ve come to the right place. Today we’re bringing you the most common complaints of the Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100, along with a few troubleshooting and repair tips to help manage the issues of an otherwise great choice for a used bike.

1. Driveshaft Splines Wear Out if Not Greased Every 50,000 Miles

This first section isn’t a problem; it’s more of a common complaint about shaft-driven bikes like the Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100. 

The Honda Spirit Shadow is a shaft-driven motorcycle instead of a gear-driven transmission or a chain drive still used by Harley. Any driveshaft has splines that need lubrication, or your drive splines will wear in 50,000 miles and need to be replaced.

It’s a matter of taste; I love riding on a driveshaft. And greasing your driveshaft splines with each rear tire change is a part of routine maintenance that will prevent your splines from failing.

Shaft Drive Maintenance

A shaft drive bike like a Spirit Shadow VT 1100 has splines on each end of the driveshaft and a large ring that transmits the power to the rear wheel. VT 1100 owners must lubricate these splines in a process that differs from chains, gears, or bearings.

Grease your drive splines each time you change your rear tire to prevent this issue from occurring. 

Your Shadow’s drive splines get hot. Pressure from the back and forth sliding motion of your splines creates friction, and friction wears and tears through any metal that isn’t lubed up and cooled off. 

This friction squeezes any cheap or liquid grease right out of the splines.

Your Spirit Shadow VT 1100’s owner’s manual probably suggests what we call a “Moly” grease, a spline grease that is 60% molybdenum disulfide. Moly is a dry lube that bonds effectively to metal, offering consistently effective lubrication even in high-heat friction zones. 

That said, there are many misleading grease packaging out there that label their lubes as Moly, but if you do the research and read the specs, you’ll find that the suits that make these decisions consider any grease that’s 3% molybdenum to be Moly.

Your Spirit Shadow’s splines require 60% Moly, what some of us now call a Moly-60 paste or grease. 

Whether you’re doing this procedure yourself or having it done at Honda, make sure they’re using a Moly-60 grease or a Krytox, even if it means buying your own Moly-Grease, or your VT 1100 will need new drive splines in about 50,000 miles.

If you do your own maintenance, make removing the rear-drive system from the swing arm and clean and lubricate the splines on the drive shaft part of your tire change, or every 50,000 miles, whichever happens first.

Related: How Long Do Honda Shadows Last? (With 3 Examples)

2. Stator Shorts Out

Unfortunately, Hondas from this era are notorious for stocking factory stators that fail prematurely.

Just as a car uses a self-contained alternator to charge its battery while riding, a motorcycle uses a charging system with multiple small components. One of those components is the stator.

Simply put, the stator turns motor force into voltage and uses it to charge the bike’s battery. So, if your stator fails, your battery will be left dead after a few ignition cycles.

These faulty Honda stators can easily be replaced once they go down, though, whether with another OEM (Honda’s modern stators are much more reliable), or with an aftermarket stator designed to mesh right into your VT 1100’s charging system seamlessly.

How to Change Your Stator on a Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100:

Follow these steps to change your VT 1100’s stator:

  • First thing’s first, you’ll want to purchase a new left crankcase cover gasket, a new oil seal for the shifter—OIL SEAL (12.5X25X8), and a new seal for the clutch slave — (OIL SEAL 8X25X7)
  • Start by removing the footpeg and shifter by popping off the Allen screw caps and unscrewing the three Allen heads responsible for tacking down the clutch slave.
  • Pro-Tip: wire ties your clutch slave to ensure the pistons don’t pop out. Then, tape something to the back of the clutch handle, so it doesn’t depress during the process.
  • Detach the three yellow leads that run from the Stator to the Regulator/Rectifier.
  • Unscrew and take out the Allen screws that hold down the crank. Important: Keep track of which screws came from each hole, perhaps by taping and labeling them in the order you took them out, as these screws vary in length.
  • Tap on the crankcase with a rubber tool to break the seal. It will not happen right away, so be patient and tap away.
  • After you’ve broken the seal, wiggle the crank cover back and forth until it pops off. There are two guide pins in the cover. They may stay in there, they may fall to the floor, or they may fall back into the motor. Keep track of them, and if you lose track of them, find them before you continue, as you don’t want those floating around in your motor.
  • Slowly and carefully (and preferably with a putty knife and gasket cleaner/remover), peel the gaskets off the crankcase cover and the engine. And yes, it’s going to be as annoying as it looks to scrape the rubber off of the motor, but you have to—all of it.
  • Remove the old seals from the cover and from beneath the disk.
  • Smear some fresh and clean oil around the new seals you purchased in step 1 and use a rubber tool to set them into place.
  • Your stator has 3 hex bolts holding it in place. Pop the hex bolts out and hit the edges with that rubber mallet until your old stator knocks loose.
  • Install your new stator and secure it with the hex bolts.
  • Slowly and carefully install the new gasket on your crankcase cover.
  • Install the crankcase with the Allan head screws, ensuring each screw is returning to the hole you took it out of. Make sure the screws are nice and tight without stripping them.
  • Install the clutch slave and tighten the screws up without stripping them.
  • You can reconnect the leads or solder the yellow wires that run from the stator to the R/R together if you’re sure you understand how.
  • Alright, once your charging system is all reconnected, you can fire up your Spirit Shadow and test your Stator Voltage to see if it’s in the 20s at idle and if its voltage increases when you throttle up your RPMs.
  • Go ahead and test your battery too. You want it at a consistent 14.2 Volts.
  • Reinstall the footpeg and gear shifter, torque all screws to spec, check your oil, check your fuel, wipe her down, and hit the road!

Many Shadow riders opt to replace their Regulator/Rectifier once they’ve replaced their Stator; a faulty R/R is often the culprit behind a failing Stator on Honda Shadow VT 1100s. 

But more on that in the next section. 

Related: Motorcycle Gear Change Problems & Solutions (Explained)

3. Regulator/Rectifier Runs Hot and Fails

Hondas manufactured in the 90s to early 2000s were notorious for charging systems that would fail early. We’ve covered the stator in the above section, and we mentioned a component called the Regulator/Rectifier, a critical component of the charging system on most motorcycles.  

What Does a Regulator/Rectifier Do?

The Regulator/Rectifier converts the AC power collected by your stator into DC power and routes it to your battery, regulating the current to keep it under 14.5 volts and to prevent battery damage by keeping it from overcharging.

The secret to Honda’s recognized longevity lies in its reliable and consistent liquid-cooled, sealed engine designs. The problem is that these powerhouses get hot. Unfortunately, it took them a while to design stators and R/Rs that could stand up to the heat these monster motors generate. 

The reign of the Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100 happened before that part upgrade took place; the Regulator/Recitifiers that came stock on the Spirit Shadow ran hot.

So hot, in fact, that the coating on the nearby stator wires would become brittle and flake off.

Over time, the deteriorating wires would short out the stator.

An overheating R/R damages stator after stator in this same way, rendering your replacement stator nothing more than a temporary solution until your R/R itself finally craps out.

Now you understand why we suggested upgrading your Spirit Shadow’s stock R/R when replacing your stator. 

Other R/Rs on the market run cooler, including the more modern R/Rs from Honda, some of which may fit your VT 1100. 

Inspect the old stator for exposed wires or melted or deteriorating wire coating. If you see evidence of over-exposure to heat, your Spirit Shadow’s stock R/R may be causing damage, and it may be time for an aftermarket or modern Honda upgrade. 

Related: Motorcycle Cold Start Problems? 4 Things You Should Check For

General Pros and Cons of the Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100

Here are the general pros and cons of the Honda Spirit Shadow VT 1100:

Pros

The Spirit Shadow VT 1100 rides on vast amounts of low-end torque.
With Honda’s signature, smooth-sailing power output generating from beneath your saddle, throttling up to highway speeds is quick and effortless. In fact, acceleration little happens with so small a speed-wobble compared to other bikes in its class that you could say it doesn’t vibrate at all.

The valve train rocks and rolls with one overhead cam and three valves per cylinder. The transmission pardons bad rider input without chokes and compensates on its own with such consistent power that it forgives your error.

Even though the rider has to grease it every 50k, a shaft drive offers VT 1100 owners much less of a maintenance-based relationship than a belt drive of similar mid-weight bikes and hits the rear wheel with speed force.

The suspension on the ’07 Spirit Shadow I rode around a few years ago was simple and well-balanced. A 41mm fork provided 6.3 inches of distance. The Shadow’s rear dual shocks bounce on a five-position spring with preload adjustability.

Cons

  • Driveshaft Spline Must Be Greased every 50,000 Miles
  • Stator Shorts Out
  • Regulator/Rectifier Runs Hot and Fails

What Do The Reviews Say?

Want Harley-Davidson style without the Harley mystique? Honda’s VT1100 series is your best bet, mixing classic American looks with modern, liquid-cooled engines and legendary Honda durability. They usually sell for less than a third of what you might pay for a used Softail. If you’re a fan of chopper styling, you’ll dig the Shadow Spirit, with its stepped saddle, slash-cut pipes, tiny headlight and pullback bars. The VT1100 engine is a 52-degree V-twin that uses an innovative dual-throw crankshaft to fool the motor into behaving like a 90-degree twin, greatly reducing primary vibration. Avoid the fat-fendered American Classic Edition, a.k.a. ACE. Thinking a classic cruiser buys more vibration, Honda gave the ACE a single-pin crank. They shake, and they’re slower, so take a pass there.

source:motorcyclistonline.com

What’s the Resale Value on a Honda Shadow VT 1100?

Year Mileage Price
1998 14,588 $2,499
2000 15,000 $3,300
2002 5,400 $4,200
2004 30,618 $2,899
2007 23,118 $3,995

Sources

America’s 50 Best Used Bikes | motorcyclistonline.com

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