Honda VT700 Problems: 7 Known Issues (Explained)

Manufactured from 1984 to 1987, the Shadow 700 was a simple American-style cruiser fitted with a liquid-cooled V2, four-stroke 695cc beast of a motor, and a 6-speed wet multi-plate transmission.

The VT700 was a dependable motor for its period, as Honda was as steadfast as it was reputed to be.

That said, there hasn’t been a VT700 produced since the year I was born‚ÄĒthe VT700s are considered vintage bikes, so we thought we’d address some of the common problems an old faithful Honda VT700 might face.

1. Vacuum System Leaks Air

This first problem is especially common if the prior proprietor of your Honda VT700 didn’t support its engine with a regular tune-up.¬†

  • Eventually, if not maintained per the suggested service intervals, the VT700’s carb’s air-fuel ratio will run lean.¬†
  • If your VT700 ran lean for an ample time, even if it happened before you bought the bike, running with maladjusted air-fuel ratio could lead to a leak in your vacuum system.¬†

A vacuum leak on a Honda VT700 usually reveals a problem with the rubber boots.

First, you might see the rubber spoiling. 

Inspect your throttle shaft seals next. Replacing leaking throttle shaft seals is an intricate process. This is a tough job that might involve seeking the advice of a pro vintage Honda technician. 

You might be lucky enough to catch one of the early performance-related signs of an offset air-fuel ratio that manifests before a vacuum leak forms. Hold a feel for a drop in motor power or throttle reaction.

The only true answer for a leaking vacuum system is to isolate the leaking part and replace it. 

Failure to fix a vacuum leak before the rushing air further affects your fuel ratio can lead to even more leaks. 

2. Carburetor Clogged Or Failing 

The most typical issue on a vintage cruiser like the Honda VT700 is a failing carb.

The odds are fair that you’ll have to rebuild the carburetor of an O.G. Honda VT700 if the prior owner didn’t do it shortly before you bought it.¬†

Inquire into the service history before buying a used Shadow 700 and find out how lately the carb went through the rebuilding process. If it hasn’t been rebuilt, don’t fret; it’s straightforward enough to accomplish yourself. That said, it’s not a healthy step to skip‚ÄĒif the carb needs rebuilding, or even just a good cleaning, try to get some money off for the time you’ll spend stabbing at the job ahead.

Carb cleaning is a must when preserving the operation of your VT700. 

Despite the VT700’s mythical dependability, the little fuel paths get plugged on any carb over time as the engine combusts. Running a clogged carb will corrode Honda carburetors as fast as a carb on any other bike.

This would be especially sensitive if the VT700 sat unattended for years before you bought it. 

To diagnose a failing carb on a VT700:

  • During operation, be attentive to any change in engine performance.
  • Inspect under your parked VT700 Shadow for any fuel leaks.
  • Check for fuel in the airbox‚ÄĒanother sign of a bad carb.¬†
  • If your VT700 operates with the choke, either entirely or partly on, you could have a poor carb.

So, what do you do if oil leaks from your carburetor on a Honda VT700? 

If you believe your carburetor is a concern, the fastest resolution is: 

  1. Remove the bad carb from the VT700 in question.
  2. Dismantle the carb, and examine each part, de-greasing as you proceed. 
  3. Some excellent DIY instructions are available on various online blogs and forums; there’s no shame in taking it to a Honda-literate mechanic for a fast, neat rebuild and a vacuum synchronization.

3. Fork Oil Leak

All bikes leak fork oil, eventually. A VT700 that’s leaking fork oil isn’t indicative of any flaw on the bike. Since it’s especially common on vintage cruisers like the Honda VT700, we figured there’s no reason not to give it its section here in this article.¬†¬†

If left uncontrolled, your VT700’s fork oil could be leaking down to the bike’s brake pads, eventually impeding your bike’s braking process.

Oil-soiled front brake pads are as high of a crash risk as one might say it sounds. 

In extreme circumstances, a VT700 with a leaking fork can cause impairment to the front suspension, completely obstructing your VT700’s damping capacities and putting the rider in more potential danger.

If your VT700 is leaking fork oil, the accessible solutions are:

  • Swap out the fork bushings
  • Swap out the fork oil seal
  • Swap out the fork oil with fresh fluid

4. Bike Leaking Oil

A vintage cruiser like the VT700 that leaks oil is more than an annoyance. If your engine is spitting oil all over the pavement while riding, you’re risking your safety and injecting another sketchy variable into every ride.

Not only is an oil leak a substantial collision risk, but a VT700 motor with an oil leak is at high risk of overheating.

  • The motor performance of a VT700 motor that lacks oil will drop significantly.¬†
  • There’s also an increase in motor-part friction when the various critical components aren’t appropriately lubricated, causing more rapid wear and tear.¬†¬†

An oil leak is as uncomplicated to detect as it is hazardous, at least. 

These are the primary areas you should inspect a vintage VT700 for oil leaks, in no particular order:

  1. Oil Pan Seal
  2.  Hoses
  3. Tubes
  4. Cylinder Head Gasket
  5. Oil Filter

The most effortless way to repair an oil leak is to dismantle all oil system parts, wash them out, use a scraper to skin off any old gaskets, and replace them with fresh ones.

Related: 3 Most-Common Problems With Honda VT400

5. Failing Electrical System/Corroded Electrical Components

The wiring harness, battery, and charging system might be troublesome on a vintage VT700 that sat outside for a while in its previous owner’s yard.¬†

  • Check the electrical system using a multimeter. Check your results against the spec in the service manual, particularly the year VT700 you’re testing. You should be able to score a free or cheap digital copy on the web through Honda or via various third-party portals.¬†
  • Attach the multimeter to the battery with the machine off and examine the reading.¬†
  • Next, turn the machine back on and note the voltage.¬†
  • Then twist the throttle‚ÄĒnote the voltage reading.¬†
  • Gauge these documented readings against the specs in the manual to test if your output aligns with the model voltage.

If the difference between the Honda numbers and your noted readings is off, you have a problem somewhere in your Shadow 700’s electrical system. If you’re fortunate, it’s merely an aged battery.¬†

The electrical components you’ll likely need to replace on a worn Honda VT700 are:¬†

  • Battery
  • Stator
  • Regulator Rectifier
  • Fuses

Meddling with electronics and wiring is a unique skill; if you’re not convinced of your electrician’s aptitude, let a pro wrench on the wiring harness and troubleshoot the issues on your behalf.

Related: 4 Most-Common Problems With Honda 919

6. Brake System Corroded 

Brakes are essential to the cruiser experience, and while the VT700’s braking system was stellar 30+ years ago, it’s due for an update.¬†

To say the VT700’s brake system is dated is honestly just a matter of taste. Plenty of moto-cats live by the if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it philosophy, and the VT700’s brake system had sufficient stopping power that holds up.¬†

This is more about the simple fact that nothing lasts forever‚ÄĒthe brake system on your Shadow 700 will wear out eventually, even if well kept.¬†

If you’re researching because you’re about to buy a used VT700, take note of the reality of vintage brakes and test the brakes before you buy the bike.¬†

A Shadow 700 with failing brakes isn’t road-worthy, so try and get the seller to freshen the pads and fluids before you buy it. If not, ask the seller to shave off the difference so you can have it done by yourself.¬†

  • Brake fluids need to be replaced once every two or three years, minimum.¬†
  • Ask the VT700’s previous owner when the last time they changed the brake fluids was.
  • And once the bike is yours, continue to keep up with your fluid levels between fluid flushes.

If you took home your VT700 without checking the fluids, no worries:

  • When your brake fluid is new, it’s either light amber or clear.¬†
  • If your VT700’s brake fluid’s dark, it presumably requires replacement.
  • Failing to replace old brake fluid can corrode your brake system.¬†
  • Check the rubber brake lines for any observable deterioration, along with the master cylinder seal.

7. Rust and Gunk in the Fuel Tank

Probably the most common problem real-life Shadow 700 owners expressed when buying their vintage cruiser was corrosion in their fuel tank.

If you have corrosion in your VT700’s fuel tank‚ÄĒit’s a crucial issue that you must address instantly.¬†

If the rust flakes off the interior of your Shadow’s tank and flows through the fuel lines and into your carb, it damages other components in your VT700 motor.

These flakes can eventually obstruct your fuel lines too.

  • Investigate your VT700’s fuel tank for a brief examination. Use a flashlight to bear particular awareness of the fuel tank’s sides, examining for rust or any other corroding discoloration.¬†
  • If your Shadow’s tank is rusty, handle it instantly before operating the bike.
  • ¬†You can utilize miscellaneous retail products to alleviate your Shadow’s tank of corrosion; be sure the product you use is Honda-approved for use on your VT700.
  • You’ll have to use an abrasive scrubby to clean out the rust, even if you do use a particular product.
  • Be sure you minimize any flaking metal shavings into your fuel lines while scrubbing and that you clean, flush, and dry your tank before running it.

Don’t work too hard; worst-case scenario, there are multiple tanks available n the aftermarket that will fit your Shadow 700.

If you are lucky, the previous owner kept your VT700 appropriately stored, and the tank is rust-free. Maintain your bike’s fuel level at full to prevent dampness from penetrating the tank and rusting.

Related: 7 Most-Common Problems With Honda VT500

General Pros and Cons of Honda VT700

Here are the pros and cons of the Honda VT700:


  • Parts are readily available
  • Dependable
  • Fun to ride
  • Low maintenance
  • Classic/historical vintage Shadow VT series
  • VT700 engine will run forever once you get it cleaned up


  • Vacuum System Leaks Air
  • Carburetor Clogged Or Failing
  • Fork-Oil Leak
  • Bike Leaking Oil
  • Failing Electrical System/Corroded Electrical Components
  • Rust and Gunk in the Fuel Tank
  • Brake System Corroded¬†

 What Do the Reviews Say?

Ok, first let’s start with the age. The bike is almost 20 years old and it runs like a beast! I got this bike two years ago with about 19,000 miles on it. … With the redline at just over 8000rpms (plus it has a tach), the bike can haul with the big boys. 6 speed, shaft drive, hydraulic lifters, hydraulic clutch, liquid cooled…I did have to replace the stator and rectifier…besides that, this bike has been more reliable than my car.


What’s the Resale Value on a Honda VT700 Shadow?

Year Mileage Price
1984 12,000 $1,400
1985 5,865 $2,450
1985 18,208 $1,100
1986 37,700 $895
1987 7,564 $2,000
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‚ďė¬† 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.