5 Most-Common Problems With Triumph Thunderbird

The Triumph Thunderbird is one of the most iconic Triumph bikes ever to hit the streets.

With a 1700cc parallel-twin engine and a price-tag as easy on the eyes as its sleek style, the Triumph Thunderbird is a force to be reckoned with.

The Thunderbird is a solid cruiser to venture out on, but that doesn’t mean owners haven’t experienced some adventures in the garage too.

We’ve deep-dove to forums and came across some of the issues riders have hit with on a Triumph Thunderbird and the troubleshooting steps they’ve taken to bring her back to life.

Let’s rip right into it!

1. Problematic Radiator Hose

One of the more common complaints you’ll encounter from Triumph T-bird owners regarding problems with its radiator hose.

The Triumph Thunderbird’s motor is state of the art, with a liquid cooling system. That said, a radiator means more parts to inspect and maintain.

A problematic radiator hose can lead to overheating and potentially more expensive problems.

Overheating tends to result from a damaged water pump, broken fan, or a radiator hose failing to deliver the coolant to the radiator.

A few ways to diagnose the problem:

  • Removing the thermostat
  • Checking the fan switch for faults
  • Using a coolant additive product
  • Making sure the coolant system is full- no air in the system
  • Check the radiator cap is holding pressure.

After a good diagnosis, most owners have traced the problem to a leak in the main coolant hose that leads into the top of the rear head.

Things get loose while you ride, and sometimes all it takes to stop the leak is tightening the hose clamps.

Here are a few more things to check if the problem persists.

  • Clean out the coolant reservoir: Rust can build up inside the coolant reservoir and leave less room for the coolant. Removing the coolant reservoir and giving it a good cleaning with solid water pressure can solve this.
  • Check the bleed screw: Make sure not to overtighten the screw as this might damage the threaded metal insert and let air in.
  • Clean out the radiator: Over time, the radiator can get clogged up as the bike is used. Cleaning it makes sure there aren’t any bugs stuck onto the radiator, possibly making it heavier.

2. Squealing Or Chirping Belt

Here’s a problem that’s affected quite a few Triumph models, including the Thunderbird.

The notorious squealing or chirping belt issue has inspired a few recalls.

Thunderbird owners have experienced the chirping belt on bikes with less than 1k miles, while, in other cases, owners have witnessed the problem surfacing out of the blue after 20,000 miles of peaceful riding.

Some Solutions To Fixing The Squealing Belt:

  • Squeaky bearing:
    A shot of some WD40 can get the bearing to stop squealing. If the WD40 dries out and the bike squeals again, it might be time to replace the bearing. Most owners discovered that the squeaking bearing was due to the belt being too tight, not to a damaged bearing.
  • Damaged belt:
    A damaged belt can lead to squealing noise. If the bike is still under warranty, a replacement will be done at a dealership. Regardless, owners should replace a damaged belt immediately.
  • Belt Tension:
    Adjusting the tension on the belt is tricky. If the tension is too tight, the belt will wear out faster and chirp. If the tension is too loose, the extra friction can buildup heat on the belt and the pulley.  The belt chirp’s main culprit on the Triumph Thunderbird is believed to be due to bikes leaving the factory with their belt tension set too tight.

The chirp is most likely the result of  either:

  1. The belt tension is too tight, or
  2. the wheel alignment being untrue or,
  3. both.

The leading theory we’ve found is that the belt-tension that Triumph suggests is too tight; if you adjust the belt to their recommendation, the wheel alignment goes out of wack, causing a chirp.

Most Thunderbird owners have resorted to adjusting their own belts to a looser tension and have made the chirp dissipate.

3. Engine Noise

This one’s a two-parter.

There was a recall on older Thunderbirds about Alternator drive bolt rattling loose and making noise.

Most of the noise these days is just a characteristic rattle of the Thunderbirds power-hungry 1700cc engine. Let’s hear the good news first.

Noisey Motor

These 1700cc monsters are noisy engines.

What tends to scare the owners is how variant the noise is, not only in rhythm but with the frequency at which the noise surfaces.

Some owners say that once they’ve got some miles on the clock and the engine’s been broke in, the noise gets softer and less dramatic. Others say that just as you think you’re rid of it,  the noise hits again.

As a few riders have observed,  it takes 20 or 30 miles for the motor to warm up, but once it does, it purs just right. This could imply that it takes some heating up before everything expands to ideal functioning dimensions.

It’s not uncommon for unusual noises on a motorcycle to make a rider paranoid. This flames paranoia is fanned by the fluctuations in the engine noise from time to time.

That said, when she’s roaring in the wind smooth sailing, it’s just as common for those thoughts to dissipate.

A significant amount of noise is expected from a 1700cc engine; its piston rod’s balancers are huge.

Also read our article on 5 Most-Common Problems With Triumph Street Twin

Loose Alternator Drive Bolt

Now, on the older version of the Triumph Thunderbird, riders discovered that the rattle was coming from the clutch, not the motor.

Noise issues and old models were indicative of a bigger problem after the owner popped of the clutch cover and found a loose alternator drive bolt and rattling around in there.

Triumph issued a recall due to these alternator drive bolts on various models, including the Thunderbird. They tracked the problem down to a manufacturer batch of faulty bolts installed on various bikes.

The initial design used a hardened splined shaft with female threads on both ends.

One bolt threaded into the shaft containing the alternator cush drive. The other end reached behind the clutch to screw into a bolt there. It’s the bolt behind the clutch that would come loose, sometimes rattling against the clutch, sometimes shredding off completely.

The recall meant a visit to the dealership and so a Triumph mechanic could replace the bolt. If you’re on an older Thunderbird, the dealer can run your Vin and let you know if you qualify for an upgrade or if your bike’s already had one.

4. Tire Wear-out In The Center

The Triumph Thunderbird eats tires down the center quite rapidly.

Although this isn’t exactly a lightweight bike, it still goes through more tires than other bikes of the same weight range.

The tires get worn out in the center, and this means the tires need a replacement. It typically happens when the bike has been ridden between 3,000-8,000 miles.

This usually depends on how hard the bike is ridden.

A softer rider who uses rides the bike occasionally can expect a longer time between tire replacements. On the other hand, a tougher rider who rides the Thunderbird might have to replace tires more frequently.

Even though this is not a serious issue about the bike’s safety, it can be rather expensive if you have to change tires now and then. Tire replacements on the Triumph Thunderbird aren’t cheap and can set you back $700.

With that in mind, the more tire replacement you get, the more likely it is for something else on the bike to break. Other problems such as a faulty belt or wheel misalignment can pop out if the bike is messed around.

5. Engine Cut Out After A Few Minutes

This category refers to what happens when the bike rides smoothly for a certain amount of time and then cuts out or loses power.

This is a complaint we’ve encountered as a symptom of a few different problems, all of which turned out to be the result of poor maintenance, inadequate adherence to the oil-service-schedule,  or improper storage leading to corrosion or rust.

Upon further investigation, several owners removed the petcock and found that the problem was a rusty petrol filter.

Other owners found that they had a faulty ignition sensor on their hands. These problems have similar symptoms— when the bike gets hot, it dies, and when it gets cold, it starts up again.

Here Are A Few Things To Try Out:

  • Check the fuel supply system:
    If the fuel supply is not functioning the way it’s supposed to, the bike will start to run lean. Running lean means that the air: fuel mix is getting too much air and not enough fuel. Running lean mix can cause various problems, including starting the bike and, you guessed it, the engine cutting out.
  • Check the ignition sensor:
    This is the most common cause of the problem on older Triumph Thunderbirds that cut out with no warning. A replacement of the ignition sensor will usually solve the problem.
  • Removing and checking the petcock:
    Removing the fuel tank and the petcock exposes the filter. This is how some owners diagnosed the problem and found that the filter had rust surrounding it.
    Owners found that the inside of the tank had sludge building up and very likely was blocking fuel feed to the carbs.

Cleaning and painting the fuel system of any motorcycle is a part of routine maintenance.

This way to prevent your engine from losing power is to adhere to the suggested maintenance and service schedule in the Triumph Thunderbird’s owner’s manual.

Final Thoughts

It might seem like the Triumph Thunderbird has a few flaws, but it’s actually one of the most reliable models from Triumph.

Owners usually get the bike when they fully understand all of its flaws.

All in all, the Triumph Thunderbird has way more benefits than there are flaws.

General Pros And Cons For The Triumph Thunderbird

Pros:

On a new Triumph Thunderbird, you might feel like the bike is missing something, but the engine gives a powerful sound after breaking it in. The sound of the Thunderbird is one of the most pleasing in the cruiser category.

The larger gas tank on the Thunderbird has had owners ride the bike for longer before needing more fuel. This gives more time on the bike to enjoy the handling and sheer power that the bike delivers.

The paint and design detail quality is of very high standards on the T-birds, adding to the overall cruiser experience.

Performance is right at your fingertips with the Thunderbirds 1600cc motor and advanced liquid cooling system. The pure power and great handling of the bike have had new riders smiling from ear to ear when riding the Thunderbird for the first time.

Triumph has surely gone out to make one of the best cruisers around.

Cons:

  • Problematic Radiator Hose
  • Engine Cackling Noise
  • Tire Wear-out In The Center
  • Engine Cut Out After A Few Minutes
  • Squealing Or Chirping Belt

What Do The Reviews Say?

“The 2010 Triumph Thunderbird’s wings have shapeshifted into a massive parallel-twin motor. Triumph’s Thunderbird is Harley-Davidson’s worst nightmare. If there’s such a thing as a slayer of giants or, in this case, a Harley killer, then the 2010 Triumph Thunderbird is the spearhead and the first that really could matter.”

[Source: Ultimatemotorcycling.com]

“Of all the heavy cruisers that have aspired to the sacred throne occupied by Harley-Davidson lo these many years, the most authentic must be the Triumph Thunderbird—which is precisely why we named the big 1597cc parallel-Twin-powered beast CW’s Best Cruiser for the last two years.”

[Source: CycleWorld.com]

What Is The Resale Value Of The Triumph Thunderbird

Year Mileage(miles) Price($)
2010 24,600 4,400
2011 82,000 4,000
2012 6,500 5,000
2013 4,300 7,.00
2015 6,300 7,800
2017 4,500 9,500

NB: – The above prices are estimates and may vary according to your location and model of the bike.

References:

https://ultimatemotorcycling.com/2010/01/21/2010_triumph_thunderbird_review/

https://www.cycleworld.com/2011/02/10/triumph-thunderbird-storm-1700-first-ride/

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