11 Common Problems With the Honda Shadow (Solutions Guide)

Honda’s Shadow motorcycle is one of the world’s most famous lines of small and medium V-Twin cruisers.

The Shadow’s low price tag, fuel efficiency, reliability, ease of riding and handling make it a very popular choice for beginner riders.

But no motorcycle is perfect, so we put together the following solution’s guide for the Honda Shadow.

1. Honda Shadow Won’t Start

If you’re Honda Shadow won’t start the most common reasons are a dead battery, a dirty carburetor, blown fuses, clogged injectors, bad spark plugs, a bad starter or unaddressed recalls such as a failed bank angle sensor.

Dead Battery

If your Honda Shadow battery is dead, your bike will click at start up but won’t turn over.

  • The battery powers your bike’s ignition, starter, and fuel injection systems.
  • In some cases, the battery fails to power the starter because of a low charge. The click sound your Shadow makes is because the battery has enough juice to zap the starter but not enough to move the coil to start.
  • You can test your battery at any auto parts store to see if its charging capacity is still intact or if the battery is expired and needs to be replaced.
  • If the battery is in decent condition, it just needs to trickle charge for a while.
  • In other cases, if the battery is expired, you’ll need to replace it.

Dirty Carburetor

Diagnosis: Do this if you have an electric starter:

  1. Remove your air intake
  2. Push the starter and squirt starter fluid straight into your carburetor.

If your Shadow starts and revs up for a a couple of seconds this indicates you have a dirty carburetor.

Fix: You’ll need to give your carbs a good clean.

Best way to do this is to remove the carburetor and place the parts in a ultrasonic cleaner and repeat the cleaning process a few times.

Failing Bank Angle Sensor

In 2016, more than 22,000 Honda Shadows were recalled for starting problems due to failing bank angle sensors, this included 2011-2016 models. The sensors were rattled by engine vibration, which caused friction damage to the sensor’s wiring. The affected sensor signals an emergency stop for no reason. 

The bank angle sensor kills the engine when the bike leans over far enough to fall preventing injury and damage.

  • The engine vibration was causing the bank angle sensor wiring to rub against the wiring harness’s joint connectors.
  • The friction from the rubbing was enough to cause electrical shorts

If the engine vibration on the 2011-2016 Honda Shadows hasn’t been addressed, it can damage the bank angle sensor’s wiring and scramble its signal to the ECU. The ECU then thinks the bike has fallen over when it hasn’t, killing the engine of your Honda Shadow while you’re riding, which is extremely dangerous.

  • Honda instructed their dealership techs to relocate the connectors on the wiring harness that were causing friction damage to the sensor.
  • The technicians also replaced any faulty lean angle sensors.

Affected models:

  • 2012-2014 VT750C2,  VT750C2F, or VT750CA
  • 2011-2016 VT750C
  • 2013-2016 VT750CS
  • 2010-2016 VT750C2B
  • 2013-2014 VT750C2S

Blown Fuse

If your Honda Shadow sounds normal when you try and start it but just spins continuously yielding no results, this is indicative of a blown fuse.

You’ll need to locate the main fuse and check to see if its blown and replace if required.

2. Honda Shadow Won’t Start Clicking

Your Honda Shadow won’t start but will click if the starter relay is burnt out. Riders frequently find that their Honda Shadows not only click at start up and don’t start, but the headlights and gauge displays also die and refuse to come back on.

  • The modern Honda Shadow design uses an electronic spark to ignite the spark that starts your motorcycle’s engine.
  • The starter relay is the part that transfers the electrical current from your battery to your starter system.
  • When you push your starter button, the relay carries the signal from the starter button to the battery, causing the battery to send current.
  • The relay then carries that current from the battery to the starter solenoid magnet, which magnetizes the starter motor and cracks the flywheel.

 If your Honda Shadow’s starter relay burns out, the battery’s power never reaches your starter solenoid as the starter relay clicks and sheds the energy before it takes it where it needs to go.

In other cases, the failing relay will start the motor but continue to click long after the bike runs.

The only fix for a faulty starter relay is to replace the problematic unit with a new one.

In many reports, riders claim that the corrosion on the relay’s wiring was the issue.

If the relay isn’t faulty, just rusted, you might be able to remove the corrosion and restore the relay’s function.

3. Honda Shadow Won’t Start When Hot

Honda Shadows with carburetors won’t start when hot because of vapor lock. It happens due to trapped vapors from a pinched vent line, clogged canister, or flooded carb. The engine vacuum fails to pull air through the bike’s evaporation canister and sends it to the engine to combust.

As one of the most [popular and reliable cruisers on the market, pre-fuel injected Shadows are still quite popular on the used market, both for new riders and custom bike builders.

Before fuel injection, Shadows used a carburetor to execute fuel combustion.

  • The Shadows carb rested above two hot engine cylinders.
  • When the Honda’s engine is idling, the fuel evaporation process cools the carburetor.
  • But when you kill the engine, that fuel evaporation and cooling die. Sometimes the residual heat is enough to warm the carb and whatever fuel is left in it.

If the fuel in your Shadow’s float bowl gets hot enough to boil it will evaporate. The evaporation pressure prevents more fuel from filling the bowl, causing backfires when trying to start your Honda Shadow and preventing it from starting when hot.

4. Honda Shadow Won’t Idle

The most common reason a Honda Shadow won’t idle is that the idle adjustment screw is either out of adjustment or broken. Some riders don’t realize that the idle adjustment screw can alter their Shadow’s idle speed. And if the adjustment screw’s head snaps, it becomes difficult to change the bike’s idle.

Here’s how one real-life Shadow rider describes it:

“Took my 2004 Shadow out of storage. It appears that Seafoam in the tank last Fall wasn’t enough. Won’t run unless I keep twisting the throttle to keep RPMs up. I would just keep repeating the process – hey, it’s worked in the past – BUT in hopes of increasing idle RPM’s a little, I twisted the idle adjustment screw. Its cable seemed loose, pulling about an inch out of the housing.”

The adjustment screw on your Honda Shadow should have a plastic grip comfort piece attached to the adjustment bolt’s head.

If the grip breaks or rattles off, the throttle may go out of whack, and it will be hard to adjust your throttle. In time, this can end up causing your Honda Shadow not to idle.  

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5. Honda Shadow Won’t Go into Neutral

Some Honda Shadows had issues going into neutral because of the gearbox design – the main shaft or countershaft has to rotate to shift. The main shaft stops turning when you disengage your clutch, and the countershaft stops when you stop, so the Shadow won’t go into neutral if you’re not moving.

Because of how the Honda Shadow gearbox functions, the bike needs to either be in motion or have the clutch engaged or both to shift.

Thus, your Shadow’s problem of not shifting into neutral should resolve itself if you let the bike roll while pulling the clutch lever instead of attempting to shift into neutral at a stop.

6. Honda Shadow Won’t Stay Running

A Honda Shadow won’t stay running if the starter relay is installed incorrectly and the electrical connection is crossed. A faulty, damaged, or worn-out ignition switch is another common cause of Honda Shadows that starts but won’t keep running.

Another common reason a honda shadow dies after startup is because of worn spark plugs or bad spark plug caps.

The spark plug cap is a part of the spark plug’s electrical wire.

  • Remove the spark plug wire.
  • With a multimeter set to read Ohms, read the spark plug cap’s ohm level–it should be at 5000 Ohms.
  • If the multimeter reads anything higher and lower than 5000 Ohms from your spark plug cap, the cap is why your Honda Shadow won’t stay running and stalls out after start up.

7. Honda Shadow Won’t Rev Up

Honda Shadow models will have issues revving up if there’s blockage interrupting the airflow or if there’s a vacuum leak. The carburetor Shadows uses is a high-velocity carburetor; air intake is what lifts the linage and causes the revving instead of the carburetor slides.

In modern shadows, air intake still plays a vital role in revving and engine RPMs, hence the tendency for Shadow customizers to modify the air intakes.

  • Sometimes, the air-to-fuel ratio isn’t adjusted to accommodate the new intake.
  • In others, a vacuum leak causes the air to escape before it enters the combustion chamber.
  • Finally, if there’s a clogged air filter, blocked manifold, or pinched line can prevent the air your Honda Shadow needs to rev up from entering in the first place. 

8. Honda Shadow Won’t Turn On

A modern Honda Shadow won’t even try to turn on if the side stand is extended due to a side stand sensor safety switch. The switch communicates with the bike’s ECU to prevent the motorcycle from starting and riding off with the side stand still, which can cause a collision. 

In other cases, the Honda Shadow’s side stand sensor tells the ECU the side stand is down when it isn’t. To understand how this can happen, let’s examine the order of functioning of the side stand sensor.

  • The ECU signals to the clutch safety sensor and the side stand safety sensor at start-up.
  • If the motorcycle is in neutral, the clutch sensor will return the signal to the ECU, letting it know the bike isn’t in gear and is thus safe to start.
  • If the side stand is tucked away into the riding position, the side stand sensor will return the signal to the ECU, letting it know it’s safe to start the bike.
  • If the side stand is down, the signal is interrupted. If the signal doesn’t return, the ECU won’t even try to start the motorcycle, no matter how many times you press the starter button.

Suppose the side stand safety sensor becomes dislodged, or its wires are corroded by moisture corrosion or road grime. In that case, it can fail to return the safety signal to the ECU at start-up, preventing the motorcycle from starting even when the side stand is raised, and your Honda Shadow is ready to ride.

9. Honda Shadow Won’t Shift

A Honda Shadow will develop shifting problems if the gearbox cover is removed, whether for maintenance or performance upgrades, and the two shift shafts are knocked out of position, causing the teeth and the shaft to come unaligned. 

Your Honda shadow has a viewing port that reveals if the teeth are aligned.

To inspect the teeth’s alignment, you’ll first have to remove one of the side covers, left on some of the VT110 Shadows, right on most of the other models–check your owner’s manual to be sure.

If the teeth are unaligned, you’ll have to remove the inspection plug and its o-ring seal and re-align the teeth onto the two shifting shafts to get your Honda shadow to shift gears.

10. Honda Shadow Not Charging

Honda Shadows from the late 90s and early 2000s often developed battery charging issues because of faulty regulators/rectifiers that would burn out early due to overheating.  If your R/R dies, your Shadow’s electric ignition won’t get the charge it needs to start the bike.

Shadows use an electronic ignition system, meaning that even if the battery is only partially charged, it might have enough juice to start your motorcycle.

Therefore, if the R/R or the stator fails to change the battery to at least 12 volts, your bike won’t be able to start at all.

11. Honda Shadow Not Getting Fuel

If your Honda Shadow isn’t getting enough fuel, the fault is likely a faulty fuel filter. Honda equips modern Shadows with a self-cleaning fuel filter. If the filter’s ability to clean itself is impaired, it will clog up, and your engine won’t get the fuel it needs for combustion.

If your Honda Shadow is not getting the fuel it needs for ideal performance, your air to fuel mix will run lean, causing misfiring, performance, and acceleration issues.

Related: 9 Common Problems with the Honda Shadow Phantom (Explained)


  • Michael Ta Nous

    I've been weaving words into stories since my early scribbling days, and my journey in the world of motorcycles and their communities spans almost two decades. Living with a talented motorcycle mechanic as a roommate, our garage transformed into a vibrant workshop where I absorbed the intricacies of...