How-To: Remove Your Honda Shadow’s Fuel Tank

If you do much tinkering on your ride, including adding a fuel processor or even just flushing your own coolant, removing your fuel tank is a necessary process. The first time I had to do it, I kept putting it off thinking it was going to be a huge hassle. Turns out it’s not bad at all – hopefully this video helps you through your first time removing your fuel tank.

*Check out the video version of this how-to guide here*

I’ll be working on a 2013 Shadow Spirit 750 (VT750C2). The process should be very similar for most of the 07-2018 shadow models, with minor differences here and there. This process may be helpful for other models as well. If in doubt, check your service manual if you have access to one.

 

Preparation and Tools

Before you get started, the emptier the tank the better; it will be easier to maneuver and the less likely you’ll be to spill gasoline during the process. If you need to, go for a ride and burn up some of that excess fuel.

You’ll also need these tools:

  • Socket wrench with 10mm and 12mm sockets
  • 5mm and 6mm hex keys
  • Pliers
  • Flat Screwdriver
  • Rags
  • Blocks of wood/small crate

 

Removing the Tank

1. Remove Saddle

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove the seat. You may have done this before but if not it’s very simple. Remove the two seat bolts, one on each side, with your 6mm hex key, then remove the bolt behind the seat with your 10mm socket. Then lift the rear of the seat and pull backwards to disengage the tab from underneath the fuel tank.

 

2. Remove Instrument Panel

Using your 5mm hex key remove the two bolts holding the instrument panel onto the top of the fuel tank. Once they are out, slide the whole assembly slightly forward then up and off. Note that it will remain attached by a wire, so just place it down along one side of the bike out of the way. Be careful not to pull on or damage the wire.

vt750 instrument panel
Instrument Panel Fasteners

 

3. Remove Vent Hose

At the right rear of the tank, up underneath, there is a small rubber vent hose. Grasp this, twist and pull straight downward off of the metal hose barb. If it hasn’t been removed before it may be stuck. Use pliers if you need to but take care not to damage the hose or barb.

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4. Unplug Electrical Connections

Under the left side of the tank, near the middle, are two electrical connections. Disconnect these by pulling them straight downward. Leave the nearby fuel hoses connected to the tank for now.

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5. Remove Tank Bolt

Grab your 12-millimeter socket wrench and remove the fuel tank bolt, located at the rear of the tank, where the seat goes. When it comes free, be careful to also grab the steel tabbed washer and set it aside with the bolt.

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6. Tank Removal

To remove the tank itself, stand to the left side of the bike. Place your wood blocks/crate on the floor next to the kickstand.

Grasp the tank on both sides, lift the rear up slightly, and slide the whole tank backward until you feel it come free from the rubber mounts up front. It can help to wiggle the tank slightly until it comes free. The tank will still be attached to the bike by the fuel lines, located on the left near the rear. Rotate the front of the tank left and downward, placing it on the wood block with the rear of the tank upward and leaning against the bike frame. This will keep you from straining the fuel hoses.

This position is fine for most repair and maintenance tasks. But if you need to completely remove the tank, for example to have it painted, use pliers to remove the hose clamps on the fuel hoses, then pull the hoses free of the tank. Whereas the vent tube generally comes off pretty easily, these can be a bit tougher. You’ll probably need to pull and twist with some force to get them to come off. This is also where you’re likely to spill at least some gas. Make sure you protect any sensitive nearby surfaces with rags.

vt750 fuel tank removed
Fuel Tank Placed on Blocks

 

 

Replacing the Tank

When it comes time to put the tank back on your motorcycle, the process is pretty much the reverse of what we did to remove it.

 

1. Replace the Fuel Lines

With our tank back up on its stand/blocks, replace the fuel lines. Like before, the fuel hoses will probably be tough to force onto the barbs. Make sure you get them seated completely, and then replace the hose clamps.

 

2. Place Tank

Now we’re going to swing the tank back into place. There are rounded brackets beneath the tank which seat onto rubber-coated mounts on the frame. As you lift and rotate the tank into place, line up the receivers on tank with the frame mounts and wiggle the tank forward into place. Be sure the tank bolt hole is lined up properly.

vt750 fuel tank mount detail
Fuel Tank Mount, Right Side

 

3. Replace Connections

Plug the electrical connections back in. On my 2013 model the wire tabs are different sizes, so you can be sure that you’ll plug them into the correct connectors.

Don’t forget to replace the vent tube. I’ve forgotten myself a few times. It’s not the end of the world, but it means that any gas that vents out due to heat expansion or a full tank sloshing around will end up running down the engine components instead of coming out down beneath the kickstand like it’s supposed to.

 

4. Replace Instrument Panel

Next, grab the dashboard assembly and replace it. Look up underneath the panel, if you can, and align it with the front mount. Once aligned, push it back into place until the fastener holes line up. Replace the two bolts to secure it.

vt750 instrument panel mounts
Instrument Panel Mounts

 

5. Replace Tank Bolt and Washer

Replace the tabbed washer, with the tab facing down and toward the rear of the bike, drop the bolt in and get it started with your fingers. What I like to do is tighten the bolt down almost all the way, just until you can still rotate the washer with your fingers. At this point, use your screwdriver to brace the washer tab in place while you finish tightening the tank bolt.

Now simply replace your saddle and you’re all set!

 

How to Replace Vulcan 900 Classic LT Brake Light Switches (Part 2 of 2)

vulcan 900 tail light

Last week we detailed the steps we’d taken to troubleshoot why our Vulcan’s brake light wasn’t working (read that post here). Turns out both brake light switches were bad. This week we’ll walk through how to replace those switches.

 

Removing the Old Front Brake Switch

Removing and replacing the front brake switch is ridiculously easy. Even if you don’t change your own oil you can probably manage this task, and doing so will save you a bundle in time and money spent at the shop.

To remove the switch, simply unplug the wiring connector by pulling it gently. Then remove the single phillips-head screw holding the black plastic switch body to the aluminum lever housing. The switch more or less drops straight off.

 

vulcan front brake light switch removed
Front Brake Light Switch Removed

 

Replacing the Front Brake Switch

To install the new switch, line up the plastic peg on the top of the switch with the alignment hole on the lever housing, making sure the switch button faces forward and the electrical contact prongs face the left side of the bike. It helps to squeeze the brake lever so as to not put undue strain on the switch while sliding it into place.

Replace the screw, plug in the wiring, and you’re good to go. Now turn on the ignition and squeeze the brake lever to ensure your brake light is firing as it should.

 

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The rear switch, unfortunately, is not nearly so simple. Still, it’s a job you can do at home with a few tools and a spare hour or so.

 

Removing the Old Rear Brake Switch

The rear switch has a long attached wire that plugs in up underneath the fuel tank. Therefore the first step in removing the faulty switch is to remove the tank. We went through that process last week on the blog. If you need a refresher, check it out here.

Once the tank has been removed, unplug the old switch. It is one among many connectors mounted to a bracket under the fuel tank (see image below). Next you’ll need to follow the wire down toward the switch, removing it from a series of brackets. You’ll need a 10mm wrench or socket to remove the topmost of these. I find it helpful to take some photos as I go, because it can be hard to remember how to thread the wire back through correctly. Be careful with the plastic brackets, as they can break easily on removal.

 

rear brake switch connection
Rear Brake Switch Connection

 

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There is a small spring that connects the switch to the brake lever. Use a narrow plier or a stout piece of wire to disengage this spring from the switch. If the spring is very old or looks to be in poor shape, you might consider replacing it with your new switch.

The switch itself can be frustrating to remove. It mounts inside of a plastic adjustment nut which has four locking prongs around its circumference. These lock the nut inside the switch mounting bracket. The whole thing is tucked up behind a plate that mounts the brake master cylinder, lever, and foot peg. One method is to remove this entire assembly to get access to the switch, but I find this to be more trouble than it’s worth. With a little engenuity it is very much possible to remove and replace the switch without disassembly.

 

vulcan rear brake switch
Rear Brake Switch

 

What you need to do is reach up under the switch, and if possible press one or more of the locking prongs inward (some kind of narrow tool is useful here), then rock that portion of the switch upward to keep the prongs from re-locking in place. Work your way around the switch until you’ve disengaged all of the prongs, and the switch and nut will then pop upward out of the bracket. Keep in mind that the new switch includes the wire and a new adjustment nut, so don’t worry about damaging the wire or nut on disassembly. Just be careful not to damage your brake lines or the mounting bracket.

 

Replacing the Rear Brake Switch

I find that installing the new switch is much easier than removing the old, despite the cramped quarters.

 

new rear brake switch
New Rear Brake Switch with Spring

 

The key, to start with, is to thread the switch wire up through all the brackets from the bottom to the top. The switch end is far too bulky to fit if you try to go from top to bottom. So loosely put the switch in place (do not snap it into the bracket yet), then grab the plug end of the wire and thread it around and through the bracket, ideally in the same way the original was done. Duplicating it exactly isn’t strictly necessary, but do be sure to keep the wire away from the exhaust and any pinch points.

As you run the wire up toward its connector, replace each wire bracket. Finally, plug the switch in. It’s a good idea at this point to test the switch before replacing the fuel tank or even popping the switch into its mounting bracket. You can do this by turning your ignition on, then holding the switch body with one hand and pulling downward on the plunger with your fingers or a pair of narrow pliers. If the brake light does not illuminate, check all your connections and for other sources of the problem.

 

vulcan rear brake switch connector
Rear Brake Switch Connection Location

 

Once you’re satisfied that the switch works, grab the switch body and push it downward into its mounting bracket until the nut locks in place. Replace the spring, making sure it is securely connected to both the brake lever and the new switch.

Now test again. If the brake light is illuminated even when you aren’t depressing the brake pedal, or if it doesn’t come on when you do depress the lever, the switch probably needs adjustment. To do this, hold the switch body to keep it from rotating, then turn the adjustment nut to move the switch up or down, as needed. Do this until the brake light responds as it should.

Now replace the fuel tank and seat, and take it out for a test drive!

Troubleshooting Vulcan 900 Brake Light Problems

kawasaki vulcan tank badge

My buddy recently bought a used ’07 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT. The bike sat for a few months until one warm spring day we decided to take it for a shakedown ride. We didn’t get very far.

Our pre-ride check revealed that the bike’s brake light wasn’t working – neither the front brake lever nor the rear foot pedal would activate the light. This is the story of how we tested the bike’s electrical system to find the problem.

Basics – Bulb and Fuses

Our first thought was: it couldn’t possibly be the switches; what are the chances both switches have failed at once? So we removed the taillight lens and visually inspected the bulb. It looked good, but we replaced it anyway. Still no joy.

Next we checked the fuses, located behind the left side cover. It turns out there is no separate brake light fuse. A single 10A fuse covers the whole taillight, including the brake light – and we knew the taillight was working. Still, we inspected all of the fuses just to be sure. All was good there.

This next step was no doubt overkill, but we also checked the tail light socket to rule out a second bad bulb. For this we removed the bulb, turned the ignition switch ON, and got out our multimeter set to DC voltage. There are two contacts at the base of the socket – one for the tail light filament and one for the brake light filament.

vulcan-taillight-detail

Using our multimeter we probed each contact separately, starting with the taillight. With the ignition on, this should always be hot, and it was, showing a full 12 volts on our meter. Next we probed the brake contact, trying both the front and rear brake levers. In our case, neither lever activated the brake light, confirming that either the socket itself or something else in the brake circuit was bad.

Checking the Rear Fender Wiring

Our next step was to rule out the socket and the wiring within the rear fender assembly. To do this, we removed the seat, exposing the wire harness for the rear fender. Pulling back the rubber boot exposes four connectors associated with the tail/brake light, running lights, left rear, and right rear turn signals.

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To check the fender wiring we unplugged the tail/brake light connector (the large one with three wires) and again deployed our multimeter. Turning the ignition on, we probed the tail and brake light connectors in sequence, again using the front and rear brake levers in an attempt to activate the brake circuit. Testing the tail light circuit was admittedly redundant, as we already knew it worked, but it served to confirm for us that our testing setup was sound.

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Again we saw a solid 12 volts on the meter from the tail circuit, nothing on the brake circuit from either the front or rear lever. Our assumption at this point was that everything from the seat rearward works, and that our problem must be elsewhere.

Removing the Fuel Tank

What we know now is that something is wrong between both brake switches and the taillight connector under the seat. We’re still skeptical that both switches could be bad at once, but that’s starting to look more and more possible.

Still, there is a wiring manifold under the fuel tank where we can check for disconnected wires or other issues. If we do end up needing to replace the rear switch, we’ll need to remove the tank anyway.

Removing the tank is fairly easy. In our case, because we only needed access to the wiring beneath the tank, we only did a partial removal. To do it, you’ll need a 12mm socket, a phillips screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a block of wood 10-12″ tall to rest the tank on. It’s easiest if the tank isn’t very full.

Start by removing the instrument panel cover on top of the tank by removing the one screw below the instrument panel. Push the plastic cover forward until it pops off.

Next you’ll need to remove the fuel vent hose near the top right of the tank. Squeeze the hose clamp and slide it clear, then twist the hose back and forth while pulling it off the hose barb on the tank. Pliers can help here, but be careful not to damage the hose. Near the hose barb is a connector for the fuel gauge. Unplug this as well.

To remove the instrument panel connector under the speedometer, fold back the black rubber boot, press the locking tab and pull the plug downward.

Next remove the two 12mm bolts at the base of the tank, usually covered by the front of the seat. Finally remove the left engine cover by removing its one screw and pulling it outward. This gives clearance to rest the tank on the left side of the bike. Behind the engine cover are additional tank connections that it is not necessary to remove unless you need to completely remove the tank from the motorcycle.

We simply placed a sturdy block of wood beside the bike on the left to rest the tank on. Grab the tank and pull it backward firmly, pulling it free of the rubber mounting lugs near the front. Once it comes free, swing the tank to the left and downward, resting it on your block of wood with the speedometer at the top. Be careful not to twist or damage the remaining connections.

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Everything under the tank looked good. There were no obviously loose or broken connections to be seen, so we decided finally to check out the switches one by one.

Checking the Front Brake Switch

The front brake switch has a black plastic connector where the wires enter the switch. We disconnected this to find the copper contacts dirty and corroded. With a wire brush, we cleaned the contacts and reinstalled the connector, repeating our test with the multimeter at the under-seat connector. This time we did get some current from the front brake lever, but not much. We were showing maybe 8 volts on the meter – not even enough to illuminate the bulb – and even that was sporadic.

Our final test was to bypass the switch at its terminal to ensure the voltage loss we were seeing wasn’t caused by something else in the system besides the switch. For this, we made a DIY jumper cable out of a 2-3″ piece of wire with about 3/8″ stripped on each end, then twisted. (If you do this, be sure you use wire of at least the same gauge as the bike’s wiring – we used 18 ga.)

To conduct the test we once again unplugged the front switch connector and plugged our jumper into the ends of the connector, completing the circuit. With the ignition switch ON, probing the circuit now gave us a full 12 volts on the brake circuit. At this point we plugged the fender back in to ensure both filaments of the taillight bulb illuminated. Success!

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With this, we were confident that the front switch needed to be replaced (part number 27010-0025). This still left the problem of the rear switch.

Checking the Rear Brake Switch

On the Vulcan the rear brake switch is mounted in a plastic adjustment nut. Our obvious first step then was to ensure this wasn’t simply an adjustment issue. To adjust the switch, you hold the switch body in place and turn the nut to move the switch up and down relative to the brake pedal. The key is to adjust the switch up enough that it is actuated when the pedal is pressed, but not so far that it’s on all the time.

vulcan rear brake switch
Rear Brake Switch

What we did is reach up under the switch, physically pushing the plunger all the way in and then pulling it all the way back out. Tiny fingers or a pair of narrow pliers can be helpful here, as the switch is very difficult to reach. Manipulating the switch gave us still nothing from the brake light – this didn’t seem to be an adjustment issue.

To confirm, we decided to bypass the rear switch as we had the front. The rear switch is actually an assembly with a long wire running all the way up to the manifold beneath the fuel tank. This is the location where we’ll do the bypass.

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Locate the rear brake switch connection and unplug it. Once again using the DIY jumper, we bypass the switch assembly. And, as before, this did the trick; the brake light illuminated as expected. We added the rear switch (part number 27010-0050) to our list of parts to buy.

Lessons Learned

In retrospect it’s pretty obvious that we could have saved ourselves a lot of time if we had simply tested the switches first. Coincidences apparently can happen.

On the up side, we learned a lot about the motorcycle’s wiring in general, and there are worse things than spending a few hours tearing apart a motorcycle.

Next Time: Replacing the Switches

Look for our upcoming post wherein we’ll be replacing both the front and rear brake switches.

Two Lightweight Stove Options for Moto Camping

solo stove cooking

 

When I’m packing my bike for an overnight trip, I’m always looking for ways to lighten the load. Here are a couple of stove options for motorcycle camping that will leave plenty of room in your saddlebags for other essentials.

 

The Solo Stove Lite

What I like about the solo stove lite is its simplicity. It’s small, lightweight, and requires no maintenance. The chances of it quitting on you mid-trip are virtually zero. Plus, it’s sort of like a mini campfire – and to me there’s something nice about the sound and smell of a real fire after a long day on the road.

 

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The whole thing fits inside its own pot, making a package that’s less than 5 inches tall and 5 inches in diameter. Not bad. Even better, it requires you to carry no fuel source. The stove burns almost anything you can scrounge up, even in the desert: twigs, leaves, pine needles, tree bark.

 

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The solo stove does take some practice to get it burning at its most efficient. And someone needs to tend it, as it goes through fuel fairly quickly once it gets going. Still, it’s great for boiling water for coffee and dehydrated meals. You could cook almost anything else over it too, from hot dogs to canned foods or even your own from-scratch camping recipes.

Still, the solo stove lite is one of my go-tos when motorcycle camping for its light weight and rugged simplicity. For larger groups, or those willing to dedicate a bit more space in their luggage, solo stove offers some larger stove options as well.

 

MSR Multi-Fuel Stoves

Though not quite as small and light as the solo stove, all things considered, I often find myself carrying my MSR dragonfly multi-fuel stove on motorcycle camping trips. Backpackers love it because it is compact, versatile, user-serviceable, and burns a variety of liquid fuels including white gas, diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline.

It boils a pot of water very quickly, but can be turned down to simmer more delicate foods if you’re a campsite gourmet.

 

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When I take the stove on motorcycle trips its refillable fuel bottles are a great way to carry extra gas for my bike. If you’re already used to carrying extra gas, all you’re adding to your load is the stove itself. When you stop to fill your tank, just top off your fuel bottles and you’ve always got fuel for your stove and emergency gas.

Two of the large 30 oz bottles amount to almost 1/2 gallon of gas – often more than enough to get you to that next gas station. Or, use the gas to make some poor stranded biker’s day.

 

msr fuel bottles
MSR Fuel Bottles

 

In the end, I often have trouble deciding which stove to take on a trip. The peace of mind of having extra fuel along often steers me toward the liquid fuel models, even at the cost of a little more weight.

What kind of stove do you use when motorcycle camping?