second alton starter failure - WTF?

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let me digest the replies overnight and get back in the AM. one thing to add now, is the alton starter turning the engine over is hit or miss. sometimes, about 50% of the time, it spins the engine unimpeded - very fast, almost like no plugs. the remaining 50% of the time, i hit the starter button, and nothing. it's like i'm fighting full engine compression. the starter engages and "ooomph" - nothing! i can hit the starter button again, and sometimes it will spin the engine, and other times the same "ooomph" - that can happen several times to the point where i give up. there has been cases where i've actually gave up, and went to the kick start. if something else is at play here, i'm at a loss. as a side note, there's no good way, that i can think of, to use any kind of wheel or gear puller on the clutch-rotor. the first time i tried it, i damaged the sprag clutch-rotor. not the smartest guy on the planet, but i'm thinking of fabricating some sort of plate that i can bolt to the assembly and somehow apply pulling force more on the center of the clutch-rotor assembly. anyone - any ideas?
 

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shock loading – the instant torque, and explosive nature that a starter operates will give any woodruff key a hard time.
Plus if the clamping force is not sufficient (as covered above) the small amount of backlash can massively multiply the effect of shock loading.
I think this a very good point. I'd add that the rotor should be set tight on the key if there is any "wiggle" room. Set such that the key is up against the right side of the channel in the rotor, as you look at it, blocking movement short of a powerful after-fire.
the remaining 50% of the time, i hit the starter button, and nothing. it's like i'm fighting full engine compression. the starter engages and "ooomph" - nothing! i can hit the starter button again, and sometimes it will spin the engine, and other times the same "ooomph" - that can happen several times to the point where i give up.

A bad spot on the starter's comutator can cause symptoms like this, but it's almost new you say; it doesn't take much
"button" action on a starter that is trying to overcome a huge load against a cylinder that has had a bit too much of a "tickle" and wants to fire at some point well before full ignition advance. You can also add a sticky brush(s).

The solenoid can also harber a gremlin(s) if the high current connection copper bar or washer is burnt or doesn't hit both internal posts at the same time.

A 50% (500) figure is enviable in baseball, but totally sucks when applied to a motor vehicle. You have every right to be frustrated/pissed. An engineer designed it, engineering aids built it, but a good technician can fix it.

Best.
 
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Hey Joe, where you goin' with that Alton in your hand? I'm goin' down to shoot my old lady, she said I should have bought another brand......

I bought an Alton about the same time you did, September 2020. I think I may have paid for it in July, but didn't get it until September. Frenchie was on vacation. I PM'ed you, asking if you had anything going on with yours before I purchased mine. All was well with you at that time. Some time in the next couple months I installed the kit. Never wired it. I followed the directions. It was a bitch getting the stator set with the shims provided, but all went well.

I did notice when trying trying to fit the rotor, I had to look in the back to make sure it was seated nice. It didn't seem like it went all the way the first time. Same bike as yours, 74 MKII. Got it to go, and all was good. Nice tight fit. New keys were probably from RGM or Clubman.

A couple months ago I installed a very capable AGM battery, wired it up, spun great with no plugs.

Today I actually had a free couple hours and installed some new Premiers and cranked it up. She fired, no problem. Stator producing well, battery good.
When trying to start a few times, the starter would do shit, a click and that was it. The motor only has a few hundred miles on it prior to installing the Alton. Kick only prior.
Bike was running awesome before the Alton install, better than it has in the 41 years I've owned it. While cranking the Alton tonight, when it just clicked, I came to the conclusion it was compression lock. Confirmed that by using the RGM kick start to get it past compression. Then it spun like a top. Fired right up.

Anyway, my experience as of a few hours ago. I really think your rotor wasn't where it was supposed to be? Like I said, when I did mine, I had to f*ck with it a bit, but after that it was a nice tight fit.

I would have bought a CNW setup, but they didn't have PayPal interest free financing at the time. We'll see what happens when I hit the road. Best of luck!
 
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I had a look at a very early Alton starter motor where there were issues, it was only 2 bush not the 4 bush I would have expected, cost of the extra 2 bushes for a stronger starter would be virtually nothing when you look at the total cost of the kit.
 

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There is not much compromise in a tapered fit coupling. If the taper is not spot on, it is useless. A key won't help much either, no matter what it is made of. I think Yves' solution is best, and I may go that route if I reinstall the Alton on this bike. Sorry about your luck Joe and thanks for sharing your issue with others for them to have a "heads up" and discussion about it.
The Alton drives on the parallel part of the crank not the taper
Unless you do Yves modification then it will drive on the taper
 

Time Warp

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It looks very straight forward on the Mighty Garage video with a large diameter spacer behind the sprag unit.

Perhaps these are like some other bikes where the nut needs to be retorqued numerous times (Husqvarna's were like that and that was a taper not a parallel shaft that relies on clamping friction, to not do that multiple times from minutes to a few hours later would result in the key on the taper shearing as I found out mid race which then retarded the timing)

 
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I had a look at a very early Alton starter motor where there were issues, it was only 2 bush not the 4 bush I would have expected, cost of the extra 2 bushes for a stronger starter would be virtually nothing when you look at the total cost of the kit.
i have a series of numbers on my starter motor - one appears to be a serial number and reads, 042975. the second set reads like a date code - 101619. can't swear to it, but i'm assuming my unit would have all the latest and greatest upgrades. i thinking my system is highly dependent on a full battery voltage. i also feel that the 150W (supplied) alternator assembly is barely adequate to keep the system fully charged. MexicoMike brought up the voltage drop when engaging the starter - definitely could be an issue. one note, i did install a battery with a higher rating than what alton recommended, but the voltage drop could still be an issue. never really paid attention to this, but i'm thinking, if i have a fully charged battery, the starter spins the engine without issue. giving this a bit more thought, i may have multiple, compounding issues at play here. first things first - definitely going with the "yves norton seeley" design, then address the electrical system - maybe i need to upgrade or a better quality battery. thanks for all the replies - plenty of food for thought....
 
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i have a series of numbers on my starter motor - one appears to be a serial number and reads, 042975. the second set reads like a date code - 101619. can't swear to it, but i'm assuming my unit would have all the latest and greatest upgrades. i thinking my system is highly dependent on a full battery voltage. i also feel that the 150W (supplied) alternator assembly is barely adequate to keep the system fully charged. MexicoMike brought up the voltage drop when engaging the starter - definitely could be an issue. one note, i did install a battery with a higher rating than what alton recommended, but the voltage drop could still be an issue. never really paid attention to this, but i'm thinking, if i have a fully charged battery, the starter spins the engine without issue. giving this a bit more thought, i may have multiple, compounding issues at play here. first things first - definitely going with the "yves norton seeley" design, then address the electrical system - maybe i need to upgrade or a better quality battery. thanks for all the replies - plenty of food for thought....
You need to check the following.

1. Check the CCA of the battery not the AH, CCA is the batteries ability to provide high amps, the higher the number the better. AH is just the storage capacity, not the rate it can supply at.

2. Solenoids can go high resistance as the contacts erode, worth a swap.

3. I did not look at the starter cables supplied but I would be looking at using 8g cables or even 6g.

4. All the starter cable contacts need cleaning and then remade using silicone grease to protect them from corrosion.
 
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The battery is probably fine as far as capacity if it's the minimum AH specified for the starter. I don't recall what that is - I've been running a Shorai 18AH since prior to installing the Alton. I'd suspect a wiring/electrical connection issue somewhere. I felt the same way initially about the 150W alternator but I have never had a charging problem in the 8 years the Alton alternator (and E-start) has been in place charging the Shorai initially via the OEM Lucas system and later via a podtronics. FWIW, the Lucas rectifier/Zener provided from .1 - .2V more volts than the Pod does at any RPM! ;)

You may be familiar with a voltage drop test but, if not, there are plenty of websites about it on-line. The important point is that the maximum voltage drop at a 12v starter is .2 VDC. IMO, voltage drop testing is a superb tool in the arsenal. It can pinpoint the specific location of just about any electrical problem. I couldn't begin to count the number of times in the marine world it quickly found the issue and the marine world is the WORST world for electrical issues!!

One thing that is often overlooked in battery voltage and voltage drop checks is that often, when attaching/touching a probe to the battery, it is attached/touched to the connector at the battery rather than the actual battery terminal itself. This can give an inaccurate voltage or voltage drop reading because it doesn't test the connection between the battery and that terminal.
 
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Sounds like you have 2 problems.

1/ See where MM above has mentioned a 0.2 VOLTAGE DROP. That is a huge resistance when dealing with starter circuits. IT WILL GIVE YOU THE IMPRESSION THE STARTER AND/OR THE BATTERY ARE USELESS. You must have no voltage drop. Check all your connections and that the cables are big enough to take the current required. Also, tiny starter solenoids my not be that great although i think in your case, the pre-engagement starter should be designed with a good solenoid.

2/ The design of the system is bad when it relies on a key-way only, to take the thrust. There is no way that can ever work on a Norton engine because the primary gear fitting to the taper on the shaft, can not compress the driven gear on the starter circuit. When the primary sprocket tightens on the taper, it may vary 1 or so thou different every time it approaches the seating position, so could never be relied upon to clamp the starter gear. If it could [ primary sprocket ], then it would not be tight enough on the crank shaft itself.
The only way for the starter driven gear to be solidly mounted on the crank shaft is for it to be solidly mounted to the Primary sprocket. I guess that's what Yves has done.

Looks like you need to take the whole lot apart and have someone mount the starter driven gear to the primary sprocket.

Never been a fan of spragg clutches revolving at such immensely different speeds. On gear boxes and overdrive units, the difference is in the vicinity of 10%
 

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Joe, Did your stator maintain the clearance from the rotor or was it rubbing anywhere?
 
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Sounds like you have 2 problems.

1/ See where MM above has mentioned a 0.2 VOLTAGE DROP. That is a huge resistance when dealing with starter circuits. IT WILL GIVE YOU THE IMPRESSION THE STARTER AND/OR THE BATTERY ARE USELESS. You must have no voltage drop. Check all your connections and that the cables are big enough to take the current required. Also, tiny starter solenoids my not be that great although i think in your case, the pre-engagement starter should be designed with a good solenoid.

2/ The design of the system is bad when it relies on a key-way only, to take the thrust. There is no way that can ever work on a Norton engine because the primary gear fitting to the taper on the shaft, can not compress the driven gear on the starter circuit. When the primary sprocket tightens on the taper, it may vary 1 or so thou different every time it approaches the seating position, so could never be relied upon to clamp the starter gear. If it could [ primary sprocket ], then it would not be tight enough on the crank shaft itself.
The only way for the starter driven gear to be solidly mounted on the crank shaft is for it to be solidly mounted to the Primary sprocket. I guess that's what Yves has done.

Looks like you need to take the whole lot apart and have someone mount the starter driven gear to the primary sprocket.

Never been a fan of spragg clutches revolving at such immensely different speeds. On gear boxes and overdrive units, the difference is in the vicinity of 10%
correct - a mechanical issue, and an electrical issue. i have to assume that the alton folks sufficiently sized components. not 100% positive, but as i recall, the cables were 6AWG. i'm guessing the supplied relay can handle the task. i agree, alton relies on the clamping force of the rotor retaining nut to keep things secure. as i said. in a perfect world, maybe, but i have my doubts in the real world. this fix will take some time because of the machining effort involved, but when done, i may wire in a volt meter into the system to see if there is a correlation between supplied voltage and my cranking issue. although new, it might be something as simple as a weak battery. first things first - the "yves norton seeley" fix. now to get that sprag clutch-rotor assembly off without damage....

QUESTION - QUESTION - QUESTION...

one thing to ask you folks that are familiar with the alton starter installation. hoping i can explain this in plain english -- the retaining nut that hold and clamps the clutch-rotor to the crank - it has a small "step flange" on the one side that corresponds with a step on the threaded end of the crankshaft. so the question - i'm assuming that the step flange surfaces should not engage and is only there for alignment. if the tolerances are off just a bit on the nut mating flange, spacer, or whatever, could part of the clamping force of the nut be on the step flange surface of the crank thus not getting a full 65-70 ft.lbs clamping force of the nut on the sprag clutch? the way i see it, if the nut's step engages first, ever so slightly, before full torque is achieved, it could inhibit the full clamping force of the retaining nut on the sprag clutch through the crank threads. ...OR, as usual, am i overthinking this?

IMG-2720.jpg


edit 1 - now i'm thinking the use of a belleville washer might serve two purposes - kick out the retaining nut just enough to guarantee full nut to clutch clamping, and provide an additional locking mechanism for the retaining nut - ??????

edit 2 - can't swear to it, but it looks like there was interference on the (step flange) flat of the retaining nut --

IMG-2721.jpg
 
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Joe, Did your stator maintain the clearance from the rotor or was it rubbing anywhere?
yes best i can tell, no issue. did not see any signs of rotor to stator rubbing.
 
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Time Warp

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The step on the nut would be to the outside, it is just a reduced nut, the exception might be if it engaged a supplied thick washer but that would be somewhat pointless.
Any radial alinement is the shaft to the bore of the clutch unit. (surely)
 
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The step on the nut would be to the outside, it is just a reduced nut, the exception might be if it engaged a supplied thick washer but that would be somewhat pointless.
Any radial alinement is the shaft to the bore of the clutch unit. (surely)
so are you saying i had that friggin nut on bass-ackwards? PPPPHHHHUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

edit - not to doubt you, but sent an e-mail to Maxime at Alton asking him on the nut's orientation. if i really did have it on backwards, it really should be noted in alton's assembly instructions or a nut supplied without a step flange. just looking at the thing, and my brain dead common sense, it tells me it's installed flange side in. ???????
 
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Time Warp

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so are you saying i had that friggin nut on bass-ackwards? PPPPHHHHUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave the nut where you had it but move the bike to the other side of it.
#
If it was a stepped engagement nut it would be more like the stock ignition nut that is fully machined in the engagement area, which that nut is not and if it was being used for radial alinement (unlikely) it would be a poor way to do so being a parallel shaft mounting and not needed.

The Mighty Garage video shows plenty of shaft thread stick out, there would be a possibility if the raised portion was inward it could either not allow the nut friction surface optimum seating on the clutch unit which would have some form of washer under the nut ? and also the raised portion might bottom on the shaft thread if it could enter the recess in clutch central bore (as in the video).
 
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Derek Wilson

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Just catching up with this. I too have had issues with my Alton.

First off - I think that you have your crankshaft nut on the correct way around. Every piece of documentation and video posted on how to install it has the step facing inward (like the original nut, only a much smaller step).

Second: The keys do shear. A friend of mine has had his shear repeatedly. I have had mine sheer once. I am developing my own fix for that. Alton is well aware that the keys sheer.

I have also had my share of bad luck.

The first issue I had was a lack of ability for the alternator to develop adequate current to keep the battery charged while powering the rest of the electrical system. My bike has all LED lights, and only requires about 45 watts to power it running down the road (engine running, head/tail lights on). This was diagnosed as a faulty alternator rotor, and Alton provided me a new on under warranty. Charging woes behind me.

The next issue I had was with the solid leads off of the alternator stator fracturing, likely due to vibration, and maybe all of the other issues I had gone through with alternator. I have crimped/soldered 16AWG multi-strand leads to the broken off stubs of the stator leads, and supported them to the central boss in the inner primary. Multi-strand wire is much more tolerant of vibration. No issues since (knock on wood).

The next issue requires pictures.
I was riding along when I noticed my charging system had quit (based on all of the alternator issue I have had, I have installed a permanently mounted digital volt meter for just such occasions). Me thinks I have broken a wire, I was only a mile from my destination, and only 10 miles from home. I shut off the headlight and continue.

I go to leave for home, hit the starter, it spins, but the motor does not. Bike starts first kick and I head for home.

Arriving home, I put the bike up on the bench, pull the primary cover and this is what greets me:

IMG_5663.jpg


So, not good... Thankfully no other damage (other than the previously mentioned sheared key), and Alton provides replacement parts with no question (other than the key of course - lol).

I continue to disassemble the sprag clutch assembly to determine what went wrong. I notice immediately that the drive flange carrying the torque from the sprag clutch to the crank shaft is only about 2mm (0.083") thick and that the fracture path runs through the two shallow threaded holes in the flange.

IMG_5666.jpg


This indicates that the crack leading to the fracture likely propagated from the sharp root of one of these threads. For the life of me, I have no idea what these threaded holes are for. They look like they could be used with some sort of puller, but the thread engagement and the strength of the material would destroy the threads before generating any significant pulling force.

IMG_5667.jpg


While they are not as defined as they would be in harder materials, some beach-marks are visible in the fracture zone, indicating metal fatigue.

Alton mentioned that they have seen this at least one time before. This was after about 4000 miles of travel, and less than a year after install.

As I am not yet ready to give up on my electric start (too much money invested to turn back now), I have taken to CAD to develop my own stronger replacement parts, which I am currently machining out of 4140. They hopefully will deal with both the above issue, and will render the alternator key redundant, and therefore, no longer an unintended weak link.

FWIW.
 
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"1/ See where MM above has mentioned a 0.2 VOLTAGE DROP. That is a huge resistance when dealing with starter circuits. IT WILL GIVE YOU THE IMPRESSION THE STARTER AND/OR THE BATTERY ARE USELESS. You must have no voltage drop."

Not sure where you are getting that info. In fact, some manufacturers specify .5 VDC voltage drop as OK but .2 VDC is the generally accepted figure for a 12V starter system. Of course, .1 V is better, zero is best! But .2VDC is acceptable and would not normally be cause for concern over the wiring/switches/connections. If you end up with .2VDC and decide you have to have zero, by all means see if you can achieve it. But the point is with a .2V voltage drop on a starter, there will be no functional difference in the performance of the starter.
 
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Leave the nut where you had it but move the bike to the other side of it.
does the same apply if i move to NZ? i'm thinking when you guys flush down there, it all flows and spins backwards, so do i have to get LH threads? how does this all work? you folks know you're upside down - i'm standing on my head up here trying to figure this all out - and you're confusing the hell out of me.... :D:D:D:D:D
 
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Just catching up with this. I too have had issues with my Alton.

First off - I think that you have your crankshaft nut on the correct way around. Every piece of documentation and video posted on how to install it has the step facing inward (like the original nut, only a much smaller step).

Second: The keys do shear. A friend of mine has had his shear repeatedly. I have had mine sheer once. I am developing my own fix for that. Alton is well aware that the keys sheer.

I have also had my share of bad luck.

The first issue I had was a lack of ability for the alternator to develop adequate current to keep the battery charged while powering the rest of the electrical system. My bike has all LED lights, and only requires about 45 watts to power it running down the road (engine running, head/tail lights on). This was diagnosed as a faulty alternator rotor, and Alton provided me a new on under warranty. Charging woes behind me.

The next issue I had was with the solid leads off of the alternator stator fracturing, likely due to vibration, and maybe all of the other issues I had gone through with alternator. I have crimped/soldered 16AWG multi-strand leads to the broken off stubs of the stator leads, and supported them to the central boss in the inner primary. Multi-strand wire is much more tolerant of vibration. No issues since (knock on wood).

The next issue requires pictures.
I was riding along when I noticed my charging system had quit (based on all of the alternator issue I have had, I have installed a permanently mounted digital volt meter for just such occasions). Me thinks I have broken a wire, I was only a mile from my destination, and only 10 miles from home. I shut off the headlight and continue.

I go to leave for home, hit the starter, it spins, but the motor does not. Bike starts first kick and I head for home.

Arriving home, I put the bike up on the bench, pull the primary cover and this is what greets me:

View attachment 80289

So, not good... Thankfully no other damage (other than the previously mentioned sheared key), and Alton provides replacement parts with no question (other than the key of course - lol).

I continue to disassemble the sprag clutch assembly to determine what went wrong. I notice immediately that the drive flange carrying the torque from the sprag clutch to the crank shaft is only about 2mm (0.083") thick and that the fracture path runs through the two shallow threaded holes in the flange.

View attachment 80290

This indicates that the crack leading to the fracture likely propagated from the sharp root of one of these threads. For the life of me, I have no idea what these threaded holes are for. They look like they could be used with some sort of puller, but the thread engagement and the strength of the material would destroy the threads before generating any significant pulling force.

View attachment 80291

While they are not as defined as they would be in harder materials, some beach-marks are visible in the fracture zone, indicating metal fatigue.

Alton mentioned that they have seen this at least one time before. This was after about 4000 miles of travel, and less than a year after install.

As i am not yet ready to give up on my electric start (too much money invested to turn back now), I have taken to CAD to develop my own stronger replacement parts, which I am currently machining out of 4140. They hopefully will deal with both the above issue, and will render the alternator key redundant, and therefore, no longer an unintended weak link.

FWIW.
now that i got the humor aside - informative write-up, and i thought i had problems. please keep me or us informed on any improvements you come up with.
 
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