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'03 RT Trust or time to trade?

Andy Mc

Keep it or Dump it?  

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Is it tIme to trade, or have I just had a bad run? When I bought this bike a few years and 30k miles ago, I thought the starter sounded sluggish so I put a new battery in it; no change so I decided it must be inherent to the model. After about 20k miles, the starter occasionally would growl instead of cranking so I replaced it; aftermarket from a vendor in AL.


After 13 months that starter failed; vendor resisted warranty claim so I paid for a second one, he eventually repaired the first under warranty and I kept it for a spare.


Long story short, over the next couple of years each of the starters have failed twice; usually in my shop after sitting overnight or for a few days...however, I have had several fail-to-starts, that I finally managed to push start to overcome...changed the battery twice, but never tested bad.


This time I gave up and resolved to trade it; took the last rebuilt one off the shelf and installed it. I love the bike so much though that last week I bought a new one from Beemer Boneyard and installed it, just to see; of course this starter sounds better than even the original so now I'm conflicted...


My confidence level in this bike now is pretty low, but I WANT to keep it and for it to be reliable; when do you finally give up on a bike? How many times stranded? Is there anything inherent to an '03 1150RT that can eat starters? Is this just a lesson on trying to be "economical" on aftermarket when I should have gone OEM?


I was about ready to trade for a Connie or an FJR until I tried this starter...now I don't know what to do. Am I an idiot for even considering keeping it again? What would you do?

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No offense, but what you should have lost faith in is the decision making of the owner. I understand an aftermarket starter based on price. But after the failure(s), you probably should have bit the bullet and gotten yourself a genuine BMW starter, even a used one in good shape from Beemer Boneyard, as you did. The rest of the bike seems fine, given that you're not complaining about it. Run with it for a while and if it works, you've found your answer.


Personally, 134K on my first 1100RT starter (probably identical to the one on your 1150) before I sold the bike and it's got 180K on it now and is being ridden daily in Europe. And now 55K on my second 1100RT. No problems. My $.02 worth is to give a real BMW part a fair chance. Unless, of course, if you've just got the desire for a new(er) bike and this is a convenient excuse. In that case, ride what makes your heart sing.

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I had a bad sounding starter on my 04 when I bought it a few years ago. I took the time to take it apart and clean it. Clutch plate dust seemed to be the primary culprit. Checked the solenoid contacts and found minimal wear. So original starter with 30K reinstalled. Three years and 15K miles later all is well. Mike

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Had to laugh....usually folks sell because of transmission splines or ABS.... a starter is a new one but I do understand your frustration.


I would look at replacing the battery cables and making sure the ground connections were clean and tight before condemning the bike.

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Hi Andy,

Welcome to the forum.

Your vote / poll thing is a waste of time.

You are considering getting rid of a magnificent bike purely because of issues with aftermarket components?

Sort the starter out and get on with riding that magnificent bike.


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The question I have is why so many failures with the OE and subsequent aftermarket starters and what did they find had failed when you sent them back to be rebuilt. It is possible that faulty cables or a bad connection is causing the issue. I would compare voltage at the battery and voltage at the starter, both at rest and when cranking to see if you are suffering a voltage drop at the starter under load. I'd also try to find out what components had failed in the starters which were rebuilt.

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Thanks for the feedback! Confirms my thought that I should keep riding and forget about it 🙂


Not being much of a wrench, my mistake (I believe) was going with my mechanics recommendation on the aftermarket starter in the first place; was very little less than an OEM, and actually double what I paid for a new Valero at Beemer Boneyard, wasn't primarily about the money but misplaced trust. (I am pretty good at changing starters now 😂)


I'd like nothing better than to put another 60k on this bike, and believe now I can!



Andy Mc

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Just out of curiosity, what brand are these aftermarket starters?


You can buy Valeo starters branded as such instead than as BMW (Valeo codes: D6RA55 and D6RA75 ) saving yourself some money or have your original Valeo rebuilt using original Valeo spare parts, which are available from reputable vendors such as Euro Moto Electrics.


Just to buttress the case made by others, I've had a similar experience with Honda GX-series power equipment engines. Aftermarket recoil starters will fail far too soon: I've had some fail after as little as three months.

Yes, the genuine Honda part is twice or thrice as much the Chinese eBay special, but will go a decade or even more before giving up the ghost.

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In my experience, the starter should be pulled and cleaned every 20-30,000 miles. They get gunked up, and start to make an obnoxious noise, but perform just fine after a thorough cleaning. With a 6" flex drive, it's pretty easy to get to the bolt behind the starter. As maintenance jobs go, this one is pretty easy.

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How do you clean the starter? I have mine off for a clutch job and just used paper towels to clean what I could. I was afraid to spray it with brake cleaner.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks for the link Skywagon, I took it back off and cleaned it as described. It's back together for the first time since September and everything works great now.

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Well, I wasn't having any starter problems and didn't notice any difference, but I just had it off for a clutch job and like to put everything back together clean. My old A&P school training kicking in.

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