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How to properly prep your Honda ES shift system

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These ES preps are a one-time routine maintenance procedure. By following this guide thoroughly and completely several problems that Honda created at the factory will be solved. Among those ES faults are:

  • Honda ES systems are not waterproofed, neither electrically or mechanically
  • Honda uses the wrong type of grease in their ES systems
  • Honda uses insufficient amounts of grease in their ES systems (which is a good thing because the recommended grease itself is garbage)
  • Due to excessive friction in stock ES systems reliability is non-existent, battery current required for operation is ridiculously high and the ECM is at risk for burning out

 

You will need basic hand tools, a tub of NLGI #2 synthetic grease, dielectric grease, cleaning solvent, warm soapy water and most of the other supplies in this photo.

 

es-motor-supplies.jpg

 

For this guide I am using a 350 Rancher ES. All other Honda ES systems are similarly assembled so these steps apply to all of them. Begin by cleaning up the front cover and ES reduction gears cover and shift motor areas to prevent dirt and grime from getting in your work. Then unplug the harnesses and remove the reduction gears cover assembly which includes the shift motor and angle sensor in this case. Remove the reduction gears from the cover and move them to a work bench for further disassembly and cleaning.

 

es-motor-9.jpg

 

Do NOT drop the shift motor or magnets housing as those magnets can shatter or loosen from the housing.

 

Remove the shift motor from the reduction gears cover and disassemble the shift motor completely. Inspect the copper commutator bars and the brushes for sticking, arcing or excessive wear. The commutator should be smooth and blackened with no signs of heavy arcing or erosion. Do NOT polish or sand on those commutator bars. Those bars have a thin layer built up of graphite lubricant on them. If you remove that layer you are forcing the commutator to wear in to the brushes again, which greatly reduces the life expectancy of the motor. Leave them alone.

 

Clean the magnets housing and the armature with warm soapy water and soft plastic brushes and rinse, then squirt them both down with rubbing alcohol to remove the rinse water from them. Set them aside to dry. If you see any corrosion around the gasket sufaces of the housing or nose, remove the corrosion using sandpaper or a scotchbrite pad. You'll need clean, shiny surfaces for sealing watertight during assembly. Prep those previously leaky gasket surfaces now.

 

Clean the reduction gears cover and small support bearings thoroughly in solvent. Clean the gears and all of the remaining metal parts in cleaning solvent as well and blow them all dry.

 

es-motor-1.jpg

 

Using a finger tip, push synthetic grease past the gaps in the metal bearing shields into each of the support bearings in the reduction gears cover until those bearings are completely packed with synthetic grease. Each bearing will take ya about 3 or 4 minutes to pack so expect to spend at least 15 minutes on them. You should feel them drag on the thick grease while turning them once you get them packed full. Now is a good time to clean up inside the front cover on the motor too, and get those support bearings repacked with synthetic grease.

 

Note: It is very common to find one or more of those tiny reduction gear support bearings installed crooked in their bores from the factory. If you find one not installed properly, straighten it up in its bore by tapping on its outer race with a plastic screwdriver handle. The outer edges of the races should be flush with the chamfer of the bore. Failure to fix crooked bearings results in reduction gear(s) rubbing on the aluminum housings causing them to bind up. Binding gears can cause the shift motor and/or the ECM to burn up.

 

Repack the ball bearing on the end of the armature with synthetic grease by pushing grease inside the bearing past the gap in the metal shield. Add syn grease to the bronze bushing inside the magnets housing and wet the shaft where it fits into that bushing. Be careful not to get any grease on the armature outside of that bushing and shaft end. Put a small amount of grease inside the rubber seal lips in the nose of the motor to lubricate that seal.

 

Reassemble the brushes assembly. Coat the rubber gasket (o-ring on some models) liberally on both sides with silicone gasket maker. Depress the brush springs & brushes into their holders and place two small alligator clips (or bent pieces of wire) to hold those two brushes back so you can set the nose of the armature shaft down into the nose housing.

 

es-motor-0.jpg

es-motor-3.jpg

es-motor-4.jpg

 

Remove the two alligator clips from the brushes once the armature is down in the nose and clamp the end of the shift motor shaft lightly in a vise (or you can get a good grip on it with your fingers and hold on tight) while you lower the magnets housing down over the armature. If you let go of the end of the armature shaft while lowering the magnets housing down the armature will pull out and your brushes and brush springs will fly away. Hold on tight... then put your final two or three bolts in and snug them up. That completes the shift motor and reduction gears cover assemblies preps. The shift motor is now properly lubricated and is sealed up tight. Its fully submersible, you can shoot it with a pressure washer as often as ya want to and it won't ever need any more of your attention.

 

es-motor-5.jpg

 

Now move your shift motor back to your ATV... where you have already repacked the support bearings in the front cover. Remove the rubber o-ring gasket from the cover and coat it liberally with silicone gasket maker. Stuff it back into its groove in the front cover once it has been completely wetted with gasket maker. Also remove the o-ring gasket from the nose of the shift motor and coat it liberally on all sides with silicone gasket maker before putting it back in its groove.

 

Coat each of the reduction gears liberally with syn grease. Don't be shy with it... stuff those gear teeth full of grease and make sure both sides of the gears are wetted with grease before installing them into their repacked support bearings. Then install the shift motor assembly onto the dowel pins in the cover. Apply silicone gasket maker to both sides of the o-ring gasket for the angle sensor and install the angle sensor into the reduction gears cover. In this case (350 Rancher) the shift motor harness must be routed underneath the angle sensor before the sensor is snugged down. Do NOT overtighten those screws.

 

Now hold the bracket in place and snug each of the four mounting bolts down in a criss-cross tightening pattern. Do NOT overtighten any of those mounting bolts.

 

es-motor-8.jpg

 

You are now back where you began.

 

es-motor-9.jpg

 

Next up, adjust the change clutch per the service manual.

 

Remove both front and rear fenders. Open EVERY wiring harness connector pair on the ATV and pack dielectric grease into each connector to seal out oxygen and water. Do NOT skip this step, this is very important, saves you 100s of $$$ and countless hours of your time! Just do it and don't be caught whining about it! 🙂

 

Finally, clean the frame and motor grounds and clean and dielectric grease the battery terminals. You will need a battery installed in your ATV that is in decent condition. Put your fenders and trim back on the ATV.

 

Enjoy your properly prepped and now bulletproof Honda ES system. You're done working on it for at least ten more years, more 'n likely 20. Have fun with it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nice job Retro , I know more about ES now then I ever did ----or  personally will  ever need to for that matter , other than to reference people to your thread ---   LOL

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I just added to the guide some important info that I forgot to include.

Quote

Note: It is very common to find one or more of those tiny reduction gear support bearings installed crooked in their bores from the factory. If you find one not installed properly, straighten it up in its bore by tapping on its outer race with a plastic screwdriver handle. The outer edges of the races should be flush with the chamfer of the bore. Failure to fix crooked bearings results in reduction gear(s) rubbing on the aluminum housings causing them to bind up. Binding gears can cause the shift motor and/or the ECM to burn up.

 

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You da man retro, I know my ES shifts very clean and precise since I did proper upkeep on it.  

 

Is there any way this can be made a Stickie?  There have been many ES threads here already and would be something that maybe can be viewed or pointed to???

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Just now, bcsman said:

Is there any way this can be made a Stickie? 

 

Yep! But we are still waiting on ME, to buy the Pages app and get it up and running so we can organize our stickies. I ain't sure when I'll be able to get back on the job. Maybe in May...? Hope so.

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16 minutes ago, retro said:

 

Yep! But we are still waiting on ME, to buy the Pages app and get it up and running so we can organize our stickies. I ain't sure when I'll be able to get back on the job. Maybe in May...? Hope so.

OK no problem retro prolly think it will get accessed enough to stay near the top I bet....

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BCS, maybe you can be the designated bump boy , and bump it up every time when of your brother  ES boys  is in need , LOL 

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Hey hey, I've been called alot of things but bump boy?  Has some bad connotations....lol

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What such big words , past my level of ed'ja'ma'kay'shin  , I had to look it up = connotations = an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning  ---- going to try and use it in my vocabulary 

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So I pulled the shift motor on my 04 450ES as I was having slow shifts and also last weekend I after a long ride it would shift anymore was flashing the gear. Manually shifted myself back. After letting the 4wheeler sit the shifting was back to normal so I assume water got into a connector so I’ve been adding dielectric grease to all connections. 
 

i took the shift assembly off to clean the old grease, added white lithium grease. Put it all back together to see before I button it up fully . Turn the key to just ON (engine off) now shifts strong but will go N,1 and 2 when I try to go to 3rd it just - shows up. And sounds like it won’t compete the shift and locks up. Took the motor off double check all and all seems fine. What’s going on? Does the engine have to be running to shift through all the gears, the ATV has been off for the last 6 days. 
 

anyone have an idea what’s going? I lined up the little indent to what I think I’m supposed to which is the indent on the shaft?

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Hi @freebo86, welcome to ATV Honda!

 

What you are experiencing is normal since the transmission is a constant-mesh design. If you rock your 450ES back and forth while shifting through the gears every one of them should work without starting the motor. A constant-mesh type transmission requires that the two shafts inside the trans be moving before it will shift through all five gears + reverse. It may shift into all gears while the motor is running, but a running motor provides no guarantee either... forward or backward movement of the ATV is generally required for the shifter to engage every gear.

 

The only issue that I can see is that you used the wrong type of grease (white lithium is bad) in your ES system prep, so you'll have to repeat your work again next season using a quality synthetic grease... Have fun, hope you enjoy our forums!

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2 minutes ago, retro said:

Hi @freebo86, welcome to ATV Honda!

 

What you are experiencing is normal since the transmission is a constant-mesh design. If you rock your 450ES back and forth while shifting through the gears every one of them should work without starting the motor. A constant-mesh type transmission requires that the two shafts inside the trans be moving before it will shift through all five gears + reverse. It may shift into all gears while the motor is running, but a running motor provides no guarantee either... forward or backward movement of the ATV is generally required for the shifter to engage every gear.

 

The only issue that I can see is that you used the wrong type of grease (white lithium is bad) in your ES system prep, so you'll have to repeat your work again next season using a quality synthetic grease... Have fun, hope you enjoy our forums!


wow! Thanks for the fast feedback. I will formally introduce myself and the machine in the coming days. 
 

so I put it together, fired it up and it shifts through all gears without effort! The grease, its White Grease, NLGI #2. Ive used this on winch planetary gears. So this isnt the right stuff?

 

I still gotta adjust my clutch too. 

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Yup, white grease is one of the major Honda ES issues that this prep tutorial was intended to solve. If its not too much trouble for ya to go back into it and clean & repack every bearing & gear with synthetic bearing grease.... it'll save ya a bunch of grief down the road when the ES fails to respond. Guaranteed that you'll have a problem in the near future if ya don't. Read the first post again for more info... looking forward to your intro, maybe ya can share a pic or two of your Foreman with us..? 🙂

 

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2 hours ago, retro said:

Yup, white grease is one of the major Honda ES issues that this prep tutorial was intended to solve. If its not too much trouble for ya to go back into it and clean & repack every bearing & gear with synthetic bearing grease.... it'll save ya a bunch of grief down the road when the ES fails to respond. Guaranteed that you'll have a problem in the near future if ya don't. Read the first post again for more info... looking forward to your intro, maybe ya can share a pic or two of your Foreman with us..? 🙂

 


I pulled it off again and cleaned it all lff

 

2 hours ago, retro said:

Hi @freebo86, welcome to ATV Honda!

 

What you are experiencing is normal since the transmission is a constant-mesh design. If you rock your 450ES back and forth while shifting through the gears every one of them should work without starting the motor. A constant-mesh type transmission requires that the two shafts inside the trans be moving before it will shift through all five gears + reverse. It may shift into all gears while the motor is running, but a running motor provides no guarantee either... forward or backward movement of the ATV is generally required for the shifter to engage every gear.

 

The only issue that I can see is that you used the wrong type of grease (white lithium is bad) in your ES system prep, so you'll have to repeat your work again next season using a quality synthetic grease... Have fun, hope you enjoy our forums!


I pulled it off all and cleaned it. I’m having a hard time finding this Synthetic Grease you speak of. Located in Canada. 
 

On hand I have Lucas Red n Tacky.. I’ve used this in applications but is this synthetic or what? That mobil 1 stuff you have in your OP doesn’t seem to be readily available and neither can I see that stores carry Synthetic Grease most are labeled Multipurpose. Any advice?

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Any decent auto parts store should have synthetic bearing grease.

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On 12/18/2020 at 2:27 AM, retro said:

Any decent auto parts store should have synthetic bearing grease.

 

Found some. Been busy put it back together last night, MUCH smoother! just at stand still the shifts sounds stronger.

 

Now if I could only adjust the clutch, the little screw is frozen, I let it soak in PB blaster and maybe next time the machine warms up a bit it will help break some rust free.

 

Photos I will post a Restoration style thread. Lots has happened in the last month of ownership, bearings, 2nd up seat, main seat recover, re-welding the racks, axle boots, etc. Still have a ton of things to cross off the list lol.

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31 minutes ago, freebo86 said:

Now if I could only adjust the clutch, the little screw is frozen, I let it soak in PB blaster and maybe next time the machine warms up a bit it will help break some rust free.

There  are two ways the clutch adjustment screw can become frozen  , one is the jam /lock nut gets frozen to the adjustment stud or the other way , the  stud gets frozen in the case , a impact driven hit with a hammer can work on the frozen adjuster stud , just be careful how hard you hit as the casing is aluminum , if the jam nut is frozen on the stud , get some one to hold a box end wrench on the nut will you hit the stud with the impact driver  

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8 minutes ago, Fishfiles said:

There  are two ways the clutch adjustment screw can become frozen  , one is the jam /lock nut gets frozen to the adjustment stud or the other way , the  stud gets frozen in the case , a impact driven hit with a hammer can work on the frozen adjuster stud , just be careful how hard you hit as the casing is aluminum , if the jam nut is frozen on the stud , get some one to hold a box end wrench on the nut will you hit the stud with the impact driver  

 

The nut came off loose easily and can be spun. It's the stud itself. I tried to move it but didnt want to apply too much force and wallow out the flat head cut in the stud..

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You might find some thin jam nuts at the hardware store , they are also called 1/2 nuts , put two of them on the stud in place of the one jam nut , then tighten those two nuts together , then you might be able to turn the nuts with a wrench ----- if you can't find the correct 1/2 nuts , then cut a couple of regular nuts with a band saw , hack saw or grinder 

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PB Blaster is ok , but here are a lot better penetrants out there , AeroKroil is my favorite , Deep Creep and 3M 5 way spray are also  good --- a lot of people swear by 50/50 mix of acetone and ATF 

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