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Tiger 900 Steamer won't start

Started by macjaffa, March 12, 2022, 01:30:21 PM

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I'm new here and I'm hoping you kind folks could help me out, please?

I have acquired a 1995 Tiger Steamer.  It has been sitting for about 6-8 months, I think (it had old E5 fuel in it).

It was running fine before it sat for a while.  The previous owner changed the oil, spark plugs and oil filter before handing it to me yesterday, but it still does not start. 
I have drained the fuel and put fresh fuel in (also drained the old fuel from the carbs).
The spark plugs (or, at least) the lead to them is sparking.
I have put Easy Start down the air intake to try and get it going just a little bit, so that I can then put redex through...and clean the carbs a little.

I can see the carbs...and am prepared to take them off and have a go at cleaning them -if I have to- but I'm a noob and would rather exhaust other options first.  I have seen that draining the tank and running sea foam through into the carb system and letting it sit is a good alternative.

I've linked to two videos of it trying to you think it needs the carb treatment, or the guy who was helping me thought the spark plugs might be the wrongs and not sparking themselves...I don't have the tool to take them out at the moment.

Any thoughts, please?


Video Clips:


I can hear it struggling in those vids.

Oh and Hello, please post an intro in the new members introduction.

Excessive starting, especially with weak batteries, can cause the sprag clutch to kick back and stretch the spring, causing problems, and depending on engine version, may be an engine out job.


Eeek, struggling...but not screwed up just yet, I hope?  Thanks for the reply.

I have been anxious about all these start attempts screwing over the sprag clutch....I had the previous owner take a rest from trying to start it, for that reason. We had jump leads here, but the battery is otherwise good and not weak...but eeek! 

I am unsure how to keep trying to start it, without risking that. :(


Welcome etc.

These bikes don't seem to handle long periods of non use. Carbs, especially with E10 are prone to gumming up.
There are a number of issues that could cause non start, but I would suggest you don't keep banging away on the starter until you have checked and addressed the carb condition, and confirmed as far as you can that everything is ready to go.
When you hit the starter, you want to be as confident as possible the bike is supplying petrol and spark, or you are just using up sprag lives.

Search the forum tech sections and start planning on the best way forward.
Probably going to want to at least check the carbs, a bit of a pig to get off, btw, if you have a garage start making space!!

I no longer have my Steamer, eventually the lack of use meant I always had carb issues. Some suffered far less issues, but once the sprag is damaged, you are on borrowed time.

Hopefully some current owners will weigh in.


Thank you...that's really helpful.  I guess it'll be time to go for the carbs.   Should be fun.  :icon_frown:


Phil's right, that sprag may or may not be OK once it's been given a run.

Getting the carbs out tests the patience of a saint, plenty to read up on here before starting. Heed the sage words of our late departed member Mustang whenever you come across them.

Before you start taking the tank and panels off be very cautious with the screws securing the side panels to the tank, plenty to read about "spinning tank nuts". You still have the small side panels that are screwed into the back of the air box, be very gentle removing the screws to take the panels off, they are made from more fragile ABS plastic unlike the other panels which are PU and relatively forgiving. These panels are like proverbial rocking horse poo, treat them carefully, personally I think the bike looks better with them although many have been broken lost or just discarded.

It looks pretty much all there, apart from the later indicators  :icon_rolleyes:, although it makes me  :icon_cry: when I see that someone has drilled holes in the rack to fit a top box plate. You might struggle to find an original screen but there are a couple of aftermarket options.

You have one of the few remaining that still has the rubber brake hoses (only fitted on '95 MY production I believe), worth budgeting for a set of braided hoses if you can't find a used set. You might find those bars are not very comfortable when you get it running, most riders find standard bars with or without bar back risers adequate depending on stature.
I used to have long hair, took acid and went to hip joints. Now I long for hair, take antacid and need a new hip joint


Welcome to the forum!

While Steamers are great bikes, I think they are best suited to someone who is comfortable doing their own maintenance. Get yourself a copy of the factory and the Haynes repair books, and read, read, read on this forum in your spare time. Nearly everything you could ever want to know has been covered here, and we have some great members who will help you diagnose and keep your Steamer healthy.

Here are some comments relating to your specific problem:

As others have already stated, these bikes do need careful attention in two critical areas:

1- Battery must be fresh and well-charged, or the sprag clutch can take a dump.
2- Fresh gas and a good treatment like Star tron before storage is essential to keeping the pilot circuit from clogging up. Once it does clog, it is usually a carb removal and soak to reopen them. If you have access to non-ethanol fuel, pay the extra and always use it, and you'll avoid the fuel headache altogether.

One other thing to mention is that the starter motor itself is no stellar affair, and I have replaced the same part on both of my Triumphs due to the dust baking itself on the contacts and ruining them. If you do have to replace the motor, look for a Denso dealer and buy it from them directly, and you'll save yourself about $400. Last thing about the battery/starting system - sometimes you may have enough juice to get the starter spinning, but not enough to produce a really good spark. The charging system on these hasn't got much output, so if you run any accessories at all, be sure to invest in a good battery so you will always have plenty of juice on hand when starting the bike.

If you remember "Ain't Fucking Starting" as the mnemonic for "Air Fuel and Spark", you'll always be on the right path for diagnosing a no-start issue. It sounds like you've already determined it is a fuel issue, and this is both good and bad. It is good, because it means you don't have to trace the electrical fault to a sidestand switch or neutral switch which can be chasing a needle in a haystack. It is bad, however, because the engineer that designed the airbox on these classic triples clearly had his wife or girlfriend run off with a mechanic and never got over it. The job is a fiddly one, and you will want to have some free time and patience to accomplish it. As Sin mentioned, all of the fasteners and other hardware are scarce and hard to replace, so use great care not to strip/break any of them.

I like to roll out a sheet of white butcher paper on a large table, and number and label everything as it comes off. Pictures are valuable, especially the "before" type. Using this kind of organized approach means that if you have to leave it for a while, you won't forget where you were, and it makes it easy to inspect all of the parts once they are off to generate a list of what you need to replace.

You're probably looking at some wonky rubber gaskets between either/both the carbs and air box and carbs and intake. You may as well do the airbox/filter if it has not been done in a while.

Once the carbs are off, you can soak them in a good cleaner; I used a product for outboard motors that I bought at a marina, and followed the soaking directions carefully.
Compressed air is your best friend to blow out the passages, but be careful you don't end up with the small bits taking flight under a workbench.

The Mikuni carb designer obviously had a brother who sold o-rings, because these have about 20 different sizes in them. If you have to rebuild them, read those threads carefully before you begin.

Good luck, and ask away if there are more questions after studying the threads that pertain to your problems.

I may not be big, but I'm slow.

Nick Calne

Welcome to the forum.

Try bump starting it and seeing if that rules out any air, fuel, spark problems.

Then get rid of that horrible cheapo battery!
Is it really an adventure bike if its wheels never see dirt?


Thanks everyone for the replies.  Wow..there's a lot of great insight and info there...and I'll have to take time to digest it..but I appreciate it all.

I'll get back to the bike as soon as the weather allows and see if I can explore the carb situation first.  There really aren't many videos on these bikes, which is a shame...ha, as they seem to need quite a lot of attention.  :)



Actually, once you establish a good maintenance baseline, they require very little to keep them in great condition.
The biggest issues can be proactively prevented by using non-ethanol (or ethanol fuel with a good stabilizer if you have no access to non-ethanol), and keeping a quality battery on a trickle charger between rides.
Given the low cost of all the classic triple models, for someone who enjoys doing their own maintenance, they are a bargain ride!
I get more more smiles per mile than many, and let's face it, the Steamer is one of the most badass looking bikes on the road!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
I may not be big, but I'm slow.


Quote from: macjaffa on March 13, 2022, 11:33:06 AM
There really aren't many videos on these bikes, which is a shame...ha, as they seem to need quite a lot of attention.  :)

You may have answered your own question there, we're too busy trying to fix them to film the process and I've yet to find something I can do with a Steamer with only one hand free, even starting them needs two hands  :icon_lol:

Nick and SSevy have good points but I have to point out that Nick has more friends willing to push than most of us and Ssevy seems to be the only one with a large uncluttered bench  ;)

Never be afraid to ask, most of us are only still owners because of the help of those who've gone before.
I used to have long hair, took acid and went to hip joints. Now I long for hair, take antacid and need a new hip joint


Welcome to the forum! Not going to add anything useful to this whole list of posts. But I wanted to just say hello and hope you get the Tiger sorted.
2008 Triumph Street Triple R | Ex Triumph Tiger 900 T400 1993, Tiger 800XC 2011


Welcome to the TT forum.

I have a 98 steamer which has the simpler (less temperamental) keihin carbs, but over the 20 years i've owned it, whenever I've left it unused for more than a month, it's always been a struggle to start it, and the problem has always been the carbs being gummed up.
For the last 5 years or so, it's been my 2nd or 3rd bike, and so I've got rather used to removing the carbs to give them a good blast out with carb cleaner. More recently I've started to switch the petrol off a mile from home, then when I get home I drain the carbs before I put it away.  I've got a hose that I sit under the drain holes and a long allen key to get into the middle carb.

This seems to help significantly and even though sometimes it is a bit lumpy when I get round to running it again, it usually clears after a mile or 2.

just to reiterate what the other guys say about the sprag clutch, be very careful.
'98 Steamer (Black of course), '18 BMW R NineT Urban G/S

Nick Calne

Quote from: Sin_Tiger on March 13, 2022, 09:18:20 PM
Nick has more friends willing to push than most of us...

I just bribe passers-by.
Is it really an adventure bike if its wheels never see dirt?


Welcome. I reckon you are in the right place. Those above and in the past would know just about everything there is to know about these fine bikes.
Hope you are on the road soon.
Ripper, woke up again.