Problems? What problems?

I have encountered most of these problems, and gleaned information about them and others from various mailing lists, as well as working out solutions myself.

Electrical problems

Quick summary of most problems:

If the starter won't turn, it's clutch switch, starter solenoid, ignition switch, kill switch, starter button or starter (in decreasing order of probability, unless someone has fiddled with your kill switch). Or a flat battery, of course. It isn't sidestand switch or switch relay.

If the bike won't fire up, or cuts out while running, it's ignition sensor, alarm immobiliser, or sidestand switch or switch relay. Or lack of petrol...

Cutting out - 1

Earlier models (before about 1996) have one consistent fault - this fault can have two (at least) manifestations.

The first shows the same symptoms as running out of petrol. The engine splutters and cuts out, but will (generally) restart after a few minutes. Of course, there's enough petrol in, and the tank vent isn't blocked.

The alternative symptoms are that the engine cuts out momentarily very frequently, not necessarily for long enough to actually stop the bike. In my own experience, this was preceded by some months where the bike would hiccup after a mile or two from cold, just apparently failing to fire for one cycle, then carrying on happily.

Both of these sets of symptoms share one thing - the tacho will drop to zero when the engine stutters (unlike running out of petrol, where the tacho will keep showing engine speed).

The cause is the ignition sensor failing. The part number on this has changed from earlier to later Triumphs, and the part is quite visibly different, so hopefully the later version is more reliable.

Replacing the ignition sensor can easily be done at home (Torx bit required). The most fiddly part is getting at the connector, though it's not as bad on the Tiger as on other Triumph models. Handy tip - use a new gasket, and if you haven't got any feeler gauges, use the old gasket to set the sensor gap.

Cutting out - 2

A second possible cause for cutting out is the engine cut-out, which can be activated in a variety of ways. For the bike to run, the grey-black lead to the CDI must be connected to ground (0V). The series of interlocks that do this are the kill switch, the combination of side-stand switch (and relay, where fitted) and neutral switch, and on bikes fitted with an alarm, the alarm immobiliser. Of course, it's a ten minute job getting to the CDI on the Tiger, but the other models are a bit simpler. The alarm connector under the seat has two grey-black leads connected to it, one from the sidestand relay (which is underneath the rear of the tank on most models and under the front left of the seat on the Tiger) and the other running to the CDI.

Cutting out in the wet

If the bike cuts out in the wet (spray seems much worse than rain for this), the HT leads may be giving up the ghost. Replacing them is an expensive option, though. Cleaning up the connectors where they go into the coil may help.

No starter action

If pressing the starter button doesn't do anything (no clicking from the solenoid), there's several possible causes.

  1. Kill switch is set to stop or alarm immobiliser is immobilising.

    Kick self in embarrassment.

  2. Connection to solenoid poor.

    Check this by taking the seat off and wiggling the spade connectors on the solenoid. If this is the problem, just clean up the connectors.

  3. Clutch switch failed (bike will generally start with clutch pulled in)

    Test by removing connector from switch and bridging black lead to either black/red or black/yellow. If starter works, it's the clutch switch. The switch can be dismantled and cleaned, being careful not to break the lugs holding the switch halves together.

  4. Neutral switch failed.

    The absence of a neutral light will hint at this, and the bike will start with the clutch in.

If the starter solenoid buzzes, the battery is very low - the solenoid connects, the battery tries to let the starter have its last few remaining amp-hours and the voltage drops until the solenoid drops back out, then as the current drain isn't there any more, the solenoid re-activates, repeat ad infinitum.

If the solenoid clicks in, but nothing else happens, there's a couple of possible causes. Either the solenoid contacts have failed, or there's a problem with the connections from the battery to the solenoid, or from the solenoid to the starter motor. I suggest testing by putting a voltmeter between each solenoid terminal and earth - do not put an ohmeter across the solenoid while the battery is connected to it, unless you like the smell of burning plastic.

Get-you-home hint: you can bridge the solenoid terminals with a spanner to start the bike. Do be sure not to use your best spanner.

Engine problems

Generally very reliable, but a couple of things to watch for.

Clatter on using starter

Caused by starter sprag clutch expiring.

Requires replacement of starter sprag clutch, involving engine removal and splitting the cases. It's probably best not to try this at home.

A little prevention actually does help prevent a lot of cure. The problem is caused when the engine kicks back against the starter, because there wasn't enough ooomph in the battery to give the engine sufficient forward momentum. Triumph put in a different black box in later bikes, which allowed the engine to turn over once before attempting to fire it up. However, the best way to avoid it is to keep the battery in good condition - if you're not using the bike for a while, put it on a battery tender such as an Optimate.

Excessive noise from top end

Caused by the camchain tensioner not tensioning or camchain running slack.

Possible replacement of camchain tensioner.
Possible replacement of camchain.

The camchain tensioner can be removed fairly easily (well, according to the books, it can - I speak from a position of no experience). This will allow assessment of the situation. Probably best to leave it to a dealer, though.

The bottom end of the camchain run can be examined easily by taking off the right hand crankshaft end cover (the middle one of the three circular covers on the right side).

There was a certain amount of heat but little light produced during a debate on this subject on the Magpie Triumph list. My own conclusion, after talking to a mechanic at my local Triumph dealer, was that there's not a design or component fault, but that they have the same chance of failure as other bikes using camchains.

Excessive noise from bottom end

Often caused by a loose alternator bolt. The noise level is higher at idle. Care should be taken not to confuse this with the standard level of mechanical noise from a Triumph, which is akin to two skeletons making love in a dustbin.

There is a fix from Triumph for this problem. One or two people on the Tiger list have done the job themselves, but it does require care (and the appropriate Torx bits).

The more unfortunate cause is the demise of a big end or main bearing. This isn't a common failing, but it isn't unknown. I, for one, have known it...

Tiger bodywork and frame problems

Wobbly fairing

If the fairing wobbles around a lot, it could well be that you have a single tube fairing frame and it has broken. The single tube is the one that runs from the upper headstock to the gussetting on the bracket, and Triumph later changed this to a double tube.

Replacement is easy enough and the bracket costs only about 1/3 the price of the equivalent parts for the old Daytona and Sprint models. It might be worth seeing if you can blag a replacement out of Triumph.

Wobbly back bits

The rear subframe can crack (this does appear to require a fair amount of force). Later frames had some strengthening in this area. Get the subframe welded up and strengthened.

Turning screw in petrol tank

This is the one that gives you that horrible sinking feeling. The fairing retaining screws screw into threaded bushes in recesses in the tank. These bushes (as I understand it) expand on first use, and their little teeth grip into the tank recess.

The bad news comes when a fairing screw gets a bit corroded, or is tightened down hard enough to bottom in the thread and wedge. Once the screw has turned the bush in the tank, it will keep on doing so.

Drill the head off the screw (careful of the heat generated). If you use a left-hand drill bit, it may chase the screw out anyway. Once the fairing is off and you have a clear approach, try wedging the bush into position by drilling a small hole on the periphery of the bush and screwing in a small self-tapper. If this is successful, you'll be able to remove the stuck screw and use as normal.

I have thought of an alternative method, but never tried it: the bush can be completely excised from the tank, leaving a recess in which it should fit. Araldite a flanged nut of the right thread, flange innermost, into the recess, putting the fairing back into position and screwing the screw into the nut to position it correctly while it cures. If anyone tries this, let me know of the success or otherwise.

Wheel rims cracking or corroding

What it says. This doesn't seem a big problem, but two of us on the Triumph list have had opposite experiences.

John Fitzwater of Thunderbike had a problem with the Akront rims supplied as standard on one or two of his Tigers starting to crack around the spokes. The rims were replaced with DID ones and all was well.

My experience was of the DID rims. When having the tyres changed, it turned out that the rear rim was badly corroded, especially around the valve hole. I took the opportunity to have the hubs powder coated and have stainless steel spokes, but the replacement rims I had were Akront, which seem to be holding up fine.

Difficult to draw a conclusion, but I would recommend careful examination of the wheel rim when changing tyres (including checking under the rim tape).

Rear brake rubbing

Again, what it says. As yet, I have no definite solution to the problem on my own bike.

This can be caused by the right foot resting on the brake. I wouldn't recommend constantly observing your right foot while riding, though, as it might have a deleterious effect on your forward observation.