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Old 01-22-2010, 11:50 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Exclamation Need help with '99 Arctic Cat ZL 500 EFI

I own a '99 Arctic Cat ZL 500 EFI. First bought it 6 years ago for a steal with only 900 miles on it. The owner said that he didn‘t need it, because his son moved to Florida and he already had a new sled in the shed. A year later had some problems with it bogging down and found out I needed to replace the fuel pump. Worked wonderfully after. Then three years ago, I took the sled into a repair shop to have it winterized before taking it out for the year. After getting the sled back from the shop, I took it out on the trails and got maybe ten miles and it started losing power, so I shut it down and towed it back home. Took it to the same repair guys and they said I scorned a piston, had new piston's put in and everything gone through. They said that the type of fuel has been causing a lot of problem with these sleds and that they had a few other customers with the same problem. By the time it was fixed, the snow was gone, so it sat all summer in my garage.
The following year, took it out and did what they told me to do and took it slow for the first 75 miles. They said that it was to be expected to foul out the plugs for the first 25 miles or so. After the first 30 miles I kept fouling out spark plugs and seemed like I couldn‘t go more than a few miles before I had to stop to change yet another set. Called them back and told them what was going on and they said that had to do with the kill switch/ throttle monitor, took the sled in and had it replaced, again was told that the new problem this year was the throttle monitor/ kill switch and they just replace two earlier in the week. I picked up the sled and didn't get more than five miles when the sled lost power and died. Tried pull starting it and the rip cord wouldn't move. They came and got the sled off the trail and replaced yet another scorned piston. I told them I wouldn't touch it until next year when they could look at it one more time to make sure it would run properly. I also told them that they were to do it free of charge seeing as how I have stuck almost $800 dollars into this machine and haven’t been able to enjoy it.
Fast forward to this year, take the sled in and they took the motor apart, put it back together and took it for a test run. Needless to say I get a phone call saying that it started to bog down again. They towed it back to the shop and called around and came to the conclusion that it was the stator that was making the sled blow the pistons.
Questions are, are they pulling my leg? Some people I've talked with say that a stator will not cause blown pistons seeing as how it controls electrical impulses and if this isn't the problem, what could be causing it. Don't want to spend another $800 on a part and labor that won’t fix the problem.
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Old 01-22-2010, 11:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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i wouldn't think that it is the stator that is causing it to blow you have pics of the bad pistons at all? did the shop do new cylinders on it? was it the same side everytime? is it melting pistons, or just scratching them up realy bad???
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Old 01-22-2010, 12:01 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The stator will not cause a scored piston, an air leak or coolant in the cylinder will.
Do not take it back to that place again as they do not seem to know how to trouble shoot properly.

You did not mention which piston it was, although I would hazard a guess that it is the Clutch side (PTO) cylinder.
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Old 01-22-2010, 07:42 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The first piston was the left, I did see what it looked like after they replace it, but never took a picture, and that was the one we scorned. The second time it was the right side which either melted or blew a whole in and that one I did not see what it looked like. Now that I think of, this whole process is kinda sketchy in the fact that everytime I've taken my sled in they've had "other people with the same problem" or "have had to replace the exact part three times this last week". I will not be taking it back to them, am in the process of finding somewhere else to take it that actually knows what their doing.
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Old 01-22-2010, 08:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Just a thought...Bad or dirty injectors can cause some repeat symtoms like this. If they are clogged or damaged they can do what we call "dribble". This means that the fuel is not fully atomizing (misting) properly. Rather it is just dripping into the cylinder. This can and will cause in most applications pistion melt down, bogging, and power loss. I haven't seen this too much in snowmobiles, but I've come across it often working on Over the highway tractors. The fuel will all be focused in one area of the cylinder causing "hot spots". This let go for very long will damage a cylinder/piston for sure. Deffinatley take it to a new shop. Stator going bad? It'd take pure lightning bolts of millions of volts to blow a hole through your piston!! If that were true, I'd go buy some lottery tickets, cause you have some amazing luck!! But seriously...Sorry for your frustration!

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Old 01-22-2010, 11:01 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The only way a stator can cause a burn down is if you have a weak stator and you jet down becasue of the weak spark and after putting a new/correct working stator in it the jetting will be lean. I have seen a couple of burn downs caused by this. I have also seen jetting/lean issues with a sled due to the coil wires (spark plug wires) going bad and causing one plug to burn brighter and cause that cylinder to go lean.
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Stator Testing ZR/ZL 1998-1999 500 & 600 Carburated

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Old 01-22-2010, 11:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Here is how to test to see if you have a bad stator. Your specs are:

Brown/Green 450 ohms
Brown/Black 495 ohms
Green/Black 45 ohms

Open Ignition: Newer style ignition including the 1998 and newer ZR’s and ZL’s 1998-2002 ZRT 600,800 and 1000
With an open ignition a live wire goes from the ignition system to all of the switches. The switches are normally open, or not making connection, until in the "OFF" position. When in the "OFF" position the switch will ground the ignition wire to the chassis effectively killing the spark. If a connecter becomes 100% disconnected or if a wire gets cut then the switch will no longer turn off the engine but the engine will still start. With the "normally closed" system if a connector comes loose or a wire gets cut the spark will stop until the wiring is repaired completing the circuit again.

Diagnosing no spark, weak spark or intermittent spark issues

The first thing is separating the issue between switches/handlebars/lights or if the issue is in the primary ignition components like the stator, cdi, coils, trigger coil or possibly plugs or plug wires or plug caps.

1. The first thing you want to do is to take the spark plugs out of the cylinder heads, put the spark plugs in the spark plug boots and lay them on the cylinder head bolt away from the cylinder plug hole so they are grounded. If you pull the sled over and the spark plug is over the spark plug hole and it sparks it will ignite so make sure the plugs are not near the spark plug holes when you pull it over
2. Pull the recoil rope and check the spark at the plug. Is there Spark? Is there spark at each spark plug? IS the spark blue (indicating a strong spark) or is it yellow (indicating a “weak” spark).
3. The next step is pretty much the same whether you saw no spark or a weak spark. On the “open” ignition you can simply unplug the 4-prong connector coming from the stator containing the 2 yellow wires. On some EFI sleds you have 3 yellow wires and one non yellow (ground) wire. The extra yellow wire is used for powering your fuel pump. The other 2 yellow wires in the 4-prong connector sends the power to the lights/hand warmers/tachometer. When you unplug this 4-prong connector you are bypassing all of your switches (Throttle Safety Switch, Kill, Tether ect..) and all of your lights, hand warmers your handlebars. Pull the recoil over and see if you have spark or if the spark is now blue. Carbureted models can be started and run with this 4-prong connector unplugged but you won’t have lights mentioned above. If you have an EFI, you can only check for spark and it will not start or run with it unplugged. You need it plugged in to power your fuel pump.
4. If you had no spark and by unplugging the 4-prong connector you now have spark, that tells you that you have something shorted out in your hand controls, switches like the tether, throttle safety switch or kill switch. If you had weak spark and now have blue spark it also tells you that you have a short or a problem with one of your switches. The most likely culprit is the TSS or kill switch, There is a 3 prong connector in your handlebars that if you unplug it will bypass your kill and TSS switch and you will only be able to start and turn off your sled with the key. The 3 prong connector is usually not by the handlebars next to where you put your hands but rather just a little bit down the steering shaft about at the point where the console containing the key switch is located. If you’re not sure which connector it is, just follow the one group of wires out of the right handlebar area where the TSS and Kill switch are located down to where the plug is located. There are other plugs by the handlebar on the right side by the thumb throttle containing yellow wires and are for your hand warmers and thumb warmer and do not have anything to do with the TSS or the Kill switch.
5. If after unplugging the 4-plug switch you still do not have spark or the spark is still weak looking this tells you that the problem is in the major ignition components like the stator, coils, cdi spark plugs, spark plug wires or trigger coil.
6. The first thing to check are the connections from the stator to the cdi. Make sure all connections are free of moisture, are tight and use dielectric grease on it. Check the ground. You should have a ground wire coming from your stator and your CDI/ECU box. Make sure the ground is clean, tight and that the ground wires are not broken. Sometimes the ground wire is pinched and broken inside the eyelet connection and is making only intermittent if any connection. Some older model Arctic Cats have the ground up closer to the handle bars on what some would consider the “firewall” of the sled and they rust/corrode badly.
7. If all connections are solid and the ground looks good then you have to start electrically checking components. Most of the twin trigger coils are supposed to ohm out at 90 or so ohms. Triples are usually 175 ohms. View my “testing a pulser/trigger coil” video to see how to test it. It is a quick test. The frustrating part about the trigger coil is that it can test good, but still be bad.
8. Next you want to test the stator itself. View my “How to test a stator” video to see how to do it. Triple cats and ZR/ZL 500/600 carb sleds have the 4 prong connector. The ZR/ZL 500/600’s have the clear 3 prong rectangular plug and many of the 580’s have a triangular plug.
9. If you have no spark and your trigger tests ok and your stator tests ok then we may be looking at a secondary coil issue. This condition usually causes a miss or it sputters at higher rpms. The coils can have a couple of issues with them. The first thing you want to do is make sure the spark plug caps are on tight. They just screw on and off the spark plug wire. Many times the best thing to do as long as your wires are long enough is to unscrew the spark plug caps, trim a ˝ inch off the end of the wire and then screw the spark plug cap back on. Also, on some coils you can unscrew the wire from the coil itself and do the same thing. Trim off about a ˝ inch and screw it back on the coil. I had 2 sets of coils go “bad” on my sled and come to find out it was just the spark plug wires were a bit warn at their ends and after I trimmed them and screwed them back together they ran perfect. Be warned though that I did have one wire that would not unscrew from a coil no matter how hard I tried to turn it and I ended up just tearing the spark plug wire. Also, always check the spark plug gap and set it to the correct spec for that plug. I have seen plugs with the gap set too small on them making the motor run poorly.
As far as putting the coil wires back on here is a general rule of thumb for Cats:
Most sleds fire all the plugs at the same time, multiple times per revolution. A twin will fire both wires twice each revolution, a triple three times (once per 120 degrees). One of the pulses fires the plug to ignite the fuel/air mix, the other times the pulses are "lost" as the plug fires with the piston not ready for the fuel to burn.
10. If you have no spark and your trigger tests ok, your stator tests ok and you have tried a new set of coils then we’re possibly looking at a bad CDI box. There is no real good way to test the CDI other than swapping the box out with a known good CDI box.
11. Specificly on Battery EFI sleds here is another thing to check. This was found on a 1996 EXT EFI: There are 2 relays on the back of the ecu. 1 is for the spark and 1 for the fuel pump.
12. Also, bad reeds on a sled will cause it to back fire and run poorly acting like it is an electrical issue.
13. Sled won’t shut off condition: I have seen a few things cause this. First off it is usually a bad ground/broken ground wire. Sometimes it is moisture in the connector. I had to disconnect my TSS/Kill switch the day my kill switch got moisture in it and my sled wouldn’t shut off. You could have a cdi with an internal short. Also, a bad stator can cause a sled to not shut off.
14. Other issues/symptoms that I have seen/read related to a no spark/Weak Spark/Wet Plugs issue:
A. A guy bought a used sled with the wrong flywheel on it.
B. Frayed wires somewhere in the wiring harness or under the seat were causing a short
C. Guy said sled was only running on one cylinder. He could remove one spark plug wire and it didn’t effect the way the sled ran. His low side coil on his stator read 360 ohms and it should have measured 450 ohms. His low side coil was dying.
D. It kept fowling plugs left and right. The guy before me ran ethanol, and never told me. This was on an EFI sled.
E. Hood harness was routed between rewind/stator housing and frame and had 4 wires smashed. Repaired wires and ran good.
F. Got it running again tapped the ECU and died. Pulled the ECU cover off and found some corrosion
G. I noticed some wires running to the carbs that were rubbing against the jack shaft (Shaft going from secondary clutch to the top sprocket in the chain case). After rewrapping/rerouting the wires it ran great
H. Bolt for the recoil cup broke off and hit the trigger coil, bent the bracket slightly and gave it too much air gap
I. Oil Injection turned up too high
J. Fuel Lines hooked up backwards
K. I saw a motor where the jetting was way too lean. The sled would start and idle but if you pinned the throttle the sled would bog and quit running. By using the choke we were able to determine that it ran better when you hit the throttle. We jetted up and it ran good.
L. Sheared Timing key
M. Crank out of Phase will cause it to run very poorly.
Wanted: Dead Stators PM me.

Testing Cat triple stators

Stator Testing ZR/ZL 1998-1999 500 & 600 Carburated

Stator Testing ZR/ZL 1998-1999 500 & 600 EFI

Stator Testing Early 1990's 700 & 580 EFI with the triangular 3 prong connector

Jumper wire bypass
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