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The 4 Most Common Honda Foreman 500 Electric Shift Problems & How To Fix Them

Every year, Honda sells nearly eight times more Electric Shift models than foot-shift ones and it’s easy to see why. The Electric Shift is so much fun to use and is pretty reliable as well, but with that said – even the toughest and most reliable ATVs have problems from time to time.

If the Electric Shift system is acting up on your Honda Foreman 500 – don’t worry! Most Electric Shift problems can be fixed relatively easily and inexpensively, of course, assuming that you know where to start and where to look.

In this article, we’ll spill the beans on the most common Honda Foreman 500 Electric Shift Problems, how to diagnose them, and ultimately, how to fix them.

Retrieving Fault Codes for the ES System

The Honda Foreman 500 has an outstanding self-diagnosis system, which checks for malfunctions in real-time and stores them in the EEPROM in order to alert the rider afterward. This is an excellent troubleshooting tool, and we will be relying on it during diagnostics.

Now, if the ECM detects an abnormality or a malfunction in the ES system, it stops the Electric Shift from working and records a fault code (DTC).

While the ES DTC is still active, the Electric Shift will not work. You can reset the fault code by cycling the ignition OFF and ON again, however, if the ECM still detects a malfunction or failure, it will keep the ES system OFF in order to prevent any further damage to it or the systems around it.

When this happens, the gear indicator will then blink out a trouble code, which will help you tremendously while troubleshooting.

How To Retrieve ES System Trouble Codes on 2005-2011 Honda Foreman 500

  1. Verify that the battery is fully charged (>12.4 V)
  2. Turn ON the ignition and record/count the number of gear indicator blinks
  3. Reference the gear indicator blinks to the fault codes below in this article

If the fault isn’t present during this ignition cycle, the ECM will not blink the fault code with the ignition on, therefore you will have to force a code retrieval yourself.

To force a fault code retrieval:

  1. Turn the ignition OFF.
  2. Place the transmission in neutral.
  3. Apply the parking brake.
  4. Push both Upshift and Downshift buttons.
  5. While holding the two shift buttons, turn the ignition ON.
  6. Before the letter “N” appears (within 2 seconds), release both shift buttons and then push them both again for more than 3 seconds.
  7. Record/count the number of gear indicator blinks and reference them to the fault codes found below in this article.
  8. If the gear indicator did not blink, start over and try again.
  9. If the gear indicator still did not blink a trouble code, then your ATV has no codes stored or you have a faulty gear position indicator.

How To Retrieve ES System Trouble Codes on 2012+ Honda Foreman 500

  1. Turn the ignition ON and record/count the gear position indicator blinks.
  2. The number of blinks indicates the current DTC, which can be referenced down below in this article.

To force a code retrieval:

  1. Disconnect the DLC.
  2. Short the two DLC terminals using SCS service connector 070PZ-ZY30100
  3. Turn the ignition ON and record/count the gear position indicator blinks
  4. The number of blinks indicates the current DTC, which can be referenced down below in this article.

Note: It’s possible to short the DLC terminals using a jumper wire but it is not recommended and can damage your ATV. Do so at your own risk.

How To Read Trouble Codes

The Honda Foreman 500 provides Electric Shift trouble codes by blinking the gear indicator on the dash screen.

The indicator lights can either blink for 1.2 seconds (long) or 1/4th of a second (short). A single long blink stands for 10, while a single short blink stands for 1. On models before 2011, the gear indicator will only blink short blinks.

For example, if the gear indicator blinks 2 long blinks and follows up with 1 short blink, then the fault code is 21 (Shift angle sensor circuit High Voltage).

Once you count the blinks and convert them to trouble codes (DTCs), you can reference them to the Complete list of Honda Foreman 500 DTCs, or find them in your owner’s manual.


Honda Foreman 500 ES System Fault Code (DTC) List

For 2005-2011 Honda Foreman 500:

Gear Position Indicator BlinksCheck Part and/or System
1ECM (writing & recording circuit
2ES shift switch system (up & down)
3Angle sensor system
4Gear position switch system
5ECM motor driver circuit
6ECM fail-safe relay circuit
7ECM voltage convert circuit
8Angle sensor system
9Angle sensor system
10CKP sensor system
11Rear VS sensor system
12Gear position switch system
13Throttle position (TP) sensor system

For 2012+ Honda Foreman 500:

DTC (“-” blinks)Function FailureSymptom/Fail-safe function
8-1 (8)TP sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.22 V)
• TP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Poor engine acceleration
• Fail-safe value: O°
• ESP does not work
8-2 (8)TP sensor circuit High voltage (more than 4.93 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the TP sensor connector
• TP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Poor engine acceleration
• Fail-safe value: O°
• ESP does not work
11-1 (11)VS sensor no signal
• Loose or poor contact of the Rear VS sensor connector
• Rear VS sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• ESP does not work
21-1 (21)Shift angle sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.37 V)
• Shift angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
21-2 (21)Shift angle sensor circuit High voltage (more than 4.62 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the Sub-gearshift spindle angle sensor connector
• Shift angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
22-1 (22)Shift angle sensor response (Control motor lock)
• PCM activates the motor but the angle sensor voltage does not change in middle position
• Control motor or its circuit malfunction
• Shift angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
22-2 (22)Shift angle sensor response (Control motor stuck)
• PCM does not activate the motor but angle sensor
voltage stays out of middle position (195 – 3.05 V)
• Control motor or its circuit malfunction
• Shift angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
23-1 (23)Shift angle sensor response (Voltage variation)
• PCM does not activate the motor but angle sensor voltage varies constantly
• Shift angle sensor installation problem
• Shift angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Control motor or its circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
24-1 (24)Shift control motor drive circuit
• Control motor or its circuit malfunction
• Control motor drive circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
32-1 (32)Fail-safe relay circuit
• Fail-safe relay circuit malfunction
• ESP does not work
33-2 (33)EEPROM malfunction• Engine operates normally
41-1 (41)Gear position switch circuit
• Gear position switch circuit malfunction (Short)
• Engine does not start
• ESP does not work
• Gear position indicator blinks “-“
41-2 (41)Gear position switch circuit
• Gear position switch circuit malfunction (Open)
• ESP does not work
• Gear position indicator blinks “-“
42-1 (42)Gearshift (UP/DOWN) switch circuit
• Gearshift (UP/DOWN) switch circuit malfunction (Short)
• ESP does not work

PGM-FI System Fault Codes:

DTCFunction FailureSymptom/Fail-safe function
1-1MAP sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.195 V)
• MAP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Pre-program value: 64 kPa
1-2MAP sensor circuit high voltage (more than 3.804 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the MAP sensor connector
• MAP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Pre-program value: 64 kPa
7-1ECT sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.015 V)
• ECT sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Hard to start at low temperature
• Pre-program value: 78.6°C/173.5°F
• Cooling fan turns on
7-2ECT sensor circuit high voltage (more than 4.981 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the ECT sensor connect
• ECT sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Hard to start at low temperature
• Pre-program value: 78.6°C/173.5°F
• Cooling fan turns on
8-1TP sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.107 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the TP sensor connector
• TP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Poor engine acceleration
• Pre-program value: 0°
• ESP does not work
8-2TP sensor circuit high voltage (more than 4.981 V)
• TP sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Poor engine acceleration
• Pre-program value: 0°
• ESP does not work
9-1IAT sensor circuit low voltage (less than 0.015 V)
• IAT sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Pre-program value: 34.8°C/94.6°F
9-2IAT sensor circuit high voltage (more than 4.981 V)
• Loose or poor contact of the IAT sensor connector
• IAT sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Pre-program value: 34.8°C/94.6°F
11-1VS sensor no signal
• Loose or poor contact of the IAT sensor connector
• IAT sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• ESP does not work
12-1Fuel Injector circuit malfunction
• Loose or poor contact of the fuel injector connector
• Fuel injector or its circuit malfunction
• Engine does not start
• Fuel injector, fuel pump and ignition shut down
21-1O2 sensor malfunction
• Loose or poor contact of the O2 sensor connector
• O2 sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
23-1O2 sensor heater circuit malfunction
• Loose or poor contact of the O2 sensor heater connector
• O2 sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
29-1IACV circuit malfunction
• Loose or poor contact of the IACV connector
• IACV or its circuit malfunction
• Engine stalls, hard to start, rough idling
41-1Except FA: Gear position switch/FA: Shift drum position switch malfunction
• Loose or poor contact of the gear/shift drum position switch connector
• Gear/shift position switch or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• ESP does not work
• Gear position indicator blinks “-“
54-1Bank angle sensor circuit low voltage
• Bank angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Bank angle sensor stops the control
54-2Bank angle sensor circuit high voltage
• Loose or poor contact of the bank angle sensor connector
• Bank angle sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Bank angle sensor stops the control
66-1
(FA
models
only)
Rear VS sensor no signal
• Loose or poor contact of the rear VS sensor connector
• Rear VS sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Gearshift function does not work (2nd, 4th or reverse gear only)
67-1
(FA
models
only)
Front VS sensor no signal
• Loose or poor contact of the front VS sensor connector
• Front VS sensor or its circuit malfunction
• Engine operates normally
• Gearshift function does not work (2nd, 4th or reverse gear only)

Most Common Honda Foreman 500 Electric Shift Problems

When it comes to Electric Shift system problems, the system will simply stop working if there’s anything wrong with it. You won’t be able to shift gears or go in reverse. However, sometimes there are additional signs that can help you narrow down the issue, like the shift motor spinning slowly or the engine having poor acceleration.

In any case, the first thing that you should check is the battery voltage. The battery should be fully charged and in good condition (>12.4 V). If the battery is weak, then the ES won’t shift properly or at all. Also, make sure that you’re using the right engine oil type.

Next, make sure that the clutch is adjusted properly. Clutch adjustment plays a huge role in the ES system and it must be properly adjusted. Check your owner’s manual for a full guide on how to do that.

Lastly, check for blown fuses – MAIN 1 (40 A), MAIN 2 (10 A), and IGN (20 A). If either one of them is blown, then the Electric Shift will not work.

1. ES Won’t Shift, Shift Motor Spinning Slowly

When your Foreman 500 won’t shift gears, but you can hear the shift motor trying to spring slowly, then chances are you have a bad shift motor, bad ground, or a bad power feed to the motor. That is, assuming that your battery is fully charged and in good condition.

You can check if there are any mechanical faults inside the gearbox by shifting the gears manually. If you can shift gears manually, then the gearbox is most likely not the problem and you should look elsewhere.

Electric Steering Shift Motor
Electric Steering Shift Motor

Next, you’ll have to verify that the shift motor is getting power and ground when shifting. If the wiring is OK, then the shift motor is the most likely suspect. In some cases, water gets inside the motor, the magnets break off and jam the motor, or the grease inside the shift motor gears has become too heavy.

If the shift motor is bad, you can replace it or you can disassemble it and try fixing it yourself.

2. ES Won’t Shift, Shift Motor Doesn’t Spin

If the ES system won’t even try to shift and the shift motor is dead silent, then you most likely have a wiring issue or a sensor has gone bad.

When the ECM or PCM detects that one of the inputs from the ES system sensors is missing or incorrect, it will prevent the ES from shifting until you cycle the ignition OFF and ON again. If the ECM or PCM still detects an issue after cycling the ignition, it will prevent the ES from shifting.

In that case, the ECM will store a DTC in its memory to aid in troubleshooting. Troubleshooting this fault is really difficult without retrieving the trouble codes, as there are a lot of components that could have failed. Once you’ve read the DTCs, you’ll have to reference them to the trouble code list and look in your owner’s manual for the full troubleshooting walkthrough.

bad wiring connector
Connectors can get corroded over time!

Usually, the majority of Electric Shift problems are caused due to bad wiring in the connectors. In most cases, moisture creeps inside the connectors and corrodes the contacts. This can cause an open circuit or a short.

First, you should try checking the three main connectors for corrosion. It’s likely that one of them is causing the problem. If not, another common culprit is the Angle Sensor.

With that said, your best bet is to read the DTCs to get an idea of what is wrong and then go from there.

3. ES Won’t Shift, Engine Does Not Start

When the ES system won’t shift gears and the engine does not start, then you most likely have an open or a short in the gear position switch circuit.

If the gear position switch circuit is faulty, then the ECM/PCM won’t be able to see which gear is selected, and it will go into a fail-safe mode and prevent the engine from starting. This is done to prevent the ATV from starting in gear.

4. ES Won’t Shift, Poor Acceleration

On newer Honda Foreman 500 models the PCM controls both the Electric Shift and the PGM-FI system. This means that if something goes wrong with the PGM-FI, then the ES system can also stop working as a fail-safe. If your Foreman 500 won’t shift and the engine runs rough, idles high, or has poor acceleration – then this is likely the case.

If this happens, your ATV will store a DTC in its memory. Retrieving the DTCs can be tremendously helpful in diagnosing the issue, so that’s where you should start.

honda foreman 500 Throttle Position Sensor
Throttle Position Sensor

Usually, this happens due to a bad TP (Throttle Position) sensor.

The PCM is constantly monitoring the TP sensor because the ES system can only shift when the throttle is at 0. If the TP sensor is showing wrong readings, then the PCM will go into a fail-safe mode and use substituted values to replace the faulty TP signal. This will make the PCM disable Electric Shift in order to prevent damage to your gearbox.

How To Erase ES Fault Codes on the Foreman 500

After you’ve narrowed down the issue and fixed it following the full troubleshooting guide in the owner’s manual, you’ll have to erase the fault codes. Luckily, it’s just as simple as retrieving them.

For 2005-2011 Honda Foreman 500:

  1. Turn the ignition OFF
  2. Place the transmission in neutral
  3. Apply parking brake
  4. Push both Upshift and Downshift buttons
  5. While pushing both buttons turn the ignition to ON
  6. Before the letter “N” appears, release both buttons, then push them again more than 3 seconds
  7. While the indicator is showing the codes, push both buttons again to erase the trouble codes.

For 2012+ Honda Foreman 500:

  1. Disconnect the DLC
  2. Short the two DLC terminals using special tool 070PZ-ZY30100
  3. Turn the ignition switch ON
  4. Remove the special tool from the DLC
  5. While the gear position indicator is showing each gear position for ~5 seconds, short the DLC terminals again with the tool to erase the fault codes
  6. If done correctly, the gear position indicator goes off and starts blinking

Final Thoughts

The Honda Foreman 500 is one of the most bought ATVs in the world and for good reason. It’s rugged, reliable, powerful, and pretty easy to repair.

If the Electric Shift system is maintained regularly, it will work properly for a long time. But with that said, the Honda Foreman 500 Electric Shift will have problems once in a while.

Luckily, diagnosing and fixing Electric Shift problems on a Honda Foreman 500 is pretty simple thanks to the self-diagnosis system and the outstanding troubleshooting guide in the owner’s manual.

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