We work the front lines of the GL1800 Ghost Shifting problem and hear from more owners and have repaired more units than probably any other private company. Since no one really knows why some Wings ghost shift and others don't, what we share here is what we have learned from personal experience.
Early on, ghost shifting was blamed on heel-toe shifters or because a GL1800 was triked. Eventually, unmodified GoldWings began having transmission problems, too. As more examples surfaced, those early suspicions were eliminated.
NOT HEEL-TOE SPECIFIC NOT TRIKE SPECIFIC
Many say the 2006 Wings was the worst year for ghost shifting, indicating it is a year specific problem. However, when Honda released the 5th generation GoldWing, sales on their newest model dropped drastically as potential buyers adjusted to newer body style and price increases. In 2001, it's believed that less than 4,000 GL1800s were sold in the US. By 2006 more the 35,000 units were sold. If ghost shifting is a percentage based problem, then hardly any 2001s would need repair while many 2006s would. Other popular years are 2008 and 2010. Unit sales bump higher as features such as GPS, TMPS, and Weather Radar became more desirable.
As the 5th generation Wing became more popular, so did the transmission problem.
Transmission problems are reported on all years from 2001 - 2013. Because Honda protects unit sales data, reported problems are also protected information. So, knowing exact problem numbers is a percentage based problem and not known for sure. It does appear, however, that more complaints surface from the more popular years. Also, there are no part number changes that affect transmission performance from 2001 - 2012.
NOT YEAR SPECIFIC APPEARS TO BE PERCENTAGE BASED
Many blame ghost shifting on oil type, oil grade, oil-change frequency, clutching habits, road conditions, climate, high or low RPMs when shifting, not pre-loading the shift lever, while in a turn, accelerating too fast, not accelerating fast enough, shifting too fast, not shifting fast enough... and the list continues and continues and continues.
All these myths and beliefs became known as voodoo reasoning.
If an owner is reading this, it is assumed you have taken the first step in searching for the answer as to why your Gold Wing ghost shifts. The Owner's Manual that came with your Wing should be studied to make sure you are maintaining and operating your Wing as intended. If you are, then the above is truly voodoo reasoning and "it is not your fault."
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT
Often the operator is blamed for a bent or damaged shift forks. "You must have been pressing down too hard on the shift lever." Sometimes a worn or damaged shift drum is found too. This damage is a symptom and caused form ghost shifting. Our Wings are designed to be shifted at "foot speed." Ghost shifting can happen so fast it puts tremendous stress on the forks, causing them to bend and crack. The shift drum will get damaged too.
FORK AND SHIFT DRUM DAMAGE IS CAUSED FROM GHOST SHIFTING AND NOT FROM YOU
Lately many blame ghost shifting on metal quality. When gears are manufactured, the metal must meet a manufacturing standard. If the metal is inferior, the gears will crack and break, or wear prematurely. Some gears do crack, but only after thousands of miles of ghost shifting abuse, while others show wear known as "cancer" or pitting. Cancer shows up as the gears are used or worn. Therefore, the metal quality theory is not true since some Wings ghost shift when almost new. At that young age, the gears rarely show signs of cracking and no signs of cancer either. As Lloyd from the UK wrote in an email he sent "I own a 2008 with 1700 miles on it, and it just started ghost shifting ..." I can guarantee that if those gears are removed and magna fluxed, they will not show signs of cancer or cracks, but, as he states, it is a ghost shifter.
NOT CAUSED FROM POOR METAL QUALITY
Often ghost shifting becomes a warranty complaint and repaired under warranty. After some of them are repaired, they become a ghost shifter again. We've corrected some of those Wings. Some state they were told their transmission failed because it was not assembled correctly by the manufacture. That is possible. Much of the assembling is "fail safe," but clips and washers can be missing, or incorrectly installed affecting a transmission's operation. The likelihood of those transmissions being corrected once repaired is likely. But what about the others? How about the ones assembled correctly from the manufacture, repaired, and ghost shift again? Were they not repaired correctly? Is there another problem? Does the transmission have a design flaw? Is it the operator, or maybe something during the manufacturing process affecting one transmission but not others? Since it is not known what really causes ghost shifting, it is known that replacing the damaged parts does not guarantee correction.
NOT CAUSED FROM FOOTWEAR, RIDER HEIGHT, OR CLUTCH LEVER ADJUSTMENT
Fellow forum members have posted surveys attempting to blame boot type or style causing the ghost shifting problem. The belief was that footwear can put the "shift foot" in a better shifting position then other footwear. In the survey, it was discovered that boot type, shoe type, and sandal type has nothing to do with ghost shifting. We've always considered the possibility that the shift problem was more likely to happen to taller riders. Like the boot thing, a riders foot position throwing the shift timing off since a taller person is more likely to have their toes pointed more towards the ground and further away for the shifter then a shorter person's who's feet may lay more flat on the foot pegs. This theory seems false too. An old girl friend, who is 5'7", bought a new Wing, and it ghost shifted while leaving the showroom. It ghost shifts on me too, and I am 6'0". Another suspicion is clutch lever adjustment. The adjustment wheel on the 3 GL1800s I've owned all ghost shifted on setting #1. The girl friend mentioned above has hers set on #5. Therefore, clutch lever adjustment can be eliminated as a possible cause too.
OILS ARE NOT TO BLAME
Some believe oil is to blame. On the 3 Wings I have owned, all have been ghost shifters, others than one time changing to Honda's Semi Synthetic HP4 on my most current one, I've used nothing other than Honda's most basic, conventional, GN4 oil. We've repaired many transmissions for ghost shifting and the oils being used vary greatly. Mobil 1, Rotella, and Amsoil, are all popular oils for us Wingers to use. We are currently repairing one that has always had Honda's Full Synthetic HP4S after its original oil was drained. Therefore, we feel comfortable saying that oil brands, types, and grades are not responsible for ghost shifting issues.
REPLACING DAMAGED PARTS IS NOT A SURE CORRECTION FOR GHOST SHIFTING.
REMACHINING THE DOGS OF THE GEARS IS THE ONLY KNOWN CORRECTION FOR THE SHIFT STAYING ENGAGED PROPERLY!!!
JUSTWINGS HAS THE EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE TO FIX GHOST SHIFTING ISSUES ON YOUR GL1800!!!