Electrical
System - Troubleshooting

 

Trouble-Shooting

Your bike starts, but dies (electrically) soon thereafter

So your bike won't hold a charge… I would say the most common problem is usually the simplest. The battery. Just because a battery reads 12 VDC when you stick the volt meter on it, doesn't mean that is functioning correctly. So…be sure the electrolyte (the water/acid mix) in your battery is between the lines or marks on the battery in all of the cells. If it's low, pop off the cap(s) and fill it towards the top of the area with DEIONIZED or DISTILLED water (most tap water contains minerals that will reduce the effectiveness of the battery). Now that you've topped it off, try recharging the battery overnight with a trickle charger. You'll want to charge it in the garage (or outside) and be sure to put a board or something else under it, in case some of the (very) acidic electrolyte boils over during charging.

If you have the luxury of owning or having access to a "load tester", you can see if the battery holds its voltage level with a load applied.

Ok, so your recharging didn't work. See if it'll let you jump-start it (if you choose not to read my explanation on jump starting - please BE CAREFUL when jumping to do it correctly!!!). If your problem is just the alternator or the battery, jumping should work (as long as it hasn't damaged any other part of the electrical system.)  Click HERE to read about how to safely jump-start a motorcycle.

Your bike doesn't start at all 

First - when you put the key in and turn it to the ON position, do the lights come on?  If not, there definitely is a problem with either: the ignition switch or switch wiring, the battery, the battery connection (either end of the wires / terminals), your main fuse or fuse wiring.  Trouble-shooting this problem is just a pain in the rear.  Always start simple: unplug everything electrical, clean it all off, then plug it all back in.  I would then put a known working battery in, and hook one end of a volt meter up to the ground of the bike and take the other end and trace the positive (+) line until I found a bad connection.  This would be one of those "buy the manual" issues.

CHECKING THE STARTER "RELAY" The starter relay's function is to take the small current switch of your starter button, and close another switch that lets a large amount current go the the starter motor. It (usually) has 4 terminals on it. Two of them are low current (or low "tension"), and the other two are high current (high tension). Many motorcycles have other safety devices that may prevent the bike from starting. I can't address all of them here, so I will assume that they are working/you have tested them. Assuming the kill switch is on RUN, when you press the START button, do you hear the relay "CLICK?" If you don't, the problem may either be with the wiring leading to and from the relay, or it may be a bad relay. Here's how you test the relay after you've determined you didn't hear any click(assuming your battery is charged): · Disconnect the high current lead that goes from the relay to the starter motor (it's usually bolted to the relay) · Hook up each of your multimeter probes to the two high current leads on the relay to test for continuity (Ohms) · Turn the key to the "ON" position and the kill switch to the "RUN" position and be sure the bike is in NEUTRAL. · Press the starter button. · If the relay "clicks" and the meter reads 0 (zero) Ohms, the relay should be ok. · If you heard no click or the meter doesn't read real close to 0 Ohms, let go of the start switch. Disconnect all wires from the relay (mark them so you know where they go back on). · Measure the resistance between the two low current leads (where the small wires went) on the relay, if it's infinity, the relay is probably bad. If it's zero (literally) then the relay is probably bad. Check your service manual to find out what the resistance is supposed to be if you are still curious. · Ok, so your relay is probably ok. Now what? GET THE SERVICE MANUAL! Due to the different ways relays can be designed, I would have a difficult time steering you from here.

 

 

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Last Update: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 11:53 PM