Electrical breakdowns on motorcycle: do you know how to prevent them?
Electrical breakdowns on a motorcycle is an issue that concerns all users. One of your worst nightmares is figuring out why an electrical component won’t start or work. Did it ever happen?
Many times they are more complicated than mechanical breakdowns. Personally, as a motorcycle mechanic, I hate electrical breakdowns. It is relatively easy, with some experience, to know and, above all, to check how the brakes, suspensions or almost any part of the engine work, such as moving parts, friction, oil or fuel passages, etc. It is not easy to see where electricity passes or does not pass, in almost any case.
And it is not easy to prevent them, although there are some tips that will serve, in part, to preserve these elements in the best possible way.
The battery: it will drain
I guess you know, but no battery is everlasting. It will go away sooner or later. And there are few things you can do to avoid it or at least few that are logical. I imagine that if every time you get off the motorcycle you take the battery home, keep it at 20º permanently, put it with a charge maintainer close to perfect, you can make the battery last much longer than it usually lasts. I can’t imagine how scary it must be to live like this. It is impossible.
Current batteries have an average life of approximately 3 to 4 years. They are smaller and lighter than before and yes, as with so many other things, we have the feeling that “the old ones were always better”. Before they were the same or similar, only there was less supply and they were from well-known brands.
Now many times we opt for the cheapest and that, logically, it shows. A lithium battery, for example, usually has a longer life, but it can cost you three times what a normal one. In any case, with standard batteries in normal use, follow these tips.
Turn off lights and any consumer before hitting the contact
Logically, it can be done on motorcycles that can turn off the lights, since for some time now almost none have a light switch. Starting draws a lot of energy from the battery charge. Therefore, if at that time there is no other consumption, the battery appreciates it.
Charge maintainers and protection against cold
What I told you before doing it every day is an exaggeration, but in a cold snap it doesn’t hurt. Batteries tend to hasten their death in cold weather. The same is true if you are going to be long periods of time without using the motorcycle or scooter.
Be careful with accessories
Alarms, heated grips, additional lights and other accessories not foreseen by the manufacturer affect the power consumption and the battery. Make sure that the ones you install are of quality and that they are installed by a specialist who really knows what he is doing.
Mount the recommended battery
A battery that is not recommended by the manufacturer, in addition to being able to cause installation problems in its intended position, may have less capacity than necessary, which will lead to the fact that at certain times you may have a consumption greater than its load capacity, leading to a deep discharge from which it is difficult to recover.
Not worth any charger
The battery has certain charging requirements. If you do not comply, you can spoil it. In extreme cases, you are seriously shortening its lifespan. If you know how to use adjustable chargers, go ahead. If not, look for a quality automatic, valid for your battery.
Alternator, coils and ignition
If you have problems with these components, bad issue. These breakdowns are often complicated and are rarely cheap. And you can’t do much to avoid them either, since they are the critical point of this type of breakdown. I mean the ones that suddenly go away and you don’t know why.
If it is the CDI or the ignition control unit it is almost impossible to check if it is not by changing it. An alternator stops charging sometimes without warning or a coil too. What can you do? These are our tips.
The regulator sometimes warns
At night, you start up and suddenly see the lights flicker and their intensity goes up and down at idle unevenly. It’s not the light bulb or anything like that. If the battery is well charged, this flickering is caused by a regulator in poor condition, since it is in charge of sending the correct voltage and type of charge to the battery, regulating (as its name suggests) what comes out of the alternator.
If it does not do its job, it will end up charging the battery and the alternator will not do well either. The sooner you change it, the better for your electrical system.
Spark plugs of their right measure
More than once I have come across users who think that spark plugs are divided by the type of thread they have on the tip. And yes, but just as important as that is its thermal degree.
This is the degree to which the spark jumps, and your engine is designed for a specific range. If you go too far out of that range, at the very least, the bike will start badly or run badly. With a bit of bad luck, a piece of it will melt and fall into the engine, causing significant damage. In some cases it can also end up damaging a coil.
Always put the correct spark plugs. If you do not want the brand that the motorcycle originally came with, you will find on the internet equivalence lists of spark plugs between different brands.
In addition, you must also take care of them. It is not strange that the spark plugs are not changed because “the motorcycle starts well”. You should know that they wear out. And that the motorcycle starts well means that they still work correctly, but they will not tell you when they will stop. Replace them when it touches, according to the maintenance plan of your motorcycle.
Bulbs and Fuses
Nor do they usually warn and, in this case, no manufacturer includes it in the maintenance plan, because hopefully they are eternal. Or almost. There is only one thing that can be done to prevent these breakdowns: carry a main headlight bulb, the taillight and a fuse.
These things can fit together with the tools or inside a cloth in some space of the motorcycle. Of course, make sure you know how to change the bulbs and fuses or also bring the maintenance book to do so.
On some motorcycles it is not easy at all. By the way; if you don’t have them with you and it catches you far from home, they usually have them for sale at gas stations.
In this area, once again, use what corresponds. The electrical circuit of a motorcycle is calculated for certain consumptions and efforts. If you change the consumption of bulbs, you may have (not serious) speed problems of the turn signals, for example, or that you burn more bulbs than you should.
With fuses, be careful: They are to prevent the installation and the components behind them from being fused. The fuse is blown so that excessive current does not reach that installation and burn it.
If the fuse is blown, replace it with one of the same amperage to do its job. If you put a lower one, it can be melted simply by the passage of the normal current that has to pass.
If you put a larger one and the previous one has melted due to a fault in the installation that causes that excess current, you can melt the installation itself or the component it protects.
Wiring and connections
The cables and their connectors, in a modern motorcycle, are rarely a problem except in the event of an accident or that we have manipulated it.
In any case, with a multimeter it is easy to discover that a part of the installation does not work because there is no current coming through some wire. In any case, if at any given time you need to temporarily insulate a cable or a connection, one of the great solutions of the biker is the electrical tape.
Beware of “your facilities”
If you make an installation on the motorcycle, pull out the power where you are sure, so as not to cause a breakdown. If you do not know, the most helpful is from the battery itself. Do it with sheathed cables, with the appropriate terminals, avoiding unnecessary connections.
The shrink sleeve is a good option, but only in the connections and all this protected by a normal cover on the outside. And it is always very advisable to put a fuse in that installation.
Be careful with pressure washing
Water and electricity are not good friends. If you wash the motorcycle with pressurized water (or an already somewhat old motorcycle, simply with a lot of water), it can enter where it should not cause electrical failures.
Try not to wet (or do it as little as possible) the areas of the motorcycle where there are components or connectors and dry those areas well before starting.
Switches and Micro switches
On the motorcycle you have switches on the cones, on the ignition and some more in more hidden areas, such as the brake light contacts on the levers and pedal, those for the neutral sensor or the kickstand switch and, in some cases, another in the clutch.
They are not usually damaged and have a difficult solution, except to replace the faulty part. If you have a bad contact there, you can try cleaning and giving it a dielectric spray, which sometimes restores the connections, but most likely you will have to change the part to avoid headaches.