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Roadside Electrical Troubleshooting

Jon wrote this synopsis about a recent roadside troubleshooting session. It is generic enough to be used as a guide of sorts.

"Ok here's how I thought it through to get the bike going again.

First, I lit a cigarette. This was a stalling tactic to get me to start thinking about what was wrong instead of reacting to that horrible empty feeling when it quits on you.

Three things make the motor run, gas, air and electricity. One of those three crapped out on me.

I knew it was an electrical problem by the way the motor just quit. There was no sputtering like when its a gas problem or an air flow problem such as a clogged filter. This motor went from 2000 RPMs to dead in a second.

I tried the starter button first to see if it would crank. If it will crank the problem should be in the coil or plug wires. It wouldn't so I then hit the starter switch while flipping the kill button off and on to see if that had shorted out. Still nothing. If it had cranked but not started while flipping the kill switch I would have gotten an intermediate starter crank at one point or another. This did eliminate the kill switch but not the starter switch as a potential problem. I then began a check of all the cables that were visible, and tested them by giving a gentle tug. All was fine.

All my lights were on so I knew I had a battery. But I checked anyway. I then flipped the ignition switch several times to see if that had gone south. That wasn't it. I held in the starter button while flipping the ignition switch. Somewhere there would be an intermediate starter crank if the ignition switch was worn. I then checked my turn signals. They didn't work. This told me the problem was in the ignition circuit since the turn signals work from the ignition side of the switch. So I knew from this that it was in my ignition circuit.

I pulled the side panel and shorted across the starter relay with my trusty screwdriver. Nothing. This eliminated the starter button as the potential problem. This meant it was further upstream than the relay. I shorted across the battery circuit breaker just for good measure while there. Still nothing. So I was left with only one possibility. It had to be in one of the other circuit breakers inside the fairing.

So I arbitrarily picked one and jumped the terminals with the screwdriver while holding in the starter button until I go it to crank over. After I got it to kick over I tried the starter again. It wouldn't crank so I hit the circuit breaker pretty hard since I figured it was just stuck in the open position. It was and started fine after the tap. If I hadn't gotten it to crank over I would have pulled one side of the circuit breaker leads off and put them on a single post so as to eliminate the circuit breaker. It isn't a good idea but it will get you home.

So I changed it the next day anyway. If it does it once it will do it again.

If I had a little circuit tester in my tool pouch I would have been able to get this done much quicker. But I don't carry one and maybe it wouldn't be a bad addition."