View Full Version : I HATE WIRES!!!

06-24-2010, 10:42 AM
I was hoping somebody on here could help me out with some electrical issues I'm having. I've got a '97 S1 Lightning. Over the winter, I had the bike pretty well torn apart to change the swingarm, and I think I may have pinched some wiring somewhere. After getting the bike back together, I rode it probably 20 times with no problems.

The other day, I fired it up just to run it around the block a few times after installing a new rear shock, but it died as soon as I got to the stop sign 200 ft. from my driveway. I tried to restart it and all I got was some rapid clicking from the starter. The battery had about 3 1/2 years on it, so I put a new one in and when I hit the start button, it turned the engine over a couple times, but then the starter began clicking again.

This is the part of the story where stuff starts smoking...

After hitting the start button a few times I smelled smoke and immediately turned the key off and as I began to disconnect the battery, I noticed how hot the stainless steel battery hold down strap had gotten and that it was melting the battery case a little bit. I called the local Harley service dept. just to pick their brain a bit, and they said there's something shorting to ground and to check the wiring in the start/charging/ignition circuits.

I found one of the wires that goes from the stator to the voltage regulator worn through to about 3 strands left, right next to the plug that was tucked behind the battery box. I figured that was my problem and cut the wires and installed a new connector (beats pulling the primary case apart to change the stator). Thinking my problems were solved, I reinstalled the battery and tried again.

After hitting the start button a couple times, the battery hold down strap was getting warm again, so I got pissed off, disconnected the battery, put the battery tender on it and walked away.

I've taken the tail section off and looked pretty closely at all the wiring in that area including the voltage regulator, fuse block, ignition box and relay, starter wiring and relay, and the master circuit breaker.

Anybody have any thoughts or past experience with something like this? I'll probably go through the manual today and do all the starter electrical tests if I can make sense of it. It says to connect an 'induction ammeter' from the battery to the starter. Would a good multimeter work? I guess I have some Googling to do.

06-24-2010, 11:56 AM
Somewhere on this forum there is a troubleshooting guide on how to check your electrical system. I think that it seems like it might be a cooked stator but the way to know for sure is to test the whole system and that is really not hard. I just don't have a link to the data.


06-24-2010, 04:51 PM
Hey Lightning,

Here is a text of the proceedure for checking your charging system. Also get your hands on a multimeter, I think you will be able to get to the bottom of this with this set of proceedures. If you can't start the bike you should still be able test some of your system to narrow it down.

""This is a common electrical problem,

Most people, me included, just throw parts at it until it stops happening.

There is another way.

The right way.

Here is a definitive post by Buell technician, Jos51700,(John Self)

To properly test a charging system:

Step 1: CHARGE the battery. Don't do this by revving the bike, do this by charging the battery.

Step 2: Set multimeter to DC volts, and connect directly to battery posts. It should read 12.8-ish to 13.2-ish. If it's lower, see step 1, or replace battery. if your battery is more than two years old, it might not hurt to throw a new one in there, unless you like riding in tow trucks more than riding on motorcycles.

Step 3: Start bike. Battery should NOT drop below (ideally) 9 volts while cranking.
Typically, if it'll crank the bike over at a consistant speed, for a few seconds, it's fine. This is not a true load test, but it's close enough for the homeboy mechanic.
If you own a true load tester, you shouldn't be getting your electrical advice from the internet, anyways.

step 4: at idle, Multimeter on the battery should read 13.5+ volts. Just off idle, to redline, should read 14.4 volts. Less than 14 is serious cause for concern, as is much OVER 14.4. If it's 14.7 or higher, go buy a regulator right now, and avoid running the bike until it's charging at 14.4 or less. Battery explosions suck.

OK, less than 14 volts?
Check: Battery cable tightness, regulator ground, stator connections, etc.


with bike OFF, unplug stator. Connect multimeter leads to stator side of the connector. DON'T jam your multimeter leads directly into connector, unless you LOVE intermittant electrical issues. Note: now is the time to pray some previous owner didn't JAM his multimeter leads into the connector. If you've ever met one of your wife's ex-boyfriends, you know what I'm talking about.

Once making contact with your multimeter, set it OHM's. It doesn't matter which stator wired you connect to, as you'll try them all. Pick one pair, measure, then swap ONE lead to the other wire. Measure, then swap the lead you DIDN'T move the first time.
3 ohms or less, you're golden. if the meter reads "open" or similar, you're buying a stator. If it reads significantly higher than 3 ohms, you're buying a stator (what's "significant"? 6 ohms or more).

Now check all 3, one at a time, against ground (The engine, frame, chassis, negative battery terminal, etc). It SHOULD read open. If it reads any resistance (Ohms), at all, go buy a stator.

OK. So we know the stator is not fubar'd, yet. Notice we're moving on, and we didn't ohm-check the regulator. That's because there is NO such test. Sorry. You can ohm-check it if you want, but it's not a valid test. I've measured several dozen, some new, some used, some old, some new, some bad, some good. The consistancy just isn't there.

Because the regulator also rectifies, it can fail in many different ways. Undercharging, no charging, failure to rectify, etc. I've seen regulators with the backs melted off, putting out ZERO volts, smoking from the input voltage, and not having a proper ground, and they've ohm'ed out the same as the brand new unit that fixed the problem.

Back to the stator. Bike OFF, switch multimeter to AC voltage. Now, this is the point where the bike can shock you, hurt you, kill you, insult your children, and knock up your wife. You're playing with AC, so no touchie on the wires, okay?

Hook up, start the bike, and measure the AC output between any two wires. Got voltage? Good. Does it increase in a relatively linear fashion with RPM? Good. Honestly, at this point, I don't remember the spec, so maybe someone will chime in with it (Assuming they've read this far). If you have a service manual, it's in there. Now check the other combinations of stator wires, like we did for the ohm-check. If you have smooth, linear AC power starting at the mid-teen range, and ending up at 35 Volts or so, and the output is similar for all three legs, the stator is OK.
It's the behavior more than the actual number at this point, but the number need to be reasonable enough to provide voltage for a 12 volt system.

So if the stator is outputting (and if it doesn't pass the ohm-check, it won't be), and the battery isn't charging 14.4-ish, go buy, and install a regulator, and retest at the battery, looking for 14.4 (DC, you did reset your meter to DC to test the battery, right?) volts. If that doesn't fix it, let me know.

Also don't forget to re-connect the stator to the regulator, before continuing on with other tests, or test rides. Don't ask how I know this.

This may seem overly complicated at first, but print it out, read it, it will make perfect sense.

One additional problem that is not mentioned above, is failure at connector #77, between the voltage regulator and the battery, or the wires that go from 77 to the battery. These often melt or break, so checking continuity from the connector to the battery, and checking the connector is also a good idea. I had a hidden broken wire in this area.

Here is another excellent post by "Rays" that describes checking the voltage regulator.

http://docs.google.com/View?revision=_latest&docid =d4rbxwr_20dq5khf&hl=en

Of course, having a shop manual and parts book doesn't do any harm either.""

Good Luck,


06-24-2010, 06:12 PM
I know it sounds simple, but I had a similar issue with my Wide Glide. THe positive cable was rubbing on the hold down causing a short. It was drawing the battery down and makinf the strap hot. Look real close at the cable and the strap to see if you can tell where they might be touching. Let us know what you find.

07-03-2010, 11:41 AM
Thanks for the help. Gives me a few things to check this week.

07-03-2010, 12:05 PM
The repair will be easier if you have enough lubrication. I prefer Coronas![smirk]

07-29-2010, 10:27 PM
So I finally got around to looking a bit closer at it. (I think I just needed to step away for awhile.)

I ran through the maintenance manual, and performed the stator test which includes a continuity test through the coil which came out with the proper .4 ohms of resistance, and a check to make sure the stator isn't grounded to the crankcase. Both checks were good which saved me from having to open the primary thank god. I checked the voltage regulator for proper ground (it was fine), performed the milliamp draw test (it was fine), but when I did the voltage regulator bleed test, it said to use a test light (which was broken), so I used my multimeter to check for voltage, and it showed about 3 volts. So I guess that test failed.

Anyhow, I decided to take a bit closer look at the voltage regulator wiring by cutting the plastic sheathing off the wires, and noticed slight cracking in the wire insulation near the regulator itself, and a well worn spot up a few inches. Well when I bent the wire backwards to see inside the insulation, all but maybe two of the wire strands were broken.


So I hauled ass down to my local Harley-Dickweeds stealership and bought me a new voltage regulator. (Apparently they don't have anything to cross reference parts, so it wasn't as simple as I made it sound.)

Hauled ass home, threw a new connector on the end, and all was good. Now I'm back to pissing off the neighbors when I start it up in the morning.

And more importantly, my girlfriend no longer rags on me to get "her" Buell fixed!

Hopefully this little bit of info can help somebody in the future...