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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Over the last month I've noticed several things that make me wonder if I'm developing an electrical problem. I have a voltmeter on the dash, and it's started generally reading lower - it used to read in the high 13's max, and now it's around 13 max (this voltmeter isn't wired direct to the battery, and it reads about 3/4v lower than my multimeter).

PO stuff:
The bike got a new Yuasa YB16AL-A2 in May '09 - so 3-1/2 years old.
It got a new regulator in April '10, rewired and mounted on the front of the license plate bracket so it gets air.

My stuff:
I put in heavy battery wires (Powerlet) this spring, and ran heavy headlight wiring with relays. I just did a headlight mod, so I have a 55w xenon high beam and a 35w bi-xenon low/hi - I'm assuming that this hasn't added to the load, just provided more lumens. I also got a heated vest this fall - FirstGear, 90w.

The last few days, the bike has been a bit harder starting. It usually starts right up - but recently it's had to crank a bit longer before it catches. This morning it was cold - I rode 30 ,minutes to work with the vest on, and pulled into the bank drive-through - then found that the bike wouldn't start. It cranked a few turns slowly, nowhere near fast enough to start. Non cranking voltage read low, around 11+ volts. I waited 5 minutes and tried again - the bike caught - rode to work revving it high, with the vest off. It started fine after work - I rode home with the vest on high, did some voltage measurements.

All measurements are with the bike not running. They're real voltages, checked with a good digital VOM, not the voltmeter on the bike.

Just after I got home:

11.6-11.7v high beams and vest
11.9 high beams
12.0 low beams
12.2 no lights except parking light

I put it on a tender for 2 hours (Battery Minder AGM tender), then measured again immediately:

13.2 ignition off
12.8 no lights except parking light
12.6 low beams
12.4 high beams
12.1 high beams and vest
12.6 no lights except parking light again

So now I'm trying to decide what's happening. Is the load too high? The vest is as much load as the low and high beams together - 180w all told, plus other small loads. That doesn't seem excessive...

Is the battery dying? It's around 3-1/2 years old - it has been absolutely solid until a month or so ago, but it's getting colder and I'm loading it up more...

Is my charging system simply not pulling the battery all the way up?

Any thoughts about which it is? Suggestions on how to test it further?
 

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Peter,

The battery isn't too old yet, unless it's been depeleted completely before and it does seem to hold its charge (from the battery tender). You didn't seem to have these symptoms before you started using your vest, so it seems to me that the battery is not properly charged anymore with the vest plugged in.

1) On a warmer day, you might try going for a longer ride without the vest after first measuring the battery voltage with everything off, including the engine. Because starting it lowers the battery's voltage, the ride should be long enough to allow the charging system to replace that lost capacity and then charge the battery even more. Measure the voltage again after riding. It should not be lower than the first measurement. If it is, your battery is not being charged properly and it gets harder to start the bike after each ride.

2) Now do the same measurements (before starting/after returning with everything switched off), but with the vest on and everything else being equal, including the length of the ride. If the battery voltage is lower than before you set off, you've been depleting your battery with the vest (that is, if you don't have a general charging problem, see first measurements).

I was thinking about a way to measure the average current to/from your battery, so you can do the measurement on a stationary bike. You'd need to construct a power resistor that can handle the current of all consumers, and that has a low enough resistance to leave sufficient voltage for the bike to operate normally. Measuring the voltage over the resistor would tell you whether the battery is being charged or depleted. Theoretically that would work, but this resistor should also be able to handle the current of starting the bike, which is much higher than the 15 amps you're drawing with all consumers switched on. Does anyone know how high this current is? I don't think it runs through the main 40A fuse.

Can you or anyone else please give your opinion on the latter approach? I don't want you to set your bike on fire :rolleyes:

If you don't want to build this yourself, I think that Kisan has a volts/amps meter you could use that is meant to be permanently installed on the bike.

Good luck, cheers,
Mark
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I wouldn't have suspected the battery before this week - it's been absolutely solid. Of course, they're good till they start going bad... But I'm starting to wonder a bit more about the charging system. I'll check the wiring tonight.

This is a hard day for that test - it's 20 out now, and only going up to 40. Maybe I ride in to work with the vest on 50% and the lights off -= that's about 45w, a bit more than the low beams. Then ride home with the vest off and the lights on (already almost dark when I leave work). I'll take the multimeter and do a bunch of measurements. If the BMW group goes out Saturday morning I can run lights and vest, and keep taking measurements - if I can't start the bike after we stop for breakfast, I've got a lotta guys to help push <g>...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Here’s what I saw this morning:

13.4v Bike off, just after I unplugged the tender (VOM)
13.2v Bike off, 30 minutes later (VOM)
12.5v Bike on for a minute, not running, no lights (VOM)

Started bike –
13v high idle (bike voltmeter – reads ~0.75 low, so really about 13.7v)
12.5 with vest on ~50% (bike meter – so really about 13.2v)

When I started riding in on the highway I watched the voltmeter jump between 12.5 and 12.9v as the SCR circuit for the jacket heat controller switched. At the end of the ride I’d gained about 1/3 volt, and it was switching from 12.8 to 13.2 (bike meter, so add ~0.75v)

At work, after ride, measuring with VOM –
13.1v bike off
12.45v bike on for a minute, not running, no lights

So it looks like I’m getting some charging, but I didn’t gain anything on the ride in – I lost a tiny bit. But I'm not sure if that means I’m not charging correctly. Wouldn’t my morning readings be a bit high, since I had the bike on the tender all night? If using the tender means that the voltage was up a few tenths right after I unplug it, then I come out about even after the ride, or a bit more than even. I’m certainly getting SOME charging…
 

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Mr Leakered
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+/- of tenths of volts is not a drain when considering you went from Point A to B. The conditions are differet, such as battery temp since it will absorb some engine heat.

One thing that I have really enjoyed is Stick's recommendation to put the battery tender on a light timer. I found a three prong one at Target for $10 and have it set to cycle between 10p and 2a. So in the morning, I can peak at the resting voltage of my battery. It used to be 13.1v consistently. Now, it has crept up to 13.2v. The thing is that this resting voltage used to be very inconsistent when on the tender all evening and night. Also, the voltage when leaving work is much more consistent with this method, usually 13.0 or 13.1. It used to sometimes be in the higher 12s.

You didn't say how long your ride was, but if it was more than 15min, then yeah, you're getting a charge.

As I noted in the other thread, I saw the running volts were dropping over time, not a lot but noticible. Hard wiring the R/R connector has brought them up and a bit beyond what I remember observing.

Have a good one.
 

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Pete: --->Yuasa YB16AL-A2 in May '09 - so 3-1/2 years old.
--->It got a new regulator in April '10

Looks like the bike had the standard replacement "wet cell" battery. I got 8 years out of my factory battery on my ST2 before I sold it.

And it seems it went a year with "marginal" charging system? I think it's time for a new battery.

Observations (in my 40 years of motorcycles): Newer Wet-Cell batteries seem to begin with higher running voltages (I use to see this on my R100s and R100RS) 14.1V when new (running, tached to 3500rpm.). Then more like 13 ish towards EOL.
My ST2 use to run at 14.5V (again, "on the road"). But this will be a function of the RR. Mine was factory, and never needed to be replaced. It did have the factory recall on the stator, though.

Note that I had 110W aux. lights, a home-made 140W jacket liner, heated grips, gloves, etc. ALL of this stuff could be run SIMULTANEOUSLY (plus the high beam), and for some reason, the RR survived! So your 420W single-phase alternator (same as my 1998), should be enough.

I replaced the OEM battery with a 22AH AGM battery. It was a UB12220, but it had heavy-duty flush screw posts on the top of the battery (and required some tweaking of the batt. box because it was 3.03" deep). The UB12220 i see nowadays seem like they have crappy thin tabs posts on top. Maybe if you called and asked, they could get this other style?

Also note that I always was in the habit of "plugging in" every time I pulled it into my garage. Still do it on the ST4s !
 

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The days are getting longer!
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Sounds like a battery to me. My 2 cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Here's the ride home:

Voltage in parking lot at work, bike off - 13.0 (VOM)
Bike on for a minute, lights off, not running - 12.3

Highway, looking at bike voltmeter - low beams on, jacket most of the way up
13v at beginning, about 12.7 at highway exit 20 minutes later (add 0.75v)
This was all high gear at 5000-5500 rpm

Here's what's interesting:
Riding local roads 6 minutes to house, high beams on most of the time:
voltage dropped to 11.5 on bike voltmeter - even revving the bike only brought it to 12
Again, this is on the bike voltmeter, so add 0.75. But with the full vest and headlight load, voltage didn't stay as high.
In garage, bike off - 12.9v (VOM) - on, with no lights - 12.4v. That doesn't seem too bad.

I looked at the RR. It's mounted on the front side of the license plate holder, with a heat sink, so it's in the air, and it was only warm - no problem touching it. I don't know what this RR unit is, since the PO's invoice doesn't specify. It has 2 yellow leads, 2 red leads, a black and a white lead. All are crimped to a section of harness that goes forward. I didn't trace it out, but I'm attaching a photo of the wiring to it. Wires are heavy, crimps look OK, nothing discolored.

So I'm still a bit mystified. Charging seems to be OK. All these battery voltages seem to be OK. Alternator should have way more than enough output to handle the load. All I can think of is that maybe the battery is getting weary and can't handle the load, so the voltage starts dropping - and then it's up again after the bike has sat for a minute or two.
 

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Old Wizard
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Measuring voltages won't give you enough information about battery health. Take it to an auto supply store and have them run a load test to determine if the battery is supplying adequate current to turn your starter motor. Remember also that most batteries on a cold day loose their ability to deliver the same current that they can deliver on a warm day. My guess is you need a fresh battery and a battery tender for the colder seasons.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That was my thought too - that a load test would tell me whether the battery is weak even though it comes up to voltage when charged. I do keep it on a tender every few days, especially now that it's cold - the bike's in a heated garage, but it's been in the low 20's when I ride to work. It's 3-1/2 years old - worked fine last year when it was cold, but maybe it's starting to keel over.

It's kind of hard to believe I have a RR or alternator problem - all those voltages while I was riding were between the low and high 13's.
 

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Measuring voltages won't give you enough information about battery health. Take it to an auto supply store and have them run a load test to determine if the battery is supplying adequate current to turn your starter motor.
After Peter's measurements, which show that the alternator manages to keep up with the load, and that the battery is able to keep its charge, I agree that a load test makes a lot of sense now. In my service manual (admittedly for the ST3) I tried to find the current required for the starter motor to turn, but wasn't successful. I expect a value in the order of 200 Amps.

Let us know how it turned out.

Mark
 

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Batteries lose 1% of their ability to hold charge per day if left unattended. We get away with that because the battery only gets used for a few seconds at a time to crank the engine. Imagine in a month how much charge is lost.....its not 30% by the way as its always 1% of the remaining capacity. It does show however that it doesn't take long to get a battery down to the point of permanent loss and the beginnings of sulphation. Give it constant abuse and starts with partial charge and the plates will buckle. Add vibration and that damage accelerates.

Upshot. If you want to make your battery last then get it on a battery tender within a few hours of parking up. Never try starting a badly discharged battery. If the bike has been stood for a few months then you need to charge the battery first then leave it to test for 24 hours.




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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Yep, that's the question all right. I know that the first owner replaced the battery twice between 1998 and 2010, the last time in 2009. I don't know what sort of a maintenance guy he was, though he was very solid with service schedules and records. Then the bike was bought by a young med student as a first bike - he kept it for 6 months, then sold it to me. So I don't really know how this battery was treated. I have a collection of tenders for the various bike batteries and I use them - not every night, but at least every 2nd or 3rd night. But if the battery has already been abused I'm not going to be able to turn that around. As I said - no problems with it till a few weeks ago (and the onset of cold weather and heated vest use) - but that doesn't prove anything one way or another. I'll get a load test this morning - just heading out now - and we'll see what it shows.
 

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Yep, that's the question all right. I know that the first owner replaced the battery twice between 1998 and 2010, the last time in 2009. I don't know what sort of a maintenance guy he was, though he was very solid with service schedules and records. Then the bike was bought by a young med student as a first bike - he kept it for 6 months, then sold it to me. So I don't really know how this battery was treated. I have a collection of tenders for the various bike batteries and I use them - not every night, but at least every 2nd or 3rd night. But if the battery has already been abused I'm not going to be able to turn that around. As I said - no problems with it till a few weeks ago (and the onset of cold weather and heated vest use) - but that doesn't prove anything one way or another. I'll get a load test this morning - just heading out now - and we'll see what it shows.
If he didn't charge the battery and left the bike standing for long periods then I would say its had it. The heated clothing will drag from the battery at stand still, if you are commuting with frequent stops and starts then the battery is probably not fully charged. My guess, time for a new battery.


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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Well, this didn't go the way I thought it would go. I took the battery in to Interstate for several varieties of load testing, and it seems perfectly happy. So that means that maybe the load is too great, since the charging system seems to be OK - though I can't see how I'd be anywhere near 450w...

So now I'd better put together a list of all the bike loads - I know I've seen one somewhere, though I'm not sure where. Headlights are 35w + 55w, vest is 90w. Running light, dash lights, tail/brake lights, turn lights now'n'then, fuel pump and ignition - what am I missing? This sure doesn't sound like I'm maxing it out...
 
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Not Good Pete !

Re-do this wiring sir,that's exposed wire showing blk-3rd wire down,The end's should "NOT" be exposed,condensation and possible short can happen,why take a chance when your out on a great ride w/ freinds and family,imo.:)
 

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Old Wizard
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Given that your battery passed a load test, your problem is likely any loose/corroded connections and wiring between the battery and starter motor that prevent delivery of an adequate current. First check the starter motor connection. The rubber boot will collect moisture and corrode the connection. Also, clean the ground connection to the engine casing and any connection in between.

One way to find a high resistance point is to crank it several times and feel for hot connections in the circuit. All soldered and crimped connections develop corrosion over time so there are starter wire replacement kits available that have an added benefit of using a larger gauge wire.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I don't think that's it. I rewired the starter circuit this spring with a Powerlet kit, and went over all the connections with cleaner/enhancer. I'll check though - can't hurt! I'm starting to wonder if it's some odd situation where either the alternator or the RR start to have problems after 20 minutes or so when I load the system up pretty heavily. Only one solution - ride a lot in the cold and keep watching the voltmeter - I knew I didn't want to put the bike away for the winter yet <g>... I'll just plan to only park at the top of hills...
 
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