Monday, September 22, 2008

Sometimes, an Airhead's owner is also an Airhead

Brigitta, my 1987 R80 Beemer, aka an airhead within the Beemer community was the deliverer of a lesson to its owner, me, today.

I'd rolled out of the garage backwards as usual and went to turn the ignition on this morning. Hmmm, no christmas tree lights on the dash. Christmas Tree lights is what the airhead community sometimes refers to as the lights which light up when you switch the ignition on.

This is what I got with ignition turned on

These are the lights you're supposed to see when you turn the ignition key

I remembered the sparks that I'd seen when I stupidly inserted the voltmeter's lightbulb onto its socket while the ignition was on last night. Damn, I thought to myself, I've blown some fuse I bet.

Off came the helmet, gloves, jacket. Up came the seat and I inspected the two 8amp fuses at their location below the rear end of the motorcycle's upper frame. Nope, they looked fine.

I recalled seeing fuses inside the headlight on the stripped down R90s I'd seen recently. I removed the nuts fastening the S fairing in order to remove the headlight mounting ring. Took a look inside. Nope, no fuses.

No fuses, but some unconnected wires....hmmm

I then tried to follow some of the troubleshooting diagnosis steps in the Clymer manual and got nowhere fast. Tried switching out the ICM with the spare, nothing.

In the process, I discovered how to "hotwire" an airhead so you don't need the ignition on to start it. Apparently, they're one of the easier motorcycles to steal out there.

So, my pitiful attempts at electronic diagnosis over with, I pulled off the three relays and went off to Pete Homan's shop hoping for some help.

Pete graciously took time from a motorcycle he was working on, tested each of the relays and pronounce the 30amp main relay as bad. Great I said, now to find a replacement since Pete did not stock any. His diagnosis cost me only $10 for ten minutes of his time.

On the way back from Pete's I figured I'd stop at the CarQuest auto parts store near the Beemer dealer since the dealer was closed on Mondays. Turns out that their p/n RY116 or perhaps V08183 is an exact replacement for the main relay on my R80! What luck! Something to keep in mind if your own airhead's main relay craps out on you while on the road and nowhere near a BMW dealer.

I get home, pop the new relay in, switch the ignition on....NOTHING, still no Christmas lights! Aaaaarrrggghhh! Now, here's where the lesson is taught to me by Brigitta and why the title of this posting says that I am an Airhead: The damn kill switch was in the off position on the handlebar control unit! I must have accidentally moved it while trying to put the replacement bulb in last night onto the voltmeter. The kill switch is not something I normally use, prefering to switch off the motorcycle using the ignition key, so its not something I conciously check before riding.

The Kill Switch, off above, on below

The Main Relay is the silver box closest to bottom of picture

So, with the kill switch now in the on position, the new main relay works fine and I get the wanted Christmas Lights on the dash. Just for GP, I pop in the old relay and damn if it doesn't work too! What the hell?

So now the question is: Was the diagnosis by Pete faulty or did the old main relay fail his testing because it's slowly going bad? Something else to worry me when things are quiet at night. I put the motorcycle back together and alls well once again, for now. I'll carry the new relay as a spare on the motorcycle just in case of course, its cost was $16 so the lesson was not expensive this time.

So yeah, sometimes the airhead is not only the motorcycle, it's also the owner. In this case, yours truly!


irondad said...

Be kind to yourself. Put your helmet on before you beat your head on the wall!

Anonymous said...

You'd be amazed at how many times I've tried to help someone get an old classic beater running, and I give the usual speech, check the kill switch for proper position, does it work with the kick starter, if you've got a vacuum operated petcock, put in prime otherwise make sure it's on, and blah-blah-blah. They go away and comeback with, "the KIll switch was in the stop position." Or they'll go through all sorts of difficulty, and finally figure out that the gas tank is empty.

Derek said...

I've forgotten to turn on the gas a number of times if that makes you feel any better. It's probably best that someone like me has fuel-injection these days.