Friday, October 09, 2009

Thinking about going with a Total Loss Ignition System

No, I'm not making another crack about yet another crappy component on Urals!

My previous postings detailed the "issues" the crappy 35amp Russian alternator had caused me when its gear sheared off. This alternator is almost universally reviled in the online Ural forums. However, there's also people who say they've no issues with them. You have to understand, people don't log onto the forums to report all is hunky dory with their rigs, just the ones like me who are experiencing "challenges".

I ordered the new timing gears for my 750cc engine today, they should be here by midweek next week. They're also putting together a rebuilt 35amp alternator but will call before sending it to me to see if I still want it.

Why would they do this? Because after some research and talking with folks who've actually done it, I'm going to try and run the motorcycle without an alternator!

Huh? You say.... or in Mr Riepe's case, WTF?

First, a little background on why there's an alternator in the first place. The alternator is a small generator of sorts which generates electricity as its shaft-mounted magnets spin around within coils of brass wiring. The electricity goes to recharge the motorcycle's battery. The motorcycle's battery powers all the electrical systems on the bike such as the ignition coil which sends spark to the plugs which fire the air/fuel mixture in the valve compression chambers which turn the crank which drives the transmission. Hence, no electricity, no lights and no engine.

OK, so now you know why the alternator is there. Once the battery is dead, you're stuck by the side of the road like I was this past Monday. LINK.

To try and avoid another repetition of the Russian Grenade alternator, and the newer and costlier Denso alternators have had issues with the russian gear adapters too by the way, I am thinking of going with a Total Loss Ignition system.

What the hell does that mean? It involves getting a deep cycle trolling/RV battery with lots of amps and mounting it in a storage box within the sidecar's trunk. You wire it up inline with the motorcycle's regular battery. You cover the hole where the alternator mounts with a cover or in my case with the failed alternator since the gear is gone, otherwise you get oil all over the place!

Chris, of, has been running the above setup on his rig

Why a deep cycle battery and not a regular car battery? Deep cycle batteries are designed to be drained of their charge before being charged back up. Car battery's are meant to be topped off steadily from an alternator. Deep cycling or discharging a car battery will eventually kill it.

The deep cycle battery, I am thinking of something in the 110-140 amp range, provides power for lights, ignition and start ups. The Urals draw about 8 amps per hour of riding apparently so a 140 amp battery should give me 17 hrs of power (probably closer to 12-14 since I'll be using the electric starter). That'll get me to the mountains and back with plenty of safety margin and using the headlight. Plug it in at night for 8 hrs and it should be ready in the morning. It'll damn sure last for regular work commuting on those bad weather/cold days as my commute now is less than 30 minutes of riding.

Benefits? The engine is much quieter as reported by Ural riders who've been doing this for years. There's no dreading the replacement alternator failing and taking out the timing gears again. The deep cycle battery will also act as ballast in the sidecar trunk! The 140 amp version from Sportsman Marine weighs 68lbs!

Cons? Heated gear will definitely lower the range. Not sure by how much as it depends on the power draw of the gear. It's something I am going to have to experiment with to see what my particular usage patterns tell me. I'll probably carry the battery charger with me just in case. I may even carry my spare motorcycle battery.

A voltmeter will be a definite must as I have to recharge before I get to below 10.5 volts or so, that's when the ignition will start to sputter and we know what'll happen next, right?

One guy has even rigged a solar power panel on the spare tire of his rig! Charge from the sun as you go!

More on this later, I'll assemble the components this weekend and install them. Then when the timing gears arrive, and I get them put on and the engine re-assembled, with a bit of luck I should be riding Natasha again by next weekend!


Electra Glide In Blue said...


I have been following your postings about Natasha's issues. I think you are handling this quite well, you Russian wrench.

I like that Total Loss Ignition system as a solution to eliminate any future alternator problems.

Couldn't you run a separate circuit and battery for your heated gear?

Charlie6 said...

electra glide, yep, thought about it...first must get a baseline then decide whether to supplement or not.

chessie said...

This is an excellent idea!
Like Electra, I've been following the issues of your Ural...

I want one for my new best friend who is now sharing my life...I think he would like the side car..(my puppy).

I will continue to read with a great deal of interest.
Thanks Charlie6 for thinking of us when you run into these issues.

Canajun said...

Great idea, especially if your riding time is within the range of the battery. And even then, you could put in a second battery for extended range, or get an even larger deep cycle unit.

Could save a lot of grief.