Saturday, April 27, 2013

Uraling in Alaska - Day 22: Sporadic Gremlins

RichardM and I were doing some final tweaking of his sidecar rig's leanout (which proved quite successful apparently) when I got a call from Frozen Motor Work's Jon.  He wanted me to come test ride Valencia as he thought he'd found the issue.

RichardM and I geared up and we went in his sidecar rig, with me as the monkey once again.  Sorry, no pics.

We got there and proceeded to wheel the rig outside, I cranked it up with everyone watching and damned if it didn't rough right from the get go!  I was bummed, Jon really looked bummed as he thought he'd found the issue.  I tried removing the mode switch connection at the handlebar, no effect.  So I turned off the engine at Jon's motion.

A few minutes later, I went to start her again, just for GP and damned if she didn't run OK, even when I opened up the throttle on her.  Hmmmm.   The decision was made to go for the test ride anyways and report back to Jon.

I followed RichardM, and we went to a nearby Fred Meyers store for dinner supplies and some materials to do fluid changes on RichardM's beemer.  Back outside after maybe 20 minutes, RichardM headed home and I decided to ride around for a bit to see how Valencia behaved.

She did sputter on me a couple of times, and started rough a couple of times but couple or three restarts later, would be operating smoothly again.  Then, I thought to leave the mode switch wire disconnected, and she didn't sputter any more in the 30 miles or so I rode from that point on.

So we ride back to RichardM's house, I leave Valencia outside to cold soak for later testing and helped out RichardM with his motorcycle's fluid changes.  I get another call from Jon, he'd found a diagnostic test he wanted to run on Valencia's PowerArc ignition system so off I went back to Jon's shop.

Valencia started and ran fine the whole way there, mode switch wire still disconnected.

Jon ran the diagnostic test, the unit passed it though we both remain unsure about the unit's status.  We even learned how to "hot wire" a Ural.  Using a wire lead to bypass the ignition key, so now I know how to steal a 2011 URAL!  The bypassing of the ignition though, proved inconclusive because at this point we couldn't get the motorcycle to misbehave.  Even with the mode switch wire reconnected, she ran fine, so the wire being connected is not a factor apparently.

So, the motorcycle is running fine for now, can't reproduce the problem from this morning.  I am to ride it about town tomorrow to try and induce the problem.  I am strongly leaning towards just putting the stock Ducati ignition back onto the motorcycle and try and return the PowerArc at this point but will make the final decision on Monday.

Why Monday you ask?  Jon is calling URAL re the lack of a cut seat valve for the left cylinder, apparently, it wasn't done at the factory and it only offers perhaps .5 mm area for sealing where it should have more like 3-4mm of sealing surface for the valve.  Once replacement parts are agreed upon, they'll be shipped and hopefully we'll get them on Tuesday.  So by Wednesday, with luck, at least the valve seat issue will be resolved, and by then we might have resolution on the possible ignition module issue.

The above give me about two day's riding time to try and induce the rough-running/sputtering issue and be able to reproduce it reliably.

I hate uncertainty.  :(

Otherwise, a nice if cold weather day, enjoyed helping RichardM with his motorcycle's fluid changes....enjoyed another ride as his monkey on his rig....and at least I have Valencia with me for some riding tomorrow.


Unknown said...


I really don't like it myself when things are not quite fixed and you are going where you need a reliable machine to WORK.

Maybe you are right, put back the stock ignition and get your refund. Maybe the PowerArc Ignition is intermittent

at least you are able to enjoy a few with Company, in a place you don't really want to leave

Riding the Wet Coast

BeemerGirl said...

Intermitent issues are the worst! Especially in such remote locations. Definitely not someplace you want to get 100 miles down the road, just to show up again. Good luck in continued running and diagnosis.

Canajun said...

Electronic ignitions are amazing when they work, but when they don't....
Sometimes I wish we were still in the points/condenser days when you could actually see what was going on and could usually find a way to get a good reliable spark.
Anyway here's hoping that this time they'll get it fixed for you.

Bob and Sharon said...

Let me preface this with I've never even seen a Ural up close. But a friend of mine came to visit me this past February,from Whitehorse YT.

Four days before he was due to arrive he skyped me to tell me he was having trouble with his attenna ring on his 1200GS. This was a common problem with earlier GS bikes BMW put the antenna rings to prevent theft, but they would break down, so a lot of travellers would carry a spare.
Making a long story short a year earlier he drove up to Tutoytnuk in UYT and dropped the bike

The wires feeding the antenna ring got damaged due to the cold -65*F but you couldn't see it and didn't show up for a year later. All the wiring that is installed on the bikes is not rated for a real cold weather. I would be checking for broken or loose wires, because it doesn't sound like you really had problems until you got to Fairbanks were the temperature really dropped. You have a couple days to check thing out, don't discount a messed up wire or connection IMO (with 30+yr electrical exper)

Spat said...

Dom sorry to read of your travel woe's on the road but they are going to make for some great camp fire stories next time we get together. You were included on some of nightly talk in the evenings in Moab this week. missed ya there, ride safe see ya when you get back.

Alan said...

I feel for your mechanic. Intermittents will drive a maintenance guy nuts. When in doubt I fix another pot of coffee, go back to the basics and start cleaning every connection, *especially* the grounds. A steel brush, reseat, unscrew and re-tighten everything with a wire on it.

Anonymous said...

Circuit breakers that are failing will cause the same type of troubles. I searched for days on my 89 Harley before changing a $4 cicuit breaker. If it has a main ciruit breaker I would try changing it. Good Luck, Ronne

redlegsrides said...

Bob Skoot-gremlins found, pretty sure anyways. I'll be staying with the PowerArc for now, but am ready to swap in the Ducati if it comes down to brass tacks.

BeemerGirl, thanks....

Canajun, as you've seen, the issue may be resolved. Was thinking of going back to points there for a while!

Bob and Sharon, I'd heard/read about those issues with the BMW antenna rings...just another example of over-engineering something. all the applicable wiring has been gone over with fine tooth comb by mechanic, so that's a side "bennie" of trying to localize the issue.

Spat, I bet when my name and issues came up...heads were shaken, and everyone said to themselves..."glad its not me!" :)

Alan, he did a lot of that....what it turned out to be was something so obvious in hindsight....

Thanks Anonymous, issue has been found I was the optical sensor for the ignition.