Monday, 27 October 2008

Chaos theory, Zen & dodgy bike wiring

I have to admit that I know bugger all about chaos theory. And I know only slightly more about motorcycle electrics. But I do understand that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the rain-forest, my starter motor refuses to turn over.

I’ve lived with a number of electrical gremlins for a few months. Nothing that has kept me off the road because they have been of the infuriating intermittent kind. The sort that you simply turn your back on for a couple of minutes, have a good swear and then lo–and-behold everything is working perfectly again.

I have fucked about chasing the symptoms on and off: testing voltage and circuits, spraying dielectric grease everywhere, nursing the battery on a charger. At times I’ve kidded myself that I’ve fixed it.

This weekend I shut myself in the garage with the rain beating on the metal roof - determined not to come out until I had sorted the problem. First thing I did was to take the battery out. As I disconnected it, the main positive cable came away in my hand. It had rotted through and judging by the amount of rust on the frayed ends; had been like this for some time. It had obviously just been resting on the terminal at the starter motor. It was actually a miracle that there had been any connection at all – and whenever I hit a bump the circuit must have arced across the gap.

I fixed it with a new cable from Halfords for £5. Almost certainly cheaper than the stock Harley part and a critical few inches longer (the standard length means that it is pulled taut, and given the vibration that goes with the HD turf, is in constant danger of being pulled apart).

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is - maybe something along the lines of what Robert Pirsig described as 'contemplating each component as a universe in itself'. Or more honestly; just rejoicing in a bit of good luck.

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