Sunday, August 25, 2013

Things that make us old before our time.

When leaving the Muskokas last week to come home my brother noted that my front brake light wasn’t working. Since the rear brake light was still working fine I left it until I got home to check it out.
My suspicion was that it was the switch that had failed again. This would be the second one I’d replaced and working in and around all the wiring in the handlebar switch housing is a prime example of a pain in the ass, or PITA for short. I pulled it all apart and, sure enough, the switch housing had, for some reason, cracked.
So off to the H-D dealer for a new switch. This is a simple plastic momentary on-off switch, brake switchthe kind a hobbyist would buy from China for $0.50 or 10 for $3.00. Which is probably where H-D gets them, and probably twice what they pay for them. But put it in a plastic bag with a couple of tie-straps and print the H-D logo on it and it is now an $84.00 part. (Yes, that’s 84 dollars! The tribe of ancient alchemists who failed to turn lead into gold in the middle ages has survived and are now all H-D product managers.)
At any rate I get this rare and extremely valuable artifact home and with much cursing and a few beers get it installed in its tiny little awkward spot in the switch housing. A quick test and it works, so I put it all back together again. I start the bike and … no brake light. In fact no front brake light, no rear brake light, no signal lights, and no horn. Crap, now it’s worse!
They are all on the same circuit so I figure I’ve just blown a fuse. I check the manual and the fuse box labels and pull the appropriate fuse. It looks okay. To be sure switch_housingI replace it with a spare “just in case”. Still nothing. So now I think I screwed up the installation somehow, possibly broke a wire or something jamming everything back into the switch housing. So I pull it all apart again and double check my work. Nothing – everything looks fine.
Okay. Time to approach this logically before taking anything else apart. The obvious place for a break in the circuit is the fuse panel. That’s what it’s there for. So I started checking every fuse. And I found the 15th fuse I pulled (of 15 in the panel) had blown. This fuse was labeled “Spare” so I assumed someone had simply replaced a blown fuse and stuck the old one in the spare slot rather than toss it on the street. But just to be sure I put a brand new fuse in the “spare” slot and eureka! I now had brake lights, signal lights, and a horn. So once again everything gets bundled back up and tests out fine but I’ve wasted another riding day.
So to the person or persons unknown who either didn’t wire according to the wiring diagram, or who didn’t update the manuals to reflect a wiring change, there’s a special place reserved for you out behind my shed.

18 comments:

  1. Hmmm, where's the front brake light?

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  2. I like the alchemist comparison!

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  3. Wow, that was an expensive little part. You'd think since most of their parts are made overseas they wouldn't charge so much for them.

    Glad you got it all figured out even it was a giant PITA.

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    1. The parts guy said (exact quote) "$1 for the switch and $83 for the Harley".

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  4. Canajun:

    I'm with Richard. Where is the front brake light ?

    I know about the rear one

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    Replies
    1. There's always a joker (or two).....

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  5. Canajun:

    I just bought another "electronic" gizmo. would be good for those traveling my motorcycle who don't bring a laptop, and wish to download their photos from an SD card onto an external hard drive, WITHOUT using a computer. You are able to view and look at videos from an Android or iOS phone/or iPad

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. Canajun:

      I bought mine from NCIX.com in Vancouver for $44.95

      it's not perfect but it's handy

      http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-MobileLite-Wireless-Smartphones-MLW221/dp/B00CEB5QU2

      also functions as a battery USB charger 1,800 mah

      bob
      Riding the Wet Coast

      Delete
  6. I think he meant to write "No Head Light" .
    Replaced the same sort of wires in my Ironhead more than once only to have the brake switch fail again. Last time, the run/off rocker broke within a month so I spliced in a metal toggle instead. The toggle is a plus with gloves on as well.

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    1. I think the very act of forcing all those wires and connectors into those tiny switch housings can cause breakage or shorts in the circuits. I understand the engineering and usability demands but there should be a better way.

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    2. There is a better way and I'm thinking about doing it. A switch that goes in the brake line itself, when you squeeze the brake lever the fluid force causes the plunger in the switch to connect the circuit. Ya-mama-ha XS650's use this system. A simple switch from a 1954 Ford Pickup truck is even smaller I've been told.

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    3. Interesting concept. Let us know if you do try it.

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  7. To those who are/were confused, I did mean the front brake light - the light (located at the rear of the bike) that goes on when the front brakes are applied, i.e. the "front brake" light and not the "front" brake light.

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    Replies
    1. I had the same problem a couple of weeks ago though it was a simpler (and cheaper) fix. The wires on the switch come off easily if bumped and since they are inside of a rubber boot, it's hard to see. Now I check functionality daily.

      Thank you for the clarification.

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    2. Whew. Glad that's squared away. :)

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    3. Canajun:

      It's evident that you should not become a techical writer.

      You actually meant to say your rear brake light "switch" NOT "light"

      we all knew what you meant

      bob
      Riding the Wet Coast

      Delete

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