William of Ockham was a 13th century philosopher who, among other things, is best known for what is now referred to as Occam’s Razor: “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.”
As the technology we use gets more and more complicated we assume that the solution to our current problem(s) must, of necessity, be equally complex and complicated.
And so it was when I began having starter problems on the Harley a couple of weeks ago. A press on the start button was met with silence. Nothing. Nada. Like the kill switch was off. The idiot lights all glowed happily but, as the expression goes, no one was home. Turning the ignition switch on and off a few times eventually got it started but I was worried that eventually I’d get stranded. Which I did, fortunately in my own garage, when it wouldn’t start at all.
Like most modern vehicles the ignition system is burdened with checks and crosschecks, any one of which will interfere with starting – kill switch off, low oil pressure, fuel pump malfunction, key fob missing (security system), etc. However a diagnostics check showed nothing untoward so I headed to the internet forums for advice on how to proceed. And it got kind of crazy after that: “Replace your kill switch”, “Replace your ignition switch”, “Cut these two wires and solder them together to make sure your kill switch is working”, “Check this”, “Replace that”, “Your whizbang isn’t”, “Test your starter motor by… “. You get the drift. I was overwhelmed with recommendations but had little confidence anyone knew what they were talking about. (The internet is like that.)
Meanwhile I had gone back to first principles following Occam’s Razor. Of course I didn’t think of it in those terms but as I narrowed it down to what I considered a range of likely problems there was only one solution that didn’t involve tools – replacing the battery in the key fob. I had previously tried my spare key fob but it wouldn’t start with that one either, so I initially dismissed that as the problem. (Both batteries dead? Nah, never happen. Besides, that’s too easy.) But still… could be… maybe.
Bottom line? A couple of small batteries later and the bike is starting fine. No wrenching involved. Nothing cut/soldered/replaced or otherwise tampered with. And William of Ockham is once again proven a very wise man indeed.