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Discussion Starter #1
Major Systems

I'll try to give you a brief description of the major systems and how each one works. I'll add some very basic troubleshooting. Don't let electrical schematics scare you. If you can read a road map you can read an electrical print. The trick is to simplify it, break it down. See only the circuit you are concerned with.

Starting System

The basic components of the starting system are an electric motor to crank the engine, a battery to supply power to the motor, and a way to turn it on and off. There are a number of safety interlocks involved, a couple relays, and some wire.

There are only two circuits. The power circuit that does the work and the control circuit that tells the power circuit when to do it.

Lets start with the power circuit. It's very simple. The starter motor is connected to the battery through the starter relay. Large currents flow in the power circuit and there is no fuse protection.

The control circuits' job is to energize the starter relay, (the magnetic switch that turns on the motor). It's a little more complicated than the power circuit. It is kind of a logic circuit. Power from the battery is supplied to the control circuit through the main (30A) fuse. When the ignition switch is turned on the side stand relay will energize if either the side stand switch or the gear position switch is closed. (Kickstand up or transmission in neutral.) When the side stand relay is energized, power is applied to the kill switch. If the kill switch is in the run position then power is applied to the start button. Pushing the start button applies power to the clutch position switch. If the clutch is disengaged then power is applied to the starter relay coil energizing the starter motor relay. Small currents flow in this circuit so small wires and components can be used. This circuit is protected by a 15A fuse.


Starter does not run.

Most troubles with the starting system will be simple ones like a dead battery or the kill switch being in the wrong position. Always check the obvious first. Does the headlight come on when you turn on the ignition switch? Neutral? Kick stand? Clutch?

Electrical troubleshooting procedure always starts by checking the power source. Is there power available and are you connected to it, is it of sufficient capacity? If the headlight is on you have power and you are connected. The condition of that power is still in question.

When you push the starter button does the headlight remain bright or dim out? Your battery may have enough charge to operate the headlamp but when the drain of the starter motor is added it poops out and the headlamp will dim.

You now have enough information to determine where the problem lies within the starting system and you did it without special tools or meters and without leaving the seat of your bike!

Case 1:

The headlight is bright but dims out when the starter button is pushed.
There are two possibilities: 1. The battery is in a low state of charge and/or 2. The starter circuit is drawing excessive current. Remember there are no fuses in the power circuit so if this happens don't keep trying it, find the problem. Excessive current draw can be caused by a short in the wiring in the control or power circuit or the starter may be locked up, a mechanical problem we won't consider just now, or a bad motor.

Case 2:

The headlight is on and stays bright when you push the starter button. There are again two possibilities. If you hear the starter relay click it is a power circuit problem, if it doesn't click it is a control circuit problem.
This time the power circuit trouble is an open circuit. Relay, motor, or wiring.

The starter runs but the engine doesn't crank.

This is a mechanical problem and beyond the scope of this writing.

Power circuit troubles:


The condition of charge can be checked by removing the negative (ground) lead and placing your voltmeter across the terminals. A fully charged battery should read 12.6 V, 50% charge =12.3 V. Anything less than12.5 V you should recharge it and check it again after it has rested for at least half an hour after removing it from the charger. If it is still not over 12.5V charge it again and check it again. If it is still less than 12.5V replace the battery. Make sure the connections to the battery terminals are clean and tight. Poor connections will not let the battery receive a full charge from the charging system and will adversely affect performance.

Starter solenoid (relay) and starter motor:

The relay clicks but the starter doesn't run. The relay is located under the seat just in front of the battery. If you have a meter place it across the relays large leads, the battery and the starter lead. With the key on you should see battery voltage. When the starter button is pressed, you hear a click and the voltage should drop to zero. Anything else means the relay is bad. If you don't have access to a meter you can "jump out" the relay by connecting the starter lead directly to the battery lead. (Not recommended) Use a big wire, remember, large currents. If the motor runs the relay is bad. If the motor doesn't run, it or the lead to the starter is bad or the starter is locked up mechanically.

Control circuit troubles:

The components in the control circuit are of course the battery as the power source, the ignition switch, gear position switch, side stand switch, side stand relay, kill switch, starter button, clutch position switch, and the starter relay coil.

The ignition circuit is protected by a 30 amp main fuse and the control circuit is protected by a 15 amp fuse. If you find a blown fuse don't just replace it. Find out what made it blow and never go to a larger fuse.
The starter relay will not energize unless the side stand relay is energized. To energize the side stand relay either the side stand switch or the neutral switch must be made and the ignition switch must be on. A simple test for the side stand switch is if the starter will only run with the transmission is in neutral, it's bad. Same for the neutral switch, if the bike will only start with the kickstand up the neutral switch is bad. Check the suspected switches with an ohmmeter. You should see zero resistance across the gear position switch when the transmission is in neutral and the same for the side stand switch when the kickstand is up. If the switch checks good, check the diode in series with the switch and wiring for opens.

You will find the sidestand relay, the neutral safety switch, and the fuse box under the chrome cover on the left side engine case.
If the side stand relay is energized and the starter won't run the problem is either with the side stand relay, the kill switch, the starter button, the clutch switch, the starter relay coil. or associated wiring.
The starter relay is easiest to get to and test.
Disconnect the negative battery lead. Remove the starter relay cover. Remove the coupler. Apply 12 volts to "A" and "B" terminals and check for continuity between the two large terminals.

The side stand relay:

Remove the sidestand relay. Apply 12 volts to terminals "D" and "C". (+ to "D", - to "C". Check for zero resistance between terminals "D" and "E". If not zero replace the relay.
Problems with the starter motor itself are beyond the scope of this guide.

Charging System

The charging system has only three main components. The battery, the alternator or generator, and a voltage regulator/rectifier unit. Just like the starting system you can divide it into two subsystems. The control circuit (voltage regulator) and the power circuit (alternator and battery).
Troubles with the charging system will result in either an undercharged or overcharged battery.

If your battery runs down quickly during normal operation it may be the charging system is not working properly or the battery may have a parasitic load draining it when the ignition is off.

By normal operation I mean you must give the charging system time to do its job. Lots of half mile trips, starting and stopping, may not give the system enough time to bring the battery to full charge. Normal operation also means having normal load on the system. Extra lighting and other electrical accessories can over load the system resulting in undercharging (and blown fuses).

If your batteries only last a short time (bike batteries should last four to six years) and you seem to replace light bulbs more often than you think you should, the system may be guilty of overcharging.

To check the system make sure your battery is a good one and is fully charged. Turn off any electrical accessories and turn on the high beam. Run the engine at about 3000 rpm and check the voltage at the battery terminals. It should be between 14 and 15.5 volts. Measure the voltage at the terminal not the lead, poor connections will fool you into believing you have a bad battery.

Low voltage at the battery terminals:

Check the battery leads and connections, clean and tighten as needed. If the voltage is still low either the alternator and/or the regulator are bad.

High voltage at the battery terminals:

The regulator is faulty. Check the regulator ground. The regulator is located behind the secondary gear case cover. Repair if necessary and recheck.

Normal voltage at the terminals:

The charging system is fine. Check the battery for leakage, dirt, and moisture.

Testing the alternator:

Remove the secondary gear case cover and disconnect the alternator coupler. Measure the resistance between the three lead wires to the alternator. (0.2 - 1.5 ohms) If the resistance is not within specs, replace the stator. Measure the resistance between any lead and the frame. (infinite) This tests the insulation of the stator.

To test the no-load performance of the alternator, start the engine and run it at 5000 rpm. Measure the ac voltage at the alternator leads. If less than 70 volts ac, replace the alternator.

Testing for battery leakage:

Remove the battery. Rinse it off with clear water, wipe it clean, and put it back in the bike. With the ignition switch off remove the negative battery lead. Connect an ammeter in series with the battery negative terminal and the negative battery lead. Leakage current should be under .003 amps. (3 ma) If you find excessive leakage current you must begin disconnecting things to find the source of the draw. This is called shotgunung. You always find the leak in the last circuit you check.

Testing the regulator:

Remove the secondary gear case cover and disconnect the connectors to the regulator. Remove the regulator and take it to a shop of your choice for testing.

If the alternator is good, the battery is good, and all the connections are good it is a good bet the regulator is bad.

Ignition System

The control circuit for the ignition system has two parts. (1) The brain is a little black box that decides when to fire the spark plugs. It’s called the igniter. (2) It makes its decision based upon the information given it by a pickup coil located in the alternator, (timing pulse) a throttle position sensor on the carburetor and a gear position sensor (load sensors), and two safety devices, the kill switch and side stand relay. The ignition circuit is protected by a 15A fuse.

The power circuit consists of an ignition coil for each cylinder, high tension leads, and spark plugs.


No spark or weak spark

Check the fuse. Check the systems couplers for loose or poor connections.
Measure the voltage between the input lead wires (O/W and B/W) at the ignitor (located under the seat) with the ignition switch on. (12.5V) If "yes" proceed, if "no" check the ignition switch, side stand relay, kill switch, and wiring.

Inspect the spark plugs.

Heat range: If the center electrode is wet or dark in color, replace them with a hotter type. If it is white or glazed, replace it with a colder type.

Carbon: Clean the plug and set the gap. (.8 - .9 mm)
Condition: If it is extremely worn or burnt or damaged, replace it. Still have a problem? Continue.

Measure the ignition coil primary peak voltage.
Connect spark plugs to each spark plug cap and ground them on the cylinder head. Connect a voltmeter that captures peak voltage to the #1 cylinder ignition coil, + to the white wire connector and negative to the frame (ground). #2 cylinder coil, + to the black/yellow lead wire connector and negative to the frame. Do not disconnect the coil leads.
With the transmission in neutral and the clutch disengaged, turn the ignition switch on and crank the engine for a few seconds. The peak voltage should be more than 200 volts. If yes, you have bad plugs. If no, continue.

Inspect the ignition coils:

Disconnect the ignition coil lead wires and plug caps. Measure the ignition coil resistance in both the primary (2 - 6 ohms) and secondary windings (15,000 - 30,000 ohms). If the resistance is not within this range replace the coil. If yes, continue.

Measure the pickup coil peak voltage:

Remove the ignitor coupler. Connect the peak voltage tester with the + probe to the blue/white lead wire and the - probe to the green lead wire. Turn the ignition on, pull the clutch and crank the engine for a few seconds. peak voltage should be more than 1.5 volts.
If the voltage is at least 1.5 volts the igniter must be replaced.
If the peak voltage is lower than 1.5 volts check it at the pickup coil connector at the alternator using this same method. If the voltage is in spec here the wiring harness is bad. If the voltage is less than 1.5 volts the alternator must be replaced.

Lights, Accessories, and Auxiliary Curcuits

Lighting problems are usually a matter of replacing the bulb. Sometimes when a bulb blows it takes out the fuse with it. The fuses are located under the secondary cover on the left side of the bike. Connectors and plugs may become loose or dirty and if not properly secured they will sometimes come undone.

Auxiliary circuits include the horn, cooling fan, oil pressure switch, and such. These are all simple circuits and for the most part they are trouble free.

The control switches on the Volusia are, to put it mildly, cheap. They are not very well protected from weather and they will bring you grief. If the horn quits working the horn button is very likely the culprit.

The alternator on the Vl800 is rated at 375 Watts. The stock lighting group can use up as much as 120 watts if you are using your turn signals and hi beam. The ignition and cooling fan can rob as much as 75 watts from the system. That leaves you with 180 watts to run your accessories and charge your battery. Your battery can use up more than 60 watts when it's low.

Running the system at maximum isn't a good policy. Lets be generous and give ourselves a 20% safety margin. That leaves us with a nice round number of 300 watts available. In round figures, that gives us about 50 watts for add on accessories after we power up the necessities.
A light bar with two 40watt lamps puts us into our safety margin for 30 watts. The answer is to use LEDs for as much of your extra lighting as possible.

Things to consider when adding accessories

For me the only consideration I ever gave an accessory was that I wanted it. Nothing else mattered, I would make it work. The result was sometimes, well, interesting. Picture yourself cruising happily along a tree covered back road on a moonless night, the bike lit up like a small city. You punch the cigarette lighter and the lights go out, the engine quits, and you can't see a thing. When you blow the main fuse at night you are in trouble. Nothing works.

Electrical hook-up

Each electrical accessory you buy should have documentation with it. It should tell you how much power the unit will consume and give you hook-up instructions. Some will state the wire size needed and supply an in-line fuse holder with fuse. They will also tell you where to tap into the bikes wiring harness. Generally if you follow the instructions you will be fine. However, the people that write the instructions are concerned with their product only. They have no way of knowing how many other accessories you have already or what circuits you have them on. It is up to you to determine if adding the new accessory will overload the circuit you are tapping into. If you decide to use an existing circuit remember it wasn't designed to support anything but what is already there and you might blow the fuse. You might also be tempted to use a heaver fuse. Don't do that. The 10amp fuse marked #6 in the fuse box is there to provide power to accessories. Use it. There is nothing from the factory on the #6 circuit.

Replacing stock parts

Turn signals are not all the same, neither are headlamps or taillights. Your after market part may draw considerably more current than the stock part. Your Volusia headlight is fused at 10 amps, both hi and lo beam. Your turn signals are fused at 15 amps. The connectors and switches are able to handle the stock lamps but may have a problem with really hot lighting and the use of a relay may be necessary. When replacing your horn with a loud after market type you will have to use a relay because the horn button will not handle the current requirements of the new horn.


You own a bike with lots of plastic body parts. The majority of accessories use the mounting bolts to make a connection to the motorcycle frame which is used as a conductor. (Ground) To mount a fender ornament, say, you will need to connect a wire to the mounting bolt and run it to a point on the frame or find a ground wire to tap into.


Neatness counts! Route your wiring carefully and remember bikes vibrate. Tie the wires down to something that doesn't move with wire ties every four inches. Keep them away from the engine and exhaust. Seal all connections from the weather. I use silicone sealant. Don't run direct to the battery terminals. Go through a fuse. I like to tap in after the ignition switch for a couple reasons. There is no danger of forgetting to turn the accessory off and draining the battery and you are after the main fuse so the system is protected. Make your connections permanent, twisting wires together and taping them is an invitation to trouble.

Fuse protection

The best way to protect yourself is to fuse every electrical accessory you mount on your bike separately. Do this without exception. This way if it shorts out there is less chance it will take out the main fuse.

The Virtues of Soldered Connections

It crossed my mind that some of you may be unfamiliar with soldering as a means of sticking wires together what with all the new quick connection devices now available. I have nothing better to do just now so I decided to share with you some of the advantages of soldered connections and try to allay any fear you may have about using a soldering iron.

Motorcycles pose challenges to any electrical connection because they vibrate and they are open to the elements. A soldered connection doesn’t resist the weather any better than other connections. For that you need to think heat-shrink or vulcanized insulation or both. However, a well-made solder joint will stand up to vibration. They are strong and have superior electrical properties. With proper insulation, they are lifetime. Even when exposed to moisture and corrosive elements they last longer than crimped joints. Soldered joints are very low resistance and because you are dealing with low voltage, this is important.

Soldering is a skill. It takes practice to become proficient but the results are worth the effort. The tools and materials are inexpensive and after a few practice runs you can make connections that are far superior to the crimped type and as you become better at it you will even begin to enjoy the task. There are no secrets; if you can see, you can solder. The irons available today control the heat for you and there is a wide selection to choose from. I have dozens in the shop. All shapes and sizes but you only need one and a small one at that. The pencil irons are best for the jobs you will face on your bike. They are easy to handle and have plenty of heat capacity for simple wiring work. Radio Shack has the solder wire you need. I still use rosin core. A one-pound roll will most likely last you forever.

The procedure is simple. With a new iron you first want to tin the point of the iron. Heat the iron then dab a little solder on the tip. Immediately wipe it off with a rag. The tip should be bright and shiny like a new silver coin.

For a splice using solid wire you need to tin both of the wire ends you intend to join. Tinning just means putting a little coat of solder on the wire end. Place the iron under the wire then dab the wire with the solder. You will see the solder run all around the wire end and become smooth and shiny. Remove the heat by dropping the iron away. When properly tinned you should be able to join the two ends together without adding any more solder. Simply hold one end along side the other and add heat from the under side. The solder will begin to flow, you will see the melt move around both wires and become shiny. Remove the heat and hold until the solder cools. The joint should be bright, smooth, and shiny. If you move before the solder has cooled it will become foggy and crystalline in appearance. This is a cold joint and you must reheat it, maybe even add a little more solder.

If you are using multiple strand wire it is best to make a good mechanical connection first by twisting or braiding the ends then apply the heat on the underside and dab the joint with solder. You can move the iron back and forth to attract the solder where you want it; the solder will follow the heat.

When landing a wire on a post or terminal, tin the post and the wire. Then, using needle nose pliers form the wire end to make a good mechanical connection and apply the iron. It only needs a touch there is no advantage to overheating the joint. When all the solder is flowing remove the heat and let it cool.

A few dos and don’ts.

Don’t use a soldering iron around solid state electronics.
Don’t hold the solder in your teeth to free up your hands.
Do inspect each joint to see that it is smooth and silvery without any little balls or spikes hanging from it.
Try it you’ll like it

129 Posts
electrical info

Man, Quiggen bottom, a wealth of information. Are you a mechanic? I'm sure many others as well as I are impressed and appreciate the info. Wish I was better at it. Electricity intimidates me somewhat. I have leds accent lights coming and would like to hook them so they come on with the ignition on, instead of hooking them to the battery terminals.
Would you be able to find the time to explain to me how I can do this? I have an 05 C50.
Just afraid to start splicing into wires that might cause problems. If I hook to fuse box, will they come on with key on? Appreciate any advice from you, and thanks again for all the other tidbits which I think Ill print and tuck away for future reference. Later, S. F.

Premium Member
5,046 Posts
" Soldering is a skill. It takes practice to become proficient but the results are worth the effort."
I'll never forget that quote. When I was rewiring the fairing on my Gold Wing it was running through my head the whole time.
This article is a wealth of information and a lot of it is just good common sense. Thanks for posting it.

827 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Don’t let electrical work scare you. It would be good to get yourself a shop manual so you can see the color codes and wire placement used on your bike but it isn’t a “must have” to hook up lighting. The #6 ckt. (spare fuse slot in the fuse box) is powered up with the ignition switch and has plenty of capacity for your LEDs. Go to radio Shack and buy a VOM or multimeter, a soldering iron and solder, some hook-up wire, and some heat shrink and in a week you’ll be doing all your buddies wiring for them. :)


129 Posts

Hey, thanks for the quick reply. I have learned so much from you people more then Id get from a book, and Id drive the mechanics at the dealers nuts with so many questions. Appreciate the help. Guess that's what Ill do is hook to the fuse box. Thanks again. Doug
PS where you from? Just curious

827 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Based on a recent topic about adding accessory lighting I think I had better add the following:

When you calculate the load on a lighting circuit you can’t use the rated wattage of the lamp and simply add it to the load on the circuit. A light bulb rating of 120 Watts @ 12 Volts will draw 10 Amps. A 60 Watt lamp, 5 amps. It would seem that a 15 Amp fuse would hold but it will not. An incandescent lamp is very low resistance when it is cold (off) and draws high current. After it heats up (makes light) the resistance goes up and the resulting current is lower. So, when you first turn the light on there is an inrush of high current and then a decrease as the light heats to operating temperature. If you have either light burning and then turn on the second you will initially exceed the capacity of the circuit (fuse blows).

This is why your turn signal circuit is rated higher than the headlight ckt. It is constantly heating and cooling and the average current then is much higher than the wattage of the bulbs would indicate.

Pure resistive loads don’t pose this problem but if they are operated in a circuit at or near capacity they can be sensitive to ambient temp. That is; the fuse may hold on a very cold day but fail on a hot day.

Always give yourself at least a 15% safety margin, especially with lighting.

4,030 Posts
Thanks, Quigg. Miss ya, man. This is helping me track down the problem on the new/old bike for my son. Still working on it, but I have some ideas now. Wish you were out here to show me how to track it down...just need to see it done once!

How's things? Call me/email me when/if you get the time. Kids say hi! Cj's driving and can't wait to get this bike running....Molly and Em are both having fun and causing trouble....and Em's 13 this Fall.....oh crap....:)

827 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Hey Dave,

Been real busy making pictures. Got me a new computer with enough horse power to push the Queen Mary. 2G of RAM!! I needed it for all the new software.

I hang out at the Off Topic site when I have time because it’s easier to keep up with. Too many folks here and too much going on for me to stay current with only a few minutes a day to read.

What sort of electrical problems are you having?

I’ll get an email off to you shortly. I’m never sure which addy to use so maybe I’ll send two to make sure.

Tell everyone I said hey.

4,030 Posts
Use the menacheland email.

The bike sat outside for a couple of years...polishing up nicely, but I have to bypass the solenoid with a screwdriver to get it to crank. Nothing from the starter switch. I've cleaned up all the safety switches except for the kickstand switch...ran out of time last week....but I'm not real familiar with a meter or reading electrical diagrams and the book doesn't help too much, so I'm not sure how to track it down. If I can get it to crank, then I'll probably have to clean out and re-sync the carbs (another first), but I'd like to get this up and running electrically's Cj's first bike and we're working on it together...:)

Here's the thread:

Glad you're having fun with the pics....I'll have to check in here more often...I have trouble keeping up with it these days too. Drop me an email when you have the time or give me a call (or I'll call you..)


Premium Member
17,921 Posts
I just copied it to a woord pad rtf awhile back and saved offline.

Premium Member
17,921 Posts
why won't my coolant fan come on on 2006 800blvd.
possibly you haven't gotten the bike hot enough?

98% of the time mine doesn't run.
Usally only after getting stuck in stop 'n go traffic or after a long highway speed run and slow to street traffic.
Especially on our Florida summers.

Has your temp light come on and no fan?
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