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Formerly Phaedrus
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
81 KZ550C LTD, 17K miles, been running great for 3000 miles for me. Battery finally went south this week. Replaced it with a new one. Started right up. Rode it to work and back today, then went out for a ride . . . . nothing!!!!!!!!!!! :confused: Have had a very infrequent startup problem in the past, usually remedied by a little bit of key jiggling or clutch lever fiddling, nothing major. Now, no lights, no nothing. Checked the battery: still 100% charge. Looked at the fuses under the left side plate in their litle box: all intact. Nothing looks fried from where I stand. What can I do? I am not all that adept at stuff, but willing to try (especially since none of the wrench-monkeys in my home town are willing to look at anything older than 5 years). Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Possibly your ignition switch is kaput or the contacts inside the switch need a good clean, or mebbes just somewhere in the wiring/connectors from the switch.

May as well rule that out first :D
 

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I'll give you a simple guide:
Starter Solenoid Checkout

Some simple steps to determine what is working and what's not:

1.Fully charge and test the battery(most bike shops can load test the battery, and then use a floating ball hydrometer to check specific gravity in the charged cells).

2.Clean all battery terminals of corrosion.

3.Tighten all starting related connections(Positive RED(+) battery terminal, Negative BLACK(-)terminal) and from the terminal to the engine case. All connections must be clean and tight.

4.Clean the cable from the starter solenoid to the starter motor.

5.Clean and check the "bullet connectors" going to the coil side of the starter solenoid.

6.Try again to start the bike.

7.If no luck, go to step #8

8.Wearing eye protection, bridge with pliers or a screwdriver the two heavy duty(large)terminals on the solenoid. If the bike cranks, your solenoid may be bad.

9. If the starter won’t turn over, one of several things has happened; The starter motor has seized due to brushes binding up, lack of lubrication in the bushings of the motor, the battery is weak , the engine has seized or it could be a combination of any of the above. Some websites for starter motor rebuild kits are:

A. RICK'S MOTORSPORT ELECTRIC STARTER BRUSHES
B.starter motor repair kits

10.The dealer may want $$$ for a new solenoid, but take your old one along and visit the nearest riding lawn mower shop. They have solenoids for about $15 that with a little work will fit. Be aware that the new solenoid from the lawn mower shop may require a ground wire for it to work.

11. I’d recommend upgrading from the existing battery cables to at least 6 gauge welding cables.
They are available in two colors(RED and BLACK) have more flexibility due to being constructed with finer conductors, and will fit in tighter areas.

12. The welding cable is sold by the foot, so take careful measurements or bring your old cables along. Most battery shops might be able to supply the cable too, so call to find out. The battery shop should be able to crimp/swage on the end of the welding cable the terminal ends or lugs using either a dedicated crimping machine or a tool that looks like a bolt cutter that has special dies to terminate the cable.
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This one covers fuses:

Fuse And Fuse Holder Designations

1. The older Kawasaki’s use a glass tubed fuse with the designation of AGX 1” long. Most good auto parts stores can get them for you. They are ¼” in diameter.

2. The more common AGC is 1 ¼” long and may not fit the smaller fuse clips. Again, ¼” in diameter.

3. To clean and polish the fuse clips, I use a cotton swab(Q- Tip) and some Brasso metal cleaner or Turtle Wax Chrome Polish. I suppose any good metal polish would work.

4. These fuses can fail internally but look good, only by removing them from the clip and electrically continuity checking with either a self powered test light, or a multimeter set on OHMS can they be determined to be in good shape.

5. A physical inspection of the metal end caps for tightness will tell you if the fuse is serviceable.

6. Most modern motorcycles are now using the automobile “Blade” style fuse with the designation of ATC or ATO.

7. The reduced sized “Mini” Blade style fuse holder uses the ATM size of fuses.

8. If the fuse and fuse holder overheat, it could soften or anneal the grip of the clip, it might require squeezing the clip to restore the tightness.

9. A list of where to purchase “Blade” style fuses and holders:
Welcome to Waytek Wire ATO/ATC STYLE COMPACT FUSE BLOCK 8 FUSE ATO/ATC Fuse Blocks Blade Fuses And Accessories Circuit Protection  - Waytek Wire

Susquehanna MotorSports - High Performance Vehicle Lighting and Competition Accessories Susquehanna MotorSports - Auto Performance Product

Del City - Wiring Products and Professional Electrical Supplies 8-way fuse block
 

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Navy Vet Search & Rescue
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I agree with checking the ign switch and the connector for it. No lights rules out the starter solenoid as the possible problem since it isn't required to even be on the bike for the lights to work. Also, while you have the meter out to check the switch and connector, check that you have power going into and out of the main fuse.
 

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Formerly Phaedrus
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
WHere do I find the main fuse? My clymer manual is woefully vague when it comes to electrics.
 

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Usually after the seat is removed, the fuses will be in a holder with fuse clips. Sometimes a translucent cover will have the fuse positions and amp ratings on it. The holder should be around the battery area.

I've seen the bigger 4 cylinder Kawasaki's having 5 fuses, some up to 30 amps as a main fuse, with 10 and 20 amp fuses for different circuit functions
 

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Formerly Phaedrus
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So sorry to be such a doofus when it comes to this stuff, but I have NEVER chased electrics before. What is the best way to check the ignition switch. I just got a multimeter to do the job, but don't have a clue how to go about it. Clymer doesn't give much info on electrical problems.
 

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This may be helpful:

MOTORCYCLE ELECTRICAL TROUBLE SHOOTING

Electrical problems can pop up at any time and can seem hard to fix but they really aren't. Most of the time, anyway. Most everything can be "Proved" (tested) with an Ohmmeter and a some things can be proved with a simple circuit tester.

You can get a good cheap ohmmeter, sometimes called a multimeter, from a hardware store or an auto parts store. They generally run about $20.00. If you want, you can pay hundreds of dollars for one, but for the tests we will be performing, a cheap one will work just fine.

An ohmmeter sends a very low power electrical charge through a wire and measures how much resistance there is in the wire to the charge going through it. This resistance is measured in Ohms. Your shop manual will give you the correct resistance for each wire that you test. The multimeter will measure a bunch of different things such as ohms, DC volts, AC volts, etc. Here are a few of the basic tests. They are all performed at room temperature (70 degrees or so). The word Continuity means voltage is passing through the wire from one end to the other. No Continuity means the wire is broken and voltage is NOT passing through it. Also, if we say something is wired in parallel, it means they are wired side by side. If two 12 volt batteries are wired parallel, the negative terminals would be wired together. Likewise for the positive terminals. This would still give us a 12 volt battery, only bigger. If something is wired in series, it means they are wired one after the other in a line. The two 12 volt batteries would be wired positive to negative, giving us one 24 volt battery.

A shop manual will be very handy to give you the Specifications on the different coils and wires. It also will have a wiring diagram, that will give you the different colors of the wires you are going to want to test. Most of the specifications I give here are just general ones to get you in the ball park. The Shop Manual will give you the exact ones.

Before you do any testing make sure you have a fully charged battery, if there is a battery, in the bike you intend to test. Just because it will start and run without the battery DOESN'T mean it will run right. Time after time guys will bring a bike in and say "It runs good and then it don't. Misses on one side then the miss changes to the other side." Some of them just will not believe it's a bad battery or the wrong size battery. "But it runs." they say, "It just can't be the battery." But it can be the battery. If it needs a battery, and you take the battery out of the system, things can overcharge, overheat and burn out. If the system calls for a battery, make sure a good one, fully charged, is in there. The only time this would not be true, is when the Ignition System is a magneto and the battey is only used to run the horn and tail light. Now when I say "The right size of battery" I mean the battery must have enough amps to run all the things you want to test. If you don't have the right battery, you can use a big, fully charged battery, say from a car, BUT it MUST have the right voltage (6 or 12) and you MUST use big, thick jumper cables. DO NOT connect the jumpers to the old dead battery. Take the old, dead battery completely out of the bike. Connect the positive jumper cable to the positive cable on the bike. Connect the negative to a good ground on the bike. Now you can run your electrical tests. The fact that the battery is a lot bigger then the stock bike battery will not hurt anything. The electrical components on the bike will only draw the power they need from the battery. The battery will not "Over Power" the components as long as the it is of the correct voltage. If you leave the old, dead battery in the system, it will try to pull power from the bigger battery. At best this will throw your electrical tests off. At worst the battery can BLOW UP ! Usually, small bike batteries don't blow up... but, why take the chance ?

Ignition coils. Measure the resistance between the primary (low-tension) wire and ground or ground terminal. It should be very low. Like .5 to 1.5 Ohms. The primary wire is the small wire going to the CDI box or points. Next measure the secondary (high-tension) wire and ground. (Note that on most bikes these days, the coil mounting bar, that passes through the coil and mounts it to the frame, is the ground for the coil primary and secondary wires.) This should be quite high, like 6000 to 13000 ohms. If the coil is out side the specs given in the shop manual the coil might be bad. Sometimes, a coil will work OK when cool but fail when it warms up. Let them cool and they work again. They make machines that will test coils under load. They are nice to have but can be pricey. Remember to take the plug cap off for the test. The cap can add 300 ohms resistance.

Sometimes the ignition coil can be located under the flywheel and be self contained. That is, the ignition coil and ignition stator coil are one in the same. These are usually found on mopeds and small European bikes.

Charging Stator coils. These are the coils that are under or around the flywheel. Sometimes they are both. The flywheel has magnets on it and these magnets produce a charge in the coils as the run around them. Usually there will be three wires, all of the same color, coming out of these coils. You want continuity (connection) between the three wire with a low ohm reading, like .5 to 3-4 ohms. There should be NO continuity between these wire and the ground. At least most times, anyway ! If there is only one charging wire coming out of the flywheel coils it is usually grounded and has a reading of .5-1.5 ohms between the output wire and ground. If there is no resistance the coil may have wires short together. If there is infinite resistance a wire is broken. Check the shop manual specs. This is because some charging systems are Alternators, and some are Generators. There are also different flavors of Alternators and Generators and I'm not going to go into that here ! Get that shop manual out to be sure. Just to make things fun, some of the replacement coil sets have very short leads. You have to cut the old leads and plugins off the bad coils and use small wire crimps to hold the wire together. If you solder the wires together the wires can separate once the engine gets good and hot and the solder softens a bit. In other words, soldering may or may not work. Crimping won't come lose under heat. However, no one sells the crimps and they don't give you ANY extra wire AND you have to put something on the wires to keep them from shorting against the crankcase. Fun, fun, fun ! You can get little crimps from appliance parts supply houses or you can make your own by cutting the end off a wire fitting. Put the cleaned and stripped two wires in the crimp and crush them together with some vice grip pliers. Then insulate the repair with heat shrink tubing.

IGN Source Coils. These are coils, under or around the flywheel, that supply energy for the ignition. Usually, almost always, these coils are grounded. Usually, 300-500 ohms from output wire to ground.



On the above coils. Often, but NOT always, if you stick a Circuit Tester on the charge wire and clip the other end of the tester to ground, then kick the engine over, you will light the tester bulb briefly. This indicates you are getting some kind of juice out of the coil. But like I say, NOT always.

Trigger, pick-up or pulse coil. These coils tell the electronic ignition black box when to fire the ignition coil. Usually two wires. Usually, one to three ohms resistance between the two wires and no continuity between them and the ground.

Rectifier. When a coil produces electricity, it sends it out in plus or minus waves. The battery can only charge on one of these waves. A rectifier has silicon diodes that only allow half the wave to get through. Back in the 60s and 70s a lot of the little bikes had these single wave rectifiers. Now most bikes have full wave rectifiers that have four diodes. All this rectifies the AC current to DC to charge the battery. To test the rectifier, hook up the ohmmeter leads to one of the wires and to the ground (mounting) stud. Note the reading you get. Now reverse the leads from the ohmmeter and note the reading again. The exact reading is not all that important, but there should be a big difference between the two if the diode is working right. Test each of the wires this way. If any wire is very close in the two readings then the diode is leaking and no good. If there is no continuity, then the diode is shorted out and no good. Be careful not to turn the bolt holding all the diodes together. This can short them out. It is possible to test the rectifier with a circuit tester by adding a D flashlight battery in line with the circuit tester. You want to see the light, light in one direction and not in the other. If all of a sudden you start blowing the main fuse, it's possible one of your rectifier diodes has failed, letting current, from the battery flow back to ground.

Voltage Regulator. All the current from the charge coils would over charge the battery if we let it, so we need a voltage regulator to keep the battery charged at 12 volts. Your ohmmeter should have a DC volt scale. Set it at 20 volts and connect the positive and negative leads to the right battery terminals. Make sure the battery is fully charged, so we get a correct reading. Start the bike and rev it up. The volts should go up to 13.8-14.5 volts and then stay there. Much more, and it will over charge the battery. Much less, and the battery will never charge up. Some voltage regulators can be adjusted and some cannot. If you can't get it's cover off or if it is all sealed up, it's non adjustable. If you can get the cover off, you can clean the little contact points and adjust it with a screw driver till you get the right charging rate. Most, nowadays, are not adjustable.

Most of the newer bikes have the Rectifier and Voltage Regulator as one unit. If either one goes you have to replace both. AC current will light the headlight and everything else. Light bulbs don't care if it's DC or AC current. If you have a dirt bike and don't need a battery you can get an after market voltage regulator for $30-40 and it will keep you from blowing bulbs. A number of the older, smaller, bikes had no voltage regulator. I guess they thought the battery would soak up the extra current... they were wrong, so put one in. There also is a cheap after market rectifier/voltage regulator unit you can put on, if you need a battery. It will also work on some street bikes too, but you have to make sure it matches the charging system.

Capacitors. On some older bikes (Mostly British, like Triumph, BSA, Norton, etc.) There will be a capacitor that holds, or stores electricity for the ignition. They have a limited storage life of about 12-18 months if not in use. Use it or lose it, I guess ! To test, connect a 12 volt battery to it for about five seconds. Make sure the polarity is right. Plus to plus, negative to negative, or it will be ruined. Let it sit at least five minutes, then connect a DC voltmeter (your ohmmeter set to DC volts) to the terminals. When you take the reading wait a bit for it to stabilize. A good one, should read at least 9 volts

Zener Diodes. They do the same thing as a voltage regulator. Worthless piece of dog poop. Oh, do I remember zener diodes. I had one on my Norton Atlas. Long story short... it had a battery and it had one of those capacitors. Vibration would crack the battery in about 3-4 weeks of running every day. Without a good battery in the system it tended to melt one specific wire that charged the battery. Not always... just sometimes. After the first time, I separated the wire from all the others and I carried extra wire, cut to length, to replace it on the road when it went. Actually, I carried three lengths... safety in numbers ! It would fail about one a month. I could replace it in about five minutes. If I put a fuse in the line and it blew, it would not kill the engine. It would overcharge the zener diode and burn it out at $20.00 a pop. This was in 1971-74, I was in the army and didn't always have 20 bills. I found if I turned on all my lights, I could go up to exactly 69 miles an hour. If I went 70, poof... all my lights burned out and then about one minute of running overcharged my ignition coils, making it run on one cylinder, and I limped home at 20 MPH. But, I got to admit, in two years and 28,000 miles of running, it always brought me home.

I loved that bike, but just like a bad woman, it was fickle. When she ran, she ran GREAT. she just didn't run GREAT for long. Fiddle with her, play with her, pay attention to her all the time, bring her gifts (new battery, pipes, paint, anything to keep her happy) and she would give you a taste of heaven... but only a taste ! Every six months or so, I would get her a new battery and life was good. Everything worked, and, oh, it was great ! Then the battery would crack and... ! Anyway, They need to be in a good heat sink. The best thing to do with these things is to throw them away and buy a real voltage regulator, but if you want to test them Here is the official way.

Disconnect the cable going to the zener diode and connect, in series, a ammeter, with the ammeter positive lead connected to the diode terminal
Connect a DC voltmeter between the zener diode and the heat sink. The red or positive lead of the voltmeter must be connected to the heat sink, which is then connected to the frame. Remember, British bikes have positive ground, at least the ones with zener diodes ! Gerrrrr !
With lights off and battery fully charged. Start the engine and, while watching both meters, slowly rev the engine up.
The ammeter should read zero till the voltmeter reaches 12.75 volts.
Increase engine speed till ammeter reads 2.0 amps. The voltmeter should read 13.5-15.3 volts.
If the ammeter reads anything before the volts are 12.75 or if the voltage is higher than 15.3 at 2 amps replace the zener diode... and they cost a lot more than $20.00 now !
Rotors. Some charging systems have Rotors (Armatures) that turn inside a magnetic field producing current. These usually have two slip rings separated by insulators. The slip rings can be on the nose of the rotor or on the side. There should be continuity between the slip rings but not to the rotor body (Ground). On some older bikes these double as an electric starter. These have a bunch of, what are called, commutators on the end of it's shaft. These are similar to a starter armature. If they are worn you can cut and polish them up a bit. They are tested like the slip rings. Continuity to themselves, but no continuity to ground.

Brushes. If the system has brushes they must move freely in their holders and be long enough to always be in contact with the slip rings. If you can't get a brush for an old bike, you can sometimes take another, larger brush, and cut it down to the right size. As long as it works, who cares what it looks like ! Handle them carefully, they break easily.

Flywheel Magnets. These are usually quite trouble free. Back in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the magnets were not so good. If you dropped them or banged them about they could loose their magnetism. I've never seen that happen on a modern bike, but I suppose it is possible. They had a special machine to remagnetize them.

Remember, the ohmmeter may have some internal resistance, usually .5 ohm. Hold the ohmmeter leads together to find out what that resistance is and subtract it from your test readings. Take the readings when the part has warmed up to 70 degrees or so. If you don't, the readings will not be accurate. Take several readings and, if you have several ohmmeters, use them all. The more readings you take, the less errors you will make ! Most of the specs are given plus or minus 10-20%. Of course, some of the specs the factories give out may not even be right !


Sometimes the bike ignition, lights, turn signals, etc. will just stop working. Here is where the little circuit tester light can really help. You will need the wiring diagram for your bike so you can pinpoint which color wires are used on the offending part that doesn't work. I usually check all the grounds first because they can get rusted and will not conduct electricity. I then check and see if we are getting battery voltage (the light lights up !) at the dead part. If I am, then maybe the part itself, bulb, switch, whatever, is dead. If not, I go back to the battery and check again for battery voltage. If I get it, I then work my way along the wires till I don't get battery voltage. Check the different electrical plugins. Sometimes just plugging and unplugging them can cure things. if there is no plugin to check, you can still check the wire by sticking a small needle into the wire insulation till it hits the wire. When you pull it out the hole tends to close up and heal it's self. If you do it right, you don't have to tape it or anything when you are done. If it is a switch, you can sometimes clean out the corrosion with some electrical contact cleaner or by scraping the **** out. Look for anyplace the wires could be rubbing against the frame or touching a hot part, like an exhaust pipe. You may have to take the tank and seat off, or get into the headlamp shell. Remember too, that often when one thing goes, something else goes too. I don't know why... it just seems like that happens a lot. Be patent. It can take a long time to find the problem.

If you replace burned out bulbs with bulbs that have a different wattage than stock it can goof things up, sometimes. It can make the turn signals blink faster or slower. If it's a charging indicator light bulb it can upset your charging rate. It might not hurt anything, and then again... !

A lot of bikes now have safety, ignition, cut outs to keep you from starting the bike when it is in gear or to keep you from riding off with your side stand down. They seem to be putting them everywhere. If your bike will not start they must be checked. Here are some of the places I have found them.

The clutch lever. It must be pulled in, to start the bike.
The side stand. It must be up, or the engine will die when put in gear.
When the bike is in gear. The bike must be in neutral to be started.
Reverse Gear. The rear brake must be applied to shift into reverse on most four wheel ATVs.
Give big brother some time and I'm sure he will force more safeties down our throats... all for your own good, of course !

When you check for spark, the spark must jump at least 1/4" (.250") or more outside the engine. Just laying the spark plug in the plug cap, on the cylinder head, and getting a spark across a .030" gap is no good. It takes a lot more power to jump a gap under compression in the engine then outside the engine under no compression pressure. Also, if it's electronic ignition, you must spin the engine to at least three or four hundred RPM. Any less and the anti kick back circuitry in the CDI black box kills the spark.


Post back if you have more problems as finding why a bike up and quits can be a real puzzle sometimes. I think your problem may be a fuse or two that has failed but looks good.
 

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Formerly Phaedrus
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks Mike and everyone else. I don't know what I would do without this forum and all the helpful souls on it. (Probably not have a bike that I love).
 

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Motorcycle electrical troubleshooting is really no "Black Art" more like logical thinking using a multimeter for resistance,voltage and continuity checking.

Motorcycle Electrical Maintenance

1. List of needed tools:

A. Set of pipe cleaners (found in tobacco shops).

B. Small package of cotton swabs.

C. Small brass bristle brush (found at hardware stores).

D. Set of welders tip cleaners(found at welding supply stores) or a set of jewelers files.

E. Selection of 400-600 grit sandpaper.

F. One can of electrical contact cleaner/preservative (The De-oxit brand at www.de-oxit.com is a good one).

G. Tube of dielectric grease as a water shield for connectors.(Optional, as some people see more problems with the grease acting more like an insulator).

H. An accurate multi-meter either digital or analog for voltage, current, and continuity checks (the digital meters may pick up “noise” from certain alternators and have fluctuating readings).

I. Self powered continuity light for basic continuity checks.

J. Battery charger rated for not more than 1 to 2 amp to charge the motorcycle battery( the battery tender brand is a good one at 1.25)

K. The motorcycle factory shop manual (FSM) with the wiring diagram.

L. Set of screwdrivers and wrenches for the various fasteners.

2. Corrosion on any electrical connection causes resistance and lowers the current flow. The green crud is a form of corrosion on brass/copper terminals.

3. All electrical connections must be clean and tight or intermittent operations will result sometimes stranding the rider, and can damage/destroy electrical components such as Alternator Stators, Batteries, Ignitors, Light bulbs, Switches and/or related wiring.

4. Battery cables can fail internally due to corrosion and appear serviceable.

5. The male bullet connector can be scrubbed with the brass brush while the female connector with the jewelers files or tip cleaner. Both should be spritzed/wiped with a pipe cleaner or rag moistened with contact cleaner.

6. Square and rectangular connectors must be disconnected from each other to be able to clean the contact surfaces. Again the use of files and or brass brush with a application of contact cleaner makes it operate as it should.
Re-connect the male and female parts and do another.

7. The battery cables condition are an area few people think about but are very important. The positive(+) RED terminal and the negative(-) BLACK terminal must be clean and tight to both the battery and to their respective connections on the motorcycle. On most Kawasaki Motorcycles the negative battery cable goes either to the frame or engine while the positive battery cable connects to the electric starter solenoid. The other terminal on the solenoid connects to the starter motor.

8. If the battery cables must be replaced, use the appropriate gauge of wire for the current draw. Use flexible cable as solid wire will not bend into tight areas. Both 6 and 8 gauge can be purchased through electrical supply houses on the internet such as Welcome to Waytek Wire, Terminal Town's Electrical Connector Home Page, and Del City - Wiring Products and Professional Electrical Supplies and have the correct wire or cable terminations. Welding cable is very flexible and makes excellent battery cables, it’s sold by the foot and can be purchased at welding supply stores.

9. OEM style electrical connectors can be purchased at: www.easternbeaver, OEM-Type Bullet & Spade Electrical Connectors for 1960's to 1980's Japanese Vehicles... Bridgestone, Datsun, Hodaka, Honda, Kawasaki, Landcruiser, Suzuki, Tohatsu, VW, & Yamaha, Vehicle Wiring Products Ltd. Suppliers of auto electrical parts., EC - Good stuff for your Moto-scooter, Z1 Enterprises, Inc. - Specializing in Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Parts,

10. The starter solenoid function as a heavy duty relay having large contacts to close when the start signal is given from the handle bar “start switch” and the motor turns the engine over to run.

11. When the internal return spring on the starter fails/breaks due to metal fatigue or vibration, the engine will turn over(or crank) when the key has been removed and will continue until the positive battery terminal is dis-connected from the solenoid. Just like if the large terminals were bridged with a screwdriver.
 

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Formerly Phaedrus
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, here I am with egg on my face :oops: . . . a fuse that looked "intact" had actually fried! My pessimistic worrying side definitely raised it's ugly head this time! Thanks to MFolks, Stargate, and OneShadeOfGreen for the help. I did get a cool little multi-meter at Checker for 5 bucks out of the deal, though, so it ain't all bad!:-D
 

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:mrgreen: electrical problems have a habit of making us all look daft at times, chuffed you found it :-D
 
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