It seems that motorcycles are more prone to charging system problems than four wheeled vehicles. I believe that motorcycle owners are also more likely to try to diagnose and solve those charging system problems than the average car owner. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a battery that has given up the ghost and needs to be replaced. Bikes tend to sit idle more than cars do and this can be particularly hard on the battery. 

If your bike will be sitting for more than a week at a time, invest in a Battery Tender for it. Install the whip that comes with the Tender so that the connector is under your passenger seat. This lets you get to it fairly easily, but ensures that a key is needed to access it. If your bike will sit idle for awhile and you have one of those "paging type" alarm systems on your bike (like the Scorpio and others) this is especially important because the alarm system is a "parasitic load" (it is drawing current all the time whether the bike is on or not). The Tender will keep your battery topped up and keep the alarm system from draining it.

I think it is a good idea for any vehicle owner (car, bike, or otherwise) to invest in a "smart" battery charger -- the kind that is designed to charge a dead battery (as opposed to the Tender which is a float charger that is only designed to maintain a relatively well charged battery). Most charging system troubleshooting starts with the premise that you have a fully charged battery and if you don't have a good charger, you have no way to charge your dead battery to begin troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting anything is always done the same way whether it is a motorcycle or something a lot more complex like the human body. You start with the fault domain (list of components/systems that could possibly contribute to the observed defect). You then systematically eliminate each suspect component from consideration by replacing it with a known-good component or performing at test that conclusively verifies it is good.

The charging system of the motorcycle is comprised of (generally): the stator, the regulator-rectifier, the wiring harness, the main fuse, and the battery. A fault in any of these components can cause charging issues. Faults in the wiring harness are generally the last thing suspected or tested and can be the most difficult to isolate and correct. Some motorcycles (Honda VFR800) are particularly prone to problems in the charging path of the wiring harness. So much so that 3rd party wiring harness add-ons for the charging portion are available to augment the factory wiring.

A couple things you should never do (if you can help it):

1) If you have a dead battery, do not "jump it" or push start the bike and then ride for hours and hours without properly charging the batteryfirst.

Why? Honestly that is a bad idea even in a car (which has a relatively robust charging system) but is an even worse idea in a motorcycle which has a much more anemic charging system. The stator is designed to produce enough power to meet the current requirements to run the bike and its accessories, plus top up the minor depletion of the battery that occurred when you engaged the starter to start the motorcycle. It is not designed to operate the bike and recharge a dead battery at the same time. Doing so will put a lot more work on your stator.

2) If your stator or regulator rectifier (RR) dies, don't just run the bike off the battery and recharge the battery each day when you get home. Some folks do this while their new stator or RR is on order or until they can get it into the shop or whatever. This may seem to work well -- for awhile -- but you are slowly causing yourself a whole new world of trouble. 

Why? If you've ever been through the electrical system of a Honda motorcycle (and I'd guess most bikes are similar) what you'd find is that the wire that goes from the positive terminal of the battery to the starter is huge (as expected) but the wire that goes from the battery to the main wiring harness is quite small. This wire is only really designed to handle charging current returning from the stator to charge the battery. When the bike is running, the current demands of the engine and your accessories are being met by the stator which passes through the regulator rectifier which has 4 (usually) decent size wires crimped right into the main wiring harness. If your stator or RR isn't working, then everything comes from your battery across that one little wire that connects the battery to the main harness. Over time that wire will begin to break down internally and will develop a small resistance. Resistance makes heat and heat further breaks down the wire which makes more resistance -- you get the point. Eventually your battery is discharging on you for seemingly no good reason. You replace your stator and RR but it doesn't fix it (because they weren't bad). You replace the battery, but the new one is still dead after a month. You contemplate using a shotgun on the bike but you're pretty sure that won't help. The only thing that will fix it is to find the segment of wire in the charging path that's broken down and replace it. Finding the wire is generally pretty straightforward, replacing it maybe less so.

In my opinion the best start-to-finish charging system troubleshooting guide is the one Electrosport has made. The charging system troubleshooting guide found in various Honda service manuals range from pretty good (CBR) to miserable (VFR) in my experience. While the Electrosport guide is a general purpose guide, it is my opinion that they cover the gamut of different types of systems very well. If you're having charging issues and are stumped, grab a decent digital voltmeter and spend some time with your bike and this guide.

The Electrosport troubleshooting process assumes you're starting with a fully charged battery. Don't skip that part as you may end up going down the wrong path of the chart because your discharged battery is pulling the system down while it recharges.Type your paragraph here.




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