Starter, relay or battery?

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MajBach

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Disclaimer: I posted this on the 'other' forum. I know there are a few here that do not read both. I know I can be long-winded but can't seem to trim it down any more without losing details.
There's a similar thread with nearly identical symptoms currently active but not entirely sure we're having the same issue.

I also have a 2009 with 100,000 mi on it. About 8,000 miles ago, I replaced the starter and relay after learning the starter was killing my batteries because it was drawing so much current (Thanks again RaYzerman). This year, I also replaced the battery in the spring (Amazon Chinesium battery). I also have a digital voltmeter wired into the glove box solenoid.

First couple thousand miles in May, no issue. Parked the bike in late spring and came back a month or so later with no issues. Drove for a week ( I put on a couple thousand miles in the course of a week then park the bike for a month or longer). This time when I returned 3 months later, the battery was so dead, even the needles would not move. I took quite a while to push start and even after an hour of riding, there was barely enough juice to turn on the running lights when the bike was turned off. After another several hundred miles, the bike seemed fine and started the next morning. I cannot recall any other problems during that trip. I parked the bike and disconnected the battery this time. I did come to realize that my aux lighting system that is activated by remote and by-passes the ignition (something I plan to change) probably draws current all the time which is why I disconnected the battery.

I returned about 6 weeks later and when I connected the battery, the bike barely turned over, but started. Within a few hours, it seemed fully charged. It was a cool night in Nashville and when I parked at the hotel, I know the cooling fans were coming off/on prior to arriving. The next morning, it wouldn't turn over. The relay didn't kick in but rather the bike just slowly pushed each piston barely past the compression stroke until the next one. I did a fair bit of stop n go traffic in the city and the cooling fans were coming on as per normal. But, every time I went to start after a brief stop, it was struggling. Once, I had to push start it. That night I made sure I drove back to hotel via the highway and the bike was cool when I parked.

There was almost a frost by next morning and another dead battery. At one point during the day's ride, I stalled it at a traffic light after riding for at least an hour. Soon as I tried starting it, the needles stopped mid cycle and there was no juice whatsoever. I had to push start it.Ten minutes later, I stopped for gas and it started like the battery was new! For the next two days, I had to push start it almost every time I stopped but strangely, several times when I was driving at night and the engine was cool, it started perfectly - including when I parked it for the night. But, the next morning - near dead again.

I monitored the voltage gauge over several days and observed conflicting information. The gauge is a cheap thing from the internet. It has a clock like dial with red, yellow and green zones that run from 11.2 volts to 14volts. Every morning the gauge was in the red usually at the lowest reading - 11.2. On several occasions with a dead battery in the morning, the voltage climbed gradually from 11.2 to 13.2 while just at fast idle. Yet, on the hwy, the reading was almost always in the yellow at around 12 volts. If I stopped and left the bike idling, the voltage would most likely read in the red at like 11.8 but if I revved the engine, it would drop a couple of notches to 11.4.

So I could not make sense of this. It couldn't be the charging system cause if it was, how would all of my driving lights come to full brightness on a dead battery once the bike started? And how could it be the starter? Aside from the fact it's less than a year old, one moment it starts the bike fine and the next the bike won't even turn over. The battery is new but it's a cheap one and has suffered a few full discharges but yet, it still accepts a full charge. And the relay. This may be an important observation: Not once in all of these failed starts did the relay kick in and do its repetitive clicking noise. When my starter was the problem last year, I would ALWAYS hear the relay kick in and this is what kept the bike from turning over. Only after a night on the charger or with booster cables would the relay allow current to the starter and even then, the relay would sometimes kick in. I changed the relay before changing the starter and there was no difference. Only after I replaced the starter did bike start without issue.

So I read on a FB page a few weeks back of a guy that had similar problems AND erratic idling and a bunch of other symptoms. Once he replaced the battery, everything went away. I too am having some erratic idling but this started as soon as I reassembled the intake manifold and the problem persists. Basically, the first time I started the bike in late winter after having it all apart, it would not idle at all. I had to adjust the idle screw higher. That was fine until it started idling at about 1400 later that day. So I reduced the idle when the bike was hot to a little high of the recommended setting. I figured that perhaps there was a tiny air leak in the manifold (since I was working on it last) that sometimes sealed itself off. Over the course of the next 8000 miles, it still often idles slow albeit less and less frequently. There doesn't seem to be much of a pattern. If I had to guess, it idles better when warm than cool. But I can come to a ltraffic light and it idles at 1150 then the next light it idles at 800 or less and occassionally it will even stall. It will not idle above 11,000 feet without help (I've been at 11,000 feet and higher a lot the last few months). I didn't think it was related to the starting issues and was trying not to lose sleep over it.
One final observation: When I parked the bike in storage and disconnected the battery, the engine was pretty warm and the bike hadn't started the previous two attempts in the parking lot. For curiosity, I held the +ve lead onto the battery terminal with my thumb and turned over the bike. It wouldn't start but I almost burnt my thumb in less than three seconds from the heat on the copper.

So I will be returning to the bike in a month - weather dependent. Already bought a portable starter booster and I will be taking my multimeter. But, not sure what I will be looking for. Damn, I hope it ain't the starter.
 

SkooterG

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Sorry, I couldn't read that whole thing. But from what I did read......

1) Loose connections at the battery.
2) First things first. Get a new battery! And not a crappy one.
3) Install a Datel voltmeter so you can see what is *actually* going on realtime.
 

RossKean

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As SkooterG mentioned, battery connections are highly suspect, especially due to the apparent intermittent nature of the problem. (Although a starter going south can behave similarly.) Swapping in another battery to test makes a lot of sense but if you don't want to buy one on a "maybe", at the very least, take it out, charge it fully, let it sit for a couple of days (to check self-discharge) and get it load tested.

The definitive test for a starter is measurement of the starting current. The beast way to do this is using a Clamp On DC Ammeter. (Choose carefully, most will not measure DC amps - just AC.)
Edit to add: Starting current over 80 amps then starter is likely toast.
 
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roger dodger

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Like the pros said ... It 's probably the battery.

This bike rarely breaks ... but tires, oil and batteries wear out. So... replace them as needed. YMMV
 

Ignacio

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...It was a cool night in Nashville and when I parked at the hotel, I know the cooling fans were coming off/on prior to arriving. The next morning, it wouldn't turn over....

There was almost a frost by next morning and another dead battery. ......But, the next morning - near dead again.
Tis the season for bad batteries.
 

MotoMike

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FYI: If you happen to have a CAA PLUS membership, it does cover your motorcycle, including boosting the battery. Before they boost the battery, they will load-test it at the roadside and let you know if you need a new battery. DAMHIK
 

road runner

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As others said, start off with a known good battery.
Then make sure it's charging enough.
Then check cranking amp draw. (Telling you starter condition)
Then voltage drop test, (to check wiring and connections) starter circuit voltage drop test This will tell the condition of everything between the battery and the starter.
 
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