Electrical Fire in K13S - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old Jan 4th, 2012, 10:20 pm Thread Starter
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Camarillo - Ventura County, CA, USA
Posts: 49
Unhappy Electrical Fire in K13S

Tonight, just like any normal workday, I pulled into the garage, turned off the bike, got off and hung up my gear in the garage. It was really fortunate that it wasn’t a normal workday, or things might’ve ended up much, much worse. I usually hang up gear, grab my bag out of the topcase, close the garage door, and go inside the house. Tonight, Dennis and I met up after work and did some shopping, so we both stayed in the garage awhile while he was messing with his new earplug speakers, and I was putting some things away.

Dennis was facing my bike while he was trying to fit the earplugs, and noticed some blue flashes just above the handlebars. He asked me what was flashing on my bike. I walked over, and saw flames popping up just above the bars. It looked small, so I grabbed a sweatshirt and tried to smother it. That didn’t work, and the flames suddenly got bigger and were spreading down towards the engine, so Dennis jumped on and pushed the bike out of the garage while I ran for the hose. A good spray with the hose killed the flames, and we disconnected the battery and took a closer look at the damage.

The ignition switch is badly toasted, and the brake line just forward of the switch burned up. There’s a lot of burnt wiring below, some of it is my Autocom PTT switch and the audio line for the V-1. The ignition switch might have been the source of the blue arcing that Dennis saw – we can’t tell what got fried and what did the frying. When I hosed it down, there wasn’t any further arcing from electrical parts, and the battery is still healthy. The abrupt change in the fire I saw might have been from the meltdown in the brake line and brake fluid vapors suddenly feeding the flames, but there’s no obvious indication of where things started. I know when I got off the bike, everything was fine, and it was around 5 minutes before Dennis noticed the arcing and I ran over and saw the flames.

We probably won’t know more until the bike gets to the shop, but I’m curious if anyone’s heard of any electrical (or other potentially fire starting) issues with the K13S, R, or GT?

'09 Light Grey Metallic K1300S -Commuting and vacations
Used to be an OCRSRider, now I'm a VCSRider (Ventura County S Rider)
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old Jan 8th, 2012, 10:16 am
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I've heard and seen some photos of BMW bikes that have caught on fire, but nothing said about why. One was a fairly new boxer that was beside a garage that was almost ground level from the fire. I know a lot of car's ignition switches can short internally and the material catches on fire from the heat and they go up in flames. Some of the older ones were ceramic and the newer ones are some plastic potted stuff that seems to burn readily once heated from a short.

I had a fuel leak once at the pump housing flange on the GT and the engine became a holding tank for the spent gasoline as well as the fiberglass insulation mat under the tank that was soaked. I rode it for maybe 30 miles to home where I noticed the smell was getting worse. Gas started dripping. I was surprised the fuel didn't go up in flames.

Wiring harness is going to be costly though if you aren't in warranty. Probably over $2000 in wiring parts and brake line alone and a boatload of labor. If you are in warranty, I'd get all your own wired stuff off before taking it to the dealer. No sense giving them an out if you are under warranty.

Good luck.

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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old Jan 9th, 2012, 6:00 am
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I can't be specific to your model, but can make a couple of suggestions. First you sound lucky your garage and house did not burn down!

Think about what is electrically 'on', what should be 'off', what is doing the isolation, what is the protection (fuses and ratings) and where they are in relation to the problem fire.

It is usually the very high current parts of the wiring and system with the biggest fire risk. That means the battery and the large cables that go to the alternator and starter switch. They are always 'on'. Also don't forget the accessory outlets if added. I have one which is deliberately wired through a fuse for always 'on'. Then we have the always 'on' circuit for the clock which should be protected against shorts with a fuse. But note a fuse may NOT blow if there is some arcing and the current draw is low. Even a 5 amp fuse can take 20 amps arcing on and off - That's 240 watts to melt and set fire to pvc.

The ignition switch is the main isolator for everything else. Arcing leading to a fire suggests current draw to something and I can only suggest start looking at the ignition switch as a possibility.

Up front in the cockpit many wires come through the loom and are being twisted by the steering. In the past I've criticised BMW's selection of wire gauges. They seem to use the theoretical smallest size they can, but wiring on a bike is just as much about ruggedness and how much it might flex about. Those situations usually mean you go up a wire gauge or two and use more strands in the wire core. Flexing can cause a wire inside the pvc sheath to break a few strands at a time and you can't see it. When the wire gets down to just a few strands, you end up with a local hotspot under the insulation just like your toaster! You said the ignition was turned off and you would have set the steering on a hard lock, so unless the switch itself was faulty I'd be looking at the always 'hot' wires.

My KRS clock stopped working. I had no volts on the end of the permanent hot wire, coming out the loom. I flexed it about and volts came and went. I could not see where the break was under the insulation and their wire gauge was so thin, so I added a new and stronger wire.

Finally, look at any wiring work done for 3rd party addons. The right wire sizes and fuses. I often see bike addons where they skimp on the wire gauge. These things are designed by bench based electronics techs who often don't appreciate the ruggedness you need for automotive applications.

The front part of the bike is like a chimney, so I would expect a fire starting there to spread quite quickly. I never considered brake fluid as inflammable, but it is.

I think Gmack may be right about the loom. Although damage from smoke can make wires look burned when they may be OK. Shops probably don't do this sort of thing, but if the loom damage is confined to the top section, It's possible to properly solder splice on new wires and sleeve over.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old Mar 5th, 2014, 9:27 pm
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Location: Leander, TX, USA
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Interesting. I had just moved my wife's 07 F800ST under the front of our fifth wheel on 1-23 because it had started raining. We left for work and I got a call 20 minutes later saying the trailer was on fire. When I got back there was nothing left of the RV, the F800ST, or my R12RT. Nobody knows the cause but it started under the front of the trailer.
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