Lost the fuel level sender - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 12:52 am Thread Starter
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Lost the fuel level sender

I haven't posted in a while. Just keep riding and enjoying my relatively reliable 07 GT. However, on Friday I had a very strange, surreal riding experience and wonder if anyone else has run into something like this. So, up front warning, crazy story ahead.

I was coming across the cut-off between I-5 and C-14, north of Lancaster, on Friday before noon (I've been doing work on the F-22 at Lockheed Skunkworks in Palmdale). All of a sudden a tremendous, low-temperature cross-wind (blowing from the south) kicked in. It got so strong that I began to lose my confidence that I could keep it on the road. I was leaning at least 25 degrees into the wind and the gusts were sliding me back and forth. About that time, the wind kicked up another notch and all of a sudden the dirt in the air from surrounding fields reduced the visiblity to maybe 100ft tops. A car ahead of me pulled over. I dialed it back to around 60 and pressed onward since I was on a schedule to reach Santa Cruz.

As I was straining to see as far ahead as possible through the dirt storm, all of sudden POW! A spark nailed my left hand through my Goretex and leather riding glove. What the... and about that time, it hit me again; very painful! I grabbed onto the bar end weight, thinking I might get better electrical contact there but the zaps kept coming for the next couple of minutes until I was past the mini storm. As I was resuming speed and regaining my composure, I looked up to see the low fuel warning on the cluster. The display was reading zero fuel.

I stopped by San Jose BMW on the way home today and they had to install a new fuel sender. The electronics had been damaged somehow. I explained what happened but I think that they thought I was nuts. I must admit it is a crazy story. I'm just glad nothing else was damaged by this ground-level lightning storm.

Conclusion? Not exactly sure. I wear an old Aerostich textile suit and the best I can figure is that the strong wind carrying all of that dirt was causing a static charge to build which would then discharge through my gloves to my handlebars. My experience with high voltage (whole career) tells me that it took many kV to arc through my thick leather gloves. And it did it over and over. Pretty impressive experience and one which unfortunately cost me about $180 ($80 part, 1 hour of labor to install and recalibrate the cluster). Oh well, got the brake line recall taken care of at the same time.

Anybody else ever convert their bike to a moving Van de Graaff generator?
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 3:17 am
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Aren't you still covered under warranty ?

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 8:42 am
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Alien possession.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 9:09 am
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 9:42 am
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Interesting....I would agree that the particles in your mini storm must have been just the right size to produce a charge. Kinda like ash from a volcano but on a much smaller scale. Were the gloves electric? I've been through some serious dust and wind storms, some that lasted 100's of miles. But never got zapped. Glad you're OK.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 10:14 am
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Sounds something like when I use the big giant vacuum at work to suck up sand and forget to ground the hose.
Static charge constantly zaps u as the sand is sucked through the rubber hose.
Maybe some thing like that was going on with you, as the sand/dirt partials passed over your clothing you became charged and then discharged through the bike?, or visa versa.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 1:37 pm
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Interesting.

I've been zapped with the vacuum before too grabbing a metal door knob. I recall some cars used to have a chain or some flexible thing that stuck down and dragged on the road to discharge static buildup. I think they were in some old J.C. Whitney catalog a long time ago?

I don't know how it would take out that strip though. I've often suspected it was the ethanol in the USA fuels affecting it. I don't recall any posts from someone out of the country having the strip fail like our corn-fed mandated fuel that is supposed to go up to 15% soon and the AMA is fighting it. No doubt CA will come up with some more special additive stuff that will damage them even more.

Fwiw, supposedly there is a class-action suit against Ducati now for their gas tanks deforming in even their late models (Streetfighter) and Ducati thinks it is the USA fuel. KTM plastic tanks are deforming as well. I know the BMW 1996 GS models began production with plastic tanks, but the paint on the outside was affected, supposedly fuel leeching, and BMW replaced them with metal ones.

Weird.


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 1:57 pm Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by larrykay
Aren't you still covered under warranty ?
Nope, expired 6 weeks ago. However, the folks at San Jose BMW are going to put in a "good will" (I think I remember the name right) claim and expect it to be paid (refund) since the fuel level sender is a known failure item.

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Alien possession.
Can't rule that out. I sometimes feel a little possessed myself when I twist the right grip...

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My wife says the same thing, sometimes in a less flattering way...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert_W
Interesting....I would agree that the particles in your mini storm must have been just the right size to produce a charge. Kinda like ash from a volcano but on a much smaller scale. Were the gloves electric? I've been through some serious dust and wind storms, some that lasted 100's of miles. But never got zapped. Glad you're OK.
Nope, just standard leather winter gauntlets; BMW Atlantis 2.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KGK1200GT
Sounds something like when I use the big giant vacuum at work to suck up sand and forget to ground the hose. Static charge constantly zaps u as the sand is sucked through the rubber hose. Maybe some thing like that was going on with you, as the sand/dirt partials passed over your clothing you became charged and then discharged through the bike?, or visa versa.
Now that you've mentioned it, I've had the same experience with the shop vac hose, especially when vacuuming up concrete dust after drilling anchor holes in the shop floor. Didn't think of that. Silica has a high dielectric constant and charges nicely. Must have been a very similar phenomenon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GMack
I don't know how it would take out that strip though. I've often suspected it was the ethanol in the USA fuels affecting it. I don't recall any posts from someone out of the country having the strip fail like our corn-fed mandated fuel that is supposed to go up to 15% soon and the AMA is fighting it. No doubt CA will come up with some more special additive stuff that will damage them even more.
My guess is that the strip didn't actually fail but the bit of electronics that reads the strip. I believe that the sender is a Canbus device, sending its data over the bus back to the cluster. Could be wrong, though. In any case, I had just fueled up in Lancaster and it went to zero during the storm. I wouldn't have noticed except for the lighted warning in the top center display.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 2:10 pm Thread Starter
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Another interesting, but unrelated experience on this ride. Two sport bikers flew by me on C-14. I pulled in behind them in the fast lane and shadowed them, giving them about 150 ft of space. A few miles later, a highway patrol came charging across from the right lane (I never saw him), pulled in between them and me, and hit his lights. I rolled off the throttle and slowly drifted back and he only took the two rabbits I was chasing. Whew... I think it helps to look like an old ATGATT guy with a loaded bike (soft pack on the pillion). He didn't want me.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2010, 2:33 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cbdane
Another interesting, but unrelated experience on this ride. Two sport bikers flew by me on C-14. I pulled in behind them in the fast lane and shadowed them, giving them about 150 ft of space. A few miles later, a highway patrol came charging across from the right lane (I never saw him), pulled in between them and me, and hit his lights. I rolled off the throttle and slowly drifted back and he only took the two rabbits I was chasing. Whew... I think it helps to look like an old ATGATT guy with a loaded bike (soft pack on the pillion). He didn't want me.
You're lucky he didn't bag all three of you.

I went to a traffic school taught by two CHP officers and one guy said the most he ever pulled over at once was 5. He liked to "Play cowboy and round 'em all up" - so he said. His buddy said he often picks out the tail-gunner (aka "YOU" in your case) as he figures "If the others weren't blocking his path, he'd be ahead of them. It's not always about the fastest out there, it's also about the weavers, frequent lane changers, tail-gaters, inattentiveness, etc." All in all, very interesting class and you get a lot of their perspective (like the one guy's 10% PSL tolerance he mentioned and not the often mentioned +10 over PSL. e.g. "You won't get away with 35 MPH in a 25 MPH school zone. Maybe 28 MPH though..." hence the 10% PSL for him.).

Another one mentioned if you have a radar detector and he leaves his patrol unit's radar unit on when you approach his car at a stop (a safety advisory to be careful near him), you better slow down a bit as he can hear the tones that you are speeding over the limits he has set into it. If you get a dirty look, and he's done with his latest victim and he doesn't like what he's heard off his radar gun, you are next in his sights.

If you have to go to traffic school, try one held by the cops if you can. It is interesting.


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