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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

This is a bit longish ...

During the winter, I removed the battery off my 2001 and topped up the cells with distilled water and put it on a trickle charger. This is the stock battery non-gel type.

When the weather got better, I put it back on the bike but saw that the bike was hesitating in starting and the ABS was blinking "maltfunction" .. so I think, need a new battery.

I got the sealed Panasonic battery which is very similar to the specs of the stock and used by many, plugged it in and everything was fine again until today. Again the hesitation in starting. However, once started everything is good.

Pulled into garage, removed the tool tray and am now checking voltage. 12.78v .. looks healthy. So I think maybe the alternator is not providing charging voltage.. so I attempt to start, but no luck. after a prolonged spell of holding the starter down .. I see smoke coming out from under the tank... now I know something is really wrong ...

Have't taken apart the fairing to see what is smoking, but any idea what is up ?

Thanks for any pointers.
 

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You guys who think you need to take your battery out!!! causes more problems than it solves. It's usually a bad thing when the smoke gets out of the wires...Since you have a new battery, the most likely problem is a corroded or loose connection at the battery. Did you make sure both cables are nice and clean and tight? A poor connection would heat up and smoke. The other thing that might smoke would be the starter if it went bad. When you held down the starter for a long time was it cranking?

Also, what type of trickle charger do you have? It shouldn't have killed your old battery. Or maybe it wasn't bad.

Good luck,
Jerry
 

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Old batteries are great, mines 6 years old and still going fine. Normally I'd say go buy a hydrometer and check the cell gravities after charging, but unfortunately you got a sealed battery. My next new battery will be the same as the last one. Get the hydrometer, re-charge the old battery and test it.

You may be unlucky and have a dud battery. On the other hand your ABS lamps could be just acting like the Ammeter that BMW didn't fit. The ABS lamps latch on if the battery voltage drops too low during a start.

Given you've got smoke under the tank and that's where a lot of high current wiring runs, the ABS lights might just be telling you you've got a fault and a massive current load at startup. Keep getting smoke and you might wipe out your loom, your bike if the tank goes up and yourself if your sitting on it.

Most of the circuits are fused, Headlights and starter aren't - well unless you regard the wires as the fuse. Normally on starting the headlights, grips etc are not powered by the loadshare relay. So that just leaves the starter/solenoid and the big thick wires to the battery

As Stephejl says, if your lucky it's just the battery connections need cleaning and Vaseline and you should do this first. But a faulty starter or its wiring shorting is not healthy. You shouldn't be cranking the bike for long periods - it stuffs the battery, reduces starter life and heats up wiring. Look for other problems. Even cold my bike always starts within 2 seconds.

You should now be checking for any wiring damage. Remove the plastic AND the tank and visually check the loom, battery terminals and the big wires to the battery where they might rub against metal and short. Have your fire extinguisher handy, Hang a voltmeter across the battery and crank the starter for A COUPLE OF SECONDS whilst still looking for smoke. If the voltage drops below about 10-11 volts on a new battery, either the terminals are corroded or there's an excessive current draw from the starter or solenoid, or you bust the new battery with all the cranking. This on load dc cranking voltage, is the only one that gives some meaning to your battery capacity. The actual current draw from a starter can really only be checked with a dc clamp meter. If you are seeing the voltage drop, the starter is turning sluggish and there's smoke then something's up.

My battery stays 24/7 on a tender through the accessory socket and only comes out every 6K to clean around the compartment, check the cell gravities and top up electrolyte levels.

I hope you just got a problem with corroded or dirty battery terminals. Good luck.



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Vox,
Good advice.

A couple of points for discussion: I don't like to take my battery out every 6 months so I went to a dry cell and will never get another wet cell for that reason. I strongly agree with you to just hook the trickle charger up through the accessory socket. But make sure it is a trickle charger designed to be left hooked up for extended periods of time. Some people think their charger must be good enough and cook their battery.

And the ABS lights on the R-bikes are notorious for alarming when battery voltage is below 13 volts so I'd guess thats what he is seeing.

--Jerry
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well, it is yet another one of those "User Errors"

Stupid as I feel writing about this .. just for completeness let me close this for the archives.

There are 2 cables that attach to the negative terminal, not ONE. So I obviously attached only one on it, so the other was left dangling and I suspect touching metal somewhere. Hence there is sense in not taking out the battery, because one tends to forget minor things over a period of a few months.

Once I attached the other one, the bike started up appreciably stronger.

I imagine the old battery was/ is fine, so I unnecessarily spent $50 on a new battery

I still have to resolve the "smoke" issue since I think that some wires may be exposed. How do I know this ... when I switch on the key to ignition without the started, I hear some sparking/cackling sound apart from the whine and clicks of the ABS (I think).

Anyway.. on the bright side of it, I also changed the coolant and fill flush the brake & clutch fluid while I am at it :)

Thanks for your responses.
 

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kalakar said:
Well, it is yet another one of those "User Errors"

Stupid as I feel writing about this .. just for completeness let me close this for the archives.

There are 2 cables that attach to the negative terminal, not ONE. So I obviously attached only one on it, so the other was left dangling and I suspect touching metal somewhere. Hence there is sense in not taking out the battery, because one tends to forget minor things over a period of a few months.

Once I attached the other one, the bike started up appreciably stronger.

I imagine the old battery was/ is fine, so I unnecessarily spent $50 on a new battery

I still have to resolve the "smoke" issue since I think that some wires may be exposed. How do I know this ... when I switch on the key to ignition without the started, I hear some sparking/cackling sound apart from the whine and clicks of the ABS (I think).

Anyway.. on the bright side of it, I also changed the coolant and fill flush the brake & clutch fluid while I am at it :)

Thanks for your responses.
Kalakar,
Thanks for the followup post. There are those who resolve thier problem and never post what they found and I think they often find user errors that they don't want to share. These can be the most important ones as often I'm sure I've done something wrong and have to start searching the archives to find out what.

I don't have the wiring diagrams handy but I'm sure there are guys here that do and they'll now be able to tell you what likely fried. However, I'd say the first thing to do would be to VERY CAREfully follow back the small wire that you left off looking for melted insulation. you'll probably have to cut open an outer sheath that holds several wires together. Take a digital photo or two so you can tape it up and put it back neatly like you found it after the surgury.

Are you sure it wasn't the positive (red) terminal that you left the wire off of? I think there is only one on the negative and if a negative wire grounded on the frame it would most likely not be a problem.

Good luck,
Jerry
 

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kalakar you said:

..........There are 2 cables that attach to the negative terminal, not ONE. So I obviously attached only one on it, so the other was left dangling and I suspect touching metal somewhere. Hence there is sense in not taking out the battery, because one tends to forget minor things over a period of a few months...............

If you left the big ground off and it wasn't touching the frame, then the starter is trying to pull 200 Amps plus through the much thinner ground wires intended for the lower current electrics, up to the point where they hit the first frame bolt connection. That's why you get smoke and those are the wires to be looking at first. I don't know physically where that first frame ground bolt is, but if the wire travels through the loom to get there - that's what's fried and possibly other wires alongside.

There's no way you can now be confident with your bikes wiring until you've visually checked all the thinner ground wires - you have to bite the bullet before riding, else bigger and very expensive problems could come back. Sort it now, not later.

On our bikes it seems BMW needed to get the electronic and accessory grounds right on the battery - so you have 2 terminals and a disaster like yours waiting to happen to somebody else. They should have designed a short insulated copper battery link strip bonding the present 2 terminals together, with a single hole to couple up to the battery. I might look into that, because corrosion at the negative battery terminal could produce the same problem.

Sorry to post what may seem bad news, but it's a lesson for us all to learn. Big fat wires MUST be connected to the battery, otherwise the little thin one's left can get fried. In most vehicles the big battery negative is taken to the frame on the shortest wire and other grounds come off that point. Since you only have one ground terminal on the battery negative, nothing can go wrong. It's not a problem with the positive wires, accessories etc if you forget one, but the negatives are very important when you turn that starter key.. Good Luck



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If Vox has indeed figured out which wire you left off then I fully agree with his advice. Good luck. --Jerry
 

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WOW Can't wait to read about the cooling system, brake and clutch problems. Yeah I know it was mean but its winter and the rest of the board seems to be turning in on itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Voxmagna,

Yes, you are right .. the ground to the frame was left unconnected :( As you said, it is not intuitive to think that there would be 2 negative cables.

This pic "Battery Negatives" will show you the 2 cables.. the one left off is circled. It goes directly down and attaches to the frame. The other one goes under the fuse block, under the tank and distributes. http://www.k-bikes.com/gallery/files/5/9/9/4/batteryNegatives.jpg

Well, so I removed the tank and traced the burn .. see pic called "Melted Wire" This is indeed the ground wire colored brown. Basically a big collection (~10) of thin brown wires become the thick negative cable which I had attached. I verified this with a multimeter and resistance was "0 ohm" w.r.t ground cable end which attaches to battery.
http://www.k-bikes.com/gallery/files/5/9/9/4/MeltedWire.jpg

I can fix this by wrapping in insulation tape and heat shield tape. Can see anyother burn anywhere else.

Sparking/Cackling Sound:

I traced this to the "Throttle Position Sensor" .. see pic entitled the same. When the battery terminals are connected correctly (all of them) and I turn the ignition ON, I can hear this "sparking sound" coming from the TPS area.
http://www.k-bikes.com/gallery/files/5/9/9/4/ThrottlePositionSensor.jpg

- When Tank is on bike, and everything is electrically connected, the sound is heard sometimes

- When Tank is off the bike completely and electrically disconnected, the sound can be reproduced everytime.

Question: Is this sound normal ? Any pointers ? The manual talks about the TPS using the 5v supply and not 12v
 

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Kalakar, as Jerry said - you were a hero to post what you did for others to learn from. We all make mistakes, but I have to say, this one is there waiting for others. I hate stories like yours where you have to know something simple to avoid mega damage to your bike or at worst watch it go up in smoke. Jerry had a point about not taking out the battery, but the electrical system design shouldn't have let this happen.

I reflected on what I posted about permanently connecting the 2 grounds with a short copperlink so you have one 'battery terminal'. Yes that would do the job, but BMW perhaps should have wired the starter solenoid ground (one of those brown wires I suspect) directly to that big negative ground wire. Then you couldn't start the bike without that ground connected. The other thing that might have helped is if they'd only used the frame for the starter return ground and kept everything else isolated back to the battery wires. If they had done this though, anybody adding an accessory and making a frame ground would have the same problem. So BMW if you are listening, at least separate your starter solenoid ground from the frame and connect to the main battery earth NOT the second 'everything else' terminal. By the way, multimeters tell you the wire is continuous, but not if it can take the current or has damaged insulation.

Kalakar, back to sorting out your problems. I wouldn't rely on tape and shrink as you suggest. Vehicle wiring is both multi-stranded and with thick pvc insulation to resist vibration. Buy yourself some new wire the same guage and strands from a car shop, preferably the same general colour and re make the terminals with crimp and solder if that's what they used on oem. You should try to make your repair look and work as good as it was before the burnout. Be very careful to check wires running close as well. The same is true when 'wrapping up' the loom. I've not found pvc tape that good as it tends to unwrap. You can now get something called 'self amalgamating tape' which you wrap around, then heat afterwards to make it all stick together. If you must make an inline join, solder it and use layers of heatshrink over the joint.

Sorry I can't help much on the noise you are hearing. Burnouts can either be limited to one wire if you are lucky, or do more damage which is why stripping off the loom wrap for a visual may be a pain, but is the only real way to be confident as you don't know how badly insulation on adjacent wiring has been damaged. I would still resign to the visual, but if you want to feel better you can connect an analogue meter (10-20 amps), or resistor current shunt and 'scope in series with the battery positive and with ignition on, WITHOUT PUSHING THE STARTER see if you have intermittent current (arcing). AM portable radios work well to detect and locate arcing as well. I would be 50% sure that only negative wiring up to the first frame ground would be at risk, but do some sample checks by pulling off the outer loom tape upstream.

Take your time, be thorough, get help if you aren't confident as complex electrics on these bikes is really what keeps them going. Anything to do with the computer management is way over most of us, so don't try thinking voltages, ultimately everything comes from the battery positive and negative. If the bike is running with normal throttle response, your wiring damage may be limited - but you can't be sure. You should be checking that everything electrical is still working properly. Your alternator and charge regulator is also vulnerable to this problem.

When you think you have the wiring repaired and the bike is rideable, go get a 1/2 hour Moditec diagnostics check done.



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