Tag Archives: Maintenance

There is a light that never goes out…

For some reason unknown to Western capitalist running dogs, you can take the keys out of an MZ but leave the lights on. So a few weeks ago when I was in a rush to get to a meeting at work I accidentally did this and came back to a flat battery.

Put the Optimate on it in the garage, came back a few weeks later (I know, but it was winter and I’ve done my time riding in the cold and the wet) and it was flat again. So I brought it into the kitchen (the battery, not the bike) and put it on the car charger.

Built its strength back up, put it back on the bike, this time it held its charge but the red light that warns you that your revs are too puny to run the system wouldn’t go out.

I treated the bike to a new battery just in case.

Thanks, said the bike, but I’m just going to carry on with the warning light.

Now, it seems to me that you should be able to run a bike with a flat battery even if you can’t start it, but it’s different for MZs. In a rare burst of good luck, the new battery had just enough juice in it to get back to the garage and I thought I would see if the headlights brightened when I revved the engine, because I have a vague memory of that revealing whether or not your charging system was shot.

Turned the lights on and the engine stopped.

Yes, we have a problem.

My grasp of electrics is about the same as the Wingman’s grasp of particle physics. I know that a circuit has to go power – switch – component – earth, though sometimes on the MZ it goes power – component – switch – earth. If the circuit isn’t working you have to check that the fuse isn’t blown, that the wires aren’t broken, and that the thing that is supposed to be working isn’t borked.

If that’s a light it’s easy. If it’s a thing with six diodes on it, not so much.

What a man can do, remember?

I have a multimeter, a wiring diagram and the might of motorcycle Twitter behind me.

How to keep your Volkswagen Alive For Ever” recommends that before starting a new task you should grok the scene. Robert Heinlein is rather out of favour these days, but that’s no reason not to take the advice.

The charging circuit includes the battery, the generator, the regulator and the rectifier. The regulator and the rectifier are under the seat. Like Ant and Dec, one of them has a large shiny dome and I’m never quite sure which is which.

The Blue Book has three pages of instructions on what to test if you’ve got a red light that won’t go out. The Haynes manual has the same but their tests require you to “unsolder” several components – I have a soldering iron but not an unsoldering one, so I am not keen on this!. The Blue Book’s tests just need a bulb and crocodile clips. And by fortunate chance (and an afternoon in a Trabant graveyard having my leg humped by a Jack Russell) I have an actual IFA test lamp. I dig this out in the hope that the bike will feel more inclined to co-operate with the testing equipment of its people.

Electrical fault-finding needs ample supplies of tea, a good desk lamp and a notebook. I’m trying to learn to love it as it’s nice to do some work on the bike that doesn’t leave me clarted with shite or bleeding.

I got to play with my brucie bonus caliper, which would have been better if I’d remembered how to read the vernier scale and hadn’t had to resort to just putting the brush on top of the ruler part to make sure it was longer than 9mm (dear reader, it was.)

I got to refresh several fuses (never mind stockpiling bog roll, I’m going to have to clear Halfords out of 15amp blade fuses if this needs doing again).

Apart from me short-circuiting things several times, nothing actually seemed to be broken.

And then it just started working again. Wiggling the Regulator (or Rectifier) about resolved some sort of earthing problem and that was us.

I’m a great believer in quitting while I’m ahead. Yes, it would be good to understand a bit more about what was wrong and why it’s not wrong any more but I’ll just make sure I’ve put the Communist Test Lamp into the tool kit and keep a scan of the test pages on my phone

Hasta la Victoria Siempre! ( to mix my marxist metaphors).

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All isn’t quiet, on New Year’s Eve.

When I was about twelve my best friend and I went on a bicycle adventure to visit her nanna in the next town. I’m pretty sure we cycled up the disused railway track, so we weren’t in peril from inattentive drivers. It was a magnificent, Enid-Blyton-style adventure and we probably had cake and lashings of ginger beer at our destination before returning home, triumphant.

To receive a bollocking from my dad. What was I thinking, going on a journey on a bicycle in inadequate mechanical condition? Slightly baffled pre-teen me was puzzled by the revelation that bicycle maintenance was one of my chores, and also couldn’t see anything particularly wrong with the bike, apart from a slightly wonky front light, which we didn’t need as we weren’t cycling in the dark.

Parade duly pissed on, I gave up bicycle adventures.

But I pondered the lesson anew while I waited in the rain for the recovery wagon a couple of weeks ago. If I had packed a can of WD40, we would probably have been able to get going again – a point proven by my trip home from Birmingham after Christmas, when we coughed majestically to a stop in the slush and quick deployment of the Smart Straw on all the under-seat wiring saved the day. If I had packed my waterproofs, I’d at least have had a less uncomfortable wait. And if I’d done my pre-trip maintenance, like my dad told me to, it might not have happened

My excuses are legitimate. I live in a spare room of a Rather Naice House. I have already created puddles of castor oil and Kurust on the front drive after some emergency 2CV maintenance. While the outfit would fit quite nicely into the conservatory, which would be an excellent winter fettling venue, I fear my tenancy would not survive. Also it’s dark when I get home from work.

But in these #twixmas days (now rebranded Chrimbo Limbo) I am at home in daylight and can get the toolkit out.

Electrical problems are a bastard and can only be resolved by being methodical. It’s really quite soothing. Cup of tea, camping chair, can of contact cleaner, big roll of kitchen towel, vaseline. It’s also a chance to get to know the bike, which I should really have done back in July but I was too busy learning how to ride it.

Everything under the seat is dirty, wet, and some connections are a bit loose. In the interests of checking my work as I go, there’s a fair amount of starting up and revving what is, if truth be admitted, a noisy, smelly 2-stroke.

On the fourth round of test firing, next door’s front door opens and the neighbour pops her head out. She’s an older lady and spends a lot of time in her garden. I cut the engine and wait for the smoke to disperse so that I can apologise, before realising she’s giving the thumbs up.

“Well done you! Great to hear it running properly.”

We have a chat about engines, cars and 2CV gearlevers. She recommends WD40 and Jizer as the two fluids a woman can rely on and gives me a couple of shop towels from her stash.

Never judge.

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Cracking, grommet

An excellent haul waiting for me at the post office this morning 🙂 The grommet and the satnav mount bring the Triumph back into play, while the cateye mounts mean that I'm legal (and safe) to ride the pushbike after dark again. And the Workshop Manual for the Africa Twin is a work of explanatory beauty. Though it does still say “Installation is the reverse of removal.”

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