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Hi All: I've owned a 2003 Blackbird with 15k miles on it for about a year now and it's in nearly pristine condition. Runs like a top and never had any issues. Last week I headed from Toledo, OH to Walton, Ky to attend the Total Control riding course. Basically, it's one long day in a baking hot parking lot learning proper throttle and cornering, and such. Each maneuver is at pretty slow speeds and there's lots of time sitting in idle with the bike running, waiting for your turn to go. 

 

Each time I sat motionless I watched the digital temp creep up, up, up. Highest temp was around 240 degrees fahrenheit. Later in the day I went to start the bike and the battery struggled mightily turn the engine over and then crapped out. I ended up having to push start the bike to finish out the afternoon and it always fired right up via manual pushing/ clutch popping. I assumed the old battery was starting to die and would need to be replaced. At the end of the day I purchased a portable jump starter and stuffed it in my backpack and headed about ten miles on the highway to my hotel for the night. As soon as I hit the highway, the bike immediately cooled down to normal operating temp (177-183 degrees).

 

The next morning I had jump starter out, assuming the battery was dead and I'd have to jump it to get home -but the bike fired right up. I rode home (4 hours on the highway) and stopped twice for gas/break. Each time the bike fired up without issue and ran fine all the way home. 

 

Once home I took the battery out and took it to Autozone to have them check it. Status: Battery is fine and charged to 100%. A little research here and I checked the regulator/rectifier for any signs of excessive heat or burning but all wires and reg/rec look perfect. There are no smells of anything burnt. I also read on here there were some underpowered reg/rec used by Honda with first gen Birds but I have a 2003 and my reg/rec has the cooling fins all over it and I heard issues with this model year were rare.

 

Finally to my question: I'm leaving in a few weeks for an extended trip and am now a little skittish about reliability. Everything runs fine now and there are zero issues starting bike with existing battery. Could my issue have just been the result of a hot/unhappy bike and I'm fine as long as I don't sit motionless for an extended period of time or should I be preemptively changing out the reg/reg, stator and/or battery?

 

Any thoughts of advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

John from NWO

Edited by John from NWO
word correct

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Low speed, idling, high temps equal a lot of fan use and not a lot of charging going on. This equals a greatly discharged battery with poor starting performance and potentially poor overall performance, including dim lighting and guage errors, possibly even an FI light.

 

Your story indicates that your charging system and battery are probably in good shape, because you had absolutely no problems once you were out of the problematic situation.  It would appear that a working charging system was able to charge and maintain a good battery, and there were no further problems under normal operation.   I don't feel that you need to be changing out any of the charging system.

 

Things to consider:

 

Multiple accessories can drain the battery, as well as high output lighting.

 

Because the charging system is arguably the weakest system out of all, its a good system to monitor.  A voltmeter of some sort is handy.  If you have accessory plugs, you can find cheap voltmeters on ebay for most any sort of connection.  And if you run a radar detector, several brands do have the ability to monitor voltage.  A cheap voltmeter may not be critical use accurate, but it will most probably be consistent in reading, so what you're looking at the voltmeter for is trends or variations from norm.

 

If you bought a jump pack to carry on a motorcycle, its probably one of those mini lithium packs.  You have that as backup, so you won't get too stranded in the mountains.  Keep your battery pack charged.  Also, if you're traveling with friends, remember that many bikes have similar batteries, and you can swap a discharged one out into a bike with a good charging system and keep going.  And lastly, if your charging system is gone wonky, you can pull your headlight fuse and eliminate as much as half your static draw.

 

How was the Total Control course?

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It's pretty well fucked, sorry.  As a long time member it is my duty to help out the new guy, I'll give you $50 for it as is.

 

 

The bike at idle doesn't charge much, and having the fan running constantly might have been just enough to take it over the edge to slowly discharging.  Plus everything heat soaking raises the resistance of the regulator, stator, starter, etc. making charging and starting a little worse.  Your experience doesn't surprise me and I wouldn't be too worried about it.  Put a volt meter on the battery and see what you get for idle and off-idle voltages.  I'm not near my manual or bike to get exact numbers, but if it's over 13v at idle while not super heated and rises to around 14v when you bring the revs up a little the bike's probably fine.  Someone else will chime in with proper numbers for testing.

 

If you have the patience to let it get super hot again for more testing; the voltage should drop when the fan comes on and might slowly keep dropping after that, and it should jump up when you rev it a little.  No matter how hot things get it should effectively charge once over 2k RPM if everything's right.

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How old is the battery?

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Everything Joe/Rock Me said was on point.  With your back up pack, I wouldn't worry about it.

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2 hours ago, XXBirdSlapper said:

How old is the battery?

That would be my question too. Sounds like the bird is working just fine now but bike batteries can be fickle once stressed. If it's an older battery I would replace it just for peace of mind and cheap insurance so your trip doesn't get jacked up.

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1 hour ago, Biometrix said:

That would be my question too. Sounds like the bird is working just fine now but bike batteries can be fickle once stressed. If it's an older battery I would replace it just for peace of mind and cheap insurance so your trip doesn't get jacked up.

Exactly. A couple years back zero posted a thread about his battery. I advised he voltage, and load test it and not overthink it. Afterwards I did just that before leaving on a four day trip. All was good. We took a short ride up a really washboarded road to stop, rest, and check out the view. My bird was about stone dead when we went to leave. Perhaps the rough ride contributed to some cells shorting out in the battery....we did manage to push start it but it barely ran, and backfired profusely. Luckily I took the other bike to a Napa store 45 minutes away before they closed on a friday night. They had a charged battery for the bird..I rode back and we changed it out in the dark. It's still kicking....

  That changed my opinion on the reliability of testing procedures and old batteries.

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...AGM - absorbed glass mat. I have them in all my bikes. I replaced the first one last year; well over a decade old.

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My last battery was a Big Crank from Amazon.  I’d have to see how long ago I got it, but it’s been the best battery I ever had.

 

The rectifier can go at any time, but it’s easy to test if it’s working properly.

 

The stator can fail, and the only warning is the draining battery when it should be charging.  Had that happen mid trip.  No indication of fault before it happened.  Hard to test unless you can read the output wires on the stator.

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Thanks everyone -but especially rockmeup for his prompt response. That makes sense and also explains why everything returned to normal after I was able to get back on the highway and move some air and generate some higher RPMs.

 

Rockmeup: The Total Control course was pretty good but with 10 or so riders in the class and only 2 instructors, there was a lot of time sitting on your bike waiting whole minutes for your chance to do a short course (hence, my dead battery, apparently). I really liked the instructors and learned some good stuff but too much waiting in line and not enough actual riding.

 

Superhawk996, unfortunately I can't accept your generous  offer of $50 for the bike. It's tempting but there is sentimental value to consider, as well. I know I'll be kicking myself later, but I'm going to have to pass.

 

Aunt Zero, I'll take a look at Big Crank batteries on Amazon before next trip.

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Mine has a Battery Tender brand LiFePo4 battery from Amazon.  I've abused it and it keeps on working.  It's smaller, WAY lighter, and more powerful than a lead acid battery.  First time I hit the start button I was shocked, it spun so fast I could barely hear the compression strokes.

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Regarding the battery, my radar detector has a voltmeter, I'm tapped into the wiring in the front cowl, so maybe it is not 100% accurate.  When in traffic and the fan is running the voltage drops quickly below 12v.     They just don't have the output at low RPM to run the fan and light.     I have a cut out switch on my headlight which makes a huge difference, any time I'm in heavy traffic, I kill the light.

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Any time you tap into a wire that's supplying power to other stuff the reading is going to go down when those things are being powered.  Your radar detector voltage reading is likely lower than battery voltage, but once you know what's normal you'll also know what's not normal.  If the voltage suddenly drops with the fan on but then stays there the charging system is keeping up, if it keeps creeping down then it's pulling more than the charging system can supply.

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Ideally, direct wire to the battery with the power flow running through a relay switch that is connected to switched power.  I had the Fuzeblock to do this for me as I had several items plugged in for power, but the battery is your best source for an accurate reading.  I know cheap relays are available at auto part stores, but I don't know if someone makes a better one suited for motorcycles.

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Without adding a relay the best place would probably be at one of the factory relays or at a fuse.  You could use a voltmeter with the bike running to see which gets the best reading.  My guess would be something with a low power draw like the taillight fuse, assuming it's switched power, should get you pretty close to battery voltage.  If there's a main relay, I've never paid attention, that should do a decent job.

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I have a digital voltmeter connected to the battery (switched) and an illuminated headlight off/on switch (less load at starting - yeah, it does make a difference on my low mileage '99 XX). I've noticed that at near idle (1100rpm or so) the charging level stays in the 12v range, fluctuating slightly (12.5 - 12.8v). Add a hundred rpms or so, and it rises to 13v+, making the battery happy again. This is normal; the factory shop manual lists the idle speed as 1100rpm (plus or minus 50rpm), but that's just below the threshold to effectively charge the on-board battery.

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21 hours ago, ironmike said:

and an illuminated headlight off/on switch (less load at starting - yeah, it does make a difference on my low mileage '99 XX).

Honda knows this and that's why it was wired to turn off during cranking from the factory.   Unless '99 is different than the others, I haven't owned one.  It's rare to find a bike that doesn't turn the headlight off while cranking.

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The earlier model Birds in Europe came factory with a headlight on/off switch. If you find a Euro model switch pod it is plug and play on all US models. I have one on my Bird. They were in demand back when HID was hot. The main problem with long life with HID headlights was the limited number of on/off cycles before giving up the ghost. 
When you turn the ignition on, the HID headlight fires up, hit the starter button HID turns off and then back on after engine fires. The Bird fires up easily so usually only 2 on/off cycles per start but with the switch installed it is only necessary to turn the HID on after the engine is running. My only problem is that many times I forget to turn the headlight on after starting up during the day! Illegal to ride without the headlight on. I have been stopped and talked my way out of a ticket without disclosing I have a switch.

 

Edited by John01XX

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On my '99, the headlight didn't go out, but merely dimmed (clearly still drawing current) at starting. When I upgraded to HID (hi/lo) I added the switch - being illuminated helps, otherwise I'd likely forget more often than not to to switch the headlight on, like John mentioned.

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Likewise with my ‘99 XX.  RXX thought it was odd, but I’ve never seen the headlight go out when starting.  When I wired in the HID system, I saw nothing remarkable about the circuit.  It was a plug and play install.

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I've owned a '97 and '01, both turned off.  Every other bike I've owned that I can think of turned off.  Odd that the '99 is different, didn't expect that.

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