1989 FLTC Voltage Drop / No Start / No Spark, Help?

Discussion in 'Electrical' started by Magister, May 10, 2010.

  1. Magister

    Magister Member

    ** Warning: Long Post! Please, don't be afraid though, I could use your help! **


    Long time no post! Real life has come along and kicked me in the backside the last couple of months.

    Some of you might remember that around January of this year I was posting about a "no start" situation with my 1989 FLTC. If not here is a link to the thread here on HDTimeline: 1989 FLTC Not Starting Intermittent Problem - Harley Davidson Community

    Well, for the last few months the old bike has been running beautifully. I've taken her on several very long trips, put several thousand miles on it and it hasn't missed a tick. It started up, first time, every time. I was honestly quite impressed with the old thing.

    Unfortunately ... that all came to an end last week. Everyone was so very helpful the last time around (without everyone's help I doubt I could have fixed it), so I'm back hoping to bounce this off some of you more experienced mechanics out there. I'm quite frankly a bit stumped.

    How the Problem First Presented Itself

    I was on short trip to run an errand (less than 20 mi.) when on the way home I got stuck in horrible bumper to bumper traffic waiting for a light to cycle enough to get through. The bike had run fine on the way out, and on the way back up to this point. For what it matters, I'm in Orlando, FL and it's summer. It was hot (around 95 degrees out). After sitting at the light for several cycles (10 minutes or so), I went to give it a little throttle to move up with traffic, when the bike coughed hard, and stalled. I clicked it in to neutral, and went to restart it. It turned over, but wouldn't kick on. It did the "RRRRrrrRRRRrrrrRRR" (yeah, go ahead and laugh) sound. I switched off the ignition, and the start/stop switch, turned it back on and tried again. This time I was rewarded with the loud "click" of the starter solenoid engaging but the engine did not try to turn over. This was the same main symptom I had from the previous thread (see link above).

    I pushed the bike off to the sidewalk and tried it a few more times. Most times I received the "click", a few more times I got the "RRRrrrRRr", there didn't seem to be a reason for one or the other. I eventually tried to kill myself and pushed it the last mile home. 1200 pound bike + 95 degree weather + 1 idiot = I thought I'd die. But I got it home.

    How it's Presented itself Since

    Since I've gotten the bike home it has mainly presented itself with the same "click" I've come to really, really dislike. However, on several occasions, or usually when I attempt to jump start the bike from my truck (I know not always a good idea, but it helped troubleshoot last time) I get the "RRRrrrRRR" engine turn over, but no attempt at starting (no spark).

    What I have Tried So Far

    In an attempt to work through the problem, I have tried several things to isolate it, with more or less success as you'll see below. I will try to give a complete list here, but I'm sure I'll miss something.

    1. I tested the voltage on the battery. I also slow charged it to full just to be sure. It reads around 12.5 volts. I also had it load tested at the local auto parts store - just to be sure. It passed.

    2. I've verified that all wires, and connections replaced last time are still in good working order. They all appear fine, and voltage tests across all wires were good. Voltage drop was around .2 to .5.

    3. I tested the starter relay, and found it was fine. I did however replace it with a brand new one I had on hand "just in case" to make sure that wasn't the issue.

    4. In testing the wires, and relay I noticed the main circuit breaker (two post, 15A) was getting pretty hot. Since I know this could mean a bad connection I cleaned and reseated the wires (red wire that runs up the harness to the console, black wire that runs from the post on the starter, and a little black wire that runs to voltage regulator). After reconnecting all the wires it was still running hot. Resistance tests showed it was under .4 however I replaced it regardless with a spare. The breaker (and associated wires) are no longer getting hot.

    5. I began inspecting the wires that make up the starting circuit and tested the red wire up to the console. I found that the circuit breaker in the console where the red wire connects (also where the red wire from the ignition switch was also getting hot. I replaced that breaker as well. It is no longer getting hot. Voltage tests read fine.

    Here are some symptoms I'm currently experiencing I could use some help with:

    6. While working in the console I noticed that the breaker next to the one I replaced was also getting very hot. A voltage test read fine, but it was burning up. This is the breaker that has the wires from the start button and start/stop (kill) switch on the right handlebar attached to it. I traced the grey wire from the breaker to the wiring harness and found that the grey wire was also very hot (either from being connected to the breaker or vice-a-versa).

    7. I cleaned and reseated the wires on the breaker. Disconnected, cleaned and reconnected the wiring harness connector. It still got hot.

    8. In testing where the bad connection might be, I disassembled the switch housing for the start button, and start/stop switch. It is a newer switch (replaced at some point prior to me owning the bike). It appears visibly ok.
  2. Magister

    Magister Member


    9. In continuing to test, I discovered that the breaker, and the wire running to the harness do NOT get hot if the start/stop switch is in the "off / stop" position.

    The ignition switch is on "start" (it's one of the old style that has a "start" setting and a separate "lights" setting you switch to after the bike is running). There is voltage to the breaker, but it and the grey wire are cool to the touch.

    Once I switch the start/stop to "on / start" after a few seconds the breaker and corresponding grey wire begin to get very hot. The wires from the switch itself (run from the switch on the handlebar to the wiring harness in the console) however only get mildly warm.

    I am working under the assumption that there is something wrong with the "start / stop" switch. Can anyone provide any suggestions on why the breaker and wire only get hot when the switch is in the on position? I know this switch also sends current / signal to the ignition coil when in the on position (this relates to another symptom below). Could that be the bad connection causing the breaker to get hot?

    10. Once I noticed that it only got hot when in the "on" position, I thought I'd test the voltage through the "start / stop" switch to see what was going on. With the ignition switch set to "start" and the start/stop switch in the "off" position and taking the voltage reading from the negative on the battery to the soldered point on the switch the voltage reads close to the batteries reading, and there is minimal voltage drop (lets say 11 volts) however once I put the switch in the "on / start" position voltage drops to 6 or 7 volts. When I turn the switch back to the "off" position voltage returns to normal.

    I was not able to repeat this reliably, but I also tested the voltage from the battery to main circuit breaker (the new one) with the start/stop switch in the "on / start" position and the voltage was reading at the low 6-7 volts. Once I turned the switch to the "off / stop" position the voltage returned to normal. I've not been able to duplicate this because the battery needed recharging.

    In doing this several times to ensure it was repeatable I've noticed that the battery voltage had been significantly depleted, requiring me to put the battery back on the charger to top it up again.

    In a different train of thought I wanted to find out why it didn't start when the bike did the "RrrrrRRrrr" in place of the "click". In the past (last time it just clicked - see earlier thread) when I jump started the bike, or bridged from the battery to the starter solenoid the bike would usually start right up. This time, when I do either the bike just rewards me with the "RrrrRRrrrr" without any indication there is a spark.

    11. Given the above, before even getting in to the wiring testing, I tried to do a simple "spark test". That is, I carefully removed a spark plug, reinserted it in the spark plug wire, held it carefully with the grooves touching the engine block (grounded) and tried to start the bike. I had hoped to see the clean blue spark, but did not. I tried with both plugs, but there was no spark on either.

    There was no spark in either instance - when the bike tried to turn over "RRRrrrrRRRrr") or when I just got the "click" of the starter solenoid.

    Given this, and because I do not have any specialized tools for testing the ignition system, I have to assume that I am not getting a spark at all.

    Just to be sure, I did try another set of spark plugs I had on hand (one set Harley, another NGK) neither sparked.

    At this point I don't know if the no spark issue is related to the "click" issue, or if I have two separate issues going on. According to the wiring diagram, I know that the start/stop switch sends current / signal to the ignition coil when in the "on" position.

    I do not know if it is the voltage drop ("click") issue causing the no spark condition, or the no spark condition causing the voltage drop issue.

    So, I would GREATLY appreciate any feedback you all could give. I'm a bit stumped, and could use some guidance. To get the ball rolling here are a few questions:

    Could there be something wrong with the ignition coil or ignition module that is causing the other symptoms, or is it the other way around?

    Would a faulty start/stop, start button switch module cause the no spark condition?

    Could the one circuit breaker that is getting very hot cause the whole mess?

    Is it none of these and could a faulty ignition switch (of which I haven't really been able to test) cause this whole mess?

    Next Steps Planned

    1. Read all your wonderful suggestions!

    2. Replace the one circuit breaker that is getting hot (grey wire). It's a cheap way to eliminate that as a culprit. I have to wait for Harley to get one in - tomorrow or Wed.

    Thanks in advance for any help, suggestions, or ideas ... they are all appreciated.

    - C
  3. glider

    glider Veteran Member

  4. Magister

    Magister Member


    Thank you for the reply. Umm .. I think there might be a little confusion. The main breaker on this model bike is a 15A (as are all the other breakers in the console - all four of them), not a 40A (or the now 50A that the recall says to switch to in post 2000 bikes).

    This is a 1989, and not part of the recall as far as I know. Did I miss something?

    I had thought to switch to a 30A in place of the stock 15A breakers but was concerned that being an older bike I might inadvertently blow something else out.

    .. as for the longest post... Go me! At least I managed to achieve something today. :newsmile058:
  5. Magister

    Magister Member

    Nothing Guys?

    So far, I haven't been able to make much progress. Harley did not have the circuit breaker in (none of the three locations here in central Florida), so I've had to order it in. While I was at it, I went ahead and ordered a new stop/stop, start button module (23.00 from Vtwin), just in case.

    We'll see how this goes when the parts come in.

    Any thoughts guys?
  6. hntwrobin

    hntwrobin Active Member

    Just a thought did you check the stator plug? I have seen that before
  7. Magister

    Magister Member

    Although no one has really replied this time around (thanks to those that did), I thought I would post an update just in case someone stumbles on this thread in the future. Maybe, just maybe it will help them out.

    After spending way too many hours troubleshooting the problem I finally broke down and took it in to one of the most reputable mechanics in my area. I figured it was time for someone who knows much more than me to take a crack at it. The guy I ended up taking it to happens to specialise in these older bikes. My local dealer actually sends all the older bikes that come through their door to them because as they told me, "Once they are over 10 years old, we don't like working on them - you can't get parts and our mechanics don't know the bikes." Figures. Anyway.

    Side Note - I should point out the guy who runs the service area at my dealer is a fantastic guy. He even arranged for one of his guys to pick up my bike and tow it to this other shop free of charge. I'd highly recommend them to anyone under normal circumstances.

    Before I took it in, I worked through the "click" no start issue. I replaced:

    A. Main circuit breaker
    B. Ign. circuit breaker
    C. Con. circuit breaker
    D. Starter Relay

    As it turns out the other problem - the one the mechanic fixed - contributed or caused this other.

    What the Mechanic Found

    My suspicion that it was the ignition module or the ignition coil was correct. It was BOTH!

    The guy before me had installed a Dyna S Ignition module on the bike. He did NOT however install the correct 5ohm coil - he simply left the stock 3ohm one in place.

    Apparently according to the mechanic this will work, for a time. Eventually, this causes the module and the coil to burn out / melt. Well, they did - completely. This in turn blew some breakers. No surprise.

    So, long story short (I know a novelty) he replaced the module and coil with new Dyna S parts. Couple hundred bucks, but the old girl is grumbling again. Just in time for 100 degree weather.

    So there you go.

    Here is the annoying thing. I looked up the installation manual for the Dyna S ignition module for my bike, and in BIG BOLD LETTERS it says - do not use the stock coil for street riding. It seems the guy before me couldn't read, or didn't care.

    Moral of the story - follow the instructions. They're there for a reason.
  8. Jack Klarich

    Jack Klarich Guest

    Good for you now that you got her running again:D
  9. maine-e-axe

    maine-e-axe Junior Member

    I would jack it up and put it in 3rd gear and TRY to turn the rear tire to see if the motor will turn over. The 40/50 amp breakers are in side the fairing I'm pretty sure, the 15 amp ones are the fuses. Make sure the motor turns over first.
  10. NEWHD74FAN

    NEWHD74FAN Experienced Member Retired Moderators

    Magister, glad you got it sorted. Sorry I did not get to see your post before today, and you already have resolved the problem. Yeah...when you said the wires going to and including the breaker got hot ONLY when you had the run switch on...got me thinking about something shorted or grounded out in the ignition module/coil...just did not figure it would be BOTH being caused by aftermarket new Dyna II module change and using old stock coil. :bigsmiley18:

    As you said, it pays to know what was done and have read the relevent service note telling the installer NOT to do what he did. As I learned since my younger troubleshooting days, read and understand installation and test procedures fully before undertaking the task. Being prepared includes having the materials, test & installation equipment and a game plan/schedule before undertaking a task...!

    BTW, have you been taking lessons from RichardS on how to scribe such a detailed post...man that took me a while to get thru it! :D