Persistent electrical problem/won't start

Discussion in 'Electrical' started by inverarity, Aug 10, 2009.

  1. inverarity

    inverarity New Member

    Very new to this forum and to motorcycle maintenance in general, and wanted to get some advice. I have a 97 883 Sportster that is having a persistent electrical problem. It will run just fine sometimes. But occasionally, when I go to start it up, there will be a click, and then the whole thing will short out. No lights, no odometer, nothing. Sometimes when this happens, I can turn it off and back on, and it will start up. More recently, after this happens, it's dead. I can top off the battery with a charger, and then sometimes it will start again. I recently replaced the battery, but it hasn't helped. I have on a few occasions been forced to jump the bike with a car (I now realize this is considered a Very Bad Idea, but it worked). Most recently, the car driver was required to rev the engine to get the bike started. The bike clicked several times, and then finally started. Any suggestions about where to start if I want to try fixing this myself? Any help would be appreciated!

  2. glider

    glider Veteran Member

    First thing would be to clean both ends of both battery cables. Id that doesn't do it , it's time to start looking at the starter, solenoid and starter relay and starter switch.

    Many posts here for the proper way to check things out...

    Electrical and Lighting Systems - Harley Davidson Community
  3. kemo

    kemo R.I.P

    I would be cleaning all of the battery connections, especially the grounds. Clean the cable from the battery to the solinoid and follow all the cables and clean the connections. At the grounds give a little scrape on the frame.
  4. billst

    billst Member

    sounds like a wire shorting out. i think the click you hear is the breaker kicking out. check your wires for a bare spot. i just had the same problem

    NEWHD74FAN Experienced Member Retired Moderators

    Probably NOT a short circuit (low resistance), more likely an intermittant open circuit (high resistance)...! Also check the fuses including the main one, being you said the bike acts like it is "Dead" no headlights, turnsignals or instrument lights. Scrape all contacts until shiny and then put a light coat of dielectric grease to inhibit moisture and corrosion. If you cannot get into the connectors, use light spray of contact cleaner, insert and remove mate several times; then put dielectric compound on male ends and reinsert.
  6. dangerdan

    dangerdan Junior Member

    I had the same issue with intermitting or delayed starts.

    I did what Kemo suggested and it helped a little, but the problem came back. My bike is 15 years old so after reading the Help Files I figured it was time to replace all ground and battery cables. That green wire that goes to the starter relay, I could not believe the dirt I pulled off that connector using a q-tip and contact cleaner.
    I also pulled the main breaker, cleaned it and finished all connection with di-electric grease.

    I also removed the front fairing and relocated all ground wires to an existing metal bar that I stripped of paint, pre drilled and secured with stainless star washers and nuts. All were sealed in di-electric grease.

    Before this was done I was lucky the bike would start if I left it sitting for 2 weeks. Last month when we had all that rain I let her sit for 4 weeks. She fired up right away with no delays after hitting the starter button.

    The point I am trying to make is that a low cuurent ground is not the sane as one that passes high current like the starter. If a cable meters good and you are still having problems, then it may be time to replace that cable.
  7. H-D Pilot

    H-D Pilot Member

    I saw this very thing happen once before on a Sporty. Someone had wired a 30 amp circuit breaker in series with the positive cable on the battery. Sometimes it would start, but mostly it would trip. No power anywhere til it cooled and reset. Good luck. ...HDP