The penguin's motorcycling and Jeep blog

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Motorcycle Wiring, Part 2

Now, one reason why folks think that electrical wiring is brain surgery is because you need a buncha shit to do it. Tools and connectors and supplies, that is. None of what you need to do electrical wiring is all that hard to figure out, but there's just a lot of it. So let's start with some of the stuff that's going to be needed to add the fuse box to my Weestrom. Okay, here's the key:
  • A - bullet-type crimp-on connectors. Jap bikes love these things. I have more of a 'meh' connection to them. I have two sizes (large/small), male and female here, I get'em from Halted Supply Company here in Sunnyvale. These are used to hook two wires together, generally one from your gizmo and one to the "+" or "-" on your fuse block. Make sure that the female side (the side with the hole, not the side with the penis that sticks into your hole) is on the *battery* half of the wire for the "+" side, and on the *gizmo* half of the wire for the "-" side. That keeps your elves from escaping out the leaky penis on the end of the wire to your frame (a "short circuit") when you unplug the wire, heh!
  • B - Heat-shrink tubing. You slide this over a connection (*before* you crimp on the connector, heh!), then blow hot air on it with the heat gun. It then shrinks to make an airtight/watertight connection. You can also slide the bigger size over a bunch of wires and blow on'em to get'em all nice and tight together and protected from sharp stuff like brackets and such.
  • C - self-sticking electrical tape, sticky electrical tape. This keeps your elves from escaping from the wire (heh!). The self-sticking stuff is neater because you just stretch it over itself and it sticks to itself, but it doesn't leave sticky glue all over. Sometimes you just can't get down there to do it, so the sticky stuff is needed. Mostly you use electrical tape when you have to solder two wires together (no, not slobber, solder, I'll talk about that later). I don't do that soldering shit a whole lot nowdays, soldered connections on a bike tend to break because they're not flexible and the vibration gets'em.
  • D - dielectric silicone grease. This keeps your push-on connectors from arcing or corroding. Just poke a little into the hole to, err, lube, the female part (hmm, where have I done that kinda shit before?), then wipe a thin layer on the male part so it slides in nice and fine, and it'll keep your connector passing electrons just fine and dandy from one half to the other.
  • E - Crimping and wire stripping tool, yet *more* crimp-on connectors. The crimping tool lets you strip the plastic insulation off the end of a wire (the plastic insulation is what keeps your electrons from jumpin' ship, so obviously you gotta have it gone off the end of your wire if you want the electrons to pass thru the connection!) and then you use the tool to crimp the connector onto the bare end of the wire. I won't need this other set of crimp-on connectors for my current project, but this assortment from Radio Shack is a nice assortment to have around. Pretty much any kinda connector you need for any project, you'll find one there. But like I said, Jap bikes love them bullet connectors, so those blue and red bullets over on the left are what I use most.
  • F - the heat gun for the heat-shrink tubing! You can use a hair dryer instead of this thing, but my hair dryer is upstairs, not in my garage, and the heat gun concentrates the heat better, so I finally bought one. Use it on *low*, hi will strip paint off your bike!
  • G - The Volt-ohm meter. This is a cute little one from Radio Shack that lives in my toolbox because it has a nice little lid to keep it safe. Basically, when set to "Volt", it lets you know whether you have some nice little elves ready to do work. Put one lead on the "-" of the battery, put the other where you're supposed to have some "+" juice, and it should read somewhere between 12 and 13 volts. If not, you got somethin' wrong, a broken wire or something where your li'l elven electrons can't get from the "+" pole of the battery to where you're expecting them! When set to Ohms, you hook one lead to one end of a wire and the other lead to the other end of the wire. You ought to get a reading of 0 (zero) ohms or somewhere close to that. Anything higher, you either have a corroded connection somewhere, or a broken wire. More on actual use of this little gadget later.
Now let's look on the right side of my workbench:
  • H - some rubber grommets. I will be passing wires through a hole drilled in a tray to get them to the new fuse box. These grommets will protect the wires from being cut by the sharp plastic of the tray.
  • I - Some zip-ties. For zip-tying wires together or to frame tubes or shit to keep them neat and clean (and keep them from flopping around and rubbing against shit and rubbing through and shorting out or breaking).
  • J - Wire cutters. For cutting wires to the correct length. Duh. Also good for cutting the excess length of zip-ties off.
  • K - A 50 watt soldering iron. M - the solder. The fuse block that I bought has screw-down terminals. To do motorcycle wiring, you use multi-stranded wire, wire that's made of lots of little wires woven together, because solid wire vibrates and flexes and breaks. Multi-stranded wire squishes down in screw-down terminals and tends to pull out easily. So I am going to "tin" the ends of my wires -- I am going to heat up the end of the wire with the soldering iron until it is hot enough to melt solder applied to the top of the wire. This will leave the strands held together by the melted tin-lead mix (the solder) so that they don't squish down and pull out as easily when I screw the terminals down on them. Also protects the wires from corrosion somewhat (but I'll still use the dielectric grease here, yessiree!).
  • L - wire. Wire comes in a lot of sizes, called "gauges". The smaller the wire, the bigger the gauge number. A tiny thread-like wire used inside computers, so tiny it's hard to see, would be 28 gauge wire -- a big number. The big wire coming into your house from the electric meter, the one that's bigger around than your thumb, is so big that it's 00 gauge -- one zero wasn't enough, they had to add another 0 to it to let ya know it was *really* big! Most of what we do in motorcycle wiring is with 16 gauge wire, which will carry 15 amps of current pretty much anywhere on a motorcycle. What you're looking at is three spools of 16 gauge wire and one spool of 14 gauge wire, which is slightly bigger and might be used to carry juice to your headlights or from the battery to your fuse panel. The bigger the wire, the more of your little elven electrons it can carry without heating up and causing energy to get used to heat up your wire rather than to operate your gizmo. But most of the time, 14 gauge on a motorcycle is a waste. More on wire later on.
  • N - Some jumpers to use when testing things with the volt meter. On bikes that have the battery grounded to the frame, you can just touch one lead to the frame and one lead to what you want to test. But with the V-Strom, which has an aluminum frame that is not grounded (i.e. all wires have to go back to the distribution block for their ground), you have to get the "-" lead of your voltmeter back to the "-" on the battery, or else ain't nothin' happenin'. Thus this set of small alligator-clip jumper wires.
Not shown: The drill I'll use to drill a hole in the underseat tray, the screws I'll use to screw the fuse panel into the underseat tray, and the bag full of nuts and bolts that I'll search through to find the ones just the right size to hold the fuse panel to the underseat tray. (Yeah yeah, I know I ought to have those all sorted out according to size and shit, but so it goes).

Now, this all seems sorta overload. But all of these tools and supplies are pretty simple to use, and we're going to use most of them for the next part of the project. I'll show you what's what in actual action when we do that. So next, we get to install the fuse panel and then extend the wiring currently going up to the GPS to go to the fuse panel instead of directly to the battery. We are now entering into the meat of this project... but one where I take a big, BIG short-cut rather than do it all from scratch like I did the previous three times I did this project. You'll just have to wait and see to see what kind of short-cut I take, eh?

-- Badtux the Electrifying Penguin


Gordon said...

It all looks good, Bt. It's late and I might have more to say tomorrow, but it'll just be a little icing on a very nice cake. Ya done good.

As far as the practicality of troubleshooting (old phrase for 'diagnose' from $8/hr shop labor days), Harley-Davidson allows .2 hr (12 min) to find any one circuit problem, the cheap bastards. You're either good at it or you eat it.

One little thing: when I'm just going to test live circuits for voltage/no voltage, my several VOMs stay in the toolbox and I just use a test light. If you have to know exact values or are testing a batteryless system (there are test lights for that that have their own battery), the meters are good.

I knew a real old-school guy once who was a whiz at electrics and just used a length of wire. One end on 'hot', brush 'ground' with the other end. Sparks=voltage.

fafnir said...

Shockingly coincidental Google result. I bought a Garmin GPS unit this week and am faced with the task of wiring it to my 2007 WeeStrom ABS. I bought a Blue Sea fuse block this afternoon and Googled 'fuse block wiring' to leartn how to wire it up. Your article came up and is perfect. I think I could accomplish this task if you'd finish he story. You left off the description of the step by step instructions. My little elves have nowhere to go. Could you post the end of he story and thus complete the circuit?
Fellow Strom owner

BadTux said...

Sadly the wiring project is on hold while I pursue another project... the "get the bike serviced at the dealer" and "remove skidplate that's rubbing exhaust pipe" and "install new Givi crash bars" project :-}. I will resume the wiring project probably next week. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I understand. I'm in no hurry and will happily wait. It will be better to learn from how you do it and avoid a big mistake. Thanks!
A novice at motocycle repair

PDG said...

Also discovered this through Google. It's perfect for some upcoming work I'll be doing on my V after pilot error caused some sparks and smoke. Thanks for taking the time to detail the fundamentals in such an easy-to-digest way. Much appreciated!