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Ignition Issues with Aftermarket Systems

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David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

This is NOT a bash at our suppliers of aftermarket ignition systems, but rather what I have seen over the last 20 years working on my Airhead  A 1986 R80RT turned RS turned R100 about 8 years ago with single plug ignition system.....

1st had an issue with the Bean Can and replaced all was well for the first 5 years.  Then started running rough and determined it was the bean can advance units.

2nd system installed was Motorrad Elektrik Alpha Ignition System in 2009 (still a R80).  Worked Great, Rick from Mottarrad Eelktrik is great!!

3rd (Note) Unrelated - Installed EME 450W Charging System 2014.

4th (Note) Related - 2018 Up-graded from R-80 to R-100 with the Siebenrock piston kit.

At this point I noticed a brief stumble on acceleration but general operational issues were normal.  After T/S Carbs etc, called Rick that the 1st generation Alpha system could be the issue so ....

5th Installed the Alpha Version 3 in July 2018.  System worked great no stumble!!

6th Oct 2019 Bike Shutdown on the freeway only 1 mile away from the Dealer with Free Towing with AAA Premium.  Found the Alpha Ignition Module had failed.  Rick provided a loaner as the producer of the unit was becoming unreliable - Note this is at the very onset of CoVid folks!

Bike ran great up until now 12/2022 and had a Starter malfunction and it's nose case had failed (strange).  (It had approximately 80K on it).  Thought it was A.G.E. disease so Ordered a new one from EME.

6th Installed it and accomplished a good dry crank with plugs pulled ignition leads grounded for a good 15 seconds to make sure it was turning the engine smoothly.  Put the plugs back in and attempted to start, bike backfired and then the same, starter nose case cracked.  Snowbum articles referenced and found that a kickback from extreme advanced timing could cause this...

Called Rick, and now he is offering Wedgetail in which I am really on board with from what I've  heard as well as the video's they have on their web site.  Dilemma now is that this has been on order for 3 weeks now, and evidently the founder had back surgery and is having a slow recovery... (I wish him a speed recovery - My wife went thru this 3 years ago).

Everything hinges on his health apparently for parts to be shipped.  I told Rick that I will give it to 2nd week of January before deciding to go to another system that is better supported.  Rick seems to think there are a lot of people involved with this project and that somebody will pick up the slack at some point. but in any case, here are the options:

a) Wait....

b) Going back with the Bean Can (have a EME exchanged unit in house).

c) EME's Ignition system that can be fitted to the installed 450 Watt Alternator

d) Any other suggestions?

I do have my 1985 K100RT with 399K (purchased new) that is laughing at me right now...  but it has let me down on the road over the years as well!!!

Happy New Year everyone!!

 

 

 

 
Posted : 01/02/2023 11:46
Bob Thomas
(@bob-thomas)
Posts: 14
Eminent Member
 

I think the wedgetail is worth the wait for sure, that is my next one, when like you, my boyer dies

Bob

 
Posted : 01/02/2023 15:01
David Fliehr reacted
David Elkow
(@4949)
Posts: 278
Reputable Member
 

‘78 R100 here. I also own a failed Alpha Classic ignition (module issue). I don’t own a Wedgetail, but my guess is it is pretty top notch. The Wedgetail system for my pre-bean can bike is very similar to the Alpha system, but with a much better module as I understand.

Before the Wedgetail was introduced, I installed the EME / Sachse ignition (Bosch alternator), and have been running on that for about 17 months now. It has worked great. No complaints. Bike starts and runs very well with no hiccups at any time. 

 
Posted : 01/02/2023 19:18
David Fliehr reacted
David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

@bob-thomas contacted Langdon at Wedgetail Australia directly.  They are supporting this product directly until the US importer (a guy name Tom) is back on his feet whom then supports Rick at Motorrad Elektrik.

I was incorrect on whom is down and out  this is from Langdon "Its actually Tom in the US who is out of action.  Mark here in Australia is doing fine at the moment."

 

So at this point it looks like full speed ahead with the Wedgetail!!

 
Posted : 01/03/2023 11:03
David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

@4949 David - See my reply to bob...  Wedgetails are available directly so I'm going with the wedgetail...  Thanks for your input as it was useful in my decision making....

 
Posted : 01/03/2023 11:05
Richard Whatley
(@wobbly)
Posts: 2498
Member
 

I ran a Boyer for several years on a 1979 R100 without incident. They are not big in the BMW world, but they are huge in the Brit bike world. They make a very good unit that is supported in the USA. 

 

UPDATE 12/4/23

I should also add that the Boyer provides a reluctor that fits onto the bean can drive shaft in place of all the BMW auto advance unit hardware. Then, all the stationary pieces inside the bean can are replaced by a Boyer circuit board which holds a Hall Effect device. 

The controller, which is the size of a cigarette pack, can then be strapped to the frame near the voltage regulator. There is NO auto advance unit with this controller. (And thus no AAU maintenance.) The advance curve is programmed into the software inside the controller, and that curve is much more realistic for 21st Century gasolines.

This post was modified 3 months ago by Richard Whatley

[color=blue]Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
#15150[/color]

 
Posted : 01/03/2023 11:08
David Fliehr reacted
David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

All,

Received the Wedgetail system as well as the Rick's parts from Motorrad Elektric (Coil, Plug Wires and Plugs) finished the installation.  I also used the Toyota Starter from Bob Porters shop instead of the EME unit...   after all of this, started the bike up and it ran great....  The Wedgetail system defiantly is the best system I've had on the bike thus far as for starting, and smooth running.  Since I've had the bike I've went from the Bean Can, to Omega V1, then Omega V3.  The Australians really have gotten this right...  It's great to have so many aftermarket vendors out there supporting these old machines...  not to mention EME and the 2valve boxer shop...

 
Posted : 02/03/2023 16:40
Gerald Xavier
(@13755)
Posts: 7
Active Member
 

I am running a 1992 R100GS that had been retrofitted with the original Motorrad Electrik Alpha ignition system and Omega charging system. For years and thousands of miles the system had run great, until it didn't.  Last spring I noticed voltage fluctuations while riding and had the engine die on me while on the freeway.  Performed troubleshooting from the ignition switch through all the wiring and contacts, replaced suspect relays, ect...  and thought I resolved the problem.  During last summer's ride to Dawson City from Anchorage on D2D had similar voltage hick-ups so enlisted help and advice from several of the riders at D2D .... after several of the guru's did inspections and test rides, the problem couldn't be replicated so a took a chance on riding it back to Anchorage.  Long story short, the bike quit running and it had to be trailered back home.  Since then, I've reinstalled the original bean can, installed a new HD EME ignition module, rebuilt the carbs, synced them, etc. and got the bike running again.  I ran out of riding season to perform a thorough long-distance test ride, so not really sure I've solved the problem.  Questions I have are:  is it really worth it to to put out more cash for the Wedgetail system at this point?   Are there other things I should be looking at ... ie the coil (static test and resistance reads are good)?    Ang thoughts would be appreciated. 

 

 

 
Posted : 03/05/2023 12:58
Richard Whatley
(@wobbly)
Posts: 2498
Member
 

Gerald -

Sorry to hear of your problems. My thoughts for what they are worth....

• Both charging and ignition systems have been altered. So when the ignition stops, the first act has to be determining if the spark stopped because of an ignition fault, or because there's no electrical power? This can be exceedingly hard, especially on the side of the road. I don't envy your position one bit.

• To begin the research you might contact Motorrad Eliktrik just to see if there are any product updates, known faults, service bulletins, best practices, etc that might help. (I seem to remember reading about a third party charging system issue that had to do with the alternator rotor's internal insulator intermittently failing. Can't remember the brand, but it was reported here.)

• I'd also want to know more about who installed these systems. The average motorcycle mechanic knows nothing about electrical matters; the average owner even less. I'm qualified to say this because concurrent to the last 20 years of my evening motorcycle mechanic career, I was an engineer and researcher, designing and physically wiring military-grade electronics. I'm not saying this to "toot my horn", but rather to point out that the vast majority of mechanics and owners think that buying a "magic box" will cure their issue. But what I've learned is that ~95% of the utility of that "magic box" is determined by how the product is installed.

And additionally, on an Airhead you have several base-line issues to correct before installing a "magic box"... 1) from the factory: the bonding of the battery return at the engine and fuse connections, and 2) due to extreme age: connector oxidation. 

 

So this will hopefully give you some ideas. 

[color=blue]Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
#15150[/color]

 
Posted : 03/06/2023 05:36
Gerald Xavier
(@13755)
Posts: 7
Active Member
 

Thanks Richard for the follow-up and suggestions.  To your points, I have been in touch with Rick Jones and Motorrad Elektrik and we have covered most of the baseline issues you had mentioned, and he seems to think this is an ignition related issue based on the symptoms.  Along that line I wanted to go back to the original ignition to see if that cured the problem ... that was put in late last riding season so I haven't been able to really ride the bike long enough to see if the problem could be replicated.  I have checked the battery bonds and see no issues there, and checked as many of the other connections as I could access without cutting into the harness.  

I don't disagree that this could be a "base-line" issue, but I've checked the obvious stuff and have come up short on a cause.  As far as the charging system ... the omega system was put in about 10 years ago and has about 12,000 miles on it.  I've checked the rotor coils resistance, diode board diagnostics, and connections and no issues found.  

One other reason that I believe that it is an ignition issue, and possibly the ignition module, is that I installed resistance rated spark plugs with resistance rated spark plug wires.  I figured that out and made the corrections when I re-installed the original ignition components ... again, will see if this and the other changes fixed the problem once the roads are clear. 

When I first installed the Alpha Ignition system, I can say that the bike ran smoother and had better acceleration ... I was happy with the investment.  If indeed this was an ignition module problem and it is cured by going back to OEM and the addressing the spark plug resistance, my original question is: is it worth it to invest in the Wedgetail system?  and ... are there any other base-line things to check if the problem comes back .... battery (aftermarket Odyssey AGM), coil, etc.. 

Cheers ... Gerry 

 

 
Posted : 03/08/2023 19:05
Richard Whatley
(@wobbly)
Posts: 2498
Member
 

I am not familiar with or ever installed a Wedgetail EI, so I'm not qualified to answer your question. Australia and New Zealand seem to be a hotbed of aftermarket EI. I have used a company called Phazon from the same corner of the world, which I think very highly of. 

As I've possibly tried to explain, installing an EI from anyone is not nearly as simple as the instructions like to make it sound. The instructions are written as if the bike just rolled off the assy line last week and everything is sparkling-new and working great. That is hardly ever the case on a 45yo classic. As an example the older analog ignitions will run perfectly with a system voltage between 8 and 16VDC. The first-gen Boyer EI systems would break down below 12.1VDC and it sounded just like water in the fuel. So as your low-output alternator allowed the battery to go dead, the bike would begin to run VERY badly. 

Additionally, there are a LOT of basic pitfalls simply by changing over. The "points wire" that used to carry 12VDC at proabably 1/2A for points, now carries 3VDC at proabably 0.002A... which means connections must be absolutely perfect because the trigger impulses are nearly zero. On one EI which I installed, the trigger wires passed too close to the alternator. The magnetic fields generated by the alternator disrupted the digital impulses to such an extent that the 'sense wires' had to be shielded !! Now that one was a 'head scratcher' !

The very best course is to get the bike running perfectly on the old system. In that way you can rule out 99% of the carb, plug wiring,  compression issues, DC wiring, and battery issues. Then swap over one afternoon following the best digital wiring practices.

• You also need to be cognizant that with points internal ignition coil resistance means almost nothing. It's quite common to fit "high performance coils" to the older analog systems and think nothing of it. However, the way the transistorized digital trigger system works, the internal resistance of the coil is critical. So if the new ignition is expecting stock BMW coils, then you had better find out which model coil they expect and compare the internal resistance (the impedance) to what's on your bike. That's one of the larger analog-to-digital pitfalls.

 

Hope this helps.

[color=blue]Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
#15150[/color]

 
Posted : 03/11/2023 05:53
David Barnett
(@viejo)
Posts: 21
Eminent Member
 

Excellent thread!  I've been thinking about a Wedgetail for my R75/5 (still am) but this has added to the list of questions I need to research prior to pulling the trigger.  Especial thanks to Wobbly for the info on "alternator proximity" and matching the coil(s) to the selected EI system.

Viejo

 
Posted : 03/13/2023 19:47
Richard Whatley
(@wobbly)
Posts: 2498
Member
 

Posted by: @viejo

Especial thanks to Wobbly for the info on "alternator proximity" and matching the coil(s) to the selected EI system.

That specific issue occurred on a British-made 3-cylinder that used a permanent magnet rotor. The rotor (being a permanent magnet) never turned OFF, which was the source of the continuously strong magnetic field. The Airhead alternator is much more sophisticated, and the field strength of the rotor is constantly being adjusted by the voltage regulator.

I did not mean to infer that this was an Airhead issue, but rather these are the types of issues one can run into. 90 years of experience with analog ignitions can't prepare you for any of the surprises you can encounter with digital. Most Electronic Ignitions simply bolt on and run just fine on newer bikes, but EI has a way of unmasking flakey wiring and poor connections which can be prevalent on 40+ year old classics. 

 

[color=blue]Don't hide 'em, Ride 'em !!
#15150[/color]

 
Posted : 03/16/2023 12:09
David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

Back with an update on the Wedgetail install I did in Feb 2023.

Like I had said earlier, it had a very intermittent miss on accel from 2 to 3K RPM range.

 

In August the system went bonkers and thru Rick at Motrrad Elektrik did the Troubleshooting below....

History:
 
When the initial system was installed last Feb. it had a very occasional intermittent stumble in the 2-3K range on accel.  It was no big deal and the system ran great up until October when this showed up:
 
 
 
We thin thought the Single Controller unit (Module) or coil was the cause of this.
 
The removed Blue coil had 18.5K Ohms (Should be somewhere around 22K?)  Both that (the coil) and the Hi Tension leads were changed in Feb. 
long with the Wedgetail upgrade so I don't think the leads are at fault (tank still on the bike).
 
I replaced the coil with the latest BMW Airhead Post 1981 (Transistorized Ignition); 12 13 1 244 426 / BOSCH issue still  that unit rang out in specs. but the issue still existed.
 
Langdon then sent me a Single Controller unit (Module) in late October and when installed issue was the same.
 
Langdon recommended to ring out the ignition harness as well as the coil circuitry, and all checked out...I even removed the P/N 61 12 1 244 176 Module to trigger assy harness, rang that out which was good, then replaced it with a new one (after verifying that it was good as well).
 
With plugs out and grounded did this crank with both modules to see operation.
 
 
 
 
That seemed normal so both modules are good.
 
I then reinstalled the Bosch Bean can and BMW module which resolved the problem.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
Posted : 11/26/2023 12:46
David Fliehr
(@acftfliehr)
Posts: 20
Eminent Member
Topic starter
 

The bean can EME rebuild exhibits a slower deaccel when chopping the throttle, probably from the lag of the flyweights on deacceleration...  Am now waiting for Wedgetail to send a replacement trigger assy.  They have been slow to reacts as one of the founders, Mark Morrissey has presently passed and their operations are in a disarray.  I've been dealing with this situation for 2+ years and patience is wearing thin, my go with the EME solution on the Endurolast 450watt Alternator conversion.  Rick has recently installed that ignition on a customer bike and says it worked well.  The support is local so that may be my next step. 

Chime in if anyone has a better solution...

Dave

 
Posted : 11/26/2023 12:53
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