Originally Posted by Plaka
Kinda depends on what you mean by "reliable". One view would be something that's limp-able if it screws up, so it's reliable in at least getting you to somewhere. The other view is it doesn't screw up so limp-ability is moot.
But absolutely anything can screw up. Old style points depend on two seals to keep functioning. If either fails you can be walking pretty quick. The points in a can are more robust, but you still have condenser failures. The electronics are far from fragile physically, but they get funny about big stray voltages and in some cases reversed polarities. I blew up the module in my Toy truck hooking a battery up backwards. Not wanting to spend more than $300 for another, I threw a chevy unit in (and a spare in the glove compartment). The original one was reputed to be good for 350,000miles and I had 275,000 on the truck so I wasn't crying. But I cut the old one open...talk about a brick shthouse. That thing was built! The BMW units are built the same way. The bike isn't any tougher on them than a car or my rattly old truck, in fact they run a bit cooler. And the exact same module is in a whole lot of cars. You don't see those cars piled up ton the shoulders with dead electronic ignitions. It's old hat technology by this point. Still, if you want dead nuts no-questions make-it-to-somewhere reliability you carry a spare the same way you carry spare points, condenser and a points file. Fortunately the electronic ignition takes up little space and can be changed in 5 minutes. And you're not limping, it's full go. The hall sender in the beancan is more problematic. Off the beaten path I carry a spare. Otherwise it's packed up in a small box like my spare rotor and a phone call will get it over nighted to me.
I'm looking at some beancan changes that will make replaceing a hall sender as simple as replacing points. The senders are small so at that point the stock electronic will be superior.
Some of the aftermarket electronics have everything fully accessible. A small set of spares and you can be back running, completely, in the event of any component failure.
My experience with the Dynas is they can get intermittent. Very annoying and tricky to diagnose.
I think people tend to prefer things they understand, and points are pretty easy to understand if you stay away from the electronic theory behind them. The electronic units are all mysterious black boxes with who knows what inside.
For myself, they can be as mysterious as they like. I can understand the inputs and outputs and how to mount them so that's all I need. Points are just too limited and I am saddled with enough stone age technology as it is (pushrods? I think my old mower has those...)
As an aside, I follow one of the IBMWR tech lists, the one for the newer bikes. Every sort of issue comes around. But not ignitions. I can't think of the last time I saw a question about an ignition problem. ABS seems to be endless headaches, but the ignitions don't give anybody trouble.
reliable means not leaving you dead on the side of the road. in the unlikely chance points actually fail .. points/condenser can be replaced without much fuss on the side of road. very seldom have I seen actual failure from a condenser.
most common failure point on airhead electronics seems to be halls and OEM 12v Bosch coils with a few brain box failures thrown in just to make tracking down problems more fun
seems some folks run BMW electronics for 150k+ miles with zero maintenance .. but LOTS of airhead folks are not so lucky...
chasing down intermittent electronic problems are no fun.
if BMW electronic ignition failures were rare .. there would not be a host of aftermarket electronic ignition systems out there.
a beancan with new points/condenser and Dyna Coil is just about durable as it gets.
a favorite combo for reducing maintenance seems to be adding an ignition booster. suppose to extend life of points to 15k+ miles.
only reason I've not added an ignition booster is .. there's been no real need... std points/condenser is working excellent!!! once a condenser with correct value is found, metal deposits no longer transfers between contact surfaces .. I've ran same points/condenser combo for 30k+ miles. when points was finally replaced, kept same condenser. real points grease was used.
drawback to points is as points rubbing block wears or contact burns .. points contact closes down. making now hard to find points grease even more important. adjusting points is a small price to pay for knowing you will not be stranded on side of road from ignition failure.
much rather carry spare points/condenser vs spare beancan w/new halls and ignition module