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Old 04-08-2012, 03:30 PM   #1
fred-houston OP
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2001 R1150GS Alternator Problems

I believe that I have one of the rare occurrences of an alternator failure on a GS. It started a while back when I noticed the voltage drop on my bike when returning from a trip. I usually run around 13.7 to 13.8 volts, but while at a stop light it dropped to 12.5 volts and stayed there, even when I revved the bike. Shortly after I left the light the voltage went back to normal and stayed there.

Thought the problem may be the volt meter, so I bought a new one and installed it. The one I had on there has been on there for years exposed to the weather and such. I also checked the battery voltage and all was normal. Voltage was 12.5 across the poles, and when running I was getting 13.7 to .8. A few months ago I did install a new battery.

I took the bike out for another test run and for most the day the voltage ran normal, but on the way home the voltage again dropped to 12.5 volts, but again went back to normal in a short distance. Today I wanted to make sure it was not the volt meter, so I hooked a second volt meter directly to the battery and took it for another test run.

I went to have breakfast with some friends, and everything was normal to the restaurant. Volts were normal at 13.7 to 13.8. I did turn my Piaa lights on just for grins and noticed at highway speeds, my volts immediately dropped to 12.5. When I turned them off the volts went back to normal. I tried this several times with the same results.

On the way home from the restaurant, it started off normal, but as I drove the voltage started to drop by 1/10 increments until when I arrived home the voltage was running at 12.4 volts. I pulled the tank and check all the connections, battery and alternator wires all appear to be secure and normal. I tried to find where the battery ground connects to the frame, but that wire goes into a harness and I have yet to be able to trace it to the frame.

My gut feeling is I have a pending rare alternator failure. The bike is a R1150GS with about 50,000 miles. I looked to see how difficult it will be to remove the alternator and I can not tell if it needs to come out the top or the side. I did read about a R1200GS alternator being removed from the front.

So after this long winded explanations, my questions are; does anyone have any other suggestions as to what to check, and does anyone have any suggestion how to best remove the alternator?

Thanks
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Old 04-08-2012, 04:11 PM   #2
ragtoplvr
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If the alternator had a short in the stator winding or diodes, when if fails it will have a very different and obvious noise. Kind of like a high pitched groan. This would require further analysis, the diode array in this alternator is replaceable. The stator may or may not be available.

If there is no noise, it is most commonly the regulator. It is easily replaced on a bosch, mounts on the rear with a couple of screws. Available from
http://www.euromotoelectrics.com/Bos...ng-Kit-s/1.htm for 30 to 40 bucks. I think it can be changed on the bike.

Or your friendly local alternator re builder should be able to fix it.

Rod
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Old 04-08-2012, 05:33 PM   #3
bemiiten
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fred-houston View Post
I believe that I have one of the rare occurrences of an alternator failure on a GS. It started a while back when I noticed the voltage drop on my bike when returning from a trip. I usually run around 13.7 to 13.8 volts, but while at a stop light it dropped to 12.5 volts and stayed there, even when I revved the bike. Shortly after I left the light the voltage went back to normal and stayed there.

Thought the problem may be the volt meter, so I bought a new one and installed it. The one I had on there has been on there for years exposed to the weather and such. I also checked the battery voltage and all was normal. Voltage was 12.5 across the poles, and when running I was getting 13.7 to .8. A few months ago I did install a new battery.

I took the bike out for another test run and for most the day the voltage ran normal, but on the way home the voltage again dropped to 12.5 volts, but again went back to normal in a short distance. Today I wanted to make sure it was not the volt meter, so I hooked a second volt meter directly to the battery and took it for another test run.

I went to have breakfast with some friends, and everything was normal to the restaurant. Volts were normal at 13.7 to 13.8. I did turn my Piaa lights on just for grins and noticed at highway speeds, my volts immediately dropped to 12.5. When I turned them off the volts went back to normal. I tried this several times with the same results.

On the way home from the restaurant, it started off normal, but as I drove the voltage started to drop by 1/10 increments until when I arrived home the voltage was running at 12.4 volts. I pulled the tank and check all the connections, battery and alternator wires all appear to be secure and normal. I tried to find where the battery ground connects to the frame, but that wire goes into a harness and I have yet to be able to trace it to the frame.

My gut feeling is I have a pending rare alternator failure. The bike is a R1150GS with about 50,000 miles. I looked to see how difficult it will be to remove the alternator and I can not tell if it needs to come out the top or the side. I did read about a R1200GS alternator being removed from the front.

So after this long winded explanations, my questions are; does anyone have any other suggestions as to what to check, and does anyone have any suggestion how to best remove the alternator?

Thanks
Have you taped into the diagnostic plug under the seat for switched power? Another inmate had a thread where he wound up replacing his battery & alternator on a 1200 chasing a low voltage problem. Turned out using the diagnostic plug was the source of his problems. http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=701671
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Old 04-08-2012, 06:03 PM   #4
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Go to a starter shop and ask to have the alternator load tested in situ.
Unplug the headlight and.....
Attach a load bank to the battery with the engine running at 3000 rpm (you can tap off the + at the starter post without lifting the tank) Load can be added in stages until you hit 50Amps, the voltage across the battery should stay at a minimum of 13.5v for this test.
On an Oilhead 1150 If you have ABS it's a bitch to get the alternator out.
Either the front of the engine has to come off or the ABS pump comes out.
I have done both ways and am not sure which is easier/faster
In one instance I have replaced the regulator without doing either but in hindsight it took so long contorsioning it probably would have been easier removing the pump.
If you are going to fix your own,
Regulators, brushes and new alternators can be had here:
http://www.euromotoelectrics.com/Bos...ng-Kit-s/1.htm
I happen to have a used one here I can let you have cheap but you probably are better off with new if you plan to keep the bike.
Generally speaking these alternators are pretty tough and last a very long time. One of the more reliable parts on these bikes.......
If you want to discuss this further via phone PM me and I'll gladly give you my number.
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GS Addict screwed with this post 04-08-2012 at 06:08 PM
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Old 04-08-2012, 06:13 PM   #5
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if it works normal and then doesn't, and then does.... it is probably something in the control circuit. that would be the voltage regulator, the brushes, or the wiring in that circuit. first thing to look at is the brushes & see if they have good contact, and that the carbon part is long enough. I have seen similar behavior when brushes were worn to where they barley touched the sliprings,,, they would bounce in and out of contact.

once a stator or diode goes bad it generally stays bad. best way to check those parts is to use a clamp-on amp meter. this test is done on the bike... simply clamp the probe over the main output wire and run the alternator with a load. read the DC output (try to get at least 10 amps) and then flip it over to AC amps... if it reads more than 1, the stator or diodes are bad. It is probably making pulsing DC, but the meter will read it as AC due to the changing value.

if you have an oscilloscope a bad diode looks like this...




and a bad stator looks like this...

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Old 04-08-2012, 10:34 PM   #6
TUCKERS
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H'mm?

I thought I had a bad Alt on my 2000 R1150GS (ABS). I took it off, it was difficult. I wrangled it from the top side IIRC.

Took it to the dealer to be checked. Of course it was OK. They said they have never removed/replaced fixed an Alt in that bike since inception...never.

Have you checked the belt tension?

Also new batteries aren't always good batteries.

I'd be surprised if it was the Alt.

Those of us without meters are not concerned with such things .
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:30 AM   #7
fred-houston OP
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Thanks for all the replies. All the responses were helpful.

As for the belt, I failed to mentioned that I did check the belt, and the tension is what it should be. As for the battery, I just installed a Shorai battery about three months ago. I really do not believe it is the battery because the voltage across the poles is correct, and there is not problem with starting the bike. In the past I have never had a battery cause low volts while the bike was running. This is my first lithium battery, so I guess it wouldn't hurt to pull it and have a load test done since I have the tank off. I did not tap into the diagnostic plug for any accessories, so I am sure that is not the problem.

I have had a GS since 1997, first a 1100 and now this one. I know how alternator failures are very very rare, but something is sure causing my voltage to drop. I haven't been left on the side of the road yet, so I want to find and correct whatever the problem is before that happens.

Fortunately I have a couple of other bikes, so I have the time to try to figure out what is wrong without losing any riding time and/or spending big money chasing and fixing the wrong source of the problem.

Some of the responses here are a little above my understanding of motorcycle electronics, but fortunately I have a couple of friends that can translate it to idiot talk for me.

GS Addict, I may take you of on your offer to speak to you about this once I start banging my head against the wall.

Thanks
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Old 05-02-2012, 03:34 PM   #8
fred-houston OP
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Update:

I was able to remove the alternator and take it to an alternator shop and have it tested. It tested fine, and the brushes are good.

The guy at the shop asked me if I had a sudden drop in voltage, or was gradual. I told him how it was gradual after what seemed when the bike heated up. He stated that he has found where voltage regulators have started acting "funky" after they heat up, but works fine when cool. He said when he runs into a situation like mine he changes the voltage regulator and about 75% of the time it works. He admitted he did not have the testing equipment to test a voltage regulator.

I think I am going to change the voltage regulator, and reinstall the alternator. I do want to check the ground cable, but it goes into a wire harness and I can not find where it grounds to the bike. I have heard it may go through the starter. Do any of you in the know, know where the battery ground cable is grounded to the bike?

Also if anyone has any other suggestions as to what to check, I am sure open to them.

Thanks
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Old 05-02-2012, 07:24 PM   #9
TUCKERS
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After entering the harness the ground on the engine circuit goes to:

Tachometer connection
Fuel level sender and pump
Nuetral switch
Lambda sensor
Clutch switch
Fuel level damping unit
Motronic relay
Motronic coding plug

All of the above brown wire.

A black ground goes from:

Starter motor and soleniod to starter relay and from there the bike frame. I would chase this black wire.
Starter itself is also a ground.
Alternator itself is also a ground.

There's a green/yellow to ground from the various functions and a yellow/black to ground from the Fuel level sender and pump.

There is also a black from the Motronic control unit to the frame and throttle position sensor. I would chase this wire too.

There is a purple from Oil temp sensor and Motronic control unit to frame. I would chase this too.


On the frame circuit brown ground goes to each light, heated grip, LH handlebar switch, turn signal relay, tach, Hazards, warning lights.

There is a brown from the ABS modulator to ground/earth.

You could try switching out your 'load relief' relay for one of the others. It is the closest one to the square WHITE starter motor relay.

I think if the voltage regulator was faulty you would have a surge rather than a lack.

I'd dissconnect the PIAA's and see what happens too.

I'm afraid I can't locate the specific frame ground locations as yet, I'll keep looking.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:01 PM   #10
def
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fred-houston View Post
Thanks for all the replies. All the responses were helpful.

As for the belt, I failed to mentioned that I did check the belt, and the tension is what it should be. As for the battery, I just installed a Shorai battery about three months ago. I really do not believe it is the battery because the voltage across the poles is correct, and there is not problem with starting the bike. In the past I have never had a battery cause low volts while the bike was running. This is my first lithium battery, so I guess it wouldn't hurt to pull it and have a load test done since I have the tank off. I did not tap into the diagnostic plug for any accessories, so I am sure that is not the problem.

I have had a GS since 1997, first a 1100 and now this one. I know how alternator failures are very very rare, but something is sure causing my voltage to drop. I haven't been left on the side of the road yet, so I want to find and correct whatever the problem is before that happens.

Fortunately I have a couple of other bikes, so I have the time to try to figure out what is wrong without losing any riding time and/or spending big money chasing and fixing the wrong source of the problem.

Some of the responses here are a little above my understanding of motorcycle electronics, but fortunately I have a couple of friends that can translate it to idiot talk for me.

GS Addict, I may take you of on your offer to speak to you about this once I start banging my head against the wall.

Thanks
Did this low voltage thing happen before or after the installation of the Li battery? If after, contact the battery manufacturer and explain your issue. It may be battery related. Li batteries tend to go into a balance mode.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:50 PM   #11
Anorak
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Quote:
Originally Posted by def View Post
Did this low voltage thing happen before or after the installation of the Li battery? If after, contact the battery manufacturer and explain your issue. It may be battery related. Li batteries tend to go into a balance mode.
Balance mode? Lithium ion batteries are fussier about individual cell voltage than lead acid which is why there is discussion about cell balance but there is no "balance mode". The erratic voltage regulator makes much more sense especially because it appears to happen after the engine has run for a while and heated up.

Think about this, the battery would have to be loading the electrical system enough to draw the voltage down about 2.3 volts below the nominal 13.8 that the owner sees. That's going to be a lot of current.

And finally, although very rare, alternators and regulators do fail. I've changed a few on R bikes.
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fred-houston View Post
Update:

I was able to remove the alternator and take it to an alternator shop and have it tested. It tested fine, and the brushes are good.

The guy at the shop asked me if I had a sudden drop in voltage, or was gradual. I told him how it was gradual after what seemed when the bike heated up. He stated that he has found where voltage regulators have started acting "funky" after they heat up, but works fine when cool. He said when he runs into a situation like mine he changes the voltage regulator and about 75% of the time it works. He admitted he did not have the testing equipment to test a voltage regulator.

I think I am going to change the voltage regulator, and reinstall the alternator. I do want to check the ground cable, but it goes into a wire harness and I can not find where it grounds to the bike. I have heard it may go through the starter. Do any of you in the know, know where the battery ground cable is grounded to the bike?

Also if anyone has any other suggestions as to what to check, I am sure open to them.


Thanks

For what they cost, changing the regulator is good idea IMO.
It's too bad the shop did not do a full load/long time run to possibly expose the problem on the bench.
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:55 PM   #13
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I'm not sure you actually have a problem. (I'm not trying to make fun of this.) You sometimes measure 13.8 V, sometimes 12.5V; if that keeps your battery charged, then maybe, as James Tucker said, your only problem is having a meter hooked up all the time....

Is the battery slowly discharging over time? I would monitor the voltage before starting (assuming you ride the bike often enough so it should stay charged) from day to day. If that indicates the battery is charged (~12.8V for lead-acid at no load, no idea what the voltage should be for Li-Ion, but there must be tables out there, just like for lead-acid) I would leave good enough alone.

(The whole thing might be an interaction between the controller (regulator) for the alternator, and the controller inside the Li-Ion battery. If the battery controller turns the charging current completely off at some voltage level, then maybe the alternator controller drops the excitation current a lot more than with a 'normal' lead-acid battery.)
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:27 AM   #14
fred-houston OP
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Originally Posted by Gruesome View Post
I'm not sure you actually have a problem. (I'm not trying to make fun of this.) You sometimes measure 13.8 V, sometimes 12.5V; if that keeps your battery charged, then maybe, as James Tucker said, your only problem is having a meter hooked up all the time....

Is the battery slowly discharging over time? I would monitor the voltage before starting (assuming you ride the bike often enough so it should stay charged) from day to day. If that indicates the battery is charged (~12.8V for lead-acid at no load, no idea what the voltage should be for Li-Ion, but there must be tables out there, just like for lead-acid) I would leave good enough alone.

(The whole thing might be an interaction between the controller (regulator) for the alternator, and the controller inside the Li-Ion battery. If the battery controller turns the charging current completely off at some voltage level, then maybe the alternator controller drops the excitation current a lot more than with a 'normal' lead-acid battery.)
You are making a good point, but I did check all the voltages before and during start up. All checked out to be good.

Gruesom
I have ridden bikes for a number of years, and I have never had any bike drop +1 volts without there being an issue or load. I install volt meters on all my bikes because I have been left on the side of the road before and I would rather see the problem coming rather than later. Volt meters have saved me from sitting on the side of the road on more than one occasion.

I have been meaning to call the battery manufacturer and ask them about it, but I guess in my old age I just keep forgetting. This problem did not start right after the install. This started happening several months after I installed the battery, so at least in my mind, I really don't think it is the battery. If all else fails, I may change the battery as a last resort.

Tuckers
Thanks for the information. What is scary is I know where about half of those wires are. Just never knew what they were for.

To all, thanks for each of your responses. I don't take offense to any of them. I am just trying to cover all my bases and make sure I solve this issue. I plan on taking this bike up to Alaska next summer, and I do not want to have any issues. Last time I was up there on a GS my battery went south, and was stuck in Delta Junction on a Holiday weekend looking for a battery.

Thanks Again,
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:55 AM   #15
ragtoplvr
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When you used the second voltmeter, did you connect to the same place as the first volt meter, or go directly to the battery. If you used the same wires, it could be a ground issue.

Rod
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