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Old 04-29-2009, 08:42 PM   #1
skubrats
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Default Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

My 78 shovel stalled all over the place today, was a total bitch. Kickin in traffic, rolling it across 3 lanes of highway, fuck me!

Heres the problem, at low idle it started to sound like shit, wouldn't idle, died coming out of first a few times. I thought carb because it was blowing back through the carb, and it was backfiring out the pipes. Now i think electrical because i turned the lights off and things immediately improved. then it stalled out a while later and i noticed the oil light was very dim when i was kicking it. i checked the battery and it had boiled alot of water out the breather. A dude in a garbage truck gave me a bottle of water and i topped off the battery and it held a charge until i got home.

I checked the voltage across the terminals with the bike running, 8.1 volts. this seems low. I figured it should be in the 12 - 13 V range with bike running.

Anyone offer some help here? Thanks.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:43 PM   #2
JonnyRtn
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

mine wasnt charging.... so I bought a manual.... did the tests.... and replaced the entire charging system cause it was crispy crittered... manuals are $45.00 and available from your stealership.
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Old 04-29-2009, 09:46 PM   #3
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

Your charging system is not working. Could be a bad regulator or stator. Check your regulator plug at the case, charge wire & battery connections .........
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Old 04-30-2009, 07:20 PM   #4
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

Don't condemn anything or replace parts until you know exactly what needs fixing. Charging systems are pretty straight forward and simple to troubleshoot.

On the roadside, the quick check is to notice the headlight brightness at idle and rev up to 2500 RPM...the headlight should brighten up if the charging system is working.

A 12v battery has six cells of 2.1v series wired together making about 12.6v on a fully charged battery. A charging system puts out 13.7 to 14.3v. Obviously a battery just off a charger or after the bike is shut down will be at a slightly high charge and drop down to the 12.6 v state eventually, but should not go much below that. Batteries slowly die over time and will show progressively lower storage charges.

A bike may start on a low battery and will run well when the charging system is providing enough current, but at idle, the charge system gives up and only battery voltage is available for ignition. Some ignitions can hold out to 7v but most give up well before that voltage.

A battery that has used excessive water may be an indication of overcharging (or neglect). Overcharging is easy enough to figure out with a voltmeter (much over 14.3v will cook a battery and indicates the regulator is most likely bad).

Most likely it is time for a new battery anyway from the sounds of things. Batteries have a limited lifespan and should be changed after about 3 years even if well cared for. Use the new battery to check the rest of the charging system. Do a visual inspection and make sure all wires are good, no breaks, no corrosion. The dark coat on lead terminals do not conduct very well and can lead to charging system failures...clean connections and check wire condition..fix or replace.
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Old 04-30-2009, 07:56 PM   #5
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

MechWerks- thanks, lights do get brighter with rpm,the battery came with the bike. The battery quality is likely the same as the rest of the bike when i took ownership...its fucked. I'll change it this weekend and run some tests on the other parts.

i think its just the battery.
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Old 04-30-2009, 09:04 PM   #6
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

I've seen a cell go dead in an old battery. Clues of this are 1.5 to 2.1 volt incremental drops .. you mentioned 8.1 volts so you might have killed 2 of them with your boil over.

For the price of a new battery you can probably save yourself the price of that manual ( for the time being anyway).
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:10 AM   #7
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

I've had a shitty ground cable make my shovel run like that
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:03 PM   #8
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

I had similar problems and sounds when a little oil leaked past my cam lob into the point area, got back when hot and the moisture and oil degraded the electric circuit of the points. +1 on checking more before replacing. My bike is a 75, and has the original wiring harness, after that long the wires are all corroded inside their jackets, rewiring her now.
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Old 05-01-2009, 02:40 PM   #9
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Default Re: Shovelhead Electrical Help- Many stalls in rush hour today

I've had the plug connection for the stator get all nasty with corrossion and loose connection
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