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I have a 1970 Thunderbolt. Yesterday I was riding and lost all power, bike shut off. It appears to be an electrical issue:

If I turn the ignition on the headlamp and brake light no longer light up. Bike currently doesn't have indicator lights. And no longer can start bike.

Electric work is not my strong suit. Bike has Tympanium regulator installed and is still positive earth. Using a mulitmeter and testing light I have tested all the wiring I can get to, all wires gave reading except two yellow wires coming from the regulator. The stator appears to be good using the multimeter for testing.

My only idea at this point is perhaps somewhere in the wire harness theres a short, split wire but haven't been able to find anything.

Looking for suggestions before I start replacing the entire electrical system.

Also note battery is brand new and maintaining 12.5-12.8v.

Thank you!

Last edited by maxsettings; 05/07/21 8:52 pm.
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Is there a main fuse inline somewhere?
I had a short develop from the headlight switch to the shell.
I had started the bike and it idled for about 30 seconds then stopped.


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the 2 yellow wires coming into the voltage regulator
will only read AC when the rotor inside the stator is spinning .
( they are the charging circuit inputs ) ... with 12.5 volts , the failure is not from a dead battery

as Hugh suggested , look for " the fuse " . the bike would have originally "had one fuse" at the battery
it could be on either terminal , but on a 70 Thunderbolt
probably on negitive post ... where the wire ,
brown with blue tracer , goes from neg-post >>> to ammeter .

at the other side of the ammeter the wire changes to Brown with white tracer ,
this wire goes to the ignition switch .

you should be able to read battery voltage at both side of the ammeter
and up to the end of the ... brown with white tracer wire ... at the ignition switch.
( brn/w wire at ignition switch is effectively just an extension of the (fused) negative battery terminal )


if the fuse is on the positive post , its usually a short jumper wire fuseholder bolted to the frame (ground )

sometimes on and old bike
the fuse will be found good and its the old fusehold that has gone south .

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Yeah there is a fuse in the headlamp shell. The fuse is still good.

I will try replacing the fusehold

Last edited by maxsettings; 05/07/21 9:55 pm.
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you should be able to check continuity and/or voltage through the fuseholder ... before replacing ?
( up in the headlight shell is not the first place i would expect to find the fuse )
its not were the Factory put it .
and means from the battery terminal connected ... the length of wire to that fuse ... is not fuse protected .
fusing is more complete when closer to a battery terminal ...

how modified is the bike and/or the rest of the wiring ?
when somesays 1970 Thunderbolt ... by default ,
I'm sorta thinking stock-ish bike with correct wiring harness colors
and maybe some previous owner bodges ... but not too far off piste .

I'm thinking remove the fuseholder from the headlight shell ( when it takes a screwdriver to find )
And return it ... close as you can get ...to one of the battery terminals .
Doesn't matter which terminal , I prefer the switch-side which in this case is the negative terminal ...

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Is the ignition switch and it's associated wiring OK?
If the fuse is good you should be able to measure
volts at the coils etc.with the switch on.

The tympanium and the charging circuit will not prevent
the bike from starting/running if the battery is healthy.

is it still using points? Or electronic ign?

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Seems the wiring is about 50% stock, I replaced the fuse and now I can get a read across the fuse holder so I guess I misspoke when i said fuse was still good.

However still no lights work. Still using points and ignition switch and its wiring seem to be fine.

Last edited by maxsettings; 05/08/21 12:51 am.
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Update:

I was testing everything again, I touched the rear brake lever and noticed taillight came on. Put the fuel tank back on and was able to get it started. Headlamp still not working despite the wiring testing fine so thinking perhaps time for a new bulb.

I replaced the fuse and re-secured the fuse holder so perhaps that was it.

After fixing the headlamp I'll move the fuse holder back closer to the negative batter terminal.

Last edited by maxsettings; 05/08/21 3:19 am.
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So many people refer to an open circuit as a short (sigh).

When you have a no-power situation (assuming the fuse is not blown), test for voltage with your meter at various points, starting with the battery. Then test at the power switch, then the headlight connector, etc. with your positive meter lead to a good ground. If voltage is good at those points, then test for continuity from the ground side of the appliance to battery (+). Disconnect the battery or pull the main fuse when testing for continuity so that you don't inadvertently blow your meter.

I like to put my fuse between battery (+) and the common ground post, with that being the only wire on that battery terminal. Then you can see at a glance that no current can get out of the battery without going through that fuse.


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Hi,
Originally Posted by maxsettings
I'll move the fuse holder back closer to the negative batter terminal.
Uh-uh. The fuse was there originally; if it isn't there now, a PO (Previous Owner) moved it. For a very good reason - on a "positive ground" bike, fuse in the wire connected to battery negative cannot protect against something metal touching the battery negative terminal itself and another part of the bike. facepalm Regrettably, a not uncommon fault. thumbsdown

As @MarkZ posted, "positive ground" bike, put the main or only fuse in the one-and-only wire connected to the battery positive terminal.

Ideally, use a common automotive blade fuse, not the original type - metal strip inside a glass tube with metal end caps. Reasons are: blade fuses are far more easily-obtainable than the glass-tube type; quality of the glass-tube type is dubious.

Also, the rating of the glass-tube fuses is inconsistent - original British were rated for 'blow' Amps ("35A" on a '70 bike), US and Japanese are rated for 'continuous' Amps, which are half 'blow'. Otoh, all blade fuses are rated 'continuous', use "15A" for the main/only fuse.

Hth.

Regards,

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From the day my B50 welded the side cover to the battery - I have always fused both sides of every battery and the alternator.
Seen way too many A65's merrily scooting down the road . smoke pouring out as the alternator melted & charred the wires that had shorted to the frame.


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Hi Trevor,
Originally Posted by BSA_WM20
have always fused both sides of every battery
Only problem with that afaict is the risk that a short-circuit in the DC wiring could blow both fuses; only fine if you have, or can get, two spare fuses ...

Originally Posted by BSA_WM20
and the alternator.
Seen way too many A65's merrily scooting down the road . smoke pouring out as the alternator melted & charred the wires that had shorted to the frame.
Mmmm ... not entirely sure what fusing the alternator achieves?

One alternator wire broken where it can 'earth' to the bike, there isn't a circuit to anything else?

Both wires of a single-phase alternator broken and making contact is essentially what shunt regulation does? The wires and stator coils are going to be a bit warm, anything else?

Two wires of a 3-wire single-phase alternator broken and making contact, depends which two wires; worst-case is White/Green and one of the others, in which case, as above, the relevant stator coils are going to be a bit warm?

How do you you fuse stator wires so the fuses are accessible if they need replacement?

Regards,

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The trouble I see with a fuse in an AC lead is what current rating should it have and how did you choose that rating?

A fuse close to the battery return terminal does everything that you need a main fuse to do. I can’t see the benefit of another main fuse in the live lead.


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I prefer to have 2 fuses on my A65s - 15A battery to ground, and 5A to the Boyer ignition unit.


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I take it you mean in the supply to the coil?

The actual supply to the Boyer (red wire) is around 250ma

Fusing the output side is a reasonable thing to do as if the
coil goes 'short' the output will try to switch it and bang.
In reality the fuse should be a T type semiconductor fuse but
as the output device is fairly large then a 5a gl type may save it.

Fusing the alternator is questionable, if your rectifier fails in
certain modes, then a backfeed can occur cooking the stator.
I would fuse this at around 15a as it is unlikely and would
constitute a short in the event of such a fault. Likewise either
alternator leads touching frame/earth/ground would create a
fault via the rectifier, the fuse would again blow if the rectifier
didn't go bang first.

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Fuse the DC feed from the regulator to the battery not the AC
And this is usually a smaller fuse on a BSA because you should never need the same 20 A unless you are running high power halogens as all are running is lights & the coils.
Seen too many bikes with the fuse blown but the alternator / generator still feeding the short till the wires melt or the engine slows down
A bit belts & braces if you fuse both sides of the battery but it is a case of never again
Had the B50 steel side cover short out against the battery , yes was my fault it should have been insalled with the terminals in not out and had a big melt down on the A65 caused by the front stop switch shorting out against the brake cable.


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Hi Trevor,

Thanks for clarifying.
Originally Posted by BSA_WM20
Fuse the DC feed from the regulator to the battery
Seen too many bikes with the fuse blown but the alternator / generator still feeding the short till the wires melt or the engine slows down
+1 thumbsup

Fwiw, I use 15A between the bike's 'consumers' and whichever is the battery 'earth'/'ground' terminal, 15A between reg./rec. and battery if the alternator's 10.5A @ 5,000 rpm (RM21, low-ouput RM24), 20A between reg./rec. and battery if the alternator's 14.5A @ 5,000 rpm (RM23, high-ouput RM24).

Regards,

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Hi Nick,
Originally Posted by Ola
5A to the Boyer ignition unit.
Originally Posted by NickL
The actual supply to the boyer (red wire)
Errrm ... <koff> ,,, the Red wire is to battery +ve, so the return wire?

'Positive earth', the B-B White wire is connected to battery -ve through the key switch (or a relay), that's the one I put a 5A fuse in, then connect the Red directly to the battery +ve terminal.

Originally Posted by NickL
In reality the fuse should be a T type semiconductor fuse
thumbsup Found these but not a reasonably water-resistant fuse holder to use on a bike. frown

Regards,

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Unless you care about the direction that sub-atomic particles are “travelling,” the term “return” doesn’t mean much in bike wiring unless it’s a common return from components that are individually switched on their other pole, which is usually called “live.”


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+1 TT
For practical applications (say bikes and cars) its only important to know which side of the battery produces sparks and fire when connected to the engine/frame/chassis. This is supply or live.
Truly useful is viewing the supply as being opposite to the ground, and in spite of some assertions, there is a ground, which is where the fixed end of the contact breaker connects to (or would have) as well as any other bits that make contact with the metalwork.

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Hi Dave,
Originally Posted by koan58
“Errrm ... <koff> ,,, the Red wire is to battery +ve, so the return wire?”

However, I’ve seen many of your own posts asserting that the red are the supply wires and the returns are via the consumers, then the switches, to the –ve battery terminal. This was because you were taking an electron-centric view of supply and return.

Uncharacteristically, your above comment is in opposition to your usual stance on this matter.
Please feel free to link any of my "posts asserting that the red are the supply wires and the returns are via the consumers, then the switches, to the –ve battery terminal."

Originally Posted by koan58
This was because you were taking an electron-centric view of supply and return.
You are confused.

The "electron-centric view of supply and return" is supply from battery negative, return to battery positive.

In 'positive earth' electrics, Lucas used colour-coded supply wires from battery negative to switches and "consumers", Red return wires from "consumers" to battery positive.

In 'negative earth' electrics, Lucas used Black supply wires from battery negative to "consumers", colour-coded return wires from "consumers" to switches and battery positive.

Originally Posted by koan58
Only when the pickup signal activity “wakes up” the circuitry controlling the output device does the circuit consisting of the white wire, via output device to black wire, via coils to red coil wire, to battery +ve carry serious current (ie several amps).
You are confused,

The "circuit consisting of" carries "several amps" when the electrics are first powered-up. Only if the "Transistor Box" (and whatever the clones term it) doesn't "detect engine movement" (= signals from the Stator) after a period does the Transistor Box then cut power to the coil(s), restoring it when Stator signals are detected.

Originally Posted by koan58
As with most electronics, the Boyer employs a common –ve ground,
Only "common –ve", not "ground".

Regards,

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Originally Posted by koan58
Truly useful is viewing the supply as being opposite to the ground, and in spite of some assertions, there is a ground, which is where the fixed end of the contact breaker connects to (or would have) as well as any other bits that make contact with the metalwork.
laughing You're grandstanding and posting rubbish.

"the fixed end of the contact breaker connects to (or would have) as well as any other bits that make contact with the metalwork" doesn't do anything unless "the metalwork" is connected to a battery terminal. Then "the metalwork" is simply part of the conductor between one side of the ignition coil and the battery terminal.

Originally Posted by koan58
its only important to know which side of the battery produces sparks and fire when connected to the engine/frame/chassis. This is supply or live.
Possibly "only important" in koan-world. In the real world, a spark won't be produced unless the "engine/frame/chassis" is connected to the other battery terminal. A spark will also be produced if a wire is connected to one battery terminal and touched to the other battery terminal, nothing at all to do with " "engine/frame/chassis".

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Hi Stuart, I am in error. My apologies.
It was in posts referring to –ve ground that you asserted black wires supply the consumers, returning through the switches to the battery +ve.
This is an electron-centric view, and academically unhelpful in a practical sense.

“You are confused,
The "circuit consisting of" carries "several amps" when the electrics are first powered-up. Only if the "Transistor Box" (and whatever the clones term it) doesn't "detect engine movement" (= signals from the Stator) after a period does the Transistor Box then cut power to the coil(s), restoring it when Stator signals are detected.”

OK. Pedanticism aside, after a few seconds without signal activity, the box turns off the coil supply. It then takes some signal activity to turn it on again. Of course that activity can also be turning off and on again, which will result in a few more seconds of coil power, sorry I didn’t make that obvious as I thought it would be to anyone else.

“Only "common –ve", not "ground".

Semantics, but the common –ve in electronics is frequently termed “ground”. It is a real thing because of the polarity of semiconductor conventions. Ground is for instance importance in HiFi applications, to avoid buzz and hum.

Hth

That genteel response was to your posts so far Stuart.
I subsequently see that you have more and less polite things to say.

“You're grandstanding and posting rubbish.”
Thanks for that, beware of pots and kettles I’d suggest.

“"the fixed end of the contact breaker connects to (or would have) as well as any other bits that make contact with the metalwork" doesn't do anything unless "the metalwork" is connected to a battery terminal. Then "the metalwork" is simply part of the conductor between one side of the ignition coil and the battery terminal.”

The metalwork that the fixed end of the contact breaker connects to is “ground” and however that connection is made to the battery (through wires, engine, frame, random bits) the polarity of that connection is “ground”, try it any other way I challenge you without blowing a fuse or melting things.


“Possibly "only important" in koan-world. In the real world, a spark won't be produced unless the "engine/frame/chassis" is connected to the other battery terminal. A spark will also be produced if a wire is connected to one battery terminal and touched to the other battery terminal, nothing at all to do with " "engine/frame/chassis".”
I really don’t know where you’re coming from here Stuart, even if every component on your bike has its own ground return wire I would bet that the engine and frame are still well electrically connected to the battery +ve. So I bet that if you connected a wire to battery –ve, then flashed it on any bare metal, you would see sparks. That would confirm a ground +ve situation. What’s your problem with that?

I have no need to belittle you, doing an excellent job yourself.

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I don't think there's any dispute over the fact that the engine must be electrically connected to the "ground", "battery return", or, in a positive ground system, battery (+).

Now, whether it's necessary or not, and whether or not you run a wire from the engine to the battery, the engine WILL be electrically connected to the frame. In fact, it would be difficult to insulate it from the frame. And to the frame are connected many other metal parts, fenders, fork yokes, handlebar, etc. In fact it's necessary for the handlebar to be "grounded" if you have a one-wire horn switch.

In order to avoid having many wires on the battery (+) terminal, or having many inline splices or connectors, it's convenient to have a "ground post" - where? Well, on the frame of course.

So, like it or not, the frame and most of the metal parts on the bike will be electrically connected to "battery return", and if any supply-carrying wire touches any of these "grounded" parts without first going through an appliance, a short circuit will occur and blow the fuse (or burn something if there's no fuse in the circuit).

It's also convenient to use the term "ground" (or "earth" if you prefer), just as it's convenient to use the ground symbol in a schematic diagram, so you don't have to draw all the lines that connect to the same point. We know that "ground" means a return to the battery; we've heard it enough times, so let it go.


Mark Z

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Hi Mark,
Originally Posted by Mark Z
the engine WILL be electrically connected to the frame. In fact, it would be difficult to insulate it from the frame.
Actually, it's quite easy in practice - well-painted or -powder-coated frame, carefully-installed engine, the engine is often insulated from the frame. I wasn't the first to advise a wire from the engine; I copied the tip from John Healy, working on 1970's Britbikes electrics, I noticed Lucas did it, and there were random electrical problems when the wire between engine and battery +ve was missing.

Originally Posted by Mark Z
In order to avoid having many wires on the battery (+) terminal, or having many inline splices or connectors, it's convenient to have a "ground post" - where? Well, on the frame of course.
Uh-uh, no "of course"; OIF and 1970's triples (? Triumph), Lucas soldered the ends of component Red wires to a washer, that washer attached to an engine component. If the wire from the washer to battery +ve was forgotten, because other component return wires are by definition attached to the engine exacerbates the aforementioned random electrical problems.

Careful assembly, whether or not any non-electric cycle part is connected is irrelevant.

Also, I've never used a "ground post", frame or engine. The vast majority of electrical components are either at the front of the bike or in the middle, the latter including the battery; I did my first rewire long before there was an internet; I found connecting the components around the headlamp to one snap connector, the components under the seat to another snap connector and connecting the snap connectors together with one wire used the least wire, far less even than Lucas used connecting components to a "ground post".

Originally Posted by Mark Z
And to the frame are connected many other metal parts, fenders, fork yokes, handlebar, etc. In fact it's necessary for the handlebar to be "grounded" if you have a one-wire horn switch.
So, like it or not, the frame and most of the metal parts on the bike will be electrically connected to "battery return",
Unfortunately, relying on that fails in reality. The horn doesn't work because, while the horn button might be "grounded" to the handlebar and the handlebar to the yoke, the forks can be insulated from the frame by something as simple as well-greased steering bearings ... facepalm Simple and ime long-term reliable is to connect a wire from the horn button or the handlebars into an existing Red wires' snap connector inside the headlamp shell or under the tank.

The tail/stop bulb is another component that relied for many years on metal-to-metal contact between several random cycle parts, and fails either when dirt and corrosion get between the metal components or better-painted or -powder-coated components are fitted. Lucas eventually 'admitted defeat' by fitting rear lamps with the third, return, wire from about mid-'71-ish afaict.

Otoh, Lucas never fitted their turn signals with return wires; old-Britbike internet forums are littered with posts both by people who bought Triumphs and BSA's new and removed the turn signals soon after because they stopped working, and/or they can't get them to work now; fixing that by adding return wires was so common long before there was an internet that I do it and advise it as a matter of course.

Unlike Lucas, the Japanese bike manufacturers did rely on "most of the metal parts on the bike will be electrically connected to "battery return""; again long before there was an internet, adding a Lucas-style supply wires network connected to battery -ve solved so many apparently-random electrical problems on high-mileage Japanese bikes it's something I'd do as matter of course.

Originally Posted by Mark Z
It's also convenient to use the term "ground" (or "earth" if you prefer),
Like any jargon word, it's fine if everyone in the conversation has exactly the same understanding of the jargon. Unfortunately, reality shows different people don't of "ground"/"earth" - e.g. recently, the OP of the "Digital Speedometer Problem" thread on British Motorcycles In General? While there are many, many similar examples, another I remember particularly was on TriumphRat - a contributor posted he'd connected his 'negative ground' truck to his 'positive ground' Triumph ... luckily, his Triumph's battery was shagged so he only put about 17 or 18 Volts across his Triumph's electrics, which luckily didn't have any electronic components ...

That's the reason I try to avoid using "ground"/"earth", nothing to do with sub-atomic particles, "supply" and "return" are a convenient hook and, more importantly, aren't jargon.

Originally Posted by Mark Z
We know that "ground" means a return to the battery;
BSA's, yes; Triumphs, not always ...

Regards,

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