Motorcycle lighting is crucial for the safety of the driver and everyone else on the road. Good lighting helps the driver see the road and alerts other vehicles to the motorcyclist’s presence. That’s why it’s vital that you know how to deal with any issues that come up with your motorcycle’s lights. Here’s what you should know about your lights and how to troubleshoot the issues.
How Lighting Works
The first thing you should know is how lighting works on a motorcycle, as it’ll help you determine what may be the issue. While every make and model has different designs and systems, they all have the same three elements:
- A power source – the motorcycle’s battery
- An electrical load – the bulb
- A ground and wires
You’ll need to check these major parts when determining what’s going wrong in your light system. Each section is very important to the electrical system and needs to work together to power the lights.
Causes of Broken Lights
This section will tackle the different reasons why a light isn’t working on a bike. While it’s not an exhaustive list, it contains the most common reasons a light may not work. These are the things you should keep in mind and test for when you go through troubleshooting.
The grounding of an electrical system is vital to prevent overloads and dangerous buildups of electricity in the system. That’s why a bad grounding can cause all sorts of issues for a lighting system, as the system struggles with all the electricity. Yet it’s a common issue as many small things can disrupt the grounding part of the system.
Shorts and Connections
A sudden voltage overload in your system can damage the many connectors that run through your bike’s electrical system. This will quite literally burn the wires and cause all sorts of ongoing issues for your lights. Normally the wires short out in small sections and not the whole system, so you’ll need to find the one part and replace it.
The battery on your bike gives off a certain level of energy to the lights and other systems it connects to. Overtaxing this power means that none of your systems will have enough power to work at full efficiency. That’s why you should always be careful when you upgrade or add on accessories, like the Harley Davidson taillight conversion kit, that drain power from the battery, as they can overdraw power.
One common cause for lighting issues in a motorcycle is a bad fuse. Fuses are essential for powering a vehicle and protecting the system from overloading or other potential electrical risks. However, an overloaded fuse needs replacing, or the electrical system won’t work. Try to keep some on hand for your vehicle so you can replace them as necessary.
The relay is an integral part of the electrical system of a bike, as it converts the power in the battery to the voltage that powers the system. However, these relays rely on several contacts, which can break down or stop working, depowering the whole system. While there aren’t visual signs for relay issues, you can use a voltmeter to test the connections.
Burned Out Bulb
Sometimes the cause for a dim or broken light is the bulb itself rather than the wiring or electrical system. Bulbs don’t last forever and eventually burn out, so a regular part of maintenance is switching out old bulbs before they fully go out. While LED lights can last thousands of hours longer than halogens, they still need replacement bulbs once in a while.
How To Troubleshoot
Sadly, when your lights start to dim or fully go out, there isn’t a clear message to tell you what’s wrong. You need to troubleshoot the issue until you find out the cause so you can fix it. Luckily, troubleshooting is an activity anyone can do with the right tools and with the manufacturer’s manual. Here’s what you need to know about troubleshooting your motorcycle’s lighting problems.
Get Your Tools
Troubleshooting starts with using the correct tools for the job. Electricity can be dangerous, so the proper tools are necessary for accuracy and safety. The most basic tools for testing electrical systems are a test light and a voltmeter. The test light will help you determine if there’s a current, and the voltmeter can test for the strength of the electricity in the system. These two tools will get you through most electrical problems.
Test the Basics
The big trick for troubleshooting is to test the most basic stuff first. Check the bulb to see if it’s just burnt out and the battery to see if it has power. While these seem like fundamental concepts, you must check them before moving on to the complex things.
Likely to Unlikely
You should test the parts that are most likely to break first, then move on to the causes that seem the least likely. Often, this will lead to far less work and lost time for you as you quickly identify the issue. However, this requires you to try to reason out the problem before you start testing to direct your troubleshooting.
Target the Issues and Spread Out
When testing for an issue, try to focus on the area that seems to be a problem, then test the other areas that can cause the issue you’re seeing. Just randomly checking different parts will waste a lot of time. Be methodical in your approach for the most success.
Use the Manual
The guide that comes with your motorcycle is the best guide to help you identify your lighting issues. This will help you understand your electrical system and figure out what may be the cause of the issue. You should always have the manual on hand when fixing your motorcycle.
Know What Your Testing
The last tip for troubleshooting your lighting issues is to know what you’re looking for and what test you’re running. Troubleshooting is all about logical deductions leading to evidence until you find the issue. This means you need to understand what you’re doing so you can interpret the results and find the problem.
Lighting issues are serious problems for motorcyclists, as the lack of good light can make driving difficult. However, you should be careful if you try to identify or fix the problem yourself. Dealing with electrical systems can be dangerous, especially without the proper training, which is why people choose to hire mechanics to fix their motorcycle’s electrical issues.