Sidecar Adventures: Some Hack Hackery

On Thursday I drove the sidecar to work. After work I drove it to a friend’s house where we had a BBQ and played some games.

About 9:30 in the evening I went out to the sidecar to drive home. I turned the key and it said “Rrrr click. Click.” No start. Dead battery. WTF?

Luckily one of the people there had some jumper cables and after we figured out that the battery was under the seat, and then figured out how to get the seat off, we successfully started the hack and I rode it home.

Friday evening I did some investigating. It appeared that the charging system was not putting out enough voltage. This could be due to corroded connections, a bad regulator or a bad alternator. I also decided that I needed to deal with the wiring mess that was created when the sidecar was attached. This is what it looked like under the seat:

A rats nest.
A rats nest.

I looked at the regulator and determined that in order to get to the plugs to check them for corrosion I would have to pull the tank.

I didn’t feel like doing that on Friday, so I just cleaned up the wiring under the seat. Most of it was the wires to the sidecar, so I bundled them up with some tape. I also replaced a couple of connectors. I wanted to add a real fuse block, but there wasn’t anywhere to do that without removing the back half of the seat, and since one of the sidecar mounts went through a hole in the side cover, there wasn’t any way to remove the rear half of the seat without removing the sidecar…

So this is what I got done on Friday:

Much better.
Much better.

I still wasn’t happy with the wires that dove under the tank, but I figured I could clean them up when I pulled the tank. Which I did on Saturday.

Wow. Pulling the fuel tank is a pain in the ass:

  1. Unbolt the retaining bolt at the rear.
  2. Loosen the clamp on the fuel line at the petcock and wiggle it off.
  3. Lift the rear of the tank and disconnect the wires for the low fuel light and the electric petcock.
  4. Lift the rear of the tank and disconnect the vent hose under the middle of the tank.
  5. Lift the rear of the tank and pull the tank to the rear as far back as you can (which isn’t very far)
  6. Try and sneak a 19mm wrench under the front of the tank and remove the fuel return line (a crows foot wrench would be useful here.)
  7. Loosen the clamp on the vapor recovery system hose at the front of the tank and remove it.
  8. Pull the tank the rest of the way off. If there is fuel in it, you will spill it. Of course it was almost full.

Anyway after I got the tank off I had to remove some more covers just to get to the connectors for the regulator. I cleaned them up and put them back together.

While I had the tank off I cleaned up the wires that were added for the sidecar leveling switch on the handlebars. They were routed poorly and were being pinched. So I wrapped them up and re-routed them. This required taking off the fairing, but I discovered that it comes off with four bolts, so I can easily pull it in the summer for cooler riding! Bonus!

I also discovered under the tank that the crankcase ventilation hose, which runs from the rear of the motor, over the motor and then connects to the spine tube for the frame (and I thought the Germans made some wacky designs) was all cracked and leaking. Great.

Then I realized that in order to test whether cleaning the connectors was going to make a difference I needed to run the motor, which means I would have to put the fuel tank back on, and not only that, if the regulator was bad I was going to have to remove it again when the new one arrived. Sigh…

So I put the tank back on. Assembly is reverse, and just as much of a pain in the ass.

I started the bike and discovered that there was no change in the charging. Surprise. It still never hits even 13V at high RPM (should be 14V+.)

So I’ve ordered a handful of parts. There are also some screws with buggered up heads that need replacing and some other little things. But once that’s done it should be a pretty solid hack.

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