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Im going to venture to guess that capacitors / condensers are only in points type motorcycles in the form they are being described here, but given i'm the one that started this thread, i'm obviously not sure.
If i were to guess, electronic ignition bikes probably have them too but they are going to be different from what i've been talking about here.
basically, if the bike has an alternator instead of a magneto (like mine (see note below)), the power goes from the battery to the alternator, the alternator uses that and generates electricity which goes to the capacitors... when the points are closed, the capacitor shoots the electricity across the points up to the coils and into the spark plug and the spark plug fires the motor.
when the points are open, it stores temporarily into the capacitor waiting for them to be closed again...
so technically, if i guess correctly, the capacitors do not hold a charge when the motor is off, since it expends it's energy when the points close, and, even if you turn the key off on the bike, the motor still moves a few revolutions before it turns off, therefore -should- in my theory eliminate any electricity that was previously stored in them...
on the other hand, you're not supposed to take computer monitors or tv's apart because the capacitors in them DO hold charge and can shock the hell out of you... car stereo capacitors for amplifiers and things like that need to be pre-charged when you install them, and i believe they hold that charge for a long time, but are constantly replenished by the current going to it when the car is on. they use these to help get energy to high wattage amps so you don't fry your alternator with too high of a load.
someone please correct me if i'm wrong about all of this... but, i think i'm at least 95% right.
(note: not all bikes have alternators, lots of them have magnetos... the difference is, with an alternator, you HAVE to have a battery in order for the motorcycle to start... a magneto system will allow the motorcycle to run with or without a battery.... on a side note, if anyone knows how to do an alternator to magneto conversion please let me know! i hate having to rely on my battery being charged to start my ****ed bike. it's a scary thought.)
Last edited by mitchberry; 10-03-2009 at 06:41 PM.