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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys! New guy here. Been having some trouble lately with my bike. Kind of long story, so feel free to skip it and jump to the next paragraph. It started when I let a play use it as a prop. They had a guy who had ridden dirt bikes ride it onto stage, rev the engine, then ride off stage. Nearing the end of the show- it lasted a week- they started having problems starting it. Great. When I got it back, it didn't start- making a ticking sound at first, and then refusing to turn over completely- and they helped me jump it using the charger they had been using. I took it home and ripped it apart. Lo and behold, the terminals were heavily corroded. I pulled the battery out from the bottom of my bike (Why, Suzuki?) and took it in to get load tested from my local Auto Zone. The battery is fine, or so they say. Brought it home, scrubbed terminals with a water/baking soda solution and sandpaper. Clean and good as new. No problems for a little while. A few weeks later, I'm starting to get the same problem again. There is mild corrosion on the terminals again, but nothing severe at all. Now for the details:

Suzuki Intruder VS 800 2004
Bike occasionally has issues starting- it seems to be the battery, however a load test says the battery is okay. Lights still work 100%. They are mildly dim, but in my opinion they always have been.
Bike makes clicking noise the first time it doesn't start, past that it doesn't try at all- lights are still working.
Getting jumped works easily. Getting push started works, but not quite as easily.
After running, seems to work fine unless I leave my lights on for more than 5-10 seconds without the engine running. Every now and then it will spontaneously die despite my attempts to never have the lights on without starting it.

I'm really busy with a bootcamp class I am in currently, which is why I have not really dug in to it. I haven't had the chance to rip it apart and check voltages yet, not that I /really/ know what I am doing on my bike in that regard anyway. I want to take it in, but am not getting a response from the shop I usually take it to, and I am very skeptical of going back to the Honda Dealership, as I have yet to be satisfied with the quality of their service and am greatly ripped off and over-charged each and every time. Stop by for an oil change? Come out with a $600 bill. I'm sick of them.
Any help is greatly appreciated. I'll do what I can to contribute back to the community, although I can't promise a ton of useful information. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Like I said... Haven't had the time to really go in and test. Other than the day I cleaned off my terminals, I haven't been able to sit and do anything with it yet.
I was pretty confident it was a dead cell in the battery, but why would the load test go through and tell us that the battery was in great shape? The guy there even said he would love to sell me a battery but was pretty sure that the problem was beyond that.
Another mechanic friend of mine said it could be the starter... Would the symptoms be similar? I know my spark plugs are probably getting old, too. I know those are easy and I might as well do them anyway. Just haven't had enough time to hang out with my baby and get her all fixed up. :(
 

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That click should be the starter relay; if the lights do not dim when it clicks, it isn't working properly, or the battery is not powering it well enough.

Does it have the stock battery terminal set up, i.e. the little brass blocks bolted in to them, so the cables can bolt to the side? If so, the bolts could be about 1 thread too long, and bottom out before actually making the connections tight. This small gap can increase corrosion and make for sudden drops in voltage, leading to stalling and not cranking; it can make it seem like you have carb problems, too. Adding star washers will take out this small amount of looseness, and also keep the bolts tight. BTW, Suzuki installed the slightly long bolts at the factory, which is why star washers are often the first thing recommended when you apparently have battery issues.
 

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Suggest you check the following:

1) battery voltage. 12.6 or above is fully charged. 12.3 is 50% discharged

2) battery voltage while cranking. Red lead on B+ black lead on B- If it drops below 9V it's time for a new battery. Gives same result as load testing.

3) Voltage drop to starter. Red lead on battery positive (B+) black lead on starter where big fat red cable from battery connects. Now crank it. If you measure more than a .5 volt drop WHILE cranking you've got dirty battery terminals, loose terminal, or corroded / loose connection on starter, damaged wire, etc.

4) Voltage drop to start terminal. Red probe on B+, black probe on start terminal on starter solenoid. If pressing the starter you measure more than a 1V drop you've got bad or dirty switch contacts, bad wiring, etc.

5) Main battery ground. Take it apart, clean it, put it back together.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Whew! That's a good amount of things to try. I'll get on it ASAP... Hopefully soon. Will a standard multimeter work alright?

Also, for #5, which is the main battery ground to take apart? I don't understand what you mean by that one.
 

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Will a standard multimeter work alright?

Which is the main battery ground to take apart? I don't understand what you mean by that one.
Yes a standard multimeter will work fine. If you get a battery reading anywhere in the 10-13 volt range you know the meter is working.

The "main ground" is where the fat BLACK cable coming off battery B- connects to the frame, bolts to the engine block, whatever. If it's loose, corroded,...

You can't always SEE corrosion. So you take it apart, wire brush it, re-assemble. Use a star washer if you've got one.

I had a brand new Toyota Sienna that absolutely wouldn't charge. Techs wanted to order a new $300 "Toyota" branded battery. I went to investigate and the negative battery terminal was loose. Completely invisible from the outside, between the terminal and the post was a fine layer of that white/gray corrosion. Cleaned it off, old battery charged just fine.

Stop reading here unless you want to understand what's actually going on:

What is happening is you have a VOLTAGE DROP somewhere in your starting circuit(s). Instead of your starter, your solenoid.... getting 12.6, it's only getting 8.6 or something like that DUE to corrosion, loose connection, whatever.

That corrosion/loose connection...ACTS like an unwanted resistance. When current flows THROUGH it it causes voltage to be lost. Remember V=IR? Voltage equals current times resistance.

Even a tiny amount of resistance --- .1 ohm, too low to measure accurately with a multimeter --- multiplied by 40 amps starting current is 4V. R*I = V.

You're losing 4V as current passes through that undesired resistance.

So instead of your starter getting 12.6 volts, it's only getting 8.6, not enough to crank.

Put another battery in parallel (jump start) and INSTEAD of your battery "drooping" to, say, 9V when you crank, the combined batteries only droop to 11V.

So instead of the starter seeing 9-4 = 5V and doing nothing it sees 11-4 = 7V, and cranks.

Why does battery voltage "droop" when you crank the motor? Because a battery has internal resistance as well.

The way to tell it's getting time to replace your battery is when the headlights dim significantly when you crank the motor. It's the same thing as the load tester down at the auto parts store does --- observes voltage while applying a big fat load.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Love the extra info! Thanks! I appreciate it! It got to the point today where it absolutely would not start without a jump so I drove to the local Auto Zone once again and bought a new battery. Unfortunately both my curses hits at once. The first? My lovely bike manufacturer that decided to put the battery in an almost inaccessible location beneath the bike made it so the bolts have to go in to the side of the battery... This battery had only front and top access points. The second curse being every possible thing that could go wrong does, just short of a car running over my hand as I reach out for a tool... Long story short I drilled new terminal holds and spent 2 hours just trying to get the screws in with no lights... It started just fine! I will spend more time really learning every thing I need to know about bikes in general. I want to be the guy that is able to stop at the broken down bike on the side of the road and get them riding again. Thanks again for all of the help! When I get a chance, I'll be going through doing all of the tests you have described just so I can get a feel for doing them and see the numbers I should likely expect. Thanks again!
 
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