Let’s talk about adding electrical accessories to a motorcycle without causing power issues. I will explain in a simple and hopefully easy to understand way, exactly how to determine what can be added to you motorcycle without over drawing from your charging system.
Basics to follow along with video if you’d like.
◾ Section 1: Relationship of volts (v), amps (a) and watts (w).
V x A = W or W / V = A
Motorcycles operate at 12 volts so replace V with 12 like this:
12 x A = W or W / 12 = A
Example: My bikes output is 23A at idle so to convert to watts:
12 x 23 = W or 12 x 23 = 276w
◾ The three components of a charging system:
1) Battery – Starts the bike and stores power
2) Alternator – Charges the battery and powers components
3) Regulated/Rectifier – Converts VAC to VDC
◾Find available charging output for accessories by first finding total output and then subtracting the power draws that are constant when the motorcycle is running. This is your cushion.
◾ Now you know what you can add without charging issues. If you want to add more try these:
1) Convert light bulbs to LED to save wattage
2) Add a circuit to turn off your LO beams when you turn on your HI beams, if your motorcycle doesn’t already have this
3) Change your fuel filter as this can double the load of the fuel pump if its dirty
◾ Ah or amp hour rating of a battery: How long a battery will last when being drawn from at a specific rate. This is important to know if you are knowingly overloading the charging system so you don’t go too far with it.
◾ The risk of plugging directly to your battery:
1) It becomes messy if you are adding multiple wires. This can cause shorts and can cause the battery terminals to come loose.
2) There is nothing stopping the accessory from draining the battery when the bike is off.
◾ Use a relay (it’s just a switch) to make sure the accessory only has power when the ignition is on.
◾ Common causes of failure and malfunction when running wires:
2) Tension (poor wire routing choice)
3) Loose connections
4) Rust and oxidation
6) Moving Parts
7) Cheap connectors
8) Pulling connectors apart by the wire
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A lifelong adventure enthusiast and a long time motorcycle traveler, I have spent the last few years honing my craft as a motorcycle adventure specialist. I am currently living full time on my motorcycle, a 2015 BMW R1200GS named Lupe.
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