The dreaded "click" when trying to start - Triumph Forum: Triumph Rat Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2016, 07:32 AM Thread Starter
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The dreaded "click" when trying to start

We often get enquiries like "I can only hear a click when starter button is pressed". It's important to ascertain where the "click" comes from and observe what else happens when the button is pressed.

A strong click, often accompanied by a buzzing sound, tends to emanate from the starter solenoid. This is one of the most common complaints voiced over the Internet. The fault is almost always a low battery voltage from an old or discharged battery, loose battery connections, etc.

The solenoid coil will try to operate from a much lower voltage than its nominal 12 Volts, but it'll do so in a "half-arsed" sort of way. As the main contacts close the high starter motor current demand (>60 amps) will make the already low battery voltage drop even lower, causing the solenoid coil to de-energise and drop the contacts again. This cuts the current to the starter motor and the battery, now relieved of the load, raises its voltage slightly and the same cycle quickly repeats itself causing the characteristic "buzz".

A weaker click is more likely to come from the starter relay, also called the "headlamp relay" in some manuals. Find out for sure by removing left side panel and placing your fingers over the relay casing. Operate starter button, the click will be more audible and the movement of the relay mechanism can be clearly felt through the casing.

If that's the source of the click, what else happens when you press the button?

Does the headlight turn off? if yes, this is fine, after all the relay function is to disconnect the headlight load and divert its power momentarily to the starter solenoid coil.

Observe the idiot lights closely: Do they go dim at all? If they don't dim or flicker, the chances are that the diverted current is not going anywhere and trouble lies in a faulty solenoid coil or, far more likely, the condition of the relay contacts.

These relays are not sealed as befits a component that'll be fitted to a motorcycle and exposed to dirt and the weather, but it is cheap and Triumph's Bean counters get a stiffy out of that. The outer casing simply clips over the internals leaving small gaps and over time dirt, damp and an oily film is deposited on the contacts. This creates a high resistance to the current flow, often of the order of several Ohms. This reduces current to the solenoid coil to a level where it won't operate at all. The solenoid coil requires nearly 3 amps to operate satisfactorily.

You might find that repeated attempts to start often gets results, the dirt film being broken through or displaced by the repeated hammering together of the contacts, but the problem always comes back. It's not difficult to clean these contacts, unplug relay, remove outer casing with a small screwdriver or penknife and slide a strip of thin, absorbent card between the contacts moistened in contact cleaner or simply alcohol, meths or some other non-oily solvent. As the card is pulled out you'll see the dirt stuck on it.

First clean the normally-closed contacts, numbers 87A and 30, all the headlight current flows through these. Keep sliding a clean piece of card until it no longer comes out dirty. As a side benefit you might well be rewarded with a brighter headlight for your efforts.

Then move on to the normally-open contacts, numbers 87 and 30. You'll need to manually force these to close by pushing gently on the armature so the card can do its thing. Close them just hard enough for the card to be gripped and slid in and out with a litle friction, keep doing it until the card comes out clean.

Re-install and enjoy a brighter headlight and reliable starting. The above advice stems from my recent experience when the starting became progressively worse over time until I decided to get off my arse after putting up with it for weeks and do something about it...

A couple of photos, the first shows the layout behind the left side panel. The red "emergency" button is part of a mod detailed on the thread below. I'm afraid the photos are gone but I've put new links to them on post 122 of that thread:

https://www.triumphrat.net/air-cooled...start-mod.html

Pictures linked here:

https://www.triumphrat.net/7320234-post122.html

I had to use it for the first time as eventually repeatedly pressing the start button brought no results. The extra pressure exerted by the emergency button on the contacts kicked the relay into action and got me going.

The second shows the internal details of the starter relay. The contact numbers shown are moulded on the plastic relay base next to the plug-in tabs.




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Last edited by Forchetto; 09-15-2016 at 11:52 PM.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-15-2016, 12:31 PM
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Another excellent write up Forchetto, thanks, and I'm sure the headlamp relay isn't the only thing that gives the bean counters a stiffy - they must be positively creaming their pants at the plastic headlight lenses, indicators and wiring harnesses.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-16-2016, 06:52 PM
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thoroughly enjoyed reading this write up, thankyou

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-21-2016, 04:12 AM
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Another great thread.

I'm looking to do your emergency button mod and am having trouble visualising where the button presses. I get that it interacts with the armature but where does the button physically press onto? Any chance you could mark it up on picture above ^ ?

Thanks!

Edit:

Ok so I think I was looking at the picture incorrectly. I take it the hole in drilled from the front and the armature is then pressed inwards so that it connects to 85 and 86?

Last edited by Bonneville63; 09-21-2016 at 04:59 AM.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-21-2016, 06:56 AM Thread Starter
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It pushes against the armature like this. Note relay has a flexible braid connection to bridge the armature whereas the one in the other photo has a sort of spring blade. Make the plunger presses directly against the armature and not the braid

It connects terminals 30 and 87 by mechanically moving the armature in the same way as the electromagnetic coil would in normal operation:


Last edited by Forchetto; 09-21-2016 at 06:59 AM.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-21-2016, 07:09 AM
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Ah ok. Thanks. Will take a look at doing the mod this weekend
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 09-21-2016, 07:20 AM Thread Starter
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Some folk simply drill a hole and seal it with a bit of insulating tape. In an emergency the tape is peeled back and the armature can be prodded with something like a golf T or even the 5mm Allen key that lives next to the fusebox and Triumph pretends is a "tool kit".
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-03-2016, 04:11 AM
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Hey @Forchetto - hopefully you see this because I'm not sure how to PM you. I have a bit of an odd problem.

Went to start my bike about 2 weeks ago and got the dreaded click. The battery was flat. Fine, charged it up and went on my way. This has happened twice in the 3 years I've owned the bike. Once before I left the bike for 5 days during a cold winter without starting it and the second time it stood in fine rain all day.

Well, the same happened again yesterday. I started up the bike, rode 5 miles to the parents, switched it off for 5 minutes, tried to start it and got the dreaded click (I noticed I had left my high beams on while riding so maybe this also attributed to the drained battery which is odd!!??). It was now so flat that it switched the bike off completely and restarted the fuel pump over and over until I switched the ignition off - is that normal for a flat battery to do that? So I charged the battery again and went to start it. Click, nothing. Tried once more, click, nothing. Got phone out to film the problem so I turned the bike on again and all of a sudden it starts. Why would it suddenly start after not starting the previous two attempts?

A few bits of info:
  • This has only happened 3 times over 3 years of owning the bike (from new)
  • I ride a total of 8 miles a day - the battery goes flat over a period of about 3-6 months so I charge it up once or twice during that period
  • Could it be the wet getting into somewhere? Twice now the bike has been very wet (1st was left in fine rain all day, 2nd was after washing it) and then not started - if it is the wet causing it how can I tell?
  • Optimate charger said that the battery was flat - so that was the problem but odd that wet whether kills the battery?
  • Could it be the alternator!?

So to sum up, I know this is a flat battery problem but can water cause it? What checks can I do because previous to this the battery has been fine. Like I said it's only happened 3 times in 3 years (the latest 2 within the last 2 weeks!)

Thanks!

Last edited by Bonneville63; 10-03-2016 at 04:14 AM.
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-03-2016, 04:22 AM Thread Starter
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If the battery is tired and won't hold a decent charge it could be that, although the cycling of the electrics on-off you mention can be caused by nothing more than loose or corroded battery terminals. That symptom shows itself by all the idiot lights, etc going off and then coming back to full brightness slowly.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-03-2016, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forchetto View Post
If the battery is tired and won't hold a decent charge it could be that, although the cycling of the electrics on-off you mention can be caused by nothing more than loose or corroded battery terminals. That symptom shows itself by all the idiot lights, etc going off and then coming back to full brightness slowly.
I'll check the terminals. Last time I checked they visually looked ok but you never know.

Thanks.
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