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Strange Electrical Problem


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I have a 2001 R1100R that up till today has not given me any serious problems. I started it up today and noticed that the whine that accompanies the fuel pump on start up did not go away as usual (very faint whine continued). I rode about a quarter mile and decided to shut it off and restart and see if it would go away. I could not shut the bike down with the key, absolutely no reaction on all key positions??? I killed the engine with the kill switch but all the lights stayed on including the warning lights on the display. I restarted it and drove the 1/4 mile home. Again using the kill switch for the engine and disconnecting the battery to kill the lights. I checked the fuses and they appeared ok, checked what wiring I could see easily for a short and did not find anything obvious. I reconnected the battery and the lights stayed off, restarted the bike and now the starter would not quit even though the engine was running. About three seconds of that (the key still didn't work) and the bike stopped, spewing smoke from under the seat. Very scary!! This time when I checked I had three blown fuses (#'s 1,3,and 6 of the small fuses)

Any ideas?

Much thanks,


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Sorry to hear about that. Sounds like a grounding issue or lack there of.


You should check all the main power wires from starter to ignition and under the seat.

There may be a chaffed wire that has the wire worn through. Look at all places where wires are close to chassis or where they can move.


I would also recommend removing the tank and looking under there.

Also check the ignition. Smell it for any burn and check the wires going in for melt damage.


The kind of failure you have usually shows it's reason somewhere.

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I'd also be checking the relays, not just the fuses. The fuses not being blown (when you first checked) would not explain why lights etc were still active but relays stuck or welded in the wrong position would. I mean when fuses blow things stop working (they interupt the supply of electricity) rather than keep working.

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Only way I can think of (other than powering them up and feeling for a click as they change state) is with a meter. Checking between pin connections to determine if contacts are open or closed, coil is OK etc. That's made tougher if you do not have a diagram of your bike's electrics.

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Bad load relief relay. The first small black one from the left, next to the larger starter relay. As a test, swap it with the next one over which is the horn. grin.gif

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Thanks guys for all the input, I particularly like the load relief relay suggestions. I'll still check the wiring for a short since I won't be able to get parts till Monday. Are the relays a part I could get at an auto-parts store or does it have to be an original BMW part?

Thanks again,Dennis

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Well there's good news and bad news. First the good news. I replaced the Load Relief Relay as was suggested and my starting problems went away(ie the starter didn't keep running after the engine started). The key would still not shut the bike down however.

So I began tracing the wiring looking for problems. When I got to the headlight I could tell there was trouble by the smell. Total Meltdown. Arggg!! Nearly every wire in the headlight was melted (Photo 1)

Photos at


The only alterations I have made to the headlight wiring is to add a Visipath headlight modulator now totally melted (Photo2) and a tap into the highbeam wire to tell my PIIA running lights that the highbeam is active (this wire was still intact Photo3). The most likely cause I see is damage to the harness where it entered the headlight (photo 4).

Could the bad Load Relief Relay cause the headlight meltdown or is it probable that the headlight short blew the relay.

Anyway, can I tie a new headlight harness into the wiring beyond the break or do I have to run the harness all the way back to where it starts? Has anyone had a headlight modulator malfunction and cause this kind of meltdown?

Thanks again,


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Most likely it started at the headlight. Chaffed wire caused it to ground once the wires melt together then all hell breaks loose. Glad you found it.

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