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Left handlebar - headlight swtich, A tale of darkness into light


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Warning: There may be a little embellishment in this story.


Last night while leaving Baltimore and going back home to Arlington VA I noticed that my headlight was not working. This has happened before as the switch can be temperamental. However, this time I was unable to get the blasted thing to work. I had to drive home, (about 40 miles) with my left thumb holding the high beam flashers down. By the time I got home, the heel of my left hand had a cramp like you could not imagine.


This morning I drove to the BMW dealer, told them of my problem and the mechanic said he was 99% sure that it was a bad relay. I laughed at the BMW gods that they had not defeated me! I purchased one for $11.00 and was thrilled and filled with confidence and power!! This was going to be a cheap and quick fix!! I went out to the parking lot, pulled the seat off, replaced the relay and with a smarmy smile. As I was admiring my motorcycle suaveness, I turned the key in mockery of the great BMW mechanics and their 90.00/hour rates...one problem...nothing happened. dopeslap.gif


I went back into the shop, shoulders slumped, head down and convinced that this was going to cause irreparable damage to my bank account. I stared at the hourly labor rate of $90.00/hour. The repair counter seemed to be just high enough for me to peer over at the computer attendant. I sheepishly asked the counter cleark…”um excuse me, do you think that maybe someone could look at my motorcycle and make sure I’m doing this correctly?” The clerk stared down at me with disgust and hatred in his eyes…”YOU MUST WAIT YOUR TURN YOU PATHETIC MAGGOT!!” eek.gif


Finally one of the BMW elite came to look at my bike. He approached in silence, looked at the bike looked at the relays and pronounced: “This is not due to a relay problem. Your issue lies with the left hand headlight switch…the next words out of his mouth were my worst fears. His statement echoed through the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area: YOU MUST PURCHASE A WHOLE NEW SWTICH, THIS WHOLE COMPONENT MUST BE REPLACED...ACED…ACED…ACED…ACED!! lmao.gif


I again walked back into the shop, cursing BMW. I again spoke to the counter woman, told her what I needed and she laughed at my ignorance and naïveté. “$98.00”, she said as her eyes bulged with delight…”do you want me to make an appointment for you?”. I was frozen in indecision, is this something that I could do myself? After attending the NE Tech day in Connecticut I was privy to many people doing what I considered to be heavy duty maintenance on their bikes. I spoke without giving it much thought, “No, I think I can do this myself.” She smirked at me with doubt and said patronizingly, “Well, then we’ll see you soon, Mr. Castallo”. smirk.gif


I drove home, parked the bike in the driveway and began examining the steps that were involved in replacing this switch. At first glance it seemed pretty straight forward, it’s two different plugs, one screw and “presto chango”…done. confused.gif


Well, it wasn’t exactly that easy but I’m happy to report, 1.5 hours later I completed my first unassisted repair of my motorcycle. The lights all work, the fairing is all back together and I don’t have any left over screws or parts….and best of all, I probably saved about $200.00 without having the BMW mechanics replace the switch.


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I have SOOOO been there!! eek.gif


I've burnt out 2 switches because of the stupid (IMHO) single switch setup for the CHP.


My fix (w/o contacting the dealer or buying parts) was to spend about 6 hours, totally removing the front fairing, and rewiring the OEM headlight switch (right bar) back to the way BMW had intended it. Took about a week or so, on/off, and much poking with circuit testers and test light. Tracey grabbed the pictures and write-up, and put it on his RTP website.


Good luck with it! I was glad I only had to make it about 3 miles home both times!

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Yep. I pulled most of the front fairing off to get the switch installed. With the metal roll bars, I didn't want to get into pulling off all the side fairing, getting the roll bars off looked to be a real pain. I took out the left hand side speaker (wires were clipped anyway) and went in that way. Luckily, I have small hands.


I didn't rewire anything as i'm not yet ready to take-on that challenge.


All is well! By the way I say about 10 new RTPs being delivered to the locals on Monday. Very nice!

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  • 1 month later...

Unbelievably the only time i had to ride my bike at night

the headlight failed and i rode home with my finger on

the highbeam and also not one car flashed back at me.

My diagnosis was it was left out in the frost & water

permeated the switch, i undid the screw and poured

sewing machine oil right through the switch and it hasn't

failed since. Murphys Law on the night.

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Thank you for that.


Last year when I experienced a total catastophic burnout

of my harness, I had BMW of North Dallas rewire with another RTP harness and wire the right hand switch correctly

such that it controls the headlight as intended. I dissasembled this switch (not recommended, since none of

the parts inside are easily sourced and this gimcrack mechanism is comprised of small easily lost parts), cleaned it, and reassembled it. Still no lights. My next step will be to

pull the nose fairing and examine the plug connection to

the main harness. I still have the 'momentary' brights but

as copbike found out one really can't ride whilst pressing that thumb switch.

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