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Gerbing's / BMW Letter to Editor (MCN)


moshe_levy

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Guys-

 

I got my April MCN today and noticed the very first letter to the editors was from a guy with an F800ST who was trying to make the case that his new Gerbing's gear doesn't work when plugged in because the bike is designed to work solely with BMW electrical accessories.

 

I was sort of taken aback that the EDs allowed this to print without any response (likely because the letter is mostly an unrelated rant) but I wrote to the guy myself, to try to better understand what he was saying.

 

Ultimately, he wrote back that he could not get his Gerbing's liner to work when plugged into the F800's accessory port because of the CANbus. He ran a direct pigtail to the battery and all is well. I am an advocate of the direct pigtail myself, but I still don't really get his point re CANbus.

 

Now, I have only a rudimentary understanding of this, but as I understand it CanBus is the communication protocol between the bike's electronic modules. I think what he means is the ZFE module, not CANbus. The ZFE has internal circuit protection and very likely the Gerbing's liner exceeded the meager current limit that the ZFE allows on the accessory port.

 

Am I on the right track here? I'd like to respond to the guy and explain the facts accurately and I know I've seen this discussed before, but wanted to double check.

 

-MKL

 

 

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Evening MKL

 

You are on the right track as CanBus is just the protocol used for module to module communication. BUT, keep in mind that even a lot of BMW dealers and BMW technicians call those darn outlets CanBus outlets.

 

The real problem is in the ZFE itself as that is what limits outlet power.

 

I guess I really can’t blame the guy, he bought a new EXPENSIVE supposedly uplevel bike and the darn thing won’t run his heated gear as received.

 

WHAT went through BMW engineering’s head when they clipped those outlets to (some to 5 amps) (and some to 10 amps). That is just stupidity on BMW’s part.

 

Added:

CanBus Info--Click

 

 

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Paul Mihalka

Easy response: If his Gerbing stuff pulls more than 5 amp, the accessory socket will shut down. Stupid from BMW. Connecting straight to the battery is the solution.

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There is another solution, although it ends up being a battery-direct connection.

 

Powerlet sells "ICAN" cables in different lengths (12", 36, 48) that have battery loop terminals on one end, an inline fuse holder on the positive lead, and a plug at the other end which connects right into the butt side of the BMW's accessory port/socket.

 

The ZFE sees an unoccupied accessory port as an open connection. So, if you unplug the lead from the back of the accessory port, it's still an open connection to the ZFE. Now, plug in the Powerlet lead into the back of the accessory port and you've got a battery-direct, fuse-protected accessory port that you can plug your heated gear into (up to the amp limit of the fuse and/or the wires that Powerlet uses -- which I believe can withstand about 15-20 amps).

 

The Powerlet cables run somewhere around $30. Just choose the right length for your bike (depending on where the accessory port is located relative to the battery), and it's literally plug 'n play (pun intended).

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... Now, I have only a rudimentary understanding of this, but as I understand it CanBus is the communication protocol between the bike's electronic modules. ...

-MKL

Hi, Moshe, as the others confirmed, you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

 

CAN-Bus is the single-wire (actually, two-wire) method of passing status and control information throughout a vehicle. It replaces the million wires used to interconnect sensors, switches and bike's computers. CAN-Bus is both a wiring scheme and the protocol used to convey information.

 

The power-utilizing equipment is controlled by a central management computer; on BMW bikes it is the ZFE (usually translated as "central vehicle electrics"). ZFE receives status on switch positions and on sensors and shares it with the engine-control computer and with the ABS controller/modulator. The three computers use CAN-Bus wiring to communicate with each other and to receive information from some switches and sensors (even though most of switches are still old-style direct wires to the respective computers).

 

To me, CAN-Bus implementation is the next thing after sliced bread (I may be partial, of course; professionally, I am involved in design of industrial equipment using CAN - the initial application of the protocol). CAN-Bus sharply reduces the amount of wiring and connections in the system, thus lowering complexity and increasing reliability. In an industrial, as well as in a vehicle electrical system, the majority of failures are attributed to trouble with wiring and connections.

 

Being a new development in the ossified world of motorbikes, where 1950's technology is still mainstream, CAN architecture is blamed for variety of ills, from problems with lighting to reduced sperm count (exaggerating just slightly).

 

Case in point - the issue brought up by you in the O.P.: the person complaining about his heated gear tripping off. Current generation of BMW bikes uses ZFE to monitor and control power draw of various devices in the bike. If you notice, there are no fuses anymore - all circuit protection is handled by the ZFE by means of resettable electronic circuit breakers. Auxiliary power outlets are rated at 5A, equivalent to 60W at 12V. If the load connected to the socket exceeds 5A, the breaker trips.

 

Needless to say, this has nothing to do with CAN-Bus, New York City Bus or any other bus. It is simply the limit set by the bike's design. Just as if the circuit was fused, you cannot exceed the maximum draw.

 

Simply put, the Gerbing set must be exceeding 5A and trips out the circuit breaker. The proper solution is to either break up the various clothing items between multiple auxiliary sockets, if provided (if am not sure, but I believe that additional outlets are individually protected), or simply install a dedicated power pigtail directly to battery. Typically, heating equipment manufacturers provide such fused pigtails - alternately, these can be purchased from 3-rd party vendors like Aerostich.

 

I hope this helps to clarify the issue. Feel free to quote my thoughts in your MCN response.

 

Robert.

 

 

 

 

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RichEdwards

First thing I do when I purchase a BMW is install a fuse box like the Centech. All the outlets on my '09 GSA (three of them) are connected to the battery through the Centech fuse box with each outlet having a fuse appropriate for the device I am using (GPS, Gerbings, etc.) Also, my dealer (BMW of Tampa Bay) installs a pigtail wire to the battery so a Battery Tender can be connected directiy to the battery for charging without suffering the circuit shutdown.

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CruisinCruzan

The day I brought my '06RT home I put in a fuse box (all 7 circuits are used) as well as a BMW style powerlet socket to the battery for my tender. I like the advantages of the CanBus system and the disadvantages of it not liking accessories is easily overcome with a fuse box.

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Not sure if this is the same thing .... but I have a 2006 R1200RT and run my Gerbings liner w/o a controller (so full on) and use the power outlet that came from the factory. The Liner works fine and never shuts down the circuit. I did run my battery tender directly to the battery w/pigtail.

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Morning EffBee

 

Unfortunately the new ZFE era BMW’s us a different accessory outlet than the old pre ZFE era bikes. What that means is the new accessory outlets use very small (almost needle size) connection terminals. This also limits the current carrying capacity of the new accessory outlets to about 10 amps or so (at least that is their amp rating).

 

Simply plugging a jumper harness into the newer accessory outlets increases the current available to the outlet but does nothing to increase the load carrying ability of the outlet itself.

 

The new small pin outlets might be able to be pushed to 15 amps or so at full system voltage but that would be pushing it. PowerLet does sell the power harnesses to fit those new outlets so they have been in use for a while.

 

One of the problems with having the socket live all the time is continuous power on the connection terminals and socket innards. This means that any water that enters the socket or the pin area creates a low current flow condition. Not usually a problem with clean salt free water but can be a lurking problem if salty water or even water softener softened water ends up in the connectors or in the socket.

 

 

The correct way to is to also update the outlet to the older flat pin 15 amp outlet (or the 15 amp PowerLet replacement socket). That socket is rated at 15 amps but can easily handle 20 amps at reduced voltage.

 

 

Added:

 

new_oldsocket_compare.jpg

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Hey that original letter writer would have been really disappointed if he had bought an S1000RR, as it has no power outlets at all. I put a Powerlet in a discrete location on my RR, with a short fused run to the battery, and enjoy my Gerbings jacket under my leathers, as well as using it for my Battery Tender port.

 

BTW if you google Gerbings Canbus you will find the same clueless complaint on many BMW forums.

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Letter was pure hogly wash and the ranter opened his mouth and proved he was a fool.

Big disappointment regarding the Ed's at MCN.

For less efforth than writing the letter he could've found out what was up.

Stating that only BMW proprietary stuff would work is false.

I'm a 20 year subscriber and very surprised this was published w/out any reference or facts.

One call to a delaership could have solved it.

Wonder if RFM would've helped the owner?

 

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Morning

 

Well even PowerLet calls it a CanBus harness -----

 

They say on their website-- “By-pass the stock CANbus wiring harness”.

 

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Not sure if this is the same thing .... but I have a 2006 R1200RT and run my Gerbings liner w/o a controller (so full on) and use the power outlet that came from the factory. The Liner works fine and never shuts down the circuit. I did run my battery tender directly to the battery w/pigtail.

 

 

Morning Ed

 

Full on really doesn’t matter with the ZFE controlled circuits. Most of the heated gear controllers are pulse width modulated so toggle between full on and full off. All it takes is a second at full power for the ZFE to shut the circuit down.

 

Different people are talking different bikes here. Some like the R bikes only have a 5 amp outlet power rating (those will shut down on about any heated gear usage). Others like the later RT’s have 10 amp outlet ratings and will operate heated vests just fine and sometimes even operate the smaller jacket liners.

 

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Morning EffBee

 

Unfortunately the new ZFE era BMW’s us a different accessory outlet than the old pre ZFE era bikes. What that means is the new accessory outlets use very small (almost needle size) connection terminals. This also limits the current carrying capacity of the new accessory outlets to about 10 amps or so (at least that is their amp rating).

 

Simply plugging a jumper harness into the newer accessory outlets increases the current available to the outlet but does nothing to increase the load carrying ability of the outlet itself.

 

The new small pin outlets might be able to be pushed to 15 amps or so at full system voltage but that would be pushing it. PowerLet does sell the power harnesses to fit those new outlets so they have been in use for a while.

 

One of the problems with having the socket live all the time is continuous power on the connection terminals and socket innards. This means that any water that enters the socket or the pin area creates a low current flow condition. Not usually a problem with clean salt free water but can be a lurking problem if salty water or even water softener softened water ends up in the connectors or in the socket.

 

 

The correct way to is to also update the outlet to the older flat pin 15 amp outlet (or the 15 amp PowerLet replacement socket). That socket is rated at 15 amps but can easily handle 20 amps at reduced voltage.

 

 

Added:

 

new_oldsocket_compare.jpg

 

When I worked for a dealer (until 3 years ago), we would suggest the Powerlet ICAN harness for customers and it seemed to work fine, handling all of their accessory power needs. What I can't be sure of, is exactly what was the most current that a customer was able to get safely through the plug connection on the backside of the socket. If, as you say, 10A is the safe limit on the newer BMW pin connectors, then installing a fused, direct-wired BMW-style accessory socket kit (which both Powerlet and Gerbing's sell), rated for at least 15A, is the better solution.

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Morning again EffBee

 

The current small pin outlet is RATED at 10 amps. As we all know there is wiggle room on these ratings as there must be some over current allowed above ratings.

We also don’t know the voltage that 10 amp rating is at.

 

I guess my point is, that running the new style outlet at 15 amps is probably the max you can get away with and that is at nominal voltage. As the connections get older the terminals oxidize or get that green corrosion, the battery gets a little weaker so the static voltage drops below the 12.25 volt mark. All this adds up to the possibility of outlet or harness terminal failure when you need it the most and that is in cold wet weather far from home.

 

The older BMW outlets with the flat pins have carried a good 15 amps for years and a lot of us have pushed that to 20 amps, and they have held up well through years of usage.

 

I’m not saying a person absolutely needs to change out the stock 10 amp rated outlets but it probably isn’t a bad idea if you want years of trouble free service when using high amp items on the outlet.

 

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Robert-

 

This is a fantastic amount of information, thanks. I can't improve on it and in fact it may be "weird" for a sometime contributor like me to respond to a letter. I encourage you to send this yourself as a reader response. Somebody should send something to counter that original letter's false claim.

 

-MKL

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Let's not overlook the fact the OP is on an 800, not a 1200. I wouldn't expect the 800 to carry the same loads (amps) of a 1200.

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Morning again EffBee

 

The current small pin outlet is RATED at 10 amps. As we all know there is wiggle room on these ratings as there must be some over current allowed above ratings.

We also don’t know the voltage that 10 amp rating is at.

 

I guess my point is, that running the new style outlet at 15 amps is probably the max you can get away with and that is at nominal voltage. As the connections get older the terminals oxidize or get that green corrosion, the battery gets a little weaker so the static voltage drops below the 12.25 volt mark. All this adds up to the possibility of outlet or harness terminal failure when you need it the most and that is in cold wet weather far from home.

 

The older BMW outlets with the flat pins have carried a good 15 amps for years and a lot of us have pushed that to 20 amps, and they have held up well through years of usage.

 

I’m not saying a person absolutely needs to change out the stock 10 amp rated outlets but it probably isn’t a bad idea if you want years of trouble free service when using high amp items on the outlet.

And I agree with you completely. My initial recommendation was based on my dealership experience, but couldn't possibly encompass all of the scenarios that a customer might put that socket (and its connections) through. Therefore, not being able to assure the OP of this, I think your suggestion is excellent. No conflict here. I had a good idea. You had a better one. Everyone wins. :thumbsup:

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Guys-

 

I was sort of taken aback that the EDs allowed this to print without any response (likely because the letter is mostly an unrelated rant) but I wrote to the guy myself, to try to better understand what he was saying.-MKL

 

Yes, it was a surprise to have a lead editorial printed about a rant like that. Geez, the first thing I thought of was: just run a pigtail to the battery directly and quit whining. Several others here have offered their solutions. It is obvious that BMW dropped the ball on the rating of these circuits and their ability to handle accessories within reason. That being said, how many of us have EVER bought a bike and liked it exactly how the factory made it and never changed anything? The poor "farkling factories" would die on the vine.

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Not sure if this is the same thing .... but I have a 2006 R1200RT and run my Gerbings liner w/o a controller (so full on) and use the power outlet that came from the factory. The Liner works fine and never shuts down the circuit. I did run my battery tender directly to the battery w/pigtail.

 

 

Morning Ed

 

Full on really doesn’t matter with the ZFE controlled circuits. Most of the heated gear controllers are pulse width modulated so toggle between full on and full off. All it takes is a second at full power for the ZFE to shut the circuit down.

 

Different people are talking different bikes here. Some like the R bikes only have a 5 amp outlet power rating (those will shut down on about any heated gear usage). Others like the later RT’s have 10 amp outlet ratings and will operate heated vests just fine and sometimes even operate the smaller jacket liners.

 

Ahh ... so all are not created equal. I get it. And I guess my RT has the 10 amp version and runs my XXL full liner just fine. For once I got lucky!

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.. I encourage you to send this yourself as a reader response.

 

Thanks. Well, I finally read the letter in question. Indeed, it is a weird rant, but I felt motivated to reply. My note to MCN is below.

 

MCN-Letters

P.O. Box 6050

Mission Viejo, CA 92690

 

 

re.: Letters to Editor, April 2011 issue

 

 

Thank you for yet another great issue of your magazine – it just arrived in my mailbox.

 

Reading the first letter from a reader, who complained about his heated gear not working on an F800ST, I was surprised that it did not warrant a comment from the editors.

 

Somehow, the letter implied that BMW requires BMW-only accessories and then it inexplicably veered off to blame BMW for the US financial breakdown and, seemingly, decline of the Western Civilization in general.

 

 

Well, that is news to us, long-term BMW riders – on all of those counts. Ignoring the issue of fully US-made economic disaster, I would suggest that the letter author simply exceeded the rating of his accessory sockets. As he wrote, his heated gear was a brand-new Christmas gift; I’d venture to say that he is not aware of the concept of electrical load.

 

Most of accessory sockets on current-generation BMW bikes are rated at 5A, which translates into about 60W nominal. Gerbings jacket liner is rated by manufacturer at 77W, about 6.5A. Even at reduced heat setting, the jacket draws still as much current, albeit in few-second-long pulses averaging to the lower drive.

 

The result is simple: 77W heating garment cannot be driven by a 5A outlet, much the same way as your 20A home appliance cannot be powered from a 15A receptacle. There is nothing specific about a manufacturer’s brand; anyone’s product is bound by the immutable mathematics.

 

The solution is simple and used by all those of us who are familiar with these bikes and frequently use high-power accessories. A direct feed from battery allows for much higher current draws. All heating garment vendors and many third-party outfits offer such power pigtails (for example, Gerbing p/n ACBH).

 

One could raise a valid point about wisdom of only 5A ratings for accessory outlets on the current systems, equipped with electronic circuit breakers – older bikes with thermal fuses were rated higher. Still, there is no dark conspiracy on part of BMW to force riders to use only their own products.

 

I’d suggest to the letter writer that a bit of education would go a long way to make his riding more enjoyable. Although I do not have access to the F800ST owner’s manual, I’d expect the accessory outlet rating to be mentioned there. Otherwise, a quick search or a post on any of the Internet forums devoted to his and similar bikes would give him access to the great resource of fellow riders, with vast accumulated knowledge base and a desire to help.

 

So, let’s cheer up, the 2011 riding season in the North-East finally arrived. That is what really counts.

 

 

With best regards, Robert.

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Good letter to the Ed in response. The only thing I would add is that BMW Rider's Manuals are available for download as PDF files from BMW Canada's website for many (all?) models. I checked the manual for the F800ST and the accessory socket is indeed rated for 5A. By contrast, my R12RT's accessory sockets are rated for 10A.

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Like I said.

RTFM.

My guess is that if it was a present th writer chose it and told SO to get it.

Too many ways to have avoided hid user created mistake.

 

Nice letter.

:thumbsup:

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Fuses on the older bikes, circuit breaker like devices in the ZFE all have one purpose: to protect the wiring from over current.

 

So, don't be adding fuse panels and assorted wiring without properly sizing the wires for the intended current load.

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

yep, read your reply.. very well written response. Congrats

 

It really was surprising how they published the initial letter without a response. MCN is such a rock solid mag.. and are fans of BMW. (and Moshe!)

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Nope - just printed Robert's letter.

-MKL

Thanks - now I am looking forward to my copy arriving in the mailbox, hopefully today.

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Thanks - now I am looking forward to my copy arriving in the mailbox, hopefully today.

 

Me too. Must be mailed from the East Coast or Mid-West.

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That'a weird...Moshe, Robert and I are all in NJ (to quote Moshe: God Help US) but I got my issue on Wednesday.

 

Actually, not that weird... It's USPS.

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Jim VonBaden
Good letter to the Ed in response. The only thing I would add is that BMW Rider's Manuals are available for download as PDF files from BMW Canada's website for many (all?) models. I checked the manual for the F800ST and the accessory socket is indeed rated for 5A. By contrast, my R12RT's accessory sockets are rated for 10A.

 

Also interesting, the R1200GS is only rated at 5 amps, while the ST is rated at 10.

 

Though the BMW plug may be rated to handle 10 amps max, many have direct wired it to the battery and run a full set of Gerbing gear on them, surely exceeding the 10 amp rating. I have not seen any burn up either, so they must be somewhat under rated, as mentioned.

 

Jim :Cool:

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  • 3 weeks later...
RocketMoto

One additional note here. The early ZFE sockets were of metal construction - similar to Powerlet sockets. The newer sockets are cheapo plastic junk and are not suitable for high current carrying capacity needed by heated gear.

 

If you have a plastic ZFE socket (flip the lid open to see if the center ring is metal or plastic), replace it with a genuine Powerlet kit wired to a fuse panel or direct to the battery thru a fuse.

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