Sunday, January 22, 2017

'70 BSA Lightning Electrical Overhaul & Upgrades

My 1970 BSA Lightning  presented me with many learning opportunities during the past summer as you are aware of if you have been following my foibles. The year started with electrical issues and ended with carburetor issues (I think). While I found many issues with my 46 year old wiring, big surprise, I was able to get it mostly ironed out. I still have a miss after 5K RPM which I think is carb related. Although I had the wiring sorted out the harness was pretty rough. It had been cut and tapped into by a previous owner and had the issues you would expect from wiring of that vintage. The Hornet I rewired has run great, and wanting to replicate that success, I decided to build my own harness for the Lightning. So here I go....more modern bits....a new wiring diagram.....a fuse box....a lot of time on my hands during this Michigan winter.....

The old bits on their way to storage. 

New bits and brackets. A Lucas high output single phase alternator and a Trispark ignition already reside in the Beezer. 

My first order of business was to decide what to keep and what to put away. I already had a Trispark ignition, Lucas high output single phase alternator, Podtronics regulator, and an LED headlight (blown and in need of replacing).

  • Make a new wiring diagram and harness
  • Negative ground (It's a US thing & the LED hi & lo beams will work - no arguments please)
  • Battery free system
  • Kill button (I always wondered why they stopped putting these on)
  • Bosch 12V horn and kill switch relays
  • Trispark dual lead coil
  • Marine grade 25 amp toggle on-off switch
  • Fuse box
  • 12V power port  
  • Custom brackets to hold the new bits
  • Lucas connectors. Crimp for blade and solder for bullets
  • 16 GA wire

I started by creating a new wiring diagram based on the factory diagram converted to negative ground and the one I made for my Hornet. Some of the harness was reused. The handlebar switch, headlight, tail light, and gauge bulb leads to be specific. They were cleaned up and silicone greased to prevent corrosion. I used solder type Lucas bullets and crimp type spades to connect all of the bits and ran a common ground back to a post for most things. I also checked continuity between the engine and frame to make sure it was grounded well.   
My first attempt at a diagram with many edits. 

Following the diagram to cut wires to length.

Starting to look like a harness.....

Adding connectors.

The final harness....a few things had to be tweaked before it worked. 

Lights ready to go after a bit of a stumble with the oil pressure sensor. The toggle was also not working properly and required a blast of cleaner to get it back in order.   

The battery box filled with new bits. 

The Trispark coil provides a great looking spark & was an upgrade used on my Hornet. A custom bracket was machined from aluminum to hold it in place.  The power port is also mounted to its custom aluminum bracket. Lets see how it works. A purist may not want technology but I have found a cell phone a perfect accessory for an antique bike. I like to go places I have never been and this will make me more adventuresome. 

My second bike with a Tri-Spark ignition.....a great product in my opinion. Connections soldered to prevent issues. NGK suppression caps and a dual lead 12V Tri-Spark coil round out the system. 

Hooking up a battery and testing things out.

I fiddled with the wiring diagram and purchased bits throughout the fall. The Christmas Holiday work break was a great opportunity to tackle this project. (My plan ran afoul when I ran out of connectors and had to move on to my mechanical fixes) Although it will run battery free I hooked one up to test it out. Everything appears to work fine; lights come on, spark is strong (even with no battery), and the brake lights work. The real test will not happen until spring when I get it on the road. If engine "missing" issues persist new Amal Premiers will be fitted. I have heard good things about them and am itching to give them a go if needed.

The final version of my diagram.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

'70 BSA Lightning Maintenance & Upgrades

I enjoy riding the BSA and it has made many trips around my area since I purchased it in 2009. It has run with minimal issues, and aside from routine maintenance, has not required much attention. This changed last summer when it started acting up leaving a few things in need of repair this winter. There have also been a few enhancements I have wanted to make for a while. Here we go......

 A new tire in place and being balanced with my "Marc Parnes" wheel balance tool.  

The clutch plates were at their lower wear limits which I discovered last summer. New EMGO cork plates have been installed to replace the Barnett plates which hook up good but do not let go after the bike has been sitting for a day or two. Breaking them loose is a pain. Using EMGO plates was a Hornet modification and a tip from an old BSA dealer in Hobart Indiana. To keep the primary from weeping oil I went back to 30W. I know I will  never get it leak free but I will make it "leak freer".  There was no final drive chain oilier hole to be found in the Lightning primary which I thought may also have been causing leakage.

Darn....forgot to loosen the counter-shaft and primary nuts before taking the rear wheel off. Lesson learned again. Reassemble to disassemble ........

An easy way to pull the clutch plates.....a mechanics magnet. 

Repacking the bearing and fitting a new basket nail. Someone had put one short one in which made adjusting the run-out more difficult than it needed to be.  

I have had a mystery knock coming from my primary for a long time and I finally found it. The center in the rotor was loose. This was discovered when I tightened down the primary crankshaft sprocket. The center will not move when on the bench but does so on the  bike. Luckily I had an extra one on the shelf I could use. It is installed and tightened down with no issue detected. I will need to reset the timing since I do not know how the last rotor was lined up when it was set. 

My "Mystery Knock"....the offender....a loose rotor center. 

All back together and checking run out. The indicator is overkill but works fine. 

The brass clutch nut lock tabs (right) were worn off and had to be replaced with new steel ones. This is easy to overlook but the tabs must engage with the spring ends to keep the clutch from coming apart. The clutch springs were stiff creating heavy lever efforts. They were replace with lighter duty springs improving the lever pull significantly. 

A 21 tooth sprocket replacing the 20T. This should be good for a 500 RPM drop at secondary road speeds and make a more enjoyable highway rider. 

The next fix was to repair the cracks that have been working their way back on my headlight and up the rear fender. After dis-assembling the fender I found a much larger crack that was almost across its entire width. It was not very easy to see so I welded and painted it.

My vintage plate also suffering a terrible fate. 

The fender tip crack welded, painted, and disguised with a sticker. The other crack ran full width and was also painted. Luckily it is under the tail light & not too visible.

The chrome paint looks more like aluminum. Although I did not expect a perfect match I thought it would be a bit closer. I will try something different next time.

The registration plate gets an aluminum backer. Let's see how this works. 

The steering head has had a hitch in it for a while. When I blocked the front wheel off the ground and removed the steering damper it was plain to see that the bearings and  cups were damaged. The SRM roller bearing upgrade on my Hornet is silky smooth and I decided to go the same route with the Lightning. This was a pretty uneventful upgrade, just a lot of stuff to take off and reassemble. One area that needed adjusting was the stack up of the bearings as the steering lock rubbed lightly when assembled with the roller bearings.
The SRM Kit ready to go.

Out with the old......hard grease, damaged bearings & cups. 

In with the new......SRM tapered roller bearings. 

A .035 shim added to increase the stack up. This was done to stop the steering lock from rubbing on the frame. I used a fork nut washer which I bored out to 1.125. 

New bearings in the triple tree....

Back together. Time to finish the wiring. 

Nothing to do with this post but just plain cool! The original decal - Parson's Auto & Cycle Supply.

While I am eager to get the BSA back on the road and try my improvements it is 20 deg f outside and it will have to wait. Time to finish the wiring upgrades I started before Christmas.

Not very good bike riding weather here....nice for taking photos. 

Another side I support my antique motorcycle restoration habit....the Product Development department I work in built the interior for our Company's 2017 NAIAS vehicle....check out the link.