Author Topic: Is electronic ignition the way to go?  (Read 11452 times)

Offline Housewiz

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Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« on: 10.12. 2012 02:33 »
I found a website that discusses the inconsistent operation of Lucas magnetos when they get hot.  Is it true some bikes won't start/run when the mag gets a bit too warm?

My SR came with a mag missing lots of parts so off to eBay I went and bought rebuilt mag.  Nothing unusual there except the seller sent it to Japan and the Japanese guy's rocker box cover to me.  Would the consensus be to get a refund on the eBay mag and upgrade to an electronic ignition?  I am shooting for a dependable bike here.

Thanks,

Steve

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Online Brian

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #1 on: 10.12. 2012 03:14 »
Your going to get a lot of varied replies to this one Steve, with all sorts of recomendations and theories.

Personally I like magneto's. If you have a magneto that has been reconditioned by a competent expert your bike will start easily hot or cold or anywhere in between and you should not have to touch it again for many years.

Electronic units can have some advantages with electronic advance curves but the problem is they are externally powered. You need a battery and that has to be kept charged by a generater. Some will argue that modern bikes all have electronic ignition which they do, but they also have high output modern alternaters. They dont rely on a 60 year old generater.

With a electronic system if you forget and leave your lights on or have a wiring fault, then you walk home.

Another problem with electronic systems is the voltage required to make them work, now a lot will disagree with me here and say that they will start the bike with only 2 or 3 volts left in the battery. In my experience once the battery drops under 6 volts the bike will not start regardless of what the manufacturer claims.

There is another unit available, a BTH system that is self generating like a magneto. The best I can describe these is a modern version of a magneto. They are fully electronic and seem to work well however I have doubts about the quality of the electronic components used, I recently had to repair one of these units, it needed a new CDI unit.

For those that say magneto's are old fashioned and no longer needed then consider this. All modern piston powered aircraft still use magneto's. Electronic systems are not considered reliable enough for the aircraft industry.
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Offline Housewiz

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #2 on: 10.12. 2012 03:32 »
Hey Brian,

Excellent reply!!

Let's hope that wayward mag makes it home from Japan.  It was supposed to be totally rebuilt and tested and I really don't need another rocker cover that's worth a 5th of the mag.

Thanks,

Steve

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Offline Rocket Racer

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #3 on: 10.12. 2012 03:49 »
I hope your mag turns up and is as described.
A decent mag is a sound investment. Sadly a bad mag (even a badly reconditioned one) is a liability.
I've run points ignition (on an atlas), lucas mags, a modern BT-H and a modern Joe Hunt on my A10 and B33.
All could provide reasonable reliability and all could and have caused infrequent problems.
Most mags dont like rain, but neither will a points set up. They should all also get you home.
The big catch with "old" mags is that they can have a myriad of little issues that can be rather testing  *eek*

Good luck
Tim
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Offline stu.andrews

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #4 on: 10.12. 2012 09:12 »
I go along with what Brian says. I've had electronic (Boyer) & magnetos. Any fault with an electronic system & your bike is immobile whereas you'll nearly always get home with a magneto. If a mag has been professionally rebuilt, then that's the way I would go. Like Brian has rightly stated, aircraft use magnetos:- there's no room for failures up there!
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Offline warmshed

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #5 on: 10.12. 2012 09:45 »
It depends on you way of thinking.

 I believe electronic ignition is the way to go. Just look at all the cars on the road, most have electronic ignition. zero have mags (maybe a few veterans) and only older classic cars have contact breakers and most of those have electronic conversions. How many do you see broken down at the side of the road with failed spark?
I have had a Lucas rita on my Velocette for 30 years and you get full high intensity spark even if you kick over slowly, does not get weaker when hot. Majority of classic bikes that are difficult to start can trace it down to a mag.

New electronic ignitions  can be cheap and are reliable, newer ones less than £20 such as http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Powerspark-45D-ELECTRONIC-IGNITION-KIT-for-Lucas-43D-45D-59D-Distributors-/360508264952?pt=UK_CarsParts_Vehicles_CarParts_SM&hash=item53eff791f8 so viable to carry a spare.  The expensive part is the mechanical magneto replacement, but I bought a complete lucas RITA replacement  A10 kit on ebay for £80, so they are available without paying £200+,  there is one at £60 on ebay at the moment with single spark but easy and cheap to change to twin. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Lucas-Magneto-replacement-electronic-ignition-kit-Triumph-BSA-Norton-Vincent-/330842117269?pt=UK_Motorcycle_Parts&hash=item4d07ba1495

The downside as mentioned is the need for reliable electrics. Well if you don't have a working dynamo or alternator, lights etc  then maybe you should not be using your bike anyway? If you have the later alternator instead of a dynamo then you can normally get a good spark with a flat battery on kick over, I can on my Velo with alternator conversion.

Magnetos have been around for a long time and many find they work well. Later capacitors increase reliability but don't forget the old 60 year old bearings, flaky points and brushes.  If you are half way round the continent and the mag fails??? .

Originality is important to some people, I think the mag replacement points holder looks right (was fitted as standard to some British bike when mags dried up in  1969-70, Velo Thuxton being one.) But I want reliability and consistent high intensity spark and good starting so my Lucas competion magneto will stay on the garage shelf .
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Offline Beezageezauk

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #6 on: 10.12. 2012 09:54 »
Hi Steve,

I'm also with Brian all the way.

My A10 is still running on 6volt electrics with magneto and I travel several thousands of miles on it each year with most of my journeys heading to camping weekends and bike rallies.  I've noticed over the years that if a bike won't start up at one of these events it's invariably because it is fitted with electronic ignition and the battery is not powerful enough to allow the engine to fire up.  Because there is enough power in the battery to work the lights most owners think that the battery is ok and it takes a long time for them to realise that the battery needs to be well charged for the electronic unit to work.  Most guys I know who travel to these events (and have electronic ignition) now carry jump leads with them.  

As has been mentioned.  Electronic ignition is a modern(ish) thing but the rest of the bike needs to be updated to more modern equipment for it to be reliable.



Beezageezauk.

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Offline LJ.

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #7 on: 10.12. 2012 09:59 »
Magnetos for me... a classic part for a classic bike. They take such little maintenance and don't rely on anything else for their running. Good quality brushes are important though, the worse scenario is soft brushes with lots of carbon dust around the slip ring, but if you regularly clean it out then even soft brushes are not such a problem.
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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #8 on: 10.12. 2012 10:36 »
6V and magneto for me. I was fortunate that mine came with a complete mag, though I did have that refurbed whilst I was doing everything else. I'd only go electronic if it made sense financially.

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Online Brian

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #9 on: 10.12. 2012 11:08 »
I was going to put this in another topic but seeing as we are on the subject I'll stick it in here.

A few weeks ago I had a Triton bought to me with an ignition fault. Its basically a Triumph Bonneville motor in a wideline Norton frame. None of that really matters but it was fitted with a "modern" BTH ignition system. Most have probably come across them but if not they are a modern version of a magneto, self generating (no external power source required) and fully electronic.

The bike would start and run fine cold but as soon as it warmed up it lost spark to one cylinder (right side), I quickly eliminated the HT coils as being faulty by simply swapping them over. After contacting the manufacturer his advice was that it would almost certainly be a CDI unit so he sent a replacement. I fitted the replacement CDI and it cured the problem.

In the attached photos you will be able to see the two CDI units (the black boxes) and the two trigger coils on the front plate.

The unit seems to work well, the bike starts easily and runs well. It seems to be well made as far as the machining of the metal components. It is dead easy to set the timing up.

My concerns with it are the quality of the CDI units, I think they could be better. They are literally just glued in with silastic and there are a mass of wires jammed inside, it could all be a lot neater.

These things are just one of the systems available to replace  the original magneto.
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Offline alanp

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #10 on: 10.12. 2012 11:16 »
As has been said, electronic ignition is fine if accompanied with modern alternators. It seems to me that some of my classic riding friends who converted to electronic ignition have changed back to magnetos due to the problem of keeping the battery voltage sufficiently high.
Now, this may/will be aggravated by using cheap batteries or duff dynamos or failing to put their batteries on Optimate chargers when the bike isn't run for some weeks or using an old car type battery charger now and again in the belief this will do the trick, so each circumstance is different.
My advice would be that if you really must go the electronic route buy a good battery (not the cheapest you can find), get your dynamo checked by a good source, buy an Optimate charger and connect it up before you close the garage door until the next decent weekend run.
However, if you don't want to be this organised maybe they're not for you.
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Offline muskrat

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #11 on: 10.12. 2012 11:47 »
 OK I'll be the odd one out. Boyer on all 3 BSA's. First tried it on the A7SS racer, and started winning. Put one on the '51 A7 and luv it. Dynamo is good, use 2 x 6 volt gel bat in line to give 12 volt through a DVR2 reg. Draws 2 amp at idle, 0 at 25MPH in 4th and +2 at 40mph. SRM dynamo belt broke once, charged battery at servo for about 2 beers and it got me 80 miles home. The best thing is it starts 1st kick hot or cold, even after a month sitting.
Cheers
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Online bsa-bill

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #12 on: 10.12. 2012 14:53 »
Quote
Now, this may/will be aggravated by using cheap batteries or duff dynamos or failing to put their batteries on Optimate chargers

Think you have a point or two there Alanp, I fitted a Pazon unit and it's cured my problems starting and running my RGF, however I do have a problem with the battery losing charge and had no time of late to investigate could be one of a few things

1. Battery - seems to me even expensive ones are cheap these days, I had a battery on my Flash for six years or more and never had to charge it after winter, had three replacements for it since they last about a year two if your lucky.
2. regulator it's a vreg, think I read they can let the battery leak down, in fairness it did get a couple of leads reversed after a senior moment so ??

I rate the Pazon though the bike starts and runs well with no pinking that was evident with the maggie and contrary to what I have read it does not run the battery down if left on ( yes another senior moment).
Of course the Pazon could be hiding other faults that I have not uncovered and yes I would like the bike to run on a maggie but I need to get it checked out and a fault found, it had been refurbished and runs on the Flash quite well so maybe it just dont like alloy
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Online Triton Thrasher

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #13 on: 10.12. 2012 18:10 »
Quote
It depends on you way of thinking.

 I believe electronic ignition is the way to go. Just look at all the cars on the road, most have electronic ignition. zero have mags (maybe a few veterans) and only older classic cars have contact breakers and most of those have electronic conversions. How many do you see broken down at the side of the road with failed spark?
I have had a Lucas rita on my Velocette for 30 years and you get full high intensity spark even if you kick over slowly, does not get weaker when hot. Majority of classic bikes that are difficult to start can trace it down to a mag.

New electronic ignitions  can be cheap and are reliable, newer ones less than £20 such as http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Powerspark-45D-ELECTRONIC-IGNITION-KIT-for-Lucas-43D-45D-59D-Distributors-/360508264952?pt=UK_CarsParts_Vehicles_CarParts_SM&hash=item53eff791f8 so viable to carry a spare.  The expensive part is the mechanical magneto replacement, but I bought a complete lucas RITA replacement  A10 kit on ebay for £80, so they are available without paying £200+,  there is one at £60 on ebay at the moment with single spark but easy and cheap to change to twin. http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Lucas-Magneto-replacement-electronic-ignition-kit-Triumph-BSA-Norton-Vincent-/330842117269?pt=UK_Motorcycle_Parts&hash=item4d07ba1495

The downside as mentioned is the need for reliable electrics. Well if you don't have a working dynamo or alternator, lights etc  then maybe you should not be using your bike anyway? If you have the later alternator instead of a dynamo then you can normally get a good spark with a flat battery on kick over, I can on my Velo with alternator conversion.

Magnetos have been around for a long time and many find they work well. Later capacitors increase reliability but don't forget the old 60 year old bearings, flaky points and brushes.  If you are half way round the continent and the mag fails??? .

Originality is important to some people, I think the mag replacement points holder looks right (was fitted as standard to some British bike when mags dried up in  1969-70, Velo Thuxton being one.) But I want reliability and consistent high intensity spark and good starting so my Lucas competion magneto will stay on the garage shelf .

Of course modern vehicles use electronic ignition and it's better than a magneto.

If someone was actually selling electronic conversions to modern vehicle standards, for old bikes, I might be interested, but they're not.

The possible exception  was the RITA. Coincidentally, that's the only one of the conversion systems that made it onto production bikes. The idea of a factory and dealers selling thousands of bikes with Boyers would be bizarre.

A working magneto starts perfectly, hot or cold, wet or dry. It can't be only my one!  The possibility of cowboy traders pretending they can fix magnetos does not take away from that.

 Touring Europe with flaky points and brushes and 60-year old mag bearings would be a strange thing to do, obviously.
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Offline Housewiz

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Re: Is electronic ignition the way to go?
« Reply #14 on: 10.12. 2012 18:50 »
Here is the mag conversion I found.  http://www.petersclassicbikeparts.nl/contents/en-us/d265.html

Comments??

Thanks,

Steve
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