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Author Topic: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4  (Read 678 times)

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Offline 43and countiing

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Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« on: November 05, 2018, 04:03:40 pm »
Desperate for some guidance here: I don't do well with electrical problems. My 1975 Honda 550/4 k1 is over charging the battery (15.2 volts at 4,000 rpm with the headlight on, 14.8 with it off). I replaced the voltage regulator with a rectifier about 2 years ago, and recently clumsily broke my 50/40 sealed beam headlight, where it seemed to work ok. I just put in a not-sealed beam lamp 35/35. I have a gel battery. It reads 12.9 disconnected/not running, 14.7 engine running no lights at 4000 rpm, and the 15.2 with headlight on at 4000 rpm.
I thought the rectifier would control the voltage load. Is it possible the "alternator" if it has such a thing, is overproducing to the point a rectifier couldn't balance it? Why would it go higher when the headlights are on?
Begging for some insight...I'm 70 and this is my only ride.

Offline Robbo

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Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2018, 05:06:24 pm »
First question...with the original sealed beam headlight, was the charging system acting in a more “normal” fashion ?  Do you recall the charging rate at 4k rpm with headlight off and on with the 40w/50w headlight?

Second question... what is the bulb type in the new headlight?

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« Last Edit: November 05, 2018, 05:12:40 pm by Robbo »
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Offline calj737

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2018, 06:43:33 pm »
For starters, the Regulator, not the Rectifier controls the voltage to the battery.

Irrespective of the headlight change, the Regulator is getting a false reading of the actual battery voltage. This is very likely due to corrosion in your harness and through the connectors.

If you remove the BLACK wire from the Regulator, touch it with a probe from your meter and the other probe to the battery POS cable. What is the reading? I suspect you are going to see >1v. If so, then the Regulator belives the battery is actual at a lower voltage condition than it truly is, hence it is allowing more current to the battery than it should be.

You need to track down where the excessive resistance is, and clean it up. Fuse block, solenoid, grounds, etc are common locations.

As an aside, your battery may see voltage spikes of greater than 14.nV intermittently, especially if you're taking readings with a DMM. If you are reading sustained voltage above 15v, then you definitely need to sort out the offending resistance.
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Offline TwoTired

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2018, 12:37:30 am »
If your black wire distribution system develops series resitance, increased loads on the system will depress the voltage in that distribution.  This makes the vreg see false voltage status of the battery, and will try to compensate by overcharging it.

Connections in the path between battery and vreg sense include connectors, key switch contacts, and fuse block components.  All may contribute to false reporting to the vreg.

Cheers,
Lloyd... (SOHC4 #11 Original Mail List)
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Offline Deltarider

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2018, 01:48:32 am »
43, you can do the checks that are mentioned above. I don't find your readings very worrying. I've have them often enough myself when I use a digital multimeter. So far I didn't have to replace bulbs or add destilled water to the battery and my batteries live long (7 years or more). I wouldn't be surprised that, if you connect an analogue voltmeter, you'll find readings more around 14,5 V. Some DMMs have a tendency to hold the spikes. For checking and maintenance however I'd start with the GROUND as this route is more exposed to the elements. Also a lot easier to fix.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 01:51:08 am by Deltarider »
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Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2018, 03:59:27 am »
As a clarification, I installed a "Regulator Rectifier" This is how it is described, and also as perfect for my bike.


Honda Regulator Rectifier

Description
 This new unit combines your bike’s separate rectifier and regulator into one modern unit that is perfect for custom café racers! This is designed to plug into the stock wiring harness. 

Offline calj737

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2018, 05:17:35 am »
As a clarification, I installed a "Regulator Rectifier" This is how it is described, and also as perfect for my bike.
Honda Regulator Rectifier

Description
 This new unit combines your bike’s separate rectifier and regulator into one modern unit that is perfect for custom café racers! This is designed to plug into the stock wiring harness.
Understood, but all the advice still holds true. And the checks mentioned are required for you to ascertain the issue.
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Offline TwoTired

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2018, 07:18:15 am »
The voltmeter reports difference in potential between its probe tips.  If you place one probe on battery POS terminal and the other probe on the vreg black terminal, it will report the voltage loss in that power path.  The loss will be higher with increased loads, such as turning on the headlight.
You should do this for retun connections also, battery NEG to vreg green connection.  The sum of these two measurements is the error being reported to the regulator sense. Healthy systems will lose no more than 0.5v, as reported to the Vreg.

To find offending devices, you can use the voltmeter to measure accross each device in the power pathway, such as the fuseblock or main switch.

Cheers,
Lloyd... (SOHC4 #11 Original Mail List)
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Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2018, 03:27:32 pm »
Just to update as I am grateful for all the guidance. We removed the "rectifier/regulator" and found 2 of the connection "boxes" were fried...guessing they sent so much voltage that it actually began to melt the connector. We are sending the unit back to the manufacturer to be "tested". I do however have a concern: perhaps these more modern devices do not actually work well with the old electronics? Despite the claims, would I be better off just installing the old type voltage regulator??
Also, with what was going on voltage wise, how come it did not blow a fuse???

Offline TwoTired

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2018, 05:57:13 pm »
If you check the wire diagram, you'll find the charging system does not pass through any fuses.  The rectifier blocks any current going toward the charging system in normal operation.  Only allowing current to flow toward the battery.

If the regulator is designed properly, it should work fine in these old bikes.  But, no one evaluates the many design offerings that are available.

It is not voltage that fries wires, it is current, which you can't have without a voltage differential.

It only take milliseconds of reverse polarity applied to the rectifier to draw enough amps to melt bits you don't want melted.  Hook up the battery backwards and smoke happens.

Finally, all my bikes still happily use the original design electro mechanical regulator, and separate rectifier.  I've never found the need to replace them.  ...Which might surprise people who knew I worked as a tech and electronic design engineer for over 30 years.

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Offline HondaMan

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2018, 07:01:43 pm »
If I may depart from bike advice for a moment: those voltages are entirely normal for a gel-cell battery and will not harm it at all. The gel-cell was developed to help raise automotive battery voltages (circa 1990s) so as to improve overall electrical tolerances in cars, and these bikes benefitted from that technology as well: something like this doesn't always happen our way!

The gel-cell technology can work fine up to 16.4 volts without damaging the battery or its chemistry.

So, my short comment is: I wouldn't worry about this one?

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Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2018, 05:40:25 am »
More confusion, as I spoke directly with the gel battery manufacturer. He told me the 15.2 was completely unacceptable and over time, would destroy the battery and more. And now I have to wonder also, did a faulty regulator/rectifier  cause the wires to fry, or is it something beyond that ?

Advice welcome, as the saga continues.

Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2018, 04:38:56 am »
Update: So, the modern regulator/rectifier was evaluated by the manufacturer and they said it was near the bursting point, as the back of it was beginning to bulge. No idea as to the cause. I am going to install an OEM charging setup and retest with that in it. There are also 2 disconnected wires in the headlight unit: I have to find if they are supposed to be hooked up to anything. I suspect they pulled out during the many times I was replacing the headlamp..not a whole lot of room inside that. Frustrating, because the bike runs fantastic and everything works.
I don't mind diagnosing mechanical issues.
Electrical simply suck. On any vehicle.
I'll update again nest week, around 12/18/2018

Offline Deltarider

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2018, 08:21:07 am »
Study the appropiate wiring diagram for your model first. You will find it not unusual to have blind (female) connectors. It has to do with features other markets had* or you can use them for accessories. Not connected male connectors is not a good thing however.

*My CB500K2 (ED) for example has the same wiring the CB550K2 has, including lightblue/white and orange/white wires for those silly looking running lights European markets - thank goodness - never had.
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Offline calj737

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2018, 08:32:02 am »
Irrespective of new stock type, or aftermarket, you need to evaluate and remediate any issues in the harness. I would not install a charging component until you determine if the malfunction was associated with an issue on the bike, and not due to manufacturing failure.

Failure to do so may result in a permanently damaged battery and worse.
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Offline jakec

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #15 on: December 13, 2018, 02:55:10 pm »
This is a pretty good thread. We reduced the overcharging by cleaning connections and replacing fuses.

http://forums.sohc4.net/index.php?topic=174330.0
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Offline BomberMann650

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2018, 07:15:55 pm »
Cmiiw, but don't gel cell batteries require solid state electronic vreg/rec to avoid catastrophe?  Or is that only for lithium batteries?
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Offline calj737

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2018, 07:21:12 pm »
Cmiiw, but don't gel cell batteries require solid state electronic vreg/rec to avoid catastrophe?  Or is that only for lithium batteries?
Neither really. The just want the correct “charge profile” for their type.
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Offline TwoTired

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2018, 08:00:35 pm »
Lithium applies to a family of batteries.  Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) is what is recommended for Motorcycle charging systems, although such a charger will not keep the cells balanced for best performance. or protect it from deep discharge (which usually voids warranties).   Lithium Poly has a tendency to flame up if not charged smartly.  There is also lithium Ion, which has it's own charging profile.

Also don't confuse Gell cell batteries with AGM technology. 

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Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #19 on: December 17, 2018, 12:00:59 pm »
Ok, And in advance I want to thank all of you for your input. We installed the original type bike electronics, meaning the separate voltage regulator and rectifier, fired it up, and it worked like a charm. Absolutely no issues with voltage, headlights on or off maintained the perfect range. Out of all this, my own thought is that regardless of several people having success with a modern combined unit, I do not think they work properly on old electrical systems. I finally feel comfortable being able to take multi-day rides into the hills again.

Offline 43and countiing

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4L Desperate for help
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2019, 12:52:08 pm »
1. We checked the resistance on the black wire from the regulator and rectifier to the battery terminal and it read about 1 ohm. What should we expect? You had mentioned .5 volt. What exactly are we looking for in result?
2. The green wire form the regulator was fried, and when bypassed directly to the frame, the voltage dropped.
3. all resistance checked on the bike including the headlight harness was consistent at about 1 ohm.
4. Is it ok to simply directly ground the rectifier and regulator to the frame and bypass the harness?
5. Would replacing the harness solve the problem? ie, with a new one?

thus far we have checked the alternator etc and all function properly. We took the gel battery out and replaced with a standard battery.

My thanks in advance...
This..would fix my current high stress and depression for sure.

Offline TwoTired

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4L Desperate for help
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2019, 05:12:16 pm »
1. We checked the resistance on the black wire from the regulator and rectifier to the battery terminal and it read about 1 ohm. What should we expect? You had mentioned .5 volt. What exactly are we looking for in result?
2. The green wire form the regulator was fried, and when bypassed directly to the frame, the voltage dropped.
3. all resistance checked on the bike including the headlight harness was consistent at about 1 ohm.
4. Is it ok to simply directly ground the rectifier and regulator to the frame and bypass the harness?
5. Would replacing the harness solve the problem? ie, with a new one?

thus far we have checked the alternator etc and all function properly. We took the gel battery out and replaced with a standard battery.

My thanks in advance...
This..would fix my current high stress and depression for sure.

The voltage regulator is trying to keep the battery voltage at 13.8 to 14.5V if it is adjusted correctly.
To do his, it has to know what the actual battery voltage is.  If the wiring connectors and switches drop/lose voltage, it will try to keep it's terminals in the 13.8 to 14.5V range by telling the alternator to keep pumping current into the battery.  Too high losses will overcharge the battery, even if the major components are working perfectly.

Switch contacts can become resistive, which drops voltage.  Connectors can become oxidized, resistive and drop voltage.  The voltage drop becomes greater with larger current demands, such as when lighting is added to that black wire distribution branch.   It's ohm's law  E= I x R.  Clean solid contacts are required for proper vreg operation to properly maintain the battery.  That is its primary function. 
For reference, a 1 ohm resistance with 5 amps drawn through it will eat/drop 5 volts of potential.  The lower resistance you can achieve in a pathway, the less voltage loss you will encounter.  This not only makes the parts work better, but less power is lost/wasted by the circuit in the form of heat, by drawing current through that resistance.

The reason for a harness ground is to limit the amount of current flowing through the frame.  Electricity and moisture induce galvanic corrosion, which it not good for frame longevity.  I will not use the frame for electrical paths if it can be avoided.

As you have found out, the components work using BOTH the power POS paths AND the power Neg paths.  For them to function, both need to be in proper operating condition.

If you want the bike to be reliable, I urge you to correct the issue with your bike back to factory specs, rather the bypassing and band-aiding problems you have found.  Fix what is broke and out of spec., and surprise, the bike will do what it was meant to do.

The wires in the harness are probably fine.  It is the connectors that get oxidized.   It is worth while to clean each one and then protect the mating connections with a dielectric grease. I prefer silicone as water won't wash it off, and it blocks further oxidation.  It's a tedious job, but the results are worth it, imo.  Worth a day, in return for working reliability.
 Of course, wires with melted insulation, need replacement.  If there are a lot, maybe a new harness is warranted.  I generally use donor harness parts to restore burnt wires on a piece by piece basis.  I haven't needed a wholesale harness replacement ever.  I can imagine cases where it might be a better option, though.  But, only half the connectors will be clean with simply a new harness replacement.

Accurate resistance measurement can be tricky, especially in the low values involved here.  A wire from battery to vreg in good condition would have 0.05 ohms or less.  That is hard to measure with commonly available meters.  Which is why I usually use the Voltage loss as the observation metric.  A Voltmeter displays the voltage potential between it's probes.  So, a probe on the battery terminal and one on the VREG black connection, reports exactly the voltage lost between those points.  Same would be true if you used the battery neg to green connection to the Vreg.  Add those two measurements together and now you know what the Vreg is dealing with in error reports.  Remember, if the lighting is on, it will exacerbate that reporting error (and make the headlight dim, too).

Cheers,
Lloyd... (SOHC4 #11 Original Mail List)
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Offline rupaulpierce

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Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2019, 05:17:57 pm »
Check resistance on all of the wires to your rectifier. I had the same issue... The spade inside the connector block on my red wire was cracked.


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« Last Edit: April 11, 2019, 05:21:47 pm by rupaulpierce »

Offline Bodi

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2019, 05:32:51 pm »
You are making progress, excellent!
The two original components - regulator and rectifier - have proven reliable and many still work well even after 40+ years.
The resistance you measure is not really meaningful. You do want as low a resistance as possible though, and as a rule most of this resistance is from the harness connections - the bullets and the multiwire blocks. Cleaning them, tightening the females a bit with gentle plier work, and adding some dielectric grease to lock out air and water does wonders and I've solved some long term electrical gremlins just by doing this.
The voltage test is pretty simple: put one meter lead on the battery "+" terminal and the other on the regulator black wire terminal. Start the bike, lights on just as if you were riding. No need to rev it up. The meter reading is the voltage drop between the battery and regulator.
The regulator controls the alternator output to avoid raising the battery voltage above around 15V. It measures the voltage at the black wire. So if you measured a 2V drop between battery and black wire... the system will try to limit battery voltage to 15V (its target) plus 2V (the drop) ... your battery voltage will now be capped at 17V.
A general guideline is that a 0.5V drop is acceptable, much more is not.
Measuring the voltage drop is better than measuring resistance. Most meters are inaccurate measuring very low resistance, and the problems come from the voltage drop which is proportional to current through the connection. Resistance measurements are not useless though: they can show what progress you're making as you clean the harness connections, fuseholder, and even switch contacts. (note that the black wire is fused and switched battery +12V, it goes through quite a bit of the harness before it ends up at the regulator)
That's the cause of a lot of overcharged and "boiled dry" batteries on old bikes. Usually the SOHC4 alternator output is also degraded by the corroded/loose harness connectors as well so it can't produce enough power to damage the battery: undercharging is more common than overcharging.
There is no magic in combined electronic regulator/rectifier units. They usually work well, many forum users here have installed them and complaints are rare. Any marketing hype saying they will boost alternator output is 100% pure BS though. A charging system with the stock regulator and rectifier, assuming they are working properly, will equal (and possibly exceed) the power output from a charging system using the electronic combined units.
Exceeding is definitely possible: any solid state switching device has an unavoidable forward voltage drop, different designs have slightly different drops but 1/3 to 1/2 volt is normal. The OEM regulator has a mechanical switch with essentially zero voltage drop, but the regulator coil draws some power. I don't know if the slight field coil voltage reduction from using an electronic regulator reduces power by as much, less, or more than the OEM regulator draws to energize its actuating coil.
Assuming your frame/engine ground connection from battery "-" is sound, using a frame connection for ground rather than a green wire is perfectly OK. The only exception is up front, any loads on the turning bit of the bike has to be grounded via a wire from the main harness or frame: you must not pass ground current through the steering head bearings - that would damage them quickly.

Offline rupaulpierce

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Re: Charging system issue 1975 Honda 550/4
« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2019, 05:44:54 pm »
Check resistance on all of the wires to your rectifier. I had the same issue... The spade inside the connector block on my red wire was cracked.


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I take it back. Overcharging was faulty Chinese reg/rec unit. Subsequent undercharging was the red wire I broke installing it. ;)


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