Which is more reliable ... Points or Electronic Ignition for Airheads?

Discussion in 'Airheads' started by _cy_, Sep 17, 2012.

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Which is more reliable for Airheads ... electronic ignition or points?

  1. BMW Airhead electronic ignitions are super reliable. Leave it alone

  2. BMW Airhead electronic ignitions are junk, replace with aftermarket electronic ignition

  3. BMW Airhead electronic ignitions are junk, replace with beancan w/points

  4. BMW points & Condensers are reliable. leave it alone

  5. BMW points & Condensers are junk. replace with aftermarket electronic ignition

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  1. supershaft

    supershaft because I can

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    Cy is figuring his amperage from 12 volts. Points drop the voltage to around 9 volts. That's how electronic has a stronger spark and why you need a stronger battery for the ignition to even work with electronic. Points work with a very weak battery. Electronic not nearly so much. Surely a lot of readers have found that out the hard way? It's common knowledge about electronic needing a stronger battery. The points using less voltage is the reason why.

    Electronic is way more reliable and has a hotter and more accurate spark. If I was worried about repairability on the side of the road, I would get an aftermarket electronic unit that has a hall effect that is easier to change than the BMW bean can. Change points on the side of the road? Why not change your hall effects sensor on the side of the road? The hardest part of repairing an aftermarket can on the side of the road will be remembering where you stashed your hall effect sensor 15 years back.
    #21
  2. newride

    newride Been here awhile

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    put electronic ignition in the R 90 when I bought it, runs great, no problems in ten years of ownership with it.
    #22
  3. wmax351

    wmax351 Been here awhile

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    A lot of modern electronic ignition can work way below 12 volts. Depending on the setup, the actual triggering (via Mosfets) and electronics (timing) should likely work to around 6 volts.
    #23
  4. supershaft

    supershaft because I can

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    What ever it takes for an electronic ignition to work, points ignition will work on quite a bit less. That's been my experience new bike and old. Same with cars.
    #24
  5. tete

    tete clown shoes

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    i made a phone call today over to Rocky Point Cycle inquiring about the Boyer System. Ted (i think) said that with the most recent versions they are way better at handling the volts needed. Now he says its between 6-7 volts nowadays. this is much better than the 12 volts number I've been reading about.

    It also sounds like, if planned correctly for example , vacuum seal you points and advance mech if needed and store on bike. Without moisture they should store fine. in the event of failure on the road, simply re-install and off you go. have points be the back up plan for any given scenario.

    But then again I am the least experienced, most boob of noobs on these here forums so what do I know. :kboom

    if it weren't for Charlie id probably pull all my hair by now.
    #25
  6. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    if Electronic ignition are soooo much more reliable... then why do threads appear regularly on Adv crying about their airhead electronic ignition dying in the middle of the road, etc.

    recently it's not just BMW airhead electronic ignitions failing, but several threads on aftermarket electronic ignitions failing on airheads too.

    sure points can fail on the road too... but you can bet your ass, I'll be back up quickly again. vs if you go down with an electronic ignition odds are slanted against you getting back up quickly.

    note I'm referring to airhead electronic ignition failures only ... seems for just about everything else that runs electronic ignitions are just dead reliable. why that is... have no clue.
    #26
  7. supershaft

    supershaft because I can

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    Sure aftermarket electronic ignitions fail just as often. They use the exact same technology as the bean can plus some more in the electronic advance (I prefer the mechanical advance for tuning). They might fail more often for that for all I know?

    Do you notice all the people having issues with their points? Besides, in my experience all these 'bad' electronic ignitions aren't actually bad. I have used and sold quite a few 'bad' bean cans that other mechanics took off bikes. All with how I got them right up front and a year warranty. I know it involves some luck but I never had one come back on me. I tested them but still . . . . 100% markup for me and great deals for whoever bought them. I think I sold six or seven of them like that for $50 each? Of all the hall effect sensors I have seen go bad (the mechanical advance is about as rock solid as you can get despite all the BS sayng otherwise), I have seen tons more problems with points. When I was real little I use to ride two strokes with points. Talk about a weak link! Points on two strokes are twice the trouble and half the performance. They don't turn at half speed on a two stroke. Man what a difference CDI makes on a two stroke!! Night and day! Like I always say (because it is true), every time I work on a bike with points that isn't running right, the points are the first thing I look at because a good part of the time that is what is wrong with them. It's a huge time saver! I have got 44 years experience riding motorcycles and almost 40 years experience working on them. I wouldn't put points in a bike that had electronc. I like riding too much!

    Don't blame electronic ignitions for not knowing how to work with them.

    Electronic ignitions fail on other machines too. You just don't hear about it. I have seen it many times over.
    #27
  8. senatorperkins

    senatorperkins Adventurer

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    not all of them.. some are crankshaft mounted, some have photo gate sensors, some have selectable curves...

    but yeah, I'm wondering about why we hear about failures of stock and aftermarket ignitions regularly, when it seems like other vehicles, like lots of cars have no problems. could be they just don't care enough to report them. it's funny, I work on old mopeds all the time, and they do often have point problems, but this is another case where there are lots of stock and aftermarket electronic ignition problems as well... I always chalked it up to moped parts being made cheaply.
    #28
  9. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    Uh, haven't seen this mentioned, but points are set imprecisely by feel....don't points as they wear change the timing of the bike as dwell angle changes???? I used to use a feeler gauge get the gap close then adjust further to get the correct dwell angle. At least when messing with Austin Healey's and 240Z's.
    Not sure if there is a dwell meter for a two cylinder. Seems electronic ignition would hold timing more consistent.
    #29
  10. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    only time I set by feel is during an emergency when a feeler gauge is not available.

    cannot overstate importance of using a tiny dab of high temp grease. usually will set points 2-3 thousands over spec to give allowance for wear.

    then static time, followed by timing light. dwell is 1/2 of 4 cylinder setting. have never seen two cylinder setting for a dwell meter.

    yes electronic ignition holds timing more consistent but not by much.
    a properly setup points system will need very little attention for 25k+ miles. ran the same set of points and condenser in my 1956 Austin Healey 100-4 BN2 for 40k+ miles. it's got that same set when I parked her years ago.

    points will always get you home if you carry spares and are mechancally competant.
    #30
  11. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    I was implying using a feeler gauge is set by feel, still lots of room for error. I was always off using a feeler gauge had better luck with a dwell meter. To get it exactly where it needed to be. Gap also changes as spark contact points wear???
    #31
  12. supershaft

    supershaft because I can

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    I meant hall effect sensors. What ignition uses photo gate sensors?
    #32
  13. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    used to sell a ton of replacement electronic ignitions with optic sensor/triggers for British sports cars. this was 15+ years ago, so they've been around a day or two. Lucas was referred to as the prince of darkness. their electronics were junk.

    back on topic... starting to wonder if all the electronic ignition failures on airheads are due from being located under front cover?

    like it or not ... airheads has a higher than normal electronic ignition failures. this includes BMW and aftermarket electronic ignitions both. so failures cannot be tied to one particular brand.

    naturally as a mechanic, you would probably like it ... as electronic ignition failure brings consistent business.
    #33
  14. Warin

    Warin Retired

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    Hi,

    Regarding cars with electronic ignition systems not failing... err they DO! Not as frequently as the airheads due to temperatures being lower through water cooling. But they still do. The life time of an electronic component is effected by the temperature it experiences, the higher the temperature the sooner it will fail.


    You can reduce your rate of failure by keeping the temperature down. In particular when you stop a motor the stored heat energy in it suddenly has not the cooling it had when running (by the air going past it when riding, or the water going around for those with liquid cooling). Say 5 minutes before you stop the motor .. back off on the speed (reduce its work level) and let it cool a little, does it the world of good. Works for all motors.

    Now back to the topic - Reliable - electronic or points? Depends on what you mean by 'reliable'.

    If that means time between when it was last worked on - then the electronic wins. Mechanical things ware requiring maintenance.

    If that means fixing it beside the road then points wins. It wins because it is easier for most people to find out what is wrong and fix it.


    If you want to have your cake and eat it, replace the electronic bits well before they fail with new ones. :deal
    #34
  15. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    good point .. feeler gauges are set by feel. flat forgot to add after setting points, static time then followed with timing light and checking dwell.

    dwell usually checks out within correct range after setting points with a feeler gauge for me. it's one of the few times Snap-on dwell meter and timing light comes out. just about everything else I work on is running electronic ignition or diesel.

    [​IMG]
    #35
  16. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    Allison makes electronic Light triggers for many CARS, at one point they had problems too and may still. I bought a set for a TR6 and still use points. Also "upgraded" to an MSD ignition which uses the points as a trigger. This failed after less than 20,000 miles, so points are back on and easier to trouble shoot.

    I still prefer the electronic ignition on the BMW though. Just set it an forget about it....unless it fails then it'll be upgraded to Mottorad Electric's version, which is repairable. Probably not much harder than replacing points.
    #36
  17. datchew

    datchew Don't buy from Brad

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    see my avatar. You should get the point(s.)

    :deal
    #37
  18. supershaft

    supershaft because I can

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    Airheads have a higher than normal electronic ignition failures? Do you have any expereince with other brands?? It sure doesn't sound like it.

    Electronic ignition failures bring constant business? Not in my business or any other BMW business I have worked at.

    I am not being smug. I am trying to help. Your facts and figures here on ADVR are often just not so. Same with your failure analysis which is just guessing for all of us but your guessing shows a huge lack of experience. Be careful with that scope. Something about them seems to render their operator's minds incapable of fixing things without replacing entire setups versus fixing the problem. I have seen this work out numerous times in my days. It looks like maybe I am seeing it again. Again, I am just trying to help. IF the aftermarket cans have a much easier to replace hall effects sensor, it's going to be easier to replace a hall effects sensor on the side of the road than set up a set of points. In the odd chance that it ever needs replacing.
    #38
  19. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    perhaps you should read the post before replying. plainly stated that I sold a ton of electronic ignitions. reflecting back in excess of 200+ units. out of that number sold, had less than 1-2 units actually fail. this included trouble shooting a butt-load of customers having problems that ended up something else.

    then earlier posted a picture of my electronics lab, briefly noted experience with circuit board design/repairs using surface mounted tech using parts size of grains of rice.

    now does this sound like I've got no experience with electronic ignitions?

    evidently you've seen your fair share of airhead electronic ignition problems based on your statements of selling lots of beancans that turned out to be good.

    my failure analysis is based on reports of Airhead ignition failures on Adv and multiple other places. when I see one or two report of failure of any kind. what I assume is they are isolated instances. how ever when I see multiple instances of documented failures over and over. then I've got to assume there is a problem.

    right or wrong... it's my observation that there are more instances of reported electronic ignition failure on Airheads than any where else.

    you may declare that all airhead electronic ignition are super reliable. but that doesn't change the fact that all sorts of folks had problems. some on side of the road in the middle of no-where ... like say Mongolia..

    again... don't be so smug to think you are the only one that's capable of diagnosing electronic ignition issues. perhaps it's you that should be open to something new. since it's obvious from post above, you've never heard of electronic ignitions uses optical sensors. when in fact they've been around for quite sometime.

    if I remember correctly, in another thread, you also thought there's a resistor built into a set of points. when in fact there is none..

    don't get me wrong... totally respect your extensive Airhead experience. But NO one can know everything!
    #39
  20. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    Isn't there a quality control issue for replacement points now??? I seem to remember reading that somewhere. So that's a strike against point reliability, careful of your supplier. With points or anything mechanical or electronic failures happen.

    Let's put the comparison in perspective here---Sure there are reports of electronic ignitions failing. But dang how old are the bikes now?? 20-30 plus years??? How many sets of points have been changed on a BMW with 100,000 miles??? How many bean cans have been replaced in the same 100,000 miles???

    I for one will not replace a perfectly operating electronic ignition bean, in anticipation of it going out. Yes it will eventually fail but that could be tomorrow or two or three owners later....just like a set of points.
    #40