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

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

?

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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    Experience? I meant at repairing motorcycles. It still doesn't sound like you have very much.

    It is hard to get a point across. My fair share of selling bean can problems that in fact were not a problem? And how is that a lot of expereince with bean can problems? Sorry but my point is just the opposite.

    I know how you got your failure analysis. I have known many just like you. I couldn't tell you how many different stories that are basically the same regarding failure analysis. I have worked next to MANY a mechanic that see's a problem once, sometimes even twice, and then goes on about it like it happens all the time. They are the same type that strips threads on a semi regular basis and then blames everything but himself. It's almost as if you think the results of this pole matter? A properly conducted pole is iffy enough. It's great that you think airheads have more troubles but that doesn't make it a fact. I MAY declair that BMW airhead electronic ignitions are super reliable but in fact I NEVER have. I am quite confident in declairing that they are considerably more reliable than points but that isn't saying much.

    I have never even remotely thought that I am the only one that can diagnose electronic ignition troubles. Open to something new?? Points are NOT new. Optical sensors? We are talking about BMW motorcycles and motorcycles in general. Why bring it up? Does any motorcylce use that tech?

    You didn't perform the proper test on those points. Do you have a meg ohmer? A voltage drop would do just as well. Surely you have googled exactly what I was saying. I googled the topic after I wrote that and found exactly what I have been reading on the subject for over three decades.

    Anyone that knows more than you isn't a know it all. That is unless you are one yourself. One thing is for sure! It makes learning a lot harder when you already know everything. It's just about impossible really. As for myself, I get corrected here on ADVR all the time and have graciously said a heart felt thank you numerous times over.
    #41
  2. Prutser

    Prutser Long timer

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    I have a 75/6 now 400.000 km needs adjustment almost every 3500 km still runs but not the way it should). Failures: some times...
    Have had a R80 mono from 86. 200.000 km broken coil (old grey one they all crack) no further problems.
    Now I ride a R80 mono from 93 with 390.000 km ( replaced the coil from new) never had a failure.
    R100 mono from 91 with 230.000 km ( again a new coil to avoid failure of the old grey one) never failed
    R100gs owned it for a few years. Never had an ignition problem with it. Just used it in the mud. Km's ??

    Personally I do trust the electronic ignition. But I still bring spares on big trips.
    I have seen plenty broken ones on other bikes. Maybe I was lucky !!
    #42
  3. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    there ya go assuming crap again... how do you know how much experience I have wrenching motorcycles? and what kind of equipment I have? try looking in the mirror to see someone that's hard to get a point across ...

    like a lot of items, you are dead wrong on me not having a megohmeter... got several .. fav is a Fluke 1520. just like you were dead wrong on me not knowing electronics, when in fact I've got a deep electronics background with the equipment to back it up.

    check out my LiFePO4 battery testing thread on Adv
    that drills in parameters of what makes lithium iron phosphate battery work or doesn't.

    no matter how much you want to deny it ... folks having problems with their airhead electronic ignitions is not uncommon. in fact it's a fairly common topic that comes up on Adv.

    and NO way BMW airhead electronic ignition are more reliable than points. now electronic ignitions in general on other motorcycles and cars ARE very reliable and are equally reliable as points.

    [​IMG]
    #43
  4. One Less Harley

    One Less Harley OH.THAT'S GONNA HURT

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    so what is the recommended inspection/replacement interval for points????

    and what is the recommended inspection/replacement interval for electronic ignition????

    just sayin'

    points have a service life and are to be adjusted, inspected and replaced at certain intervals. Not so w/ electronic ignition, they will eventually fail and need to be replaced. Both can benefit from oiling of the advance weights. now what type of oil should one use for the weights, now that's important:lol3

    Is one better than the other yes, but that depends who is being asked, and what he considers important. Do you minding constantly tinkering and periodic adjustment/ replacement or just replace when it fails???

    This is like asking ,Are four cylinder bikes better than three cylinder bikes????
    #44
  5. lake_harley

    lake_harley Been here awhile

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    Regarding this question from a few post back, I thought I read the same thing. Seems it's BMW points that are questionable, correct? I need to buy a set of points for my recently acquired R75/6 and would prefer to buy a good set right away. I realize my comment/question is a bit off topic so if f someone has a brand/supplier to recommend you can PM me if you'd prefer.

    Thanks.....back to the previously scheduled discussion/poll.

    Lynn
    #45
  6. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    posted detailed information you need on post #9 for BMW Beancan points bosch 01 030 use genuine tiger stripe points, try to obtain new old stock.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=19619881&postcount=9

    [​IMG]
    #46
  7. batoutoflahonda

    batoutoflahonda Long timer

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    Yes, there was a run of bad points a few years ago that a lot of dealers/suppliers got from a reputable and popular brand (can't remember off hand, if some one mentions them I'll remember). Ted Porter clued me in. The deal was the block that rides on the shaft was too long buy just a bit, throwing the point gap off. When I ordered mine they were in the process of measuring the blocks on the points to find the bad ones. I think the issue has been resolved, but you can always call the Beemer shop and talk to Ted. He's a nice guy.
    #47
  8. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    since points has been around since about forever. no use re-writing what's already out there. Duane Ausherman's writeup has to be one of the best

    [​IMG]

    in an effort to keep an open mind, been rethinking this points vs electronic ignition dilemma. And why there is so many failures on Airheads. someone made an important point about most airheads are approaching 20-30 years. electronics will only survive so many heat cycles. perhaps it's just time...

    starting to gyrate towards using an ignition booster in conjunction with points. in theory this combination would give the best of both.

    if booster should ever fail .. simply switch back to points alone.

    AW made an important point... what's the maintenance interval on the road? we all agree points will get you home. but electronic needs nothing until it fails. then you will be stuck until parts are available.

    keeping existing points would solve what to do when/if electronic fail. after booster is installed, current load across points would drop to .01 amp. points rubbing block will still wear and mechanical ignition advance will still wear. but maintenance intervals on the side of the road should approach full electronic.

    been digging at all the different boosters available... from DYI to high $$.
    since this is old technology... lots more choices out there

    sooo... which is the best ignition booster to buy?

    $29 http://store.qkits.com/moreinfo.cfm/K2543

    [​IMG]

    $57 http://www.nologyhotwires.com/
    [​IMG]

    Ford TBI module for DYI http://www.xs650.com/forum/showthread.php?t=19252
    [​IMG]

    Dyna booster $79 http://compare.ebay.com/like/400254035732?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar
    [​IMG]
    #48
  9. chasbmw

    chasbmw Long timer

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    The answer may depend on your definition of reliable. Brand new points and advance and retard unit, perfectly adjusted will operate well within the pare meters that BMW set 35 years ago, but from that moment on the points and the advance and retard, will be degrading as wear and tear take their toll.


    Proper electronic ignitions withh electronic AR don't suffer mechanical wear and tear, and will operate within much tighter parameters than points, which is why no modern vehicles still use points.

    From southern Spain on my R90/6 depending on my electronic ignition to get me home.
    #49
  10. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    good points that has been raised several times. My (yours may be different) definition of reliable is ...

    if you are riding in a remote area (like TAT) with no support ... what are the odds of having ignition problems. what are the odds of you having to walk out?

    to me, reliable is having both above criteria met. providing maintenance has been done. Points is highly unlikely to let you down. then if points does go down in a remote area, spare points/condenser can easily carried.

    vs electronic ignitions for airheads based on track history are problematic. due to age, heat cycles, halls location... whatever... electronic ignitions on airheads, including aftermarket have a history of a higher instance of failures than on any other application that I'm aware of. normally one almost never sees failure on electronic ignitions.

    some ride 200k+ miles with no problems. but if your electronic ignition does go down. it's catastrophic... you are walking unless you've got spare parts. which due to bulk and $$$ costs. one is less likely to be carrying.

    let's examine solutions that meets above definition of reliable (costs are aprox??):

    1. change out to beancan with points. Beancan w/points are hard to find and sell for about $150 on ebay (found mine for $35 ebay and $50 craigslist). needs new 3 ohm coil $65 ... so total costs about $215. then add $85? for ignition booster to extend life of points

    2. change out to new style beancan with provisions to easily change out halls. about $400? + new coil $65 + spare halls $20 + spare brain module $75? = $560?

    3. complete new ignition system that triggers off crank. in the unlikely event that main system fails. you original system remains for a backup. costs $400? + costs of alternator upgrade required $500? = $900?

    4. carry spare BMW electronic beancan/ICU, change to Dyna coil: $150+$75 +65= $290

    5. modify BMW beancan with two halls with extra pigtail. spare ICU & change to Dyna coil. ICU $75, $20 halls + $65 Dyna coil = $155
    #50
  11. chasbmw

    chasbmw Long timer

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    When I took my Boyer equipped r80 to South America in 1980, I did take a set of points along with me. I ails the bike in Bolivia, took the Boyer to Australia, put it on a R90/6 and then rode around Australia. Boyer seemed to work better crossing rivers at running when underwater.

    Not bad temperatures from -5c to +45C.

    There a number of failures that I could envisage with points that would also require having replacement parts to hand to get you out of a fix..
    #51
  12. georgesgiralt

    georgesgiralt Been here awhile

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    Hello !
    I can speak here only of my experience. But with cars with points then with electronic ignition and motorcycles with points and electronic ignition.
    If you speak about reliability (ie rate of failure given the number of years of service or mileage) electronic ignition beat all systems. (provided it was devised as a whole as is the BMW system)
    If you speak about repairing a failure in very remote areas, then you can always fix points with rubber band or a file, but what about a coil failure ?
    My R65 is 30 years old and has still all original electronic equipment fitted. Never had to check the system or tune in any ways. (except when I had to remove the bean can for timing chain job or gasket leak repair)
    If I plan to go in a desert, or in a very remote area, I'll bring a second electronic unit and fit a second hall sensor in the bean can. As the first one hold it for 30 years, I can get around the globe for the life of the "second one"....
    Electronic ignition is a way better system to run a petrol engine. No matter what you say or think. Now, these system have overcome their infancy problem and the electronic is as reliable as can be. Can't be beaten.
    #52
  13. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    you just posted up a third option of carrying a spare electronic beancan or modifying beancan with two halls. as replacing a failed halls in a BMW beancan in the field is all but impossible without proper tools.

    simple is good, that's why replacing with beancan with points works for me. I'm permanently done with this issue. adding a second halls inside beancan is a pretty elegant solution too. if first halls ever fails, swap pigtails and be done.

    normally one almost never hears of electronic ignitions failures. except for Airheads, which comes up on a regular basis.

    yes coils can fail too ... if you've got a 12v bosch coil on your airhead. best to replace and get it over with. as they have a known high failure rate.

    vs 2x 6v Bosch coils almost never fail. same for Dyna high performance coils ... almost never hear of failures.

    if I'm running a part with almost no known history of failures. I see no reason to replace 2x 6v Bosch coils or carry spares for it.
    #53
  14. bereahorn

    bereahorn Long timer

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    :lurk
    #54
  15. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    hate to say it, but looks like option #5 may be the most elegant and lowest cost choice.

    retains electronic ignition with a backup halls inside stock beancan. simply switch pigtails in the unlikely event of failure. change out to Dyna coil, then carry spare ICU. full backup capabilities with no maintenance of electronics at dirt cheap $$.
    #55
  16. Bulldust

    Bulldust Bulldust

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    I found one of the greatest problems with the BMW system was the wear associated with the mechanical advance system within the stock beancan, and the fact that a failed Hall Effect sensor meant you were off the road. One could carry a spare bean can, but that is bulky, one could fit an additional Hall Effect sensor to a stock BMW beancan but that would leave you with the mechanical advance system.

    My solution?

    Make my own system with a true electronic advance within the ignition module.

    http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=823543

    Fit a twin plug system that is fully redundant running separate coils. So now if a Hall Effect fails, change over the plug to the spare, a failed coil will not stop me as the redundant system takes over, and carring a spare ignition module is an easy solution should that fail.
    #56
  17. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    Bulldust, pretty slick system ... but track history indicates very low instances of mechanical advance failures on airheads. let's say one does develop sticky advance weights. odds are motor would not run optimally, but it would still run to keep you from walking.

    solution is usually a spray with WD-40 or other penetrating oil and you are good to go for many more miles. this would fall under preventive maintenance before a long trip.

    modifying your own BMW beancan by adding an extra Halls trigger only costs about $20 and not that difficult with proper tools. while you've got beancan torn down, that would be the time to relube mechanical advance.

    carrying a spare ignition module takes little space and are not that expensive. then replacing problematic 12v Bosch coil with high performance Dyna coil. for a total cost of about $150, includes spare Halls trigger, new Dyna coil and spare ignition module.

    I see no reason to carry parts that have a long history of next to zero failures. or come up with solutions for non-existent problems.

    if one was racing, huge advantage with electronic ignition advance of being able to change ignition curves. not so much for adventure riding.

    thanks for pointing out full redundancy of twin plug ignitions. would R80G/S gain any performance with it's low stock compression ratio and dual plugs?
    #57
  18. Bulldust

    Bulldust Bulldust

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    I have found a significant performance advantage in replacing the original mechanical advance system in my BMW's so have all of my friends who have installed my system. Better starting, a much smoother engine, and significant low end torque increace. Older bikes have shown significant wear in the advance weights and springs, throwing off the original design ignition advance. One of my friends noticed that his 1994 R100GSPD was like a totally different bike after fitting the system, much smoother and stronger engine when two up and heavily loaded, he commented that he no longer had to shift back to 4th gear when passing Road Trains (real big Australian Trucks with up to 3 trailers).

    Full redundancy in twin plugging is dependant on wiring setup (I once had a rock thrown up by a truck smash one of my plugs clean off. I did not notice till I stopped for fuel some miles later). Nice to know if a coil fails it will still get me home too.

    Not sure about a Low Compression R80G/S getting any performance advantage from twin plugging, would not hurt it. Most of the R80G/S's I know of have been converted to 1,000cc bikes in Australia and then twin plugged.

    I have 4 of my Airheads twin plugged, 1978 R100RS, 1982 R100CS, 1990 R100GS, 1996 R100GSPD (1070 kit). I find they get about 5-10% more power, better fuel consumption and a smoother engine, all but the 1978 bike are fitted with my ignition system so they run a lot better (and cooler) than stock, the 1996 R100GSPD with the 1070 Seibenrock kit (long rods, cam etc) is fitted with early model RS heads and runs very hard.
    #58
  19. chasbmw

    chasbmw Long timer

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    This looks a bit like the replacement bean can sold in the UK by Motorworks

    http://www.motorworks.co.uk/vlive/Shop/Parts.php?T=5&NU=15&M=20&Ct=IA&SbCt=BA_15_20_IA_20&spPage=3
    #59
  20. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    nope, Bulldust's beancan has a major advantage of having two halls with two pigtails. if one fails, simply switch pigtails and you are back up. carrying a spare ignition module with a new Dyna coil installed. odds are you will not be walking due to ignition failure from Bulldust's ignition system.

    same can be done with OEM beancan by adding a second halls with second pigtail. then carry a spare ignition module with new Dyna coil exactly as above.

    just in case one has not caught it. second halls is exactly 180degrees from first halls trigger. since both plugs are firing every 180 degrees. second arc is a wasted spark. switching to second halls trigger would have zero effect on ignition timing.

    switching to Dyna coil eliminates failure risk from OEM 12v Bosch coil. having a spare ignition module completes entire ignition backup.

    spraying ignition advance with light oil prevents weights sticking. if one is adding second halls trigger, mechanical advance would be serviced then.

    if my beancan with points was not working so sweeeet... would be highly tempted to add a second halls trigger on my old electronic beancan.
    #60