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

Multiple votes are allowed.
Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. disston

    disston ShadeTreeExpert

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2011
    Oddometer:
    12,311
    Location:
    Silver Spring, Md
    The solution preferred by a significant number of riders is not a part of this survey. Myself an many others keep the ignition points but add a Booster. If there is an electronics failure the parts to convert back to the OEM ignition are still on the bike, they do not need to be carried in the tool box, all that's needed is moving a couple of wires.

    Ignition points are made cheaper and the tips are made thinner than in years past. They burn out sooner. They should be checked and re-timed after run in and and checked again at each tune up. If using a Booster the ignition points will be more stable requiring fewer adjustments.

    I recently bought a Velleman Electronic Ignition Kit. I received this yesterday.

    [​IMG]

    I have to find my soldering gun but think I might be able to install this later this month.
    #81
  2. JerryH

    JerryH Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    5,959
    Location:
    Chandler, AZ
    Points will always be more reliable than any type of electronic ignition on any engine. Yes, they require maintenance. But like carbs over FI, a points ignition can often be repaired beside the road, or at least made operational enough so that you can nurse it home or somewhere that you can fix it right. When electronics fail, they fail completely, and there is no way to fix them. They are also very fragile, especially on a motorcycle.
    #82
  3. r60man

    r60man Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    779
    Location:
    Robesonia PA
    I got my R75/6 15 years ago when I got my father's old R75/6 it had a Dyna III electronic ignition. I have had exactly zero issues with it. I make sure I clean the connections but otherwise it is left alone and simply works.

    Would I convert to one? Probably not, if I had one with stock points I would leave them be. Both systems work fine. One needs a little more maintenance, but otherwise they both work well.
    #83
  4. Global Rider

    Global Rider Alps Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2001
    Oddometer:
    3,901
    Location:
    Canada & the Alps - N 46° 31.714' E 010° 27.212'
    Bingo!!! We have a winner.
    #84
  5. Plaka

    Plaka Brevis illi vita est

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,623
    Kinda depends on what you mean by "reliable". One view would be something that's limp-able if it screws up, so it's reliable in at least getting you to somewhere. The other view is it doesn't screw up so limp-ability is moot.


    But absolutely anything can screw up. Old style points depend on two seals to keep functioning. If either fails you can be walking pretty quick. The points in a can are more robust, but you still have condenser failures. The electronics are far from fragile physically, but they get funny about big stray voltages and in some cases reversed polarities. I blew up the module in my Toy truck hooking a battery up backwards. Not wanting to spend more than $300 for another, I threw a chevy unit in (and a spare in the glove compartment). The original one was reputed to be good for 350,000miles and I had 275,000 on the truck so I wasn't crying. But I cut the old one open...talk about a brick shthouse. That thing was built! The BMW units are built the same way. The bike isn't any tougher on them than a car or my rattly old truck, in fact they run a bit cooler. And the exact same module is in a whole lot of cars. You don't see those cars piled up ton the shoulders with dead electronic ignitions. It's old hat technology by this point. Still, if you want dead nuts no-questions make-it-to-somewhere reliability you carry a spare the same way you carry spare points, condenser and a points file. Fortunately the electronic ignition takes up little space and can be changed in 5 minutes. And you're not limping, it's full go. The hall sender in the beancan is more problematic. Off the beaten path I carry a spare. Otherwise it's packed up in a small box like my spare rotor and a phone call will get it over nighted to me.

    I'm looking at some beancan changes that will make replaceing a hall sender as simple as replacing points. The senders are small so at that point the stock electronic will be superior.

    Some of the aftermarket electronics have everything fully accessible. A small set of spares and you can be back running, completely, in the event of any component failure.

    My experience with the Dynas is they can get intermittent. Very annoying and tricky to diagnose.

    I think people tend to prefer things they understand, and points are pretty easy to understand if you stay away from the electronic theory behind them. The electronic units are all mysterious black boxes with who knows what inside.

    For myself, they can be as mysterious as they like. I can understand the inputs and outputs and how to mount them so that's all I need. Points are just too limited and I am saddled with enough stone age technology as it is (pushrods? I think my old mower has those...)

    As an aside, I follow one of the IBMWR tech lists, the one for the newer bikes. Every sort of issue comes around. But not ignitions. I can't think of the last time I saw a question about an ignition problem. ABS seems to be endless headaches, but the ignitions don't give anybody trouble.
    #85
  6. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    reliable means not leaving you dead on the side of the road. in the unlikely chance points actually fail .. points/condenser can be replaced without much fuss on the side of road. very seldom have I seen actual failure from a condenser.

    most common failure point on airhead electronics seems to be halls and OEM 12v Bosch coils with a few brain box failures thrown in just to make tracking down problems more fun :lol3

    seems some folks run BMW electronics for 150k+ miles with zero maintenance .. but LOTS of airhead folks are not so lucky... :eek1 chasing down intermittent electronic problems are no fun.

    if BMW electronic ignition failures were rare .. there would not be a host of aftermarket electronic ignition systems out there.

    a beancan with new points/condenser and Dyna Coil is just about durable as it gets.

    a favorite combo for reducing maintenance seems to be adding an ignition booster. suppose to extend life of points to 15k+ miles.

    only reason I've not added an ignition booster is .. there's been no real need... std points/condenser is working excellent!!! once a condenser with correct value is found, metal deposits no longer transfers between contact surfaces .. I've ran same points/condenser combo for 30k+ miles. when points was finally replaced, kept same condenser. real points grease was used.

    drawback to points is as points rubbing block wears or contact burns .. points contact closes down. making now hard to find points grease even more important. adjusting points is a small price to pay for knowing you will not be stranded on side of road from ignition failure.

    much rather carry spare points/condenser vs spare beancan w/new halls and ignition module
    #86
  7. chasbmw

    chasbmw Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,676
    Location:
    Bath Uk
    I would disagree that electronic systems are fragile on a bike, the Boyer I fitted on my R80, did north and south America, got taken off the R80 when I sold the bike and put on a 90/6, which was then ridden round Australia, lots of vabration and temperatures from -5C to 45C. No issues. Both of my current bikes run aftermarket electronics, no problems with either, and perfect ignition and ignition curves, not affected by mechanical wear and tear. When points need fixing by the side of the road it's usually because they have become loose and fallen out of adjustment, hardly a failure?

    I would not fit an electronic ignition where the electronics are kept inside the timing chest, such as the Omega ignition once sold by Stephen Bottcher, I really do think that similar designs are asking for trouble, there seems to be issues with the Trispark ignition sold for Commandos and in my view part of the problem is that all the electronics are encapsulated in the timing chest of Nortons and those engines do vibrate.

    People do need to remember that electronic systems will have different requirements as to both Coils and the resistance on plug caps, this needs to done if an electronic system to last and some systems that use a V shaped timing curve at low revs to stabilize tickover (eg Boyer Microdigital) must be timed at full advance.

    Points versus electronic? Maybe it's a philosophical thing
    #87
  8. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    maybe it is a philosophical thing about not wanting to be broken down in the middle of no-where. :lol3
    if I'm traveling very far .. carrying spare diode board, rotor, points/condenser.

    OEM electronics lives in a pretty harsh environment under front engine cover. seems most everything electronic there are prone to failure. except Stator and condenser seldom goes out.

    OEM halls effect sensor, rotor, diode board are all common failure components. certainly these are the most likely to fail parts.

    it's not just electronics aging in harsh conditions as is certainly the case now with all airheads that's actually ridden. there's been a healthy demand for aftermarket replacements for airhead charging systems and ignition systems for decades.

    there's a slew of very expensive $$$ replacement charging systems and replacement electronic ignitions out there. those mfg would not have stayed in business for long unless they sold a ton of new systems.

    so yes .. LOTS of folks have zero problems with their OEM electronics ... but evidence indicates there must be a butt load of failures out there to keep all those aftermarket mfg in business all these years :deal
    #88
  9. bikerfish

    bikerfish flyfishandride

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,160
    Location:
    western pa
    If I were taking an airhead around the world, it would have points. I've owned many airheads in the past 30 years, equal mix of points and electronic ignitions, I've had far fewer problems with the points bikes. Yes, they require more maintance, but jeez, it's not THAT much trouble to adjust them once in a while.
    but when something goes ZAP, your shit outta luck if your in the middle of nowhere.
    #89
  10. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    here ya go Mr. EE .. perhaps you should be explaining this instead of me :d

    anyways ... since I've not been able to find instructions anywhere for actual testing of Halls sensor module. here it is ...

    what we are testing is a halls module made up of voltage regulator, trigger circuit and actual Halls sensor.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    when magnet passes in front of halls, a signal is generated in millivolts. Fluke 789 process meter is being used. but any precision VOM can be used.

    HP regulated power supply putting out about 12v is used to power module. but most any power supply 4.5v to 24V can be used. a 9v battery works fine.

    here's a picture showing what wires to test without breaking down beancan.

    red (yellow/green) = + ... black (blue) = ground ... green (brown) = signal

    after hooking up wires as shown .. rotate beancan shaft, if halls module is working. you will see a millivolt signal for a brief fraction of a second.

    intermittent output are the worst ... if you are that deep into beancan .. replace that halls module and be done ... or better yet switch to beancan with points!!!

    [​IMG]

    green & bottom red is from 12v power supply ... middle red and top black is from Fluke 789 set to DC voltage. if halls module is working, a brief milliamp volt signal will show.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    when magnet rotates closeby .. millivolt signal is generated sending a signal to ECU which then triggers a spark.
    [​IMG]
    #90
  11. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    no offense taken ... got my choice of beancan with halls or points. can't tell much if any difference in performance. points for me .. halls for you .. choice is good.

    down to advance weights and back together in 15 minutes is pretty good :eek1

    for folks like me who would rather not go back in again. one is much better off changing out a 30 year old halls module vs putting it back in .. here's one for $23 in ebay.

    according to Honeywell engineers, original halls module are good for millions of cycles .. 30 years later it's not the number of trigger cycles causing failures. but more likely the number of heat cycles that's causing failures.

    also called a universal cam angle sensor
    here's a few part number crosses:

    Honeywell 2AV54
    Siemens HKZ101
    Bosch 1237011052.
    BB Automacao CYHME56
    #91
  12. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    here's how you tear into your Beancan from the top without driving out bottom pin, which is usually really tight.

    remove top plate and bearing support. then remove large clip underneath.
    [​IMG]

    remove side cap and disconnect advance springs.
    [​IMG]

    remove two circlips, then remove three side screws. when everything is free. remove entire rotor/halls module as one assembly.
    [​IMG]

    remove plastic plug that fastens wiring
    [​IMG]

    if you don't disconnect springs first. springs will let go but might get stretched.
    [​IMG]

    don't even think about removing thin rotor without a puller. the el cheapo battery terminal puller works perfect. take extra care not to loose tiny locator pin.
    [​IMG]

    this is what you see after rotor is removed
    [​IMG]

    early style has two screws, later has two rivets. someone has been here before me
    drill out rivets and attach new Halls module taking care to splice/solder/shrink wrap wires to same length.
    [​IMG]

    reassembly is NOT the same as removal. remove last circlip, separate center shaft from halls plate. service advance weight sparingly with a light high quality oil. then insert center shaft, then attach both springs while you have easy access to springs. otherwise it's almost impossible to reattach springs from tiny side cover hole.
    [​IMG]

    next insert hall module plate, carefully aligning up with three screw holes. this pic is shown with old sensor.
    [​IMG]

    replace rotor and carefully drive locator pin with a pin punch.
    [​IMG]

    replace both circlips
    [​IMG]

    install top large circlip and outer cap ... use a tiny dab of grease when installing top bearing plate.
    [​IMG]

    Fin ..
    [​IMG]
    #92
  13. Plaka

    Plaka Brevis illi vita est

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,623

    We gotta pic. of all the tools in action except the pullers. They are just laying on the bench. I don't see how those can fit in there???.


    Personally I just pop the pin out of the drive dog. The guts slide out as a stack and you can have your way with it--including servicing the bottom bearing.
    #93
  14. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    puller will not fit inside can .. entire halls module plate has to come out as an assembly. rotor's thin metal risk of distorting goes down using a puller. a bent rotor will quickly destroy new halls sensor.

    flat forgot to take pic of puller in action. but most anyone should figure that one out pretty quick.

    driving out bottom pin is another option. mine was stuck so hard, punch bounced off. could have set up a press to get out. but it was easier to go in from top.

    good point about bottom bearing but it's exposed to engine oil. a very light spray lube for advance weights was enough.
    #94
  15. Global Rider

    Global Rider Alps Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2001
    Oddometer:
    3,901
    Location:
    Canada & the Alps - N 46° 31.714' E 010° 27.212'
    Cy, any chance of posting a clear bright pic of the bottom end showing the drive and pin.

    I've never had my can out yet.
    #95
  16. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,504
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    here's a pic of pin, still covered by wire keeper. mine was really in tight. pin punch bounced off. could have set up a press, but it was easier to go in from top.
    [​IMG]
    #96
  17. Global Rider

    Global Rider Alps Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2001
    Oddometer:
    3,901
    Location:
    Canada & the Alps - N 46° 31.714' E 010° 27.212'
    I wonder why they use a wire keeper if it is in so tight, unless it gets that way over time.

    So it is not a bucked tapered pin that I was expecting as used on other distributors that I have worked on that use one to hold the drive gear on.
    #97
  18. Plaka

    Plaka Brevis illi vita est

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Oddometer:
    4,623
    No, a strait pin and an interference fit. The drive dog on the can floats back and forth on the pin (pin pressed into dog, but free through the shaft bore). So the shaft is always working the pin against the tight holes on both ends. The clip on the outside is CYA.
    #98
  19. frasermanx

    frasermanx Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Oddometer:
    60
    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario. Canada
    I am still using electronics on my R80st. My 75-5 was a pain to adjust points so when BOYER came out with the electronic system I jumped at it and never regretted it -- ran it for 10 years like that.

    Recently I used a points amplifier system on R100-7 that I built from parts for $25 --- works very well VELLMAN. Engine runs smoother with electronic system.

    I will probably convert my electronic beancan on the R80st to points beancan if I can find one forsale used. And then I will use the amplifier with the potentiometer that someone mentioned that can change your advance curve. The german system is pricey so I will not go that route.

    Now if we could just get a DIY fuel injection system that didnt cost the earth.....

    cheers
    #99
  20. patrkbukly

    patrkbukly 52 Weeks of warm

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,656
    Location:
    Miami, FL.
    To remove from my 93 GSPD all the electronic ignition stuff and replace with bean can points system?

    Relatively straight forward I would think?

    What has to come with the points bean can? (plugs, coils, VR)?