Off Topic - Why do Lucas electrics SUCK?

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by Grider Pirate, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. Grider Pirate

    Grider Pirate Long timer

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    This has been bugging me for a while. I've owned 4 British bikes and one British car. All had Lucas Electrics, and all had electrical problems. Lots of electrical problems. From little annoying things like the blinkers not blinking, to large 'pull to the side of the road and fix it' things. Why??? The early 60's Kawasaki 650 was a BSA built under license, and although it had the same head warpage issues as the BSA, the two (small sample size, I know) that were in my neighborhood didn't have any electrical issues.
    Datsun Roadsters used the same Lucas designs, built under license. They work.. and work, and work. Nearly flawlessly.
    Just musing.....
    #1
  2. opposedcyljunkie

    opposedcyljunkie Heavyweight Boxer

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    That is reputation, and appripriately called "The Prince of Darkness" :lol3

    On my 78 T140E, I never had any electrical problems except for a bad battery. When I sold the bike last June, all the electricals were bone stock. Maybe I was just lucky. Hope I could say the same thing about the engine though...
    #2
  3. Solo Lobo

    Solo Lobo airhead or nothing Supporter

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    'cause the stuff it was installed in is a miniumum of 30 years old, and most typically very poorly maintained.... oh, and not as good as the Honda versions:rofl
    #3
  4. acejones

    acejones Long timer

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    I was a British-Leyland (MG, Triumph, etc.) parts and service manager back in 69-72. Lucas was crap then even when the cars were new.
    #4
  5. Rubber Cow

    Rubber Cow GS Dork

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    Silly Pirate, You live in Las Vegas....there is nowhere in the UK that has the dry climate of Sin City. Try living with your Lucas electrics where the weather is more like the motherland and you'll soon learn why Lucas is a pain in the ass and makes the Magnetti Marelli and Italian wiring look passable.
    Cheers,
    Jorge
    #5
  6. Wirespokes

    Wirespokes Beemerholics Anonymous

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    I'd heard it had something to do with the plating - it would corrode and get high resistance but not really show it.

    There was also something to do with having a positive ground. I don't know why that would have anything to do with it, except that the whole planet (universe?) works on negative ground. I had British cars and bikes and know what you mean about the gremlins. But I also had one of the newer MGBs - late 70s as I recall - the one with the rubber bumpers and sat a lot higher than the originals, that one never gave me any problems at all. But it wasn't as much fun as the earlier cars. Go figure!
    #6
  7. Andy-Gadget

    Andy-Gadget Any bike can go anywere

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    IMHO there is an element of urban myth about "The prince of darkness", but to be fair have never owned an old brit bike.
    I have lots of friends down here who do have OLD brit iron, 1923 being the earliest, the 50's being the most common era, and they don't have problems, they are mostly engineers and simmilar skilled people who (Mostly) maintain their bikes well.

    Compare it as well to the supposed major troubles with the little siemens relays used on later Guzzi's, they were the sporn of the devil and responsable for everything that went wrong in the owners life, so it would seem by the reports.:deal

    I own one of the "affected" Guzzi's but haven't had a moments trouble, AND I live in conditions that are as close to "The old dart" as can be in Australia.

    Compare as well the later model airhead boxers (80's) and their clutch issues, I have three of the "affected" bikes but strangly have never had the supposed clutch spline trouble, if it is only good luck then I am very lucky indeed.

    I suspect that other issues contribute to the lack of reliability observed, but as to what these "Other" issues are I can't say, but riding any bike with what I call mechanical simpathy is a start.:bow

    Don't forget that Italian motorcycles don't have design faults, only design features, Dyed in the wool brit bike riders no dought have the same attitude.
    :hide
    #7
  8. motu

    motu Loose Pre Unit

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    Yes,like the British bikes leak oil thing - I think unreliable Lucas electrics stem from people who haven't a clue about automotive electrical systems.They weren't that bad.....but a 30 or 40 year old system is going to look downright ancient in todays light.Compare apples to apples....working on various electrical systems I don't really see much difference between English,German,American or Japanese.

    One thing Lucas had going for them was an understandable and consistent colour code system - black for earth,red for live,green for switched,brown for charging etc.What really gets me upset on a Japanese bike is plugging a black wire into an orange wire - how the fuck is that supposed to make sense???? I just can't understand their colour code....and it's different between brands.I remember going nuts on an old Datsun,180B I think,power to the circuits but no operation.Then I realised the fuses were in an earth circuit,it seemed to be particular to that car as I haven't seen another like it.
    #8
  9. Beemerboff

    Beemerboff Long timer

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    Lucas made some good stuff too- their magnetos and diesel injection systems were as good as anything made anywhere.

    They just got sucked into making things down to a budget set by the bike and car manufacturers.

    Just like a few of the Aussie component manufacturers have been lately.

    And BMW is still putting the crappy Siemens relays on their bikes - the one feeding the BMS on my F650GS drove me to the point of distraction till I was wizened up by an old Guziz mechanic
    #9
  10. mark1305

    mark1305 Old Enough To Know Better Supporter

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    Guess I was lucky. Back in the 70s I had a '66 E-Type Jag and later a ragged out MGB-GT and I don't remember ever having electrical issues.

    Now the head gasket on the Jag was another story :eek1
    #10
  11. lrutt

    lrutt SILENCE.....i kill you

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    I'd agree, i think it's mostly an uban myth. I have 2 brit bikes that are completely stock, points and all. I have never been stranded by an electrical problem, or any problem for that matter. They are actually very simple electrical systems compared to asian systems from the 60's and 70's. A lone zener diode instead of mechanical regulators etc. They work.

    I would have to say the biggest potential problem is with the bullet type connectors and the block rubber covers. They don't seal as well as the clear plastic types of the japanese but then my bikes are garaged, covered, and kept clean so I don't have problems with any of them.
    #11
  12. goatroper

    goatroper Been here awhile Supporter

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    Most of the Lucas-equipped bikes and cars that folks like to complain about are as complex as a flashlight. A stock harness, clean bullet connectors and a tiny bit of dielectric grease are all that is required. <!-- sig -->
    #12
  13. woodgrain

    woodgrain In-Dented Savant

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    So the English don't really LIKE warm beer, they just don't have a choice, since Lucas makes refridgerators.

    Woodgrain
    #13
  14. chiefrider

    chiefrider Chrome won't get you home

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    I had a beer with Ted Simon a few years back (he rode a Triumph 500 around the world in the 1970's, and wrote JUPITER'S TRAVELS), and I asked him about Lucas. He said the components were fine, but you have to keep up on the connections, since they can corrode.

    Like and airhead, I guess.:D

    Tom
    #14
  15. El Hombre

    El Hombre Banned

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    Those bullet connectors were called 'Lucars'. Tin coated brass. Some grease in the connecter, on the assembly line, would have done wonders.

    The mindset in the industry was it was good enough for the standards of the day. Lucas didn't push to make something better, they had a monopoly. It was only when it was too late, did they start to get with the program.

    If it wasn't for the Japanese, US cars would still be like the lumps they made in the '70s and '80s.
    #15
  16. tejasbusa

    tejasbusa Adventurer

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    I bet you thought they both had intermitant wipers tho.:lol3 :rofl :lol3
    #16
  17. notarex

    notarex Can U taste the waste?

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    My 72 B-GT was haunted- numerous electrical gremlins mostly involving the wipers. Sometimes the turn signals would trigger them, sometimes they would come on for no reason at all. They never worked right in the rain- go figure. Never left us on the side of the road though...
    #17
  18. Reryder

    Reryder Onward through the fog...

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    I have owned well over a dozen Brit bikes, both back in the 70s and in recent years, and never had any electrical problems.
    I have an old Norton Atlas with a magneto and direct wired lights to the alternator that I have ridden for years without touching electrics. I always found the alternator bikes very simple in the wiring too, eg Triumph and BSA twins and Triples of the 70s. The zener diode is a real simple system.

    Most of the trouble I ever saw with Lucas back when everyone here was riding Brit iron was caused by the owners or mechanics botching things up. Simple things like letting tools rattle around loose under the seat and short circuiting accross the coil connections or stretching wires when fitting apehanger handlebars and then the wires rub on the switch bodies and short out.

    It wasn't that Lucas couldn't build good stuff - it was the Brit bike factories telling them they wanted an electrical system for their bike and would pay a maximum of so-many pounds per bike. So the systems were built down to a price. Same thing with carburettors. Hence the crappy Amal monoblocs from the same company that produced the state-of-the-art, but more expensive, GP carbs.

    The trick with Brit bikes these days is to go through the system really carefully, remove all corrosion from connections, cover all worn insulation with heat shrink tube and make sure everthing is in top conditon. New points and condensers. New Auto advance unit. (Or go electronic). Clean zener mounts. Test or replace coils, the zener, the rectifier and the alteernator windings. Check the altnerator rotor is not loose on it hub. YOu have to remember that 30 years of corrosion, use and abuse will take its toll.
    ONce you get a Lucas system sorted, they will run for years without trouble.
    #18
  19. Rob Farmer

    Rob Farmer Long timer

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    Theres nothing wrong with Lucas electrics if you take care of them and theres a darn site more old Brit bikes running around with decent electrics than their Jap equivilents.

    If you really want to see shite electrics have a look at a Honda XL500 or similar lighting circuit. Honda and Kawasaki fuseboxes. Modern Honda voltage regulators that self destruct. I think the japs still lead the way in dodgy electrics.
    #19
  20. opposedcyljunkie

    opposedcyljunkie Heavyweight Boxer

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    Could be true but expensive brands like Jaguar and British Leyland (Range Rover, etc) also suffered from the Prince of Darkness. And these are brands that privileged people pay top dollar for and have a reputation at stake.
    #20