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Bike Profile - Posted 26th August 2011

Flick the switch?
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Nigel Green's Rickman Métisse is brought to an untimely halt by Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness. Can we fix it? Yes we can...

My Métisse has always been a pretty good starter, hot or cold and all the more so since I finally succumbed and fitted a little 12V SLA battery a few years ago. Without the battery it needed a mighty 'long swinging kick' to spark up the Boyer!

So you can imagine the profanities when it steadfastly refused to start when I wanted to go on the BSA Motorcycle Owners Association mid-winter Soup Run a couple of weeks ago. A quick check revealed plenty of fuel but 3/5ths of 5/8ths of b*gger all sparks.

Looks nice, but where have all the sparks gone? Rickman Métisse

I have to 'fess up straight away that I find sorting electrical malaises as much fun as a fire in an orphanage, so I just try to be as methodical as possible in the usually futile hope that I might actually find something. So off with the side cover behind which I have secreted the MkIII Boyer, Boyer PowerBox and double ended coil. The coil is in front of the black boxes so being logical (idle!) it got the first salvo of my enthusiasm.

A quick check of the electrical connections resulted in one of the male spade connectors snapping clean off the coil. That'd be the problem then! Easy fix, the old coil was irreparable so a nice shiny new 4.5ohm Emgo unit was sourced from a local dealer and hooked up with the inevitable result. No sparks. Apart from a tiny glimmer as the ignition was switched on. I remembered that the old MkIII Boyers (and this one is vintage 1987) are partial to a full fat 12V so I whipped out my voltmeter and put it across the battery. Barely 10V. Ah, that'd be it then. 2 days on the Epicycle charger and job's a good'un. Or not. Still barely 11V but a check on the manufacture date reveals a 2004 code so a new one was ordered. That'll fix it. But then again maybe not...

Spot the ignition switch

I set about dismantling the loom to find any dodgy connections or breaks. I found a blown fuse but replacement still didn't restore sparkage so in a fit of pique I reduced the loom to several metres of finest Italian pasta and individually checked every wire and connection. It was during this process that I isolated the ignition switch and got some very weird voltmeter readings as it was switched on and off and when the key was wiggled. A fellow Triumph owning mate of mine, Richard Cummins, had had some issues with his ignition switch and had said it was not a big deal to strip and repair the switch. So I filed off the 2 rivets holding it together and it fell neatly apart into 2 halves, revealing the horrors you should see in the accompanying photo.

Ewwww Dismantled lucas ignition / key switch

It's a very simple thing with a spring loaded, brass circular connector (seen in the left hand section in the photo) that rotates onto the 2 brass contacts that you can barely see in the right section in the photo. Cleaning the accumulated gunge off with brake cleaner revealed one virtually untouched, shiny brass terminal and one so badly corroded, pitted and recessed that the contact ring was barely touching it. How it was providing any sort of electrical continuity even at standstill beggared belief but add a few thousand rpms of Mr Turner's finest 650cc engine vibrations and it was a miracle it was working at all.

I scraped off the corrosion and cleaned it with copious quantities of brake cleaner and put a blob of solder onto the clean surface to build up the corroded terminal. It was then filed flat and I drilled a little dimple for the connector ring to locate in.

I cleaned and slightly elongated the contact spring and re-assembled the switch. I used rivets to re-seal it but with hindsight I think I should have used small nuts and bolts to make it easier to repair in future.

I reconnected everything, turned off the lights in the shed and with some trepidation turned on the ignition. A couple of very gentle swings on the kickstart by hand produced sparks big enough to weld with!

Proud Owner!

All that remains is for me to de-spaghettify the wiring and replace the headlight. Then I'm off to write a stiff letter of complaint to Lucas. "Dear Sir, I am writing to complain about the poor quality of the ignition switch I purchased from you a mere 24 years ago..."

Words and photos - Nigel Green


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