2 replies [Last post]
khill's picture
new mexico
Joined: 08/15/2006
Posts: 80

I almost made the buy last night on a pretty nice 81 R65 in the midwest
but just before I was going to make the arangements a friend and previous R100 owner said that possibly I should rethink my purchase of
a airhead BMW. He told me of the many times he was left walking on
long touring trips because of electrical problems including the diode
board going out. He say's I should buy a Japanese bike and just enjoy
riding and quite worrying about having a cycle that shows quality in
design. Are the R65's that unreliable or is he exagerating a great deal?



Darryl.Richman's picture
VBMWMO #6285
Surf City, USA (Santa Cruz, CA)
Joined: 10/27/2006
Posts: 2185
R65 electrical problems

There is no doubt that the diode board is a potential source of trouble.

But if, once having the probem, you replace it with a new one, you won't again encounter the problem for a very long time. The solitary time my R80 left me stranded was for a diode board; that was once in 92,000 miles. (My R65 never had the problem in 56,000 miles.) There is an aftermarket board available now, called a Thunderchild, I believe, that is reputed to eliminate this problem.

Also, you can get some warning when this kind of trouble strikes. The battery is gradually sucked down, and a volt meter (which I had on my R80, as I had it set with an S fairing and bars, and the clock and volt meter in the fairing) will show this gradual fall. You can buy a small LED-based voltage indicator for a few dollars.

You get about an hour of riding time, if you don't stop and, therefore, need to use the starter. You'll get a bit more time if you pull off the socket to the headlight.

And if you have this malady, there are things you can do to get home. You can have a gas station charge up the battery again, and you can ride for a while. I've heard of people buying a new car battery, which they wired up and kept on the tankbag in front of them, stopping only to get it charged again. If you have a riding companion with a similar battery, you can swap your drained battery for his charged one, and his bike will charge your battery as he rides.

I am quite amazed at the number of people of your acquaintance that have had such troubles with BMWs. Owning an Airhead is like owning an old VW Beetle -- reliable transportation so long as it's properly maintained and looked after. If someone has bodged up the wiring, it doesn't matter what make bike you're looking at, it's going to be trouble.

I'll tell you what is the weak spot in the electricals of the R65, specifically: it's the Japanese style turn signal switch. The signal lever internally moves the slide of a three position switch. The slide holds the lever on either side with two small, plastic projections. Eventually one of these projections can break, leaving the switch stuck in the on position for the opposite side signal. None of the pieces inside the control pod are separately available. And if you try to open it up to repair it -- something I wasn't able to do successfully -- beware! There's a ball bearing and a small spring that make the high/low/flash switch work, and they will unexpectedly depart for points unknown. DAMHIK.


VBMWMO Webmaster,--Darryl Richman

khill's picture
new mexico
Joined: 08/15/2006
Posts: 80
R65 electrical problems

Well if they are pretty much like a volkswagen I'm not going to worry
all that much as I have owned at least 6 beatles and one van and
one fastback. I always set my own valves, changed plugs and oil.
They were about as simple as it gets and if the R65 or R80 are similar
to the bugs I'm not that worried. You do have to stay on top of the
mechanical issues but once I have a feel for it I think I can handle
it with little stress.

Thanks Darryl

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