Rookie Mistake #306

First off, you might have noticed that my last post was Rookie Mistakes #304 and #305.  I started at number 304 because I literally made hundreds of mistakes I didn’t write down!  Just a quick explanation, there.  On to number 306…

While I’m sure this is true of many bike brands and models, on my 2016 Harley Heritage Classic (FLSTC) there are two ways to turn off the bike.  There is the typical kill switch on the handlebars.

Right hand controls, Harley-Davidson

Right hand controls, Harley-Davidson

Then there is the main ignition switch:

2016 Harley Heritage Softail Classic.  Ignition switch, speedometer, gas tank

2016 Harley Heritage Softail Classic. Ignition switch, speedometer, gas tank

Both the right hand control kill switch and the tank ignition switch must be on to start your bike.  To turn off the bike, either can be turned to the Off position, but typically you’ll hit the thumb switch, park the bike and turn off the ignition switch.  Only turning off the ignition switch will also kill the headlight.

The wife and I took a ride out with some friends Sunday morning.  When we returned home had to go over to Fort Worth to setup for a trade show the wife was doing the next day.  I hit the thumb switch, and as usual, left the ignition on (to keep the alarm from going off) and backed up into our driveway.  Put the heavy duty chain on the bike and locked it, and we loaded up the truck to go do our trade show setup.

Monday morning I get up, do my usual morning routine, put on my helmet, gloves and jacket and go to the driveway to head out for work.  I typically unlock the bike, open the gate, push the bike out and start it and let it idle for a bit while closing the gate.  I reach down to turn on the ignition switch to disarm the alarm so I can do so and I think “Did I already do that?  No….I didn’t hear the disarm chirp.”  I look at the headlight…it’s not shining.   After much cussing, I realize I’ve left the bike on since Sunday afternoon.  That’s gonna be a dead battery.

Back in the house, I get all my gear off.   I then go out and hook up the Battery Tender to the bike, figuring it’ll be ready when I get home from work and call Uber.

At work, a co-worker lends me his jump-start pack that he carries in his truck.  He’s going to sell it since it won’t crank his big ol’ V8 Nissan Titan like he’d hoped.  “Let me take it home, give it a try.  If it works, I’ll buy it from you.”  Sure, that’s fine, he says.  I’m hoping I won’t need it after letting the charger sit for so long.

Later that day, I get home about 5:30.  Pull the Battery Tender, switch on the ignition and … no dice.  No light, nothing.  This battery is d-e-a-d.  I put the battery tender back on, figuring maybe another 15 hours from now until Tuesday morning will get it back in shape.   I’ve run down the battery before (not this much) and was able to recover with the Battery Tender.


Tuesday morning, I get up, shower, etc.  I go out to check the bike and clearly I was right.  The battery is definitely dead.  I love being right…usually.  Oh, and it’s raining, yay.

I go back into the house, grab my buddy’s jump-start gizmo.  It’s fully charged, this should be a snap to start a bike.  I pull the passenger seat, I pull the rider seat, remove the crotch cooler and set all this aside.  I get the gizmo wired up, then go to put the clamps on teh battery and…. they won’t stay.  What?  The battery terminals on (this) bike battery are so small and recessed within the battery case that there simply is NO way to attach the clips.  Even if this were a regular set of jumper cables, there’s no way.  The ones with the gizmo are nice and small, but they just can’t be any smaller, and certainly not enough to fit between the battery post (can’t even call it a post, really) and the case.

Motorcycle Battery

Motorcycle Battery, with tiny posts. Not knocking the brand, they are all this way.

I have an SAE cable on my battery (which is how you easily use a Battery Tender), but these are trickle-charge capable wires.  I’m not going to shove 400-800 amps through it, even if this jump-starter had an SAE attachment, which it doesn’t.  (I’ve been told, via the Harley-Davidson Forums, that they do make larger gauge wire SAE harnesses.)

We have three vehicles for the wife and I.  I have my Ford truck, she has a little Mazda Miata and, of course, we have the Harley.  I move the bike out of the way, get the Battery Tender back on it, and go to grab her car keys.  (She’ll be taking the Ford to Fort Worth for the show again today.)   As I suspected, the Mazda has a dead battery.  It always does; we never drive it!

The wife isn’t leaving for a couple of hours.  I text the boss I’ll be late, call O’Reilly Auto Parts to see if they have this battery.  They do.  I pull the current battery, head over there in the truck and buy a new one… for $115 or so, all in with tax, core, etc.  Head home, swap it out.  Things start dinging and lighting up (I left the damn switch on…again!)

Battery Tender is now hooked to the Mazda for the next few days.  I put the seats back, etc.   Go get re-geared up (with rain pants and my leather jacket and my full helmet) and get the bike out to the driveway and ride in the rain the 5 whopping miles to work, arriving right at 9:00 am, only an hour late.

What’s the lesson here, kids?  It’s to not forget to turn that ignition switch off when you park the bike. In my case, the security system won’t engage if I don’t turn off the switch anyway, putting the bike in theft danger.  Of course, a dead battery serves the same purpose, I guess, without the wailing alarm that would wake me up.  The additional lesson is…you might figure out how you’re going to jump-start your bike before you need to do it.  I don’t have the solution yet, perhaps I’ll comment below if I come up with an answer.

Maybe I’m getting senile or I just don’t pay attention to details, but I’m feeling like I need a reminder cable like you use for a disc lock, but attached to the ignition switch so I can’t forget again.  I’m hoping the $115 bucks I spent will serve as a good reminder….for a while at least.




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