The Seasoned Wrench


Harley Ignition Switch Problems: Full Identify and Fix Guide

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Harley-Davidson motorcycles are renowned worldwide for their durability and performance. However, like any vehicle, they can experience technical issues. One such problem often reported is with the ignition switch. This comprehensive guide will delve into common Harley ignition switch problems, their causes, how to fix them, and proactive measures to prevent them.

What Are The Common Harley Ignition Switch Problems?

This is a picture of a Harley Davidson's ignition switch, with a "no sign" overlay. It is used to illustrate that Harley's can experience certain ignition switch problems.

For Harley-Davidson riders, an ignition switch problem can manifest in various forms:

  1. Engine Vibration: Excessive engine vibration can cause the ignition switch to turn from “on” to “accessory” mode. This can result in the engine shutting off while the motorcycle is being driven, potentially leading to a crash.
  2. Difficulty Starting the Engine: If there’s an issue with the ignition switch, the engine may have trouble starting up.
  3. Erratic Electrical Behavior: Faulty ignition switches can lead to Strange electrical behavior. For instance, the lights may flicker or the power output from components like the starter motor may be inconsistent.

Related: Bad Harley Davidson Voltage Regulator Symptoms

What Leads to These? (Why Do They Happen)

Several factors can contribute to ignition switch problems in Harley-Davidson motorcycles:

  1. Excessive Vibration: Harley-Davidson motorcycles are limited at the factory to 5,600 RPMs. However, some riders modify their bikes to rev higher than this limit. If the bikes hit 5,800 RPMs, the top engine mount bracket can vibrate excessively, causing the ignition switches to malfunction.
  2. Worn-out Contacts or Corrosion: Harley ignition switches are subject to wear and tear, which can lead to worn-out contacts or corrosion over time.
  3. Defective or Broken Switch: In some cases, the switch itself may be defective or broken entirely.

Related: Harley Davidson Starting Problems

How To Fix These Problems

Here's a picture of the multimeter I use to diagnose my own electrical issues.

Here are some steps to troubleshoot and fix ignition switch problems in Harley-Davidson motorcycles:

  1. Inspect the Wiring Connections: Look for signs of wear or corrosion on exposed surfaces. If everything looks okay, proceed to the next step.
  2. Test for Continuity: Use a basic multi-meter to test for continuity between each contact point within the switch. If there is no continuity between two points when there should be, or if there is too much resistance, the switch should be replaced.
  3. Replace the Ignition Switch: If the problem persists, it may be necessary to replace the ignition switch. This involves disconnecting the battery cables, removing the retaining screws that hold the switch in place, unplugging the connectors from the old switch, plugging them into the new one, and securing the new switch in its original position.

How To Prevent Them Preemptively and Moving Forward

Preventing ignition switch problems in Harley-Davidson motorcycles primarily involves regular maintenance and careful handling:

  1. Regularly Inspect the Ignition Switch: Regular inspections can help detect any early signs of wear, corrosion, or damage.
  2. Avoid Excessive RPMs: Refrain from modifying the bike to rev higher than the factory-set limit to prevent excessive vibration.
  3. Proper Installation: If replacing the ignition switch, ensure it’s properly installed to prevent any future issues.

Which Models Are Most Affected?

Harley-Davidson’s FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes from the 2014 1/2 model year have been mainly affected by ignition switch problems.

Related articles:
> Dyna vs Sportster
> Sportster Years to Avoid

Was There A Recall For This Issue?

Yes, Harley-Davidson issued a recall for more than 3,300 FXDL Dyna Low Rider bikes due to ignition switch problems caused by engine vibration.

Has Harley Fixed The Issue In Recent Years?

Harley-Davidson has taken steps to address this issue. In cases where a recall was issued, the company offered to replace the bracket assembly and ignition switch knob for free. Moreover, Harley-Davidson has been continuously working to improve the quality and reliability of its parts, including ignition switches, in recent models.

Either way, by understanding the common Harley ignition switch problems, their causes, and how to fix them, you can ensure a smoother and safer ride on your beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

What are the signs of a faulty Harley ignition switch?

Difficulty starting the engine, erratic electrical behavior, and the engine shutting off while being driven are common signs of a faulty ignition switch.

How can I prevent ignition switch problems?

Regular maintenance, avoiding excessive RPMs, and ensuring the proper installation of the ignition switch can help prevent these problems.

Was there a recall due to Harley ignition switch problems?

Yes, Harley-Davidson issued a recall for certain models due to ignition switch problems.