Start Switch Maintenance

August 23, 2009

While returning from a recent trip, I experienced symptoms of a starter stuck in the “on” position, loss of the starter, and also loss of my headlights.

A Honda dealer in New Richmond, Québec provided me with a workaround to get me the rest of the way home so that I could finish my journey with the headlights working, and not having to push/jump start my bike. The technicians cleaned the terminals of the start switch, and also soldered wires together to always keep the headlights on; even when starting the bike.

The Suzuki OEM wiring configuration is set up as; when I turn the ignition key on, electricity is supplied to various components of the bike. One of those is the headlights.

The connection of power to the headlights is made through two contacts within the start switch.

In the photo below, there are two brass “nubs” on the “plunger” side of the switch and four copper contacts on the “terminal” side of the switch.

With the switch “deactivated”, power passes to the headlights across the two copper terminals on the left.

With the switch “activated”, (meaning pressed “in” to start my motorcycle), power is “cut” to the headlights and transferred to the starter motor. In essence, providing more available power to the starter, (Useful on cold mornings.).

If the switch is not periodically cleaned, dirt and “arcing” erodes the contacts and “nubs”, so that they won’t work properly. Check out the electrical erosion on my contacts below.

What happened with me is, a “burr” was created on the starter contacts. When I pushed the start switch in, the headlights cut out as they should, the starter activated, but did not deactivate upon releasing the switch. The starter stayed on while the bike was running. NOT GOOD! Plus, I didn’t have any headlights! I would frantically pound my fist on the underside of the housing to get the switch to release; which sometimes it did and sometimes it didn’t.

Here is how I did some preventative maintenance.

Using a #2 phillips screwdriver, I removed the aft screw of the start switch housing.

I did the same on the forward side of the switch housing.

I made note of the fact that, the forward housing screw is longer then the aft screw.

Using a flat blade screwdriver, I pried up the wire restraint to remove it from the housing.

There is a “nub” on one side of the wire restraint. I had to remember that the “nub” faces towards the center of the bike during reassembly.

Using a #1 phillips screwdriver, I removed the brass screw that holds the switch cover in place.

Once the cover was removed, I used the same screwdriver to remove the silver screw that holds the switch into the housing.

With the switch removed from the housing…..

……I used a flat blade screwdriver to GENTLY pry the shell that holds the “plunger” part of the switch off of the contact plate.

I could now inspect, clean, and add electrical grease to the elements of the switch. Using a product like, WD-40 will attract dirt.

I used flat file to clean the contacts, and a pencil eraser was used to clean the “nubs”.

During reassembly, I discovered that, If I tightened the “silver screw” all the way home, the plunger switch would bind up and not work smoothly. I had to back the tension of the screw off a little bit, so that the switch worked as it should.

Barry B.
“Black Lab”

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Categories: Electrical | 54 Comments

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54 thoughts on “Start Switch Maintenance

  1. Ben Lee

    Just a note to say Thank You so much for the starter switch pics and info….it was invaluable to me Thank you Again

    • blacklabadventures

      Hello Ben! You are quite welcome! More articles will be appearing here on my website, as I get around to editing them for posting. Five years, and 100,000 miles has taught me some lessons! (Mostly, the hard way!). I am happy to share what I have learned with others. Ride Safe, Barry

      • TERRY BARFETT

        I just completed the maintenece procedure still no lights unless I jiggle the switch I took it apart agian down to the switch cover put it back now the bike won’t start. I only had contact cleaner no electrical grease do you think that is the differance? I only lightly filed the contacts and used the eraser on the nubs. It went pretty smooth. Any thoughts? Terry

    • thanks to you and Greywolf for all your fine accurate advice. I thought it was the starter switch, and it may still be that, but I opened the connector in the “big boot” down near the headlights to examine it. It looked perfect but when I put it back together the problem with the headlights dissolved. We will see how long that lasts but it should be good enough to get me through next weeks short trip to the Sierra. The internet forums (here, stromtrooper, etc) are a lifesaver!!!
      thank you, thank you , thank you.

  2. tony Blackwell

    excellent mate – just returned from a trip to germany/france/belgium/austria with intermittent lights – started to despair but having put your great advice into action my lights work fine – question tho wat would be the hard in shorting out the starter switch altogether ie join the two headlight wires straight together and just have the starter switch for starting bike
    ta mate
    tony (York England)

    • blacklabadventures

      Hello Tony,
      The best solution is to use a relay to trigger the headlights. It takes the load off of the start switch. Many riders have done this modification with 100% success.

      However, your solution if fine too. And, it is exactly what was done when I had my start switch / headlight problems on the road. The wires that you want to connect together should be the, “orange wire, with red stripe”, and the “yellow wire, with white stripe”. I literally just checked my 2007 DL-650 to confirm that.

      Barry B.

  3. Brit

    If an Eastern beaver setup has already been installed, don you think that this could still be an issue? My headlights would flicker, or go out, when the front wheel was just off of center. It slowly got worse and worse until they no longer come on at all. Starts fine! Blinkers all work………

    • blacklabadventures

      The Eastern Beaver relay system is definitely the way to go. However, there is still some mechanical wear going on with the switch mechanism. It is not difficult to take the switch apart and to check for this.

  4. Brit

    Thanks. I did get it most of the way apart but got Nervous when I got down to those last tiny screws. Your pictures and tips are the exact guide I was looking for. Thanks so much for taking the time to put it out here. I will give that a shot!! Looking forward to seeing more posts.

  5. Brit Andersen

    Went all the way down this time. Took it all apart. It actually looked really good. Clean, smooth, had some grease on their. No matter what I tried I could get the bike to start but couldn’t get the headlights on. Maybe it is in that junction down behind the radiator…….errrrrgggggggg

    • blacklabadventures

      I am going to guess that you already checked to see if the headlight bulbs are good, right? Before going to the connection behind the radiator, I would check what most people call, “The Big Plug”. It is located inside the left side of the fairing of the bike. Pull it apart to see if there are any “burnt” terminal pins. Most often, if the Start Switch is not the issue, it is the “Big Plug”. The “Big Plug” is easier to get at then the radiator connection. Good Luck!

      • Brit Andersen

        Great advice!! Is that the one with the black rubber drape over it?

  6. blacklabadventures

    Yes, you have identified it. Roll back the rubber boot, then disconnect the two parts from each other. Examine for any “burnt” terminals.

  7. steven woods

    got directed to your site, when i went looking for a HEAD LIGHT FUSE/HEAD LIGHTS WONT COME ON, from STROMTROOPER FORUM. i have been having the STARTER BUTTON issue for a while & just thought it was a battery, which i replaced & seemed to resolve my problem. UNTIL THIS WEEKEND. the starter button had to be wiggled, to get the engine to start, several times. and on the last leg of my adventure, the head lights didn’t come on. i made it all the way across Houston W/O incident & got to my trailer just b4 sun set. looked for an easy find/fix fuse & dark descended. once in the motel room, i drug out the trusty ‘puter & clicked on STROMTROOPER, which sent me to you. your description of my problem & the simple fix was HEART WARMING, to say the least. i will be following your instructions AT HOME, where i will be able to spread stuff out, comfortably, on a table beside the skoot.

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE POST!!!

    i’ll let you know how it works out, later this week

    steve

  8. steven woods

    IT WORKS!!!

    my 2005 is a bit different than your 2007 but close enough that your pictures & description bridged all the gaps

    the switch is so simple, it is hard to believe

    on the ’05, the throttle & switch assembly are separate, whereas they appear to be i 1 housing, on yours

    THANKS, AGAIN

    sw

  9. big thanks for the photos. going to undertake this shortly myself and then time to upgrade my wiring. trying to choose between eastern beaver relays or switching to HID – started a thread on stromtroopers if you’re interested. i’d be curious if you have any advice.

    • blacklabadventures

      I openly admit to people that, the weakest link in my riding skills is, “electrical knowledge”. When folks start talking about Volts, Amps, Watts, Resistors and Relays, my eyes begin to glaze over, and the conversation goes over my head; WAY over my head! You will get all the information that you will need from the Stromtrooper forum. There are MANY very gifted individuals who offer up solutions to upgrades like you want to make.

      Right now, I am about 1/3 of the way through a very intensive motorcycle project myself. I purchased a 20 year old Kawasaki KLR 650, that I have taken all the way down to a bare frame, and have the motor sitting in halves on my workbench. I have NEVER done something like this before!!! But, I have been documenting the process as I plod along. since December 01, 2012, I have shot over 4,000 images……

      I will be posting the “Story” here on this web site, starting in the next couple of weeks.

      Good Luck!

      Barry

  10. Nephi

    Thanks for these pictures – gives one a lot more confidence in taking this thing apart! One note. My 2007 DL650 (silver) does not have two screws of different length as you described, but one should certainly check. Note too that there are two black tabs on the contact plate that protrude into the white part holding the spring and “plunger”. The one under the wires is nearly impossible to reach without damaging the solder joints, but I found I could insert a knife blade on the outer one and “roll” it out without bothering with the other tab at all.

  11. Nephi

    Thanks again for the pictures – fixed the problem! I really appreciate you sharing your pictures.

  12. ronnie clifton

    Great post and blog. Tackled my switch with a temp fix on the road over a year ago. Pics of that with cutlines are on my facebook page, under Pic folder Crystal Bridges. Same problem again, so will use your route. Thanks much.

  13. I had this exact problem on last week’s tour.

    Your solution was spot on. In my case the whole mechanism just needed some lubrication as the spring was not strong enough to overcome friction resistance.

    However, the same bike was running poorly at the same time, the first such incident on a tour. It would start and idle, no problem, and accelerate well. But ran poorly otherwise. I doubt the two are connected so more putzing around.

    Thanks for the tip!

  14. Bob Smith

    Well, once again I find myself using one of your fixes, Barry. Thanks! I added some solder to the copper contacts to build them back up above the surrounding material. Then filed and sanded them back a bit. (Gotta be careful to not de-solder the wires from the other side, though.) Still not perfect but better.

    • Great Bob! Thanks for touching base and keeping me updated!

      Speaking of updating…… I really need to update this website! I have been working on so many different projects since I gave my V-Strom away! I have a TON of KLR-650 material to post, (Much more than I ever did on my Strom!). I have some Ham Radio things to post. And soon, my 1968 Golden Hind sailboat should finally be on my property! That will be a two year restoration project. But, it will be my “new ride” when it is done!

      Keep staying in touch!

      Barry

      • Bob Smith

        Just looked at your boat vid. WOW! That looks like the perfect project for you given your location, experience and the great work that you do. Something magical about using the wind, too.

        I’ll look forward to following along.

  15. Smurph

    Had this happen a few years ago – no lights while riding! Took it apart, cleaned it, worked well. Now it’s happened again except the starter button isn’t engaging. Thank you for the detailed info. I’m about to dive into it again and this time do a more thorough job. Oh and I never noticed the different lengths of those bolts! doh.

    • Don’t be too concerned about the different lengths of bolts. From all of the individuals that have replied to this topic, (This tutorial used to be hosted on the Stromtrooper forum website.), it seems that, I am the ONLY one that had different length bolts! Everyone else has reported that, the bolts they removed from the start switch housing were identical.

  16. Ryan Ludington

    07 V Strom 650 ordered a starter switch to fix headlight problem, now to replace it… just had a quick look at it before starting. it appears RH fairing and possibly tank have to be removed?? I know if tank has to be removed LH fairing needs to go too. Can I get away with just RH fairing to get to that connection to the wiring harness? Leaving on a tour next weekend and would like to have consistent headlights for the trip. Wondering if anybody has done this switch and has any advice?
    thanx ryan
    ps. I work for Klim clothing being the dealer rep for ONT. If you have any Klim ?? feel free to ask

    • Hello Ryan,
      Hopefully, I am interpreting your message correctly! If you are replacing the Start Switch, why would you have to remove any fairings at all? All you are dealing with is right there on the handlebars. I am 99.999% sure that replacing that part of the wiring harness as well would be a waste of money. Nearly everyone that I know, (Over on http://www.stromtrooper.com), has used my tutorial on fixing the headlight problem, or a slightly modified version on it. No fairings were removed, or the tank either! The best solution is to install an Eastern Beaver Start Switch relay. It takes the load off of the stock Start Switch wiring and you will never have another problem!

      • Ryan Ludington

        when I looked at it, seemed to get access to the wiring harness hook up for ease of access the RH fairing would need removing? then I read a couple of posts about somebody removing fairings gas tank and air box just to get at that connection?? being as I work in the motorcycle industry I got the switch cheap so figured I would just switch it up
        I will look into the beaver switch though!! I will start undoing the some zip ties above the radiator and see if I can get at the connection. I have not started on anything yet just looking about so far.
        thanks so much for the reply!!

  17. Ajay600

    Hi All. To complete this useful story. I found that the sliding “U” shaped copper contact was sticking in it’s slots in the plastic block that holds it. The plastic had melted slightly and distorted enough to prevent it moving freely with the spring underneath it. I removed the copper contact (the one with two proud contacts on it), opened up the slot that had closed up using a small screwdriver. Put it all back and now it slides up and makes proper contact with the four fixed contacts :-). Used Vaseline to lubricate and protect contacts as that’s all I have and it’s been fine in the past.
    Many thanks for all the pics, gives confidence when dismantling small plastic things that might break!

  18. Jeff

    Just rode 900km home from WV to ONT with intermittent headlights. No power to fuses either. Had to jiggle starter switch to get lights to work at all. Found your write up and will give it a go. Will also order the EB headlight relay kit. Thank you.

  19. Just wanted to say thanks. Yesterday I happen to notice my headlights weren’t working. When I got home I did the usual stuff, fuses & wiggling wiring around. A few weeks before, I had been under the fuel tank and had all the fairing off. I figured it was probably my fault. After that didn’t work, I started looking around on Stromtrooper and eventually found this site. After reading numerous posts, I decided I would start with the easiest. The start switch, then the connector behind the radiator and one more I already forgot! (I read a lot of posts!!) I took the start switch apart and found carbon and such inside. I’ve worked with electronics for many years and honestly didn’t think this was going to work based on the condition of my switch. DaDah……I put it back together, the lights worked. It was still early enough in the afternoon, so I went riding.

    My point is, this could have cost a bunch of cash, or one hell of a lot of time. I mean, the headlights don’t work, why would the starter switch be involved? Right. Anyway, I just wanted sincerely thank you for all the info and work you do. It’s sites like this, and so many friendly riders always willing to help that makes motorcycling so enjoyable. Kudos. Lonesome Dave.

  20. Just did this repair – your post is GOLD! I couldn’t have done this without the pics. The repair took about 40 minutes (I am not so mechanically inclined) but with your instructions things went very smoothly. I can’t thank you enough and I don’t have to wait 10 days for the Eastern Beaver H4 headlight relay to arrive.

    • Thanks for the posting your compliments and also about your success! Bravo! I would still encourage you to order and install the Eastern Beaver Relay though. If you do that piece, you will NEVER have to do the maintenance that you just did ever again!

      Barry

  21. christopher hardy

    My lights failed while on an extended tour of Spain. In the end I had to wire them directly to the battery via a spare fuse holder and length of wire I had in my tool kit. Thank you so much for this information. I thought I would end up having to hand the bike over to some electrical Guru who would buy a villa with the cash I handed over to him! Thanks again, seriously.

  22. charlie

    This was my exact problem today and what you said was a easy solution. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge

  23. Over four years later and this post is still helping out people like myself. Just ran into this today and was completely flummoxed as to why my lights would come back on *after pressing the starter switch while the bike’s running*. Thank you!

  24. Ric Webber

    Hi BLADv, I took the assembly apart only to find the Black base holding the 4 ‘terminals’ was broken/burnt between the 2 that power the lights, the plastic around the wires were brittle and broken, and everything was coated in a fine black dust, looks like some serious arcing was happening there! I couldnt ‘fix’ the base so I was wondering what part/s are changed out when replacing the assembly?
    Thanks for posting, Cheers Ric

    • Hi Ric,
      Right off the top of my head, I can’t answer specifically which parts. However, what I have always done in the past when I have “hit a wall” is to, head to a website like, bikebandit.com, and use their OEM parts schematics to figure out which parts I needed to order. I believe that Suzuki themselves may have schematics available on their site now too. (I know that Kawasaki does and that’s how I completely rebuilt my 1993 KLR 650!)

      • Ric Webber

        Thx Barry, heading there now! all the best!

  25. Maurice de Verteuil

    Hi Barry,
    I have exactly the same problem that you described. From a safety point of view this is a dangerous visibility issue even in daylight. A truck driver warned me after I pulled into a coffee stop that he had difficulty seeing me against the morning sunlight on the road because my headlight was off.

    I have just fixed my problem with the help of your post and the photographs. I think that I have some useful information to add. There is a design weakness in the starter switch assembly because the slider does not push firmly against the electrical contacts, leading to some sparking and eventually oxide buildup on the contacts. Even when the contacts are clean and the unit reassembled I noticed that there can still be some flickering of the headlight when playing with starter switch.

    1. When checking to see if the headlights are on in daytime, turn on the bright light switch and check the electrical display for the blue indicator.

    2. To fix the problem start by disassembling the starter switch as you describe, and expose the electrical contacts for cleaning. I would avoid using rough sandpaper as the scratched contacts could promote future sparking. I used a wire brush on a Dremel tool but a very fine sand paper would do.

    3. Coat the contacts with dielectric grease both for lube and to prevent current leakage between contacts.

    4. Put the switch unit back in the housing.

    5. NEW SUGGESTION: Before putting the white plastic switch cover in place, cut a small piece of foam rubber (I used 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch insulation tape with a sticky backing, 1/4 inch thickness) and stuck it to the switch cover where it would press down on the soldered electrical contacts when assembled. The foam provides the pressure to ensure firm electrical contact. This fix will eliminate the possibility of sparking and hopefully provide a permanent solution.

    Thanks very much for your post and the solution to a very serious problem

    • Hi Maurice,
      Thank you for your input! Your “New Suggestion” sounds great! As I understand it, most riders are installing the “Eastern Beaver” relay specifically built for the V-Strom. The installation of the unit takes all of the “heat” out of the regular start switch assembly. However, that doesn’t help you when you are out on the road and this happens to you; like it did me!

      Take care,

      Barry

      • Hi All,

        Barry I recently replaced my harness/Switch assembly and would like to share my NOOB experience!
        I have Vstrom 2016abs model. At the point where the end of the Switch harness connects to the next section there is a plastic wall that has 2 holes pre-drilled to accept the lug on the harness, there isnt much room for big handed gents like me so I made sure to locate the LEFT hand hole then grabbed the harness and suck it in the RIGHT hand hole, DOH!! the connection harness does not reach so i had to remove the lug which on the V is very difficult [deleleted expletives…] to do due to lack of space and my meat hooks…so the moral is to put some tape over the rh hand hole before fitting and you should have a stress free experience!

  26. Andrius Jusas

    Hi,
    just wanted to share with the strom riders that in my case of Headlights gone/everything else working the culprit was yellow plug with 10 contacts on the backside of the radiator plastic shroud – so if starter switch is ok – check that place 😉

    BTW it was for DL650 K4 with ~120Kkm

  27. Bob Thoreson

    These pictures were a great help in making the stater button repair. (My issue was that the bike wouldn’t start when I pressed the starter button.) But rather than corroded contacts, what I found was that the travel of the shorting bar was obstructed. (The little bar that either turns on the headlights, or activates the starter relay.) When I pressed the start button, the bar moved far enough to turn the headlights off, but not far enough to activate the starter relay. The case around the starter button assembly had over heated and slightly melted creating a lump of plastic that got in the way of the switch travel. Cut it off with a knife and it’s all good. Works perfect now. But, leaves me wondering why it got so hot?

  28. Mike Penner

    Great article. It was very helpful.

    In addition to cleaning the contacts, I had to bend the ears on the plunger ever so slightly so that the nubs had greater contact pressure against the contacts.

    After reassembly, everything worked smoothly and the headlights and starter work reliably.

    BTW, I have the headlights on a separate relay circuit that is triggered by the starter switch.

  29. Great how-to, thanks! I just disassembled my starter switch (’07 DL650) with no problems. I cleaned the 4 contacts with a brass brush and a pencil eraser (to the point where they looked fairly shiny), and cleaned the nibs with the pencil eraser. Then I put some dielectric grease on the contacts. Reassembled everything and…NOTHING. 😦 The bike won’t even start now.

    I’m guessing the problem is zero contact between the nubs and contacts. I noticed in Mike Penner’s comment above that he had to bend the ears on the plunger ever so slightly so that the nubs had greater contact pressure against the contacts. I’m going to try that—and praying that will resolve my problem! (I’ll post again with results.)

  30. Alas, slightly bending up the nubs didn’t help. My bike won’t start at all now. 😦 It started fine before I disassembled the starter switch (but the headlights didn’t work). So clearly I did something to it, but no idea what? I was careful to assemble everything correctly.

    I may check the other connections…but my time is VERY limited to troubleshoot stuff like this, so I might just have to roll-start it and ride it to the shop.

    • Check to see that you didn’t accidentally flip the “on / off” switch to “off”, (Meaning the “Kill Switch”.). I have done this a few times by mistake and it baffled the heck out of me until I figured out what I did. Good Luck!

  31. Thanks Barry—I actually did flip the on/off switch (and thought “DOH!”) but alas, that wasn’t the problem. After re-reading everything, I noticed I’d missed the bit about a “U-shaped copper contact” which I guess refers to the piece with the 2 nubs—apparently there is little spring underneath it to push it up against the contact plates? I didn’t know that earlier—and aren’t even sure if the spring is still there? So I’ll need to take it apart for the 3rd or 4th time () and inspect that.

    Mike Penner mentioned bending the nubs upward “ever so slightly” to improve contact. I tried that with no success. Then I read in a different thread about some guy bent the nubs up 1/8″ (which to me is a lot more than “ever so slightly”) so maybe that would help? First I’ll check for that smaller spring…

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