Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Flashy, Flashy, Kerflooey! ...and Fixed

Back in 2015 I wrote about having installed a Comagination brand headlight modulator on my Ninja 650R shortly after I bought it in late 2007. It has probably protected me from some vehicles that would otherwise not have seen me coming if it had not been for the flashing of the high-beam headlight.  In other words, my conspicuity is higher with the modulator than without. 

How much higher?  Nobody knows, but I have seen several drivers who looked as though they were about to start out or turn in front of me, and who then did not after all.  That might be because of the modulator. 

On my bike, the low-beam stays on whenever the engine is running, so there is not only a constant light but the modulating light as well when it is light outside.

The other day, I had occasion to go riding and went through a tunnel.  The modulation is supposed to stop when in a tunnel or when it gets dark.  This is so you can have the high beam on continuously to see by its wider pattern of light.  The unit knows when it is dark by way of a photo sensor that points to the sky. 

I did some diagnosis, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.  The most likely failure was a faulty photo sensor or its wiring.  I examined the sensor closely, and removed the potting material around it.  I resoldered the wires running to it, and I substituted a potentiometer for the sensor to try to cause the unit to stop modulating. 

Nothing worked to stop the modulation.

Since the modulator is potted in a plastic shell, there was no way to do any diagnosis inside.  That meant that if I rode at night or went through a tunnel, I would have to use the low beam only to turn off the modulation. 

That is not a good idea, because there are times when the added light of the high beam is necessary. 

I decided to replace the unit complete.  So into the trash can it went:

After some research online, and visiting the Comagination website that doesn't work any more, I found that they are likely out of business.  I researched other brands on webBikeWorld and decided that Kisan might be a good alternative. 

The Kisan P75-W would work, is easy to install, and costs $69.95.  Another one that would work is the P115W-H3 at $109.95.  I wanted to pay less. The old one was $55.98. 

So I looked at Amazon and ebay.  I found an open box Kisan pathBlazer P115W-H3 Z option for use with BMW CAN-bus motorcycles for $50 with free shipping from ebay seller rwbmwparts (BMW Motorcycles of Seattle).  The Z option doesn't prevent its use on other electrical systems, so I placed my Buy-It-Now order.  It came in a few days, and was as described.  

Essentially, you wire it in series with the hot wire leading to the bulb you want to modulate -- in my case the high beam -- and connect the ground wire.  I tidied up the wiring with some wire ties, and Velcroed the module to the back of the meter bracket.

The photo sensor must point upwards at the sky.  It is about 3/8" diameter, so it is not easy to hide.  You can wire tie it to something, but that didn't look very good.  I settled on positioning it through the meter cowling under and near the base of the
windscreen.  Since the meter cowling slopes downward toward the front, I made an angled adapter out of an aluminum bushing so the sensor would point upward, then used silicone to hold it in place.  

Cockpit view.
Still a little dusty from the drilling.
The sensor is not obtrusive, and works fine under the slightly tinted windscreen.  The sensor cable plugs into the module. 

The sensitivity of the photo sensor is adjustable.  You turn on the high beams three times in rapid succession when the light conditions are such that you want the light to begin modulating. 

Reminds me of clicking these things together three times to get your wish: 

There is a problem with this method of changing the light sensitivity, however.  The modulator sometimes begins the programming mode when you start the bike due to changing voltage going to the headlight.  This happens even on my Ninja that does not turn on the headlight until it senses that the engine is running.  Kisan recommends that you only start the engine with the high beam turned off.  That certainly works, but I am forgetful and don't do that or I forget to turn it back onto high beam so the modulation works. 

Fortunately, the unit is easy to set back to the as-received sensitivity, but it would have been better if the circuit designers had built in a delay so the programming mode is not initiated so easily.

So, I am back to a working headlight modulator again -- day or night, it now works right. 

Flashy, Flashy! 



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