Rear Tire Replacement on Spyder ST

Just over a year ago I decided that I needed a new rear tire on my 2013 ST Can-Am Spyder. With just over 12,000 miles of wear on that tire it was clearly near the end of its life! I had read several articles on the internet that verified that the rear tire on this motorcycle was short-lived.. i.e., unlike 4-wheeled vehicles that will get 40,000+ miles even on budget tires. So, in the absence of any experience with changing a rear tire, or any tire for that matter on a motorcycle, a year of living without an operating motorcycle began!

I did actually visit a Can-Am dealership to obtain information on the cost of replacing the rear tire… and the least expensive one quoted something over $500 as a starting point. My motorcycle has a trailer hitch installed (by me) so the labor cost to both remove and replace that hitch obviously would increase the estimate. Further, only an OEM tire would be available from the dealership because Can-Am does not allow any other brand of rear tire under the warranty of this motorcycle. Having to repeat this expensive procedure after only 12,000 more miles seemed to eliminate this option.

The next several months presented a series of challenges!

Before I actually bought a new tire I spent several hours viewing YouTube videos of other motorcycle owners changing the rear tires of their Spyders. I suspect that most of these videos provided were experienced mechanics because they made the process look so easy that I was convinced that I too could do the deed! None of these ‘shade-tree’ mechanics replaced the tire with an OEM brand but used one of two or three automobile (racing) tires instead.

My first step was to obtain a replacement tire. After checking for the size of the rear tire at several local tire stores I decided to order one over the internet… a tire brand that several Spyder owners had recommended in their blogs.

Old Tire Removal

One of the videos of tire replacement had indicated the need for one large, metric socket to remove the nut of the tire axle. Fortunately I had a PDF version of the shop manual for my motorcycle that correctly specified the size of that socket. Rather than use pliers on the opposite side of the axle I ordered two 36mm sockets for that part of the removal procedure.

The exhaust does not have to be removed at this time but it might as well be since it definitely needs to be out of the way during the caliper brake reinstall procedure.

After removing the bolt holding the trailer hitch and removing that hitch and associated wiring loom I removed the two bolts holding the caliper brake in order to drop that caliper off the rotor, and out of the way. For my caliper brake there was a shim washer between the brake and the support that fell to the garage floor when I removed the rear bolt.. be sure and replace that shim washer when you replace the caliper assembly! Support the (hanging) caliper brake with a cord of some type (I used a bungee) to prevent damage to the several lines connecting the caliper to the frame of the motorcycle.

Support the rear of the motorcycle with a floor jack located as close to the rear of the motorcycle as possible. Remove the drive belt by carefully prying it off of the rear sprocket. Do NOT under any circumstances change the settings of the two bolts on each side of the rear frame (swing arm) that control the position and more importantly the alignment of the rear wheel. Carefully pull the rear wheel off of the frame. The rear license plate and hardware may also need to be removed for clearance from the tire. My motorcycle has custom fitted (by me) mudflaps to prevent the rear tire from ‘slinging’ water and mud onto my trailer or to the back of my jacket during foul weather rides! These also had to be removed.

Replacing the Tire

The next step is changing the tire on the rim. While most tire shops will change the tire for a small fee they are not able to balance the new wheel / tire combination because of the size of the center hole in the motorcycle’s wheel and the type of balancing weights used on rear motorcycle wheels. You will have to find a motorcycle shop (non Can-Am) to perform the balancing procedure, again for a (small?) fee! After all that had been completed I was then challenged to replace the wheel with my brand new high mileage tire!

All of the bolts and nuts removed during the removal of the rear wheel have to be torqued to very specific tightness’s as specified in my shop manual. I had sold my torque wrench years ago so I had to purchase a new one for this one time job… another unexpected / unplanned expense!

By carefully positioning the wheel into the frame, seating the axle against the alignment bolt mechanisms and tightening the axle nuts to their specified torques with my brand new torque wrench the rear tire was back in place. With a bit of tugging and pushing I was able to replace the drive belt. (Note that after a short test drive much later that drive belt should be examined to be sure it is in the correct alignment!)

The trailer hitch and trailer lighting loom could now be reinstalled. I had originally installed the hitch so the process was familiar and fairly simple.

Reinstalling the Caliper Brake

My initial efforts to reinstall the rear Caliper Brake were a total disaster… No matter how many times I tried I could not get the Caliper Brake reinstalled. The basic problem was that the space between the brake pads was no longer wide enough to clear the rotor as I tried to lift the caliper brake up onto the bottom of that rotor.

Initially the two pads were too close together to clear the thickness of the rotor. Next, the exhaust was in the way (see note above) so the exhaust had to be removed. Two bolts holding the exhaust pipe to the lower exhaust pipe were extremely difficult to remove due to their location and the type of OEM bolt head. Note that the two bolts for the exhaust were replaced with new bolts as well as the two bolts holding the caliper brake in place per instructions in my shop manual!

Even with the exhaust removed to provide easier access to the rotor the pads of the caliper brake had closed enough to prevent them from clearing the rotor in my initial several attempts to replace the caliper brake.

At this point without any apparent technique for replacing the caliper brake I went into a procrastinating holding pattern with respect to any further attempt to complete the rear tire replacement project… my touring was clearly on hold!

The Final Victory!

After literally several months of avoiding confronting what seemed to be an unsolvable problem I finally got off my behind and re-entered the fray of a un-assembled motorcycle!

A review of the YouTube videos available finally revealed that the pads needed to be removed from the caliper brake so that the piston of the caliper could be pushed / screwed back into a seated position. Using needle nosed pliers opened so that the points of the nose could be set into the two holes of the front of the piston and turning in a clockwise direction while pushing toward the piston that piston can be reset into a totally open position. You know you have reached the completely open piston position when the piston no longer moves into the piston chamber. The pliers used in this way avoided having to purchase another (single use) tool for resetting the piston to full open. This helped but did not allow the caliper to be replaced onto the rotor!

The problem I had was that the pads would move / flop out their open position as I lowered and inclined the caliper brake in order to clear the wheel / rim while trying to position the caliper so that the pads cleared the rotor. The pads simply moved (together) every time I tried. I needed some way to hold the pads into an open position while I positioned the caliper. It was a real challenge.

Don’t ask me how I came up with the solution but here it is!

I used four (new) wooden pencils to solve the problem! Each pencil was positioned between the two pads by pointing the (unsharpened) end into the space between the pads with the (eraser) end pointing outside at an angle upward from the caliper pads. Each of three additional pencils were located on top of the first one, in turn, again at an upward angle so that the four were now securely holding the two pads open sufficiently to clear the rotor.

As I positioned the caliper at an angle (to clear the wheel) underneath the rotor the pencils held the pads in place so that they cleared the lower rim / edge of the rotor. As I moved / pushed the caliper upward to touch the first (lowest) pencil I pulled that pencil out of the space between the two pads again moving the caliper upward until it touched the next pencil… and so on until all pencils were removed and the caliper was FINALLY in place, ready to be bolted into place using the new bolts and blue Loctite. Note that there was a spacing washer between the back bolt and the motorcycle frame that fell out during removal of the caliper brake… that washer having to be replaced, carefully back between the caliper and frame as the bolt was reinserted in the rear hole of the caliper brake.

With the caliper brake mechanism finally reinstalled the several parking brake connections as well as the exhaust were re-installed and a test ride verified that everything had been correctly re-installed. Note that the parking brake should be off so that the connector at the brake arm is positioned rearward when the brake cable is reconnected to the arm of the Caliper Brake Assembly.

After a test ride any wear on the inside edge of the drive belt should be noted and a realignment made to the back tire if that occurs. Thankfully after several short test rides no such wear has been noted! Continue to check all bolts / nuts for tightness and note any mis-alignment of the brake pads after subsequent short test rides.

This likely is my LAST ‘Shade-Tree’ repair project on this motorcycle… not a good thing for my hypertension… I’ll just dig into my emergency fund to pay for any over-priced repair, when and if needed! Obviously with all my experience in changing rear tires I will certainly do that job again if my brand new non-OEM tire ever wears out!

Normally I would include digital photographs in an article of this type but the only ones of importance or interest to the reader would be of the insertion of the pencils between the brake pads for the reinstall of the caliper brake and I was so unsure that the technique would work that I didn’t bother to record that process.

YouTube videos available online provide more than enough visual support for any assistance for any motorcycle owner out there brave enough to tackle this project.

An expensive torque wrench now hangs on a nail in my garage gathering dust…. Oh, Well, another learning experience!

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Gloves, A Required Motorcycle Accessory

Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows that gloves are required, if not to keep the hands comfortable in cooler weather, at least to protect the hands from painful bug strikes on those warmer days. As a motorcycle tourer, someone who takes longer, multi-day trips to visit any and all parts of our beautiful country, the United States of America, I have visited some 32 of the lower 48. It’s not likely that I’ll visit the other 16 since all of them are on the East Coast and the danger of the excessive traffic speed and congested highways prevents an ‘old guy’ from taking that chance. Even out here in the uncontested West the excessive speed on the Interstates continues to be a conundrum. It’s normal to have vehicles at over three digit speed pass (me) on the highway. On an exposed motorcycle vehicles at this speed are more of a danger to a motorcycle rider than to anyone in an enclosed, air bag protected environment of the automobile. But back to gloves!

As a tourer, a rider who wants to be comfortable on my rides, I have accumulated what I consider to be variety of pairs of gloves to wear in any and all of the weather conditions that I may encounter during a single ride. The picture below shows five of the six pairs that I routinely pack or wear sometime during a single ride. Not shown is the pair (liners) with built-in heaters used as glove liners in those below or near freezing, winter rides.

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Each of the pictured pairs is listed and described below:

Heavy Insulated:

These are actually insulated work gloves purchased (on sale for $10) at a local hardware store. After wearing them on only one tour I went back to the hardware store and purchased two more pairs for my inventory. While I own ski gloves that cost many times as much as these work gloves the cuffs on the work gloves are great, preventing cold air from entering the cuff of the jacket being worn at the time.

Liners:

When the insulation of the Heavy Insulated gloves is not enough to keep out the cold these liners are worn inside the Heavy Insulted gloves for additional protection. The Heavy Insulated gloves were sized with enough room to allow the liners to be used, when necessary. In those instances where the really cold weather penetrates both pairs my heated liner gloves are substituted for these liners.

Insulated, Leather:

These gloves are a simple pair of insulated leather gloves and provide a comfortable ride when the temperature is in the mid-range, too warm for the Heavy Insulated and too cold for the uninsulated or mesh gloves.

Unlined:

This well worn pair of uninsulated leather gloves are used when full hand protection is necessary even in very warm weather. While the mesh gloves might be preferred at the time those bug-strikes (or raindrops) are much better handled by these gloves.

Mesh:

These mesh gloves, while they are actually weight-lifters gloves, are normally worn in warmer weather when a grip not incumbered by sweat on the handlebar grips is absolutely necessary. The mesh allows ventilation to provide some comfort for the hand even on the hottest days.

In addition to a variety of gloves that I carry (in my tow-behind trailer) on every tour I also carry several jackets of varying weight. From a heavy weight, insulated (ski) jacket with liner to the HD brand ventilated (but not light-weight) jacket for protection and comfort even on the warmest days.

My mid-weight jacket, an unlined, lightweight jacket with loose fitting sleeves and elastic cuffs is one that I wear quite often but have had a problem with the loose fitting sleeves being caught by the wind causing the cuffs to be pulled up my wrist and arm, exposing that portion of my arms from the gloves to the cuff. The result has been an uncomfortable sun / wind burn even on short, one-day rides.

I have searched for a solution and believe that I may have found one. The picture below shows a short strip of elastic with a (suspender) clasps attached to each end. This specialty item can be found in the sewing section accessories of most large stores and has a variety of names, mine being called a ‘temporary’ adjustment for fitting clothing.

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Note that the length of elastic is only three (3) inches. This short length is critical to the fitment / wearing / use of the retainer. The picture below shows the inside of the hand, mesh glove worn, with the retainer clipped onto the cuff of the jacket. It may appear that the clasp is ‘in the way’ but it does not interfere with the grip on the bike handlebar grip.

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The picture below shows the back of the hand / glove with the clasp attached to the cuff holding it snugly up where it protects the wrist from sun or wind burn.

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Comment:

For all those (young) riders out there who might think I’ve gone to the extreme with the cuff-retainer I would point out that protecting my 75 year old skin from the ravages of sun and wind damage is both a necessary and intelligent decision.

I’ve also found that wearing a bandanna as a ‘mask’ when wearing a half-helmet on those warmer days has been another ‘intelligent’ decision since the wind and sun burn of my face was an even more uncomfortable situation than on my wrists!

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GPS Touring – Way-points & Maps

Back in March of 2012 I wrote a lengthy article for this Blog about the methods I use to plan a tour on my motorcycle. That article did not contain any pictures of the documents I prepare during that process, so this article hopefully will elaborate on the details of those two documents that I prepare for each tour, as they have evolved from those early designs.

My tank bag has a clear vinyl envelope attached to the top with a slide closure, the envelope measuring about 6” x 12” attached to the top of the tank bag (with snap buttons) that I place each of the Way-point lists and associated (Google) trip maps into for a given tour. On my TomTom GPS way-points are called favorites, so favorites and way-points are used interchangeably in the remainder of this document. The picture below shows the top page of several pages that contain the details of each set of way-points for my next tour (to California).

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The top half of the page is a printout of a spreadsheet containing the details for each of the towns I will travel to/thru (favorites) on the first leg of my next tour. The bottom half is a printout of the Google map with the route highlighted that resulted from my planning the trip for the favorites listed above that map. Using the Google trip planning software provides an easy visual way of determining the mileage between favorites and the highway number of the highway of exit of each of the favorites. The map is not for navigation but simply to give a visual verification of the direction out of each favorite that can be checked against a magnetic compass mounted on the dash of my Spyder.

The top half is a printout of a spreadsheet containing several columns. Each is defined / described below:

Fuel – The Fuel column contains the cumulative mileage through one or more favorites to that favorite in which I must refuel based on the number of miles that the small fuel tank of my Spyder will safely travel. The total mileage at each fueling city is displayed. I do have a two and a half gallon emergency supply of gasoline in a modified gas container that is stored in the front trunk of the Spyder… hopefully no front end collisions for me!

Sheet Number – The second column heading is the numeral of each page of a multi-page set of sheets containing favorites. This trip has eight sheets! The lower case alphabetic characters in this column beside each favorite (city) name is used in conjunction with the page number to cause the list of favorites entered into the GPS to appear in the same sequence as they appear on the spreadsheet. Without this re-sequencing technique the city names would be alphabetic throughout the total trip for all pages of favorites making it difficult to find a favorite (city) name as each favorite on the route is approached. For example, Buena Vista is named “1b-Buena” so it will sort above Poncha Springs which has the prefix “1c-Poncha”. As the trip progresses the favorites already used are deleted so the next favorites to be selected are normally on the first page of the sorted favorites list.

City – City name of each favorite selected for entry into the GPS. Note that before arriving at a particular city the name of the next city on the route is entered into the GPS by selecting that favorite. This avoids being taken to the ‘city center’ which is the street address for each favorite entered into the GPS. This will cause the GPS to select the best route through or around the upcoming city to the next city on the route. The entry of the next favorite early enough as you approach a city is critical to take advantage of any circumferential routes around a particular city. (Please do not make the mistake of selecting the next favorite while moving in traffic!)

Routes – The highway or road numbers of the roads out of a particular city are listed, with multiple road numbers indicating changes in roads between the favorites. This column is used for cross-checking and validation of the route selected by the GPS.

Miles – The number of miles between each favorite / city is recorded in this column based on that data provided by the Google mapping software. The cumulative miles is used to determine when the refueling stops are required.

The picture below is a closeup of the top half of the first page containing the spread-sheet described above. Note that at the bottom of the Miles column is the total miles number for that set of favorites.

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The picture below is a somewhat blurred Google map showing the individual favorites and the routes into and out of those favorites / cities. The use of several individual favorites to cause the tour to use the highways / roads desired for the tour rather than a single start and finish for each day establishes complete and total control over the specific highways taken and also individual cities along the desired routes. Letting the GPS use ‘City Centre’ eliminates the necessity of choosing some fictitious street name and street number that was required during the process of setting up favorites of previous GPS models.

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2013 Spyder ST Belt Guard

The owners of the Spyder ST (2013, and newer) should be aware of the possibility that the Belt Guard on the left side (just to the rear and above the passenger foot rest) may come loose, and even totally separate from its bolted on position on the frame of the ST. This happened to me while on a two-day ride to the West of my home in Colorado Springs just a few days ago.

I had packed my tow-behind trailer with the necessities for a two-day ride of some 900 miles to the West, then North and then East, returning to my home after touring the Western area of my home state, Colorado. I had checked the air in the tires of the ST and the trailer tires the evening before my departure but did not notice anything unusual, or different around the left side of the rear wheel.

The bolts (two) securing the belt guard were probably in place at that moment, or at least one was still holding the belt guard in place else I would likely have noticed it. The belt guard had certainly not fallen down into the belt drive sprocket area of the ST because it would not have survived the eighty mile ride before I discovered something was amiss!

Everything seemed normal as I began my ride through / over the front range mountains just to the West of Colorado Springs. I was heading to Hartsel, the first way-point dialed into my GPS. I didn’t actually need the GPS for this leg of my tour but out of habit I always establish a number of way-points (favorites on the TomTom GPS) for all of my trips, especially noting those way-points where I need to fill the small tank of the ST. As I gained altitude the temperature reminded me that I should have worn the heavier jacket that was now inside the tow-behind. I would wait until I arrived at Hartsel before stopping to don than heavier jacket for the trip into the second range of mountains just to the West of Hartsel.

Hartsel is a small community just to the West of the valley between the two ranges of mountains just to the West of Colorado Springs. A gas station, a small cafe and a novelties / souvenir store front sit in a group at the intersection of highways 24 and 9, that happen to be at the geographical center of the state. I slowed down to pull off the highway into the gravel and dirt of the shoulder of the road just beyond the gas station. As I did I heard an awful noise coming from underneath the bike, possibly to the rear. It was loud, and likely signaled some really bad mechanical failure. I was not a comfortable rider in that instant.

As I slowed to a complete stop and turned off the engine the noise stopped, a good sign that the engine was not involved in whatever malfunction had occurred. I did a walk-around of the bike and tow-behind trailer, not seeing anything hanging down that might be the source of the noise. I got back on the bike, and as I moved forward the growling, unmistakable noise began again. It had to be something around the rear wheel, belt or braking systems to only be causing that noise when the ST was moving!
I did a U-Turn onto the highway to get back into the pull-off area at the gas station. As I did I noticed four Harley (Hog) riders pulling off the highway in front of the restaurant. Knowing that these guys probably knew more about motorcycle mechanicals than I ever would (even though a Spyder is NOT a motorcycle!) I decided to ask for help.

They were thankfully more than willing to help and quickly determined that there was a belt guard that had come loose and was stuck in the area of the drive sprocket, in an almost unreachable area under the center of the ST. Two of the guys lay down on either side of the ST in the dirt of the shoulder of the road, and after several minutes of struggling they were able to remove a belt guard from where it had lodged itself near the drive sprocket of the bike. A quick roll test confirmed that the noise was gone! Was I ever relieved!!! But, those same Harley guys strongly suggested that I cancel my ride and take the bike to the nearest Can Am dealership to have the drive belt checked… they all agreed that it was too tight and might fail if I continued on my trip. I should add that I offered to buy their breakfast for their help but they graciously refused my offer, simply saying that it was no big deal!!!

I programmed Florence into my GPS and headed for that city where the closest Cam Am dealership is located. While I was a bit nervous with that ‘too tight’ drive belt I made the seventy mile trip to Florence, and the dealership, without incident. After a wait of about an hour a Can Am ‘Tech’ was able to check the belt, determining that it was within specification. I learned that the Spyder ST belt is much tighter than other bikes because of the length of the belt. With a fully functional ST I then headed home in the excessive heat of the eastern plain along highway 115 headed North from Florence to Colorado Springs. My trip was over, I had a damaged belt guard in the tow-behind trailer, and I was heading home in the heat of a normal summer day!

The belt guard had superficial damage from its adventure with the belt and drive sprocket of the ST but the damage was not severe enough to prevent its functionality on the ST. A few days after I returned home I made short trip to the hardware store to obtain two bolts, washers and self-locking nuts to hold the belt guard in place on the frame of the ST. The belt guard bolted to the frame just above the passenger foot rest on the left side of the ST.

A picture of the replaced, damaged belt guard is shown below. Note the damage to the guard caused during the misadventure of a few days ago. I’m still confused about how the bolts / nuts originally used to hold it in place came loose, and fell off the ST. In addition to the self-locking nuts I also used the red Loctite on the threads of the bolts for some added protection against their ever coming loose in the future!

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Taillight Converter Issues – Curt 56146

Update: 08/26/2015 – After a long day trip of some 765 miles I’ve concluded that the Curt Converter is a viable tail light control device for the 2013 Spyder ST. The new Hopkins’s unit that they replaced the second failed unit with is going onto EBay for some lucky shopper!

Update: 07/24/2015 – After a day-trip of some 200+ miles I’m happy to report that the trailer lights are still working! I’m not ready to celebrate yet, but this is certainly good news. I happened to be at the Dealership where I bought the bike yesterday and learned that BRP had replaced the converter of their hitch with a different model after experiencing too many failures! Didn’t bother to ask why I wasn’t notified nor why I didn’t receive a (free) replacement under warranty.

Update: 07/20/2015 – Took a short trip around the eastern edge of Colorado Springs to test the new trailer light converter installed on my Can-Am Spyder… It worked fine during this short trip, and was working after I parked the bike and trailer back in my garage. I’m not announcing victory yet but each small trip to test the converter will add to my confidence that the trailer lights are going to continue to work properly during a longer, overnight trip on the bike.

After the second Hopkins brand taillight converter failed I decided to try to find another brand of taillight converter to replace the Hopkins unit on my Can-Am Spyder ST. Hopkins dominates this market so I was not surprised when my searches using Google and Amazon displayed the same taillight converter unit that I had purchased back in December of 2014 for the first replacement (that failed!). See the https://myspyderstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/2013-spyder-st-hitch-converter-replacement/ link for a detailed description of that first replacement.

After several searches a number of taillight converter units by the Curt manufacturer were listed among the Hopkins units. I then went to Amazon to try to find any of the Curt units that would be compatible to the wiring requirements of the Spyder, that is, that the number of inputs to the converter and the outputs were identical to the trailer hitch wiring loom already installed on the Spyder. This was a bit difficult to do since neither the pictures of the several models of Curt converters were detailed enough to visually verify the number (and colors) of input and output wires. I finally found one (Curt 56146) unit that looked to be close, if not an exact electrical replacement for the Hopkins 46365 kit. I ordered it, taking a chance that it would work!

After receiving the unit it was clear that the wires into the input side and output side were functionally a match for the requirements of the trailer wiring hitch on my Spyder. As the picture below shows the color and function of each wire is exactly the same except for the color of the battery wire in the loom and the battery wire of the converter.

IMG_2091This picture shows the wiring loom input and output sections with the Hopkins unit removed from those loom ends. The Curt unit has had the wiring on both the input and output sides cut to shorter lengths for soldering to the loom ends. Note the shrink wrap tubes installed on each of the wires prior to soldering so that the shrink wrap can be moved over the solder joint to prevent any shorting of those connections.

The white card in the upper right of the picture shows the wiring colors of the loom end wires and what they control on the trailer. This diagram resulted from testing the electrical output of each wire on the input side of the loom for function and testing the electrical input on each wire on the output side of the loom for function to the trailer. The colors of the wire of the loom match the colors of the wire on the Curt unit except for the battery wire as noted above.

IMG_2096The picture above shows the output of the Curt unit soldered to the output side loom of the hitch wiring loom, with shrink wrap tubes in place and ‘shrunk’. The input side wires have already been soldered, with an inline 10-amp fuse box soldered into the battery wire connection. The shrink tubes have not yet been positioned and shrunk at this point in the process. The 10-amp fuse box is a requirement from the instructions accompanying the Curt unit.

Installing the newly wired Curt unit onto the bike has been covered in the referenced blog article so it will not be repeated here. Needless to say when I turned the key of the bike and ran through the several functions that the trailer lights should show, I was ecstatic to see each function showed the appropriate result on the trailer…. i.e. everything worked!

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the trailer wiring problems have been solved. If after a number of trips the trailer lights continue to work I will conclude that the problem has been solved with the Curt unit or the wiring loom of the bike itself is at fault with some sort of electrical surge that is damaging the trailer hitch taillight converter. We can only hope that the problem is solved.

I will update this article after several trips with the tow-behind trailer noting that the trailer lights are continuing to function or the Spyder wiring loom has some sort of electrical fault!

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Audio Out Stereo Jack – Nuvi 55LM

I recently purchased a Garmin Nuvi 55LM GPS to replace / upgrade my current TomTom 350XL TM. The TomTom works fine but the screen has always been difficult to see in the bright sunlight while mounted on the handlebar of my CanAm Spyder. The Garmin appears to have a brighter screen than the TomTom but I have not yet used the Garmin on an actual motorcycle trip.

While being able to see the contents of the screen display, especially upcoming turns, lane changes, etc. that appear to warn / inform the driver of those events even more important is the ability to hear the voiced turn / driving directions. Very few, if any, manufacturers of GPS devices currently provide an audio out jack on their devices. That may be because it is illegal in many states to wear a headset of any type while driving. Unfortunately, when wearing a full or modular helmet coupled with traffic noise it is virtually impossible to hear the verbal instructions coming from a handlebar mounted GPS. With the purchase of the Nuvi 55LM I am again challenged by a project to add an Audio Out Stereo Jack. This will be the third GPS to which I have added the audio out jack.

It should be noted that the speakers in all GPS devices are monaural devices. Headsets are normally stereo with 3.5mm stereo (male) jacks. This means that the output of the monaural speaker of the GPS will be fed into both sides of the stereo headset in order to provide easily heard audio from the GPS. For those of we senior citizens with failing hearing in one or both ears having the monaural sound being duplicated into both ears is a real benefit!

In order to open the case of the 55LM to gain access to the speaker, and more importantly the wires to the speaker, two tools are required. The first is a torx screwdriver (of unknown size) with a miniature head. The second is a plastic tool specifically designed to separate the front of the case of the GPS case from the rear of that case. The two tools that I will be using were a part of a kit supplied with a replacement battery for my old TomTom GPS. The mini-Torx screwdriver is an absolute necessity. The plastic tool is a nice to have. A picture of the two tools used to disassemble and reassemble my GPS is included below.

IMG_1967The picture below shows the various supplies needed to complete the addition of the Audio Out Jack to the 55LM. Note the heat shrink tubing that will be used to enclose and protect the two wires to be soldered to the speaker wires and then fed out through the back of the GPS cover and then through the back of the GPS holder to the (female) stereo jack. Rubber grommets will be used to doubly protect this speaker wire as it passes through the back of the GPS case and then through the rear of the GPS holder.

IMG_1957Carefully remove the four Torx screws at each corner in the back of the GPS case. Use the plastic tool or a suitable substitute to separate the front and rear of the GPS case. Small tabs, inside, at the edges of the case hold the front and rear of the case together even when the screws are removed. There is a flat, delicate cable that connects the electronics of the front half of the case (screen) with those electronic components in the rear of the case. Be very careful not to damage that cable during handling. I inserted a piece of soft foam discarded from a cellphone case covered with a tissue on the inside between the front and rear of the GPS case to allow access to the speaker (and wires). The picture below shows the case, opened, with the foam inserted, and access to the speaker and wires shown.

IMG_1960The speaker is held in place with an adhesive ring / washer to the back of the case. Carefully remove the speaker by prying up around the edges of the speaker. Remove the adhesive washer from either the front of the speaker or from the rear of the case depending on which one it stuck to during removal of the speaker. Use this adhesive ring when replacing the speaker into the back case after soldering the leads for the audio jack to the speaker solder connections.

Note that the soldered connections of the speaker wire to the speaker are covered with some sort of black paint / insulating material. I used the tip of an Xacto knife blade to carefully scrape away this material to expose the solder points on the speaker. I then soldered the two wire leads from the speaker to connect to the stereo out jack.

A picture of the speaker with both the existing leads and the new leads soldered in place is included below. Note that great care must be used in this soldering operation to avoid loosening or damaging the existing leads while adding the new leads to the speaker. Check the soldered connections to insure quality connections. At this point a test of the GPS device speaker system to be sure the two leads from the speaker are actually providing sound to the new leads is highly recommended! Touching the male audio jack of a headset to the ends of the newly soldered leads (after turning on the GPS) while adjusting the volume of the speaker will verify that sound is coming through the newly installed leads.

IMG_1961The picture below shows where in the back of the case a hole will be drilled through which the speaker wire leads will be passed. I use a cheap soldering iron to start any hole to be drilled in either plastic or fiberglass material. The drill bit used must be sharp if a clean hole is to be achieved. Rubber grommets must also be used to protect the leads passing through the hole from damage from the sharp edges of the hole, over time. The heat shrink tubing can be installed, and shrunk at this point so that it protects as much of that wire that extends out of the GPS case as possible.

IMG_1963The picture below shows the two leads coming out of the back of the GPS case through the hole located near the bottom corner. Note the grommet in place to protect the insulation of these leads. Also note, that while not shown, a knot was placed into the two leads prior to their being passed through the hole / grommet in the back of the GPS case to prevent the possibility of accidentally pulling too hard on these audio jack wires during normal use, connecting and disconnecting the headset jack. Reassemble the back of the case to the front using the four torx screws after securing the speaker and its wire leads into their original position.

IMG_1964Locate and drill a similar hole in the corner of the GPS holder so when the GPS is mounted into the holder the leads pass through that new hole and its protective grommet. At this point the insulating, protective back part of the audio out jack should be installed onto the shrink tubing covered speaker leads. Note in the picture below the speaker leads to be soldered onto the audio out jack are shown along with the internal component of the audio out jack, out of focus!

IMG_1968The picture below shows the ground wire in place into the ground tab of the audio out jack. The left and right soldering tabs are the stereo components of the jack. Since there is only one (monaural) wire output from the GPS speaker that single wire must be attached / soldered to BOTH tabs on the stereo jack (if sound is to be fed to both ears of the motorcycle rider’s headset!)

IMG_1969To accomplish that double use of the single wire lead the exposed, braided wire is separated into two equal parts so that the wire can then be soldered to both side tabs of the the stereo jack. The picture below shows the separation of the braided wire of the speaker lead in preparation for soldering to the stereo jack’s tabs.

IMG_1970The picture below shows the stereo jack with the ground wire (black) already soldered, and with the split lead through one side of the stereo tabs on the audio jack. Tweezers were absolutely necessary for placing each of the two sides of the split lead into the holes of the soldering tabs. Once each lead is visible in the hole of the tab soldering can then permanently secure each side of the lead in place.

I know that I’ll be able to hear every instruction provided by the GPS voice!

IMG_1972The final installation picture of the stereo audio jack from the rear of the GPS holder case is shown below. I can’t wait to use this new GPS. I can only hope that in bright sunlight I will also be able to see what’s being displayed on the screen!

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2013 Spyder ST Hitch Converter Replacement

Note – Note – Note: This replacement converter FAILED after the second trip, in June of 2015.  Hopkins was contacted but refused to provide any technical assistance!

When I installed the BRP Hitch onto my 2013 Spyder ST in April, 2013 I did not expect to have the converter in the wiring loom that came with the BRP Hitch fail after just over a year, and only three trips with my tow-behind trailer…. but it did! What is even more disconcerting is that BRP forces their Spyder owners to purchase the incredibly expensive BRP Hitch else they lose the warranty on the Spyder itself… talk about blackmail.. that is the worst kind.

I had planned on a four day trip from my home in Colorado Springs, leaving on the morning of 12/9/2014, to Boulder City, Nevada, to see the Boulder Dam, and then return via a more northerly route to see the Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Arizona. The weather for that four day trip was going to be outstanding… no rain, and with my heated clothing, perfectly comfortable on the frike (my term for a dual front wheeled trike!). But it was not to be. On the evening before leaving on the trip I had packed the trailer, checked the tire pressures in all tires and as an afterthought turned the key of the frike to check the running lights, turn signals and brake lights of the trailer…. Nothing! So much for my early December ride!

A quick check at the connector between the frike and the tow-behind trailer using a volt meter verified that there was no voltage coming from the frike hitch loom to the trailer. A secondary review of the Shop Manual for the frike indicated that there was no specific fuse for the frike’s trailer wiring connector under the passenger seat. At this point a failure of the converter in the hitch loom appeared to be the problem. My trip was definitely off!

My electronic Shop Manual shows only four (Torx) screws holding the under panel fender over the rear tire but there are actually five, and in addition, two plastic push clip connectors at the bottom of the panel. A picture of the under panel is included below:

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In the limited space above the rear tire and below the panel a 1/4” ratchet wrench with the Torx bit makes the removal of the five screws much easier. Note that on replacement of these five screws that the Blue Loctite should be used to prevent them from loosening, over time. The center bolt of the plastic push clip connectors can be removed using a flat-bladed screwdriver. Note that there is one ‘ghost’ push clip connector to the inside on each side of the panel that need not be removed since it is not holding the panel to the frike. The inner clip connector is shown in the picture below:

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The picture below shows the old converter mounted just above the rear shock onto the frame, held in place with a black cable tie.
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A search of the Internet revealed that the failure of this component of the BRP Hitch Kit was a common problem among those (of us) who had purchased the hitch. The forums were full of postings on this problem, with as many solutions as there were postings. After reading several postings a replacement product, Hopkins Kit #46365 seemed to be the best option for the repair. This kit is available on Amazon for around $45 (with free shipping!). A careful examination of the picture of Kit #46365 revealed that the number of wires on each side of the converter and the color of those wires was Exactly the same as the old converter. I could only hope that this was an indication that this kit was the correct replacement, electrically and functionally.

The picture below is of the several components of the kit. Note that the kit is intended for the complete wiring of the towing vehicle with clips, wiring and connectors for a 4-flat towed vehicle:

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The picture below is of the replacement converter and the old converter with loom wiring connectors. Note that the colors of the wires of both converters are the same, and the positions and number of wires on both sides of the replacement converter are exactly the same… a comforting situation at this point in the project!

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The picture below shows the replacement converter with the wires on each side cut to about 12” in length, with the ends having the insulation removed. The connectors from the wiring loom have been removed from the defective converter, with the insulation from those wires also removed in preparation for soldering the wires of the new converter onto the loom connectors. Note also that shrink wrap tubing of the appropriate size has been installed onto each wire to be used to cover the soldered connectors after soldering.

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The picture below shows the new converter with the loom connectors soldered, with shrink wrap positioned (and shrunk) onto the soldered wire connections.

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The picture below shows the two holes on the top and bottom of the new connector being (carefully) enlarged so that the cable wire tie that will be used to attach the converter to the rear fender frame of the frike. The picture also shows the black, corrugated protective tubing installed on both sides of the converter to retain and protect the separate wires after the converter is installed.

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The picture below shows the place on the rear fender frame where the converter will be installed. The cable tie must be fished into the top slot and out of the bottom slot. I used a short piece of hanger wire with a J-shaped end to stick through the bottom slot and grab the end of the cable tie as I pushed it down from the top slot. A bit of ‘fishing’ will allow the capture of the tie through the bottom slot.

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The picture below shows the new converter installed using the single cable tie. The white item behind the converter is a piece of foam that will provide some cushioning of the converter from the frike frame. The loom wiring on each side of the newly installed converter is secured on each side with cable ties to keep those wires from moving around during a ride on some of the rough roads I encounter on my touring.

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The underside fender cover is replaced using the five Torx screws and two push-pin plastic snaps. I would recommend Blue Loctite on each of the Torx screws to prevent vibration from loosening them from the frike.

And finally, after everything was in place a turn of the ignition key lit up both the lights of the frike and the lights on the tow-behind trailer. Turn signal lights and brake lights were also tested and worked perfectly. It was indeed a good thing!

Just one week ago I was just a few hours away from leaving on another frike touring adventure… but that was not to be. And now, just one week later, with the lighting on my tow-behind trailer working perfectly the weather is somewhere below freezing and the snow has just begun to fall, heavily, but I’m now ready for any four days in a row with clear weather between Colorado Springs and Boulder City at any time in the near future.

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