UPDATE: When I initially wrote this article I wasn’t 100% certain that Sportsters were the only motorcycle with this problem. It appears that Harley-Davidson® motorcycles with EFI and the fuse/relay panel under the seat are all susceptible to this issue.
After our 2100+ mile (rainy) road trip to the Laconia Motorcycle rally in 2013, my sister’s 2011 Harley-Davidson Super Glide Custom suffered the exact same issue during our trip! Her bike did not give off any symptoms other than hesitant starting for a day or two. Her relay completely failed and the bike would not start, period. Pass this important, HELPFUL, information to all your biker friends!
FOR (EFI) SPORTSTER OWNERS!! Perhaps any Harley motorcycle with the fuse/relay panel on the side.
We all know our bikes have a soul, but imagine how I must have felt when I walked into a dark, silent garage and heard my beloved bike BREATHING. Yes, it’s true, it was a rhythmic breathing sound, like a mechanical respirator. Of course it wasn’t a mechanical breath my bike was letting out, it was a mechanical PROBLEM. Hours and hours of searching finally brought me to the solution. It was the IAC cycling on and off, with the bike off and key out. Why? Water collects on the fuse panel, the corrosion creates a ‘live’ feed to the relays, causing the bike to cycle on and off as if it were on.
What happens? The constant cycling of the IAC will drain your battery. If you have a battery tender on most of the time, this will mask the problem. Until you go on a road trip and cannot plug in the battery tender.
The symptoms: As mentioned, the respirator sound. Dead battery. Fuel NOT pressurizing when you turn the switch on. Eventually the starter relay can fail, leaving you stranded!
The fix: Remove your side cover – clean the fuse panel, all fuses, and relays of the white corrosion. Generously cover all the above with dielectric grease (found at any auto parts store…under a $1). See pictures. NEW! YouTube video showing this procedure below.
It took over 6,000 miles for my bike to start showing symptoms, you may not have had a problem yet, but you should look over your fuse panel and grease everything as mentioned above to prevent any future problems.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS HAVE A SPARE RELAY! If you do not have accessibility to a Harley-Davidson dealer you can purchase this relay at an auto parts store.