10 April 2015

Ducati 900SS back to life

Brandon's Duc has been OOS since around the winter of 2012. It ran fine, then he put it away, then no good (no lights, not spark, no starter) + the fork brace is cracked clean. Since he dropped it off a couple of weeks ago, I've only been able to spend about 5 hours or so on it, and those hours have been dedicated just to fixing the electrical issues. It had me stumped for awhile. The electronic tach is wired directly to the battery, not the ignition switch, so it's on as long as there is battery power it lights up and works - I installed a disconnect to remedy that while I mull over rewiring. Additionally, there are a ton of homemade connections and rewiring on this bike, which was a pain, but after changing the battery, tracing everything out, installing the new ignition (he lost the original keys), and cleaning and rewiring some connections, a turn of the ignition would trigger a quick flash on the indicators and the click of the main relay. Finally I figured it'd have to be the relay, despite it clicking like normal.

not looking good

 After opening up the relay it didn't take long to see what the problem was. The coil was in great shape which is why it was clicking over, but the contact was well burnt up.

contact detail

I found out that Ducati isn't like BMW at all when it comes to old parts, they're more like H-D. Only worry about the new stuff, and anything older than 5 years or so will be relegated to the salvage market. I wound up finding a used relay for $11.95 on eBay (with a video showing that the bike was working before disassembly), and then an automotive generic relay on Amazon for $4.20. Since the Amazon relay is lost in the mail currently, and the old Ducati one happened to arrive today, I decided to try that option.

After a brief recharging of the battery, this 94 is back to life. Now to tackle the front suspension, rear brake pad change, and oil change, and this bike will be back on the road again. Just listen to that Ducati clutch clang around...


  1. What do you think D.Etz? Can an relay die on you slowly?

  2. Peter, I've never seen symptoms of a relay dying slowly. I'm not sure if it's possible since it's basically like a switch, either the contacts are working or they're not. In the case of this Ducati, my client ran the bike fine for a year, parked it for the winter, and then the relay was dead when he tried to start it in the spring, there weren't any signs of the contacts going bad. This was actually the first relay I've seen fail so completely, all other relays I've worked with that didn't seem to work just needed the corrosion cleaned off the terminals and they were back to life.