Have you ever wondered if you were over taxing your charging system? Have you wondered what the temperature is during a ride? If you have then this is probably a tool you need on your motorcycle. Actually, even if you have never wondered about either of those things this could be something you want to give a serious look.
Kisan is a company made up of engineers. They invent and produce products for motorcycles that actually do things whether it is protecting us from the evil cages with head light and brake light modulators or protecting us from ourselves with the "Tire Alert" which shows the exact pressure in both the front and rear tire on a display nearly identical to what you see in the picture above. In the case of the "Charge Guard" we are being protected from accessory overload and, in extreme weather conditions from slip sliding away right off the road. Kisan doesn't produce chrome or leather doo dads, they make things that actually have a function on a motorcycle.
Here's what the Charge Guard does:
1. Using an internal current sensor the display will turn on automatically as soon as you twist the key on your bike or you can touch the 'mode' button to turn it on manually at any time. In night time riding conditions a backlight will come on to illuminate the display.
As you can see at left the display is showing battery voltage. That is the default display and, in most situations the most informative showing voltage of the battery at rest and voltage with the engine running as shown at right. Notice the numeric display is augmented with a bar graph so no matter what type display you prefer you're accommodated. The photo at right shows the voltage display with the engine running.
Give the button another push and you'll see an amperage readout that will show the total amperage draw of your accessories if the engine is off or the amperage actually charging (or discharging) the battery if the engine is running. This readout is especially useful in the non running mode if you know the amperage available from your alternator. In the case of the Nomad that's 42 amps. The meter shows 7 amps are used just by running lights and by the bikes other systems ( -7 on the display) turn on spotlights and you lose another couple of amps. Using the ChargeGuard readout I learned my Nomad with absolutely everything turned on (including brakes/turn signals and with heated clothing plugged in) uses 31 amps. The voltage display is actually far more useful while on the road which is probably why Kisan's engineers chose to make voltage the default display but it sure wouldn't hurt to know the total amperage draw of all accessories on your bike. Stators are expensive !
Pressing the "mode" button again brings up the temperature display in Fahrenheit and anotherpress of the button produces the temperature in Celsius The range + and - is far beyond any condition you're likely to be riding in. One really nifty feature though is the "Ice Alert" feature that will flash on the display telling you "ICE" is likely when temperature reaches freezing. That would probably be a good time to park the bike.
So, you're wondering with all these features is the ChargeGuard difficult to install? Nope, it's a cinch. Everything you could possibly need from the unit itself to a special mounting plate designed to attach to your handlebars along with double sided tape and an assortment of zip ties is included.
Notice how small the display unit is. Just 2 3/8" wide by 2 1/8" high so it's pretty easy to find a good visible spot for mounting. You might have noticed in the photos above I've mounted the unit near the left side switch housing. I could easily have used the supplied bar mount but chose to make a very simple aluminum bracket instead. See details on this Gadget page. The bracket is just a piece of 2x2 aluminum angle iron trimmed a bit and held in place using the bikes mirror mount. The ball on top of the mount is part of a RAM mounting system that allows you to attach everything from cameras to cup holders, gps units to XM radio units to your handlebars.
The entire installation (without making your own bracket) might take a half hour if you aren't taking pictures and yakking with the neighbors all the while. Something else to consider, this is one of those rare items that can be easily transferred from bike to bike or bike to car. There is no cutting of wires involved and only two connections, one wire to the positive and another to the negative terminal of your battery. That's it.
What You'll Need
- 10 mm socket or box wrench for removing battery cables (and if installing on a Vulcan, your seat)
- Pliers for bending copper shunt
- 12 mm socket or box wrench for use on the rear fuel tank bolt (not required but it'll be easier)
- Philips Screwdriver for removing the battery hold down (not required but it'll be easier)
- A few extra small zip ties. Some are included but if you want the install to be really tidy you'll probably use more
Let's Do This
1. Open the packaging and, for the moment, set aside the display unit. At the very least speed read through the instructions but pay very close attention to the orientation of the shunt. There is a battery side and a ground wire side. The instructions include detailed drawings. You can also click on any thumbnail on this page for a much larger photo which, for some, may be easier.
2. Install the shunt. As you can see in the picture this is modified a bit from photos that may be on other websites, perhaps even Kisan's. The shunt has been modified from the original design by Kisan so it is now a flexible copper strip with a circuit board mounted on the strip. The assembly is very easy to bend to your will (and the confines of your battery box). For the Vulcan FI notice the shunt is mounted on the negative post then, for this application, one side is bent down 90 degrees beside the battery. You'll end up with the shunt looking like the picture at right. That bent portion is where the negative battery cable is connected along with any accessory ground wires you might have installed on the bike. The install will be simpler if you remove the battery hold down. Before you remove the bolt holding the negative battery cable in place, slip a zip tie under the captive nut. That will keep it from dropping all the way to the bottom of the post and making trouble when you try to get the bolt back in.
If you're installing on a Vulcan go ahead and bend the cable side of the shunt as shown then connect the cable to the copper strap using the nut and bolt supplied with the unit. Reach around behind your rear exhaust pipe and pull the negative cable back down (the shunt with it) gently until the battery side of the shunt is lined up with the battery post. Reinstall the stock battery cable bolt. Once the bolt is tightened use a zip tie to secure the negative battery cable to the frame so it isn't wiggling the shunt as the engine vibrates. On a Vulcan this is very simple, just use the wire loom provided for all the fuel and coolant vent hoses. Do NOT skip this part. If your hands are too large to reach the wire loom and battery cable have someone else do it for you.
A red (+) wire runs from the shunt to the positive terminal of your battery. There is no need to remove the bolt, just loosen it and slip the barbed connector under the bolt then re-tighten the nut The photo (above left) shows the shunt installed and all wires connected to the battery. The photo (below right) shows all connections in place and the battery hold down back in its appointed spot. Notice the yellow female connector that's part of the shunt. This is where the RJ-11 connector from the display unit plugs in. It can be run right under the top of the battery hold down.
If you use scissors or a knife to cut a slot in the positive side terminal cover it will be simpler to cover the terminal and accommodate accessory wiring. The picture above/left shows the red wire from the ChargeGuard along with another accessory wire I have installed on the Nomad for a trailer and heated vest, both good reasons to monitor the charging system closely.
3. Mount the display unit using parts supplied or your own brackets as shown in the photos at the top of this page. There are many options but make sure the display can be seen easily from your seat and the "mode" button pressed easily to change displays. Route the battery wire from your handlebars down through the frame neck protector (Nomad) and through the wiring loops located along the left side of the frame under the tank. This will be a little simpler if you remove the rear bolt holding the gas tank in place, remove the rear vent hose(s) and lift the tank about half an inch. Just shove the handle of a socket wrench under the rear of the tank to hold it up a little. You'll find access to the wire looms is a little simpler that way. Route the wire toward the battery and zip tie any excess together in a loop then stuff the excess out of the way. Plug the connector into the yellow receptor mounted to the shunt. Check the display. If everything is connected on the battery you should see a voltage reading and if you're indoors the backlight will be lighted.
4. Install the temperature sensor. Again the mounting location is up to you but remember above the engine is going to be artificially warm as will any location immediately above the radiator or directly in the Sun. Kisan provides plenty of wire to mount the unit nearly anyplace on the frame. I chose a location that doesn't seem like it would be affected by heat radiated from the road or from the bike itself. The location is on top of the lower triple tree, right behind the headlight housing. It's always in the shade and hopefully distant enough from radiator/engine heat so it won't be affected, at least while the bike is moving. Use double sided tape to secure the rubber boot that protects the temperature probe making sure you use alcohol to clean the area so the tape will stick.
5. If you haven't already done so, plug everything in. Kisan has provided jacks identical to your home telephone jacks. They simply plug into the temperature sensor and shunt. Once connected get out your zip tie supply and tidy things up.
6. Go ride.
Note, not shown on this page is the "Charge X" battery charger also available from Kisan. The Charge X, when purchased with the "Charge Guard" uses the same battery connections and can be mounted virtually anyplace on the bike. The size is roughly the same as a pack of gum. The Charge X works much the same way some other high quality chargers do, charging the battery fully then maintaining a full charge at all times without any danger of over charging the battery. This unit would be absolutely perfect for bikes that get parked during the winter or see weeks go by between uses.
Much credit should be given to the engineers at Kisan. They have obviously given a lot of thought to the needs of riders along with ease of installation. As a rider with some stator challenging accessories on his bike the Charge Guard is going to be extremely valuable but even if you don't have a lot of accessories this product could help prevent being stuck, probably in the dark in a strange place with a motorcycle that refuses to start.
The Kisan website has more information about the unit described here including a .pdf file showing the step by step installation.
What The Numbers Mean
If you've grown up riding in and driving cars with only idiot lights on the dash you may be wondering to yourself--self, what do voltage and amp meters actually tell me.
Voltage: Your motorcycle has a 12 volt electrical system. A fully charged battery will read about 12.6 volts when the engine is not running. When the engine is running, the charging system takes over so that the voltmeter will read 14 to 14.5 volts and should stay there unless there is a heavy load on the electrical system such as spotlights, heated clothing, radios and other accessories all operating together. If the voltage drops below 12.6 (and it might if you're in town idling a lot or running below about 2000 rpm), it means that the battery is providing some of the current. If less voltage is flowing into the battery than is flowing out you could be in trouble the next time you try to start the engine. If the voltage ever goes above 15 volts, there is a problem with the voltage regulator. Have the system checked as soon as possible as this "overcharging" condition can cause damage to your electrical system.
Amperage: An ammeter will read from a negative amperage when the battery is providing most of the current (key on but engine not running) depleting itself, to a positive amperage if most of the current is coming from the charging system. If the battery is fully charged and there is minimal electrical demand, then the ammeter should read close to zero, but should always be on the positive side of zero. It is normal for the ammeter to read a high positive amperage in order to recharge the battery after starting, but it should taper off in a few minutes. If it continues to read more than 10 or 20 amps even though the lights, wipers and other electrical devices are turned off, you may have a weak battery and should have it checked.