Ignition Switch FAQ

compiled & edited by Kristian #562
Please read the Disclaimer before attempting any work in this FAQ.
Updated 16 March 03

Broken Ignition Switch Cover
David #476, Richard #230
December '01


This seems to be a known problem especially in cold climates. What happens is the little red plastic cover that protects the ignition mechanism gets stuck, gets brittle, gets worn and one day you stick your key in and the darn thing just breaks, scattering little pieces of red plastic down into the mechanism.


Here is some feedback on symptoms:



1. Most people get a very small pair of tweezers and fish the bits out so at least you can get the thing started.!. However, you're still stuck without a cover, and if any water gets in there and freezes.


2. Remove it BEFORE it breaks. Cover it with something else. See Ignition Switch Cover Removal FAQ (Before it Breaks)


How do I Remove the ENTIRE Lock: (Not Necessary for the Broken Ignition Switch Cover Problem )


The cost of a new lock is about US$70. If you want it factory-keyed to match the rear lock, you'll probably have to wait for 3-4 weeks.


Factory Manual via Colorado Bob

Flash 412 (CO)



I would add a dose of Tri-Flow. I've seen this stuff forever and never used it. While on my trip to BC this summer, my Triumph IGNITION switch became very sticky after several days of rain to the point I was worried it would fail while on the road. (Same switch & red thingy as the Fs) I stopped in at a locksmith thinking a dose of graphite lock lube might fix it. Locksmith sold me a small bottle of Tri-Flow, which he said is all he uses. It worked great. Two drops and switch was back to normal and has stayed that way since. (3 Months).

Tumbler Removal

Ignition Switch Cover Removal FAQ - BEFORE it Breaks!

by Mike E. (car0tene)




My bike is a 1996 F650 'Classic' and lately I have been concerned about the potential drama of having the 'red plastic ignition lock cover problem' where the plastic lock cover in question becomes that fragile by either UV damage or by intense heat changes/differentials that it breaks off and becomes lodged in the ignition lock, preventing the bike's ignition key from being fully inserted and the bike from starting.


Since my bike is now a 'relic' (1996) and the fact that Australia can be a pretty remote place, (but lets face it, 10 km from home on any back road early on a Sunday morning can be just as 'remote'), I decided to remove the red plastic ignition lock cover as a preventative measure, hoping that in trying to remove the said piece of plastic that I didn't end up causing the problem by having bits of the plastic end up in my lock during the removal process. Thankfully, this did not happen and here is my version of how to do it.


Red Plastic Ignition Lock Cover Removal Procedure



If it all goes wrong you will have caused the problem that this procedure tries to eliminate. (That's life...one big risk taking event !)

Tools Required

  1. Nice bright work area.

  2. Standard size sharp bladed 'Stanley' knife. The multi-section snap off style. Have at least two spare blades available.

  3. Set of small flat head 'jewellers' screwdrivers.

  4. Small pair of pliers with a ribbed (good grip) jaw.

  5. Household vacuum cleaner. Powered up, ready to go and collocated near the bike just in case of emergency.

  6. Small pen light torch for looking in and around the ignition lock.

  7. A plastic cap from a standard sized spray can of WD-40. Preferably the type that has a 'slot head' since this has a bit more plastic ribbing inside the cap, making it a bit stronger.

  8. Curved fingernail scissors. Yea, really !

  9. Safely spectacles.

  10. A 'tube of superglue' and a 'strong magnet'

  11. Helmet, jacket and gloves to go for a ride afterwards. You might feel like celebrating !

Time Required

  1. About an hour of non-rushed time i.e you should not be stressed before you start this job.

  2. No distractions.

  3. No need to use the bike to go somewhere important, just in case it all goes wrong.


  1. The right hand side of the bike equals the side of the bike with the front brake lever.

  2. Verbose instructions for clarity. (I hope !)


  1. I read all of the info I could find on the problem via the Chain Gang Web Site to gain some background info. Acknowledgement given to those that came before.

  2. Unlock the bike and take the ignition key out.

  3. Put the bike on it's centre stand.

  4. Give the ignition lock a preliminary clean using the vacuum cleaner, just in case there would be any crud resident that might get dislodged during the removal process. Using a small screwdriver, slide the red plastic cover over to the right to open the lock up and allow the vacuum cleaner to be placed over the ignition lock to do its thing. You won't get a complete vacuum seal with the small screw driver in the way, but its better than nothing. Even if this step is perfunctory, you will at least have the vacuum cleaner all set up and ready to go in the event of disaster.

  5. With the ignition key removed from the bike and the red plastic cover fully extended to the left covering the lock entrance, align the sharp point of the Stanley knife along the divide between the most right visible part of the red plastic cover and the vertical line of the bike's ignition lock metal cover plate.

  6. Start cutting along this divide line using gentle down strokes of the knife until a decent groove starts to develop where upon the cutting forced can be increased.

  7. If you push too hard or the knife slips, you can accidentally push the red plastic cover over to the right where it will go behind the metal cover plate (i.e key inserted - lock open position). This is not too much of a problem as the red plastic cover will normally come back out from underneath the metal cover. The only problem would be if the plastic groove cut by the knife has causing some upper side ridges to develop on the plastic, which could jam the red plastic cover piece under the metal cover and the lock would be left permanently open with the red plastic cover now inaccessible and stuck underneath the metal cover.

  8. Since the red plastic ignition lock cover is a bloody hard little bit of plastic, it will take quite a few slices of the knife to get through it. I went through a couple of knife blades because as soon as the tip would blunt, I would snap it off and use the next one. Every now and then, I inserted a small flat headed screwdriver into the groove and tried to widen it a bit, so I could see if I was making any progress. The torch is good for having a look too.

  9. Every now and again I used the vacuum cleaner to suck up any plastic swarf.

  10. Eventually, the knife will get through the plastic and by slightly widening the groove, as mentioned above, you will see metal on the underside of the red plastic piece meaning you are through.

  11. The red plastic ignition lock cover is now cut in half should be sitting there, still in the fully extended 'ignition lock covered position'.

  12. Now comes the tricky part. Getting the plastic out without having it drop into the lock itself.

  13. Insert a small flat head jeweller's screwdriver into the base of the ignition key slot and lever up the red plastic half that is visible. You should be able to get it poking up and out at an angle where upon it can be gripped with some pliers and removed.

  14. With this half of the red plastic cover removed, the remaining half should now be sitting precariously in middle of the ignition lock. The two small springs that mount into the remaining red plastic cover's rear moulding lugs will now be fully extended, pushing the remaining plastic cover to its current position.

  15. The remaining half of the red plastic cover piece must now be removed, without it or its two attached springs falling down into the mysterious depths of the ignition lock.

  16. Carefully put a minuscule dot of superglue on the two springs, assuming they are still attached to the moulding lugs on the remaining half of the red plastic ignition lock cover.

  17. Let the glue set and use the same screw driver lever action to get the plastic out, now hopefully along with the two springs that are now hard fixed by the glue.

  18. An augmented extraction method to the screw driver lever action, could be to use a strong magnet to pull the attached plastic piece out by its metallic springs, again using the screw driver to get the red plastic piece into a good position for the magnet to do its thing.

  19. I put the two halves of the red plastic ignition lock cover together, looking for a perfect fit with no gaps, meaning that no plastic was left behind. (Just like a surgeon counting the surgical instruments after the operation is complete, to make sure none were left inside !)

  20. And with that last action the job was done, the sweating was over and the heart rate went back to normal.

  21. I then powered up the vacuum cleaner and gave the lock a good clean, this time getting a good vacuum seal with the red plastic cover piece gone and the lock open.

  22. Of course with the red plastic ignition lock 'cover' removed the lock has lost it's protective shield. When your riding or parked , with the key in the ignition, and its pouring with rain then a certain amount of water is going to get into the lock anyway. But with the key out and the lock devoid of a cover then even more water will get in, so it would be a good idea to fabricate some sort of protective cover.

  23. As luck would have it, the plastic cap from a standard size spray can of WD-40 has just the right diameter to fit over the ignition lock plastic surround, there by protecting the ignition lock from water entry.

  24. The plastic WD-40 cap (which is ironically coloured 'red' here in Australia) will have internal plastic ribbing which will need to be cut out to allow the cap to press down and around the ignition lock surround. I noticed two types of caps, one was a fairly flimsy affair and the other had a flat screw driver head like moulding on the outside top of the cap. This cap seemed to have better/stronger ribbing inside it.

  25. I used a small pair of curved fingernail scissors to cut the internal ribbing out of the inside of the WD-40 cap. If you cut only about 15 mm of length out of each 'rib' then the remaining 'rib' will form a nice 'stop' and you will know when the cap is seated well.

  26. I made sure that the WD-40 cap had no loose dags or swarf from its incisions, just in case these were to end up in the ignition lock. Now wouldn't that be f**king ironic !

  27. And that's it. One potential F650 problem eliminated, 17 more to go. Only joking. Ya gotta love this BMW.

car0tene - 1996 BMW F650 - Australia

Ignition Switch Short

David #476, Bryan #179, Todd#389, Tomw#773, Oliver
December '01


Q. I have a short somewhere in the ignition switch. Turn the handlebars or wiggle the wire on the bottom of the switch and it kills all electrical to the bike.


A1. Replacing the Switch:


The usual fix is to replace the switch (not the lock cylinder, just the switch). You can replace it around $ 80, or you can try taking it out, finding the broken wire and re-soldering it.


A2. Fixing it is Not Difficult:


Assuming it's a Classic F, yes a number of people have eventually had this problem. (Technically it's a disconnect, not a short.) Sometimes the slack wire on the end of the switch is not long enough, and pulls the wires where they are soldered on the bottom of the switch. You can remove the switch bottom easily enough and have the broken wire carefully re-soldered, or you can buy a new part.

If the loose wire is dark green with no secondary stripes, then:


The green wire is "switched" plus. That means when you turn your ignition in the "on"-position you connect the green wire to battery plus (a red/white wire).


So just take a voltmeter, ground one of the two cables of the voltmeter, turn switch to "on"-position and try to find the connector which has plus. Now turn the switch to "off"-position and make sure that no current appears when you use the voltmeter on the very same connector.


Then just solder the old wire to the connector.


Here's the photo I mentioned in my post. My soldered connections turned out to all be intact. It was only necessary to pry on two of the tabs to take the end cap off the switch. Note also the tie-wrap on the cable, thus taking stress off the soldered connections.
Thanks to Scott in SA


Feedback on Broken Ignition Switch Wire:

Ignition Switch Short - EMERGENCY FIX

Loose Ignition Cable Guide Assembly or Ignition Lock

The theft proof bolt that fell out should have blue LocTite on it from the factory and should never have fallen out.

Symptoms: Buzzing sound from the front of bike (1997 F). The ignition and cable guide assembly may be loose and missing one of the two bolts that attaches it to the under side of the triple clamp (upper). Check that your ignition switch assembly isn't loose. Makes a really annoying rev-dependent rattle that sounds like something loose in the valve train. Pete.


Is it Possible to Disable the Parking Light Function?

Q. Is it possible/advisable to disable the "parking" "feature" of the ignition switch?
A. If you are asking about the Classic, not easily, unless you are going to disable the parking lights functioning as running lights. It's not a matter of switching a harness wire, you'd have to switch a lead in the back of the ignition switch. That's the easiest way I can see, but maybe someone else looking at it from another angle can come up with something better. Todd #389

Impossible to lock the Front Forks when removing the Ignition Key?

Q. '97 F-650, 18,000 miles. Recently it has become impossible to lock the front forks when removing the ignition key (actually all 3 keys fail to work). Any suggestions short of replacing the ignition locking mechanism?
A. Are the bolts that should be holding the lock getting loose and backing out, allowing the lock to drop down slightly so that the fork lock pin no longer hits the hole? If so, tighten the bolts, or replace them with Allen heads and LocTite (tm).