An interesting comparison of Commando electric starters

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Initially I resisted the desire to add my two-pennorth but resistance is futile ;) . I fitted a CNW kit not too long ago, I was getting a bit desperate as my kicking leg is giving me grief, and I find it too awkward restarting when stalled uphill at lights.

I’d read several threads regarding both the Alton and CNW starters and had to make a decision what to fit. Alton is available to me overnight in UK, whereas Matt’s kit is several weeks away (mainly held up by UK customs not Matt). Matt’s kit was also £500+ ($650) more expensive. Then I needed to get a Shorai battery.

So, having weighed up the options and seen no end of problems with the Alton system reported, I had no option other than to go with CNW.

unlike Fast Eddie I went with chrome, I wanted to show it off not hide it. Yesterday at our annual Classic Bike ride it got a lot of close attention from other Commando owners, and those who saw it in operation were amazed just how well it sparked into life - as it call it Startled it into life.
I especially like the fact it’s belt drive, billet clutch and retains the stock alternator. And if that starter motor can start a HD then it’ll be good for me.

Additionally, can I echo several other owners of the CNW kit and say that on the odd occasion that I have needed to get in touch with him, he has answered at all sorts of times of day. Each time it’s been because I’ve not read the instructions properly :rolleyes: He has been very patient with me:)
 
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If the Yves fix doesn't fix it, then I'm really sorry for your issues.

As to the hit-and-miss, I wonder how much has to do with the ignition timing and fine tune of the engine itself?
thought about the timing, but in both cases, TDC and advance set with a degree wheel (per tri-spark specs). confident i was dead nuts on the money. state of fine tune, fairly sure everything is OK - valve lash, carbs, plugs, wires, etc - pretty much everything best i can tell, all good. not saying i have all the answers - I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.
 
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thought about the timing, but in both cases, TDC and advance set with a degree wheel (per tri-spark specs). confident i was dead nuts on the money. state of fine tune, fairly sure everything is OK - valve lash, carbs, plugs, wires, etc - pretty much everything best i can tell, all good. not saying i have all the answers - I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.
I have no experience with Trispark but have used RITA and now Vape. They both require checking with a timing light after initial static setting of timing. Do you do that with Trispark? If they don't recommend it, it would still be worth doing.
 

gortnipper

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I have no experience with Trispark but have used RITA and now Vape. They both require checking with a timing light after initial static setting of timing. Do you do that with Trispark? If they don't recommend it, it would still be worth doing.
Yes, do it.
 

JLN

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"potential"
Is something with more parts potentially less reliable? That depends on the quality of those parts and how they're made. The Alton starter is made in Europe so is likley to be of reasonably good quality.
 
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Is something with more parts potentially less reliable? That depends on the quality of those parts and how they're made. The Alton starter is made in Europe so is likley to be of reasonably good quality.
Alton have used questionable engineering, they are relying on the side force from a torqued nut onto a not very large washer to take the torque of the starter motor with abrupt starting. They no doubt did the maths but did not allow enough extra allowance to cope with variations in parts already on the bike or supplied by themselves.

When you design something that is just on the edge of what the maths says will work then you find you get seemingly random failures with no obvious cause. Look at the A65 timing side bush, the engineering plain bush design parameters show that the A65 bush is just inside the recommended parameters for the load. The A65 has random failures but post on a forum that your bush has just seized or worn out you will get replies saying that their bush has never been an issue and has done 100K miles so they just need a new bush carefully installed. But there is an issue with the bush or Devimead would not have developed the needle roller conversion, initially used on racing sidecar outfits.
 

grandpaul

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Is something with more parts potentially less reliable? That depends on the quality of those parts and how they're made. The Alton starter is made in Europe so is likely to be of reasonably good quality.
Yes, there is POTENTIAL for less reliability, the more complicated an assembly becomes. Simple mechanical logic at play.

Materials quality
Design quality
Manufacturing quality
Integration quality
Inter-operation quality

I'm sure there are other finite quality aspects that figure in, but that just means even MORE potential for failure....

"reasonably good quality" sometimes is inadequate, depending on the application. I believe, evidenced by numerous reports of failures, that Alton's "reasonable quality" has fallen short in one specific area. That area may or may not be exacerbated by the inter-operation with other areas. It is a puzzle as yet unsolved by Alton; even the private party "solvers" still have many miles of "testing" to prove out the "fix" for that problem. So, just because there is a fix, doesn't mean the issue is solved (yet).
 

grandpaul

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I wonder, has anyone who had an Alton starter failure, experienced any collateral damage?
 
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trying to do a little brain storming, or maybe it's just a brain fart, but would it be better on the starting system to slightly advance or retard the timing - just a degree or two? part of the problem maybe engine kick-back or back-firing - that can't be good for the system. BTW, got everything back to finish the yves fix. will post progress and final installation. hoping to get back on the road today.
 
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I wonder, has anyone who had an Alton starter failure, experienced any collateral damage?
yes - the 2X broken woodruff key played hell with the end of my crankshaft. one more failure, and i might have to pull the engine for crank repair/replacement. no problems with the actual alton starter and associated hardware. overall, i think it's a fairly good design, everything seems well made with decent quality, but still has one drawback. it relies on the clamping pressure of one (sprag clutch) retaining nut. the alton folks specify 65# torque on the 5/8-22 retaining nut, whereas the recommended torque on a 5/8-grade 5 (coarse) is 112 ft.lbs. , and 128 ft.lbs. (fine). alton does not use any type of washer in the retaining nut design. using a washer and bumping the torque would should solve most of the problems, however, locking everything together as in the yves fix SHOULD eliminate all the problems - i hope!
 

grandpaul

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I should think a crankshaft replacement would be considered CATASTROPHIC collateral damage!
 
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I know our friend Yves has a good sense of humour, so do wonder if Alton were waiting for him to die before offering his 'fix' with no copyright issues..
Of course, that's all gone by the book now....
 

Fast Eddie

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Yes, there is POTENTIAL for less reliability, the more complicated an assembly becomes. Simple mechanical logic at play.

Materials quality
Design quality
Manufacturing quality
Integration quality
Inter-operation quality

I'm sure there are other finite quality aspects that figure in, but that just means even MORE potential for failure....

"reasonably good quality" sometimes is inadequate, depending on the application. I believe, evidenced by numerous reports of failures, that Alton's "reasonable quality" has fallen short in one specific area. That area may or may not be exacerbated by the inter-operation with other areas. It is a puzzle as yet unsolved by Alton; even the private party "solvers" still have many miles of "testing" to prove out the "fix" for that problem. So, just because there is a fix, doesn't mean the issue is solved (yet).

Actually, there are ‘more potential failure modes’.

But this is NOT the same as ‘potential for less reliability’.

A wheel with 4 bolts does not have potential for less reliability than a wheel with 1 bolt…
 
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"A wheel with 4 bolts does not have potential for less reliability than a wheel with 1 bolt…"

Thank heaven you posted that!!! I became concerned reading that more parts meant less reliability. Several of our cars have 5 lug bolts on each wheel with a total of 20 potential failures. I was worried sick but now feel much better!


I remain, however, still sarcastic. ;)
 
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Is something with more parts potentially less reliable? That depends on the quality of those parts and how they're made. The Alton starter is made in Europe so is likley to be of reasonably good quality.
I'm pretty sure that's not an accurate statement. Both the French and Italians are notorious for beautiful looking machinery with questionable, well, everything else.

And we wouldn't have this forum if the British didn't cut a few corners on the Commando, like continue to use an engine designed when Jesus was a toddler.
 

grandpaul

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Actually, there are ‘more potential failure modes’.

But this is NOT the same as ‘potential for less reliability’.

A wheel with 4 bolts does not have potential for less reliability than a wheel with 1 bolt…
EVERY part on ANY assembly is a potential failure point. I don't see how this can be argued otherwise. "POTENTIAL" is not "probable", "likely", or anything else; just POTENTIAL.

More parts = more potential for failure.

That's how I see it, but your comments are appreciated. I'm NOT necessarily disagreeing with you or anyone else; just qualifying my original statement.
 
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grandpaul

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Take one block of steel. It is ONE potential failure point, ANYWHERE in that single block could fail under sufficient stress.

Weld two blocks together and you have THREE potential failure points. Block "A", Block "B", and the weld forming the joint. Welding on ONE more block adds TWO more potential failure points.

See how this works, reduced to basics?

Advance it one realm: BOLT together two steel plates, you have 3 potential failure points. (never mind how many potential failure modes).

Bolt them together, aligned, and stress them by pulling apart. Either plate, or the bolted joint (three potential failure points) could yield, depending on the specification of the clamping hardware, the correctness of the hole drilling, etc.

Now, bolt those same two plates together at a 90 degree angle, and introduce the same stress on the assembly. The bolted joint now becomes highly critical to the bolted assembly's ability to retain it's intended state, AND the assembly's resistance to failure in several different modes.

If we are to calculate the potential for different MODES of failure of each part of an electric starter upgrade kit, the list may ASTOUND you.

I was only referring to potential failure POINTS.

So, if comparing potential failure points AND modes, the more PARTS involved, the more the list of potential failures grows EXPONENTIALLY.

NOW does it make sense?

(I'm geeking MYSELF out now...)
 
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Take one block of steel. It is ONE potential failure point, ANYWHERE in that single block could fail under sufficient stress.

Weld two blocks together and you have THREE potential failure points. Block "A", Block "B", and the weld forming the joint. Welding on ONE more block adds TWO more potential failure points.

See how this works, reduced to basics?

Advance it one realm: BOLT together two steel plates, you have 3 potential failure points. (never mind how many potential failure modes).

Bolt them together, aligned, and stress them by pulling apart. Either plate, or the bolted joint (three potential failure points) could yield, depending on the specification of the clamping hardware, the correctness of the hole drilling, etc.

Now, bolt those same two plates together at a 90 degree angle, and introduce the same stress on the assembly. The bolted joint now becomes highly critical to the bolted assembly's ability to retain it's intended state, AND the assembly's resistance to failure in several different modes.

If we are to calculate the potential for different MODES of failure of each part of an electric starter upgrade kit, the list may ASTOUND you.

I was only referring to potential failure POINTS.

So, if comparing potential failure points AND modes, the more PARTS involved, the more the list of potential failures grows EXPONENTIALLY.

NOW does it make sense?

(I'm geeking MYSELF out now...)
Yup... the more things you have to worry about, the more the chance of heart failure :)
 

Fast Eddie

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GP, my comments are simply to point out that there is a difference between ‘potential failure modes’ and ‘potential for less reliability’.

Increased potential failure modes DO NOT equal potential for less reliability. They are two different things. Just Google FMEA and you‘ll see what I‘m getting at.
 
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