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Buell Forum » Knowledge Vault (tech, parts, apparel, & accessories topics) » Electrical - Battery, Charg Sys, Lights, Switches, Sensors & Guages » Archive through February 23, 2011 » That pesky intermittent CEL code 21 and no brake light « Previous Next »

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Untamed
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2010 - 07:56 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Custodian/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Custodian/Admin only)

21,500 miles on a 2008 XB12XT. Wife and I made a 600 mile over night trip this three day weekend. I left knowing the CEL code 21 would not stop our trip because for months now the Check Engine Light would usually come on after start up but would go out when I put it in gear. It would sometimes come on for a few seconds during the ride and would sometimes come on during a stop. Although during our trip, I noticed that pesky CEL was staying on longer and was almost always on during a stop. I also noticed that the horn and stop light did not work anytime the CEL was on. Kind of scary not having a brake light.

Since the warranty expires someday this month I thought Iíd better get the bike in one more time for code 21 then remembered the dealer service department is closed on Monday. BTW the exhaust valve actuator has already been replaced three times under warranty. First time at 918 miles, then again at 12,993 miles, and most recently at 19,065 miles while in for a new drive belt. I canít say they really ever fixed the problem because each time code 21 returned in short order and taking it back just kept the bike off the road a little longer. So this time I decided to track down why that that pesky CEL would not stay away. Besides three actuators canít all be bad, can they?

I opened my service manual and proceeded to run diagnostic tests. The actuator cycled as it should and then again it would not. I checked the fuse, it was good. I unplugged the actuator and checked for power at the orange wire, it was hot. Test again and the actuator would cycle and then again it might or it might not. I inspected and wiggled wires without any results. I ask myself, why is this so intermittent? Is there something wrong with the ECM, does it have to reset a certain way between cycling tests? I went online to BWB and searched for answers. Exhaust valve actuator and code 21 are common topics and did get a few ideas although I did not find an answer to my problem. Soapbox-It would be nice if and when the OP finds the solution that they post back with what they found and definitely with something besides, never mind I figured it out-Off soapbox.

Grounding, corrosion at pins and sockets, broken and worn wires seemed to be reoccurring comments. I removed and cleaned all grounding points under the seat and at the battery terminals. I inspected the ECM connections as well. I ran the test several more times and the actuator cycled as it should every time. I started the bike and the CEL did not come on after start up, horn and brake light worked as well so I put on my gear while the bike warmed up. I got about a block from the house and the CEL came on, about a block later it was off. Half mile later it was on again so I turned around. Iíve inspected the four actuator wires and connections, the fuse, the grounds as well as a large part of the brake wiring, the problem must be elsewhere. When I got home I took a nap.

After a short nap, I unwrapped my electrical diagnostic manual and opened it to a drawing with just the actuator/horn/brake circuits. Fairly simple circuit, I learned the actuator, horn and brake light gets power from the fuse box via a relay called the key switch relay. I decided to look at the relay because I once had a problem with my Road King where it would just die while cruising down the road. Cycle the key switch and the bike would run again. This happened a couple of times about a year apart and then one day the bike would crank but not start, fortunately it was in the garage. What was happening was the fuel pump would stop working because the relay would unlatch and cut power to the pump. This time however the relay quit working so I was not hearing that familiar fuel pump sound during start up. Replaced the $5 relay and have not had a problem since.

Anyway, back to the Buell. I swapped the key switch relay with the auxiliary relay expecting the problem solved. No such luck. I did notice the 10 amp brake/horn/EVA fuse did not look quite right. One leg of the fuse was not seating as tightly as it should. After more testing this was the problem. I pulled the fuse block and that terminal and tightened things up. No more pesky CEL.

Now I wonder if this was the real problem from day one and got worse over time due to vibration and diagnostics later on. I say this because upon closer inspection I noticed some evidence of probing at the fuse. Iím thinking at some point one of the techs, after replacing the actuator, encountered this intermittent problem and started probing unknowing contributing to the problem. In hindsight, it appears the techs installed a new actuator and then called it good because the actuator worked most of the time. Now because of the probing evidence, I also wonder if the labor to troubleshoot this would have been covered under warranty. Doesnít matter now, life is good.

Iíve been a lurker for months and figure itís was time to give back to the collective.
I hope this helps someone.
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Froggy
Posted on Tuesday, July 06, 2010 - 08:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Move Post (Custodian/Admin Only) Ban Poster IP (Custodian/Admin only)

Aint it great when you figure out something as annoying as that was something so simple? It is great that you figured that out, I probably would of gone to lubing the exhaust cable as if its jammed it won't actuate and can throw that code. I never would of guessed a loose fuse! : )
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