This page contains the most complete and detailed help topics on troubleshooting the GL1800 Audio System that you will find anywhere. It took a lot of time to write the Garage pages. It should help reduce No Problem Found returns. I hope everyone finds this to be a valuable resource.
I suggest that you save the link to this page instead of printing it out or saving it to your computer. I will be doing many edits to the information, even adding some pictures for clarification. By saving it as a link, you will always have the most up to date information. (Hit the refresh button when returning to this page to make sure you are viewing the current revision.)
Except where noted, these troubleshooting steps are valid for all 2001 to 2010 Goldwings.
Readers should keep in mind that in most cases, these troubleshooting articles only apply to a stock audio system. Accessories such as Mike Mutes, external aftermarket amplifiers, or other devices can create additional troubleshooting steps, can skew your test results, and in many cases can also be the cause of your problem. It would be impossible to account for all the various customizations that are out there, although I do mention a few of them in the articles. These topics are only be considered reliable if those devices are disconnected from the system.
Click on any of the topics and you will be taken directly to that article. Click on "Return to Index" at the end of every topic to return to the top of the page.
The audio/accessory fuse is only live with the ignition on. It powers the following items
Don't be tempted to remove the top shelter and unplug the radio, and
then replace the fuse to see if it blows as a fist step. Before doing
that, check out a couple of other things first. You may find a problem
elsewhere. Why take off the top shelter if you don't have to?
There are a couple of common problems that cause these fuses to blow, and most of them are caused by accessories or improper installation.
If the accessory fuse is blown, this fuse powers the accessory connector under the left pocket, the grip heater connector under the right pocket, and the accessory terminal screws on the fuse box. These are all popular places to attach accessories. If there is a short in the accessory wiring, or if the line was overloaded, that fuse can blow, which will make for a dead radio. Unplug anything connected to these 3 points and replace the fuse. If it doesn't blow, the problem is probably not in the radio.
Under the trunk lid is a connector for a trunk light. Many people use this connector to power things like cigarette ligher sockets for charging devices. This connector is powered by the battery fuse. If your battery fuse keeps blowing, look at this connector as a possible cause.
After all that is done, then you can remove the top shelter and unplug the radio. When the radio has a dead short, it almost always blows the battery fuse. I have never seen a GL1800 radio blown the accessory fuse.
WARNING!!! Do not under any circumstances every replace a blown fuse with a higher value fuse. If anything, use a lower value for testing. Using a higher value fuse can cause serious damage to your bike and a possible fire.
Trying to track down excessive leakage current that drains the battery can be time consuming on any vehicle. It also requires a little more than a basic knowledge of electronics than most troubleshooting because you have to be highly familiar with how the current function on a multimeter works.
There are many things that can cause a battery to drain. It is beyond the scope of this article to show how to find all types of drains. These steps are intended to help you find out if your radio is the cause. The methods for finding a drain other than the radio are similar.
There is no easy magic test that technicians do to solve problems like this. You simple have to isolate systems until you expose the problem. You can get lucky and find it first time, or it can take many attempts.
I am going to start off this topic with basic things that a novice can do. If that does not locate the problem, we are going to get into a few things that may require you to get some help, depending on your level of experience.
One thing that needs to be stated here is that, just like car batteries, motorcycle batteries are not deep cycle batteries. They do not like to be deeply discharged. The thin, delicate plates on a non deep cycle battery suffer some amount of permanent damage each time the battery is deep discharged. This damage is slight however, so 2-3 times will probably not cause enough degradation to make a difference. Just don't do continuous testing by seeing if your battery dies overnight. And until the problem is fixed, disconnect the negative battery cable when you are not working on the bike to stop the battery from draining.
There are a few simple questions that have to be answered whenever you have a dead battery.
Your answer will be yes to one of those questions. And until you answer questions 1 and 2, don't even bother with question #3. Troubleshooting excessive current draw can be very time consuming depending on how deep you have to dig.
If those two tests check out, we have to assume that something is drawing too much current. Now we just have to find it. I will show two methods here, a simple method, and an advanced method with a multimeter.
Leakage test Simple Method
If you are not confident in your abilities with measuring current with a multimeter, you can still do some basic tests that will just take a little longer. This method works pretty good if you are trying to isolate a single specific circuit. But if the problem is becoming elusive, you are best off using the advance method at the end of this article.
The first thing I recommend is looking at what accessories installed on your bike that can cause a drain. If you have one of the mp3 adapters that plugs into the CD input connector, these are highly suspect. Unplug it from the CD input connector, disconnect the negative battery cable to reset the radio, and hook up the cable after 15 minutes. If you have a CB, unplug the 3 pin power connector. (Unknown water damage to the CB can cause current leakage.)
Look at any accessory that you have that connects directly to the battery and disconnect it. This includes heated clothing controllers.
Make sure the battery is charged, and measure the battery voltage about 5 minutes after removing the charger. Write the voltage down and let the bike sit. Come back every few hours and take a voltage measurement. If the battery voltage drops under 12 volts on a fully charged battery in a short time, the components you disconnected are not the cause.
Leave those accessories disconnected and remove the battery fuse from the fuse block. On the 01-03 bikes, this is fuse # 22, which is a 20 amp fuse. On a 2008, it is fuse 31. Check the label on the cover of your fuse block for the proper fuse for your bike. Also, if you have a 2006-2010, pull the power amp fuse as well. it is the large fuse at the bottom of the fuse block.
Do the same test again. Charge the battery and then write down the voltage after the charger is disconnected for 5 minutes. If the voltage still drops, the problem is not in your radio and you have something else wrong with your bike, such as a stuck relay or bad ignition switch.
Don't get fooled by these measurements. It is normal for the battery voltage to settle somewhat after charging. But it should not get very much under 12 volts.
Leakage Test Advanced Method.
For liability reasons, I have decided not to describe how to set up a meter to measure current. I cannot risk someone making a mistake, causing damage and blaming me for it. If you don't already know how to do this, you should not be attempting it. This is a potentially hazardous measurement. Your meter is actually inserted into the bike's wiring. Connecting the probes to the wrong test points can put a direct short across the battery posts. You accept all risk in performing this test. Information is available elsewhere on the Internet if you want to learn this measurement. I recommend practicing on something that uses a power supply with lower current capacity before tackling a motorcycle battery.
Checking for leakage should be done by disconnecting the negative battery lead. This is much safer than using the positive lead. The meter will be connected with one lead on the negative battery cable, and the other lead on the negative battery post. Set your meter to read milli-amps, and DO NOT turn on your ignition at any time while the meter is connected.
The Honda manual states that leakage current should be somewhere around 7 milli-amps. This is a good starting point, but keep in mind that if you have accessories installed, current could measure up to about 15 ma. or so. This is normal and will not kill your battery. When the battery dies within a day or so, the current draw will measure around 100ma or higher. If the current measures high, start pulling fuses one at a time until the current drops. The same thing applies as with the simple method. All accessories such as mp3 adapters should be disconnected from the bike since they might be connected to the same fuse as the radio.
Don't get the decimal place mixed up. Remember that .2 amps is 200ma and .02 amps is 20ma Most meters will actually measure in milli-amps, so you should not have to convert between amps and mill-amps. Also keep in mind that inexpensive meters might have a hard time measuring current accurately at this low of a reading, so don't be too picky with your readings. This problem is rarely borderline. It is either normal, or very high.
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Poor sound through Aux input
Once in awhile, a problem happens with the audio ground for the Aux input. The problem will exhibit a very specifc type of distortion. The audio will have the distinct sound of an echo, and there will be virtually no bass. The volume level will be noticeably lower as well. The reason for this odd behavior is that when the audio loses its ground, the left channel will pick up its ground through the right channel, and the right channel will pick up its ground through the left channel. The wider the stereo separation, the worse it sounds. The differences in the stereo sound coming through the left and right channels tends to cancel each other out.
If your distortion does not match all of those symptoms, then the problem is elsewhere. Try lowering the volume at your mp3 player to see if the sound quality improves. it is possible to overdrive the radio inputs with high output mp3 players. Dirty connections on GPS cradles are another possibility.
The AMB function can also cause some odd behavior. I always recommend that owners turn this function off while troubleshooting poor sound. Certain types of music react badly with the Ambiance function.
If you suspect a bad ground problem, first turn off the AMB feature on the radio. AMB tends to muddy the sound, making it difficult to diagnose.
I have seen a failure in the radio cause this problem when someone hooks up something to the aux input that should not have been hooked up. The excessive current blows out the circuit board trace for the aux ground. The only way to fix this is to send it out for repair. Fortunately that problem is rare. Most of the time it is one of the connections in the aux line.
The best way to attack this problem is to go for the easy stuff first, and work your way to the most difficult fo repair problems. The first thing to do is clean the 3.5mm headset style plug in the left pocket. Drip some WD40 or contact cleaner on a paper towel or scrap rag and rub the contacts until they are clean. You usually cannot see the thin layer of oxidation that causes a bad connection . Note that this can also be caused by the jack in your player or GPS. Try substituting with another player to see if the problem goes away.
If you are not lucky enough to have a bad headphone plug, then the problem is probably being caused by the white 3 pin audio connector under the left pocket. The connector is located in the rubber boot. Pull this connector and clean it with some WD40 or contact cleaner, and retest. You can even flex the connector slightly to see if the problem is intermittent.
If you still have not solved the problem, things begin getting more difficult to fix. Sometimes the connector actually goes bad. The area where the wire gets crimped onto the connector pins can become oxidized and lose its conductivity. You can hope it is the 18" long aux cable that is bad and order a new one, but if it is the bike side connector, the only solution is to either pull the pins out and re-crimp or solder, or just cut the connector off and replace it. Working with the bike side connector is not easy with the fairing on. If you are not good with working with tiny wires in a tight spot, try to find a friend who has experience. Making a mistake will just force you to cut the wire again, making it even shorter, and that much more difficult to repair.
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The radio is badly distorted with all audio sources....
You might think that my answer to this question would be to get the amp upgrade, but not so fast. Before wondering if you need the amp upgrade, you have to ask yourself, how severe is the distortion? The radios with the high distortion amplifiers don't sound very good, but if your distortion is severe, you probably have a problem with your audio system, and until that is fixed, getting the amp upgrade won't do you any good.
I get this question quite often in emails from customers. I probably should tell you right from the start that severe distortion is almost certainly not a problem in the radio. It is not impossible for a radio to distort, and you certainly could have an unusual problem. But with this symptom, the radio is the very last thing to blame. Radio failures almost always result in no audio somewhere.
With a stock system, distortion is usually caused by the speakers themselves. The stock speakers have cheap treated paper cones that quickly lose their stiffness. And even aftermarket speaker succumb to the elements. Most aftermarket speakers are only water resistant. That means that they should not see direct contact with water, and we all know that never happens on a motorcycle. Sometimes speakers are just not very high quality, or are just a poor match for our cabinets. (The Polk db501 is a fully waterproof marine rated speaker, not just water resistant.)
Aftermarket amplifiers are another cause. People are often drawn in by no name amplifiers because of their small size. They advertise high power in a small package, and many owners figure that it is worth a chance. You never know when you will come across the next great Goldwing accessory. But more often than not, these amplifiers are actually low quality and do nothing more than add to the distortion. It is also possible even with a high quality amplifier that the input level control of the amp is set to high. This will overdrive the inputs to the amp and cause distortion.
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Alternator Whine or buzzing through Aux input only
This is a very common problem on the GL1800, and is caused by a classic ground loop. It only happens when you connect an audio source that is powered by the bike's battery.
This is not a defect in the radio or the bike's wiring. It is caused by a combination of many factors. Ground loops are a complex subject. It is beyond the intent of this website to go into a full technical explanation.
The only solution to this problem is to install a ground loop isolator. They are available from many electronics sources such as Electrical Connection and Crutchfield. Electrical Connection has one version that replaces the existing aux cable and plugs right into the 3 pin aux connector under the left pocket. Others plug in in-line with the existing aux cable. When you shop for a GLI, make sure it has 3.5mm plugs on both ends. Radio Shack sells them, but the last I saw, they only had RCA jacks.
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General Alternator Whine Troubleshooting, (Usually present with all audio sources)
Before we dig into this problem, please note. Do not email me for help on alternator whine issues. I cannot offer any suggestions beyond the common fixes that you read here. Alternator whine can be a very difficult problem to troubleshoot, with many causes, and many solutions. It is for the most part something you have to be at the bike to diagnose if the bike requires troubleshooting beyond the basics shared in this article.
Alternator whine is often a case of trial and error, and can be very frustrating, but hopefully I can send owners in the right direction with some basic information and common causes.
The first step in solving this problem is to thoroughly operate every function of the audio system, noting every little detail you can gather. Items that may seem insignificant can actually be major clues. Subtle symptoms can often lead directly to the cause.
For instance, if your noise is only present with the aux input, you probably need a ground loop isolator. If the whine only happens when you engage the cruise control, you will have to install an RF shield around the cruise module.
For noise that is present with all sources, bad grounds are the most common cause. The most likely culprit with the GL1800 is the main ground under the fuel tank. This ground is the return point to the battery for not only the radio, but also most of your bike’s systems. Remove the negative battery cable, remove the fuel tank, and re-work this ground. Scrape or sand any powder coat off that area of the frame, run a tap through the mounting hole to clean off any powder coat, and re-install the ground wires and bolt.
Some people have taken the extra step of running a ground wire from this point directly to the battery. A word of caution is needed about running a ground wire however. Even though there is normally not a lot of current flowing through this ground, if a high current ground return ever did go bad somewhere on the bike, such as the G1 ground, the load will try to use your added ground as a return path to the battery. For this reason, any secondary wire that you add must be able to handle the full current capability of the bike. Do not use anything less than an 8-10 gauge wire for this duplicate ground path. (It probably should be even heavier than that.)
The extended ground wire fix does permanently solve many noise and whine issues, but for liability reasons, it is my position to not endorse it due to the potential hazard, no matter how unlikely the hazard is. While it may seem like just an innocent piece of wire, it is not. When you do this, you are altering the OEM wiring design by supplying a duplicate ground path from the frame to the battery. I would feel more comfortable with this fix if I were to actually test the current demands of the bike's electrical system so that the correct, safe gauge of wire could be determined, but I have not done that. I do acknowledge that the likelihood of a failure of the type I am concerned about is very low. It just isn't low enough for me.
As an alternative, the correct, by the book method for doing this fix would be to completely remove the ground wires from the G2 ground under the tank and splice them to a ground wire that runs directly to the battery. It would serve the same purpose, with the exception that it would isolate your ground wire from the hazards I am concerned about. It will remove the frame to battery ground path that can cause safety problems. I have not tried this however, so I don't know how well it would work. In theory, it should work, but when it comes to alternator whine, theories are just theories until you prove that they work.
For those that are wondering; Yes, I am extremely safety conscious when it comes to electronics. I don’t believe in throwing caution to the wind, and I don't believe in "It's good enough". I have built a repuation of trust among my customers that I would never suggest anything that could put them in harm's way. But I also understand that not everyone agrees with my stance on this mod, and everyone's risk tolerance level is different.
So why am I even sharing this if I don't endorse it? It has become a fairly popular mod over the past few years, with at least one servicer advertising it and performing it in his shop. I have received a number of emails asking me about it, so I figured I would share the information and let everyone know where I stand on the issue What you do with that information is up to you. If something does go wrong, nobody can come back to me and say I didn't warn them.
I am not claiming to be the final word on this subject, It is not uncommon to see design opinions disputed among industry professionals. This is one of those cases. Electronics always carries at least a small amount of safety risk. It's just the nature of the beast. It may very well be that I am being overly cautious on this subject.